Libraries, Queens, Longmire, Roxane Gay, Standards | What We’re Reading & Watching

It’s October already, and the reading season is upon us. But the staffers from LJ/School Library Journal and Junior Library Guild are also going to the movies and binge-watching TV as well as reading like mad. Whether it’s escapist, allegorical, French, Irish, informational, or simply sensational, the WWR/WWW gang want to share their experience with you.

Mahnaz Dar, Assistant Managing Editor, LJS
I’m donning my crown and holding my scepter as I immerse myself in all things royal. Last week, I saw Victoria and Abdul, a Stephen Frears film about Queen Victoria’s friendship with Abdul Karim, an Indian servant who tutored her in Urdu. Frears brilliantly skewers the idea of the British Empire’s superiority over the rest of the world, with hilarious results. Overall, the movie presents a fairly cuddly portrait of Victoria—in reality, I believe she was a bit more forbidding. But it’s pure fun, and it’s prompted me to do some more reading about the royals. I plan to read Julia Baird’s Victoria: The Queen as soon as I can. In anticipation of the new season of The Crown, which drops on Netflix in a couple of months, I’m reading Sarah Bradford’s Elizabeth: A Biography of Britain’s Queen—and particularly enjoying historical context about the abdication.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
In between reading for LJ’s Best Books, I’m catching a few movies. I reviewed Frederick Wiseman’s documentary Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, for my colleague Kent Turner’s film blog, Film-Forward.com; see what Kiera Parrott has to say about the film below. I also went to see the very er, polarizing Darren Aronofsky film mother! with my film-loving friend Rosemary, and we voted two thumbs up. I thought it was darkly funny in parts and so over the top! Michelle Pfeiffer takes the movie, tucks it in her black silk garter belt, and runs with it; Javier Bardem is perfect as a Mephistopheles type; Jennifer Lawrence does pretty well considering she’s called on mostly to widen her eyes in horror and shock. The set design was killer-diller, too!

After compiling the latest “Classic Returns” column for LJ and reading about Raymond Postgate’s novel Verdict of Twelve, I became curious about an essay by Raymond Chandler that mentioned Postgate’s book. A little bit of Internet sleuthing led me to his 1950 opus, “The Simple Art of Murder,” which I found on the University of Texas’s website. Thanks Google, thanks UT!  Among his many amusing, erudite observations about the state of crime writing post–World War II is this, comparing American “cozies” as we call them now, to their British brethren:

Liz Gavril, Senior Editor, JLG
I’m in my usual state, always reading for work, never reading for myself. That said, my hold for Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial) finally came through from the library, so hopefully I’ll have time to get through it for my fast-approaching book group. I’m new to Gay’s work and have read only a couple of the essays so far, but I’m already a fan.

And speaking of being a fan, we’re really enjoying The Bureau at my house these days, though if you’re looking for something to veg out to, I’m not sure this is the show. We find that if our minds wander for even a second (and sometimes even if they don’t), we have to rewind. And, subtitles. But it’s a smart, often gripping show about DGSE (the French equivalent of the CIA) agents and their missions. Plus, I’m finding that some of my French-language comprehension is coming back to me, hurrah. We just finished the second season (what an ending!) and are rarin’ to go for season three, though I think we’re taking a time out to get through Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s documentary The Vietnam War. 

Molly Hone, WWR emerita (Pequannock Township P.L, Pompton Plains, NJ)
I just finished up Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish (Viking), first in his “Longmire” series. I actually got the idea to start this series from a recent article written by Johnson, which discussed how the popularity of Longmire, the TV show, has eclipsed that of the long-running book series. I, too, had heard of the show but not the books.

As a reference librarian at a public library, I love that readers’ advisory is a two-way street. I’ve had several mysteries recommended to me by patrons in recent memory but never got around to reading them (or I lost the bits of paper I scribbled their titles on). My response to these recommendations is always, “Ooh, that sounds interesting! I’ve always wanted to read a mystery series.” “Longmire” is the series I’ve been looking for—I love how well developed protagonist Sheriff Walter Longmire is; love the (sometimes dark) humor and witty dialog; and most of all, I love being taken away to a sparsely populated (fictional) county in Wyoming, a far cry from my populous, bustling northern New Jersey abode.

Kiera Parrott, Reviews Director, LJS
I recently saw the Frederick Wiseman documentary about the New York Public Library, Ex Libris. It’s a three-plus-hour tour de force on my favorite subject: the transformative power of the public library. I guess I’m a tad biased since I got my start at NYPL as just a teeny tiny baby librarian. And my husband makes a cameo appearance in the doc as well. But don’t take my word for it! It’s gotten glowing reviews and seems to be resonating with more than the usual bibliophile crowd. If you’ve got a long afternoon to kill, it’s worth seeing.

 

 

 

Henrietta Verma, WWR emerita (National Information Standards Organization)
I just devoured and loved (it might be the best book I ever read, and I read four books last week alone), John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Hogarth: Crown). It is a lengthy and often snort-coffee-out-your-nose-with-laughter saga (all right, I also cried) about Cyril Avery, a boy who grows up in 1950s Ireland feeling different and not quite knowing why. His crazy adopted family is bad enough—his parents remind him at every turn that he’s not “a real Avery,” and when his father is disgraced at one point, he comments that at least he has no children to witness it. But slowly, Cyril realizes that he likes boys more than girls, and in Ireland in the 1950s, that is not okay. The story follows him over the next several decades as he falls in love; breaks hearts; has his heart, spirit, and body broken; and so much more that I can’t even do justice to. I’m adopted and from Ireland, so perhaps the book particularly spoke to me, but please give this wonderful novel a chance. Watch out for the delightfully uptight Mary-Margaret Muffet, whose haughty ways have added a new phrase to my lexicon: “This is not my standard.”

 

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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: efrench@mediasourceinc.com, Twitter: @lizefrench

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