Staff Book Suggestions Winter 2022
Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War by Samuel Moyn
(Library of Congress KZ6385 .M835 2021)
A fascinating exploration of the Peace movement that asks the question: what if attempts to make war more ethical have actually just made it easier to accept, leading to the creation of wars that never end?
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
(Library of Congress PZ4.I78 Bu 2015)
An exciting and heartwarming stroll through the world of Arthurian legend that explores the importance of human memory and purpose.
Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangal; translated from French by Jessica Moore
(Library of Congress PZ4.K41 Pa 2021)
A lovely book about growing up, creating art, and looking closely at one’s surroundings—the natural and manmade environments.
Following are a few books I’ve read recently that I’ve rated five stars on Goodreads.
(Library of Congress PZ4 .C987 Se 2021)
I enjoyed the conceit of the book: the protagonist is writing a letter to a close friend of her experience inviting an artist to live in a cottage on their property that she and her husband refer to as ‘the second place’. Through this letter she recounts the events of how this additional presence impacts her family and herself.
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
(Library of Congress CT275.S135 K44 2021)
I listened to this book on cloudLibrary, which was read by the author. As can be imagined, it’s a fairly aggravating topic since this family has been able to use its wealth and connections to evade the consequences of what they did with their product Oxycontin. What I found most interesting is the reporting done on the first generation Sacklers and where it all started.
Bright Center of Heaven by William Maxwell
(Library of Congress PZ3.M4518 Ear 2008)
This was the first piece I’ve read of Maxwell’s and I was enthralled with his writing. This short novel written in 1934 encompasses mostly one day in the lives of a boarding house and its occupants.
Many of my best reads are a result of recommendations from the Athenæum staff and members. All three of my books fall into this category.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
(Library of Congress PZ7 .G48 Van 2017)
Mary Warnament recommended The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in her holiday list. It is so good I had to mention it again. It’s a charming story of five siblings living in New York City. The book reminds me of some of my favorite childhood authors (Elizabeth Enright, E. Nesbit) yet it is completely contemporary in feel.
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
(Library of Congress PZ3.P9936 Ex)
I know I’m late to the party when it comes to Barbara Pym. Will Evans suggested Excellent Women to me this fall. I couldn’t believe that I had missed it. It’s a savagely funny read filled with hilarious characters.
(Library of Congress PZ4 .O313 Ha 2020)
Tim Diggins, the President of the Athenæum, urged me to read Hamnet. The writing is just beautiful even as the story is heartbreaking. I gulped the book down in two afternoons over the holidays.
Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia by Barbara Sandri and Francesco Giubbilini; illustrated by Camilla Pintonato
(Library of Congress + SF487.5 .S36 2021)
I am nearing the end of the semester which means my time for fun reading is extremely limited. Chickenology is a quick and informative read with beautiful illustrations. Caution: There is a strong possibility you’ll want to adopt a therapy hen after reading! Consider yourself warned.
A Street in Suffolk by Adrian Bell; with drawings by Richard Shirley Smith
(Cutter Classification N9Y .B414 .st)
In 1964 Faber and Faber published this collection of essays by Adrian Bell, who was a farmer, author, and also first compiler of the crossword in the London Times (eventually contributing almost 5,000). I’m currently savoring a new edition of selections from his weekly column in The Eastern Daily Press, which he wrote from 1950 to 1980 and recently published by Slightly Foxed with a focus on his winter writings. The BA’s 1964 selection is charmingly illustrated as is the 2021 selection, though by different artists. Bell’s well-written reflections on his simple surroundings make for a contemplative treat. Not all of these focus on winter but this season is an excellent time to stop, look closely, and notice the beauty of a season when so much seems dormant. I add an interesting fact I learned while preparing this recommendation: his daughter was Anthea Bell, an award-winning translator whose work I also admire and recommend.
Death of an Englishman by Magdalena Nabb
(Library of Congress PZ4.N114 De)
This book is by no means new, published in 1981, but if you like mysteries set in Italy and don’t know about this author, you will want to add her to your list. This is the first in her series set in Florence featuring Marshal Guarnaccia. We meet him first suffering from a cold, not at his best, and struggling to solve the murder of a foreigner in his city, which as presented here is not the tourist mecca of steamy sunshine but ratyher as the city of locals during the rainy off-season. I found that even more interesting. Our detective prescribes the cocktail Negroni to treat his ailment, and as we enter flu season during a pandemic I find myself wishing that were truly a panacea. If you enjoy this, your reading list is enriched; she wrote 13 more in this series.