Even when I’m reading three books at once with another three on my dresser, I can’t resist a list of book recommendations. Here’s what some of our librarians are reading/watching these days. How about you?
I just finished This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell, who can’t seem to write a book I don’t love. This Must Be The Place tells my favorite type of love story: the realistic permutations of romance, marriage, and family. Told in many voices and moving back and forth through time, this is mostly the story of Daniel Sullivan, a linguist from Brooklyn with a small penchant for infidelity and drinking who, on a trip to Ireland to retrieve his grandfather’s misplaced ashes, accidentally meets Claudette Wells, a reclusive actress who left fame and celebrity behind years ago. It is this unlikely romance that forms the book’s structure; the characters’ story is part of the magic, but another part is how the story is told. Secrets, history, and the unexpected repercussions of seemingly-unimportant choices weave together to create a memorable novel.
A Royal Night Out: It’s V-E day, 1945, and the much protected Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret want to be part of their country’s celebration–and preferably not with septuagenarian nobility. The evening’s adventures are rife with eye-opening experiences for the naïve girls while capturing viewers with both tension and humor. A well done, lighthearted historical piece that is up to the challenge of pleasing all but the youngest audience.
I just finished Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. It was masterfully done. It really opened my eyes to the horrors, sorrows, and despair experienced by the slaves. Years ago when I was at UVU, I attended a conference in Memphis and toured some buildings that were used on the underground railroad as “wait” stations, so learning more about the underground railroad was on my “to do” list. Whitehead’s book really is beautifully written and gut-wrenching. This title is also last year’s national book award winner.
I’m currently reading (or listening to, rather) Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. The novel is set in England in the generation after Arthur’s reign, and the countryside is beset with a strange mist that seems to affect memory. Meanwhile, two elderly Britons, Axel and Beatrice, leave on a journey to visit their son, whom they’re struggling to remember, in a village they’re not sure how to find. There’s also tension between the Britons and the local Saxon villages, hinting at violence to come. The novel’s England is a fascinating place, blending history and realism with English legend and lore. Through the mists of forgetfulness, mysterious boatmen, ogres, pixies and rumors of a dragon, Ishiguro examines English identity in a turbulent time not so different from our own.
I loooooved Buried Giant. It stayed with me long after I finished it. So misty. Ishiguro seems to be able to break hearts in any genre he chooses.
I recently finished Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor and I couldn’t put it down. I’m a big fan of Okorafor’s very intense adult fiction so I was interested in her YA material. The basic outline is familiar to fantasy fans – an out of place young person begins to discover that they have powers, finds fellow magic peeps, and starts formal education on how to handle this new life of secret abilities. If they have time after all that, could they also maybe prevent the world from being destroyed, please?
I love stories where the realms of magic seep into our regular old mortal plane, and in this tale even little bugs have charming interstitial roles. Our hero, Sunny, is a perfect pre-teen narrator: awkward, curious, grouchy, and ultimately, resilient. She and her friends express a variety of relatable personal trials and traits that provide good grounding for the reader within such a very surreal setting. It is an absolute delight to ride along on with Sunny on her journey through a dangerous world full of magic lessons, Leopard people, family secrets, vengeful insects. and soccer.
No one does a twisted utopia teen novel like Neal Shusterman, and Scythe is one of my favorite things I’ve read by him (also, can we just take a second to marvel at that beautiful, disturbing cover?). In the novel, mankind has solved death by learning how to reverse the aging process, but unfortunately must continue the practice of “gleaning” people to keep the population a sustainable size. Two teenagers are chosen to become apprentice scythes, and their journey takes some unexpected twists and turns, as is to be expected. I really enjoyed this book and the difficult questions it raised about the morality of who can be trusted to end life responsibly and respectfully, how we view life when the nature of death is a remote possibility, but one decided by human agents, and what such actions/responsibility does to one’s conscience and character. Shusterman sets it up for a sequel, but the book is a great standalone as well.
Okay, I had to end on a more upbeat note, so what better than a little light Jane Austen re-telling? Darcy Swipes Left was completely hilarious and took only about an hour to read, so there’s really no reason not to. Can we all just accept that Pride and Prejudice is a universally likable story that can be translated into virtually any format and still be delightful? I laughed (excuse me, lol’ed) so hard at how Lady Catherine de Bourgh signed her name to all of her texts, and how Mr. Collins “liked” all of her posts. It’s the little things in life.