New Year, Old and New Books | What We’re Reading

This week, the Library Journal/School Library Journal staffers escape the ice and snow and read (more) about a Beatle, the Bennets’ servants, the pangs of grief, and the chicness of the French.

lennonMahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, SLJ
Still making my way through Philip Norman’s John Lennon: The Life (Ecco). With the holidays recently behind us, this passage about a party given for the employees of the Beatles’ company, Apple, seemed particularly relevant:

To mark that festive season, there had been a tea party for employees’ children at which, like some paternalistic northern mill owner, [Lennon] appeared as Father Christmas, accompanied by Yoko as Mother Christmas. The rosy-intentioned kiddiefest was turned into a brawl by some Hell’s Angels from San Francisco whom George had invited to London. Those present would never forget the sight of Father Christmas trying to shield Mother Christmas from flailing fists and falling bodies with spilled tea trickling down his glasses.

longbournLiz French, Associate Editor, Reviews, LJ
Two of my colleagues—Kate DiGirolomo and Margaret Heilbrun—have already weighed in with their opinions of Jo Baker’s Longbourn (Knopf), an accompanying novel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that presents the servants’ side of the story. Kate loaned me her copy and I’m enjoying it immensely. The book is charming and delightful, yet brutally honest about all the hard work that the Bennet family’s servants do. I feel for them as they hope and strive and long for love, all while scrubbing, cooking, cleaning, and enduring multiple indignities. All the drudgery Baker describes makes me happy to be a 21st-century gal with indoor heat and plumbing and free time to sit and read this lovely novel.


Stephanie Klose, Media Editor, LJ
I’d heard a lot of good buzz about Karen Perry’s The Innocent Sleep, which comes out next month from Holt; the cover quotes from Tana French and Jeffery Deaver only piqued my interest more. My expectations were a bit off though, I think. I was expecting more of a mystery and less of a close examination of grief and what holds relationships together in the wake of it. It’s beautifully written, but I’m longing to get my teeth into a meaty whodunit now.

chicEtta Thornton-Verma, Editor, Reviews, LJ
Continuing my French kick, I read Tish Jett’s Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style, and Substance (Rizzoli). It was enjoyable and at times surprising: I wasn’t expecting the chapter on cosmetic surgery, for example. Jett insists that the extra time involved in becoming as chic as French ladies will in time seem a pleasurable routine, but I really can’t see the efforts she describes making their way into my daily routine (I’m too lazy!). Many of her tips are handy, though: I’ll be taking along her list of the specific items that form the backbone of a neutral, versatile wardrobe on my next shopping trip.

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:, Twitter: @lizefrench