This past Sunday, I read an article in the New York Times called “Let Me Count the Days”, by novelist James Collins. Collins, a self-confessed book accumulator, describes his shocking realization that at 55, he probably will die before he can read all the books he owns:
That leaves around 3,300 unread books. If I read one book a week . . . but you and I know that I don’t read one book a week, I read a couple a month, grazing in a few others. If I read two books a month, kit would take me 137 years to read those unread books. So there we have it . . . I am not going to live for 137 more years, and therefore I do not have enough time left to read the books I own.
I’m younger than James Collins, but not much. I don’t have 3,300 unread books in my house, but I do have a lot. So I’m going to include some of those unread books in my list of 10 books to read over the next few months, along with enticing new books to be published this spring.
And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass (due in April)
From the publisher (Random House): “In this richly detailed novel about the quest for an unknown father, Julia Glass brings new characters together with familiar figures from her first two novels, immersing readers in a panorama that stretches from suburban New Jersey to rural Vermont and ultimately to the tip of Cape Cod.” I loved Glass’s earlier books, so this one is sure to be a treat.
Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (due in April)
From Publishers Weekly: “Donoghue’s first literary crime novel is a departure from her bestselling Room, but it’s just as dark and just as gripping as the latter . . . Based on the circumstances surrounding the grizzly real-life murder of Jenny Bonnet, a law-flouting, pants-wearing frog catcher who lived in San Francisco in the mid-1870s, this investigation into who pulled the trigger is told in episodic flashbacks.”
The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go (due in May)
From the publisher (Simon & Schuster): “In 1924, the English mountaineer Ashley Walsingham dies attempting to summit Mount Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson—whom he has not seen in seven years. Ashley’s solicitors search in vain for Imogen, but the estate remains unclaimed. Nearly 80 years later, new information leads the same law firm to Tristan Campbell, a young American who could be the estate’s rightful heir. If Tristan can prove he is Imogen’s descendant, the inheritance will be his. But with only weeks before Ashley’s trust expires, Tristan must hurry to find the evidence he needs.” This is Go’s debut novel.
The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry (due in May)
From the publisher (Penguin): “Irishman Jack McNulty is a “temporary gentleman”—an Irishman whose commission in the British army in WWII was never permanent.” Barry is one of my favorite authors, and this book is the sixth in a series of interconnected novels that bring to life members of Barry’s own family — the Dunnes and the McNultys.
The Blessings by Elise Juska (due in May)
From Publishers Weekly: “Several generations of the Blessings, a Philadelphia-based, Irish-American family, come beautifully to life in a deceptively simple tale that examines the foibles, disappointments and passions that tie family members together.” A few of my colleagues have read this and highly recommend it.
The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (in my stack)
From Publishers Weekly: “The fiction debut from nonfiction author and journalist Denfeld is a striking one-of-a-kind prison novel. The narrator, who is on death row and remains nameless until the book’s end, explains that the prison, although a place where “the walls sigh with sadness,” is enchanted . . . a stunning first novel.” I’ve been reading rave reviews of this book.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (in my stack)
From the publisher (Simon & Schuster): “Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.” A favorite at Lake Forest Book Store, and one I’ve been meaning to read for a long time.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (in my stack)
From the New York Times: “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is eminently enjoyable, full of warmth and intelligence. Sloan balances a strong plot with philosophical questions about technology and books and the power both contain.” I can’t resist a book about a bookstore.
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer (in my stack)
From the Washington Post: “Frances and Bernard portrays two writers drawn into a friendship sparked by mutual admiration. They elegantly convey their reflections, encouragements and chastisements in letters written over a span of 11 years.” Loosely based on the friendship between Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, this epistolary novel also explores issues of faith.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (in my stack; my book club’s choice for April) — I know, I know. Everyone has read this except me.
It’s supposed to be Top 10 Tuesday (thank you, The Broke and the Bookish!), but I have to add a book I’ve already read that I absolutely adored. I don’t give out stars . . . but 5 stars wouldn’t be enough for this one.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (due in April) by Gabrielle Zevin
I picked up a copy of this book at Winter Institute in January and I have already read it twice . . . it’s a joy. Here’s a review from Bookselling This Week, the online newsletter of the American Booksellers Association:
#1 Pick: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: A Novel, by Gabrielle Zevin
Fikry is a bookseller with a small shop in a sleepy island resort town off the coast of Massachusetts. He’s a bit cantankerous, but with good reason: his wife, the ‘people person’ of the relationship, has recently died and his prized possession, a rare copy of Tamerlane, has gone missing. Despite those losses, there’s one strange addition, a baby girl left on his doorstep with an explicit request for Fikry to take her in. Zevin’s novel offers the reality of both death and rebirth, held together by the spirit of the bookstore. It’s a romantic comedy, a spiritual journey, and if you include the chapter openings, a collection of short story criticisms as well. In short, it’s a celebration of books and the people who read them, write them, and sell them.—Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin