Murderous Inspiration and Not So Guilty Pleasures | What We’re Reading

This week, Library Journal and School Library Journal staff are reading lots of smart, fun books. We’ve got political zombie YA, especially smart sci fi, and the nonfiction inspiration for legendary Hannibal Lecter. In this edition of What We’re Reading, Meredith also makes a particularly brave admission vis-à-vis her progress on a scholarly book about librarianship. What books are you—very slowly—reading?

Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, LJ

This week, I’m finishing up The Monster of Florence: A True Story (Grand Central), about a serial killer who menaced the city from 1968 to 1985. The killer preyed, in particular, upon young lovers parked in cars. This gripping tale was penned by thriller writer Douglas Preston, who learned of the killings when he and his family relocated to Italy, and Mario Spezi, an Italian journalist who covered the story at the time. Like Preston, Thomas Harris was inspired by this macabre serial killer and even used some details when writing his Hannibal Lecter series. Full of bizarre characters and gruesome descriptions, this is a great read for fans of dark tales!

I’m also reading Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan (Philomel), a YA novel told from alternate viewpoints: from a 16-year-old boy who is invisible to almost everyone and from the one girl who can see him, as they both slowly fall in love.

Shelley Diaz, Associate Editor, SLJ

I just finished Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown). This hilarious middle-grade novel (for all readers) offers diverse characters; important political issues like immigration, animal cruelty, and health regulations; and of course, a zombie apocalypse. I got an appreciative glance from a brother-sister pair on the train. I also finally started Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl—I’m her total fangirl.

Molly McArdle, Assistant Book Review Editor, LJ

I’m reading Samuel R. Delany’s Aye, and Gomorrah and Other Stories. So far I’m three stories in, but they are exactly the kind I need and want right now: an electric blend of escapist star-bound settings and superhuman powers with a grounded and thoroughly intelligent treatment of how societies work. (Surprise! Race, class, gender, and sexuality don’t stop mattering in space.) I am always tempted to call this kind of book a guilty pleasure, but there is really nothing guilty about it. With Delany, you can have your cake and eat it too. Here’s to socially conscious science fiction!

Chelsey Philpot, Associate Book Review Editor, SLJ

I just, just finished An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (Grand Central), which inspired my plans to go to the MoMA this weekend, and I am currently reading How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell (Other Pr.), which will undoubtedly prompt a rereading of his essays.

Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News and Features, LJ

I am reading two very different things. I just started a collection of science fiction shorts called Complications and Other Stories by Brian Stableford (Cosmos). I’m also reading The Atlas of New Librarianship by David Lankes (MIT) for the MOOC I’m taking. I’ll be reading the Atlas for a long time; I’m only up to page 29.

Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Reviews Editor, LJ

Two very different books about health are on my nightstand this week. At the Carnegie medals award ceremony at ALA in Chicago, I picked up a copy of one of the nominated titles: David Quammen’s Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. It is fascinating to read about how unsung heroes the world over are working (sometimes at great cost to their own health) to eradicate scourges such as Ebola and malaria. Quammen makes the science accessible, and the dramatic circumstances surrounding work with these diseases ease the book into thriller territory.

I’m also reading Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill’s Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life. Busy parents (I feel your pain!) will appreciate the format of this book that offers a positive spin on the issues that boys face: chapters are divided by useful subheadings and offer brief tips that can be implemented right away, along with quick-fire background (“Symptoms,” “How Common,” “Potential Causes”) on what parents need to know on a particular topic. Material on helping boys with physical issues, in school, and on such issues as mentoring and role models is topped off with useful lists of publishers of books for reluctant readers and of books and websites for Christian parents.

Molly McArdle About Molly McArdle

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