25 July 2017

2017 reading list, April - June

Seanan McGuire, Every Heart a Doorway. NY: TOR, 2016.

This feels a lot like Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children. It is a quick- moving young adult novel, first in a series, featuring children who have been somewhere else and come back, but no longer fit in here. Some of these children die. It will be immensely popular.


Alice Childress, Like One of the Family. Boston: Beacon, 1986.

Childress is best known for her award winning children’s books, like A Hero Ain’t Nothin' but a Sandwhich. This timely reissue includes a new forward placing these early, adult stories, originally serialized, in context for today’s reader. The voice is Mildred, a domestic in 1950’s New York City, speaking to her friend Marge. Mildred says things like, “Don’t it give you the goose pimple when you realize that white people can kill us and get away with it?”


Jorge Luis Borges, Book of Imaginary Beings. NY: Penguin, 2005.

As a reference librarian, I don’t need to know everything, just where to find it, so I have a special love of compilations and compendiums, collections and aggregations of otherwise far-flung information. Of these, bestiaries - collections of exotic animals - are the most fun.

Borges, longtime Director of the National Library of Buenos Aires, must have shared this love. Imaginary Beings brings together move than a hundred beings described in dreams and mythologies from around the world, often incorporating original translated source material in the entries. And not only is the subject of great interest; Borges’ text is precise, compact, and witty, making this book a true joy. It is the rare reference one will want to read from A - Zed.

Donald E. Westlake, The Busy Body. NY: Random House, 1966.

Engle is a rising young executive in some sort of interesting business. At the moment, that business requires recovering the coat in which Charlie Brody was buried -- except Brody’s body wasn’t buried...


Gregory McDonald, Flynn’s In. NY: Mysterious, 1984.

Flynn is an Inspector with the Boston Police Department. So why is he trapped behind an electric fence with a killer at the Rod and Gun Club, a retreat for over-privileged men in a state other than Massachusetts? Tight, crisply detailed prose, featuring very good scenes and very bad puns, make this a satisfying who-done-it.


Darryl Brock, If I Never Get Back. NY: Crown, 1990.

In this episode of Quantum Leap, Sam travels back to 1869 as a member of the first openly professional base ball team to help uncover a murder. Brock’s recreation of the Red Stockings’ games on their great trans-continental tour is vividly imagined, and provides a fanciful insight into what the lives of these early stars may have been like.


Robert Peterson, Only the Ball Was White. NY: Gramercy, 1970.

An early history of the Negro Leagues, this volume combines elements of oral history and biography to introduce major figures and developments. Part One is background, examining the conditions leading to the Negro Leagues, including coverage of some pioneering teams. Part Two discusses the rise and fall of organized Leagues, beyond mere barnstorming teams, in part by focusing on important figures like John Henry Lloyd, Rube Foster, Josh Gibson, and Satchel Paige as exemplars of the experience. Part Three looks as what happened to the Negro Leagues after Major League Baseball began integration in 1947, but Part Four and the appendixes are what make it an essential reference volume. Here, we find short biographies of the best Negro Leaguers at each position, League standings for each available season, summaries and box scores of each East-West All-Star Game, and an All-Time Register of Players and Officials covering basic information, as best possible at the time, for the years 1884-1950.


Ed McBain, Last Best Hope. NY: Warner, 1998.

McBain writes mysteries -- or, writes about crimes that haven’t been solved yet. His first series took place in New York City's 87th Precinct; like a cop retiring from the force, his second series moves to Florida, where it features an attorney named Matthew Hope. In this installment, Hope is looking for a lost husband, who is found holding the cup from which Socrates supposedly took his hemlock.


Gregory Maguire, Wicked. NY: Regan, 1995.

“Your impossible mission, should you choose to accept it, is to kill the Wicked Witch of the West. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.”

When her house lands in Oz, Dorothy finds herself embroiled in a civil war, an unwilling mercenary fighting for an illegitimate, invading Emperor against the Royalist natives. We already know her assassination attempt succeeds; in this record, we learn why the green Elphaba was such a threat.


Philip Hoare, The Whale. London: ecco, 2010.

This is an account of the author’s lifelong obsession with the world’s largest mammal. Hoare sets out to trace Melville’s process of writing Moby-Dick. In the process, he provides much interesting information about both Moby-Dick and whales. Still, while enjoyable, it is ultimately unsatisfying, more a marveling at the curiosity of whales than a treatise on them, and the author is himself more a subject than expected.


Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, Peak. Boston: Mariner, 2017.

Peak brings recent discoveries about developing expertise into an accessible form by showing how deliberate practice is the key to building mental representations of success and improving skills. by paying attention to and imitating how the best performers achieve their results, we can train our brains and bodies to nearly unimaginable achievement, with only almost obsessive effort, to the exclusion of any other interests.

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