Staff Book Suggestions Winter 2020
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
(Library of Congress Z733.L8742 O75 2018)
The main subject of The Library Book is the horrifying fire at the Los Angeles Central Public Library in 1986, when 400,000 books were totally destroyed, and 700,000 more damaged. This in itself would make a compelling book, but the author broadens her investigation of the fire, its investigation, the perpetrator, the importance of books and libraries in the world, and so very much more. Read the publisher’s description (not one exaggeration) at the link above, and you’ll be hooked.
The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald
(Library of Congress PZ4.F555 Be)
I bought this for myself, wrapped it, and put it under the tree “from Santa.” Shh! Don’t tell my family. It’s absurd to work at the BA and buy a book, but I own most of this astounding writer’s other novels and I reread them sometimes, so I couldn’t resist. The story opens in 1913 Moscow, at a moment between two revolutions. A Russian-born Englishman and his three children have been abandoned by his wife. Things are not going to go well.
Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer
(Library of Congress PN145 .D74 2019)
On cold winter days, some people love to stay warm and write. This modern and witty guide by Benjamin Dreyer is a great read for writers of all abilities. Dreyer covers numerous examples of writing from amateur writers to famous authors. Regardless of your prose, you will learn about grammar, punctuation, and more in a way that will leave you smiling and a better writer.
Three Poems by Hannah Sullivan
(Library of Congress PR6119.U438 A6 2018)
Hannah Sullivan’s debut collection, which won the T. S. Eliot Award, is three long poems that stand apart and together they are a compelling unity showing the complexity of being human.
The three poems are:
“You, Very Young in New York” which is a tender study of romantic possibility, disenchantment, and of innocence.
“Repeat Until Time” begins with a move to California, explores repetition, returning home as a young adult (what we take and what we leave behind)—a balance of the personal and philosophical.
“The Sandpit After Rain” explores the birth of a child and the loss of a father.
The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard ; translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti
(Library of Congress PQ2682.U45 O73 2018)
A brilliant haunting book that tells the story of one day, February 20, 1933. A meeting of 24 German leaders of industry and senior Nazi officials meet in secret during a harsh Berlin winter. Vuillard puts you in the room, sits you at the table, and feeds you the details with the stress of that fateful evening. There is a very good reason this book won the Prix Goncourt in 2017.
(Library of Congress PZ4.D27292 Pa 2017)
Have you read all of Patricia Highsmith’s books and found yourself craving a book with characters who remind you of Ripley and Greenleaf (outsider versus insider) with a touch of Gatsby? The Party is about a friendship that takes place at a fortieth birthday party. British society, champagne, drugs, glamour, new money, old money, and a secret between friends boils over. You’ll be able to feel the champagne fizz over the tension—thankfully.
The Book of Dust: Volume 1 by Philip Pullman
(Young Adult/Children’s Room PZ7.P968 Bo 2017)
The perfect novel to dive into on these cold, dark, winter days. In this first book of a trilogy, Pullman returns to the world of His Dark Materials to explore an alternative universe much like our own but with magic, witches, societies of scheming scholars, armored bears, and daemons. Those who loved His Dark Materials will revel in learning the origin story of Lyra Belaqua and the theocratic Magisterium that she fights against, while also being introduced to some compelling new characters. And for those who fall in love, volume 2 of the trilogy (The Secret Commonwealth) just came out so you won’t have to wait for the next installment! Best for a cozy afternoon beside the fire with your favorite cup of tea.
Harlem Renaissance: Four Novels of the 1930s
(Library of Congress PS508.N3 H368 2011)
This collection of Harlem Renaissance classics is a definite must-read. Both individually and as a collection, these four powerful novels deserve to be read as powerful and enduring classics of American literature, from the African American perspective. Whether you enjoy realism, science fiction, mystery stories or historical fiction, there is something here for you!
Langston Hughes’s Not Without Laughter (1931), the poet’s only novel, an elegiac, elegantly realized coming-of-age tale suffused with childhood memories of Missouri and Kansas, follows a young man from his rural origins to the big city. George S. Schuyler’s Black No More (1931), a darkly comic satire founded on the science fiction premise of a wonder drug permitting blacks to change their race, savagely caricatures public figures white and black alike in its raucous, carnivalesque send-up of American racial attitudes. Considered the first detective story by an African American writer, Rudolph Fisher’s The Conjure-Man Dies (1932) is a mystery that comically mixes and reverses stereotypes, placing a Harvard-educated African “conjure-man” at the center of a phantasmagoric charade of deaths and disappearances. Black Thunder (1936), Arna Bontemps’s stirring fictional recreation of Gabriel Prosser’s 1800 slave revolt, which, though unsuccessful, shook Jefferson’s Virginia to its core, marks a turn from aestheticism toward political militancy in its exploration of African American history.
How to be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery and illustrated by Rebecca Green
(Library of Congress QL85 .M65 2018)
This title may sound like a self-help book, but although it is more a nature memoir, it may indeed help those who have resolved to improve themselves in the new year. Sy Montgomery writes a charming and searingly honest memoir of thirteen animals whose goodness has inspired her. “Good” isn’t a word many would choose to describe an ermine/weasel who kills a beloved hen, but Sy understands animals—that they kill to eat and to defend themselves. While she adores them, she doesn’t anthropomorphize them (too much). She knows they are other beings, especially the octopus who seemed “alien” to her and yet with whom she felt a shared connection. It’s a delightful reminder to respect our fellow creatures, whether human, furry (even a hard-to-love furry spider), or an inside-out skeletal sea animal.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
(Library of Congress PZ4.M85265 Bi 2014)
Young, single mother Jane and her son Ziggy move into the seaside community of Pirriwee, where Jane befriends beautiful but reserved Celeste and vivacious but insecure Madeline on the day of kindergarten orientation. An incident between two children at orientation sets the ball rolling on a Rube-Goldberg-like series of events that lead to a death. Was it murder? An accident? And will Jane, Celeste, and Madeline divulge their secrets to find answers? Moriarty develops characters facing relatable challenges and strikes the right balance between a considered exploration of adult friendship and a fast-paced mystery.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
(Library of Congress PZ4 .V9755 On 2019)
If you, like me, find the melancholy of winter quite appealing to your inner angst-monster, pick up Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous as soon as you can. It’s the perfect book for those days when you take pleasure in the gloomy, dreary weather and walk the damp streets with some sad tune playing in your earbuds like your own personal soundtrack. Vuong explores his heartbreakingly beautiful relationship with his mother in the form of a letter she may never get to read. It’s a love poem wrapped in a memoir shot through with striking condemnations of racism, homophobia, and systemic oppression. A quick and intense read, this one leaves you with a chill that’s hard to shake.