Hello, readers! Welcome to another #5OnMyTBR update. The rule is relatively simple. I just have to pick five books from my to-be-read pile that fit the week’s theme.

This week’s theme: Titles Starting With S

Compared to last week’s prompt, this week’s topic is a little easier. I do have quite a score of books on my reading list with titles starting with “S”. I also have read several books with titles starting with S. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion was the first book that came to mind. Jorge Amado’s Showdown is another title; I only recalled it because I am currently working on my review of the book. Before I go astray, here are books on my reading list with titles starting in S. Happy reading!

5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook where you chose five books from your to-be-read pile that fit that week’s theme. If you’d like more info, head over to the announcement post!


Title: The Sirens of Baghdad
Author: Yasmina Khadra
Synopsis: The third novel in Yasmina Khadra’s bestselling trilogy about Islamic fundamentalism has the most compelling backdrop of any of his novels: Iraq in the wake of the American invasion. A young Iraqi student, unable to attend college because of the war, sees American soldiers leave a trail of humiliation and grief in his small village. Bent on revenge, he flees to the chaotic streets of Baghdad where insurgents soon realize they can make use of his anger. Eventually he is groomed for a secret terrorist mission meant to dwarf the attacks of September 11, only to find himself struggling with moral qualms. The Sirens of Baghdad is a powerful look at the effects of violence on ordinary people, showing what can turn a decent human being into a weapon, and how the good in human nature can resist.

Title: Sons and Lovers
Author: D.H. Lawrence
Synopsis: Lawrence’s first major novel was also the first in the English language to explore ordinary working-class life from the inside. No writer before or since has written so well about the intimacies enforced by a tightly knit mining community and by a family where feelings are never hidden for long. When the marriage between Walter Morel and his sensitive, high-minded wife begins to break down, the bitterness of their frustration seeps into their children’s lives. Their second son, Paul, knows that he must struggle for independence if he is not to repeat his parents’ failure.

Lawrence’s powerful description of Paul’s single-minded efforts to define himself sexually and emotionally through relationships with two women – the innocent, old-fashioned Miriam Leivers and the experienced, provocatively modern Clara Dawes – makes this novel as much for the beginning of the twenty first century as it was for the beginning of the twentieth.

Title: Solar
Author: Ian McEwan
Synopsis: Michael Beard is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. A compulsive womanizer, Beard finds his fifth marriage floundering. But this time it is different: she is having the affair, and he is still in love with her.

When Beard’s professional and personal worlds collide in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself for him to extricate himself from his marital mess, reinvigorate his career and save the world from environmental disaster.

Title: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out – without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s ever met.

Title: The Swan Thieves
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Synopsis: Dr. Andrew Marlow has a perfectly ordered life, full of devotion to his work and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned artist Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery and becomes his patient.

As Oliver refuses to speak, Marlow’s only clue is the beautiful haunted woman Oliver paints obsessively day after day. Who is she, and what strange hold does she have over this tormented genius? Desperate to help, Marlow embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver, and to a dark story at the heart of French Impressionism – a tragedy that ripples out to touch present-day lives.

Title: Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Synopsis: A fourth-generation German-American now living in easy circumstances on Cape Cod (and smoking too much), who, as an American infantry scout hors de combat, as a prisoner of war, witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany, “the Florence of the Elbe,” a long time ago, and survived to tell the tale. This is a novel somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from. Peace.

Title: The Shack
Author: W.M. Paul Young
Synopsis: Mackenzie Allen Philip’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment, he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.

Title: The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Synopsis: The Scarlet Letter, America’s first psychological novel, exploded society’s view of Puritanism upon its initial publication in 1850, and today – perhaps more than ever – it holds the power to change the way we think about human relationships, punishment, and the status quo.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel is a dark tale of love, crime, and revenge set in colonial New England. It revolves around a single, forbidden act of passion that forever alters the lives of three members of a small Puritan community: Hester Prynne, an ardent, fierce, and ultimately ostracized woman who bears the symbol of her sin – the letter stitched into the breast of her gown – in humble silence; the Reverent Arthur Dimmesdale, a respected public figure who is inwardly tormented by long-hidden guilt; and the malevolent Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband – a man who seethes in an Ahab-like lust for vengeance.

The landscape of this classic novel is uniquely American, but the themes it explores are both timeless and universal – the nature of sin, guilt, and penitence, the clash between our private and public selves, and the spiritual and psychological cost of living outside society. Constructed with the elegance of a Greek tragedy, The Scarlet Letter brilliantly illuminates the truth that lies deep within the human heart.

Title: Sentimental Education
Author: Gustave Flaubert
Synopsis: Sentimental Education has been described both as the first modern novel and as a novel to end all novels. Weaving a poignant love story into his account of the 1848 revolution, Flaubert shows a society in the grip of stereotypes, on every level. There is something farcical in his depiction of characters who aspire to act but are dogged by cliche at every turn. To a greater extent even than Madame Bovary, Sentimental Education is an indictment of modern consumerism, contrasting the hollowness of material achievement with the lasting beauty of the ideal. Flaubert’s study of success and failure offers us a terrible sadness in a terrible beauty, yet is one of the world’s great comic masterpieces.

Title: The Sky Over Lima
Author: Juan Gomez Barcena
Synopsis: Jose Galvez and Carlos Rodriguez are poets. Or, at least, they’d like to be. Sons of Lima’s elite in the early twentieth century, they scribble bad verses and read the greats: Rilke, Rimbaud, and, above all others, Juan Ramon Jimenez, the Spanish maestro. Desperate for Jimenez’s latest work, which is unavailable for purchase in Peru they decide to ask him for a copy directly.

They’re certain Jimenez won’t send two dilettantes his book – but maybe he’ll favor a beautiful woman. They write to him as the lovely, imaginary Georgina Hubner, and their trick works; Jimenez responds with a letter and an autographed book. Elated, Jose and Carlos write back. Their correspondence continues, and the boys abandon poetry for the pages of Jimenez’s life. But as the months go by, and each barge docked in the  Lima harbor brings with it a new emblem of the Maestro’s growing affection, Jose and Carlos are forced to reckon with their romance’s inevitable denouement.