02.12.2014

Staff Book Suggestions Winter 2014

David Dearinger
Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins
(New Books, Library of Congress PS3553.O47478 A73 2013)

Billy Collins’s poems will be familiar to readers of the New Yorker and the Atlantic. He has been Poet Laureate of the United States twice, an honor that suggests the universal appeal (and accessibility, in the best sense of the word) of his work. This volume features over fifty poems: so you can read one a day, to the end, and, by the time you’re finished, spring will (almost) be here.

Some favorites: “Obituaries,” “Greek and Roman Statuary,” “What She Said,” “To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl,” “Lincoln,” “Central Park,” “A Word About Transitions,” “The Names,” and “The Trouble with Poetry,” in which Collins tells us that “the trouble with poetry is / that it encourages the writing of more poetry.” In Collins’s case anyway, thank god for that.

Coorain Devin
Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame by Ty Burr
(Library of Congress P96.C35 B85 2012)

This look at movie stardom starts with stars of the silent screen and ends with a complex look at today’s celebrity culture. By taking a historical approach, Burr is able to pick out common archetypes that practically every famous face fits into. So maybe this year, resolve to avoid picking up the tabloids and pick up a deeper understanding of what exactly is so appealing about the tabloids.

Jayne Giuduci
Gardening Women: Their Stories from 1600 to the Present by Catherine Horwood
(Library of Congress SB451 .H67 2010)

After the first frost and as soon as winter begins to settle in, I start planning and revamping my gardens for the next year. Gardening women by Catherine Horwood is an inspirational read for the avid gardener.

Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West maybe familiar to many as the mavens of gardening women; Horwood enlightens us to a few of the more elusive plants women.  These women sponsored and funded plant hunters, cared for unique tropical plants such as orchids and lilies in their greenhouses and traded seeds they had harvested with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. They also fostered the art of horticulture by breeding specialized varieties of orchids, roses and irises.

Now I just have to wait until the ground thaws to begin anew.

Carolle Morini
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer
(Library of Congress PZ4.B3375 Fr 2012)

Inspired by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, this epistolary novel will not only entertain you while staying indoors (hopefully by a fire), but may inspire you to write a few letters and revisit the works by the writers who inspired this novel.

Chloe Morse-Harding
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
(New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.B9185 Pan 2013)

This is the story of three sisters living in Paris during the late 19th century. Recently, their father passed away and their mother spends more time drinking absinthe than doing anything else. The chapters go back and forth between the two older sisters, Marie and Antoinette. Marie describes her time dancing with the ballet and her relationship with Edgar Degas, while Antoinette’s story details her struggles taking care of her family, her love affair with a dangerous young man, and finally her redemption. An engaging family tale with a bittersweet ending.

Emilia Mountain
Winter’s Bone: A Novel by Daniel Woodrell
(Library of Congress PZ4.W891 Wi 2006)

An Appalachian odyssey of sorts. Our heroine is a sixteen year old girl traipsing through the heavy Ozark snow in a skirt, boots and her late Mamaw’s old coat. It’s a struggle against time and the elements as she searches for her “crank chef” father before the law takes the family home. Some of the most raw, creepy and fascinating characters I’ve ever *met* in a book. I’ve saved the 2010 film for the holiday break.

Humorous Readings from Charles Dickens for the Platform, the Social Circle, and the Fireside edited by Charles R. Neville
(Library of Congress PZ3.D55 Hu)

I would say, “The subtitle says it all,” but that would be robbing you of a sneak peek of some of the most amusing chapter titles in print, including “Mr. Pickwick and the Middle-Aged Lady—A Comical Little Bedroom Farce,” “How Sam Weller Gave Sergeant Buzfuz More Information Than He Wanted,” “The Milliner Proposes to Put Her Expensive Husband on a Fixed Allowance” and “The Cooing of Widow Nickleby’s Mad Lover.” If this book isn’t on the shelf, it is probably because I am reading it, as directed, by the fireside.

Tara Munro
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.A225 Am 2013)

Americanah is the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who travels to the United States to pursue an education. While here she starts a blog about race in America from the perspective of a non-American black person with inspiration coming from her experiences in school, her employers, and the people she dates. It’s an interesting, telling, and witty commentary about assumptions and perspectives surrounding an uncomfortable topic, as well as a story of an individual’s journey from being an expatriate to her return home.

Suzanne Terry
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
(Library of Congress Classification PZ4.B9335 We 2013)

A fresh debut novel by a young Zimbabwean author, this book was short listed for the Man Booker Prize. Bulawayo tells the story in the voice of ten-year old Darling, who lives in abject poverty in a shanty town in Zimbabwe, where corruption is rampant and children run wild. She is one of the lucky ones with a relative in the USA, however, and in the second half of the book, we follow her struggles as an immigrant trying to better her position in life. Written in short chapters, a totally unflinching look at the life of a forthright and engaging young girl’s coming of age.

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett
(New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.L89925 Bo 2013)

This is the story of an American rare book dealer in England. He’s involved in a mystery about documents proving the true identity of the Shakespeare plays. And lots more. Many details involving libraries, rare book rooms, collectors & dealers, provenance, book conservation, conservation labs—and murder! Three separate plot lines spanning different eras all combine to solve the mystery. Perfect for bibliophiles!

Peter Walsh
Bernard Berenson: A Life in the Picture Trade by Rachel Cohen Yale
(New Books, Library of Congress CT275.B467 C63 2013)

Bernard Berenson, the legendary art historian and connoisseur, started out with nothing, went to Harvard, knew everyone, may have shared a mistress with J. Pierpont Morgan, wrote many books, inspired and infuriated people by the dozens, had no real profession or business yet lived better than a millionaire, hid out from the Nazis, taught several generations of leading professors and curators without ever being a professor or curator, reinvented himself multiple times, and, almost impossibly, survived well into his nineties. Born in Lithuania into a poor Jewish family, Berenson came to Boston as a small child and, though he lived almost all his long life in Europe, remained in some deep sense a Bostonian. He helped Mrs. Gardner find the greatest works in her Boston museum and left his Italian villa and library to Harvard as a research center for scholars of Italian Renaissance Art. This, the first Berenson biography in a quarter century, tells all with grace, economy, and deep sympathy for the foibles of its subject.

