Rooftops, Rockers, Rah-Rah-Rah! | What We’re Reading

This week the School Library Journal and Library Journal staffers prance on Paris rooftops, sidle up to sisterhood, croon with a cult rocker, follow a fierce foodie, fish for fun facts, and navigate NetGalley.

RooftoppersSarah Bayliss, Associate Editor, News & Features, SLJ
I’m about a third into Rooftoppers (S. & S.) by Katherine Rundell (text) & Terry Fan (illus.), a lovely book about a plucky little girl found in a floating cello case in the English Channel after a shipwreck. She travels to Paris in search of her mother and has a fondness for the city’s rooftops. It’s a nice read-aloud or read-alone.


Dare MeMahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, SLJ
Having never been part of a big group of female friends, I’m often intrigued by books about the topic: frenemies, sisterhood, all that jazz. That’s part of what got me to pick up Megan Abbott’s Dare Me (Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown), an intense and, yes, literary book about high school cheerleaders. It’s early days, but so far it’s striking me as Joyce Carol Oates’s Foxfire meets Bring It On.



Alex coverLiz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, LJ
Finally, a bio of one of my rock gods—though he’d laugh, or possibly sneer, at that designation. Alex Chilton, lead singer (at 16!) of the Sixties group the Box Tops (“The Letter,” “Cry Like a Baby”), cofounder of Big Star (a hugely influential but commercially unsuccessful Seventies rock group), then indie solo artist and producer (the Replacements, the Cramps), gets his due from rock journalist Holly George-Warren in A Man Called Destruction (Viking). I’ve only begun the book, but already I’m enthralled and informed. Thanks to George-Warren’s impressive research and many interviews, I know about the Chilton family tree, how he was raised, when he got his first guitar, whom he befriended, and when he first exhibited his famous dark side (hint: pretty early on). At the moment I’m reading about Alex touring with the Box Tops and enjoying all the perks of fame and fortune (do I have to connect the dots for you? He was 16!). So far, the best thing about this book is what it’s not: though you can tell she’s a fan of the man, George-Warren is no sycophant. Her reporting is clear-eyed and unafraid to dish the bad as well as the good. That is a relief—we Chiltonheads can be a bit insufferable and fawning at times!

BourdainGuy Gonzalez, Director, Content Strategy & Audience Development, LJ/SLJ
I just read my first Kindle Single, Anthony Bourdain: The Kindle Singles Interview by David Blum, recommended and lent to me by my wife as she thought there were some notable…personality traits of his I might relate to. Substitute drugs for drinking and, of course, my lack of fame or fortune, and it might have been the best “readers’ advisory” recommendation I’ve ever had!

“Not giving a shit has been a very, very good business model for me. It’s worked out. It’s been a privilege that I haven’t had to care about those things. I don’t feel that I need to be loved. If anything I feel — if I feel any pressure, I put pressure on myself to subvert any expectations whenever possible.”

I don’t consider myself a “foodie”—in fact, I kind of despise the word and the cultural ignorance that usually accompanies it—but I love Bourdain’s approach on TV where the cultural underpinnings of food and the people who cook it are as important as the food itself, and that comes across many times in the interview. I’ve never read any of his books, though, and only coincidentally read his utterly silly but kind of smart graphic novel Get Jiro! back in 2012, but the interview does such a good job of capturing what makes him a fascinating person (and one I can totally relate to), that I immediately bought Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook (Ecco) and will be reading it next. Happy New Year!

vowellStephanie Klose, Media Editor, LJ
In preparation for my belated honeymoon to Hawaii next month, I’ve been reading Unfamiliar Fishes (Riverhead), Sarah Vowell’s history of how the island group became the 50th state. It’s a bit of a blur of missionaries and whaling ships so far, but I think I’m getting the general idea. Now I’m on the hunt for a good natural history of the region.


FlaviaEtta Thornton-Verma, Editor, Reviews, LJ
My Kindle has been largely occupied by my binge watching of Call the Midwives (thanks to LJ’s Media Editor Stephanie Klose for the recommendation), but I’ve also been using it to read a couple of titles from NetGalley this week: first was Alan Bradley’s latest Flavia de Luce title, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Delacorte), which got a starred review in LJ. The era and physical setting, and the opening, in which the young protagonist and a crowd of locals are waiting for a train, remind me of a cross between the happenings on the Island of Sodor and Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. The novel didn’t really grip me, but I might return to it. I also started Alice LaPlante’s A Circle of Wives, which is coming out in March 2014 from Atlantic. I loved her Turn of Mind; I’m only a few pages into the new title so time will tell if I like it as much.


Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email:, Twitter: @lizefrench