Margaret posted about books picked at random while volunteering at the library, and the way a certain type of cover can draw you in or fit your mood. I’ve certainly experienced this, too!
I’ve noticed that, lately, my library system has been making an effort to cover gaps in its holdings, purchasing books to boost its collections of LGBTQ and postcolonial literature: reissues of novels by Caribbean and Indigenous (e.g. Maori) authors, more by trans people, Black British authors from the Virago Modern Classics series, etc. They also tend to buy up writers’ back catalogues, especially if reprinted as a uniform series – I keep hoping they’ll do this for Sarah Hall. Though I volunteer at the library twice a week, I don’t have insider knowledge; it’s still a mystery to me how and why some books get ordered and some don’t.
Since last month…
- Orchid Summer by Jon Dunn
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
- Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
- This Is Not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan (for book club)
- The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen
- Transitions: Our Stories of Being Trans, ed. Juno Roche et al.
- Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart
- Madwoman by Louisa Treger – reviewing for Shelf Awareness
And from the university library:
- The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
From whence this amusing quote about library books:
“No T. More in any of the bookshops, so tried Public Library. Can’t think why one never thinks of Public Libraries. Probably because books expected to be soupy. Think this looks quite clean and unsoupy. You get fourteen days. Sounds like a sentence rather than a loan.”
(I sometimes get perfume-y books, but not soupy ones. How about you?)
I’ll zero in on one of these, Lessons in Chemistry, because there are 50 reservations after me in the queue – that must be a record for my small library system! Bonnie Garmus made her authorial debut at age 64; you can be sure she’ll be in the running for the next Paul Torday Memorial Prize (awarded by the Society of Authors to a first novel by a writer over 60). Elizabeth Zott is a scientist through and through, applying a chemist’s mindset to her every venture, including cooking, rowing and single motherhood in the 1950s. When she is fired from her job in a chemistry lab and gets a gig as a TV cooking show host instead, she sees it as her mission to treat housewives as men’s intellectual equals, but there are plenty of people who don’t care for her unusual methods and free thinking. I was reminded strongly of The Atomic Weight of Love and The Rosie Project, as well as novels by Katherine Heiny and especially John Irving what with the deep dive into backstory and particular pet subjects, and the orphan history for Zott’s love interest. This was an enjoyable tragicomedy. You have to cheer for the triumphs she and other female characters win against the system of the time. However, her utter humourlessness/guilelessness felt improbable, the very precocious child (and dog) stretch belief, and the ending was too pat for me.
Continuing with my flora and summer themes; continuing to linger in Scotland; reading about the amazing birds filling our skies (and nesting in our eaves):
- Where the Wildflowers Grow by Leif Bersweden
- Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (for book club)
- Swifts and Us by Sarah Gibson
- Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden
- Tenderness by Alison MacLeod
- Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
- Golden Boys by Phil Stamper
- The False Rose by Jakob Wegelius
- Summer by Edith Wharton
What have you been reading or reviewing from the library recently?
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