Dan Axmacher
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino.

(Library of Congress Classification PZ3.C13956 Co)

I recently finished Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, a delightful little collection of short stories that play out across millennia. The immortal narrator Qfwfq recounts a series of situations and stories from his various lives and incarnations, exploring human relationships and foibles on a cosmic scale. This one was a real treat. Available as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

(Library of Congress SH383.2 .D65 2007)

Next, I’m plummeting back down to Earth and into the sea: I’ve just started Leviathan, Eric Jay Dolin’s historical account of the American whaling industry. I’m only a few chapters in, but so far it’s been interesting to see how the growth of the whaling industry was so closely intertwined with the growth of the United States from its earliest days. It doesn’t hurt that the subject matter pairs perfectly with some of these gloomy New England autumn days. Available on cloudLibrary as both an audiobook and ebook.

Emilie Barrett

(Library of Congress PZ4.H134 Ot 2020)

For those of us who love Jane Austen, The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow is a deeply interesting delve into the characterization of the forgotten Bennet sister, Mary. Through a journey of self-discovery and romance, Mary must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and have prevented her from what makes her happy, and undergo an evolution in order to finally find fulfillment in her life. Hadlow’s prose is a beautifully written accompaniment to Austen’s original work and keeps in the spirit of the characters we originally loved in Pride and Prejudice, while adding additional layers of intrigue, lovability, and disdain to many of the characters we did not get to know as well.

John Buchtel
Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

(Library of Congress PZ4 .P4275)

John Buchtel has gotten hooked on Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, with its rich cast of characters, delightful sense of humor, and insight into the art world, the world of libraries and books, and especially into human nature. Not to mention a protagonist who is both truly noble and deeply human, and a setting that will make you want to pack your bags for the Québec countryside as soon as you can: the idyllic, Brigadoon-like village of Three Pines. The first four books are each set in one of the four seasons, starting with the autumnal Still Life. Some titles are available on cloudLibrary.

Jacqueline Chambers

(Library of Congress PZ4 .B1275 An 2020)

This extremely funny and heartwarming novel is sure to make you laugh and cry! Quirky characters abound, and seeing how these strangers grow and come together through a bizarre situation is delightful. 

Will Evans

(Library of Congress PZ3 .T1626 Mak)

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki.

Unfolding during the years just prior to WWII, the Makioka sisters are the last in a line of a once powerful and wealthy family in the Osaka area of Japan. The story primarily centers on the family’s attempts to find a suitable husband for the third oldest sister, Yukiko, an emotional reticent woman on the verge of spinsterhood, and the rebellious (read: often Western) behavior of the youngest sister, Taeko, who is forbidden to marry until her older sister has done so. While the plot concerns the two younger sisters, it’s through the eyes of the second oldest sister Sachiko—a happily married woman with genuine love and concern for her younger siblings—that we experience the story. 

Tanizaki serialized the story during the war, and he presents in microcosm what must have been cataclysmic societal shifts happening in Japan at the time. Many of the characters, especially Sachiko and her husband Teinosuke, exhibit wistful longing for the past, while we witness the transgression of tradition, patriarchy, and obedience to elders in the form of Taeko’s actions. The tone, period, and setting made this a compelling read for me, and I was fascinated by customs it outlined, especially around marriage. 

(Cutter Classification VEF .Sh165 .fo)

Does time erode one’s culpability for a wrong committed long ago? Isobel Bracken, the foolish gentlewoman, becomes convinced it does not. A sentimental, kind-hearted widow, Isobel is determined to right a wrong she enacted in her youth by means of an extraordinary, grand gesture. Her prickly brother-in-law and solicitor Simon steadfastly tries to thwart Isobel’s efforts to provide restitution for what he considers a very venial sin.

Like her contemporary Stella Gibbons, Margery Sharp is a shrewd observer of the comic and unremitting Englishness of the British. Available as an ebook on cloudLibrary.

(Library of Congress PZ4 .L6775 Sh 2005)

Octogenarian Nikoli, an eccentric Ukrainian emigre living in the English countryside, has married buxom, blond Valentina, who recently arrived from the Ukraine with an expired green card, a “gifted” school-aged son, and a volatile personality. Seeing through Valentina’s obvious charms and even more obvious motives, Nikoli’s daughters Vera and Nadezhda set aside their troubled history with father and each other to free the smitten old man from the clutches of his new wife.

This book careens from humor, pathos, and human cruelty, and it may be off-putting to some (it depicts elder abuse among other travesties). Nevertheless, the sometimes frustrating, comic, awkward, and joyful experience of caring for an aging parent depicted here rang true for me. Additionally, the enlightening snippets of Ukrainian history told through the family’s history and Nikoli’s treatise on tractors (which gives the book its title) provide some insight to current events. Available as an ebook on cloudLibrary.

Leah Rosovsky
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner.

(Library of Congress PZ4.O8336 Th 2020)

Four friends, living in a retirement village in England, solve murder mysteries in their spare time. The series is delightful, witty, and surprising. Available as both an ebook and audiobook on cloudLibrary.

(Library of Congress CT275.Z386 A3 2021)

Michelle Zauner comes to terms with her mother’s death by writing about their shared obsession with food. It’s a lively memoir that alternates between humor and pain. And, the descriptions of Korean food are mouth watering! Available as both an ebook and audiobook on cloudLibrary.

Emily Schuman

(Library of Congress TX357 .S23 2022)

A fascinating look at the history of foods and the impact of mass farming. It’s made me think about how to buy and support the local farms and ecosystem both from an environmental and a health perspective. 

Jessica T. Pinkham Schweber

(Library of Congress PZ4 .W74728 Se 2021)

The author of this book weaves several generations of Dakota women’s stories together within her main character’s life experiences of trauma, love, and loss. It was both personally and historically compelling. Available as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

(Available as an ebook on cloudLibrary)

This reader is not always a fan of murder mysteries, but I was delighted by Tursten’s somewhat ethically challenged protagonist Maude, an octogenarian who will not be pushed around.

Graham Skinner
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (volume 1 of the Temeraire series)

(Available through cloudLibrary on both audiobook and ebook)

Screenshot of the cover for His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik from the Athenæum’s cloudLibrary portal.

Dragons and the Napoleonic Wars! What else is there to say? Aside from dragons, I became enamored with the historic fantasy fiction novel and the friendship between the dragon Temeraire and the at first reluctant Captain Will Laurence, who makes a decision between seafaring and becoming part of the Aerial Corps. There is an amazing cast of characters, humor, and friendship that Novik’s writing style captures and is so deeply engaging that I am now three novels into the series.

Mary Warnement

(Library of Congress PS3556.A314 Z46 2017)

Suggesting a book to fall in love with for everyone is a tall order! I have an author to recommend: Anne Fadiman has written on a variety of topics, and her book of essays Ex-Libris is my favorite book to give, but more recently she wrote a biography of her father. Also available as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

(Library of Congress PZ4.S52645 Gu 2008b)

If you haven’t discovered it or you’re a fan of rereading, I recommend returning to the charming world in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Available both as an ebook and as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

Murder on the Vine by Camilla Trinchieri

(Library of Congress On order for the Athenæum)

And finally, something new, a book set in October during the wine harvest season in Tuscany, currently available as an ebook on cloudLibrary. Maybe you want to read the series in order, in which case get Murder in Chianti, also available as an ebook and as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.