Murderous Monologs, Dying Suns, and a Library Deluge | What We’re Reading

This week, Library Journal and School Library Journal staffers are getting cozy with  tales of murder and with children’s literature. SLJ‘s Shelley Diaz and Chelsey Philpot are both reading Bennett Madison’s September Girls (HarperCollins) and I’m listening to an audiobook full of crunchy, creaky words: armiger, chiliarch, cacogen, exultant, optimate, destrier, undine. If you see me murmuring to myself on the subway, it’s Gene Wolfe’s words, not a sign of my deteriorating sanity. (I promise.)

Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, LJ

I’m still plowing through Fuminori Nakamura’s Evil and the Mask (Soho). In an early scene, the teen protagonist decides to kill his father. Instead, his father confronts him and delivers a long, memorable monolog on the effects of living as a murderer:

As a murderer, you won’t be able to stand yourself. Someone who has killed another person is unable to accept any warmth or beauty with a pure heart….What’s more, you’ve inherited my genes. The DNA of the man you killed, who you denied the chance of life, is embedded inside you. From now on, whenever you feel happy, I’m going to appear inside your head. The image of me, locked in this room, cursing you, starving, writhing in agony. Through my blood, which now runs in your veins, as though my blood is boiling inside you, through all your brain cells which you inherited from me, through your whole body. Because you will have taken me inside you. I’m going to be acting inside you. Forever. You’ll never be happy again.

Shelley Diaz, Associate Editor, SLJ

I’m reading Bennett Madison’s September Girls, which has a hilarious but poignant male voice, reminiscent of Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls. I’ve heard lots of buzz about it and wanted to give it a try. Loving it so far.

I’m also reading, for my grad school class, Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children’s Literature in America by Beverly Lyon Clark (Johns Hopkins). Kind of dry at the beginning, but a fascinating history of children’s literature from a scholar that had previously looked upon that body of work with disdain, but has since become a “kidlit” convert.

Molly McArdle, Assistant Book Review Editor, LJ

I am still leading a life print-free since the book avalanche that was BookExpo America, and am nearly finished with the audiobook Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolfe (Audible Frontiers), the third book in his “Book of the New Sun” series. I’ve also listened to the previous two volumes, but this one has a new narrator and a new set of name pronunciations. Is the woman who haunts the main character’s journey’s name, Agia, pronounced “AH-je-ah” or “Ah-JEE-ah”? I guess I’ll never know.

Despite this, I’m immensely enjoying this third installment in the story of Severian, a former journeyman in the guild of the torturers and future emperor (or autarch, in Wolfe’s parlance), as he travels across Urth. His lives in a world much like our own—or rather, what it might become: a planet grappling with the fading light of a dying sun and the ruins of interstellar empires that crumbled long ago. My favorite part about Wolfe’s series is his language: he has developed whole vocabularies, all vaguely Latinate, for the geographies, social organization, and mutant species of Urth.

Chelsey Philpot, Associate Book Review Editor, SLJ

The funny thing about my hold queue at the New York Public Library is that all my books always seem to come in at once. This week I received a deluge of requests, most of which are for researching a book, but the rest are to kick off my summer reading, which right now seems to be focused on road-trip narratives. I’m going to start with Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America by Jeff Chu (Harper) and Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck’s America by Bill Barich (Walker & Co.). I’m also reading oodles of YA, including Bennett Madison’s September Girls and Robin LaFevers’s Dark Triumph (Houghton Harcourt).

Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Reviews Editor, LJ

I’m still reading Dan Brown’s Inferno. The second half of the book is taking a scientific-thriller turn, which intrigues me. The first half was more Da Vinci Code-esque in its art history foundations, and I found myself wanting to know more about Dante’s work, so I’ve added to my list the Inferno readalikes featured in last week’s RA Crossroads.

Molly McArdle About Molly McArdle

Molly McArdle (, @mollitudo on Twitter) is Assistant Editor, Library Journal Book Review. She also manages the Library Journal tumblr.