Recommendations 4/4/2021: Farewell Oscar

15 years with a wonderful reading companion.

A sad day here at Biblioracle HQ, as yesterday we had to say goodbye to Oscar, one of our dogs for the last 15 years. It wasn’t a surprise. Oscar had been in obvious decline for quite some time (I reflected on that in a blog post for my employer last year), but he remained a wonderful companion to the end.

Oscar had some cognitive challenges from birth, but he was a savant for couch snuggling, which made him a great reading companion.

I’m imagining many of you have four-legged reading companions as well. I’d very much like to see those pictures, (which you can send by responding to this email, or by writing to me at Please let me know if you’d be open to me sharing them in a future post or posts as a tribute to Oscar and all the other furry creatures who bring so much meaning to our lives. Who knows, maybe we can even have a “reading companion of the week” feature?



This week’s column is about Brian Alexander’s The Hospital: Life, Death, and Dollars in a Small American Town. It has been an unjustly neglected book in the broader conversation, and if you’re looking for insights into how our health care system works (or doesn’t) wrapped in a compelling narrative, I highly recommend it. I also very much recommend Alexander’s previous book, Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of an All-American Town. If you think the closing down of Midwestern manufacturing was an inevitable consequence of free trade and cheap labor overseas, Alexander offers some complicating information.

Thank you very much to everyone who responded to my call about sharing your favorite children’s book covers. I greatly enjoyed reading others’ memories and a number of folks shared photos of the collections they’ve preserved for themselves. I’ll be featuring as many responses as I can in my column next week, which should go online Tuesday and will be in print next Sunday.

The Morning News Tournament of Books was won by Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown.

All links to books on these posts go to The Biblioracle Recommends bookshop at Affiliate income for purchases through the bookshop goes to Open Books in Chicago. We’re steady week-to-week at $22.20 in earnings for the year.

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1. Chemistry by Weike Wang
2. Midwinter Murder by Agatha Christie
3. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
4. The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
5. Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

Arleen P. - Morton Grove, IL

I was recently introduced to the Slow Horses series of espionage novels by Mick Herron. The “slow horses” are disgraced British (MI5) intelligence agents put out to pasture in an outer borough because of career screw-ups, but who also seem to keep getting wrapped up in major cases. It takes a bit in the first installment, Slow Horses, to establish the scene, but once done, it’s a twisty, witty ride. I’m already on the third book.

1. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
2. Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
3. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
4. How to be a Conscious Eater by Sophie Egan
5. Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz

Jessica R. - Chicago, IL

The slim and mysterious Piranesi by Susanna Clarke weaves a hypnotic spell. Read it in a sitting or two at most to let the strangeness of Clarke’s world seep in and take over.

1.  When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
2.  Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye
3.  The Elephant's Journey by José Saramago
4.  The Cold Millions by Jess Walter
5.  Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Lisa J - Portland, OR

Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad is a novel that deserved much more notice when it was released. Maybe if Lisa reads it, she can join the chorus of those of us passing on the good word.


I hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday.

Until next time,

(The Biblioracle)