1. The Hare with Amber Eyes
    by Edmund de Waal

    Family saga of a Rothchild-rich family who lost it all to the Nazis.  Told by following the family’s collection of carved ivory netsuke and by following the author himself on the search.   Opening paragraph:  One sunny April day I set out to find Charles.  Rue de Monceau is a long Parisian street . . . It is a hill of golden stone houses, a series of hotels playing discreetly on neoclassical themes, each a minor Florentine palace with heavily rusticated ground

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  2. A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter
    by William Deresiewicz

    Lessons learned from Jane Austen books in the form of a memoir. Opening paragraph: I was twenty-six and about as dumb, in all human things, as any twenty-six-year-old has the right to be, when I met the woman who would change my life. That she’d been dead for a couple of hundred years made not the slightest difference whatsoever. Her name was Jane Austen, and she would teach me everything I know about everything that matters.

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  3. The Kiss
    by Kathryn Harrison

    The exquisitely-written true story of the author’s incestuous relationship with her father. Opening paragraph:  We meet at airports.  We meet in cities where we’ve never been before.  We meet where no one will recognize us. Quotes from critics: “A darkly beautiful book, fearless and frightening, ironic and compassionate.” (author Mary Gordon); “Beautifully written . . . jumping back and forth in time yet drawing you irresistibly toward the heart of a great evil.” (The New York Times; “Like all good

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  4. Infidel
    by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    Memoir of an African Muslim turned anti-Muslim.  Gripping and depressing. Opening paragraphs: “Who are you?” “I am Ayaan, the daughter of Hirsi, the son of Magan.”  Behind us is our house, and the branches of the talal tree are all that shields us from the sun blazing down on the white sand.  “Go on,” my grandmother says, glaring at me . . . . My grandmother nods, grudgingly.  I have done well, for a five-year-old.  I have managed to count

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  5. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
    by Anna Quindlen

    Wise words about women in their sixties. Opening paragraphs:  It’s odd when I think of the arc of my life, from child to young woman to aging adult.  First I was who I was.  Then I invented something and became her.  Then I began to like what I’d invented.  And finally I was what I was again. . . . First we were so young and then we were so busy and then one day we awoke to discover that

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  6. When We Were the Kennedys
    by Monica Wood

    Beautifully written memoir about a family in Mexico, Maine during the Kennedy era.  Opening paragraphs:  In high summer, when tourists in paneled station wagons caravanned through town on their way to someplace else, hankies pressed comically to their noses against the stench of paper being made, I sat with my friends on the stoop of Nery’s Market to play License Plate. . . .  Like most Irish Catholic families in 1963, mine had boiled dinner on Sundays after Mass and

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