Five Book Friday!

And a friendly reminder that PILCon, the Peabody Institute Library’s 3rd Annual all-ages Comic Con! PILCON will be held on Saturday, May 4th from 10am-4pm at “PIL”, aka, the Main Library, at 82 Main Street.  We can’t wait to see you there!

The Library will also be open as usual during the day on Saturday, though patrons should be advised that it might be a little louder and more hectic than usual outside of the ground floor reading area (where the new fiction, dvds, cds, and public computers live).  It’s all good fun, however, so please feel free to take part, should the mood strike you!

And now, on to the books!

The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays: Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the “collected schizophrenias” but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community’s own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life. In essays that range from using fashion to present as high-functioning to the depths of a rare form of psychosis, and from the failures of the higher education system and the dangers of institutionalization to the complexity of compounding factors such as PTSD and Lyme disease, Wang’s analytical eye, honed as a former lab researcher at Stanford, allows her to balance research with personal narrative.  All together, these essays form a powerful guide through the lived experiences of patients who often go understood and understudied, providing support and insight for those who experience schizoaffective disorder, and those looking to understand the condition more empathetically.  The Washington Post gave this book a ringing endorsement, noting “Wang . . . is an implicitly trustworthy guide to this netherworld of psychosis and chronic illness. . . . Her characteristic nuance more often carries the ring of wisdom, hard won.”

RoarHere’s another collection for those looking for some more bite-sized reading, this time in the realm of fiction from much-beloved author Cecelia Ahearn.  In this singular and imaginative story collection, Cecelia Ahern explores the endless ways in which women blaze through adversity with wit, resourcefulness, and compassion. Ahern takes the familiar aspects of women’s lives–the routines, the embarrassments, the desires–and elevates these moments to the outlandish and hilarious with her astute blend of magical realism and social insight.  One woman is tortured by sinister bite marks that appear on her skin; another is swallowed up by the floor during a mortifying presentation; yet another resolves to return and exchange her boring husband at the store where she originally acquired him. The women at the center of this curious universe learn that their reality is shaped not only by how others perceive them, but also how they perceive the power within themselves.  By turns sly, whimsical, and affecting, these thirty short stories can stand alone, or be read together to create a dynamic and honest look at women’s experiences today.  Kirkus Reviews agreed, calling this book “Curiously delightful…each story resonate[s] as simultaneously personal and universal…A sharp, breathtaking collection.”

Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story: From the moment a doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina, put “male” on Jacob Tobia’s birth certificate, everything went wrong. Alongside “male” came many other, far less neutral words: words that carried expectations about who Jacob was and who Jacob should be, words like “masculine” and “aggressive” and “cargo shorts” and “SPORTS!” Naturally sensitive, playful, creative, and glitter-obsessed, as a child Jacob was given the label “sissy.” In the two decades that followed, “sissy” joined forces with “gay,” “trans,” “nonbinary,” and “too-queer-to-function” to become a source of pride and, today, a rallying cry for a much-needed gender revolution. Through revisiting their childhood and calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, Jacob invites us to rethink what we know about gender and offers a bold blueprint for a healed world–one free from gender-based trauma and bursting with trans-inclusive feminism. Writing with the fierce honesty, wildly irreverent humor, and wrenching vulnerability that have made them a media sensation, Jacob shatters the long-held notion that people are easily sortable into “men” and “women.”  Their book guarantees that you’ll never think about gender the same way again.   Booklist loved this book, and gave it a starred review, noting that “Tobia writes extremely well, with insight, lucidity, occasional anger, and, when things get too serious, wit. The result is, hands down, one of the best trans narratives available; it deserves a place in every library.”

They All Fall Down: Overtones of Agatha Christie blend with the terror modern technological failures to make for a compulsively readable thriller.  Delighted by a surprise invitation, Miriam Macy sails off to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico with six other strangers. Surrounded by miles of open water in the gloriously green Sea of Cortez, Miriam is soon shocked to discover that she and the rest of her companions have been brought to the remote island under false pretenses―and all seven strangers harbor a secret. Danger lurks in the lush forest and in the halls and bedrooms of the lonely mansion. Sporadic cell-phone coverage and miles of ocean keeps the group trapped in paradise. And strange accidents stir suspicions, as one by one, they all, as the title reminds, fall down.  Publisher’s Weekly clearly got a kick out of this title, describing how “This cleverly updated version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None…slips from funny to darkly frightening with elegant ease.”

The Binding: All we can say about this book, dear readers, is that if the cover doesn’t entrance you, the story beneath it will! Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice amongst their small community, but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse. For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored. But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.  A haunting and nuanced tale about memory, love, and the life-changing power of books, this is a novel that The Guardian called “Truly spellbinding… Many readers of The Binding will simply sink gratefully into the pleasures of its pages, because, like all great fables, it also functions as transporting romance.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

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