New books for the New Year! Here is the latest LibraryReads list, the top 10 books publishing in January 2016 that librarians across the country recommend. The list includes new novels from Elizabeth Strout (“Olive Kitteridge“) and Melanie Benjamin (“The Aviator’s Wife“), as well as nonfiction from the incomparable Bill Bryson (“A Walk in the Woods“)!
“My Name Is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout
“Set in the mid-1980s, Lucy Barton, hospitalized for nine weeks, is surprised when her estranged mother shows up at her bedside. Her mother talks of local gossip, but underneath the banalities, Lucy senses the love that cannot be expressed. This is the story that Lucy must write about, the one story that has shaped her entire life. A beautiful lyrical story of a mother and daughter and the love they share.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA Continue reading “Top 10 Books Librarians Love: The January 2016 List”
How would you live your life if you didn’t have a home? These documentaries explore various homeless populations and examine the challenges they face in everyday life.
“Dark Days” (2000)
For years, a homeless community took root in a train tunnel beneath New York City, braving dangerous conditions and perpetual night. “Dark Days” explores the surprisingly domestic subterranean world, unearthing a way of life unimaginable to those above. Continue reading “On the Street: Docs About Homelessness”
Like most people, I find new books by reading library blogs, or visiting askjeeves.com and typing “please show me a good book,” or perusing the shelves at my local library until I find a book with a cover that seems sufficiently gravy resistant. Occasionally though, a human will recommend a book. Such is the case with this month’s recommendation: a colleague said “Bats of the Republic” sounded like one of the weird books I like. I tipped my hat, gave my monocle a friendly shake and asked Jeeves about this weird book. (I’m compelled to note that while I do often enjoy literary oddities, in general my tastes lean to the conventional, and I have the crystal decanter collection to prove it.) Jeeves obliged and showed me a picture of the author’s tremendous mustache (or perhaps the mustache’s tremendous author?). I swooned, such was my joy at finding a novel so presumably suited to my tastes. After a quick trip to the market for a crystal decanter or two, I eagerly set to reading the words birthed by such an inspiring swatch of follicles. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Zachary Thomas Dodson”
Keen readers might notice this is the second time I’ve recommended Patrick deWitt’s work. Some will exclaim, “Sir, are there not a practically infinite number of worthy writers to recommend? Why recommend an author twice?” I will respond, “Indeed, there is a seemingly endless sea of writers deserving of my endorsement, but several factors conspire to cause a repeat recommendation of his work. I’m particularly enamored with Mr. deWitt’s writing. His newest novel was published subsequent to my previous recommendation and it is amazing. And while some quick and dubious math tells me I read upwards of 8,000 books a year, I cannot read everything, but I did recently read “Undermajordomo Minor.” Furthermore, as I saunter around town twirling my cane and mustache, my query of, ‘Have you yet mined the depths of Patrick deWitt’s talents?’ is nearly always met with either confusion, averted eyes or a non-sequiturial admonishment to ‘be careful with that cane, you nearly hit my baby.’ (I’ve said this countless times, but I will reiterate here: I never twirl my cane with anything less than utmost precision, and your baby could stand to toughen up.) Clearly, I have not been sufficiently persuasive. So until passersby respond to my deWitt-centric interrogations with a tip of their headgear and an enthusiastic, ‘Yes. And by the way, you are rather precise in the manner with which you twirl both your mustache and your cane,’ I must continue to espouse the virtues of Mr. deWitt’s work.” Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Patrick deWitt (again)”
I love reading about history, especially histories with unique perspectives! Traditional histories omit so much, and what we know has been carefully shaped by what schools usually teach and promote. The myths these texts create often overshadow the realities.
