And a very happy Friday to you, dear readers!
There are only a precious handful of days left before “summer” is “officially over”…theoretically and emotionally, if not actually meteorologically. So we’ll keep it simple today, and simply hope that you have the opportunity to enjoy every last delightful, carefree, memorable moment of summer. And that you wear sunscreen. And bring a hat. And a book–perhaps like one of the ones listed here!
See What I Have Done: A huge hit in the UK and Australia, Sarah Schmidt’s fictionalized study of the Lizzie Borden trial has already caused a lot of feelings among the Library staff. When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime. Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem. Schmidt uses this well-known, but still under-studied trial to ask questions about violence, feminism, and history that has been gaining attention around the world–and been compared to Shirley Jackson, which is some incredible praise. The Guardian weighed in, as well, noting that “Schmidt’s unusual combination of narrative suppression and splurge makes for a surprising, nastily effective debut.”
Emma in the Night: Wendy Walker’s twisty, dark psychological thriller is sure to have fans of Ruth Ware and Paula Hawkins delighted, and fulfill all your desires for a creepy, jaw-clenching investigation. One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway–and where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime. Though Walker’s story is a good-time thriller, she also considers very seriously the effects of mental illness and personalities disorders within families, making this book all the more gripping and unsettling for it’s close description of real-life troubles. Publisher’s Weekly agrees noting in their starred review of this novel, “In this searing psychological thriller…Walker’s portrayal of the ways in which a narcissistic, self-involved mother can affect her children deepens the plot as it builds to a shocking finale.”
Yesterday: Hailed as “the thriller of the summer”, Felicia Yap’s book is another novel of dark psychological suspense, but this book looks to a future where memory itself is a precious commodity, and class is defined by who gets to remember. Those on the top are permitted two days worth of memory, while most are afforded only one. The only way to understand your spouse or your child or your mother is to jog your brain with daily e-diaries. And then imagine someone is murdered. How do you find a killer when all who are involved have their memories constantly reset? Claire and Mark are a surprising mixed-marriage that on the surface seems brilliant. Claire is a conscientious Mono housewife, Mark a novelist-turned-MP Duo on the political rise. But when a woman turns up dead, and she is then revealed to be Mark’s mistress, their perfectly constructed life begins to fall apart. Yap’s debut changes perspectives with a rare deftness that makes this story richer, rather than more confusing, and she challenges convention and genres with impressive confidence. Newsweek declared this book “A 2017 literary event”, which, considering how saturated the market on psychological dramas becomes every summer, it quite an impressive statement.
Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music: American culture has a soundtrack–from every film, every documentary, every memory that is mass-produced, there is a score to accompany it. And those songs, almost always, have to do with the body and with sex. In this fascinating study, Ann Powers explores how popular music became America’s primary erotic art form. Powers takes us from nineteenth-century New Orleans through dance-crazed Jazz Age New York to the teen scream years of mid-twentieth century rock-and-roll to the cutting-edge adventures of today’s web-based pop stars. In her dizzying tour through American music and gender history, she continually demonstrates how eroticism—not merely sex, but love, bodily freedom, and liberating joy—became entwined within the rhythms and melodies of American song. This cohesion, she reveals, touches the heart of America’s anxieties and hopes about race, feminism, marriage, youth, and freedom, making for a book that will have all fans of pop culture, music, gender, history, and art, sitting up to take notice, and has critics, academics, and artists singing it’s praises. One such outlet is Library Journal, which gave this book a starred review, noting “With precision and wit, and across multiple musical genres, Powers contextualizes the complicated interplay of gender, sex, and race inherent in popular music within and against the backdrop of America’s puritanical founding.”
Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World: In the wake of the September 11 attacks and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Suzy Hansen, who grew up in an insular conservative town in New Jersey, was enjoying early success as a journalist for a high-profile New York newspaper. Increasingly, though, the disconnect between the chaos of world events and the response at home took on pressing urgency for her. Seeking to understand the Muslim world that had been reduced to scaremongering headlines, she moved to Istanbul. Hansen arrived in Istanbul with romantic ideas about a mythical city perched between East and West, and with a naive sense of the Islamic world beyond. Over the course of her many years of living in Turkey and traveling in Greece, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iran, she learned a great deal about these countries and their cultures and histories and politics. But the greatest, most unsettling surprise would be what she learned about her own country–and herself, an American abroad in the era of American decline. Her memoir is an insightful, deeply moving, and strangely bittersweet tale, not of violence or prejudice, but of heartbreak, pain, and self-discovery, not only for her, but for the nations she considers, as well. This book is earning not only glowing, but passionate reviews from across the world, with Booklist declaring that “”Hansen’s must-read book makes the argument that Americans, specifically white Americans, are decades overdue in examining and accepting their country’s imperial identity . . . Hansen builds her winning argument by combining personal examination and observation with geopolitical history lessons. She is a fearless patriot, and this is a book for the brave.”
Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!