Staff Book Suggestions Spring 2013
The Lincoln Letter by William Martin
(New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.M38625 Li 2012)
“From William Martin, a New York Times bestselling author of historical suspense, The Lincoln Letter is a breathless chase across the Washington of today as well as a political thriller set in our besieged Civil War capital. It is a story of old animosities that still smolder, old philosophies that still contend, and a portrait of our greatest president as he passes from lawyer to leader in the struggle for a new birth of freedom.” ―Amazon.com
Edward St. Aubyn
(Library of Congress PZ4.S141)
Edward St. Aubyn is a contemporary British writer. He is best known for his “Patrick Melrose” novels published over the past twenty years. The five books in the series (Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk, and At Last) take the protagonist from the age of five into his forties. He struggles to overcome the destructive effects of his own dysfunctional, aristocratic, parents, acquires and overcomes a major drug habit, and finally pulls himself from the brink, grows up, and manages to raise his own family. (St. Aubuyn’s characterizations of Patrick’s own two young sons in Mother’s Milk, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, are amazingly insightful and inventive.)
Doesn’t exactly sound like this year’s feel-good read, right? But the series has the same fascination (and humanity) as great series from the past (e.g., The Forsythe Saga) and, thanks to the author’s piercing wit, is also hysterically funny (favorite scene: the country-house party that is viciously described in Some Hope).
It’s best to read the series in order: the Athenæum owns only the fourth and fifth novels in the series [PZ4.S141 Mo 2005 and PZ4.S141]. So find the other three (still in print in a new, single-volume edition), read them in a week, as I did, and then grab the Athenæum’s copies of the final two.
Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero by William Makepeace Thackeray
Cutter Classification VEF .T323 .v
Even the most casual observer of 21st century culture might conclude that John Bunyan’s Vanity Fair, where the attraction of worldly pleasures hold sway, has been in constant operation since he first documented the Pilgrim’s Progress in 1678. The fair is certainly evident in Thackeray’s satirical account of Regency England of the same name, especially in that hilariously, transparent minx, Becky Sharp. No Christian pilgrim she! Fun, poignant, and timeless.
Hollywood Unseen: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation; with a forward by Joan Collins
(Library of Congress Large TR681 .A28 H65 2012)
Great photos of the “stahs.” Fun captions. Easy reading.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich (New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.E66 Ro 2012)
Canada by Richard Ford (New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.F69877 Can 2012)
Erdich’s stunning book has everything that one wants in a novel–strong writing, superbly delineated characters ranging from teens with raging hormones to hilarious grandparents. There is pathos, extreme human frailty, pain and hilarity. And pulling it all together is the author’s uncanny ability to blend it all into an engaging, thought provoking work that transcends locale and nationality. Simply one of the best.
Canada starts out as a study of twins in Montana and their rather dysfunctional family life. Ford lays out what will happen early on so there are no major plot twists–you rather anticipate much of what occurs. Behind the action of the characters is a meditation on action and on how others’ actions can shape one’s life, and how one’s own actions, and inaction, can likewise be transformative. How Ford didn’t win another Pulitzer for this work baffles me. Instead, the committee awarded no prizes in 2012. Either of these books deserved it.
Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich
(New Book Shelves, Library of Congress HD6060.5.U5 P65 2012)
A fascinating close-up on a group of female journalists who filed a lawsuit in the 1970s that became pivotal in the fight for workplace equality. The book was immediately engaging in the way it focused on both the personal and professional implications for many of the women involved.
Carolle R. Morini
The Best American Short Stories
Library of Congress PZ1 .B4468 (Years 1978 – 2012)
Need a cure for your spring fever? Take a dose of PZ 1: short story collections. The PZ 1 offers a variety of authors and time periods. Want to read short stories from the 1920s or 2012? Short mystery stories from the 1940s? American? British? All of it?! The PZ1’s are on 2G and it is a section that is easy and fun to browse.
A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead
(Library of Congress D802.F8 M667 2011)
Super detailed with great narrative. Kind of depressing, but I suppose since spring is the season of hope, maybe it might be okay. Here is our catalog description:
“In January 1943, the Gestapo hunted down 230 women of the French Resistance and sent them to Auschwitz. This is their story, told in full for the first time–a searing and unforgettable chronicle of terror, courage, defiance, survival, and the power of friendship to transcend evil that is an essential addition to the history of World War II.”
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
(New Books, Children’s Room, PZ7.P17526 Wo 2012)
A disfigured boy attempts to navigate the fifth grade with great humor and endearing sympathy for his teachers and classmates.
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
(Library of Congress PZ4.P185 Mus 2009)
Since spring is the season of budding love, this is a great read for the coming months. A tormenting love story dappled with commentary on Turkish politics, society, and gender-relations. We even have the author’s book that acts as a visual supplement to this one; check ’em both out!
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Library of Congress PZ4.R9635 Sw 2011
The story of an eccentric family that owns a struggling alligator–wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades, Swamplandia! has been described as a novel in the style of both magical realism and Southern Gothic. Russell’s writing is wildly inventive, with flashes of quirky humor in the face of the downward spiral of the Bigtree family. Narrated by plucky 13-year old Ava, the plot follows the father and three motherless children as they get separated from one another in the murky swamp environment. Just enjoy the luscious original writing and don’t take the plot too literally.
Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements from Arsenic to Zinc by Hugh Aldersey-Williams
(Library of Congress QD467 .A43 2011)
Anyone unlucky enough to be in the staff room during lunch while I read this book heard me rave about how much I enjoyed it. His subtitle surprised me because his introduction stated that he was not preparing anything encyclopedic; he may even have specifically said he wasn’t preparing an A to Z list. That said, I did not mind. His meandering seemed natural to me. Long ago, I considered becoming a scientist and enjoy reading science written for the general audience. If you too are a frustrated physicist or closet chemist—and there’s a fine insider joke on the best way to insult a chemist—you will no doubt enjoy this as well.