Five Book Friday!

Fun facts for your Friday:

1) A duck’s quack doesn’t echo, and no one knows why.

2)Owls are the only birds who can see the color blue.  (It would be far more interesting to learn who administers eye tests to owls)

3) Green Eggs and Ham was written when Dr. Seuss’ editor challenged him to write a book with less than fifty words.

4)  The Q in Q-tips stands for quality.

5) According to the American Library Association, September is Library Card Sign-Up Month.

6) If you have a library card, you can check out these new books, and countless more…and loads of other fun stuff.


3644589Updraft: Fran Wilde’s phenomenally imaginative new series is set in a world above the clouds made of living bone, which in and of itself sounds like a super reason to start reading, but the heroine of this complex fantasy adventure is also being hailed as a wonder herself.  When Kirit inadvertently breaks the law in an attempt to help her family, she finds herself confronted by the Singers, a shadowy, enormously powerful group that demands her allegiance–but at what cost?  Publisher’s Weekly made this one of their top ten Sci/Fi, Fantasy and Horror books for September, saying “Wilde leaves many questions unanswered, this only adds to the mystery and delight, encouraging the reader to suspend disbelief and become immersed in Kirit’s story. This well-written and fascinating exploration of a strange land is an extremely promising start for an exciting new writer.”

3621543The Girl Who Slept With God:  Val Brelinski is another new author whose book is garnering acclaim from all corners, and her book’s title alone, I think, is enough to turn a few heads.  Set in 1970’s Idaho, Brelinski tells the story of three sisters whose world is turned upside down when one of them returns from a missionary trip to Mexico convinced that she is pregnant with the child of God.  Forced to move to the outskirts of their town, the family begins to set up a new life with a community of eccentrics and prepare for the arrival of the baby.  Many reviews have likened this book to The Scarlet Letter and Chekov’s Three Sisters, which seems high praise indeed, and Booklist raves, “Populated with vibrant, three-dimensional characters and filled with lighthearted moments, pitch-perfect dialogue, and evocative descriptions of the Idaho countryside, Brelinski’s debut…is a piercing yet nuanced exploration of toxic parenting, guilt, manipulation, cowardice, and other human frailties, and the claustrophobic grip exerted by the ties that bind.”

3654368The Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, A Play, and a City That Would Not Be Broken: It seems incredible that this is the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the Louisiana coast.  Wendell Pierce waited out the storm with relatives seventy miles from New Orleans, but returned to find his home and neighborhood of Pontchartrain Park completely destroyed.   This book is the story not only of his efforts to rebuild (with $400 from his insurance company), but the history of his home, family, and community, and about how Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot offered an unexpected moment of hope and revelation.  James MacBride, author of The Good Lord Birdsays of this story, “This is more than a memoir. It’s an adventure in history, encompassing the timeless elements that propelled this fourth-generation grandson of a slave into one of the most important dramatic actors of our age: family, art, truth, religion, and of course a mother’s love. This is a story of sacrifice and blood struggle, of victory and selflessness, told with deep humility and grace by one of the most important American artists in our generation.”

3616238The Skeleton Plot: J.M. Gregson’s much-loved Detective Chief Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook are back in this 28th mystery novel, investigating the discovery of a body on the boundary of a twenty-year-old property development.  As they dive deeper into the shadows of the past, even more secrets are revealed about some prominent local figures who would do anything to keep the secrets of this skeleton from being revealed.  Booklist calls this thoroughly British series “a fine example of the contemporary British procedural, with strong characters, intriguing plots, and the ring of authenticity in its descriptions of modern-day policing”, and while this series has clearly been going strong for some time, there is nothing stopping new readers from jumping right in and enjoying this book first.

3654373Reckless: My Life as a PretenderChrissie Hynde spent nearly four decades as the lead singer/song-writer of the mega-famous Pretenders, and now she has penned a book that Amazon has already named a Best Book of September.  From her upbringing in rural Ohio to her failed–and successful attempts at fame, Hynde remains conscious not only of her own flaws, failings, and strength, but of the world around her.  She discusses the urban decay of Akron with the same verve and wit as she does her meeting Iggy Pop and offers fans some tantalizing secrets about the origins of some of the bands most iconic songs.  From start to finish, it’s quite clear that no one else could fill Chrissie Hynde’s shoes, and, as The Daily Beast notes, Hynde “writes just like she lives, and just like she makes music. She does it her way, which is an inimitable multiplicity of things: impulsive, untamed, ragged, proud, a little sad around the edges.”


