As always, our editors are reading their way into diverse literary territories. From Norway to Iraq to old New Orleans, from the kitchen to a surreal circus to the mind of an autistic teenager, they offer a wide range of possibilities for your own bookish explorations. The recommendations below range from comedy to mystery to drama, sometimes encompassing all of the above. We may not have something for everybody this month, but I think we come fairly close!
Fiction Co-Editor Kristina Riggle has found a little motivation and a lot of pleasure in The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage, an anthology edited by Literary Mama’s own Caroline Grant and Lisa Catherine Harper: “I’ve only just started and can’t wait to start cooking– and I’m not much of a cook, and not at all a foodie! Heck, I only learned what Greek yogurt was a couple of weeks ago, and I had to Google it. Point being, this is not so much a food book as a book about people, who all must eat and inevitably cook, at least sometimes. I can’t wait to keep reading.”
Fiction Co-Editor Suzanne Kamata writes, “I just finished reading the hilarious I Have Iraq in My Shoe by Gretchen Berg. Berg lost her job at the beginning of the recession. She was 39 years old and close to $40,000 in debt on account of a failed business venture. Then she heard about a chance to make $70,000 per year, tax free, teaching English in . . . Northern Iraq. And reader, she went there. Although Berg paints herself as a frivolous, fun-loving gal, more interested in shoes than the news on CNN, she ultimately comes across as compassionate and sensible. She also manages to humanize the Kurdish people, as opposed to dwelling on the horrors of war. While reading, I myself briefly fantasized about heading to the desert to teach English.”
Caroline Grant, Editor-in-Chief, recommends “Mark Haddon’s wonderful A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a novel told from the point of view of 15-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone, who describes himself as ‘a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties.’ Christopher’s investigation of the neighbor’s dog’s death leads him to some startling discoveries about his family, and to some amazing accomplishments of his own. I loved being in this boy’s mind and seeing the world from his perspective.”
E-Zine Editor Jessica DeVoe Riley shares, “I recently finished Lois Battle’s Storyville, set in New Orleans’ infamous red light district of that name, which operated legally at the turn of the century. Julia Randsome is a Boston-raised suffragette who moves into the pleasure-seeking society of New Orleans upon marrying into an affluent southern family. Charles Randsome, as enthralled as he is by his enigmatic wife, would like to maintain the status quo. Lawrence and Angelique, their children, respectively follow and rebel against their mother’s way of life. Interconnected with them all is Kate, the “Pretty Woman” of her time, a beautiful prostitute with a heart of gold. The circumstances that bring these characters together are as compelling as they are unlikely. By the end of the novel, readers may have a new appreciation for the value of endurance, a theme that arises throughout the book, as in all stages of life. As Storyville’s own Billy Shakespeare might have quoted Henry IV, ‘Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.’”
Alissa McElreath, Columns Department Editor, raves, “I can’t seem to get enough of Norwegian ‘Queen of Crime’ writer Karin Fossum’s Detective Sejer series. I just finished When the Devil Holds the Candle, yet another skillful example of characterization set against the backdrop of life in Oslo. Fossum is remarkable at capturing perfectly how small moments—wrong choices, or wrong turns– can create a ripple effect of damage. Her protagonist, Detective Sejer, is a melancholy, quiet man, who almost glides through the books, a noble yet shadowy presence. The real figures in Fossum’s books are the ordinary people, flawed and vulnerable, who are caught up in a cascade of events that they can’t control.”
Reviews Editor Camille-Yvette Welsch sends this report from the middle of a riveting read: “I am in the serpentine labyrinth of Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, Night Circus. Again. The sudden appearance of tents at the edge of town has held me ever since Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. In the black and white tents of Le Cirque des Reves, two rival magicians use their protégées as pawns in a battle of illusion and configuration, rendered in startling and vivid detail by Morgenstern. Here, the setting takes center stage as each magician creates dream after dream in tent after tent, but these dreams can potentially turn into a nightmare so all-encompassing it threatens the lives of everyone who passes through the entrance.”