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Dr. Neff's Top Book Picks:

“A long-awaited, elegant meditation on love, memory and the haunting power of art.” Says Kirkus Review


The Goldfinch
By: Donna Tartt

“The Goldfinch” was one of the best books we read in 2014! It is a coming of age tale, which opens on a rainy day in New York City. Tartt, who took 10 years to write this hefty volume, was somewhat inspired by happenstance and the World Trade Center terrorist bombing. Her young protagonist, Theo, is caught in a terrorist attack in a Museum in New York and his mother is one of the casualties. Writing about grief, Tartt spins a tale that includes the heisting of a famous painting called “The Goldfinch” that is provocative, riddled with anxiety and suspense but also totally intoxicating.  I couldn’t lay it down even though it weighs a ton!

The Goldfinch is a triumph with a brave theme running through it: art may addict, but art also saves us from “the ungainly sadness of creatures pushing and struggling to live.” Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction.” Says reviewer Stephen King for the New York Times

One of my favorite characters of all time is Boris, a Russian Theo meets in Los Vegas. He is truly a complicated character as he leads Theo down a teenage path of experimentation and degradation. Yet Boris is so real and honest even when doing the most damning of things.

The novel spans decades, various cities and continents, plumbs the depths of love, obsession, honesty to one’s self and others and the devastation of addiction. Although this is a long book (771 pgs) it goes by fast. I wanted to savor the ending, draw it out as long as possible, because I didn’t want this story to end.

Friends and relatives who read the book either loved it or hated it.

Most of our family loved the book and reveled in the amazing depth of knowledge Donna Tartt transmits in this striking narrative. She dives into art history, the dusty world of antiques and restoration and the seedy world of drugs and addiction with amazingly disturbing clarity. If you like transgressions into the minutia of details that make the book come alive in your imagination you will love “The Goldfinch”. Enjoy.


The Sense of an Ending
By: Julian Barnes

An elegant, provocative novel about how one knows and remembers personal as well as political history. It's a short novel (163 pages) packed with insight and beautifully written. This book makes one question what you think you know.    


The Swerve 
By: Stephen Greenblatt 

This is the history of how the discovery of Lucretius' lost, suppressed writing jump started Europe and the Western world into the Renaissance. Vividly, engagingly written it explores an ancient history, forgotten or unknown, that has played a large role in our modern world.


Wolf Hall
By: Hillary Mantel

A historical novel about Thomas Cromwell and his service to Henry ix. This novel presents Cromwell as personally appealing and enlightened contrary to his normal villain role. This is the first book of a planned trilogy, the second book "Bring Up the Bodies" has just been released. Challenging reading but rewarding.   


Gods without Men 
By: Hari Kunzru

Fascinating novel exploring the nature of religion, reality and search for meaning. Spanning the mid 1800's to modern times focused around a specific geographic location in the Mojave Desert presents big  ideas in accessible compelling prose.