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What We're Reading: August 2014

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I asked and they answered—here's what an assortment of staff across the library are reading right now. Please note: not all of the titles mentioned are available in our collections (we do buy books for ourselves sometimes), but we might be able to help you track down a copy to borrow if you contact us.

I'm re-reading Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. One of many stories set in his Discworld universe, in this one someone has murdered the Hogfather—the jolly fat man in the red suit that brings toys to children all over the disc—someone must step in to do the job in his place, and in this case it looks like DEATH will just have to fill in. This wise, witty and satirical fantasy is some of my favorite reading material, with this particular book a beloved favorite. I have probably read it over twenty times. It's my comfort read of choice after I've had a hard week full of tragedy and sadness. A familiar read that is profound but full of chuckles and heart to take some of the sting of sadness away. Stephanie, Seward Park

Billy reads Spillover
Billy reading Spillover

I'm (re)reading Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, by David Quammen. Quammen's whimsical approach to a terrifying and timely subject (zoonosis... Ebola anyone?) makes this work most compelling. It is at times laugh out loud funny ("Were you part of the fieldwork?" "No, I'm a molecular scientist," he said. It had been like asking Jackson Pollack if he painted houses...") and Quammen's quirkiness makes this material very accessible, while current events remind you of the seriousness of the subject matter. I paused halfway through to read Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, by Brad Dukes, prior to the release of the Twin Peaks Blu-ray last month. Billy, Mid-Manhattan Library

I'm currently reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I've read a couple of Murakami's other books and was really impressed so I decided since I had time this summer I'd tackle this one (at close to 1,000 pages, the length is a little daunting). The book follows two characters, Aomame, a personal trainer, who realizes she's living a parallel existence in 1Q84 instead of 1984, and Tengo, a cram school teacher and ghost writer, whose life becomes entangled with a dyslexic girl who grew up in a cult. The reason I love Murakami is that he blends fantasy and reality in a very unique yet captivating way; his books have so many layers and depth—1Q84 has not disappointed. Rabecca, Kingsbridge Library

I am reading A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants by Ruth Kassinger. I picked it because I like gardens and narrative non-fiction and Kassinger writes with a sense of humor. It's going great, a much faster read than I was expecting. I am completely fascinated. Jessica, Mid-Manhattan Library

Just finished Rainbow Rowell's first published novel Attachments, which tells the story of an IT guy who monitors employees emails, and falls in love with a coworker after he starts reading her email conversations with a friend. It was fun light read that talks about love and friendship, and the digital world at the end of the '90s. I picked it up because I I like her writing style, I enjoyed reading Eleanor & Park previously, and because it was available electronically from the library. I read this as an ebook on my Kindle app on my iPhone while commuting! I borrowed it from ebooks.nypl.org. Adriana, Outreach Services

I am reading The Rescuers by Margery Sharp, illustrated by Garth Williams. This is a New York Review Books edition, and I picked it up during my summer-long rediscovery of the New York Review Books I remember reading as a kid. The illustrations are so evocative, and the story has a strong female lead (albeit a mouse), which I appreciate.  Jennifer, Mulberry Street

I am reading The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer because Gaiutra Bahadur, who is in South Africa now launching the South African printing of her book, Coolie Woman: the Odyssey of Indenture said on her Facebook page that it was in her backpack for the trip. Apart from that I just completed reading A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. It is about family relationships surrounding the inheritance of a farm in Iowa. I picked it up because I thought it would be relevant to my personal circumstances, not that we own a farm or anything, but my siblings and I do have joint ownership of property in Trinidad now. Hyacinth, Mid-Manhattan Library

Lauren reading Goodbye to all That
Lauren reading Goodbye to All That

I'm almost done reading Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York on my Kindle. I picked it up at kind of a strange time in my life, just as I am making the decision to become a slightly more permanent New Yorker. Whether you came here from somewhere else or were born with a bagel in your mouth hailing a taxicab, at some point you've wondered when and if and what it would take for you to ever leave. The essays are all from the perspective of creative and writerly types so if you have a different line of work or way of life it's not always easy to relate to them, but the ambivalence still hits pretty close to home. Lauren, Reference and Research Services

