One of the joys of owning Eight Cousins is that my work is reading. But I had no idea how many new books are published each year, and how many of them I would really want to read. Customers looking for book suggestions start with staff recommendations, so in order to connect with our customers, we all try to read as many new titles as possible.
When searching for more time to read, I started using Libro.fm, which offers over 150,000 titles in downloadable audiobook format. Now whenever I'm driving, working around the house, or walking I can listen to a book. I thought I would have trouble following the stories and my mind would wander off, but the narrators bring the books to life and pull me right in. The only catch to listening to audiobooks is that I often have to stay in the car when I reach my destination because I'm so engrossed in the book!
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
I loved Allende’s debut novel, The House of Spirits, and have read many of her other novels over the years.
Her latest novel is A Long Petal of the Sea. In this book Allende tells the story of Victor Dalmau and his family. It begins in Spain under the Franco regime and follows them to Chile and Venezuela. The book is a story of lives turned chaotic by political upheaval and how people try to live normal lives through the chaos.
Victor’s wife was to marry his brother but when he died she married Victor so they could escape to France together. They later went on to South America and were caught in the politics there as well. Victor, a gifted doctor, and Roser, a talented musician, found satisfying work and strength to navigate the life of refuges. A Long Petal of the Sea is their life’s story. It is warm, it is harsh, it is filled with life’s blessings and challenges. It again shows how Allende draws on her own experiences and historical knowledge in giving her stories context and depth.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale have waited 33 years to find out what happens next in Gilead. Written from the prospective of Aunt Lydia (returning from the first book); Agnes, a young woman living in Gilead; and Daisy, a young woman living in Canada. The Testaments takes the reader back for a deeper look at life in Gilead and brings us forward to a time fifteen years after The Handmaid’s Tale.
The novel was joint winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, alongside Bernardine Evaristo's novel Girl, Woman, Other.
THE MOMENT OF LIFT How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates
I have long been intrigued by Melinda Gates. How does someone find equality in a relationship when their partner is in some way larger than life? Whether the partner’s fame is the result of their family, their fortune, their business success, their athletic success or something else, meeting someone with a high profile and creating a successful partnership has been shown to be a very difficult endeavor.
Melinda Gates shares her story with us in The Moment of Lift. It is read by the author, so you feel you are being treated to a private meeting with her. The book also includes much about the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And as you can tell from the book title, much of the work is around women receiving the opportunity to live better lives.
When We Were Vikings
Andrew David MacDonald
The book’s narrator, Zelda, is a young woman living with her older brother, Gert. They are on their own due to the death of their mother and the disappearance of their father. As Sara Hines tells me, you can’t have an adventure if the parents are around! And this book is a modern day adventure.
Zelda’s view of life is through her obsession with Vikings and her processing challenges that are the result of her mother’s abuse of alcohol while she was pregnant with her. I use the term processing challenges because Zelda, with the help of the community center, Gert, Annie and her counselor is growing and developing throughout the book and a diagnosis is never definitively stated. In fact, Gert and Zelda being on their own is what gives Zelda the safe environment she needs to be successful. Their living arrangement before their emancipation was not safe for them.
The adventure in the book results from Gert borrowing money to get an apartment for them. The resulting financial struggles and attempts to get rich quick put Gert and Zelda in a dangerous situation. Zelda would like to use her Viking training to save the day.
I loved the characters, the bond between Gert and Zelda, the secondary characters that helped Zelda and Zelda’s quest to become a legend, just like the Vikings.
If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, you may enjoy When We Were Vikings.
In the Land of Men by Adrienne Miller
Adrienne Miller lands at GQ magazine in New York City in the mid-nineties when she is fresh out of college in the Midwest. Her title is literary assistant, but she is still trying to define what that means as she writes her memoir years later. She quickly follows a colleague to Esquire magazine to become the first female literary editor. It is an odd choice (by Esquire and Ms. Miller) given Esquire is a men’s magazine known for its male writers.
Upon arriving at Esquire, Ms. Miller meets David Foster Wallace. They have a personal and professional relationship. He is ten years her senior and while in the telling here, years later, Ms. Miller seems so mature and in control of the situation, I wonder if she was? Ms. Miller is able to retell the events in dialogue form. Was she keeping a journal at the time or is her memory so clear because of the intensity of the relationship? This memoir is a glimpse back in time that now seems so very far away.
The Libray Book by Susan Orlean
When moving to Los Angeles in 2011, Orlean visits a branch of the public library with her son. She is drawn back to visits to her neighborhood library with her mother many years before. This visit and the subsequent tour of the LA Central branch begin Orlean investigating the massive fire at the Central Library in 1986. We learn the fire burned to 2000 degrees, destroyed 500,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. This resulted in the clean-up and repair of books that was meticulous work. Orlean includes library directors going back to 1880 who were instrumental in building the LA Public Library into the seventy-three-branch system it is today. Perhaps most enlightening for me is the social benefits city libraries have offered over the years.
And while who set the fire is still considered unsolved, there was a main suspect with a very interesting story. All the elements of great story-telling!
The audiobook of The Library Book is read by the author.