Happy Friday to you all! By the time you read this, I will be in Florida with The Traveling Companion getting ready for the big party tomorrow night to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. I really have to say this reading habit that I have is entirely his fault. From the very beginning, one of the strongest aspects of our relationship was all about books and our love of them. Read-aloud story times morphed into his pressing his childhood favorites into my hands. He recognized early on that while a girl does love a pretty dress on special occasions like Christmas and Birthdays, the gift that still excited the day after, and even years later, came between two hard covers with a dust jacket. Every Saturday, I would ride my bike to Leroy Avenue and load up my basket with the reads for the week and then head across the street to the Fairbanks Sweet Shop for a little something to nosh on while working through the stack (I was a rather round child). There was always an exception though and that was when the weather was not the best. On rainy Saturdays, I would get an early wake up nudge and a, “Would you like a ride to the Library and breakfast at the Sugar Bowl?” Well, I ask you, what girl could resist a tall stack of books with a short stack of Bobby’s French toast with bacon? Heaven! Even when we were in the thick of those ghastly teenage years, the dialogue remained open because of the conversations we would have about what was being read. As I matured, so did our discussions. Sometimes, there was not even a hello to begin with, we would just launch into what was good, what was great, what broke our hearts, and what we had to leave for dead on the side of the road. Sadly, Dad had a stroke a few years ago, and while he is in fairly decent health, the reading piece never really came back. These days the conversation is entirely on me. I try to think of it as a conversation that has come full circle with me telling him what the story is now. So Happy 80th Birthday Peter Dayton! And thank you for giving me the unquenchable and all-consuming Need for the Read. This week we have some pandemic, a widow, Paris, some listening, and G&T in a can (ingenious!).
Playlist? Would we let your weekend not have a soundtrack? Of course not! We are a benevolent dictatorship!
Let us begin!
Here is Abby’s take on a book that is making a lot of Best of 2014 lists. “Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a book I really wanted to like. It sounded like an interesting book, and I had heard the author speak which gives me a greater stake in my reading experience. It took bit of time for Station Eleven to fight its way to the top of my To Be Read Pile, but I am so glad it did. The book is tough to categorize. It is most certainly literary, and while dystopian, and set in the future, it is not science fiction as some have classified it. The story follows the onset of a deadly flu outbreak moves forward through the decades as human settlements and a post-pandemic culture evolve. It has many disparate storylines set in different stages of the crisis, but as the book unfolds, there is a beautiful convergence of people and events. The book Station Eleven most brings to mind is the wonderful Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. He too creates a wonderful, complex story that comes together in an unexpected and powerful way. Station Eleven is a strong contender for my favorite book of 2014. I suspect I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come.”
Sweet Ann has just finished Nora Webster by Colm Toibin. This is rapidly becoming a Reader’s Advisory favorite and here’s what Ann thought. “This is the story of Nora who lives in a small town in Ireland where she is widowed in her early forties. Her husband, Maurice, was the love of her life and they had four children together. Her two daughters are older when she is widowed and almost on their own. Her younger two sons are struggling without their father and the grief of their mother. This novel follows Nora as she tries to get her new life together. Nora tries to be strong and independent but at times she must ask for help to survive financially and just try to live without Maurice. As a reader you feel for Nora's struggles and there is one scene early in the book where she confronts an aunt who watched her sons while her husband was sick that I think will haunt me for a long time. The emotion is so raw. Nora Webster is a beautifully written novel.”
Barbara M is back in her beloved Paris again and she’s with a Nobel winner. I’ll let her explain. “The three novellas in Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano, recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, are united in their sense of place and melancholy feeling. Loosely based on his childhood the author recreates the Paris of his youth, a Paris that no longer exists. He also evokes a sense of vagueness that occurs when an adult tries to remember things that happened to them as a child. The stories are mysterious and haunting and I absolutely adored the descriptions of Paris.”
Steph is trying something new this week. “We all know that we are what we read, but we’re also what we listen to! And what I’ve been listening to the past few weeks is a new podcast called Serial, which comes from the producers of This American Life (you may have heard the first episode there, in fact). It’s in its first season, and has the tagline of ‘One story. Told week by week.’ This season, the story is a true crime procedural about a young man named Adnan Syed, who was convicted as a teenager of murdering his girlfriend in 1999. The host, Sarah Koenig, was told about this case by a friend of Syed’s, as he still maintains his innocence, so she began investigating to see if she could figure out the truth. So far, seven episodes in, she has not, and the mystery has hooked me and thousands of other people—Slate has created a podcast that has a new episode to analyze each episode, and Reddit has a special forum to discuss the clues. Though I admit the storytelling can be a little over-the-top and meandering, but it’s a great listen for any mystery or true crime fan, as well as those looking for a change from audiobooks. It’s become my companion when doing the laundry—I actually look forward to ironing now! You can listen for free on the site, but make sure you start with the first episode.
What is coming down to Florida with me? A debut novel entitled The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is what is coming down to Florida with me. Rachel is, at first, seemingly, just a girl on the train. A girl on the train going to work. Then you start to notice that she has a huge thirst; most specifically for Gin and Tonics (in England they come in CANS!! How brilliant is that? Why can’t we have that?), and an odd obsession with a couple that she sees from the train on her daily commute. As the book goes on, you also notice that she seems to be more than a bit off. She is in fact, as the Brits say, bonkers. The second voice in the book is Megan, the object of her obsession who also seems to be less than reliable as far as truth goes. When Megan goes missing the police come around to question Rachel. I have no idea where all this is going. All I know is that the ride is so much fun I am, for once, looking forward to a plane trip so that I can enjoy 2 hours and 45 minutes of uninterrupted reading time. This one comes out in January.
Here is DJ Jazzy Patty McC from the State Which Shall Not Be Named (T minus 20 to The Game!) with the wrap up and the Playlist. What’s doin’ Pats? “I knew Jen was hopping on a jet plane headed to see her dad but somehow I nearly missed the detail that it was to celebrate his 80th birthday. Well, upon hearing this news, I was overjoyed both for her celebration with her family and also because I’ve been secretly harboring an obsession for curating an 80’s Playlist. If you know a librarian or two you’ll know that we are fond of themes and obsessions. I may not know anything about being 80 years old but I sure do know 80’s music. This weekend I invite you to celebrate the elders in your own family. Celebrate those folks who’ve taught or modeled to you how to enjoy things in your life that bring you joy. Things like the pleasure of reading, the art of conversation, or the excitement and thrill of live theatre and music. I’ve always said life is better with a soundtrack. Out here in Detroit, I’ll be enjoying a Ryan Adams concert. So, call this your 80’s gift. Call it New Wave, call it Synthpop, call it what you will this is my musical nod and tribute to Post-Punk music. I recommend you listen to it on shuffle and have a good seat-dance in the car or a full-blown impromptu dance party. I promise it won’t disappoint. DL IT'S GOOD BEING 80! 2014”