Book Lust

Librarians always know the best books to read, and Nancy Pearl, Librarian of the Year in 2011, and NPR commentator and book reviewer, combined her recommendations into a book – Book Lust. Published in 2003, I am just getting to it, and making my list from it. Pearl has written a few sequels since then but this is a good place to start.

The book chapters are organized alphabetically by theme from “My Name is Alice” (authors) to “Zen Buddism” and “Zero,” and I started by skipping around, landing on “Magical Realism, Intriguing Novels, and First Lines to Remember.” Ultimately, I just flipped through all the pages, taking notes as I went, looking for new reads, and gratified when I came across a familiar title I had read.

Here are a few for my to-read list:

  1. Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night uses a reunion at Oxford as the setting for an academic mystery without a murder.
  2. John Banville’s The Untouchable is based on Sir Anthony Blunt, art historian, Keeper of the Queen’s Pictures, and one of the infamous group of Cambridge spies.
  3. Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams tells about Cosi Noline, who comes home to Arizona to find an ill father, complications in love, and a town facing an environmental threat.

Pearl includes a separate section – “One Hundred Good Reads, Decade By Decade,” from 1900 to 1990s; the book includes an overwhelming list of titles with separate sections for her favorite authors, including Barbara Pym and Gore Vidal. It’s impossible not to find something to read.

What I’ve Read and Enjoyed Lately – but not Reviewed

  • The Paris Library by Janet Charles – based on the true story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II
  • Dream Girl by Laura Lippman – Another thriller from the author of “Lady in the Lake.” With traces of Rear Window, this is a page turner.
  • The Vixen by Francine Prose – Although it’s been almost seventy years since Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for espionage, Anne Sebba’s biography on Ethel Rosenberg recently brought the story back into view. Francine Prose brings her fictionalized and somewhat askew version of Ethel Rosenberg into her new novel The Vixen. Maria Semple , one of my favorite authors, calls it ” a rollicking trickster of a novel, wondrously funny and wickedly addictive.”

What I’m Reading Now…

  • The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
  • Such A Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

Ask a Librarian

Nancy Pearl, noted National Public Radio (NPR) commentator and former librarian, mentioned her search for plot heavy books and fast-moving stories to read over the summer.  Summer is over where Nancy lives, but it never goes away here, and my need for plot driven books just surfaced.

Reviewing Nancy Pearl’s list for NPR, I found three books.  Only one is in my library system, but I sent away for all three, on my couch potato internet shopping spree (I bought cookies and nuts too).  I hope all meet my expectations.

The books:

shoppingThe first is a murder mystery – Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

In 1937, a young woman named Lillian Frost comes to Hollywood to make her fortune. She’s very beautiful, and like many girls at that time, she wants to be discovered by some famous director who sits next to her at a soda fountain. Then, one of her former roommates is found dead wearing a dress that has been stolen from the Paramount Studios. Lillian recognizes the dress and decides to take on the job of finding out whodunit.

Pearl promises “great fun” as the detectives meet movie stars in their youth – Bob Hope and Barbara Stanwyck among the classic movie greats.  Although the book was published last year, the second in this series, Dangerous to Know, has already been published

Unknown  The second is Lions by Bonnie Nazdam.

Pearl hooked me with her comment: …”fans of Kent Haruf’s novels will find this novel to their liking…”  Although Robert Redford playing Louis Waters,  Haruf’s character lead in the movie version of one of his best books, Our Souls at Night, may have some merit,  I miss Haruf’s writing, and I missed this book when it was published last year.

Lions is the story of the last 11 people who live in a Colorado town; the story focuses on Gordon, and his longtime girlfriend, Leigh, who have for years planned to go away to school and escape the town.  Sounds deliciously ironic.

shopping-1  And finally, a new novel just published and the one hardback in the group, The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison

When Dulcy’s father dies in 1904, he takes the secret of where his wealth is stashed with him.  Posing as his widow, she sets off on an adventure in Montana to find his fortune.

Pearl says: “What keeps you reading is not just the quality of the writing…but also to find out: Is she going to do this? Can this be successful? Or is she going to be found out? ”   Jean Zimmerman for the New York Times lists The Widow Nash as one of the new novels “depicting valiant women of old America.”

Nancy Pearl says – “I want the pages to turn…”  so do I…and the time to fly…

Related Review:  Our Souls At Night