Category Archives: literary

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

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The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
is a story of family hardships, betrayal, and love. The moral of this story is that love transcends all bounds, and I highly recommend that you read it to find out why.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Sarah Gleason
Rating:   Recommend

Normal People by Sally Rooney

book coverBased on the hype around this novel, I had fairly high expectations. However, I don’t feel that those expectations were met. I was unprepared for the heaviness of the novel, with topics of toxic relationships, abuse, and mental health; and felt that the novel took an unhealthy side of these topics, rather than creating beneficial conversation around them. Personally, this book was not my cup of tea and I would recommend reading a few reviews before diving into it.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Sarah Gleason
Rating:  Recommended with reservations
Challenge: Book made into TV show

Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies

This was just the book I needed after tiring days in the heat of the summer. These stories are witty, heartfelt, and though provoking. If you are in need of an easier read, I highly recommend picking this up.

Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Sarah Gleason
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Short story collection

She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya

book cover I picked up this book, not knowing what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised. Vivek Shraya takes the reader on a very short and concise journey of a queer individual finding their way, while using Hindu Mythology to guide the story. I enjoyed the brief education on mythology and queer theory and would recommend to anyone searching for a brief read.

Availability:  COSMOS,
Review Submitted by: Sarah Gleason
Rating:  Recommended

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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I absolutely loved this book. I was hooked from the first page! The author tells a beautiful and emotional story while educating readers on difficult topics of racism, specifically within and between minority groups.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Sarah Gleason
Rating:  Highly Recommend
Challenge: Tournament of Books

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

book coverSet during the events before and after the Trojan War, TSOA is about the love story of Patroclus and Achilles, and their tragic ending. It is incredibly written in a way that makes you feel for the characters, and it will definitely make you want to keep reading. This book is perfect for Greek mythology and Ancient Greece fans, as well as those who want to read books with LGBT romances and don’t mind endings that will make you cry.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Esther Markov
Rating:  Must Read

Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín

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Young Irish Eilis can’t find suitable work in her small town, so her vivacious sister and a priest friend arrange her travel to Brooklyn, work there in a department store, and lodging in a boarding house. As she slowly finds her way, Eilis must make many difficult and life changing decisions. I watched the movie, then ironically found the book two days later in a mini free library while biking on Kent Island. The movie is nice, but the book was a delightful beach read.

Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Maggie D. Brace ’82
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to film

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennettra

book coverThe Vanishing Half is a multi-generational story about two twin sisters who, after leaving their small town for greener pastures, diverge on widely different paths. One decides to use her lighter skin to pass for white, while the other marries and has a dark skinned child. The story is told out of order, and has many time jumps, however this happens in chunks (rather than every chapter), so the narrative is still easy to follow. Be warned, this book has racism, colorism and abuse, so if you are looking for a lighthearted read this is not for you.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Tournament of Books

 

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

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I don’t even know where to begin with this book. I’ve read a few Margaret Atwood novel’s now and I love her writing. My favorites in order are probably: “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Blind Assassin,” and “Alias Grace.” Some of her lesser-known novels I have found to be a little bit harder to get through, even though I still very much love her writing. This one reminded me of her novel “Cat’s Eye,” where it seems like something more explosive is going to happened/be revealed and then it never happens. Atwood is a master at building the tension in a novel, and sometimes it comes to fruition, and other times, the climax is a little more subtle, as it is here.

The story follows a woman who goes to a remote island in Quebec to search for her missing father. She is accompanied by her boyfriend and a married couple who are more recent friends of hers. One review I saw likened this novel to “The Bell Jar,” and I can see it in a way. In both we see a sane woman slowly begin to lose her mind, but it is so subtle it is almost more disturbing because of it. We suddenly go from a person making rational sense to a person speaking in riddles and no longer seeing the world around her for what it is, and it is unsettling. Or maybe she is the only one really seeing the world for what it is? When we question that, that is the true brilliance of Atwood’s story telling. It is so hard to begin to describe unless you read it, but I bookmarked one paragraph in particular towards the end of the novel that stood out to me.

“That is the real danger now, the hospital or the zoo, where we are put, species and individual, when we can no longer cope. They would never believe it’s only a natural woman, state of nature, they think of that as a tanned body on a beach with washed hair waving like scarves; not this, face dirt-caked and streaked, skin grimed and scabby, hair like a frayed bathmat stuck with leaves and twigs. A new kind of centerfold.”

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are a Margaret Atwood fan but if you are familiar with her novels, you would probably enjoy it. It’s a quicker read.

Availability:  SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Kaylie Jasinski ’14
Rating:  Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: Book with a one word title

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

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Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is a must read book. I enjoyed every aspect of it. Shakespeare’s wife is depicted in a magical way rather than the usual harpy, and the tragic death of their only son due to the plague is delved into in great detail. Their early romance is fleshed out, as is their unique responses to Hamnet‘s death. There is a dream like quality that pervades this tale that captured me and I was craving more when the story ended.

Availability:  COSMOS USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Maggie D. Brace ’82.
Rating: Must Read

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

Fever Dream cover Fever Dream/Distancia de rescate (Rescue Distance)

A vacation in the country that turns into an absolute nightmare, Fever Dream was a page turner that I could not stop listening to. Played out in what we are told is a rural medical clinic, we slowly piece together the narrative as Amanda recounts it for the mysterious kid, David, as she lies dying. Where exactly is she? Why is she dying and who is David really? All these details become clearer as young David guides Amanda through her memories of the past few days.

There’s not a lot I can say without spoiling something, but this story will hit home with anyone who understands the anxiety of allowing a child independence and space to explore the world, while simultaneously being available to step in, at a moment’s notice, to avert danger. While Fever Dream is a great title for the book, I would have preferred the direct translation of the original title, Distancia de rescate or Rescue Distance, as that is such a key concept for the narrative and one that really resonates with me as a parent. Amanda’s constant calculation of “the rescue distance” between her and her child adds to the insidious tension, especially since every caregiver knows that a child can never be completely protected from the world.

Availability: COSMOS
Submitted by: Emily Nelson Ringholm ’07
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Translated Book, Audiobook

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier

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The Birds is a horror story by the British writer Daphne du Maurier, first published in 1952. It is the story of a farmhand, his family, and his community that are attacked by flocks of birds. Unlike the movie interpretation by Hitchcock, the main character is aware of the danger he and his family are in and prepares his house accordingly. I enjoyed this book very much.

Availability:  USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Maggie D. Brace ’82.
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Book to film