Happy weekend, Beloved Patrons, and happy reading!

“I’m sorry to have deceived you so much, but that’s how life is”: A Word on Unreliable Narrators


As part of my first-year undergraduate orientation program, we were assigned Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, a book ostensibly about childhood and growing up, lies and the destruction they can wreak.  Though it wasn’t my particular cup of tea at the time, I could appreciate McEwan’s prose, his ability to capture the tension, fear, and bewilderment of teenagers facing the prospect of growing up, and the hollow despair of an unjust turn of fortune.  I also loved the twist at the end, in which we learnt that the narrator of the book is an unreliable one, and that what we thought was true…wasn’t.

The concept of the Unreliable Narrator is not a new one.  Really, for as long as people have shared stories, they have toyed with the idea of truth and lies.  Aristophanes’ The Frogs, first performed in approximately 405 B.C. is considered the first use of an unreliable narrator, when Dionysus claims to have suck 12 or 13 ships and his slave later states that it happened in a dream.  Numerous tales in the One Thousand and One Nightsalso known as the Arabian Nights, feature lies, fabrications, and exaggeration in order to make their point.  Many of these tales, however, are fairly up-front about their deceptions, showing the lies for what they are in obvious ways throughout the text.  Other examples of this can be found in stories where children are the narrators, misinterpreting the events around them, or when the books are told through the eyes of ‘madmen’, such as Nikolai Gogol’s Diary of a Madman, which freaked me out so much that I have never been able to re-read it completely.

But there are times when things aren’t so clear-cut.  Other pieces use the Unreliable Narrator far more insidiously, guiding the reader into a false sense of comprehension and understanding, they whipping the proverbial rug out from under their feet.  Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger  is a classic example, taking the readers’ fundamental understanding about how mystery novels “work” and using it against them.  Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is one of the more heart-breakingly moving examples that come to mind, playing on the simple human desire to believe in the fantastic, especially if it offers a glimmer of hope, rather than the banalities of reality.

I personally love books with unreliable narrators.  It forced the reader to rethink the entire work, to rethink and re-conceive a narrative that, on the whole, seemed so simple.  I love that it re-emphasizes the beauty of fiction–talking about things that didn’t happen to people who don’t exist.  The unreliable narrator trope forces us to look at the man behind the curtain, so to speak, to see the puppet’s strings, to acknowledge that we are looking at a facade.  And, if it is done well, in realizing the un-reality of what they are reading, readers can often appreciate even more keenly the beauty of what they believed to be true, and to realize the depth of the relationship that can form between reader and author–people who, most likely, will never ever meet.

But, to my surprise, in a campus-wide discussion on Atonement, the president of my college talked about how genuinely angry she was at the revelations in the books’ final pages.  She felt cheated and painfully manipulated.  For her, and, indeed, for many, as I later learned, the idea of an unreliable narrator was seen as a betrayal of a fundamental trust; when they picked up a work of fiction, they trusted the author to tell “the truth”…even in the midst of a fabricated piece of work.  For many people in this discussion, the revelation of the Unreliable Narrator betrayed the basic premise of story-telling, and, on a grander scale, about why we tell stories at all.  It made me realize how powerful the bond between story-teller and audience truly can be; the act of reading a book implies, for many, an almost religious faith in the veracity of the story-teller, a fact which can often obscure the presence of the reader, their emotional or psychological investment in a story.  By exploiting that trust, the Unreliable Narrator forces us to acknowledge our own presence in the narrative, and our ownership of the characters, the events, and our feelings about them.  And while that isn’t always easy or comfortable, it makes us as a real part in the story…and that, I think is a pretty remarkable feat.

So, IF you who want to explore a few more tales from Unreliable Narrators, THEN here are some suggestions–along with those mentioned above:

2200907Lolita: Perhaps the quintessential Unreliable Narrator of modern fiction, Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert is a liar par excellence.  In desperately trying to exonerate himself, Humbert implicates the reader of his tale by sharing with them his love (love?) for the teenaged Dolores Haze.  Strictly speaking, Humbert is a delusional, controlling, homicidal psychopath.  But in the pages of his confession (but for what crime?!), readers find themselves forgiving him, excusing him, and empathizing with him in a way that is difficult for many to accept.  This is also one of my favorite books of all time, ever, ever, ever, so if anyone wants to discuss, you know where to find me.

