Saturday, May 1, 2010

April Picks on The Staff Pick Shelf at The Bookstore

Before we rush into May and everything that goes with it, we want to tell you about our favorite April reads that are currently on our Staff Picks Shelf at The Bookstore.

We know our customers are wondering about Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. Life of Pi was huge with our book clubs, and everybody's hoping this one is just as good. Despite some of the negative reviews out there in some major newspapers, this book gets three thumbs up from Margie, Sue and Jenny. Yes, it's disturbing and strange. And it's about the holocaust, so it's no walk in the park. But the minute you finish it, I guarantee you will want to talk to somebody else who's read it. (Jenny had to e-mail us in the middle of the night while she was on vacation.) You're not sure what you think, you're a little unnerved, you have weird questions, like "why did the taxidermist cut off the donkey's tail?" This is a book meant to be read with others. It would be great for book clubs who are looking for a challenge, something more than just the latest crowd pleaser.

Sue and I both love Sue Miller's latest, The Lake Shore Limited. It's Sue Miller at her best: her characters say and do all of those horrible things that you might think about, but are too ashamed to admit, even to a best friend. (Remember Senator's Wife? Then you know what I mean.) This book gets you into some really dark and ambivalent corners of relationships and marriage. The main character, Billy, is a playwright whose boyfriend was killed on 9/11. Several years later, Billy writes a play about a train bombing that exposes her true, complicated feelings about her boyfriend's death. There are other characters who have nursed a spouse through terminal illness, and who likewise admit to really complicated feelings. You might not think you're in the mood for that kind of a book, but there's a cathartic and voyeuristic release in watching these characters do what they do. You're reading along and if you're like me, you'll be talking to yourself: "oh my God, I can't believe she just slept with him!" And then you'll realize that dinner's going to be late because you just cannot put this book down. I can only imagine the intensely personal book club discussions you could have with this book. You'd have to swear each other to secrecy first - and beware of eavesdropping spouses!

Speaking of spouses, . . . The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall is a fantastic read about a polygamist family. It's a tragicomedy, with more than the average family's share of funerals, weddings, birthdays, hilarity and pathos. Told without judgment and with deep insight from the point of view of the husband, his youngest wife (#4) and his troubled son (son #5 of mother #3). This is an fascinating read that will be near the top of my Best of 2010 list at the end of the year. Here's a great interview with the author, in which he discusses his own family's polygamist history and the inspiration for the book. This book, which explores the irony of being lonely in the midst of a big family, is another fantastic book club choice that will keep you talking late into the night. (And you thought your life was complicated?)

An Unfinished Score by Elise Blackwell is a lovely book about classical musicians and their intense love for their art, as well as their intense love (or hate) for each other. It would be great for fans of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto or A. Manette Ansay's more recent Good Things I Wish You. There's plenty of betrayal, suspense and romance, but throughout it all, a strong and irresistible sense of musicality prevails. There's even a scattering of viola jokes thrown in for good measure. Three thumbs up for this book, especially from Jenny, our talented bookselling flutist! The author has made a musical playlist to enrich your reading, and is available for download on Book Notes at Large Hearted Boy.

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald was another one of our April favorites. It's a novel inspired by real life "practice houses" in university home economics programs post-WWII. Henry is a practice baby at one of these homes, and despite the stern child-rearing philosophy of the slightly unhinged head of the program, he is smothered with good intentions. The book follows Henry as he grows up and leaves the practice house with all of his psychological baggage in tow. (Do you think Henry might have some "commitment issues?") This is a fascinating book that does a great job of exploring the human consequences of psychological theory, and would make for an excellent book club discussion about "Home Ec," philandering men and the challenges of motherhood in a more modern world.

Please stop in sometime soon to discuss these and other Staff Picks at The Bookstore. We're happy to be your Book Club Headquarters in Glen Ellyn!

1 comment:

  1. I'm really sad that I've only read 1 of your favorites so far. At least the other 4 are either on my shelves or my immediate radar (must remember to acquire "The Lonely Polygamist")


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.