Mary Warnement
Mr. Selden’s Map of China: Decoding the Secrets of a Vanished Cartographer by Timothy Brook
(Library of Congress GA1121 .B76 2013)

The seventeenth century is one of my least favorite time periods, yet I was eager to read this book about a manuscript map acquired by John Selden, famed constitutional lawyer (perhaps known best to Athenӕum members for his involvement in the Antiquarian Society), and bequeathed to the Bodleian in his large gift of the mid-seventeenth century. I have been reading about China lately. First a mystery set in Peking and revolving around the disappearance of important prehistoric fossils during WWII (Claire Taschdjian’s The Peking Man is Missing, Cutter Classification VEF .T181 .p), then a history about a crime in Peking just before the start of WWII (Paul French’s Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China, Library of Congress Classification HV6535.C43 F74 2012) which I chose because I wasn’t ready to leave Peking behind. I commonly succumb to this tendency to follow a tread (as in rut), but why should I consider it a temptation rather than focused study? Because I know myself; I’m following my interests down whatever paths of digression they take me and enjoying the coincidences along the way. One such was encountering an author I have mentioned before in my dilettantish look at China; Brook thanks his friend Frances Wood of the British Library for pointing out materials relevant to his study. Brook and Wood both studied in China at a time when that was rare (see her Hand-grenade Practice in Peking: My Part in the Cultural Revolution, Library of Congress Classification DS795.13 .W66 2000), and in fact Brook introduces his book by describing his attempt to leave China with a then-current map in his backpack. Map aficionados as well as those interested in book history, economic history, library studies, and China will enjoy Brook’s ability to tell a story as well as illustrate history’s relevance to current events. Some chapters stray far from the map at the center, but the information provided was necessary. Was it an accident that the chapter on the map’s compass was at the center of the book? If maps are your main interest, you may want to focus on that chapter and the last one which address cartographic questions in most detail.

Alexandra Winzeler
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
(Library of Congress PZ4.C605 Jo 2004)

This historical fantasy novel follows the rise and fall of English Magicians.  The book opens on a private group of “magicians” in London whose emphasis on academics have left them so far removed from the practice of magic, they could not perform a single spell.  Our two title characters (one cautious and knowledgeable, the other a daring amateur) arrive on the scene and turn the idea of modern magic on its head.  This novel is an artful blend of realistic history and gothic fantasy.  Most notable with this story is the writing style.  Published in 2004, the language reads like a historical account directly from the nineteenth century.

Feeling skeptical?  Bear with this story a little ways and you won’t regret it.  Non-fiction readers: the historic detail of events such as the Napoleonic War and the realistic world of historic London might hold your interest more than you expected, not to mention the authentic-feeling antiquated writing style.  Young Adult and Fantasy readers: have a little patience with the vocabulary and pace of this novel and you will be rewarded with devious faerie princes, pathways to other worlds behind every mirror, and even a brush with the legendary Raven King.  Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a unique, genre-bending story worth the little trip outside your usual comfort zone. 

09.19.2013

Staff Book Suggestions Autumn 2013

Emily Anderson
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
(On order)

A nice, short introduction to Tolstoy. And as Autumn approaches, both the author and nature guide us through contemplations of life and death.

Pat Boulos
Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter
(Library of Congress PZ4.W2355 Be 2012)

If you love the ancient charms of the Italian coast on the Ligurian Sea, Edinburgh and its cold rain and distant hot sun, and stories of the dream factory that is Hollywood, you will not put down this book until you are finished reading it.

James Feeney, Jr.
New England Icons: Shaker Villages, Saltboxes, Stone Walls and Steeples
by Bruce Irving
(New Books, Library of Congress F5 .I78 2011)

Entertaining and precise descriptions, accompanied by fine photos.

Jayne Giuduci
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
(Library of Congress PZ3.P9936 Ex)

Mildred Lathbury is an excellent woman; a clergyman’s daughter, single, and supportive of her local parish church, doer of good works and organizer of jumble sales. Hers is a very ordered life, until some new neighbors move into the village. They unsettle Mildred’s world and her expectations. This is a wonderfully “British” novel where “nothing much happens” but it will amuse you and make you smile. At least a few references to autumn too.

Andrew Hahn
Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers
(Library of Congress B3376.W564 E35 2001)

Philosophical battles are often waged in words, however during a brief meeting of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper, a poker, used perhaps for rhetorical flourish, suggested the possibility of words erupting into the realm of the physical, at least that is the provocative  hook that David Edmonds and John Eidinow use to present the legacies and thought of the two philosophers in Wittgenstein’s Poker.

Andria Lauria
Wool by Hugh Howey
(On order)

In a dystopian world, humanity takes refuge in an underground silo where the dream of a world beyond the silo is punished by death. Be prepared for surprises and chills. The implications of this fictional world are spine-tingling and characters do not always end up as anticipated. Wool is the first omnibus in a three part saga (Wool, Shift, Dust). And, it’s probably worth noting, Ridley Scott bought the rights to Wool a few months back, so it’s possibly a soon-to-be film. I will probably hate the film, though, because I have no clue how he could capture the entirety of this book, but then again, “Alien” and “Bladerunner” are two of my favorite films, so if anyone is going to make it happen, it’s Mr. Scott.

Kristy Lockhart
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
(Library of Congress CT788.W777 A3 2012)

Watching the first season of the television series based upon this memoir made me very curious about the actual events. This is the first of three books based upon the life of Jennifer Worth who, as a very young woman from an upper middle class family, began her career as a midwife in London’s East End, providing care to women living in some of the worst conditions of the 1950s. Despite some of the rather horrifying circumstances under which women were giving birth at the time, Worth’s memoir is told with such nostalgia for that post-war era that even the most disturbing aspects of poverty are softened by the joy with which Worth remembers her colleagues and patients. If you are as big a fan of the PBS series as I am, then make sure to read this book before season two airs this fall.

