Recommendations 3/21/2021: Books You Love too Much to Recommend
Sometimes you need to keep some things to yourself.
I was working on the recommendations for this week’s column (on the dichotomy of book sales being up, and bookstore sales being down and what that means for our reading ecosystem), when I realized it had been years since I recommended one of my favorite books of all-time, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.
Geek Love is a wildly inventive novel about the Binewski Circus Family, a collection of “human oddities” who had been purposefully created by patriarch Aloysius and matriarch “Crystal Lil” Binewski through the introduction and ingestion of drugs and radioactive isotope to alter their offspring’s genes in utero.
The offspring are Arturo (the “Aqua Boy,” who has paddles for limbs), conjoined twins Electra and Iphigenia (Elly and Iphy), Fortunado (also known as Chick, who’s power is revealed throughout the course of the novel), and Olympia (Oly), an “albino hunchback” who is the novel’s narrator.
Oly tells the story retrospectively as an adult and weaves together a present dilemma involving a young woman who is her neighbor, and her past as a member of the Binewski Circus.
I have probably already shared enough for you to know whether or not this is the kind of book that intrigues you as a reader. It is one of those books that when you are reminded of it, a flood of feeling comes to you as you recall the experience of reading it, the kind of book that you finish with great joy and regret because you realize you will never get to read that book for the first time again.
I have recommended the book dozens of times in real life, and a handful of times in my column, but I do so with great trepidation because it is a book I am so invested in that I do not want to know if someone did not like it because learning this will upset me. These special books we have come to love serve as a kind of proxy for our selves. To not love the book is to love us, which is a problem.
Fortunately, Mrs. Biblioracle is as big a fan of Geek Love as I am, and I’m pretty sure read it prior to me ever recommending it to her.
What are the books that you love so much, recommending them feels like an emotionally loaded experience?
All links to books on these posts go to The Biblioracle Recommends bookshop at Bookshop.org. Affiliate income for purchases through the bookshop goes to Open Books in Chicago. We’re steady week to week with $20.60 in earnings for the year, but maybe some folks are intrigued by the depth of my affection for Geek Love and will purchase it through Bookshop.
I’m always looking for more lists of five recent reads, as well as more readers looking for recommendations. Smash those buttons!
1. Deacon King Kong by James McBride
2. Sensei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita
3. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
4.Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshib Rice
5. Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu
Kay H. - Greenville, SC
Greenville, South Carolina, my former home for six years. A nice place to live. Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein will wring you out emotionally in a very satisfying way if you’re looking for catharsis, that is.
1. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
2. The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch
3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
4. Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor
5. This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial by Helen Garner
Fiona W. - Houston, TX
I think Fiona is a good candidate for something by Penelope Fitzgerald. Since this is a column about books and reading, let’s goo with The Bookshop.
1. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
2. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
3. This is Happiness by Niall Williams
4. The One and Future Witches by Alix Harrow
5. Summerwater by Sarah Moss
Sarah W. - Chicago, IL
The Talented Mr. Ripley is on my list of books that I would hesitate to recommend because I love it so much, except everyone I’ve ever recommended it to has loved it, so it hasn’t been a problem. The bigger problem is something I wrote about in 2018, publishers invoking Patricia Highsmith when they want to sell their new thriller, but that new book, inevitably falling short. Based on the full list here, I’m recommending Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.