STAFF BOOK SUGGESTIONS SUMMER 2020
(Library of Congress TT149 .K67 2013)
(Cutter Classification 65 .P669)
Having recently enjoyed Peter Korn’s Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman (Boston: Godine, 2015), I’ve turned to a book he recommends that I’ve been meaning to read for years: Robert M. Pirsig’s classic Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (first published 1974). I never imagined a disquisition on Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy, scientific method, fixing bikes, and being a better person could keep me on the edge of my seat, but Michael Kramer’s superb reading of the narrative did exactly that. (Yes, your Curator of Rare Books does sometimes opt for audio books, however much he loves the heft of a physical book in his hands….)
Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe by Alan Hirshfeld
BA docent Scott Guthery recommended this terrific work of science history. I enjoyed the connections between nineteenth-century astronomers’ explorations and the role of photography. Those impressively creative people built technologies to peer into the skies and record what they saw. It’s the lively story of a quest to see the universe in its vast complexity.
(Library of Congress CT275.R666 C66)
My family’s history intertwined a bit with the Roosevelts and it would seem our fascination with Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor has been passed down from generation to generation. Cook’s volumes on Eleanor are incredibly insightful. By the first chapter you feel close to her, and by the third volume, you’re not totally convinced you haven’t known her your whole life.
(Library of Congress PZ3.H53985 Tal)
I am sure many of you have seen one of the film adaptations of The Talented Mr. Ripley….but have you read the book? No! Well, you must, as it is the perfect read under the hot sun. No one will know if you’re sweating from the sun or from the building suspense Highsmith creates. And as you close Ripley #1 you must then lean over your lounge chair, hammock, or bed, and pick up Ripley#2, Ripley Under Ground. When you find yourself finished with Ripley #2 don’t fret because there are five Ripley books that can easily fill up the dog days of summer. Nothing to fear.
(On order but not yet in catalog)
(Library of Congress NEW PZ7 .A1822 Wi 2019)
I’ve been on a novel kick, so I’ve been jamming to the very vital titles: The Poet X and With the Fire on High, both by Elizabeth Acevedo. The Poet X is a novel-in-verse about a young Latina poet who is finding her voice and her place within her family and her community in Harlem, N.Y. This story has so much beat, passion, and fierce pride that I couldn’t stop devouring it. With the Fire on High reminds me of Laura Esquivel’s classic Like Water For Chocolate with its interspersed recipes and vulnerable, strong characters that never give up. Positive and inspiring, both books encourage you to live deliciously and follow what makes you feel alive.
Discovering this novel was my first encounter with Sutton E. Griggs (1872–1933), a Black writer, minister, and activist from Texas. Imperium in Imperio was Griggs’s first novel, which he published and sold himself in 1899, and in it, he explores the themes of racism and Black Nationalism through a fictional (but very powerful) lens. The story follows two young Black men from Texas and their encounters with racism and white supremacy, and their involvement in a secret society whose aim is to establish the state of Texas an all-Black republic. Like Griggs himself, his characters grapple not only with the racism of whites, but also with the dual forces of conciliation and nationalism within the Black community of the time. Though in later life Griggs would become disenchanted with his early spirit of activism, Imperium in Imperio embodies powerful ideas and paints a vivid picture of the all-pervading damage caused by racism. Read more about Griggs here.
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
This short novel tells an unusual coming of age story. Set in Britain, it focuses on seventeen-year-old Silvie, whose father is obsessed with the study of the island’s ancient residents. The family spends their summer holiday re-enacting Iron Age life in an encampment filled with university students. Her situation there leads Silvie to consider a new set of possibilities for her own life. Complications ensue.
(Library of Congress NEW E185.615 .I778 2014)
Many of the popular anti-racist books are sold out at independent book shops across the country. A lesser known title, but available online is Waking up White. Irving’s story begins with her childhood and extends into her adult life to explore how racism is learned and reinforced in White Americans through various systems and societal values. She confronts her own discomfort around race and demands readers do the same. Included after every chapter are writing prompts and reflection questions for the reader’s engagement. It’s an important read for anyone looking to engage with anti-racist titles.
(Library of Congress PZ4.W85962 In 2013)
I particularly enjoyed this read because Wolitzer is skilled at creating wonderful characters and constructing meaningful relationships. The Interestings focuses on a group of friends who form a lifelong bond at a New York summer camp in 1979. The chapters jump back and forth in time juxtaposing childhood creativity and ingenuity thriving in the heat of summer with the practicality and banality of adulthood. In the time of COVID-19 where connection can be difficult this book transported me to times of friendship and summer. It reminded me that life is nothing if not interesting.
(On order but not yet in catalog)
Martin Walker is in good form: good food, good characters, a good read. I can’t go to France—or pretty much anywhere—right now, so I was pleased to travel to the world of Bruno, Chief of Police. The links between this village cop and world events stretches belief, but Walker clearly believes what anyone does can have far-reaching effects. Walker was particularly kind in his acknowledgments’ conclusions: “And we’d all be in trouble without the booksellers, book reviewers, librarians, bloggers and book clubs, who bring the books to the most crucial people of all—readers like you.” I could not resist that praise or his convivial imagined world. If you like mysteries and the Mediterranean, then this is for you.
(Library of Congress PZ4.D3365 Gr 2017)
The enigmatic architect and landlord of One Folgate Street asks prospective tenants, “Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.” The intrusive application question is just the smallest hint of the manipulation Jane and Emma, successive residents of the house, find themselves embroiled in. This thriller is perfect if you’re looking for a fast read for the beach or for sitting on the porch with a cold drink.