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.