Carolle R. Morini
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
(Library of Congress PZ4.L615 Le 2011)

Both comic and tragic, this novel is about a young American poet, Adam Gordan, who is on a fellowship in Madrid. His days are filled with his “research”: hash, wine, medication and the most overwhelming research project: himself. Once you accept Gordon’s neurotic ways, the prose swiftly takes you along his inner dialogues, his relationships with friends, lovers and family, and his relationship with the uncertainty of his future and his writing.

Chloe Morse-Harding
After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell
Library of Congress PZ4.O313 Af 2002)

Alice Raikes takes a train from London to Scotland to visit her family, but when she gets there she witnesses something so shocking that she insists on returning to London immediately. A few hours later, Alice is lying in a coma after an accident that may or may not have been a suicide attempt. Alice’s family gathers at her bedside and as they wait, argue, and remember, long-buried tensions emerge. The more they talk, the more they seem to conceal. Alice, meanwhile, slides between varying levels of consciousness, recalling her past and a love affair that recently ended. A riveting story that skips through time and interweaves multiple points of view, After You’d Goneis a novel of stunning psychological depth and marks the debut of a major literary talent.” (Goodreads.com)

Emilia Mountain
Roots: The Definitive Compendium with More than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan
Library of Congress + TX801 .M677 2012)
Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
Library of Congress + TX801 .O88 2011)
Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison
New Books, Library of Congress + TX801 .M235 2013)

I have the great “honor” of shelving books in Lower Pilgrim, which can actually be a harrowing task when I am hungry—for that is where the cookbooks live.  The above three glossy titles will give you countless ideas on how to prepare seemingly boring plants in the most savory and colorful ways, making you the envy of this season’s harvest-themed parties.

Peter Walsh
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
(New Books, Library of Congress E839 .P28 2013)

Just selected for the National Book Award’s “long list.” From the Washington Post: “Packer’s dark rendering of the state of the nation feels pained but true. He offers no false hopes, no Hollywood endings, but he finds power in . . . the dignity and heart of a people.”

Mary Warnement
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
New Books, Library of Congress Classification PZ4.R9635 Sw 2011)

I should have seen what was coming on pages 327-330 but I didn’t. This sad book made me laugh out loud several times. This eloquent author made me underline many a well-turned or novel phrase. I’d hesitated to read it because I suspected it could belong to our age’s freak-show genre, but it wasn’t. I empathized with the characters. Kiwi’s awkward intellectualism touched me; okay, I really empathized with the poor guy who knew all the big words without knowing how to pronounce them because he’d only encountered them in books. The main character Ava called to mind Harper Lee’s Scout and Muriel Barbery’s Renee in The Elegance of the Hedgehog. (I admit, I had to look up that character’s name. Her thoughts are memorable but her name hasn’t entered the canon. My canon.) I’m glad I read Swamplandia! and recommend it. Russell is an admirable writer, but I’m not sure I’ll read any of her other books any time soon. I’ll need to let the sadness pass.

Alexandra Winzeler
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
(Library of Congress PS3569.E314 W48 2008)

Summer’s over and it’s back to work, and don’t even mention the holidays with the family on an ever-approaching horizon. Sounds like it’s time for some David Sedaris.  Like all of his autobiographical works, When You Are Engulfed in Flames contains insightful, quirky, hilarious stories about life’s problems and the people involved.  Sedaris will have you laughing out loud at the anxiety of plane travel or the stress of quitting smoking. These short stories can be read at random, or back to back like a novel. The perfect balance of realism and wit, a great book for closing the summer and preparing for the bustle of autumn.

06.27.2013

Staff Book Suggestions Summer 2013

Pat Boulos
The Interestings: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer
(On order)

 A “sly” coming-of-age novel following the relationships (both competitive and romantic) of a group of teens who meet in 1974 at an arts camp.

Will Evans
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
(Library of Congress PZ3.M13884 Me)

The isolation, dissatisfaction, and intensity of adolescence is brilliantly captured by McCullers in her wistful and darkly comic tale of 12-year-old tomboy Frankie Addams during the waning days of summer in a small Southern town.

Jayne Giudici
The Lollipop Shoes (U.K.; U.S. edition is: The Girl with No Shadow) by Joanne Harris
(Library of Congress PZ4 .H313797 Lo 2007)

A little summer magic. A sprinkle of confection, a bit of bewitchment, and a dash of spice in The Lollipop Shoes returns us to the story of Vianne Rocher, Anouk and Roux, the characters that originally appeared in Harris’s Chocolat. The restless wind has blown them all to a new life in the Montmartre district of Paris. New adventures await! The saga continues in Peaches for Father Francis. I enjoy Harris’s off-beat characters and the flavor of her unusual storytelling, and of course there is France and chocolate!

Kristy Lockhart
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
(New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.F6496 Ci 2012)

This book is a fun and imaginative read, pure and simple, featuring an engaging female protagonist, a musicologist who hails from South Boston but ends up in the middle of a kind of mystery when she takes a project cataloging Beethoven artifacts in Prague for the summer. It will win over many mystery buffs, history buffs, classical music buffs, and fantasy buffs as it pays homage to each one while managing to spin a fantastic tale with a good dose of humor thrown in. It was impossible to put down from start to finish… perfect for a summer read.

Catherine McGrath
The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes by Carolyn Keene
(Children’s Library, Library of Congress PZ7.K24 Clw 1965)

It may be that the last time you picked up a Nancy Drew mystery, Petula Clark was urging you “Downtown” and zip codes were still a novelty; and perhaps a little while later you thought you’d put the girl detective down for the last time.  Think again!  Nancy Drew in all of her incarnations from 1930, when she made her debut in The Secret of the Old Clock, through her no-longer-blonde but “titian-haired” years, can be counted on for clear thought, decisive action, an enviable wardrobe, impeccable manners, and a refreshing reluctance to search her soul for questionable motives.   A modern sleuth of the sensitive and tortured variety she is not, and this happily frees up her time for traveling to fascinating parts of the world and refusing to return to River Heights USA until she’s put a few dents in international crime.  In The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes, Nancy chases villains in rented cars (while driving, carefully, on the left), deciphers codes, puts out wildfires, and pipes “Scots Wha Hae” to surprising effect—all while learning more about Scotland’s history, geography, and culture than a lesser person would in a whole summer’s holiday.  For a “PZ7” it’s a genuine ripsnorter, and one you needn’t be embarrassed to read in the train since, as you’ll soon discover, Nancy has friends everywhere!

