Thu, 02/19/2015 - 5:54pm
Snow. Snow. And yet more snow. And we're all tired of it. And record-breaking low temperatures tonight. It's all too easy to let the weather get you down. But if it's too cold to go out, go in: into a book. Reading is a great way to forget whatever is troubling you, whatever you're tired of, whatever you wish would go away. So I and a couple of my colleagues at another library put together a list of titles we hope you'll enjoy. One of the great fictional detectives of our day is Walter Mosley's Leonid McGill, an African-American private eye who lives and works in Manhattan. His family alone would keep his hands full: his wife Katrina is continually unfaithful and he can barely keep track of all the illegal side businesses run by his precocious teenage son Twill. But as a p.i. he also does very dangerous work for wealthy, powerful people--making a lot of enemies in the process. I love all the McGill novels I've read, but I suggest you read them in order. The first three are The Long Fall, Known to Evil and When the Thrill is Gone. They are unputdownable. Arlington reference librarian Jenny (who blogs about books and IT here) recommends Simon Rich's hilariously absurd novel What in God's Name. God (yes, that God) decides He's going to destroy the Earth and devote Himself to His long-cherished dream of opening an Asian fusion restaurant. However two low-ranking angels who are reluctant to see Earth go the way of the mastodon strike a deal with the Diety: He'll call off Armageddon if they can get the two most socially awkward humans in existence to fall in love each other. The New York Times Book Review called What in God's Name a "satirical sandbox that plays with the Bible's assertions." If you're in the mood for nonfiction, Jenny is a fan of This American Life contributor Sarah Vowell's tongue-in-cheek pop history of early New England, The Wordy Shipmates. I've read it as well and I agree it's a fun book. The story of one of the most important episodes in American history is even more fascinating viewed through the quirky, nerdy lens of Vowell's mind. She even manages to make theological disputes interesting. And if the idea of reading a book about the Puritans still puts you off, I'll let Vowell herself sell you on her subject: “I'm always disappointed when I see the word 'Puritan' tossed around as shorthand for a bunch of generic, boring, stupid, judgmental killjoys. Because to me, they are very specific, fascinating, sometimes brilliant, judgmental killjoys who rarely agreed on anything except that Catholics are going to Hell. ” Another Arlington librarian, Linda (head of reference, actually, and blogger about books and knitting at a website named after rodents) suggested Tana French's The Likeness. Like Mosley's, French's mysteries have a recurring principal character: Dublin police detective Cassie Maddox. In Likeness, Cassie is pulled out of the domestic violence division to assist with a murder investigation. The reason: the victim, Lexie Madison, looked exactly like her. To find out who killed Lexie, Cassie is talked into impersonating her and taking up Lexie's place in the home she shared with four eccentric and charismatic housemates. And even though one of the four may be a murderer, Cassie finds herself strangely drawn to them. And finally, both Linda and Jenny recommend Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. This New York Times bestseller is the story of a couple, Clare and Henry, who first meet when she is 6 and he is 36. Henry suffers from "chrono-displacement disorder:" he travels through time at random. Their relationship doesn't actually begin until they meet in the time Henry belongs in, when Clare is 20 and Henry is 28. The strains and slippage of any long-term relationship are exacerbated by Henry's frequent disappearances and reappearances. And he often reappears a different age than he was when he left. It's quite an unusual love story, to say the least. Everyone I've known who has read this book has raved about it.
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