From the Heart and Out of This World: A Patron Picks Reading List
At the beginning of this year, our Open Book Hour readers here at the Mid-Manhattan Library were engrossed in some serious nonfiction. Then, at our most recent Open Book Hour meeting, when we asked for reading recommendations "straight from the heart," our patrons shared mostly fiction favorites instead, from cozy animal tales to speculative fiction, ranging in style from whimsical to chilling. Notable recommendations are below, in this month's Patron Picks Reading List.
Which books have defined "heartfelt" for you, or left you with a warm feeling? We’d love to read your recommendations so be sure to leave your favorites in the comments section below.
Elahe had just started reading Douglas Adams’s sci-fi classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Why? She was intrigued by the "Don’t Panic" message included in the red sports car that Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket launched into space at the beginning of February, the message a direct reference to the Guide’s famous advice. The beloved Hitchhiker’s Guide series, originally a comic radio drama, has also been adapted for television and film.
Joan recommended The Lord God Made Them All, one of the later books in James Herriot’s popular series of stories about a devoted Yorkshire veterinarian in the 1950s. She described it as “an entertaining and informative narrative of the life of a veterinarian and his love for the animals he treats, as well as the relationship his family and friends have with him and his practice.”
Zahra enjoyed reading Great Cat Tales, edited by Lesley O’Mara, with stories by James Herriot, Mark Twain, P.G. Wodehouse, Damon Runyon, Doris Lessing, Rudyard Kipling, and Emile Zola, among others. She appreciated the wide variety of cats found in the stories - old, young, sweet-tempered, grumpy, and fat, and responded to the personification of the cats in some stories.
Please note: Great Cat Tales is currently out of print, and not available at the NYPL. However, you can find some of the stories in other collections:
- “Boris and Mrs. Bond's Cat Establishment” is in James Herriott’s Cat Stories
- “The Cat That Walked by Himself” by Rudyard Kipling is in the Just So Stories collection.
- “Dick Baker and His Cat” is Chapter 61 of Roughing It by Mark Twain.
- “Ming’s Biggest Prey” by Patricia Highsmith is available in the ebook The Animal Lover’s Book of Beastly Murder.
- On Cats by Doris Lessing is available as an ebook.
Erica recommended Alissa Nutting’s offbeat 2017 novel, Made for Love, describing it as humorous and timely. Hazel’s husband, CEO of Gogol industries, wants to implant a chip in her brain to foster constant communication. Hazel leaves her luxurious, hi-tech life and moves in with her ailing father, who lives in a trailer park with a life-sized doll. Erica found the novel an entertaining exploration of the use of technology and the challenges to forming meaningful relationships in today’s society.
Elizabeth was reminded of another recent novel that explores technology and relationships in a humorous way. In Crosstalk, by Connie Willis, telepathy technology, designed to improve empathy between romantic partners, leads to all kinds of complications for Briddey Flannigan.
We progressed to far less lighthearted commentary on societal trends with Priscilla’s pick: Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985 and recently adapted into a television series. Priscilla was profoundly struck by the depiction of women’s roles and lack of options in the oppressive Republic of Gilead, and other readers in the group shared their vivid recall of the book, whether they had read it recently or decades ago.
For those looking for something in a similar vein, Erica suggested the new, darkly humorous dystopian novel exploring women’s reproductive rights, Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas. And NYPL’s Readers Services suggests Where to Begin with Margaret Atwood and follow-up reads to The Handmaid’s Tale.
With my choice, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria, the only nonfiction book of the day, we moved from fictional dystopias to eyewitness accounts of war and terror. Author Wendy Pearlman spent four years gathering stories from Syrians of all ages and walks of life, on their way through the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Reading these stories in the voices of the people who lived them was profoundly affecting, allowing me to see the war and refugee crisis from the perspective of ordinary Syrian citizens whose lives were devastated, but who have not entirely lost hope.
If you enjoy swapping book recommendations with other readers, come check out an Open Book Hour at Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street! We meet the second Friday of every month at 2 PM.
Our theme for March is Grief and Loss. What books have you read to help you through a difficult time in your life? Memoir, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, psychology? Please join us Friday, March 9 at 2 PM to tell us about books that resonated with you during tough times. Here are our book recommendations here to inspire some thinking and get you started.