Chloe Morse-Harding
Dummy by R. J. Wheaton
(Library of Congress ML3470 .T54 no. 85)

A very in-depth analytical history of one of the best trip-hop bands to ever come out of England.

Emilia Mountain
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
(On order)

The delicious awkwardness of being sixteen. Punk rock. Mixed tapes. Trying father figures. Clueless moms. Discovering the humanity of others via comic books. This young adult novel provides plenty of serious social commentary, combined with jokes that will have you chuckling out loud on your commute. It also contains what is being hailed as the most intense hand holding scene in young adult literature—if not all literature. Still not convinced? It just won the 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction.

Anthea Reilly
Richard Ford
(Library of Congress PZ4.F69877)

Ford’s novels are always excellent. The latest is Canada.

Suzanne Terry
The Flavia De Luce mystery series by C. Alan Bradley
(Library of Congress PZ4.B79957)

Just the ticket for summer reading: a crumbling English country house, a dead body, and a wickedly precocious young sleuth. Meet Flavia de Luce, an eleven year old girl with an interest in chemistry—particularly poisons.  Flavia’s escape from the torments of her two older sisters is a Victorian chemistry lab that she inherited from her uncle, or a ramble in pursuit of clues on her bicycle which she has named Gladys. The books are for adults but could also be enjoyed by precocious eleven year olds! There are now six titles in the series (the first being The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie). Enjoy!

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith    
(New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.G1475 Cu 2013)

A terrific debut crime novel by an author using a pseudonym, which makes it even more of a mystery! Set it London, it follows detective and wounded war veteran Cormoran Strike as he investigates a case, with the help of a new temp secretary who jumps into the case with enthusiasm and provides invaluable support. Hopefully the start of a series!

**News Flash!! The author is really J.K. Rowling, author of  the Harry Potter books!** 7/16/13

Peter Walsh
The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity by Robert Louis Wilken
(On order)

This book has received positive reviews. It is a survey for general audiences, not specialists, and assumes no previous knowledge of Christian history, though it is clearly written from the point of view of a practicing Christian scholar. The text covers the major figures and developments in the early centuries of Christianity with special attention to the early eastern churches in Iran, India, and China and Christians living under Muslim rule, both topics not especially well covered in other histories of the Christian Church.

Mary Warnement
The Devil’s Cave by Martin Walker
(New Books, Library of Congress Classification PZ4.W183 Dev 2012)

Many of the non-fiction books I read sound like mysteries: Riddle of the LabyrinthTomb of Agamemnon, etc. I’m not ashamed of this coincidence. I enjoy reading mysteries and enjoy it all year long, but come summer, there’s something special about gobbling a good mystery. It’s often not about solving the crime. I knew that in 8th grade when the know-it-all nark in class disparaged my Trixie Belden mystery. “They’re so easy to solve, it’s not a challenge.” Duh, you can solve it by reading the synopsis on the back cover. I realized it was no wonder she had no friends; she didn’t understand that the characters–their thoughts, dreams, and relationships–were the source of pleasure. I am not sure if I am still looking for vicarious friendships, but I am looking for vicarious travel. If, like me, you wish you were in Europe right now, buy a ticket on the daydream airline (seats suitable for every budget). Martin Walker’s books about Bruno have it all. An intelligent author who knows French history and the region he writes about. Bruno, the detective, is a sensitive ex-soldier who makes his women gourmet dinner and breakfast and stays friends with all of them while foiling all criminals (petty and political). The latest, Devils Cave, is on the new book shelves; however, if you care about the relationships of these characters (and you know I think you should) start with Bruno, Chief of Police. There are a total of five in the series, enough to last the summer.

04.30.2013

Staff Book Suggestions Spring 2013

Patricia Boulos
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

David Dearinger
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.

Will Evans
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. 

Jimmy Feeney
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.

Robert Kruse
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.

Kristy Lockhart
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. 

Chloe Morse-Harding
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.”

Emilia Mountain
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.

Tricia Patterson
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!

Suzanne Terry
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.

Mary Warnement
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.

02.23.2013

Staff Book Suggestions Winter 2013

Pat Boulos

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
(Library of Congress RC265.5 .S39 2012)

This is the true story of the author and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Their conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Not at all maudlin–uplifting and inspirational, in fact.

David Dearinger

Peter Lovesey (Library of Congress PZ4.L89914)
Ian Fleming (Library of Congress PZ4.F598)

British author Peter Lovesey’s mysteries, especially those featuring over-weight, cantankerous detective Peter Diamond (set in Bath), are very well written, funny, and with plots that will keep you chaired, curled, and blanketed through any snow storm. They have been published in this country as part of the Soho Crime Series, any volumes from which are worth investigating.

If light Brit-lit is your thing, you can always fall back on Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, which read like water and give a somewhat different impression of the protagonist than has Hollywood. (The Bond of the books, for example, drinks [bonded] Old Grand Dad Kentucky bourbon as often as he drinks martinis, especially in the early books). Remember, though, that the Bond novels were written over fifty years ago and so include the occasional (and it really is only occasional) sexist, masochistic, and (sometimes) homophobic remark (the last despite Fleming’s rumored affair with Noel Coward, his neighbor in Jamaica). You can easily read any one of these books in a day and knock off the whole series by the time spring springs.

Jenny Desai

Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber
(Library of Congress GT865 .W37 2006)

Asked to match a famous person with a book that would be an appropriate gift, the novelist Hilary Mantel recently suggested that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and incubator of the British Royal family’s next heir, might benefit from reading Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. This 2006 title by Caroline Weber sparked only positive reviews on publication, but now finds itself reborn at the center of a firestorm about royalty, public personae, and the role of the press. The book is more interesting than the current controversy: Weber carefully deconstructs Marie Antoinette’s affection for fashion, painting a tragic—and nuanced—portrait of a woman who ultimately was “eaten alive by her frocks,” and more style than substance.

