A Book Critic's Favorite Books

Book Critic and author of "Between the Covers," Ellen Heltzel, revealed her top 5 personal favorites. 

For more information about Ellen, check out this website.

Here is her list:

Here are some of the books I’ve loved, and a group that shows how much variety can be found – as they say – “Between the Covers.”

1. “Elvis Presley,” by Bobbie Ann Mason. Serious biographies often combine mountains and unreadable prose into books that would better serve as doorstops. Celebrity bios are usually a pile of fluff with an agenda, either to savage the subject or bow to his or her remarkableness. This little book by a well-known Southern writer – part of a series on famous people -- is the perfect antidote. Elvis’ talent and his bizarre behavior off-stage get equal treatment in this story of a working-class Southern boy who wasn’t prepared for success.

2. “The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World,” by Michael Pollan. This was what first put Pollan on the map as someone who is identified with gardening, food and sustainability. This book may be his best, using the stories of four familiar species – the apple, tulip, potato and marijuana – to show how plants have been cultivated to serve human needs. Science writing at its best!

3. “Homestead,” by Rosini Lippi. This novel by a Bellingham writer takes you to an Austrian village as it progresses through the 20th century. The book follows three clans in the village as their lives are altered by technological change and war. For young adults, it’s a story that tells the tale of modern European history better and more concisely than most textbooks.

4. “Property,” by Valerie Martin. The system of slavery ensnared whites as well as blacks, and that’s the story Martin tells in this sensuous tale told by a slave owner’s wife. When the servant she brought with her when she married becomes the her husband’s mistress, she begins to learn about what it means to be oppressed.

5. “The Book of Psalms,” translated by Robert Alter. Inspiration comes in many guises. This beautiful recent translation of the Psalms is heavy with footnotes that trace the words and their meanings back to the original Hebrew. In any translation, it’s hard to beat the beauty and timelessness of the Psalms.         


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