mini-review · stuff I read

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

32768516Summary from Goodreads:
A Gen-X librarian’s snarky, laugh-out-loud funny, deeply moving collection of love letters and break-up notes to the books in her life.

Librarians spend their lives weeding–not weeds but books! Books that have reached the end of their shelf life, both literally and figuratively. They remove the books that patrons no longer check out. And they put back the books they treasure. Annie Spence, who has a decade of experience as a Midwestern librarian, does this not only at her Michigan library but also at home, for her neighbors, at cocktail parties—everywhere. In Dear Fahrenheit 451, she addresses those books directly. We read her love letters to The Goldfinch and Matilda, as well as her snarky break-ups with Fifty Shades of Grey and Dear John. Her notes to The Virgin Suicides and The Time Traveler’s Wife feel like classics, sure to strike a powerful chord with readers. Through the lens of the books in her life, Annie comments on everything from women’s psychology to gay culture to health to poverty to childhood aspirations. Hilarious, compassionate, and wise, Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the consummate book-lover’s birthday present, stocking stuffer, holiday gift, and all-purpose humor book.

Annie Spence has delivered a sweet and tongue-firmly-in-cheek book about books loved and books lost by a book lover (librarian, in this instance). The first half is a series of letters to books the author has loved, reviled, or merrily weeded from the library collection. The second half is a collection of readers’ advisory essays of book suggestion. This is out today and would be good to keep in mind as stocking stuffers for your book-loving giftees (as well as ordinary, every-day book purchasing).

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Advertisements
mini-review · stuff I read

Browse: The World in Bookshops edited by Henry Hitchings

32018793Summary from Goodreads:
Edited and introduced by the writer and critic Henry Hitchings, these fearless, passionate, inquiring essays by award-winning international writers celebrate one of our most essential, but endangered, institutions: the bookshop. From Denmark to Egypt, from the USA to China, Browse brings together some of the world’s leading authors to investigate bookshops both in general and in particular – the myriad pleasures, puzzles and possibilities they disclose.

The fifteen essays reflect their authors’ own inimitable style – romantic, elegant, bold, argumentative, poetic or whimsical – as they ask probing questions about the significance, the cultural and social (even political) function as well as the physical qualities of the institution, and examine our very personal relationship to it.

Contributors include:

Alaa Al Aswany (Egypt)
Stefano Benni (Italy)
Michael Dirda (USA)
Daniel Kehlmann (Germany)
Andrey Kurkov (Ukraine)
Yiyun Li (China)
Pankaj Mishra (India)
Dorthe Nors (Denmark)
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya)
Elif Shafak (Turkey)
Ian Sansom (UK)
Iain Sinclair (UK)
Ali Smith (UK)
Saša Stanišic (Germany/Bosnia)
Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombia)

Browse is a collection of essays by writers musing on their love of bookshops, usually a bookshop in particular. Some are funny, some sweet, some moving, and a few are a bit eye-roll inducing. There’s a lot of “Dead Tree Books Rah Rah Bewail Changing Culture Popular Literature is The Devil” sentiment that got under my skin at times. I’m a little generous with this book because almost every writer celebrated something I love: the joy of an interrupted bookstore browse. I still enjoy that activity greatly, no matter my usual store or a new one.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

mini-review · stuff I read

Morningstar: Growing Up With Books by Ann Hood

Summary from Goodreads:
A memoir about the magic and inspiration of books from a beloved and best-selling author.

In her admired works of fiction, including the recent The Book that Matters Most, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these works of fiction.

Growing up in a mill town in Rhode Island, in a household that didn’t foster the love of literature, Hood nonetheless learned to channel her imagination and curiosity by devouring The Bell Jar, Marjorie Morningstar, The Harrad Experiment, and other works. These titles introduced her to topics that could not be discussed at home: desire, fear, sexuality, and madness. Later, Johnny Got His Gun and The Grapes of Wrath influenced her political thinking as the Vietnam War became news; Dr. Zhivago and Les Miserables stoked her ambition to travel the world. With characteristic insight and charm, Hood showcases the ways in which books gave her life and can transform—even save—our own.

Morningstar is a delightful little memoir about finding yourself in books. Ann Hood didn’t grow up in a family of readers but she found her way to books and never left. She organizes each chapter into a “lesson” she learned while reading. I did so love the moment her teacher realized she read far above her peer group – if you’ve read Little Women, you’ve been there.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.