Staff Book Suggestions Spring & Summer 2022
A House in the Country by Ruth Adam
(Library of Congress Classification PZ3.A196 Ho)
Adam, along with her husband, small children, and a band of friends, decide to pool their resources to escape the deprivations and squalor of London at the close of WWII. Renting a manor house in the seemingly idyllic English countryside, they immediately become the envy of their city friends and foes, who all too frequently assume the form of unwanted guests. Moreover, Adam and company, former flat dwellers, quickly realize the necessity of servants needed to run such a behemoth of a residence, a proposition at odds with their democratic ideals newly born out of the irrevocably altered, postwar social order. Additionally, these erstwhile urbanites often serve as a form of amusement for the local rustics by their general cluelessness of country life. Lack of fortitude among the principles soon gives way to shirking and recrimination, and the band of utopians slowly dwindles. Part social experiment, part fish-out-of-water story, this semi autobiographical work offers wit, gentle humor, and a fleeting glimpse at a way of life that has all but disappeared. This work is unique among Adam’s writings, the majority of which explore feminist issues.
(Library of Congress PZ3.C3133 Be)
Possessed by self-assurance but unencumbered by any formal education, 17 year-old Sarah longs to restore the family country estate to its former glory. Reduced to genteel poverty by a deceased father that exercised poor business judgement while among the living, Sarah and family dwell amid the crumbling manor with little purpose in a neighborhood inhabited by eccentrics common to English villages. Her terminally vague mother does little to help the cause, when she marries a maestro, who brings to the union a fragile constitution and his objectionable children, a stepfamily rich in artistic pretensions, but poor in liquid assets. A new acquaintance in the form of a handsome diplomat, all kindness and flash, might rescue Sarah, but he proves to be frustratingly enigmatic largely due to Sarah’s naiveté. Determined to impress him, she impulsively escapes to London to earn a living, but her lack of any qualifications lands her a menial job and lodgings unsuitable for a carefully brought-up young lady. Sarah’s combination of cluelessness and candor is endearing and the cast of supporting characters do much to enhance this comedy of manners. But it’s England, the summer of 1939, and throughout the book an atmosphere of wistfulness coupled with a hint of impending doom hangs in the air.
This book follows 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine, who is half white and half Ojibwe, as she navigates family tragedy, a budding romance, and a drug issue on her reservation. When she witnesses a shocking murder, she steps in to help the FBI with their drug investigation. She is reluctant, but her love for her family and community is strong, and she believes she can help the community find peace and healing by helping to find a solution. As she uncovers secrets, she realizes going undercover and searching for the truth was more complicated than she imagined. Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Ojibwe woman (Anishinaabe kwe) and how far she’ll go for her community and loved ones.
Boulley does a tremendous job of bringing to light the drug trafficking and resulting tragedies that are occurring on this reservation and providing context for the prevalence of an issue like this, while simultaneously showcasing the strength, beauty, and resilience of Native communities and cultures. She reminds us to consider the human aspect of these types of tragedies, the effects they have on real people, and how to continue to honor those whose lives are taken at the hands of such tragedies. I also felt attached to Daunis immediately; as someone with a white mother and a Native father, I understood Daunis’s feelings of not quite belonging in either world. She is so easy to root for because of how smart and strong she is and how deeply she cares about her community and family, even with its faults.
I highly recommend this as a late summer beach read, especially if you find yourself in marshy North Shore areas such as Massachusetts’s own Essex. Over the span of a year and set in late Victorian England, Perry beautifully illustrates a range of relationships, exploring the nuances of friendship, love, and intimacy. All the while, an invisible threat forever alters the lives of this broad group of complex characters. Gothic tropes abound!
This had been on my “to read” list for years but its recent adaptation as an Apple TV series motivated me to finally give it a go. My advice: read the book, skip the show! (Not even Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston could save it.)
I have particularly enjoyed Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which covers her first experiences living in New York City and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.
Meatless Days by Sara Suleri
(Library of Congress CT1518.S85 A3)
Meatless Days is a memoir about postcolonial Pakistan. Sara Suleri was the daughter of a prominent Pakistani journalist and a Welsh mother. She tells powerful stories of her family and her losses in a hypnotic style.
The Summer Book is a novel with a strong feeling of memoir. A young girl and her grandmother spend the summer on an island in the Gulf of Finland. Told in a series of vignettes, we watch the impact of time on an older person, on a child, and on the island itself.
While not as beautifully sickening as Waters’s Carsick, the “King of Filth” and director of Pink Flamingos and Serial Mom muses on role models and influences on his early and later life. The book is a delightful walk through a gallery of his friendships, personal and filmic influences, his love of Rei Kawakubo’s fashion, and even a muse on the arts that he’s brought into his home. A good read for a John Waters fan, but Role Models is also a fabulous book that may not look at individuals we typically see as role models, but definitely the influences and “loves” of his life.
I listened to The Midnight Library on cloudLibrary . It was narrated by actress Carey Mulligan who did an excellent job. Overall, the plot is a fun concept and I found the characters heartwarming.
Parable of the Sower is a beautifully written book with great characters. It is an interesting and important story crafted by a talented writer.
August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones
(Library of Congress PZ4.J7938 Au 2017)
This title may confuse, but no, it is not a depressing weather forecast for New England but rather a rollicking thriller set in Detroit whose ex-military, ex-cop, incurable Romantic hero is named August Octavio Snow. Jones is a poet and playwright and while those sensibilities may inform his prose, this story is a page-turner for the beach, the plane, or the backyard hammock. You’ll get to know Mexicantown and other areas in Detroit, which are most likely unfamiliar. Yes, it’s a macho romp, but you’ll rethink the word “macho” after finishing.
Godine at Fifty: A Retrospective of Five Decades in the Life of an Independent Publisher by David R. Godine
(Library of Congress Lg Z1217.D38 G63 2021)
If you are a book collector living in the Boston area, you probably know about David Godine’s books, and the subtitle of this tells you pretty much all you need to know about his latest. Not simply a checklist or annotated bibliography, it’s a beautifully illustrated brief history of both his work in general and individual titles in particular. Anyone looking to satisfy a bookish craving will find nourishment with every flip of the page.
Bruno’s Challenge: And Other Stories of the French Countryside by Martin Walker
(Library of Congress PZ4.W183 Br 2022)
Available through cloudLibrary in eBook format.
In recent years, summer has meant a chance to bask in the sun of southern France while reading of the amorous and culinary adventures of Bruno Courrèges, chief of police of a village in the Dordogne who mediates everything from neighborly disputes over geese to espionage with major international implications. The latest in the series won’t be out until the end of August, but these short stories act as an amuse-bouche until the main entry is ready.