Chianta Dorsey

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
(Cutter Classification  EKFC6 .F217 .E)

I have always been interested in colonialism and post-colonial theory. Luckily for me, Frantz Fanon is one of the most influential writers to contribute to both fields. Fanon’s most famous work analyzes the trauma, oppression and violence that results from colonization. The book was written at a time when Fanon was engaged in the Algerian War of Independence against France. It is not a light read but it reveals the fascinating experience of how colonized peoples became agents in their fight for liberty and freedom.

Jayne Giuduci

Death and the Maiden by Frank Tallis
(Library of Congress PZ4.T14754)

An intriguing mystery on a cold and snowy day can be such an indulgence, like a bite of a decadent piece of chocolate. The Dr. Max Libermann series by Frank Tallis should be on the menu. Set in fin de siècle Vienna Dr. Libermann and his friend Inspector Oskar Reinhardt set about solving, on occasion fairly gruesome, murders and fascinating plots twists. Along the way you taste the flavor of the extravagant Vienna life style overflowing with music and elaborate pastries. These stories are just a bit of fun for a winter’s day.

Andrew Hahn

Njál’s Saga, translated from the Old Icelandic with introd. and notes by Carl F. Bayerschmidt and Lee M. Hollander.
(Library of Congress PT7269.N4 E52 1956)

The 13th century Icelandic sagas are true classics of world literature and perhaps the best place to start is with Njál’s saga and the best time to start is during a cold New England winter.

The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection
(Library of Congress PT7262.E5 S34 2000)

If you would like to continue on with your exploration of the sagas, this impressive volume contains many more, including The Saga of Greenlanders.

Monica Higgins

I suggest Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales (Library of Congress Classification PZ3.D5833 Wi), and for true hilarity, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend (Library of Congress Classification PZ4.T751 Ad).

Marc Lavalle

Back to Blood by “the man in white,” Tom Wolfe (Library of Congress, PZ4.W8563 Bac 2012).

Catherine McGrath

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
(Library of Congress PZ1 .U58 v.48)

Between the 1920s and the 1950s, Elizabeth Mackintosh (a.k.a. Josephine Tey) wrote a handful of popular mystery novels, and of these the most curious and most memorable is The Daughter of Time, which pits her detective, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, against William Shakespeare. Laid up in hospital with a badly broken leg and painfully bored, Grant is persuaded by a friend to pass time by solving the mystery of a face: that of Richard III of England. Unfamiliar with the portrait of which his friend brings him a reproduction, but confident in his knack for reading characters in faces, Grant pronounces Richard’s face to be the face of a saint. Learning to his shock that he has been studying the portrait of an English king purported to have been a merciless killer and immortalized as the arch villain of Shakespeare’s Richard III, Grant persuades a young American scholar to join him in an investigation of the facts in the case of Richard’s reign. In the process the two happily turn “history” on its head. The Daughter of Time is a quick read bound to delight lovers of either history or the mystery novel, if perhaps not lovers of Shakespeare!

Carolle R. Morini

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
(Library of Congress PZ3.E43 Mi 1912; also available on Kindle)

Why else should you read Middlemarch? – besides knowing full well it is a classic and you find yourself left out of too many literary conversations – you can use is as an excuse for the entire month of March, for example: “no, I can’t go to so-and-so’s house this evening, help you move, give the cat a bath, shovel the drive, etc. because I have a date with George Eliot.” All grand reasons! After you finish the book you will have at your disposal many quotes to use on Facebook. Such as: “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

Chloe Morse-Harding

Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel by Arthur Golden
(Library of Congress PZ4.G6198 Me)

One of my favorite books. I think it is perfect reading for every time of year. The descriptions of the scenery and of the characters are incredibly vivid, especially of the title character Sayuri. Her journey to becoming one of the best known geisha in Japan during the mid-twentieth century is moving, and I will admit that I was floored when I realized the author was not a woman. Even if you have read it, there is always something new to discover. (I have read it more times than I care to count).

Emilia Mountain

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
(Children’s Room, Library of Congress PZ7.S855625 Rav 2012)

Blue Sargent, daughter of the town psychic, has a always had a chip on her shoulder when it comes to the local boys’ academy Aglionby. And yet, she finds herself reluctantly adopted by a strange band of Anglionby history buffs when it seems their secret plotting has put one of them in great danger. Fantasy and fun aside, this young adult novel contains a serious examination of the often strained relationship between “town and gown.” The sequel, The Dream Thieves, is planned for September.

Tricia Patterson

She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir
(Library of Congress PZ3.B3852 Sh)

Because no one can resist a sultry, existential love triangle. Also, the end of the book will really heats things up (which is great for a cold winter), but not in the way you’d expect!

Douglas Pollock

Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone
(Library of Congress QK605 .B65 2011)

Mycophilia surveys the new science in the field of mycology and “will open your eyes to the vast and bizarre world of fungi” and their role and relationships with others on Earth.

Suzanne Terry

Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd
(Library of Congress PZ4.B7892 Wat 2012)

Moving from Vienna in 1913 to London’s west end, the battlefields of France and hotel rooms in Geneva, a novel about a British actor, Lysander Rief, who goes to Vienna for a psychological cure, falls in love with a dangerous woman, and becomes involved in espionage for the British intelligence service. This is a “literary thriller that genuinely thrills, a plot-driven novel assembled by a master of plotting.” (The Financial Times)

Peter Walsh

Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David Kennedy
(Library of Congress E173 .O94, vol. 9)

Part of the Oxford American History series. A really interesting and detailed description of the Great Depression and the Roosevelt Administration, with many unexpected parallels with the present. So many current issues now were also issues that far back in American history.

Mary Warnement

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier
(Library of Congress DK756.2 .F73 2010)

I was tempted to write about this in the autumn but decided Siberia is a topic for the cold months of winter. In fact, Frazier did not travel to Siberia in winter until he felt, well into his project, that he had to experience Siberian cold in order to have any credibility, at least with his readers. This is travelogue, history, and memoir. I have long had a fascination with Russia, and I felt as if he wrote this with me in mind. But his own “Russia love” (as he calls it) was his driving force. The sheer size of Siberia merits attention. Look at a map, most of Russia is Siberia. Remember playing the game Risk? Frazier certainly noted the importance of Siberia there. Born and bred in Michigan, I thought I knew about lakes. (Michigan, in case you don’t know, is the “great lake state.”) His statement that Lake Baikul is the largest sent me first to the map, where its thin length compared poorly to any of my great examples, but when I checked my reference sources, I realized it is largest by volume. If you enjoy geography, adventure, travel, and eccentric examples of human behavior, I recommend this. It will put in perspective the amount of snow you recently shoveled.

