Hi! Laura here.
When you own a bookstore, people wonder what you read. They ask if you’ve read certain authors and are sometimes incredulous when you tell them, no, you haven’t read anything by Clive Cussler. Or Fern Michaels. It just hasn’t happened yet. For the most part, I like to read books that take me outside my experience a bit more—books that help me empathize with humankind as a whole. So here, for your enjoyment is a list of what I’ve read—or started reading—in the past month or two.
Lost Men, by Brian Leung (2007)
I love to know and read the living authors around me, so it was only natural that I would pick up some of Brian Leung’s work. He’s currently the director of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Purdue, a group that I’m excited to have in the Greater Lafayette community. The protagonist here is Westen Gray, a man who was left parentless as a child when his Caucasian mother died and his Chinese father abandoned him to relatives. That story in itself would be compelling, but as readers we get to meet Westen as an adult, after he’s grown up tinged by loss—by the fact that his father never returned for him. But then his father does. This book relays the journey—literally, as they travel to China together, and emotionally, as they both try to heal from their past—of both father and son. It recounts the reasons why they separated in heartbreaking detail and then shows them coming back together. Leung also deserves applause for using a metaphor about a puzzle that was miraculously not a cliché.
Durable Goods, Elizabeth Berg (1993)
I’m obviously a bit behind in reading Elizabeth Berg’s first novel, the first of three books that follow 12-year-old Katie Nash as she is forced to grow up too soon. This semi-autobiographical novel sees Katie dealing with the loss of her mother, an abusive father, and an older sister who wants to do anything but stay. This was my first taste of Elizabeth Berg, and I’ll likely read more of her work.
Take Me Home, Brian Leung (2011)
What can I say? I loved my first taste of Brian Leung, so I picked up another of his books. While Lost Men keeps the reader in relatively modern times, this novel takes us into a mining town in the 1880s. The racial tension between the white and Chinese people is so prominent you might say it’s a character in itself. Though I didn’t love it as much as I loved Lost Men (see above), it was a timely read because of the current racial climate, and I enjoyed learning about the Rock Springs Massacre, an actual historical event from which this story was inspired.
Underground Airlines, Ben H. Winters (2016)
I’m perhaps a bit spoiled in the fact that I’ve gotten to see Ben read several times, and I’ve chatted with him on a few occasions, due to his involvement in the Butler MFA program, which I was a part of. Although I’ve only become familiar with his work in recent years, I’ve grown to love it. I read his Last Policeman trilogy, a series of apocalyptic mysteries, a couple years ago, and I was more excited for this conceptually cool read. Underground Airlines is speculative fiction where the story takes place in modern day Indianapolis—but the Indianapolis that would exist if Slavery had never been abolished in the South. The alternate history inherent in this book is especially poignant during a time where race relations have been highly politicized.
Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff (2015)
I’m not sure how it’s taken me this long to read this book. Two years ago I read Lauren Groff’s short story “At Round Earth’s Imagined Corners” in Best American Short Stories 2014, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I read the entire book of the year’s best, but hers was the only story that shook me enough to stay with me. It made me feel this beautiful melancholy that I can still conjure back. When I started seeing the reviews appear for Fates and Furies—all wonderful—I was incredibly excited. And so, finally, after more than a year of this book being out, I started reading. The book explores the intricate workings of a marriage through two sections, Fates and Furies, and I’ll let you guess at why they’re titled that way. I was drawn into the story through Groff’s character development, but sometimes I also found myself pausing to revel in the poetry of some of Groff’s sentences. Sentences like this these:
“Between his skin and hers, there was the smallest of spaces, barely enough for air, for this slick of sweat now chilling. Even still, a third person, their marriage, had slid in.”
“The ones made for music are the most beloved of all. Their bodies a container for the spirit within; the best of them is music, the rest only an instrument of flesh and blood.”
Clearly, I adored this book.
Room, Emma Donoghue (2010)
This book got A LOT of buzz when it was adapted into a film that debuted last year. I had also had several people recommend this title, so I finally sat down with the book. Room tells the story of a woman who was abducted and locked in a single room for years by abductor. During that time she becomes pregnant, and then she and her son, Jack, live in the room (a converted shed) together. This story is heartbreaking, but because it’s told from the perspective of five-year-old Jack the reader is spared some of the more terrible details. This was a quick read. I sat down for the evening, and before I knew it I was halfway through. If you somehow missed this book, I’d go back and read it!
What I’m currently reading:
Difficult Women, Roxane Gay (2016)
Duh! Roxane will be IN STORE reading on February 4th, so of course I’m reading her newest collection of stories about women who refuse to be passive in their lives.
Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett (2005)
Ann Patchett’s latest novel Commonwealth has gotten a ton of positive buzz this year, but we’re harking back to this older work that biographies a friendship between the author and her friend Lucy (now deceased). I picked it up to read the first few pages and two chapters later I finally looked up!
Here are a few books other members of our team have been reading:
In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson (2012)
The Last Policeman Trilogy, Ben Winters (2013-2014
Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut (1952)
Lacey (clerk and shelver extraordinaire)
Lexicon, Max Barry (2013)
Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins (2015)
Lisey’s Story, Stephen King (2006)