What We’re Reading

Editors spend their days talking about books. But usually conversations in the office don’t start with, “I just read the most fascinating book.” They’re often more like, “Did you ever figure out that photo caption in that book about extinct fish?” or “Can you sign off on that final proof so this book can go to the printer this week?” So I solicited the latest top picks from Lerner’s school library editors. The prompt was “the best non-Lerner book you read recently.”

I’m currently reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It’s a few years old now but I only heard about this book earlier this year….I’m only a few chapters in but so far it’s a very fun read! What first drew me to the book was the combination of virtual reality sci-fi and video games, but now that I’ve started reading it I’m really impressed by how thorough the book gets with its ’80’s references. Apparently there are lists floating around the Internet that compile every single pop culture reference made in the book—there are more than you’d think!

The best book I’ve read this summer–and in a long time actually– is Edna O’Brien’s newest novel, The Little Red Chairs. It’s a fictionalized account of the true story of the so-called Butcher of Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic, who was sentenced this summer at The Hague for his brutal war crimes during the civil war in former Yugoslavia. He went into open hiding after the war, reinventing himself as a sex therapist and alternative healer. In the novel, Dr. Vlad settles in a small rural Irish village, where he becomes a trusted part of the community and the lover of a lonely (married) woman there. At the same time he is revealed to be a war criminal, she discovers she is pregnant with his child and must find a way to live with the betrayal and with the evil he had cast upon her and her town. In the end, she is able to do so and to find redemption through service to other traumatized victims of life’s most brutal travesties. It’s a powerful story of healing and forgiveness in the face of evil; I’d say a must-read for our times.

I recently read Year Zeroby Rob Reid, probably the funniest book I’ve read in years. For fans of space aliens and intellectual property/copyright law, it doesn’t get better than this. I laughed out loud a few times, which is pretty rare. Right now I’m midway through the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown, and I absolutely loved the first one (Red Rising). It’s like a mix of A Song of Ice and Fire(that’s Game of Thrones for people who read the books), The Hunger Games, and The Iliad, except better than all of those (OK, maybe it’s not better than The Iliad). Science fiction and/or young adult novel fans should definitely give it a try.

I recently read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood for the first time. It’s not the kind of thing I ever read (I’m not sure I was even fully aware that there was a True Crime section in the library), but I had seen the movie Capote (also excellent) and was curious about the book.  I was surprised by how much I liked it—or, more accurately I guess, I was impressed by the writing. It was slow and drawn out, with lots of attention to setting and character, and all kinds of little details.  It struck me, I think, because this style isn’t all that common anymore but also because of how effective it was in creating tension and suspense and sympathy for even the most unsympathetic of characters.
       I was similarly surprised by how much I liked Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, which tells the fascinating but heartbreaking story of a slum in Mumbai. It’s an excellent piece of journalism—and the story is told in such a way and with such a vibrant cast of characters that you’d almost never know it’s not fiction.

And my own:
I loved The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin. I’ve been following (and admiring) Crispin’s work since I discovered the now-shuttered Bookslut website in approximately 2005. Reading that blog was like listening to a very literate friend talk about writers as though they were intimate family or friends. And this book does that one better. Crispin spent several years traveling through Europe, focusing on places where writers lived during peak writing periods and exploring their time and work in those places. So it’s modern plus historical travelogue mixed with literary critique, with a healthy dose of personal details and a gloriously appealing “say-it-like-it-is” tone. I’m thinking about giving my copy away so that I can buy more and show her publisher that people want more of her writing. Also so that more people can enjoy this awesomely unusual book.