2223181 (1)Oscar and Lucinda: Another of my all-time forever favorite books (because I am a book masochist, apparently), this story proves once and for all Peter Carey’s sublime genius.  Because he tells you on the first page what is going to happen, and still manages to dupe you into hoping, scheming, dreaming that the ending of the book will be different.  Oscar is the son of British minister, while Lucinda is the unexpected heiress of an enormous glass factory in Australia.  When their mutual love of gambling brings them together during a steamship crossing, the stage is set for one of the most understated and perfect love stories in literature, as well as one of the most awe-inspiring travel narratives you’ll ever read.

2754084The Turn of the ScrewA truly creepy is-she-insane-or-not type of Unreliable Narrator is at the center of Henry James’ seminal short story.  This is also an example of a ‘found manuscript’ story, as the narrator is presenting a text written by someone else, in this case a deceased governess who was hired to care for a young boy and girl at a country estate in Essex.  Though the job at first seems a simple one, the governess becomes haunted by the tales of the houses’ former inhabitants, and ghostly presences that threaten the children in her care…at least, that’s what she says happened….

Yay Stephen Colbert!


Today was a seminal event in the history of television.  A seismic moment in broadcasting….It was the premiere of the new Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

…Ok, it probably wasn’t quite that big a deal, but for Colbert’s legion fans, it has been a long, chilly nine months.  And tonight’s show did not disappoint, for those night owls who were up to watch.

3187413The radical conservative blowhard that he played on his Comedy Central show was somewhat afraid of books (the fictitious Stephen Colbert claimed they had ‘too many facts’ in them), despite the fact that he authored three during his tenure on Comedy Central, two of which were parodies of political memoirs: I Am America (And So Can You!), and America Again: re-becoming the greatness we never weren’t.  Both books are pitch-perfect satires of American political memoirs and commentaries that are rendered even better by Colbert’s performances in the audiobook recordings
of both works.  He also authored a children’s book, entitled I Am a Pole (and so can you!)the result of an interview with the beloved and delightfully curmudgeonly Maurice Sendak, who was one of the few guests capable of keeping up with Colbert, and giving him a run for his intellectual money–and, who stated, unequivocally, that his favorite book was Moby Dickin case you needed another reason to try this classic.

 However, the truth of the matter is that Stephen Colbert is a librarian’s comedian.   His humor is a treasure trove of literary references, allusions, and homages.  Best of all, Colbert wears his bookish-ness on his sleeve.  He took on Amazon when the company tried to wage war against Hachette (Colbert’s publisher), and helped debut author Edan Lepucki’s book California onto the New York Times Bestsellers List when he urged viewers to buy the book via independent bookstores rather than Amazon.  He speaks Elvish, for goodness sake!  If you don’t believe me, check out this clip from 2008 (it’s a bit of a lengthy interview, but worth every single second…fast forward to about 8:18 for the actual High Elvish).  And, as those who have seen this interview will notice, Colbert can knit-pick like a true devotee.  The result was his now-famous cameo in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, which Peter Jackson arranged after realizing the truth depth of Colbert’s Tolkein adoration.

17063310b66653f6ee817c0799b510bfBut even apart from the Tolkein-ness of it all, Colbert has worked plenty of other literary references into his work.  His ‘book club’ featured a whole episode on The Great Gatsby (which may possibly have violated some copyright laws, but was brilliant nevertheless); he interviewed an enormous number of authors and literature professors during his time on Comedy Central (you can check out a comprehensive list of them here).  My personal favorite was his analysis of the short story vs. the novel with George Saunders, author of the short story collection Tenth of December, which you can watch here.  When asked why he wrote short stories, Saunders says “Let’s say you were madly in love with somebody, and your mission was to tell the person that you love them.  Here’s two scenarios, you can take a weeklong train trip with the person…that’s a novel….Second scenario: he’s stepping on the train, and you have three minutes…”, to which Colbert begs “Why can’t I get on the train?!…Where is she going? Why can’t I go with her?…Does she love me back?!”, quite possibly summing up every moment of readly angst I have ever known.  The beautiful simplicity of this discussion not only sums up why we read, and how we read, and is definitely worth a watch.

