Staff Book Suggestions Autumn 2023
Full of beautiful Australian imagery and Morton’s classic use of buried, tangled family histories, this is an enjoyable read that gives you pause for reflection long after finishing.
If spring is the season of birth, then I, as a proud childfree adult, could make the case that this book recommendation works for the fall, but the truth is, I just like this book. The great thing about essay collections on a particular topic is that some may ring very true to your own experience, some you may hate, and some entice you to read more by that author. While the subject matter is one I feel strongly about, Danielle Henderson is the writer that made me want to read it and while her work never disappoints, I also enjoyed Anna Holmes and Kate Christensen.
Although Selfish, Shallow, and Self-absorbed may seem like a book for a limited group of individuals, it might be the perfect book to have around during the holidays. Perhaps there’s a conversation you’ve been wanting to have with your significant other or family members that seem to use their biological clocks to tell time in other people’s time zones?
Do we need another book reflective of Pride and Prejudice? Yes! You’ll find wit, suspense, romance, and a lead character you want to root for all wrapped up in this fun, polite murder mystery. It’s light and fluffy and perfect for the commute. Available on cloudLibrary.
“I personally feel that a box, far from being a dead end, is an entrance to another world. I don’t know to where, but an entrance to somewhere, some other world.”
—Kōbō Abe, The Box Man
A book that I have never been able to finish although I’ve tried countless times, simply because it is pure genius.
I’ll recommend Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell. This graphic novel pretends to be about two friends working their last shift together at a pumpkin patch, but really it’s about as many quintessentially fall treats as the creators can squeeze in. Are you a fall person? This book is for you.
A Council of Dolls follows three generations of Dakota women and their struggles and triumphs, primarily told through the stories of their relationship with their dolls. It is a powerful story about both the effects of intergenerational trauma as well as the ability, through love and forgiveness, to overcome it.
In this gripping read, Saunt brings in a variety of voices to expand the story of the Trail of Tears and shows how the removal of Indigenous communities was not an inevitability and garnered widespread protest as well as indifference. His use of letters and government documents is particularly compelling and paints a vivid picture of both human suffering and the unfathomable undertaking of forcibly removing thousands of families from their homes.
Forget everything you’ve ever learned about women’s roles in medieval European society. Janega dives into court records and documents to find the women who were making a living for themselves and their families, while defying the roles that thinkers of that age placed women into.
Food is the backbone of so many of our memories and nostalgic longings, so what happens when the foods you love and crave from your youth are so directly tied to pain and suffering? This book will make you cry, while also making you crave kolbasa and good rye bread.
If you like houses (or castles) that become main characters, unusual first-person narrators, or complicated but (sometimes) heartwarming family dynamics, read Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (1948) and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) back-to-back this fall. Both books are fictional diaristic recountings of the protagonists’ daily lives that are anything but normal. Strong and complex bonds between sisters drive both narratives and anchor two rich casts of characters. Start with Smith in early autumn, follow with Jackson for spooky season!
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is the perfect read to get into the Halloween mood. Travel with its protagonist Noemí to the mysterious High Place, where nothing is as it seems, and everything is conspiring against Noemí. Mexican Gothic combines classic Gothic tropes with explorations of colonialism’s sinister sciences to make a book that will have you afraid to turn the page but unable to turn away.
This book explores the relationship between three friends over a 20 year stretch. I didn’t believe that I would find the setting—a company that creates video games—to be interesting. I was completely wrong! It’s an incredibly compelling read.
If anyone in your life is under age six, you should pick up this book. It’s the story of a penguin and how he copes with a very bad day. The story and illustrations are charming and instructive. After all, who doesn’t need guidance on strategies for conquering a bad mood?
Autumn means back to school for me, and my favorite topic to study is medieval history, specifically the fifteenth century. I was delighted to see this popular history, The Burgundians: A Vanished Empire; A History of 1111 Years and One Day by Bart van Loo appear in paperback in English this year. Given that lengthy subtitle and awkward second subtitle (preceded by semicolon for those of you who like to keep up to speed on obscure bibliographic citation rules), you may well fear taking home this hefty tome, but Loo manages to keep it under 600 pages. Bart van Loo is Flemish, lives in Belgium, and has published extensively on French history, literature, and culture. His popular treatment of the Low Countries at its pinnacle has received high praise and spawned a podcast in both Flemish and French. If you’re interested in the art of Jan Van Eyck or Rogier van der Weyden, the library of Philip the Bold, and historic cities like Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels, then this is the title for you.
Pip Williams’s The Bookbinder is the author’s second novel, also set in the bookish world of Oxford. There is overlap of periods and characters with her earlier Dictionary of Lost Words, but you need not have read that to fully grasp her follow up. Again, there is a map of Oxford with buildings key to the plot illustrated. Various titles published at the Oxford University Press during WWI (when this novel is primarily set) appear in the plot, and several act as section headings, although in the afterword Williams tells her readers that she did not put much thought into their choice. I don’t quite believe her (I’d like to know if other readers agree with me). Williams has researched extensively, created believable characters, and doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat bow, which was appreciated. A world where books act as insulation, inspiration, and solace is one in which I am comfortable. If you are the same and enjoy historical fiction, then I highly recommend this.