I just finished an advanced reading copy of Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen, author of Library Lion and other Children's books. This is her first YA effort. The title is priceless. Do you know any truly "evil" librarians? Sarcastic and clever Cyn, the heroine, is trying to save all her fellow classmates from a horrible death while passing Italian and not looking like a fool in front of the hottest guy in school. She had me laughing out loud as she tries to save her best friend, Annie, from the new librarian. There's something very creepy about this guy and Cyn and her crush, Ryan, are two of the few who haven't fallen under the librarian's eerie spell. Maura, Volunteer Program

I'm reading A Change of Heart, the fifth installment in Philip Gulley's Harmony series. I started reading these novels after I found his most recent book, Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today while browsing the new non-fiction shelves at the Mid-Manhattan Library. You meet the citizens of Harmony in the first book and learn more about their lives through vignettes in each book. I love his writing style, the slow and steady cadence of small-town life, and of course thoroughly enjoy the stories of Miss Rudy the librarian! It's comfort food that's good for you... and will probably appeal to fans ofJames Herriot, Jan Karon, and Amy Sherman-Palladino. Jenny, Reference and Research Services

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Been moldering in my collection for a while and the new TV show sparked my interest again. It's a good, brisk read with no wimpy vampires allowed. Joshua, Spuyten Duyvil Library

I just finished The Lewis Man by Peter May, the second in a trilogy of Scottish mysteries. I just started F: A Novel by Daniel Kehlmann. It's a German translation, but I just started it, so I can't say much more, but I like it. Jenny, Jefferson Market Library

I've been reading Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March over the past several weeks on my commute into work (yes, I've been lugging around an 800 page hardcover book every day). I started reading it because over the past several years it's been staring at my from my bedroom bookshelf daring me to read it. I'm glad I succumbed, because I actually just finished it today and what I loved about it was that I had no idea how it was going to end (there is no traditional plot to speak of—Augie just hops from one "adventure" to another—thus there was no arc or natural direction to follow) but the ending was exactly what was needed. If you are a reader who savors exquisite writing, this is definitely a book for you. If you are more of a story person, you might like it as well, as each of Augie's adventures is a self-contained story. In any case, don't just buy it and put it on your shelf without reading it, because it'll only wear you down in the end, and you'll finally succumb to it, just like I did. Wayne, BookOps

Currently Reading: Jaded By Anne Calhoun. I'm a genre reader and was frustrated by the poor research of some romance authors went into writing their librarians. This title one was recommended by another librarian saying they are actually good at their job. The characters are fun and their professions well researched. The plot is a bit dull and I've almost stopped reading a couple times but I'd feel guilty giving up on the best written librarian I've found in a while. Jaqueline, Ask NYPL

Annemarie reading
Annemarie and daughter reading Paddle-to-the-Sea

The book I'm reading most avidly this week is Holling Clancy Holling's masterful Paddle-to-the-Sea (1941). My two-year-old daughter and I have been curled up with it every night recently and we're actually reading the copy my mother received when she was 8 years old. Together my daughter and I love exploring and talking about the incredibly detailed and vibrant illustrations—and we especially love looking for "Paddle" in placid forest rivers, tossed around in raging lake storms, stuck in fallen logs at a sawmill, and soaring down Niagara Falls under a rainbow. This is such a classic tale of wonder and discovery—I'm so happy that my daughter's become as attached to it as my mother and I are. I'm attaching a photo I took on Tuesday evening to show my mom what we were reading—she was so tickled. Annemarie, Billy Rose Theatre Division

I just finished a non-fiction book Divas and Scholars by Philip Gossett. Now I'm trying to decide what to tackle next—probably Using Primary Sources: Hands-On Instructional Exercises edited by Anne Bahde, Heather Smedberg and Mattie Taormina. Bob, Music Division

I'm halfway through Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land, and I'll finish it this weekend. It's the just-released third part of a trilogy, capping an amazing story that's kinda sorta the grown-up amalgam of Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia, among many other things. Really killer urban fantasy. Also, I just finished Nick Harkaway's Tigerman (also just released last month), and it's his best book yet, though for those who love darkly funny post-apocalyptic speculative fiction, The Gone-Away World is still tops. I've also been on a mission to tell as many people as humanly possible to read Andy Weir's The Martian—a hilarious sci-fi castaway story about a guy who gets (accidentally) left on Mars, and basically deals with it the way no other human could. This has been a great summer for reading! —Josh, Digital Library + Labs

