Check It Out Category: Book Culture

Asked at the Desk: Bookshop Fiction

Picture of Fiction/AV/Teen desk

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Book lovers know the anticipation, excitement and joy they experience when wandering a bookshop, not quite sure what they are looking for until they’ve found it. This is why the allure of bookshops is so strong, and why a recent patron who visited the desk was inquiring about a publishing trend: bookshop fiction. If you’d like to explore some of these books yourself, check out the following titles:

Tried and True

The Thirteenth Tale book coverThe Thirteenth Tale
Diane Setterfield
The Shadow of the Wind book coverThe Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafon

New to Me

A Novel Bookstore
Jenny Colgan
The Lost for Words Bookshop book coverThe Lost for Words Bookshop
Stephanie Butland

The Bookstore
Deborah Meyler

Interested in more suggestions? Stop by Fiction/AV/Teen Services on the second floor to ask at the desk yourself, or ask online to visit our virtual desk.

Books: August Is Women In Translation Month

Books are universal, and as global readers we have translators to thank for bringing great books to us from around the world. August is Women in Translation month, and as such here are some of our favorite authors who have had their words translated into English.

LaDivineLaDivine Book Cover by Marie NDiaye (French)

Clarisse Riviere’s life is shaped by a refusal to admit to her husband Richard and to her daughter Ladivine that her mother is a poor black housekeeper. Instead, weighed down by guilt, she pretends to be an orphan, visiting her mother in secret and telling no-one of her real identity as Malinka, daughter of Ladivine Sylla. In time, her lies turn against her.

 

In the Midst of WinterIn the Midst of Winter Book Cover by Isabel Allende (Spanish)

Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story.

 

Convenience Store Woman Book CoverConvenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Japanese)

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis―but will it be for the better?

 

The Almond Picker Book CoverThe Almond Picker by Simonetta Hornby (Italian)

The child of poor farmers, La Mennulara became a maid for a well-to-do local family when she was only a girl; by dint of hard work and intelligence, she became the indispensable administrator of the family’s affairs. Still, she was a mere servant, and now (as this story begins) she is dead. As the details unfold about this mysterious woman, The Almond Picker assumes the witty suspense of a thriller, the emotional power of a love story, and the evocative atmosphere of a historical novel.

 

S. A Novel Book CoverS., A Novel About the Balkans by Slavenka Drakulic (Serbo-Croatian)

Set in 1992, during the height of the Bosnian war, S. reveals one of the most horrifying aspects of any war: the rape and torture of civilian women by occupying forces. S. is the story of a Bosnian woman in exile who has just given birth to an unwanted child—one without a country, a name, a father, or a language. The birth only reminds her of an even more grueling experience: being repeatedly raped by Serbian soldiers in the “women’s room” of a prison camp. Through a series of flashbacks, S. relives the unspeakable crimes she has endured, and in telling her story—timely, strangely compelling, and ultimately about survival—depicts the darkest side of human nature during wartime.

 

Beyond Illusions Book CoverBeyond Illusions by Duong Thu Huong (Vietnamese)

A brilliantly spun tale of a young woman who marries her professor because she so admires his idealism. When he sells out everything he believes in order to support her, her love goes. Only when they are both beyond illusions can they try again for a real relationship. Deeply lyrical and wholly believable, this novel is illuminated by the haunting language and unflinching honesty.

Fiction: Irish Authors to Read for St. Paddy’s Day

Ireland has a history of cultivating great poets and authors – William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde, to name a few. Modern-day Irish authors successfully carry on this rich tradition. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are newer books from contemporary authors who hail from the Emerald Isle.

Anne Enright, The Green Road
A darkly glinting novel set mainly in a small town on Ireland’s Atlantic coast.The children of Rosaleen Madigan grow up in the West of Ireland in a world that is about to change. Three of the children leave home for lives they could never have imagined – Dan, for the frenzy of New York under the shadow of AIDS; Emmet, for the backlands of Mali where he learns the fragility of love and order; and actress Hanna, for modern day Dublin and the trials of motherhood. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother Rosaleen decides to sell the family home. Her adult children visit for Christmas carrying with them the complications of their present lives and the old needs of childhood as they are brought face to face with their mother’s aging and the effects her decision will have on them all.

