George Clooney's costar in Up in the Air marvels at how books have a way of turning up just when she needs them.

TractorsA Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
By Marina Lewycka

Why she chose it: Being the eldest daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, I was charmed by the title, but I'm also interested in family dynamics, particularly generational rivalry. Reading this, I had the sense that I'd moved in with this insane family—an extremely difficult old man and his combative daughters, who have to care for him, defend him, and help him. They reminded me a lot of my own family: Stories of the past are told and retold by people who had to build a new life, even though the old one never entirely disappeared.

How she found it: I think I was tipped off by a fellow nationalistic Ukrainian.

Memorable passage: In the first few sentences, I became totally smitten: "Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blond Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside."


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