What we’re reading this year so far…

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Keiko is a 36-year-old single woman working for a convenience store.  Keiko has always struggled to function the way that her family, friends, and society expect her too.  Since she was young she has tried to act “normal” and give made up excuses for why she still works in a convenience store, isn’t married, and has never been in love.  Keiko has found it easier to make these excuses, but really, she likes her work, does not want to get married or fall in love.  I devoured this funny, and a little heartbreaking, novella in an evening.  Trent

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

When Heather Mackenzie’s grandmother, Nan Hughes, died she left Heather some beautiful embroidered flowers like those embroidered on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress. Heather searches to understand why her grandmother left London and settled in Canada. She soon discovers that Nan had worked at the house of Norman Hartnell, and that the royals wore designs by Hartnell. Nan and Miriam Dassin, a fellow embroiderer and recent refugee from France, were charged with the delicate details of the wedding dress. Why did Nan leave such a prestigious position and never talk about it? The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding is a charming historical detailed novel. Emma

Queer Threads by John Chaich

A wonderful survey of works by fiber and textile artists in the LGBTQ community. This book was the companion to an exhibition, profiled here on NPR, that was curated by Chaich. The works are faithfully reproduced in high quality photos and artist interviews are included in the back to add additional depth to the content.  A great book for individuals interested in seeing fiber/textiles and their techniques pushed in exciting and new areas.  Greg

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

I’m currently listening to this selection. It does not have the comic tone of the series Adam Ruins Everything, but it is similar in that it does shatter some myths with facts and figures. There are assumptions on both sides of the political divide that lead people to think that things are getting worse. With a lot of examples professor Pinker proceeds to lay out his case that the world and the human condition are in fact getting better. Or at least with the problem solving tools of the Enlightenment we humans are capable of improving the world’s problems. I really need this dose of hope as it is so easy sometimes to fall into despair. Byron

The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter

  I just finished Numbers and am beginning Deuteronomy, with a lot more to go(!) – Prophets and the Histories waiting in the future for me.  It has really been an incredible reading experience so far.  I went to a Jewish school from kindergarten to eighth grade, so was familiar with many of the Bible stories.  But I hadn’t read them as an adult in English.  The story of Joseph is particularly affecting, strong and rich.  I am looking forward to Deuteronomy, which Alter says is the most “rhetorical” of the first five books, which means there is a great deal of eloquence in Moses’ farewell speeches to the Hebrews.  Alter not only translated the entire Hebrew Bible, but he also provides commentary, so reading the books is like reading with a study partner.  Alter also pays much attention to the style of the Hebrew and English, and therefore makes some changes to the King James Bible, which are very interesting and even original.  A truly important read.     Andrew

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This month, Andrew and I will be kicking off a series called Pub Reads with a discussion at Rocky River Wine Bar on this National Book Award Winner. This is a sad but important book about a family facing just about every hard issue you could imagine: poverty, prison, drug addiction, murder, and cancer. Honestly, if I were not reading it for the book discussion, I might be tempted to put it down; it’s too sad. But Jesmyn Ward’s writing is startling in its beauty and haunting. She is telling a truth that I have not had to live with, and for this reason, I want to honor black families from the south by listening closely to this story. The audiobook alternates readers between three narrators: thirteen year old JoJo, his drug addicted mother, Leonie, and a ghost that’s connected to the family. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes literary fiction, wants to learn more about America’s history, and wants to see what type of writing a Genius Grant recipient and two-time National Book Award winner can do.  Lyndsey

50 After 50 by Maria Leonard Olsen

At age 50 Marie Olsen took a hard look at her life thus far.  She is a recovered alcoholic, divorced and an empty nester.  She was depressed and stuck.  Instead of continuing to slide on a downward slope in her life, Maria went on a crusade to make the most of whatever time she has left.  She challenged herself to do 50 things that were significant to her.  This list included physical challenges, travel and lifestyle changes.  Each challenge taught her something new about herself, and how she might want to shape her future.  While each person’s list may be different, Maria, along with the reader learns that accomplishing new things, learning new skills, deepening personal relationships and seeking out challenges will give purpose and vigor to your life that may otherwise feel insignificant, inauthentic or just plain boring.  Mary

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

There is an old saying, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. This newest Gamache mystery has Armand and his Three Pines friend Myrna in the dark as to why they were appointed as executors of the estate of a woman they never even met. As they attempt to figure this out and to execute the woman’s extremely eccentric will, another person turns up dead causing them to question whether her death was of natural causes after all. In the midst of all this, Armand attempts to find and stop a large shipment of extremely dangerous drugs that he allowed into the country during his previous assignment as he worked to take down a drug cartel. Will he stop the drugs from hitting the streets before more lives are lost? Sara

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