- State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. The Amazon Jungle. The pharmeceutical industry and a tree bark that prolongs fertility into women's elder years. A strong-minded, autocratic, opinionated, manipulative mentor. Her student, who gave medicine up after a delivery-gone-wrong and turned to drug research.. Conrad's Heart of Darkness, with a true heart. (Here's a review, but be warned that it gives away much of the plot.)
- The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly. Another high point in one of my favroite genres: feisty young girls who are smart, clever, a bit difficult to get along with, and ready to take on the world. In this case, the world of Darwin and science and the natural world, with the mentorship of her grandfather. Set in Texas in 1899, and also a nice look into post-Civil War culture and relations between servants and family in those years. I'm wishing for a sequel.
- Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. Come on, people! I think that this book is supposed to be funny. The author writes, with a great deal of self-reflective irony, about her efforts to raise her daughters in the Chinese way. The tone is reminiscent of the best novels with unreliable narrators (Tristram Shandy) and women's voices that are so overly confident that you are able to peek behind the curtain of authorial confidence to see the flaws in their arguments (the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters). I found it to be well-written, highly entertaining, and, in the end, clearly demonstrative of a mother who loves and wants the best for her daughters, even when it requires them teaching her to be the mother that they need.