“An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” is a book that dispels many of the myths surrounding indigenous people, such as the myth that the “New World” was sparsely populated at the time of first contact by Europeans or that their cultures were unsophisticated. The indigenous populations were actually much denser than European societies at the time, and they were “supportable because the people had created a relatively disease-free paradise. There certainly were diseases and health problems, but the practice of herbal medicine and even surgery and dentistry, and most importantly both hygienic and ritual bathing, kept diseases at bay. ” Continue reading “Staff Book Review: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States”
Does this gentleman’s influence know no bounds? First there’s the Gentleman’s Quarterly periodical that I presumably inspired and thus have no need to read, then there’s the fact that one of my recommendations was so convincing that an entire city banded together to read the same book. What’s next? A discount at the local deli? A trend of tattooing my face upon one’s own? No one knows (but at minimum I will surely be spared the glares and grimaces directed my way by fellow delicatessen patrons during my sampling hour). One thing is certain: I have tremendous clout and a duty to wield it wisely. So, friendly reader, I’m going wield it with incomparable wisdom and recommend Jess Walter. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Jess Walter”
You know those writers whose work is so captivating that you’d read their grocery lists? Jennifer McMahon is definitely one of those writers for me. As one half of a pair of sisters, I’m also sucker for a book where sisters play a prominent role, so it’s likely “The Night Sister” would’ve ended up on my bedside table one way or another. If you enjoy mysteries that feature multiple timelines, numerous points of view and the setting of a deliciously creepy house (or in this case, hotel-as-castle), then this book might be for you as well.
“The Night Sister” begins in the present with sisters Piper and Margot receiving the shocking news that childhood friend Amy has brutally slain almost her entire family and herself, with only her daughter escaping. Then the novel turns back half a century to the childhood of Amy’s mother and aunt. Rose and Sylvie live in the Tower Motel, built like a castle complete with tower. Sylvie dreams of escaping to Hollywood and becoming an actress, while Rose is caught up in the stories their grandmother told them of mares, shape-shifting monsters hidden inside regular-seeming people. Continue reading “Staff Review: The Night Sister”
“The Aeronaut’s Windlass” by Jim Butcher
Why I Read It: Jim Butcher + Steampunk = Gimme. Now.
What It’s About: Humanity lives in huge, stone Spires that rise above the surface and the monster-filled mists that cover it. Society is ruled by aristocratic houses that develop scientific marvels and build fleets of airships to keep the peace. Continue reading “Staff Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass”
As I perch at my word processor stroking my mustache, adjusting my top hat and considering how to write a blog post recommending a historical meta-fictional novel that is nearly as concerned with how to tell the story of the plot to assassinate monstrous Nazi Reinhard Heydrich as it is with telling the story, I have a eureka moment: I simply needed to stop massaging my elegant mouth parka and making minute adjustments to my headgear and start typing words.
I wonder how to convey that, though time is spent with the author during his research and his periods of doubt, and that we hear quite a bit about the problems inherent in writing historical novels, the story never loses its considerable propulsion. A good recommender would give some sort of proof, but for some reason my head is in tremendous pain and also my top hat is way too tight, so I’m just going to muscle on and assume that my audience knows that they should always trust a gentleman, and that I am one, which is obvious because I am wearing a top hat, and I say I’m a gentleman, and a gentleman never lies, unless it is a white lie and meant to spare someone’s feelings. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Laurent Binet”
While making for the nearest suitable reading cubby, I hold my chosen novel aloft as a means of recommending it without the need for electricity or wires (though, to be fair, I often employ a complicated series of large wires and pulleys to ease the burden of its weight upon my musculature and indeed have been researching the possibility of adding an electric motor to my contraption). This month’s recommendation did cause me some consternation, though. Fine book though it is, “A Cure for Suicide” is a title apt to raise eyebrows among those that don’t wish to see you dead. I bypassed this conundrum by merely regularly exclaiming, “Fear not for my well-being – this is a novel. I do not intend to curtail my glorious traversal through this magnificent existence!” My calls, in addition to allaying concerns and dispelling confusion as to why such a distinguished gentleman might consider cutting short his glorious traversals, earned me wide, respectful berths, providing me expedited arrival to the nearest cozy chair or nest of pillows and wigs (wigs are soft) that I’ve secreted around town so that I might recline comfortably with my reading material. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Jesse Ball”