STAFF BOOK SUGGESTIONS WINTER 2021
Intimations: Six Essays by Zadie Smith
(Library of Congress PR6069.M59 I46 2020)
A great collection of essays that speak to right now. Smith is always intelligent and interesting. This collection, like all her essays, will leave you wanting to craft the perfect essay yourself.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
(Library of Congress PZ4 .B4665 Va 2020)
This novel is on my top five “books read list ” in 2020. Beautifully written and thought provoking. Bennet creates a world that you will not easily forget and her characters, months after you read it, will continue to be a part of your thoughts. It is clear why this novel is on everyone’s list.
Lartigue: The Boy and the Belle Époque by Louise Baring
(Library of Congress TR140.L32 B37 2020)
If you just want to smile and look at fun photographs then this is the book for you. Utterly charming, engaging and lively. With this book in hand you’ll feel like you’ve found a long lost friend.
Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden; edited by Kwame Dawes and Matthew Shenoda, with a foreword by Derek Walcott
(Library of Congress PS591.N4 B36 2017)
A fine collection of poetry responding to Bearden’s art. The fantastic group of poets within this slim volume will have you lingering the artistic alleys of the mind.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami
(Library of Congress CT1838.M87 A3 2008)
I first came to Murakami through his novels—wonderful and bizarre postmodern (perhaps metamodern?) stories about disaffected middle-aged jazz enthusiasts cooking pasta, meeting talking cats, and falling through portals in wells. Recently I’ve taken up running, and this contemplative and self-effacing meditation on the hobby has given me solace on days when it’s too cold to go running myself.
The Searcher by Tana French (also available as an audio book from CloudLibrary)
(Library of Congress PZ4.F872735 Se 2020)
This is the latest book from Irish crime fiction writer Tana French. And another success for me. She’s best known for her Dublin Squad series, which I recommend, but her most recent is a standalone book. In interviews she has talked about how this book was influenced by John Ford’s western The Searcher. French’s book is also about the search for somebody and a man struggling to come to terms with his previous life and what he has always believed was his moral code. The bare bones outline of the plot—that a retired Chicago police officer moves to a small rural village in the west of Ireland and is asked to find out what happened to a missing teenager—does not do any justice to the world French creates. Read it and enjoy The Search.
Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape by Barry Lopez
(Library of Congress QH84.1 .L67 1986)
I’m taking an unusual step and recommending two books I’ve only just started, both perfect for the season. I discovered Barry Lopez just days before he died. The first pages of his Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape mentions Kalamazoo, MI, a city not far from where I and my parents grew up (Perhaps you know it from the song or more recently from the Pfizer plant producing a vaccine). That connection wasn’t why I picked up the book or why I turned the page again and again, but connections are important this year. Arctic Dreams won many awards, most notably the National Book Award in 1986. A natural history classic. Poetic, intelligent, informed consideration of a landscape and its inhabitants.
(Library of Congress PR6069.E316 S66 2016)
I admire many of Little Toller’s publications, both its classic reprints and its new list. It is small but its authors have garnered a lot of attention and major awards. How could I resist sharing this meditation, as multifaceted as a flake (and its beautiful cover) for my winter recommendation.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
(Library of Congress PZ4.P294 Du 2019)
The Conroy Family has occupied my attention for the last several days as I make my way through The Dutch House. I typically shy away from anything that includes the “wicked stepmother” trope, but Patchett’s telling of Danny and Maeve Conroy’s experiences taps into themes of belonging, identity, and familial love, and loss in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Patchett cleverly uses the extravagant house the Conroy siblings were raised in as a character, adding dimension to the siblings’ stories.