Most recently, in a parody of Donald Trump’s candidacy announcement, Colbert slid a passage from Joyce’s Ulysses into the middle of his speech, which aired on the very day on which Ulysses is set (ten points if you can figure it out on the first try).   He made a very brief reference in tonight’s opening show to W.W. Jacobs’ seminal short story “The Monkey’s Paw”.  And on Thursday, his guest will be celebrated author, and library favorite Stephen King.

imageSo we here at the Free For All wanted to take a brief moment and cheer quietly for Stephen Colbert on his successes (we’re in the library, so while our cheers are quiet, our intention is deafening).  And for those of you who aren’t able to stay up until 11:35pm in order to watch the show, here is a recording of Colbert reading Flannery O’Connor’s “The Enduring Chill”, offering O’Connor’s trademark characters, and themes of racial segregation, life-changing moments, and unsettling atmospheric details, along with a rare chance to hear Colbert’s native South Carolina accent, though only briefly.  Though this recording was made some time ago from a live program sponsored by the National Book Award, it is still a treat to hear, and I hope it brings a smile to your Wednesday.


Staff Recommendations (once again)!


I have been known to refer to the library shelves as a “book buffet”, where you can literally take as much as you can carry, and devour as you choose.  It’s such a treat to talk with our patrons and learn what books whet your appetites, which tales had you up late at night, and what story you cannot wait to see appear in our New Releases Section.  It certainly helps us put together our list of To Be Read books (because those lists can never be long enough, believe me!), and often gives us the inspiration to read a story that we never would have previously considered.

In the hopes of repaying your kindness, we love to share our favorite books, as well, in the hopes that they might give you some ideas on your next visit to the book buffet–we hope you enjoy!

From the West Branch…

1795937Mists of AvalonThis retelling of the Arthurian legend by Marion Zimmer Bradley has become a modern-day classic, and for good reason.  This version of the tale, however, is told through the eyes of Morgaine (usually known as Morgan Le Fay) and Gwenhwyfar (the Welsh spelling of Guinevere) as they struggle for power in a strange world where religion and superstition, faeries and knights live side-by-side.  Even readers familiar with Arthur’s legend will find a lot to enjoy here, because while Bradley remains faithful to the cannon, she also reimagines this world and its inhabitants, offering an honest, engaging new perspective on an ages-old story.

From the Director’s Desk…

3206056The Night CircusErin Morgenstern’s smashing debut novel has been described as a book “in which the prose is as beautiful as poetry”, and the characters literally come and live with you, even after you finish reading.  She tells the tale of a circus that appears at night, without warning, and dazzle spectators with its breathtaking spectacles.  But behind the scenes, there is a war being waged between two powerful magicians, Celia and Marco–a war that only one of them can win.  And when Celia and Marco fall unexpectedly, disastrously in love, they kick off a chain of events that will leave no one around them untouched…..This is an addictive fairy-tale with wonderful little historic details and a hyper-detailed world that simply shouldn’t be missed!

From the Circulation Desk…

3537128The Truth About the Harry Quebert AffairI think we’re going to have to talk about this book more, as there is a great deal going on here, and so many references and homages and nods-and-winks to other works of literature that it will keep bibliophiles awake at night.  On the surface, this is a closed-case mystery about a beautiful young girl who vanished thirty-three years ago from a small town in New Hampshire.  When her body is discovered buried in the backyard of a noted professor and celebrated author, old sins begins to surface that changes everything this sleepy town thought it knew about itself.  When the professor’s protege and best friend arrives in town, determined to seek the truth about the case, the result is this book…a scrapbook of memories, full of interviews, recollections, truth and lies that is absolutely fascinating.  I haven’t reached the end yet, but the struggle not to read ahead and find out the truth is killing me!

From the Reference Desk….

51FQp271VkL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice“There are two important days in a woman’s life: the day she is born and the day she finds out why”: This book is unique in format and difficult to describe, but the words on these pages are some of the most powerful I have ever read. Through 54 brief pieces that read like a combination of memoir and prose poem, Terry Tempest Williams explores family, in particular mothers and daughters; nature; spirituality; and what it is to be a woman. The language is beautiful and the message is empowering. For the reader who seeks truth and beauty, strength and love, and a sense of peace and transformation, there is much hope and wisdom here.

“The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”




Though Labor Day has become known as the unofficial end to the summer vacation season, and a great time to snap up some sales, it’s worth remembering not only the movement, but the men and women who gave meaning to this day–and made life a little easier for a great many of us.