I'm reading the biography of Sarah Churchill: The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. I've been curious to know more about this formidable woman, and I happened upon a cheap copy at Strand. It will likely take me much longer than the summer to finish this tome since in every paragraph I find something to look up in Wikipedia for more information. (What happened to the Earl of Mulgrave? What did Whitehall Palace look like? How many illegitimate children did the Duke of York have?) Fascinating! —Rick, Interlibrary, Document & Research Services

I'm reading One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by BJ Novak. It was recommended to me by another librarian after we'd been disagreeing on other comedians' books. I'm enjoying it. The stories are amusing but also sometimes more thoughtfully so than I expected. Jill, Andrew Heiskell Library

The book I just finished reading (last night) is a Chinese book Yong Yuan Zhi Xia by Yongchen Lin and illustrated by Naoko Machida (a word-by-word title translation would be "Forever Summer"). Yongchen Lin is one of my favorite authors from Hong Kong. I pretty much read all her books that I can get my hands on. Most of her books are light reading with a twist of Sci-Fi/Mystery. The book I just finished reading is about a sixteen-year-old girl who is able to see the light emitted from people who are about to die. She goes to an island in Italy with her father and his friend one summer. She meets a boy there. Unfortunately, he had the "light" emitting around his eyes. The story is the adventure the two of them have on the island and how she tries to find ways to alter his fate. Another book I'm reading, on and off, is Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. It was one of the teacher's "To Read" books when I was in elementary school. This is the book that got me to fall in love with reading. I read the whole collection years ago. Recently I found a free public domain edition and decided to download it and read it again. —Shirley, Reference and Research Services

I'm always looking for exciting books to share with the teens at my branch, so I recently started to read two new young adult books that promise to keep readers at the edge of their seats. I'm a few chapters into Oblivion by Sasha Dawn, which is told from the point of view of a girl named Callie who's lost a big piece of her memory. Unfortunately, the piece that's missing includes the time that her father and a young girl from his parish both disappeared. I don't know what really happened yet, but I do know that Callie is feeling guilty about SOMETHING even if she doesn't why herself. And I just started reading Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz. It's about people who enter an essay contest ("describe your worst nightmare in a thousand words or less"), but winning the contest turns into a nightmare of its own. So far it's pretty scary, and I'm not even up to the abandoned amusement park yet! *SHUDDER* Andrea, Kingsbridge Library

Carmen reading
Carmen reading The Golem & the Jinni

I'm currently reading The Golem & the Jinni, which is takes its mythology into the setting of NYC in 1899. Lower East Side! Little Syria! Ellis Island! All through the eyes of a newly animated golem and a recently released jinn. Carmen, Milstein Division

I'm reading West of the Moon by Margi Preus. It is a middle grade novel set in Norway in the 19th century that interweaves traditional folktales with the story of two young girls in search of their father who has emigrated to America and left them in the care of a wicked aunt. It reminds me of two recent series I loved—Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon's dreaminess and regional setting combined with the gruesome wit of Adam Gidwitz' A Tale Dark and Grimm. I picked it up because of the beautiful cover and in honor of my Norwegian relatives. Emily, Children's Educational Programming

I'm reading Style, by F. L. Lucas, which was referenced as the only book on writing Joseph Epstein found worthwhile. This plaudit was from A Literary Education, the book I read before Style. ALE is also, by coincidence, mentioned here. "No doubt there are some intrinsically ugly words in English, especially pompous polysyllabic words; and others that are intrinsically beautiful; but far fewer of both than we think. E. E. Kellett somewhere tells of some aesthetic body debating which was the most beautiful word in the language; they had almost decided on ‘swallow’, when some ill-intentioned person asked 'Bird or gulp?’ After that, no more was heard of ‘swallow’." from Style, F. L. Lucas. Jay, General Research Division

I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things, a novel steeped in the history of botany, sea travel and commerce, and early printed books. Jessica, Rare Books

I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's new book, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) right now. I've been a fan of his work since reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto in the early 2000s. I really enjoy his ascerbic writing style and his pop culture references, and although I'm not as into the topic of this current book, it's fun reading. Example: I just read a part that asked me to imagine that Batman is real (and to pretend that I don't have any background knowledge of the Batman character of popular culture) and then to consider whether I would root for him or not. Interesting! Funny! Provocative! Susie, Mulberry Street Library

Brodie reading
Brodie reading the upcoming George Clinton memoir, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?