11.08.2012

Staff Book Suggestions Autumn 2012

Will Evans

Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang [i.e. Ai Ling Zhang].
(Library of Congress PZ4.Z635 Lo 2007)

If Jane Austen had been of Asian extraction and the product of 1930’s Shanghai, she might have written stories like Eileen Chang. As is often the case with Austen’s heroines, economic realities and cultural expectations require the women in Chang’s works to find safe, if not suitable male companions. However, Shanghai as depicted by Chang is a far cry from the courtly world of Regency England. The threat of war often looms or thrusts into the narrative. Moreover, Chang brilliantly observes the often tragic clash of patriarchal traditions, honored for centuries, against the lure of Western modernity.

James P. Feeney, Jr.

All Souls: A Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick MacDonald
(Library of Congress CT275.M34668 A3 1999)

A story of growing up in South Boston, tragically true, though not a lifestyle experienced by most residents.

Kristy Lockhart

Too Much Happiness: Stories by Alice Munro
(Library of Congress PZ4.M969 To 2009)
 
The New York Times once described Alice Munro as having a claim to being “the best fiction writer now working in North America”. This particular collection of short stories won the 2009 Man Booker International Prize and is considered to be some of her best work. From the opening story of a young wife and mother who finds consolation for her grief in the most unlikely place, to the lengthy title story about a Russian woman journeying from the Riviera, to Paris, Germany, Denmark, and finally to Sweden where she finds a University willing to employ a female mathematician, Munro has a way of writing difficult and complex emotions into her stories with and ease that will surprise most readers.

Carolle Morini

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
(Library of Congress PZ3.T588 An 2011); and
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
(Library of Congress PZ3.F5754 Gr 2000)

Don’t you want to be the one  saying “that didn’t happen in the book!!” ? Then check out these two books before the movie adaptations appear in theaters.

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story : A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max
(on order)

A truly engaging biography about the writer.

Chloe Morse-Harding

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
(Library of Congress PZ4.S4965 Th 2006)

This is the perfect book to spend a winter afternoon reading.  It is a mysterious story about what happens when we seek out
the truth to things that have been keep hidden before.  As the story unravels, I found myself drawn into the world of both the main characters, two women at very different times in their lives.

Emilia Poppe Mountain

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
(Children’s Library, PZ7.L216 Br 2012)

An eerie, mystical Young Adult novel that made me think: Celtic legend meets The Stepford Wives.  Disturbing and beautiful at the same time.  Our Children’s Librarian, Suzanne Terry, recommends it as well.

Tricia Patterson

House of the Gentlefolk by Ivan Turgenev
(Library of Congress PZ3.T844 Ho)

Great for curling up with in the cold months.

Alice Platt

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick
(Library of Congress HN730.6.A8 D46 2009)

Very few people in the world know what life is like in North Korea, but in “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea,” journalist Barbara Demick provides us with a glimpse. The author tells the life stories of several people who eventually defected for one reason or another, painting a broad picture of life in Chongjin, one of North Korea’s more remote cities. Everyday tales of going to school, finding a good job, putting rice on the table, and falling in love present a stark reminder that regular people are still living behind the tatters of the 20th century’s iron curtain; her portrayal of North Korean culture also helps to explain how this can be so. An excellent read.

Anthea Reilly

Books by Graham Swift and Martin Amis.  Two favorite authors of the moment.

Suzanne Terry

Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
(Library of Congress PZ4.G3483 Bel 2012)

Wall Street Journal says: “It all seems to come down to money in the end.” So thinks Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, the New Scotland Yard man looking into a wealthy Cumbrian family’s private deeds and secrets in the latest Lynley chronicle from Elizabeth George. Ms. George, as ever, writes a long and complicated book, with a multiplicity of subplots and a richness of physical detail.”

Peter Walsh

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane
(On order)

“Tells the story of walking a thousand miles or more along old ways in search of a route to the past, only to find myself delivered again and again to the contemporary.” The American edition is just out and I haven’t read very far but the book got such rave reviews I did a pre-order for it.

Mary Warnement

How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening, for writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, and Civil Servants, with Illustrations Showing Current Practice by David Rees
(New Book Shelves, Library of Congress PN6165 .R44 2012)
 
I wrote last time that the best books lead you to more books. Sometimes they also lead to laughter. This book was mistaken for an April Fools joke when it appeared on the The New Yorker blog on April 1st. Who can blame those skeptical readers who thought they’d sussed a hoax. Its introduction by comedian John Hodgman, known for his appearances on The Daily Show and in Apple commercials, also leads one to believe this is not a serious publication. The subtitle almost seems a table of contents, but in fact the author, David Rees, based his book on an industrial manual he found. This book is difficult to classify, it is in some ways a satire but also an artists’ book, an homage to craftsmanship, and an instruction manual. For example, in his chapter listing supplies necessary for his trade, he mentions tweezers to place shavings in baggies for customers (who of course have a right to these). “It’s not hard to come by a good pair of tweezers; I use the ones my wife left behind when she moved out.” Out of context, that statement doesn’t seem particularly laughable; I highly recommend reading the book to put it into context and then sharing this as a gift with anyone you know who loves pencils, writing, and quirky obsessions.