The first Labor Day parade in New York, 1882
The first Labor Day parade in New York, 1882

In 1869, the Knights of Labor organized to become the first formal labor organization in the United States, committed to change the face of American capitalism through education and political debate, meaning that they supported workers’ families, their right to have a life outside of work, and to enjoy that free time in comfort and safety.  It was the Knights who first suggested the idea of a holiday commemorating and celebrating the working class.  They organized a parade to celebrate the achievements of the American workforce–but it would take a number of years and a series of violent, unforgettable clashes before the day became established.

On May 1, 1886, some half a million workers around the country went out on strike in favor of an eight-hour workday.  They marched through the streets carrying signs, chanting, and singing songs.  Two days later in Chicago, strikers clashed with strikebreakers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company.  After union leader August Spies called for (and largely achieved) peace among the crowd, the police opened fire, killing at least two workers (other reports would claim six).

Infuriated by the violence, local anarchists organized a rally in favor of the striking workers, to be held the next day at Haymarket Square.  Speaking that evening, August Spies is quoted as saying “There seems to prevail the opinion in some quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called ‘law and order.’ However, let me tell you…the object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight-hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it.”

Indeed, the meeting itself proceeded peacefully until about 10:30pm, when police marched in formation to Haymarket Square and ordered the workers to disperse.  What happened later is difficult to determine; we know that a homemade bomb was thrown from the group of demonstrators toward the police, and the resulting explosion killed Officer Mathias J. Degan and mortally wounding six other officers.  We also know that shooting immediately broke out between the protestors and the police, killing seven police officers and four workers were killed; some sixty more police officers were wounded, but no accurate estimate exists as to how many civilians were injured, as many were too frightened to seek medical attention.

Haymarket_Martyr's_MemorialThe aftermath of the Haymarket incident engulfed the country.  Eight men, including August Spies, were tried for the death of Officer Degan, and sentenced to death in what all contemporary reports decried as one of the largest miscarriages of justice in a generation.  As he was standing on the gallows, August Spies called out to the assembled crowd “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today”, realizing that their loss would spark far more outcry than any rally these men could organize.

On June 26, 1893, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, the governor of Illinois, signed pardons for the three men who had already been executed, calling them victims of “hysteria, packed juries, and a biased judge” and noting that the state “has never discovered who it was that threw the bomb which killed the policeman, and the evidence does not show any connection whatsoever between the defendants and the man who threw it.”

The public, understandably, was furious at the death of these three men, and the division between workers and the government (including the police) continued to rise.  Tensions reached a boiling point in 1894, when a general strike against the Pullman Company resulted in the deaths of some thirty strikers and the injuring of over seventy more, when the National Guard was called into to force workers back to their jobs by any means necessary.  Terrified that public sentiment would erupt into a nationwide general strike in support of the murdered workers, President Grover Cleveland immediately signed the national holiday known as ‘Labor Day’ into effect.  The date was established for the first weekend in September in the hopes of both supporting the Knights of Labor’s original idea, and to separate the day as much as possible from the events in Haymarket and at the Pullman Company.

For those interested in learning more about the labor movement, or some later history of labor in the United States, check out some of these titles:

2348983Death in the Haymarket: James Green does an excellent job describing the events at the Haymarket on May 4, 1886, but also puts those events in a much broader context, tying in the international fear over anarchy and communism, as well as the growing class tensions within the United States.  He describes the subsequent trials of the eight accused men in minute detail, providing a story that is both educational and exceptionally engrossing.

3588493The Devil is Here in These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom: Lest we forget that unions and organized labor don’t just work in cities and industry, James Green also brings us the story of the powerful companies that thrived on the coal mined from the hills of rural West Virginia–and on the backs of men whose lives were cut short by the diseases and physical conditions they developed in the mines.  Their battle for civil rights and fair labor laws became a national debate that would change the face of the American legal and labor system forever, and Green tells the story in fascinating detail.

1928501Cradle WIll Rock: This is a sensational film, with a terrific cast, that tells the story of some of the most significant moments in 1930’s labor history in America, including the first performance of Marc Blitzstein’s Cradle Will Rock, the only show ever shut down by the Federal government, partly out of fear that the show would promote ‘Unionism’ at a time when Communist scares were beginning to engulf the country.  This is a fun film with a light touch, but a terribly important message, and the exceptionally accurate portrayal of the debut of Cradle Will Rock is simply unforgettable.

