Ellyne's Past Picks 2

 

Ellyne's Staff Picks:

(See more of my Staff Picks here!)


Staff Pick Logo
The Noise of Time Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781101971185
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - June 13th, 2017

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Noise of Time

Comments:
I don't usually read fictionalized versions of real lives; this, obviously, is and exception: Shostakovich in Stalin's USSR is a heartbreaker. Barnes captures the feeling, the essence, of what it is like to have to create under the "aegis" of a repressive regime. How does one survive; what compromises are made; can one's soul be kept intact...

Beautifully written in every way.


Staff Pick Logo
Cockfosters: Stories Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780451493071
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - June 6th, 2017

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: Cockfosters: Stories

Comments:
Helen Simpson is aging, and so are the characters in these short stories. Whether 40 or 80, here, they are given room, often with humor, to reflect on and assess their lives. We move along with them from Cockfoster to Berlin (my favorite) where you will leave with warm feelings for the characters you've met, as well as for the author.

Highly recommended, thought provoking summer reading - or fall, winter or spring.


Staff Pick Logo
Lincoln in the Bardo Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780812995343
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - February 14th, 2017

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: Lincoln in the Bardo

Comments:
This is a first novel - but it was written by the noted short story writer George Saunders; so first or not, we know before starting that something good is coming our way!

And it IS a joy to read, though the subject, Lincoln and the death of his son, Willie, is sorrowful. The Bardo refers to a "middle place" after death where Tibetan Buddhists believe we land before going on to Nirvana, or...an alternative.

The style is edgy, the grief-stricken Lincoln unknowingly surrounded by the spirits who "live" in the cemetery. I was as much caught by this supporting cast as I was by Lincoln.

I leave the deeper themes for you to experience. A great read.


Staff Pick Logo
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780307952509
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Broadway Books - July 14th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Underground Girls of Kabul

Comments:

I was so fascinated by this book that I couldn’t stop talking about it.  Really – 1-hour tutorials.  The practice of dressing up one’s daughter to look like – to be – a boy takes place not only in Afghanistan, but it is here that the author went to do her research. 

Not only are women who give birth to girl after girl looked down upon, but the entire family will be disgraced in the eyes of relatives, neighbors and friends.  Dress the little girl as a boy and voila, everything will change.  Let me count the ways; but no - I’m going to control myself and give you the chance to fall under this book’s spell.  Then you can corner people and tell them about it!


Staff Pick Logo
Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781594632198
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - January 8th, 2014

Bookseller: Ellyne

Title: Words Will Break Cement
 
Comment:
 
Maybe, like me, you’re old enough to remember the cold war. I remember the stories about Soviet dissidents; reading Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago; and meeting several less known dissidents in Italy, on their first leg of the journey out of the Soviet Union. I remember them telling me that when they would gather they would talk about innocuous subjects while passing notes that held their anger and despair. There was a large ashtray in the center of the table. The notes would be burned in it after they had gone round the table. And her, decades later, is Pussy Riot, a punk rock band made up of young women – late teens to early 20's - fighting Putin in a forthright, brazen way until they are caught in his sights and silenced. Well, not quite silenced. Masha Gessen and other journalists have helped their supporters and family in Russia give them back their voice. I won’t say this is the best book ever: I wish it had had a little more depth, if that’s the word I’m looking for; but it did have heart and soul and the story that needs to be told about these young women. It did clearly place them in a continuum of dissidents, and it did describe prison conditions that rival any concentration camp, and Stalin’s Gulag. It’s happening now and we should take the time to read about it.


Staff Pick Logo
On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781250065667
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador USA - April 7th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City

Comments:

After reading, say, the first 25 pages of On the Run I realized that what I was feeling was akin to what I felt while reading the first 25 pages of Orphan Master’s Son. While one is about life in a small area of a Philadelphia ghetto and the other a novel about North Korea, the feeling of being atilt was the same. A day in the life of these young black men is filled with convoluted machinations made necessary by a judicial and penal system akin to an octopus choking itself.
Alice Goffman ends each chapter with a summary that I really didn’t need. She ends the book by giving an explanation of what the process of ‘researching’ this sociological study was like. Then I forgave her the summaries: The explanation was very personal - and fascinating, as was my experience of reading an interview with the author in the NY Times about the controversy that erupted in academia among the small community of U.S. based sociologists.
Read the book, enter another world, one that no doubt you’ve been reading about in newspapers, but not quite in this way. What was that television program? You Are There.


Staff Pick Logo
The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780770436452
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Hogarth Press - July 19th, 2016

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Tsar of Love and Techno 

Comments:

Coming Soon!!


Staff Pick Logo
Leaves Cover Image
$6.99
ISBN: 9780399254970
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G. P. Putnam's Sons - July 29th, 2010

Bookseller: Ellyne & Zazu
Title: Leaves

Comments:

A sweet, charming book that takes us through the seasons. Winsome illustrations and text. A lovely starter book, or addition to a newcomer's library.

