Roberta Brown-Jones, Nederland. Sometimes I’m at a loss for things to read (hard to believe this since I work in a library). Often it is just that nothing quite seems to fit what I think I’m in the mood for. However, over the past few weeks, my reading list has swelled. I get my reading choices from a variety of sources: The New Yorker magazine’s interviews with authors and book reviews, books that look interesting to me as they cross the NCL circulation desk, and books that patrons come in saying is “the best book I’ve read in a very long time.” Everything converged (book wise) for me, so now I’ll be happily reading for the next few weeks.
The two most recent books I enjoyed (obtained through our AspenCat consortium) came from reading an interesting New Yorker interview (August 7 & 14 issue) with Canadian-born author Rachel Cusk. While Cusk has a respectable body of work in both fiction and non-fiction, I decided to read two of her latest novels: Outline (2014) and Transit (2016). While reviewers note Cusk’s “brilliant and insightful prose” and “transcendental reflections,” those wishing to read a linear novel that sucks them in with its plot will be disappointed with Cusk’s writing. Critics have described it as a reinvention of the novel form and as a kind of fictionalized oral history. However, if you enjoy beautiful writing and interesting psychological and philosophical discussion, you’ll find yourself marking page after page so you can re-read passages that provoke thought. The books are part of a trilogy, so for those who love them, you’ll have another chance to continue Cusk’s explorations when the third novel comes out.
I’m currently reading Tiffany McDaniel’s debut novel The Summer That Melted Everything. Her novel came out in 2016 and didn’t even register as a blip on my radar then, but when a patron recently came in singing the book’s praises, I succumbed. The storyline is fantastical: a thirteen-year-old boy who is the devil answers an invitation to come to the small town of Breathed, Ohio. Ordinarily this kind of far-out plot wouldn’t interest me, but once I read the first few pages, I realized that McDaniel is a powerful, talented writer who can take a weird tale and form it into an all-encompassing and profound story of life with all its beauty, ugliness, eccentricities, and tragedies.
Once I complete McDaniel’s novel, I’ll move on to another book that caught my eye as I checked it in from a library patron. Another debut novel, The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber is a dual biographical fictional book based on the lives of Margery Williams, author of the very popular children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit, and her daughter Pamela Bianco. Bianco was a child prodigy artist who had her first solo art exhibit in London at the age of thirteen. Although quite talented, Bianco suffered from depression and mania, and the novel revolves around well-researched aspects of this mother-daughter relationship. The novel also describes the surrounding circle of artists and literary figures with whom the family were acquainted. Kirkus Reviews describes the book as an “unforgettable sojourn into the lives of early 20th-century artists.” I often enjoy these types of books because of the interesting narrative, but I also learn a bit about the surrounding world during a certain era.
So, my plate is full for the moment as far as books to read, but please don’t hesitate to recommend other favorite books when you come into the library next time. I’ll add them to my growing list and will share the recommendations with others!
Roberta Brown-Jones is a library assistant at the Nederland Community Library.