Magic, Mystery, and Ghosts | What We’re Reading

This week, Library Journal and School Library Journal staff are reading some standard summer fare: indulgent YA fantasy, author biographies, pulpy mystery, far-away ghost stories. Take a break from the quotidian with us.

Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, LJ
I’m reading John McMillian’s Beatles vs. Stones (S. & S., Oct.), a look at the famed rivalry between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. McMillian examines both the supposed tension between the groups as well as both bands’ images.

So far, my favorite passage is a moment describing an incident where Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, and Brian Jones were arrested for public urination:

Three months later, Wyman, Jagger, and Jones were made to appear before the East Ham Magistrates’ Court in London. According to sworn testimony, as Jagger was urinating that night, he yelled, “We’ll piss anywhere, man!” Then the others, as if on cue, supposedly began chanting the phrase: “We’ll piss anywhere! We’ll piss anywhere!” One of them even allegedly did a weird dance as well. As they peeled out of the service station, several of them allegedly stuck their hands out of the windows of their chauffeured Daimler touring car and showed the attendant “a well-known gesture.”

Shelley Diaz, Associate Editor, SLJ
This week I read:

A.S. King’s Reality Boy (Little, Brown, Oct.)—she gets better with every book.

Walter Dean Myers’s Invasion (Scholastic, Sept.), a prequel to his other “war books” Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah

Diane K. Salerni’s The Caged Graves (Clarion), which reminds me of the books that made me first fall in love with historical fiction, such as The Witch in Blackbird Pond and Ann Rinaldi’s books.

Molly McArdle, Assistant Book Review Editor, LJ
I’ve spent the past week getting reading for my move to western Massachusetts (and, unfortunately, away from LJ), where I will be attending an MFA program in fiction at UMass, Amherst. As Lucretius says in De Rerum Natura, “as a doctor puts honey on the rim of a cup to entice children to drink bitter wormwood,” so I listened to the Harry Potter series (Scholastic) on audiobook to lure me into the thankless labor of packing. I do not want to admit how many times I have returned to this series: suffice to say a lot. This is my first time experiencing it through Jim Dale, though. On the one hand, each character’s voice is so distinct, the dialog comes alive in a way it never has before. On the other hand, I fundamentally disagree with his pronunciation of “Diagon Alley.” The pros and cons of audiobook listening! Hearing this story again as a 26-year-old, I am struck by how alone Harry is, especially in the first few books. He has no adult he can go to, talk to, trust; and he lives his life so much more recklessly because of that. Also, had Harry and Ron listened to Hermoine more, they probably would have defeated Voldemort in half the time.

Chelsey Philpot, Associate Book Review Editor, SLJ
I am off on vacation next week, so that means my suitcase is half shoes and half books. I love, love, love author biographies, and thus was über excited to find Joyce Johnson’s The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac (Viking) on the LJ bookshelves the other day. That title (along with plenty of YA galleys) will find a place in between the heels and the running shoes.

Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News and Features, LJ
I’m reading The Second Confession by Rex Stout (Bantam), part of a giant stack of Nero Wolfe mysteries recently given to me by a friend. They are mass market paperbacks old enough to have a 60 cent price printed on them, and the physical books are in the process of disintegrating from acid paper, but the stories themselves have aged very well. There is sometimes racism and often sexism on the part of various characters, but I rarely get the sense that the narrative itself accepts or advocates those viewpoints, and sometimes it actively undermines them. These old mysteries are so short by modern standards! I have to take two with me to last through my day’s commute.

Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Reviews Editor, LJ
I’m somewhat surreptitiously reading Emma L.E. Rees’s The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History. That is to say, I’m not brave enough yet to read it on the subway and when I took it to the laundry room yesterday, I took the dust jacket off. I’m not alone in my squeamishness, a point amply addressed by the book and in Rees’s introduction in which she agrees with psychologist Virginia Braun who wrote that, “I admit to making judgements about whether people can ‘handle’ the information.” The book’s thought-provoking discussions are fast moving me past my issues, though; the first pages alone have offered a fascinating history of “the c-word,” examining its unspeakablenes compared to other socially forbidden words and terms.

At home, I’m being read to: my nine-year-old is devouring the first book on her to-do list derived from NPR’s 100 Must-Reads for Kids 9-14, curated by School Library Journal blogger Travis Jonker. Every few minutes this past weekend I enjoyed another snort-read of a funny bit from Louis Sachar’s Holes. Thanks for the good times, Mr. Sachar!

Wilda Williams, Fiction Editor, LJ

During the dog days of summer, I always enjoy novels that take me to unusual places and introduce me to unfamiliar traditions and folklore. I’m currently reading Yangse Choo’s debut novel, The Ghost Bride (William Morrow), set in 1890s Malaya (today’s Malaysia). My reviewer in last week’s Xpress Reviews praised Choo’s delicate and thought-provoking exploration of the ancient Chinese custom of spirit marriages, which were thought to appease restless spirits. It’s not your typical ghost story, and Choo charmingly explains in this video on the differences between European and Chinese ghost stories. For the Chinese, it is all  “about managing your dead relatives.”

Molly McArdle About Molly McArdle

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