Zazu heartily agrees with this assessment and is equally enamored!


Staff Pick Logo
Spooky Pookie Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780553512335
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Robin Corey Books - July 7th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne & Zazu
Title: Spooky Pookie

Comments:

Ellyne: Pookie does it again in this sweet halloween-themed book great for a first-time trick-or-treater.

Zazu: Ahhhhhhhh! Pookie is so spooky! Good choice Pookie! You're so smart! All hail Pookie! I love Pookie.


Staff Pick Logo
The Hand That Feeds You Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781476774589
Availability: Special Order
Published: Scribner Book Company - July 7th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Hand That Feeds You

Comments:

Should I begin by telling you that this is a riveting psychological mystery with some flaws; or should I tell you that I couldn't put it down? Both would be true: you may-- you will-- figure out 'who done it'; you will also, due to the very fine writing of the co-authors, Jill Clement and the great short story writer Amy Hempel, enjoy the quality of the writing and the level of knowledge that propel this chracter-driven story.  Katherine Rusell Rich, who began writing this novel which is based on her own experience of loving a man who was not who he said he was, died before completing the first chapter. Her friends, with whom she had discussed the novel, finished it for her.

Some harsh dog moments, but really, a book written by dog lovers which is reflected throughout. A good thriller!


Staff Pick Logo
A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781250094735
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador USA - August 2nd, 2016

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: A Manual for Cleaning Women

Comments:

Thank goodness this is a collection of selected short stories; meaning, I hope, that there are other stories to which we may look forward.

The more stories I read, the more I liked the voice of Lucia Berlin. Autobiographical? I didn't care whether she embellished or edited the events of her life; whether she had created situations or had actually lived them; whether the stories were connected or stand-alones. It was all good.

A real treat, this one.


Staff Pick Logo
The Seven Good Years: A Memoir Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781594633263
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - June 16th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Seven Good Years

Comments:

It seems to me that Etgar Kerret must be a very old soul to be so wise and- in today's parlance- 'mindful'.
He looks with wit, warmth, and a keen eye at what is really most meaningful in life. Very different from his fiction, but with equal if not greater, depth, this is a truly beautiful book.


Staff Pick Logo
The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir Cover Image
$13.00
ISBN: 9780374536152
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - May 17th, 2016

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Odd Woman and the City

Comments:

"If you've grown up in New York," Vivian Gornick writes, "your life is an archaeology not of structures, but of voices, also piled on top of another, also not really replacing one another." I did grow up and live in New York and, needless to say, this book brought back my own layers of voices and anecdotes. That would have been enough... but this author engages us further through her rich musings and memories. Touching on friendship, love, sex, and literature, Gornick gifts us with a small book, chock full o' life.


Staff Pick Logo
The Hilltop Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781476760445
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - October 13th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Hilltop

Comments:

Want a sense of what it'slike to live in Israel?  To live in a settlement?  Gavron, a 40ish, contemporary Israeli writer, captures so much through both satire and good story telling.  What once was revered takes a new shape today and is reviled; beaurocracy abounds; life goes on.  A pretty fascinating read.


Staff Pick Logo
The Green Road Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780393352801
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - May 3rd, 2016

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Green Road

Comments:

If you want to read fiction about family, turn to the irish writers. Anne Enright is a standout and here she creates a wonderful variety of voices and viewpoints. She sets the story by having a widowed mother decide to sell the family home, which seduces her far-flung children to return to her. Perception is personal and each has a story to tell. An intelligent and meaningful read.


Staff Pick Logo
The Reawakening: The Companion Volume to Survival in Auschwitz Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780684826356
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Touchstone Books - December 1st, 1995

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Reawakening

Comments:

I'm not sure we'll ever understand how someone or -thing is able to tap into our collective consciousness and turn us into an inhumane mob.  Still, I continue to read those who bear witness, and who themselves strove to understand:  on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, three books by Primo Levi.   In the third book, Moments of Reprieve, he writes:  "It might be surprising that in the Camps one of the most frequent states of mind was curiosity.  And yet, besides being frightened, humiliated, and desperate, we were curious:  hungry for bread and also to understand." 
What is really amazing is that Levi felt compelled to write these memoirs very shortly after having been freed, fearing - knowing - that he would forget details.  He says that in describing "the tragic world of Auschwitz," he "deliberately assumed the calm, sober language of the witness, neither the lamenting tones of the victim nor the irate voice of someone who seeks revenge." 
You'll find Levi's curiosity - his bright and shining mind - in these writings.  Having been thrown into one of Auschwitz's satellite camps he is surrounded by people from many countries - he compares it to Babel - and writes about his fellow inmates as almost picaresque characters.  It was this zest for life that kept him alive, don't you think?  That and fate, or luck.  