05.21.2012

Staff Book Suggestions Summer 2012

Robert Ashton

Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel by Hilary Mantel

(New Books, Library of Congress PZ4.M292 Br 2012)

This second of Mantel’s trilogy about the much-told story of Henry VIII and his wives, picks up in 1535 where the first, the Man Booker-winning Wolf Hall, left off. Thomas More has been executed, Henry has challenged the Pope by declaring his own first marriage annulled and marrying Anne Boleyn, and through his favorite minister is scooping up the lands and holdings of smaller Church properties to refill the royal coffers. The story is told through the fascinating character of Thomas Cromwell, a man who rose from an abject childhood to become the chief minister to the King. Mantel’s Cromwell – as, indeed, all her characters in this series – is richly drawn and very human. Unlike so many tales of Henry VIII, neither is More wholly saintly nor Cromwell wholly evil. In fact, one finds much to like and respect in Cromwell, a man of remarkable talents, not unlike in Mantel’s vision the next great British administrator and minister, Samuel Pepys. Cromwell’s great skill at reading others, and his highly pragmatic approach to finding a way to rid Henry’s life of the scheming Anne, bring into sharp focus the character’s humanity and inhumanity simultaneously. Mantel has promised a third, concluding book, presumably carrying the reader forward to 1540, when Henry created Cromwell an Earl and at nearly the same moment beheaded him. One of the joys of reading Mantel’s version of the oft-told story is that we can cast forward to a century or so later, as puritans and pilgrims set off for the new world and see how the conflicts set in motion by Henry VIII continued to ripple through the lives of the early Boston settlers.

Pat Boulos

The Beginner’s Goodbye: A Novel by Anne Tyler

(New Books, Library of Congress Classification, PZ4.T979 Beg 2012)

I highly recommend A Beginner’s Goodbye, by Anne Tyler. Amazon’s blurb is a fair description: “Anne Tyler gives us a wise, haunting, and deeply moving new novel in which she explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances—in their house, on the roadway, in the market. Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron spent his childhood fending off a sister who wants to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, a plain, outspoken, self-dependent young woman, she is like a breath of fresh air. Unhesitatingly he marries her, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage. But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy’s unexpected appearances from the dead help him to live in the moment and to find some peace. Gradually he discovers, as he works in the family’s vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life, that maybe for this beginner there is a way of saying goodbye. A beautiful, subtle exploration of loss and recovery, pierced throughout with Anne Tyler’s humor, wisdom, and always penetrating look at human foibles.”

Jenny Desai

Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light by Jane Brox

(Library of Congress TH7900.B68.2010)

The author of four acclaimed works about farms, farming and our evolving relationship with the farmscape, in her fifth book Jane Brox turns her considerable curiosity to the evolution of a more interior, internal force: the development of artificial light. From the lamps of the Pleistocene era to the development of LEDs—including an ingenious, firefly-driven lamp plied by nineteenth-century cat burglars plying their trade, the poignant tales of women working with phosphorescent materials to create safety matches and dying in the process, and the programs that brought electric light to rural farms and enclaves—Ms. Brox explores the ways our lives have been changed by being unshackled to daylight and its natural rhythms. In prose that is as searching as it is generous, Ms. Brox sheds both light and warmth on a topic that might seem slight in the hands of another author, creating a book that befits its title: brilliant. (Jane Brox read from her work as the 2010 Torrence C. Harder Endowed Lecturer at the Boston Athenæum in December 2010.)

God’s Secretaries: the Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson

(Library of Congress BS186.N53.2003)

“Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light, that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel,” wrote Miles Smith in his preface to the King James translation of the holy book. It’s a longer quotation than that, with even more images abutting each other—and in this searching reflection upon one historic translation and the act of translation itself, Adam Nicolson deftly teases apart each of the many threads of the tapestry that the King James translation was to become. He follows the scholars and the issues of the times, underscoring just how daring and how formative the project of translating the Bible was to contemporary readers, and hints at ways in which the inherited poetry of the KJV remains a comfort to moderns, as well.

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

(On Order)

In what is possibly the best nightstand-reading of the decade, Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor has taken a hundred carefully chosen objects from his habitat and created delightful essay-length mediations that underscore their beauty and significance. In MacGregor’s hands the sarcophagus of an Egyptian priest, bedecked with a map of the stars within, becomes a time-travel machine; a Victorian tea set with its milk jug, sugar bowl and teapot provides the occasion for a lesson on locomotives and slave-trade; a modern credit card issued in the United Arab Emirates is both passport to the global economy and evidence of the social and cultural challenges facing unfettered globalism. The radio podcasts on which the book is based, complete with the voices of guest experts, are available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ahow . It’s probably best to ration these chapters: read too many at once and there’s a bit of a hallucinogenic, Night at the Museum effect to all this beauty, but listening along with the podcast can slow the process down and help one maintain proper British reserve.

Jayne Giuduci

Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900 by Tim Bonyhady

(New Books, Library of Congress CT917.G34 B66 2011)

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Anne Marie O’Connor

(New Books, Library of Congress ND511.5.K55 A618 2012)

The glitter of 20th century Vienna is manifest in these two new Athenæum titles that revolve around two enigmatic portraits by Gustav Klimt. Immerse yourself in the glamour of Austrian society and culture. 1920’s Vienna was at the pinnacle of artistic expression, art patronage, music, social change and anti-Semitism. Good living street traces the female line of Bonyhady’s family beginning with his great grandmother Hermine Gallia whose portrait is illustrated by Klimt. The women, in the Gallia family, struggle to find their place in a society that is constrained for women and limited for Jews. The rise of Nazi Germany necessitates the family’s relocation to Australia with, surprisingly, much of their valuable art collection. The lady in gold commences with Gustav Klimt’s emergence as a note worthy and popular artist, his relationships with women, including Adele Bloch-Bauer, the subject of the Lady in gold. Bloch-Bauer was the muse for several other paintings by Klimt and may have had more than a platonic relationship with the artistic master. The story continues following the lives of Adele’s family and their experiences during WWII and the exploits surrounding this famous portrait. Both books illuminate Vienna’s golden moment and the lives of two women that were immortalized by Gustav Klimt.

Andrew Hahn

La Planète des Singes (Planet of the Apes) by Pierre Boulle

(Cutter VFF .B66115 .p Offsite storage [in French])

You will not find Charleton Heston or English speaking apes in this novel – the apes fittingly enough speak their own simian language.  Instead, you will find a rich philosophical satire that tackles otherness, class, race, science, love, vegetarianism, and humanness.  It utilizes a story within a story framework to recount the tale of a scientist, his assistant, and a journalist who have decided to leave France for the outer reaches of the universe.  The journalist has been brought along so that he can document the trip, and his eyewitness account makes up the majority of the book.  Included are descriptions of hunts and experiments that would have been too graphic for the films but here provide a true juxtaposition of roles that force the reader to examine human actions from the victim’s perspective.