Saturdays @ the South: Book Hangovers

I know the feeling, kitty…

Book Hangover: (Buk Hang-ov-ur)

a) the inability to start a new book because you are still living in the last book’s world.

b) When you’ve finished a book and you suddenly return to the real world, but the real world feels incomplete or surreal because you’re still living in the world of the book.  (sources: urban dictionary and

In the wake of a long weekend giving many extra time to spend with a good book, I thought I’d talk about an experience that I suspect many readers have had, but few may have the term they can use to discuss it. If you’re on Pinterest (and if you’re not, you should be; you can get, among other things, the scoop on the library’s latest orders before they arrive) you may have seen this term pop up a few times. If you haven’t, allow me to introduce you to a new vocabulary term: book hangover. As defined above more formally above, a book hangover is when a book hits you so hard or gets you so utterly engrossed, that you have a hard time pulling yourself out of it. In other words, the book stays with you long after the last page has been turned.
If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in very good company! There’s something about a really good book that can often make you reluctant to turn that last page, or gets you so engrossed that you end up being surprised when you get to the last page (this happens a lot to me when I read on a Kindle, since there’s no real, physical indication that the pages are getting fewer). Or maybe a book has talked about themes relevant to your life that deeply resonates with you or it talked about something that completely opened up your eyes to a new way of thinking that you hadn’t considered before. All of these reactions (sometimes all within the same book) are not only parts of an enriched reading life, but can all be symptoms leading to book hangovers.
Well put, Mr. Firth. See? We’re most definitely in good company.

While many people have their own cure for a regular hangover (a particularly famous one here) that may or may not work to varying degrees, a book hangover is a bit trickier. I’m not aware of any particular cure for a book hangover as everyone seems to have their own way to break it. Some dive right into another book.  Some wander around aimlessly staring at their bookshelves wondering if anything else will measure up to what was just finished. Some watch TV to try and get their mind off of it (bonus points for watching the show or movie made from the book you finished- sometimes comparing the two is enough to rally). Some prefer to wallow in the book hangover and ruminate indefinitely, considering the book hangover more of a spell that the book has cast that they’re afraid to break. Everyone has their own method, sometimes the same person might have several methods depending on the book.

While there is no “official” cure (and some who don’t want to be cured), if you are a reader who has experienced a book hangover, no doubt you will eventually venture into another book at some point. Maybe you’ll get that feeling again, maybe you won’t. That’s all part of the excitement of reading life. But regardless how to choose to move on from your book hangover, be gentle, both on yourself and the new book you read. Ease into it and know that even if this new book doesn’t immerse you in the story, it could still be a great, fun read.

Here are a few book hangover-inducing selections that may get you more familiarized with this feeling :

2260048Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

OK, I’m going to get the huge, pink, British elephant out in the open first.  For those of you sick of us singing the praises of this book, feel free to move onto the selections below. For those of you still reading: this book hit me hard. Despite having a solid outline of what was going to happen from watching the mini-series, I was still blown away. This was the type of book that kept me so engrossed I wanted to keep pushing forward, but also one that I wanted to take my time with and savor. Naturally, coming to the end was a bit of a heartache and despite having finished it a month ago and read a couple of books since, I’m still not sure I’m completely over it.

3546892The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Patron recommendation! A wonderful patron here at the South came up to me, told me how she was still thinking about this book and proceeded to describe the symptoms of what I was able to diagnose as a book hangover. In my mind, that makes it immensely worthy of putting on this list.

3614409Cannonbridge by Jonathan Barnes

This one caught me by surprise. The book read incredibly quickly, so when I was done, I wasn’t quite sure what happened. It wasn’t a life-altering book, but it was an extremely engaging one, particularly for those who like literary references in their fiction (Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Wollstonecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, among others all make cameos). The ending was a surprise and stuck with me for quite a while after I’d closed the covers.

3414400A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This book had a profound effect on me and sucked me deep into the story and the emotions the characters felt. This was another tough book to come out of and led to many wanderings among bookshelves (both at home and at the library) trying to figure out what to do with my reading self next.

3563980In Search of the Perfect Loaf by Samuel Fromartz

I’ve added this book, in part, because I want to demonstrate how it isn’t just fiction books that can give someone a book hangover. This book made me want to buy a house with a big backyard specifically so that I could install a brick bread oven there. I had all sorts of resolutions about following a path similar to the author’s. Very little came from them, but for the week after reading this book, I was a touch obsessed with learning more about making good bread (or at least buying better bread), so not only did I get a book hangover from this book, but I got a bit of a starch hangover as well!