 

Colum McCann, Thirteen Ways of Looking
In the exuberant title novella, a retired judge reflects on his life’s work, unaware as he goes about his daily routines that this particular morning will be his last. In “Sh’khol,” a mother spending Christmas alone with her son confronts the unthinkable when he disappears while swimming off the coast near their home in Ireland. In “Treaty,” an elderly nun catches a snippet of a news report in which it is revealed that the man who once kidnapped and brutalized her is alive, masquerading as an agent of peace. And in “What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?” a writer constructs a story about a Marine in Afghanistan calling home on New Year’s Eve.

 

 

Emma Donoghue, The Wonder
An English nurse is brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

 

 

 

Colm Toibin, House of Names
“I have been acquainted with the smell of death.” So begins Clytemnestra’s tale of her own life in ancient Mycenae, the legendary Greek city from which her husband King Agamemnon left when he set sail with his army for Troy. Clytemnestra rules Mycenae now, along with her new lover Aegisthus, and together they plot the bloody murder of Agamemnon.. Clytemnestra reveals the tragic saga that led to these bloody actions: how her husband deceived her eldest daughter with a promise of marriage to Achilles, only to sacrifice her; how she seduced and collaborated with the prisoner Aegisthus; how Agamemnon came back with a lover himself; and how Clytemnestra finally achieved her vengeance for his stunning betrayal—his quest for victory, greater than his love for his child.

 

Lisa McInerney, The Glorious Heresies
When grandmother Maureen Phelan is surprised in her home by a stranger, she clubs the intruder with a Holy Stone. The consequences of this unplanned murder connect four misfits struggling against their meager circumstances. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father, Tony, whose feud with his next-door neighbor threatens to ruin his family. Georgie is a sex worker who half-heartedly joins a born-again movement to escape her profession and drug habit. And Jimmy Phelan, the most fearsome gangster in the city and Maureen’s estranged son, finds that his mother’s bizarre attempts at redemption threaten his entire organization.

Black History Month Spotlight: Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is not only a Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author, she is also a local talent who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Floosmoor, Illinois. She earned her PhD in English at the University of Illinois, Chicago. This groundbreaking science fiction and fantasy writer is the focus of our fourth Black History Month spotlight (see our first, second, and third authors also featured this month.)

Okorafor’s novels span juvenile, young adult, and adult collections, and are flavored with her Nigerian and American heritage. Her works explore the ramifications of racial and gender inequality, violence, war and environmental abuse. She has now started writing Marvel’s much-heralded Black Panther comic series, taking over from author Ta-Nahesi Coates.

“Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an ‘accelerated woman’–only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7. Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape. But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.” (Penguin Random House)

Podcasts for Book Lovers

As a book lover, where do you find ideas on what to read next? Certainly there are a number of great options, from recommendations given by friends, to interactions with your favorite public library (in person and online), to magazines, newspapers and trips to book shops. Today, we will look at some rich and varied podcasts that can offer yet another great way to find books and connect more deeply with them and their authors. There are many podcasts for book lovers – here are just a few.

Book Riot is a one-stop-shop for every book lover. There is the eponymous podcast, hosted by two book aficionados from the east coast.  However, there are also seven other shows that cover a number of various themes and genres, including personalized book recommendations on Get Booked, SFF Yeah which covers science fiction and fantasy, and Recommended which features many great authors giving their reading picks.

The Book Review podcast from the New York Times takes you a step further in depth into recommended books. Generally they will have two detailed interviews with authors of books that have received strong reviews in The Times, and then a panel of editors give a brief critical summary of the books that they are currently reading (though the books can be old or new).

Based out of the UK, The Readers is a more casual podcast that features a few British and American friends (and self-proclaimed bibliophiles) discussing books they’ve read. Every week they feature books, both new and old, and discuss what they liked or didn’t like about each book. They will also try to convince each other to read books one likes but the others haven’t come across yet. From Maya Angelou to Margaret Atwood to Ian McEwan, from horror to the classics, this show covers them all and adds a personal charm.

Public Radio’s KCRW produces Bookworm, another author-interview based podcast. It is hosted by broadcaster Michael Silverblatt, and has a conversational format that allows a different author each week to engage in a discussion of not only his or her book, but also his or her experiences and views in other areas of their life. This unscripted conversation can go in varying directions and often includes dramatic readings. The authors interviewed run the gamut of debut authors to seasoned veterans, and include poets and playwrights as well.

As mentioned, these are just a few ideas. There is a rich and robust bevy of book podcasts, and finding those that fill the right niche for you can open your world of reading to a more colorful and multidimensional place.