World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey

(Library of Congress TX837 .J15 1999)

After reading La Planète des Singes you may be in the mood for a meat free meal, if so, look no further than Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian.  This impressive and exhaustive book contains vegetarian recipes for any mood, occasion, or taste.

Paula Matthews

Recently, I pulled from our new acquisition shelves, more or less at random, three titles about the rebirth, or at least the resurfacing, of reading in contemporary culture. In The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, English professor Alan Jacobs reassures us that “the cause of reading is not a lost one by any means.” In 2008, Professor Jacobs notes, Apple’s Steve Jobs dismissed the new Kindle eReader, saying “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.” Two years later, Jobs was back with his iPad, proclaiming it the best for reading newspapers, magazines, and even books. (New Books, Library of Congress PN83 .J36 2011)

Susan Hill, author of Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home, recounts how the search for a lost volume led to the rediscovery of her personal library. She resolved to “spend a year reading books already on my shelves” so that she could “repossess my books, to explore what I had accumulated over a lifetime of reading, and to map this house of many volumes.” Over the course of the year, Hill moves higher and higher until she reaches the top of the house, where she still finds dozens of books she wants to read or reread. “I need at least another year of reading from home,” she realizes. “But now I have reached the landing and here it is: Howards End. There is a shaft of sunlight coming through the small window, in which I just fit, so that I can sit on the elm floorboards with my back to the wall. I open the book.” (New Books, Library of Congress PR6058.I45 Z46 2009)

When Nina Sankovich’s eldest sister died at forty-six, she “looked back to what the two of us had shared. Laughter. Words. Books.” In Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, Sankovitch interweaves a time of sorrow, when she read a book every day for a year, and a memoir of her book-loving, immigrant family. At the end, Sankovich concludes: “My hiatus is over, my soul and my body are healed, but I will never leave the purple chair for long. So many books waiting to be read, so much happiness to be found, so much wonder to be revealed.” (New Books, Library of Congress Z1003.2 .S26 2011)

Carolle Morini

What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World By Jon Young

(New Books, Library of Congress QL698.5 .Y68 2012)

A thrilling book about the language and patterns of birds where one can easily take the lessons to the backyard or park.

Point Omega: A novel By Don DeLillo

(Library of Congress PZ4.D346 Po 2010)

Published in 2010 this short novel is a breathtaking mix of contemporary art, war and the fragile state of human existence all written in a DeLillo’s beautiful control of language. He gets to the heart and mind in a compact and elegant way in the setting of New York City and the desert.

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

(Library of Congress PZ3.W5196 Re)

Published in 1918, West’s first novel and the first WWI novel written by a woman, is about a British soldier, shell-shocked, returning to his home, family, and society finding it not as he remembers or desires.

Emilia Mountain

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

(Children’s Room, Library of Congress PZ7.S855625 Sc 2011)

Every November, vicious horses emerge onto the shores of Thisby. Let the races begin! While this young adult novel certainly retains a mystical quality, it is also grounded in the harsh realities of island life in what we presume is either the Celtic or Irish Sea. As a shy young hero and a feisty young heroine both vie for the honor of winning the dangerous Scorpio Races, younger readers will likely appreciate a novel with a Hunger Games variety of excitement, while students of Celtic myth will certainly find many satisfying allusions.

Alice Platt

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

(Library of Congress S521.5.A67 K56 2007)

For one year, the author and her family vow to eat only food which they have either raised themselves, or purchased from a local farm. The tale that results is sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, and overall, realistic. This is the story of a family working together to care for their food, and ultimately, their land and their selves. Her husband and older daughter contribute.

Anthea Reilly

Pulse by Julian Barnes

(Library of Congress PZ4.B2588 Pul 2011)

Collection of short stories. Wry, Sophisticated.

The Infinities by John Banville.

(Library of Congress PZ4.B223 In 2010) Inventive and playful novel rich in detail. Narrated by the Greek God Hermes.

Suzanne Terry

Old Filth by Jane Gardam

(Library of Congress PZ4.G218 Ol 2006)

British novelist Gardam has twice won the Whitbread and was shortlisted for the Man Booker, but she is largely unknown and unappreciated in the US. Old Filth stands for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong—the nickname of Sir Edward Feathers, a retired judge who spent most of his successful career in the Far East. His story begins at the end of his life, when he is recently widowed and living in seclusion in Dorset. The story, inspired in part by the life of Rudyard Kipling, takes the reader from his early childhood in colonial Malaya, his evacuation as a “Raj orphan” to Wales, on to Oxford and eventually Hong Kong. There are twists and turns, a mystery, and interesting well-developed secondary characters. The Guardian said “Gardam’s superb new novel is surely her masterpiece…one of the most moving fictions I have read in years…This is the rare novel that drives its readers forward while persistently waylaying and detaining by the sheer beauty and inventiveness of its style”.

Mary Warnement

Hand-Grenade Practice in Peking: My Part in the Cultural Revolution by Frances Wood

(Library of Congress DS795.13 .W66 2000)

The Diamond Sutra: The Story of the World’s Earliest Dated Printed Book by Frances Wood

(Library of Congress + Z186.C5 W66 2010)

The best books lead you to other books. I have mentioned before my enchantment with Slightly Foxed editions, reprints of 20th c, British memoirs. In this example, Frances Wood writes in Hand-Grenade Practice in Peking about her year studying Chinese at the Foreign Languages Institute in Peking in 1975-1976 when China first began to open to outsiders after Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. In addition to all we learn about an unfamiliar place, Wood’s description of her journey, both there and back, evoke a special time in one’s life, when on the threshold of a new adventure or prospect. I have no great interest in Asian culture; however, upon turning the last page, I immediately looked for other books by Wood, currently curator of Chinese collections at the British Library, whose Diamond Sutra features an overlooked yet significant book. Books and printing history do interest me. While Westerners give pride of place to Gutenberg and his 1450 bible in the history of printing, China produced the oldest surviving printed book in the world in the 868. Both of these slim books make for pleasant reading of a slightly more intellectual bent than the usual summer fare.