The Books I’m Reading Next
As a former bookstore manager and avid reader since I learned how to, I always have way too many books on my To-Read List. Here are just a few I’m concentrating on getting read in the next few months.
A Different Drummer
William Melvin Kelley
“June, 1957. One hot afternoon in the backwaters of the Deep South, a young black farmer named Tucker Caliban salts his fields, shoots his horse, burns his house, and heads north with his wife and child. His departure sets off an exodus of the state’s entire black population, throwing the established order into brilliant disarray. Told from the points of view of the white residents who remained, A Different Drummer stands, decades after its first publication in 1962, as an extraordinary and prescient triumph of satire and spirit.”
“Powerful. . . . Unflinching. . . . A gift to literature.” — The Observer
The Uncommon Reader
“From one of England’s most celebrated writers, a funny and superbly observed novella about the Queen of England and the subversive power of reading
“When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.
“With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England’s best-loved author Alan Bennett revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader’s life.”
“Alan Bennett is one of the greatest comic writers alive, and The Uncommon Reader is Bennett at his best—touching, thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisite in its observations.” — Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones’s Diary
Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray
“In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.
“But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.
“The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.”
“A stunning and timely novel about a woman who, in forging a path for herself, had to battle constantly against the limitations society tried to place upon her due to her gender – and who also had to hide her true identity from a racist world…both a triumph and a fitting tribute to Belle’s courage, her fierce desire to protect her family and her personal struggle to be both the woman she was, and the woman she was not allowed to be.” — Natasha Lester, NYT bestselling author of The Paris Secret
Big Rock Candy Mountain
“Bo Mason, his wife, Elsa, and their two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair. Drifting from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks out his fortune—in the hotel business, on new farmland, and, eventually, in illegal rum-running through the treacherous back roads of the American Northwest. Bo chases after the promise of the American dream through Minnesota, the Dakotas, Saskatchewan, Montana, Utah and Nevada, but ultimately there is no escaping the devastating reach of the Depression and his own ruinous fate.
“In this affecting narrative, a defining masterpiece by the “dean of Western writers” (The New York Times), Wallace Stegner portrays more than three decades in the life of the Mason family as they struggle to survivle during the lean years of the early twentieth century.”
“Stands out beautifully and unforgettably.” — The New Yorker
The Library Book
“On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. The fire was disastrous: it reached two thousand degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
“Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a “delightful…reflection on the past, present, and future of libraries in America” (New York magazine) that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
“In the ‘exquisitely written, consistently entertaining’ (The New York Times) The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries; brings each department of the library to vivid life; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
“’A book lover’s dream…an ambitiously researched, elegantly written book that serves as a portal into a place of history, drama, culture, and stories’ (Star Tribune, Minneapolis), Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country.”
“A sheer delight. . . . Orlean has created a book as rich in insight and as varied as the treasures contained on the shelves in any local library.” — Chris Woodyard, USA Today
The World Doesn’t Require You
Rion Amilcar Scott
“Established by the leaders of the country’s only successful slave revolt in the mid-nineteenth century, Cross River still evokes the fierce rhythms of its founding. In lyrical prose and singular dialect, a saga beats forward that echoes the fables carried down for generations—like the screecher birds who swoop down for their periodic sacrifice, and the water women who lure men to wet deaths.
“Among its residents—wildly spanning decades, perspectives, and species—are David Sherman, a struggling musician who just happens to be God’s last son; Tyrone, a ruthless PhD candidate, whose dissertation about a childhood game ignites mayhem in the neighboring, once-segregated town of Port Yooga; and Jim, an all-too-obedient robot who serves his Master. As the book builds to its finish with Special Topics in Loneliness Studies, a fully-realized novella, two unhinged professors grapple with hugely different ambitions, and the reader comes to appreciate the intricacy of the world Scott has created—one where fantasy and reality are eternally at war.”
“Bizarre, tender and brilliantly imagined, The World Doesn’t Require You isn’t just one of the most inventive books of the year, it’s also one of the best.” — Michael Schaub, NPR
Ghosts of the Tsunami
Richard Lloyd Parry
“On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of north-east Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,500 people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned.
“It was Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis, and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways.
“Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo, and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings. He met a priest who performed exorcisms on people possessed by the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village which had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own.
“What really happened to the local children as they waited in the school playground in the moments before the tsunami? Why did their teachers not evacuate them to safety? And why was the unbearable truth being so stubbornly covered up?
“Ghosts of the Tsunami is a classic of literary non-fiction, a heart-breaking and intimate account of an epic tragedy, told through the personal accounts of those who lived through it. It tells the story of how a nation faced a catastrophe, and the bleak struggle to find consolation in the ruins.”
“Powerful . . . Lloyd Parry’s account is truly haunting, and remains etched in the brain and heart long after the book is over.” — Lisa Levy, New Republic