Greetings and welcome to the Final Four Edition of You Are What You Read! I for one, no longer have a dog in this hunt. The Traveling Companion however is positively giddy being the UNC grad that he is. He’s on his way down to Augusta to begin covering The Masters for Augusta National but he already knows where he will be rooting on his Tar Heels. Steph who eats, lives and breathes basketball will be cheering on her ‘Cuse Orangemen. May the best team win and may my bracket be whole next year because this year was tragic. Thanks Yale. Thanks for nothing.
As many of you know, I spend some serious time in New York talking to publishers about what they are excited about for the coming year so that I can make sure that the library has the latest and greatest. In fact, I was in New York yesterday having lunch with the totally delightful folks from Harper Collins, the author Sophie Hannah and some of the editors from Library Journal. The buzz at the table was all about a manuscript that has been found by Harper Lee’s estate. It is a work of non-fiction where Lee writes about December, 1959 when she accompanied Capote to Kansas to help him with the preliminary research on his book In Cold Blood. The current working title is There is No Stork Club in Topeka: Harper Lee, Truman Capote and the Making of a New American Classic. It’s being edited as we speak and should be ready for a Fall 2017 release. In it we learn about the zany train trip out to Kansas, the culture shock that only a trip to a fly--over state can induce, and of course, the whacky occasions interviewing Hickock and Smith in the state Penitentiary. Apparently, there were some rollicking good times to be had by the two besties. Think Thelma and Louise, only other people died . And without the red convertible. Or the bank robberies. And I think a cliff is hard to come by in Kansas. And I am fairly certain that Harper Lee and Truman Caopte never had sex with Brad Pitt. Okay. Maybe it was more like a buddy picture with a body count. Anyway, you can read more about that here.
This week we have some good nerdy fun, a two-year-old, Lithuania, Poland, First Ladies and Book Two of Three.
Playlist? Don’t be foolish!
Let us begin!
The Amazing James has just tackled the nerdiest thing ever. It’s rather in keeping, actually. “ In Thing Explainer, Randall Monroe, attempts to describe how complicated systems like, the International Space Station (“shared space house”), animal cells (“tiny bags of water you’re made of”), and dishwashers (“boxes that clean food holders”) work using diagrams, illustrated in the same style as his webcomic, XKCD, and labeled with only the 1,000 most common English words. This book doesn’t feel like it is intended to be read from cover to cover, nor does it try to be some sort of authoritative reference resource. With silly—though admittedly pretty accurate—descriptions, this book is ultimately for fun, though I did find myself learning a thing or two on each page.”
The Fabulous Babs B has just finished one of our most wanted titles, Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben. “Checking the nanny cam, Maya, an ex-special ops pilot, sees her two-year-old daughter playing with her husband. The only problem with this scenario is that he was murdered two weeks ago in front of her very eyes! So begins Coben's new thriller which is a twisted adventure as May tries to figure out what is real and isn't real. The strains of being a single parent and suffering the effects of PTSD add to the mix. I thought I had figured out the ending but it came as a complete surprise. Despite that, I don't think this was of of Coben's best books and did not feel any sense of resolve or satisfaction.”
Steph is leading with her heart this week. ”This week my heart is with Dear Fang, With Love, by Rufi Thorpe, the latest book from the author of The Girls of Corona del Mar. It’s the heart-wrenching but also quite funny story of an absentee father and his teen daughter on a trip to, of all places, Lithuania. In alternating chapters, the book follows the hapless Lucas and effervescent Vera, who has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, on their journey. Thorpe so accurately probes at the many ways family binds us to other people without ever getting into mushy territory. I guffawed, I cried, I pouted, I sighed. This is excellent fiction for fans of Maria Semple, Jincy Willett, or Mary Gaitskill.”
One of my favorite books of the year is coming out next week. In Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly we meet three young women in the fall of 1939 who could not be more different. Caroline Halliday a bright young socialite working for the French Embassy in New York, Polish Kasia Kuzmerick a Catholic schoolgirl who's being drawn into the Polish Resistance Movement and Dr. Herta Oberheuser, a German, who has just accepted a position at Ravensbruck, the female 're-education camp'. Based on the lives of real women, we learn about the horrible wrongs committed and the extraordinary lengths we go to as humans to allow humanity towards each other ultimately triumph.
Pat T is, as usual, listening. “The audio book, NPR American Chronicles First Ladies, is a fascinating look at the spouses of our Presidents. As Cokie Roberts says, the role of the First Lady is not for the faint of heart since they have not been elected to the position yet are scrutinized for what they say, do and wear! Martha Washington, our first First Lady, was widowed with four children when she married George Washington. Abigail and John Adams corresponded with one another, writing over 1200 letters, which is one of the main reasons there are so many published books about this couple. Florence Harding, like Eleanor Roosevelt was an activist. Pat Nixon was politically savvy and Bess Truman was her husband's confidante in all matters. From Nancy Reagan's "just say no" campaign, to Michelle Obama's campaign ‘to get moving’, each of these First Ladies have left their special mark. It was a great audio book for Women's History month!”
Pat S has just finished The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam. “When last I left you, I was bemoaning the end of the best novel I had read in a couple of years entitled Old Filth by Jane Gardam. My only solace was the fact that it was the first book in a trilogy. The Man in the Wooden Hat is book two, and friends, I am happy to say it does not disappoint! Betty, Old Filth's wife, is but a shadowy secondary character in the first volume. In TMITWH, we are told the story of their marriage through Betty's eyes. Like her husband, Betty too is born abroad in Tiensin and raised in a Japanese internment camp. We meet her as a young woman, on the brink of adulthood, where she gamely makes the decision to put away idealism for security in marriage to a rising advocate (lawyer). From their engagement through their fifty year plus marriage, we follow as Betty faces an inability to have a family, lack of passion, and the loneliness of being married to a workaholic. Yet as she makes the necessary adjustments to her dreams and hopes, she comes to find the strength in that which endures.
Much like Filth, Betty maintains an almost perfect veneer- attractive, well married matron, efficiently heading up a host of clubs and organizations, social leader, gardener extraordinaire. Yet gently scratch the surface, and we soon find that Betty is quite as enigmatic as her husband. It is the ultimate ‘humanness’ of Gardam’s characters that make them so hard to leave.
Don’t worry about me though, there is still book three, Last Friends, to read.
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from That State Up North with our final musings for the week. What’s good Pats? Is there anything better than a good April Fools’ Day joke? Every year NPR gets me because I forget to check the date. Their prank articles are classic. I completely believed this one and had to forward it along to an education buddy and ask him if the world had gone mad. He told me to check the date. Gullible. Me. Nutshell. May all you tricksters out there enjoy a day made for foolery and to everyone else...don't believe everything you read. HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY!