The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
A nice, short introduction to Tolstoy. And as Autumn approaches, both the author and nature guide us through contemplations of life and death.
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.
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.
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.
Wool by Hugh Howey
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.”
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.
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.