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The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Years ago someone told us about the wonderful JP Morgan Library and Museum in New York and we visited it several times, including once for a midday music performance. So, when I read about The Personal Librarian, a fictional book about Belle da Costa Greene, the long-time librarian hired by J.P. Morgan to help catalog and build his collection of rare manuscripts, I didn’t hesitate. The non...

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

This novella is small, but powerful and unfortunately, it’s timely as well. It is set in 1985 and though times are hard in Ireland, it’s almost Christmas and folks are in a happy mood. The central character, Bill Furlong, has quite the backstory, and is surely facing a difficult economic future. His mother became pregnant while working in the household of Mrs. Wilson, the wealthy...

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

What a treat this 1936 novella is! I can’t remember where I saw a recommendation for it, but when I realized the author had written The Makioka Sisters, I knew it would be worthwhile finding it. And Interlibrary Loan came to the rescue. In only 99 pages the author creates a complicated household that focuses on a cat, Lily. There’s the slovenly Shozo, the Man of the title who loves...

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

Having read The Buddha in the Attic I was familiar with Otsuka’s unusual and surprisingly successful method of storytelling. This one introduces a community of swimmers who are regulars at an underground pool. We get to know them by the accretion of factual characteristics: “Some of us come here because we are injured and need to heal. We suffer from bad backs, fallen arches...

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

This is my third Amor Towles book; The Rules of Civility was a treat from beginning to end and while A Gentleman in Moscow wallowed in the perfection of that gentleman, it too was irresistible. And once again, I find that when you are in the clutches of an Amor Towles book, it’s hard to resist. Set in 1954, the story unfolds in chapters told by or focusing on each character that end just as...

South to America by Imani Perry

Imani Perry has an impressive academic background: ¬†Yale undergraduate, Harvard Ph.D, LLM degree from Georgetown, and she now teaches at Princeton. Her ramble through the South is an informed and wide-ranging trek, with both familiar and new bits of information to digest. The approach to talking to people about Washington, DC used the question, “Is Washington a Southern city?” While...

The Other Madisons by Bettye Kearse

When I read about the recent action by the Montpelier Foundation board to undo their decision to share authority with descendants of the enslaved, I recalled I had purchased a book by Bettye Kearse, one of the descendants and a member of the Foundation Board. Here’s a link to the Washington Post story about it. The subtitle of her book is The Lost History of a President’s Black Family...

Haymaker in Heaven by Edvard Hoem

Dorothy recommended (and loaned me) this book and I thank her for it. It begins with the author explaining that Nesje, the haymaker, was his great-grandfather, born in 1838, and that though he heard many stories about Nesje and had some documents relating to his life, he would have to “invent him out of air and nothingness.” This he did, using “the light over Molde and...

Books to Read

China Dream by Ma Jian   A Cat, A Man and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki, author of the makioki sisters   The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka   The Body Surfers by Robert Drewe   Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen   Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang   Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez (Iowa Writers Project grad). Audiobook fm library   Small Things Like...

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

Before I began to read this book set in Cyprus, I read the part of the Wikipedia entry for that country about the long struggles between the Greeks and Turks, especially the events of 1974 and found that background very helpful. Many elements make this a pleasing book. First, the familiar story of teenagers from opposite sides of a conflict in love; Romeo and Juliet leap to mind. Kostas, Greek...

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