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Showing posts from January, 2019

Up Lit

You may be surprised to learn that there are trends in the book world, just as there are in the fashion industry and with food. One massive bestselling novel often sparks a wave of, if not copycats, then new stories in a very similar style. How many books suddenly appeared with grey covers and close-ups of an article of clothing in the aftermath of the Fifty Shades of Grey publishing phenomenon? How many new books featuring vampires and witches were published once Twilight became a runaway bestseller? (I feel compelled to mention here the superb Discovery of Witches series by Deborah Harkness as the best example.) In a publishing trend going back decades, Bridget Jones's Diary ushered in "chick lit," a genre that thrives to this day and which has generated spin-offs, including "mom lit," when the heroines of chick lit have babies, and, painfully, "matron lit," when those heroines hit middle age. After the phenomenal success of Gillian Flynn's Gon…

Thursday Night Book Club -- January, 2019

The Thursday Night Book Club lost one of its own last year after a loyal member of the group passed away suddenly in July. When the group next met, we decided to read a book in her memory. From conversations I had with her earlier in 2018, I knew that one of her most-loved novels was John Knowles' classic coming-of-age story A Separate Peace. And so on Thursday, January 17th the Thursday Night Book Club gathered to discuss the book.  Set in the fictional Devon School (a thinly-disguised Phillips Exeter Academy) during the 1942-1943 school year and the summer that precedes it, A Separate Peace is the story of Gene Forrester and his roommate Finny. Finny is charming, confident and athletic, the kind of popular student who breaks the rules and gets away with it. Gene, introverted and academic, loves Finny and also envies and resents him. After Finny falls from a tree and badly breaks his leg, Gene struggles with the guilt he feels about the role he played in Finny's accident. An…

Barbara Pym

In 1977, the Times Literary Supplement polled several well-known British critics and authors and asked them to name the most underrated writer of the previous 75 years. Barbara Pym was the only writer to receive two votes, one from the poet Philip Larkin and one from the biographer Lord David Cecil, who said that Pym's "unpretentious, subtle, accomplished novels...are for me the finest examples of high comedy to have appeared in England during the past seventy-five years." Although the poll results led to a resurgence of interest in Pym and in her novels, I think that she may still be one of the most underrated writers of the last 75 years. And speaking very personally, I'd like that to change.

Barbara Pym was born in 1913 and raised in Shropshire, England, near the Welsh border. She attended St. Hilda's College, Oxford, where she majored in English Literature. After she graduated, she wrote her first novel Some Tame Gazelle, which she completed when she was 22 …

Most Anticipated Books of 2019

I thought it might be fun to follow up a post on my favorite books of 2018 with a post on the books that are scheduled for publication in 2019 that I am most looking forward to reading. To be fair, there are lots of pronouncements out there about the big books of 2019, so this is not an original idea. But those articles tend to focus on the books that are expected to be bestsellers or on the ones that will get the most attention, and that's not my focus here. The library runs its popular Book Buzz program twice a year (in March for spring and summer books and in September for fall and winter books), and that's where we talk about the books slated for publication that are getting the most pre-publication buzz in the world of books and book lovers. By contrast, the books that I mention below are the ones that are getting the most pre-publication buzz in my head (and maybe only in my head). But I'm sufficiently excited about them to want to share the news.

To state the obviou…