Staff Pick Logo
Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780684826806
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Touchstone Books - September 1st, 1995

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: Survival in Auschwitz

Comments:

I'm not sure we'll ever understand how someone or -thing is able to tap into our collective consciousness and turn us into an inhumane mob. Still, I continue to read those who bear witness, and who themselves strove to understand: on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, three books by Primo Levi. In the third book, Moments of Reprieve, he writes: "It might be surprising that in the Camps one of the most frequent states of mind was curiosity. And yet, besides being frightened, humiliated, and desperate, we were curious: hungry for bread and also to understand." What is really amazing is that Levi felt compelled to write these memoirs very shortly after having been freed, fearing - knowing - that he would forget details. He says that in describing "the tragic world of Auschwitz," he "deliberately assumed the calm, sober language of the witness, neither the lamenting tones of the victim nor the irate voice of someone who seeks revenge." You'll find Levi's curiosity - his bright and shining mind - in these writings. Having been thrown into one of Auschwitz's satellite camps he is surrounded by people from many countries - he compares it to Babel - and writes about his fellow inmates as almost picaresque characters. It was this zest for life that kept him alive, don't you think? That and fate, or luck.


Staff Pick Logo
A Replacement Life Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780062287885
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - January 20th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: A Replacement Life

Comments:
Boris Fishman is my new favorite of the "New Rusians"- as they are lumped together, these American immigrants, whether they come from ukraine proper or anywhere else around there. Certainly he has been compared to Gary Sheyngart, but here there is an energy and great warmth coming through that reminded me of Shteyngart's memoir rather than his novels.

Slava, the protagonist here, is one of those characters that you'll wish you could meet up with after you've finished reading the book: Give him a call, get together for a drink. A funny. informative, and delightful read.


Staff Pick Logo
Nora Webster Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781439170939
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - June 2nd, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: Nora Webster

Comments:
Colm Toibin is the softest of writers: even that which is harsh has had its edges sanded so that the worst character, well, is more to be pitied than anything else. Follow the arc of Nora's life as she deals with loss and personal growth. Sing with her for awhile. You won't regret it.


Staff Pick Logo
Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781451668117
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - July 7th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: Soldier Girls

Comments:
Helen Thorpe follows three women as they survive war, bureaucracy, and the intense male environment of the military. One cannot help but be drawn into the lives of these women and by extension, the lives of all women in the military. They joined the national Guard never expecting to be called up for yeaars of service; or to be deployed then redeployed; or to live with the after-effects.

What makes this book well worth reading is how real these women become. You will feel that you know them; and you will like them all the more for that.


Staff Pick Logo
10:04: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781250081339
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador USA - October 13th, 2015

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: 10:04 

Comments:
I don’t quite know how Ben Lerner held all the pieces together but clearly he was successful in producing this work of metafiction. The writing is wonderful, poetic; so too are the observations The author offers us his thoughts and musings on so many aspects of his life and ours, from class differences to a superb critique of a Donald Judd work he views in Marfa, TX.

This is one of those books: how can what I write truly depict this book? The epigraph at the book’s beginning notes an old Hassidic belief that things will be exactly the same in the world to come, just different. So while I’ve written about what has been written, the book will be different, in this case much, much better than what I can describe. Better; much, much better.


Staff Pick Logo
The Birds of Pandemonium: Life Among the Exotic and the Endangered Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781616201364
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Books - October 7th, 2014

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Birds of Pandemonium 

Comments:
I didn’t expect to staff pick this book, a book whose financial profits, I thought, would support the author’s cause. Yet the birds captured me: tell a story about one individual and the listeners/readers will be moved; this works with birds as well, so be prepared for the many stories about the individual – and individualistic – birds that Raffin has welcomed into her home. They’ll charm you, I think, as they did me; and you’ll know by the end of the book, as I did, that their extinction would be too great a loss. Up with Pandemonium!


Staff Pick Logo
Pride and Prejudice with Songs from Regency England Cover Image
By Jane Austen, Alison Larkin (Read by)
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9781518937279
Availability: Backordered
Published: Author's Republic - March 21st, 2017

Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: Pride and Prejudice with Songs from Regency England (Compact Disc)

Comments:
If you don't already love Alison Larkin for her writing (The English American), after listening to this audio, you'll love her for her superb narration. We've been passing the audio around here at The Bookloft. Larkin's shifts in voice from character to character - here in Pride & Prejudice say from Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth - are seamless. She smoothly captures the characters, i.e. the nasal twang of Mr. Collins; and her portrayals are never jarring. One listens to Jane Austen, not the reader. What a pleasure.

In addition to Pride & Prejudice, Julia has other books narrated by Larkin including The English American, Consider the Fork, and The Soldier's Wife. "Every one," she says, "has been a joy." AND Larkin has narrated all of the books in the Swallows & Amazons series. Eureka!