Monday, July 29, 2013

July 2013 Book Recommendations by Staff

July 29, 2013

First published in the 1960s, this collection illustrates the national mood of the day, while also reaching forward and backwards with ringing, timeless truths.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem
By Joan Didion

I read this book on the recommendation of a reading list for people in their twenties. The idea, presumably, being that members of this demographic have gained more maturity and insight since their high school days while still possessing a certain openness to new things. I’m not so sure I agree with that entire premise, and I’m sure many lifetime readers and freethinkers would take umbrage with it. Regardless, the list is a good one, including several authors whose work I’ve never read. 

This is what the list’s composer has to say about Didion’s work: “The Bible for anyone who’s fancied themselves a writer, ever. Didion has probably said what you wanted to say, and earlier and better.” I don’t disagree. Slouching Towards Bethlehem takes its name from the famous poem by W.B. Yeats, which opens, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Indeed, the theme of atomization, of deterioration of old ideals and ways of life, pervades the essays which make up this collection. 

Didion’s writing illuminates the transformation of America from the golden cowboy days of John Wayne, “...the last private man, the dream we no longer admit,” to the innocent, doomed society of the Haight-Ashbury district. Her writing is transcendent while remaining intimately personal. She is a person who connects with the places she’s lived and the people she’s met.

Read this book at home on the front porch, in a coffee shop or on the bus. Read it in pieces, stop and think about it; this isn’t a book to ingest all at once. Each day you’ll come to it with a different feeling. If you’re a fiction person who doesn’t frequently venture into the realm of non-fiction, give this gorgeous book a try.

To locate this book in the library or place a hold, click here.

-Chelsea


July 22, 2013

Novel Captures Best and Worst of Life on Reservation

The Round House
By Louise Erdrich

Winner of the 2012 National Book Award, Louise Erdrich’s latest addresses the subject of rape in a tragic narrative starting with a near-fatal attack on social worker Geraldine, wife of local judge and resident Atticus Finch, and mother of the book’s heart, 13-year-old Joe. The ensuing legal and moral quagmire faced by the victim and those trying to exact justice on her behalf is a unfortunate reflection of true state of affairs for Native Americans in this country, as the story is culled from a mélange of real-life cases.

However, the familial ties of 1980s small town life on the North Dakotan Obijwe reservation shine through the dark plot. What is lovely about the story is the closeness of the community that can only stem from families living together for many generations. Particularly touching was the friendship of Joe and his three buds, as they roam and get into trouble typical of teenagers, while facing the very grown-up task of helping Joe deal with the pain of watching his mother suffer long after the crime has been committed.

Warning: This book will break your heart, and not just once. Several dynamics develop in which your heart wrenches just a little bit, more and more, until a major climactic CRACK occurs. You’re probably thinking, “Why would I ever want to read this?!” Well, maybe the risk of heartbreak is the price of entering a world of relatable characters, and while not Erdrich’s very best work, even her second best is pretty good.

Recommended for those interested in Native American culture and customs, and a story with emotional depth. To locate this book in the library or place a hold, click here.

-Christina


July 22, 2013


The life of a nobody is changed forever with the arrival of mysterious messages

I Am the Messenger

By Marcus Zusak

With moments of both hilarity and deep poignancy, this novel is one that will stay with me. Ed Kennedy lives in an unnamed suburb in Australia. He’s an underage and underachieving cab driver whose life consists of card games with his three best friends and a deep companionship with his dog, The Doorman. Ed’s way of life changes when he starts receiving mysterious messages scrawled onto playing cards. The first card contains three addresses; at each address Ed encounters a situation which compels him to intervene. Who is sending him on these errands and what will the next card bring?

This book is one to devour and savor all at once. The suspense will propel you through while the poetic language and memorable characters will have you stopping to drink it in. Zusak does more than bring his characters to life, he creates a whole community, one that is believable and familiar. Matter-of-fact descriptions of everyday poverty, Ed’s tumultuous arguments with his mother, and the quirky dynamics of complicated friendships make this an immersive reading experience. On top of all this is a fine layer of snark to keep things interesting. 

Though technically Young Adult material, I Am the Messenger transcends that classification to appeal to adult readers as well. This is a perfect title to bring along on your beach trip.To locate this book in the library or place a hold, click here.

-Chelsea


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Two supernatural beings struggle with their place 
in human society

The Golem and the Jinni
By Helene Wicker


  “‘…perhaps the humans did create their God. But does that make him less real? Take this arch. They created it. Now it exists.’ 
‘Yes, but it doesn’t grant wishes,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t do anything.’ 
‘True,’ she said. ‘But I look at it, and I feel a certain way. Maybe that’s its purpose.’” 

Helene Wecker’s debut novel is a captivating and fantastical tale of two supernatural beings arriving under mysterious circumstances in 1899 New York City. Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, created by a hermetic practitioner of Kabbalistic magic. After her master dies during their voyage to America, Chava is without guidance and must discover her own nature for herself. Ahmad is a jinni, a god-like creature of fire many hundreds of years old, who was trapped in a flask by an ancient Bedouin magician. He is released from his prison by a tinsmith; however, he remains trapped in human form. Ahmad wrestles with his identity—can he still call himself a jinni while he remains in a human body? 

For me, the heart of this novel is the struggle and doubt faced by its two titular characters. It was as Chava and Ahmad stood below the arch in Washington Square Park contemplating the existence of God that I realized I was holding an important, exquisite book. Wecker writes in simple yet powerful prose and has a command of both Jewish and Arabic mythology which lends the story its verisimilitude and allows the reader to suspend disbelief. 

You can read this book for its adventure and mystery or you can delve deeper and analyze the basic human questions that it raises. Either way, you’re in for a unique and enjoyable reading experience. 

To locate this book in the library or place a hold, click here.
-Chelsea

Thursday, July 4, 2016

Short Stories Make Great Beach Reading

Vampires in the Lemon Grove  
By Karen Russell

If you love fiction but never read short stories, considering a break with tradition for Karen Russell’s latest work, a vibrant assembly of tales that plumb the depths of imagination while retaining a very human sensibility. Nothing too sci-fi, or predictable, here.

Skeptical? Try any of the following three stories: “Reeling for the Empire”, an Asian-flavored allegory about the psychological metamorphosis suffered by workers forced into the sex trade as they spin out “product”; “The New Veterans”, a timely tale of the impact of war on soldiers returned home from Afghanistan bearing both visible and invisible scars, and on those who care for them; or, the title story, a hard-bitten romance about the inevitable conflict inherent in the dueling appetites of commitment to true love and animal hunger.

This collection is the follow-up to Russell’s widely acclaimed debut novel, the Pulitzer Prize-nominee Swamplandia!, and only her third major publication. Definitely a writer to watch!

To locate this book in the library or place a hold, click here.

-Christina

No comments:

Post a Comment