I've put aside my e-reader for a while to re-read a Swedish mystery novel I first read many years ago: Mördaren ljuger inte ensam (Death of a Loved One) by Maria Lang (1914-1991), sometimes called the "Swedish Agatha Christie." I was inspired by a series of TV films based on her novels that was shown at Scandinavia House this summer under the blanket title "Crimes of Passion." I realized I had all six of the books and thought I might as well re-read them while the films were fresh in my mind, since it's been so long that I've forgotten pretty much everything about them, except that the heroine was called Puck (yes, named after Shakespeare's sprite). Unfortunately, only three of Lang's novels have been translated into English: A Wreath for the Bride (1966), No More Murders (1967), and Death Awaits Thee (1967). Kathie, Special Formats Processing

A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich by Christopher B. Krebs. This book is for people who enjoyed The Swerve, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, by Stephen Greenblatt. Krebs is a Harvard classics professor and meticulously references the long history of the Tacitus' Germania from its authorship 98 C.E. through the 20th century. Along the way, he tells the story of how Tacitus' writing was lost and then recovered in the Reformation. Through careful detective work, he shows how the text was then used to prove a particular point about the character of Europeans. For centuries, Tacitus was read as part of the history of democracy. John Quincy Adams stated "To live without having a Cicero and a Tacitus at hand seems to me as if it was aprivation of one of my limbs." Let's hope he was referring to Tacitus' Agricola! The Nazis read Tacitus's Germania enthusiastically as a literal fact. However, according to Krebs Tacitus never visited Germany and his portrayal of the Germans was a romantic version, not based on first-hand knowledge. I like books that show how ancient texts have a lasting effect on our lives today and this one is fascinating. A reader's delight. Highly recommended. Thomas, Manuscripts and Archives Division

I'm almost done reading The Silence of the Rain by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, the first novel in the Inspector Espinosa series set in Rio de Janeiro. I was searching for Latin American mystery series to include in an upcoming blog post and downloaded it last night. I was intrigued by a description of Garcia-Roza as the Brazilian Simenon, so I decided to give him a try. So far, I love the philosophizing Inspector Espinosa, whose books have taken over his apartment, but I wish there were more vivid descriptions of the streets and people of Rio. Elizabeth, Mid-Manhattan Library

I am currently reading two books. Sworn to Protect by DiAnn Mills: Danika Morales is a Border Patrol Agent—a widow with a young daughter. Her husband Toby was killed two years ago trying to protect illegal immigrants. His murder is still unsolved. Now someone is out to kill Danika. Who can she trust? Suspense laden with good insight into Border Patrol operations. I chose this one because I am trying to read some fiction with Hispanic characters for a future blog post. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc: LeBlanc's immersion reporting weaves a disturbing, captivating and heartbreaking tale of life in ghetto. Jessica dreams of being loved by a husband, having a house with a backyard and lots of kids—but life in the ghetto is taking her down another path. This is the title we'll be discussing at our last Adult Summer Reading Meetup (August 22 at 2 p.m.) Jean, Bronx Library Center

Gus reading Barron's Dog Training Bible
Gus reading Barron's Dog Training Bible

I'm reading Barron's Dog Training Bible by Andrea Arden because my wife and I just got a new puppy. Gus is a soft-coated wheaten terrier. Arden's guide has been incredibly helpful for us as new dog owners. Not only did we learn about how to set up our home in the first few days after Gus arrived, but we've relied on it for house training, socialization and training advice. —Greg, Reference and Research Services

I'm reading Moby Dick. It's something I've always meant to read (mainly because I 'should' read it), then in May I visited New Bedford, Massachusetts (old whaling village where the novel starts out) and that pushed me over the edge. It's pretty great so far—much different than I was expecting. I always envisioned it to be very somber and quiet in tone, but in fact it has an almost comically obsessive quality to the language and its approach to its subject. —Terrance, Digital Imaging Unit

What are you reading right now? Let us know in the comments, or better yet take a photo and hashtag it #ireadeverywhere on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook!

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