• Prep

    Curtis Sittenfeld

    Despite the length of this book, I breezed through it in a couple of days, often unable to stop reading until reaching the end of a long chapter. It’s a coming-of-age story of a Midwestern, middle-class girl who decides she wants to go to boarding school, gets some scholarships, and ends up in New England. Once there Lee realizes the class divide is more striking than she anticipated and...

  • Perfect Disappearance

    Martha Rhodes


    My body given away, parts

    flown to other parts — a child

    receives my eyes, another

    my heart, the diseased organs

    remain, benign now.

  • Fun Home

    Alison Bechdel

    The graphic novel memoir seems such an ideal form, especially as demonstrated in this “family tragicomic” where Bechdel uses snippets of journals and letters to flesh out the story of her relationship with her father, who is suspiciously killed by a truck four months after she comes out to her parents via a letter while she is away at college and two weeks after her mother asked him for...

  • Geography of Home : writings on where we live

    Akiko Busch

    This collection of personal essays dissects the house as home, meandering from room to room while simultaneously shifting between Busch’s personal experiences and more general ideas gleaned from history and literature. She doesn’t really succeed in placing her experiences into a comprehensive context, yet the book isn’t presented entirely in an anecdotal manner.

    At times she seems to...

  • Fatal Distraction

    Sonja Ahlers

    I loved Sonja’s first book Temper, Temper, though I never tried reading it straight through. I did so with this one, and it was most rewarding. While it feels a bit square to page-by-page, as it’...

  • The Three Incestuous Sisters

    Audrey Niffenegger

    From the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, she calls this a “visual novel” and/or “a silent film made from Japanese prints.” The story is of three sisters torn apart when two fall for the same dude, told in aquatints and spare text. Some of my favorite pages are those that don’t obviously pull the story along—...

  • Mariette in Ecstasy

    Ron Hansen

    Elissa told me she’s bought several copies of this book, as she did once again while in town last week, leaving it with me to read when she left. An appropriate choice for Easter weekend, it follows the story of Mariette, a young postulant of the Sisters of the Crucifixion in the early 1900s. Shortly after arriving at the priory, she begins experiencing ecstasies — or perhaps is...

  • The Future of Nostalgia

    Svetlana Boym

    I loved the concept of this book but eventually had to accept that it was a bit more academic than I wanted it to be. But that enabled me to just skip to the parts I wanted to read instead of feeling like I had to read every word. That may sound like a lackluster recommendation, but I’m sure to return to this book and skim again.

  • Before the War: poems as they happened

    Lawson Fusao Inada

    We are all the loves we ever lost.

    I can’t for the life of me remember how this wound up on my hold list at the library, but there must have been some reason. The poems in this book span ten years, themes of jazz, WWII internment camps, and banalities set in several distinct locales around the US. A...

  • Lighthousekeeping

    Jeanette Winterson

    I used to read books so quickly, it was disturbing to some friends of mine. But these days I plod through books and leave them half-read all the time. It was especially sad to open this book and feel some excitement because the type is so big. Yes! A quick read. Maybe I should just embrace it and dedicate myself to YA novels for a while.

  • Book One

    Chip Kidd

    One of the great advantages to designing book covers is that you don’t ever have to have an idea, much less a thought, ever, in your head. That is the author’s job. Through a manuscript, he or she will give you all the ideas and thoughts that you could possibly need to design a jacket.

  • Stranger Things Happen

    Kelly Link

    Once again, unable to finish a book before its due date back at the library. Part of it might have been that I liked some of these stories a whole lot better than others. The pseudo-modern-fairy-tale/mythology-retellings weren’t heavy on the clever for me. But I did enjoy the creepier stories, like the librarian in love with a lady whose family shares a serious sense of loss,...

  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

    Carson McCullers

    I thought it was just last spring when I started reading this book and didn’t get past the first section before it was due back at the library, but now I can see it was actually more like a year and a half ago — where does the time go? I’m glad I revisited this, as this is certainly sure to keep a place as one of my favorite...

  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    Joan Didion

    Not having it in front of me now, I can’t skim through and remember the precise points that caught me when I was reading this. I can recall that I appreciated the elements that returned throughout the book, waves washing back over, appropriate for a memoir of grief. I poke through a few reviews to jog the memories, noticing that a few describe a lack of “inwardness” or distance from emotions...

  • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

    Haruki Murakami

    I waited for months on the hold list from the library, only to be unable to finish all these stories before going out of town. Perhaps I should have just paid the few days of late fees I would have received if I’d taken it with me on my trip and returned it afterwards. I only got through half the book, but I might have gotten through more if I hadn’t been unable to resist re-...

  • Coraline

    Neil Gaiman

    This girl Coraline is bored in her new house, her parents are too busy for her, and all the neighbors call her Caroline. But there is an old door to the flat next door that has been bricked up; when no one is around, it brings her into a parallel world which has all the things she might want, but in messed up, creepy ways. And all the people have buttons for eyes.


  • The End

    Lemony Snicket

    I couldn’t decide while reading this whether it was a good ending for the Baudelaires, being stuck on some island rather than somehow encompassing all the books in one. But the ending does deliver pretty well. A lot of us had our suspicious anyhow.

    I still think it would have been better to wait until all the books were published, having only read...

  • The Jungle

    Upton Sinclair

    I never was assigned this book in high school and probably only read it now because it happened to coincide with some curiosity about Lithuanian ancestors we know nothing about and a casual mention of this to a friend who happened to reading this book at the time. While this book is well-known for its effect on the meatpacking industry, it’s primarily an argument for support of socialism, by...

  • The Crooked Mirror and other stories

    Anton Chekhov

    I tried reading some Chekhov three years ago after a long stretch of short stories and just couldn’t do it. Being that I read with much less density these days, what I read has less to do with what I’ve read before it. And I guess not having read much short fiction lately at all gave me a prime opportunity to try again.

    Chekhov’s stories are pretty clever,...

  • By Its Cover

    Ned Drew & Paul Sternberger

    Looking back through all the covers reproduced in this book, subtitled Modern American Book Cover Design, I love Alvin Lustig and Paul Rand’s covers from the 1950s, a few things here and there from the 1960s, and then nothing much else until the last chapter, looking at the late 1990s with a section focusing on various Knopf designers.