Recommendations 1/5/2021

There's more of you than I thought.

Well, it feels like this thing has already gotten out of hand in a surprising and wonderful way. When I conceived this space I figured maybe a couple hundred people might sign up, and any given week 2-5% would need a recommendation, and I would be able to accommodate just about everyone who reached out for help.

As I type, the number of subscribers has crested 700 and continues to climb. Much of this is driven by Sunday’s announcement of the newsletter at the Chicago Tribune, so I expect that to slow down quite a bit, but the response has still been well beyond expectations.

There are currently 32 people in the queue who have requested recommendations, which is wonderful, but also more than I will be able to accommodate in this space in a week. Reflecting on this, I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts.

  1. Even if you don’t see your list and a recommendation, please keep them coming. I’ll do my best to get to as many folks as possible. If a list you sent has gone stale, send me an up-to-date one.

  2. At this size, the nature of the space can change. Rather than me broadcasting my thoughts, we can instead function as a community of mutual exchange. I’ve seen how well this can work through my role as one of the “color commentators” for the annual Tournament of Books, where over time, the “commentariat” of readers and viewers responding to the tournament results has become an indispensable part of the experience.

In that spirit, at the end of this installment of recommendations provided by me, The Biblioracle, I’m experimenting with a feature where others who are so inclined can “be The Biblioracle” and offer recommendations of their own.

Seems like it could be fun. If you have a suggestion for our reader, please put it in the comments.

If you’d like to submit a list of your recent reads for a book recommendation for yourself, the instructions for consideration are here.

Links to the recommended books take you to The Biblioracle Recommends bookshop at Bookshop.org. Affiliate income for purchases through the bookshop goes to Open Books in Chicago.

This week’s column is about how I believe spending time trying to figure out which contemporary books are going to “last” isn’t worth much. Somehow that involved an analogy to Zubaz.

I just learned that the Zubaz slogan is “Embrace the awesome,” which is…awesome.

1. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
2. Home Time, Vol. 1: Under the River by Campbell Whyte
3. Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove
4. Ghostways: Two Journeys in Unquiet Places by Robert Macfarlane
5. Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor

Drew B. - New York, NY

I hesitated to choose Drew’s list because we are previously acquainted and he is an astoundingly prolific reader and book podcaster, so the bar for success is high, but I also don’t want to shy away from a challenge. I’ll going to give myself two shots at success by recommending a pair of novellas that are frequently sold in one volume, Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust by Nathanel West.

1. Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey
2. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
3. The Equivalents by Maggie Doherty
4. The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
5. The Erratics by Vicky Laveau-Harvie

Carilyn P. - Austin, TX

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea is one of the most charming novels I’ve read in recent years, and I have yet to find someone I’ve recommended it to find it wanting.

1. Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
2. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
4. Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky
5. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

By Katie M. - Wichita, KS

Some real diversity in this list. All fiction, which makes me think I should go with that flow, but sometimes the vibrations demand that we zag instead of zig, so I’m going non-fiction, though it’s very much a narrative: The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.

1. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
2. Third Person Singular by KJ Erickson
3. Shark River by Randy Wayne White
4. The Blood Knot: A Fly Fishing Mystery by John Galligan
5. The Lager Queen of Minnesota by Ryan J. Stradal

Elizabeth H. - Northfield, IL

Elizabeth looks like a good candidate for Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, which starts with Still Life.

And finally our, “you be The Biblioracle” challenge. Put your recommendation, along with the rationale for your choice in the comments.

1. Abigail by Magda Szabo
2. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett
3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
4. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
5. Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Kate C. - Wilmette, IL