Dressing the Part, Finding God and David Foster Wallace, and Decoding Blurbs | What We’re Reading

This week, School Library Journal/Library Journal staffers take a break from perusing the best of the best to contemplate the existence of God, drool over iconic dresses, and dig beneath the jungle growth of back-cover copy.

Liz French, Associate Editor, LJ
Help! I’m drowning in Best Books! OK, seriously, such problems I have. The LJ editors are still reading our Best Books nominees, and we will be selecting the top ten soon. There are so many fantastic books under consideration, it’s a shame I have to “kamikaze read” them, as a colleague put it. I can’t wait to share more info about the winners (not to mention the nominees, not to mention *mine*), but that must wait.
I do occasionally need to come up for air, take a little eye candy break. That’s when I turn to writer Erin McKean and illustrator Donna Mehalko‘s The Hundred Dresses: The Most Iconic Styles of Our Time (Bloomsbury USA). A friend who works at Bloomsbury sent me a copy without knowing that I am a huge fan of the author, who blogs at dressaday.com. Thanks, Nate! McKean, a lexicographer and founder of wordnik.com, is a “sewist” and fan of vintage patterns. She writes about her sewing projects, her addiction to fine fabrics (especially from Liberty of London), and her love of “airship hostess” dresses. Two excellent features on the blog include “The Secret Lives of Dresses,” little vignettes about frocks and their adventures out in the world, and “Today’s Pattern Story,” which puts wickedly funny words in the mouths of those impossibly thin sewing pattern cover girls.
The Hundred Dresses, superbly illustrated by Mehalko, is like reading the blog except better. In her breezy, companionable style, McKean covers iconic dresses, including debutante dresses, T-shirt dresses, the Grecian gown, the flower-child bride, and yes, the airship hostess, about which she says:

The airship hostess dress is not for present-day flight attendants or even stewardesses; it is a purely notional dress for an alternative history where giant cruise-ship-like dirigibles float through the skies, doing the still-exotic New York-San Francisco run at a leisurely 135 mph.

Flying away with McKean, the airship gals, and all the other dress wearers and makers is the perfect minivacay from the weighty—but fun!—responsibilities of choosing the Best Books of 2013.

Chelsey Philpot, Associate Editor, Book Reviews, SLJ
Besides the stack of YA novels I’m tackling for star consideration, I’m halfway through God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet by Nathan Schneider (Univ. of California), which I’m reading for research for a writing project. I’m going on a trip this weekend, so I hope to also get through two New Yorkers, one New York Magazine, and start D.T. Max’s biography Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (Penguin). It’s a little ambitious, so we’ll see how far I actually get.

Meredith Schwartz, Senior Editor, News & Features, LJ
I just picked up an advance reader’s copy of M.D. Waters’ Archetype (Dutton), mostly due to a bewildering array of blurbs which all adore it, but variously claim it’s like Marge Piercy, George Orwell, and Margaret Atwood; an action-packed thriller, science fiction, and romance. Madly curious to see how one goes about being all those things at once.


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