I’ve somewhat conspicuously left out summaries of the books I listed this week, mostly because, even though I know not everyone will get a book hangover from these selections, if others do, they deserve to arrive at it on their own terms. Books can reach people in myriad ways and I’m not about to dictate what the plot will mean to them or how they might interpret the subject.

Till next week, dear readers, I wish you good reads and safe times over the long weekend!

Five Book Friday!


Today’s post, Beloved Patrons, is brought to you courtesy of jetlag, that delightful side-effect of hurtling the human body through multiple time zones at hundreds of miles per hour.  Though that description does make returning home sound something like time-travel, which sounds like fun, the actual result is that one knows neither if they are coming or going.  What I do know for sure is that there are new books on our shelves, and a long weekend coming up in which to enjoy them, and it is marvelous to be home and see all of you, and all of the lovely books once again.

Just a reminder that the library will be closed over the Labor Day Weekend, so come in on Friday to pick up your books, and we will see you again on Tuesday, September 8.  The Free-For-All will still be up and running, as ever, though, because we have no idea what time it is, and can’t stop talking about books.

3641140All Together Now: Gil Hornby’s second novel is a surprisingly fun, quirky little book about a group of lost souls who take part in a local chorus, and dare to fulfill their dreams of a region championship.  Though the premise sounds a little fluffy, this book is disarmingly honest, reveling in its characters faults and foibles, making their interactions, and their singing, something that sticks with you.  RT Book Reviews loved this one, calling it “a funny underdog tale that is transporting and yet honest. Best of all, this unique and surprisingly meaningful tale unfolds alongside a soundtrack that is sure to leave readers with a song in their hearts.”

3651672Walking With Abel: Journalist Anna Badkhen built her career on her willingness to travel to the most remote, extreme places on the globe, and in this book, she documents her time with a family of nomadic herders in the Mali grasslands, known as Fulani cowboys.  For the armchair explorer, this book is full of stunning descriptions of the African wilderness, from the Sahara to the Indian Ocean.  For those who savor the human connections that such adventures bring, Badkhen’s experiences within the family that has adopted her are completely fascinating, and their bond surprisingly touching.  The Christian Science Monitor raved, “By the time readers put the book down, they will have done something remarkable: visited a mostly inhospitable but eminently seductive locale alongside a storyteller able to render the strange and different both familiar and engrossing.”

3623461Rose Water And Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes From My Lebanese KitchenFor those who prefer their adventures to be of the culinary variety, we also have Maureen Abood’s delightful new release, featuring the sumptuous flavors of her childhood.  Along with these delicious, and surprisingly easy, recipes are stories and anecdotes about growing up in a Lebanese-American family, and the journey that Abood herself took to become the award-winning chef she is today.

3654427The Drafter: Fans who are aching for a new fix after the conclusion of Kim Harrison’s epic Hallows series will rejoice at the launch of her new series featuring renegade Peri Reed.  The year is 2030, and Peri is a Drafter, a skilled operative able to manipulate time, but cursed to forget every change that she has ever made.  But when she finds her name on a list of corrupted employees, Peri realizes that she, and her history, are being targeted by those in power–but to what ends?  The New York Times had a sensational review of this Jason-Bourne-esque thriller, calling Harrison’s writing “a smoldering combination of Alice Waters and Ozzy Osbourne.”

3644700The Automated AristocratsMark Hodder’s Burton and Swineburne novels are some of the most-well known and genre-defining steampunk novels out there today, and this sixth book brings this stupendous series to a rollicking close.  Sir Richard Francis Burton (a real historical figure, whom Hodder has fictionalized in wonderful fashion) returns from the future with knowledge of all the technological marvels yet to come, but when one of his colleagues turns traitor, Burton and his sidekick Algernon Charles Swinburne (another historic figure reinvented for this series) are forced to watch the Empire topple around them.  Now, leaders of a surviving group of revolutionaries, Burton and Swinburne must find a way to overthrow their automated overlords…at any cost.  For those looking for a wildly inventive, imagination-bending series, start with The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, the first in this series, and enjoy Burton and Swinburne’s adventures right through to the end!


"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass