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The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I had been hesitant to read a book about a topic I lived with for many years, but two recent recommendations and a book loan later, well, what choice did I have? The great fear is that facts or the tone would be wrong, but I that didn’t happen with this book. And I should say that I am only a patron of public libraries as my work experience was with academic libraries. At the outset the...

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Having just recalled the four books by Ann Patchett that I’ve read, I can say this one fits right in. The characters are fantastical but irresistible, the most hateful become toothless, sometimes literally, and the setting is everything. In this one, the book is even named for the setting. The Dutch House was built by the VanHoebeek family; when they died, everything they owned remained in...

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight

This long and thorough biography of the incomparable Frederick Douglass has been my companion for some weeks now. It has been inspirational to hear about his strength in the face of the great turmoil of his life. His story of escaping slavery and becoming an iconic speaker who drew thousands to hear him is endlessly fascinating. Recently I read a review of a different book that brought to mind...

Mr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

After Bernardine Evaristo won, well, co-won, the Booker Prize recently for her new book, I found her 2013 book in the library that has been on my TBR list. She is amazing, and I look forward to reading her new one, Girl, Woman, Other. It’s hard to love the character Mr. Loverman, despite his many appealing qualities; Barry is a complex guy. He and all his friends were born in Antigua and...

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In Coates’ Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross I learned that in addition to his non-fiction work, he has authored Black Panther Marvel Comics, a series which began in 1966. A character with superpowers comes naturally to him and an action-filled story is to be expected. So for me the pace was exhausting, even with the reflections and introspection of Hiram, the narrator. The author...

Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis

The Shadow Giller Prize Jury is back in business now that the shortlist has been announced and I am happy to see David Bezmozgis is on the shortlist. I loved the two of his other books that I have read. His work reflects his background:  he is a Jewish Latvian who arrived in Canada in 1979 when he was a child. This collection of short stories is sometimes told by a narrator who seems to be the...

Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe

I enjoyed the three previous Nina Stibbe books, and I was happy to listen to the foibles of Lizzie who is now 18 years old. Lizzie gets a job as a dental assistant, replacing the current assistant who has become the dentist’s girlfriend. The job includes an apartment above the dental office, so this job means Lizzie will live on her own for the first time. She becomes the almost-girlfriend...

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

As I read this short book, I was alarmed at how quickly it was flying by. And after it was finished, I remarked on the intensity with which I felt the presence of each character the author created. It opens with a chapter narrated by Melody, dressed to the nines for her 16th birthday party in 2001 in the dress her mother would have worn had she not been pregnant with Melody. Subsequent chapters...

Taboo by Kim Scott

I had been looking for this book to become available in the US for more than a year when I learned that Kim Scott was visiting my small city in Virginia. It was wonderful to hear him speak and to be able to buy the book. I should explain that he was here at the invitation of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, the only art museum in the US that is wholly devoted to Aboriginal art. One of...

All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw by Theodore Rosengarten

It was the list of the 50 best memoirs of the last 50 years according to a recent article in The New York Times that took me to this book. I expect it to be my own Book of the Year. How this exceptional book came to be is a story in itself. Theodore Rosengarten went with his friend Dale Rosen to interview Ned Cobb about his experience in the 1930s as a member of the Alabama Sharecropper’s...

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