Nightstand Reads with author Sara Donati

Where the Light Enters is the latest from Sara Donati, a bestselling author known for her riveting and well-researched historical novels. We asked her to share her own reading list with us:

I read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction out of personal interest and professional necessity. My novels are deeply researched, so I spend a lot of time reading medical texts and government reports written before 1890.  But I also read contemporary and historical fiction of all stripes, from noir crime to romance to short story collections. Ancient Rome, modern-day Detroit, Victorian England, WWII China are all welcome.

If I continue thinking about a book long after I’ve finished it, I consider it time well spent. Here are some of my recent discoveries.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
by Rebecca Traister
There is a lot to be angry about. Traister’s book came out just after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified, and it reminded me that women’s anger, once focused, is hugely powerful. It has launched movements and revolutions that have changed the world for the better.

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
A thriller about two female scientists in a university setting seems unlikely, but Abbott has a talent for complex women characters, and the novel manages to be both a page-turner and an examination of the morality-ambition conflict. As a former professor at a large research university, I always like novels that strip away academic pretense.

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
Andrew Carnegie was a Gilded Age industrialist and tycoon, and this novel takes place in his household with the introduction of a Clara, a new arrival from Ireland who becomes, against all odds, the maid to Carnegie’s mother. A good historical novel provides insight into the broader setting, and so here we get not just the extreme wealth of her employer, but also the Irish immigrant experience in the 1860s and some aspects of the Civil War. This is a romance in its bones with an unconventional happy ending having to do with Carnegie’s launch as a philanthropist.

White Houses by Amy Bloom
Eleanor Roosevelt has always been an inspiration for me, somebody to emulate. The public portrait of this particular First Lady followed the expected outline, until serious biographers began to look more closely and the complexities came to the surface. Then Amy Bloom wrote this novel, smoothly interweaving fact and imagination. Lorena Hickok, known as Hick, is the novel’s narrator and her relationship with Eleanor is at its epicenter. Bloom’s Hick, plain-spoken, funny, cheeky, irreverent, brings the woman and her time and place into sharp focus.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
I am an unapologetic Karin-Slaughter-fan-girl. Her Will Trent series is my first love, but this stand-alone crime/thriller showcases her talents. Slaughter is not an easy read, and absolutely not for the queasy or tender-hearted. Here we are introduced to two sisters who haven’t spoken in decades, unable to weather the chaos after a third sister disappears. Now Claire has money, respect, and a successful architect husband; Lydia had the opposite set of experiences but is stable and in control when the story opens with the murder of Claire’s husband. Everything begins to spiral back toward chaos, and the sisters have no choice this time but to deal with each other and events outside their control.

Sara Donati will be reading from Where the Light Enters at Third Place Books Lake Forest Park on Friday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. 

Pride and Prejudice Redux

Published in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice seems to be showing no signs of slowing down in terms of either popularity or endurance. In fact, a recent handful of offerings make it abundantly clear that the famous novel of romance and manners still has plenty to offer for modern readers.

Pride Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali DevPride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors
by Sonali Dev
Dr. Trisha Raje is a brilliant neurosurgeon. DJ Caine is a top-caliber chef on the cusp of becoming a celebrity.  Set in San Francisco, the two are thrown together when Trisha’s family hires him to cater a huge wedding.  Trisha comes across as classist, judgmental, and just plain rude whenever DJ is around, but he can’t quit the job; he needs the money to pay for his sister’s surgery.  Just when DJ can’t take any more of Trisha’s insults, he discovers she is the surgeon saving his sister’s life.   This covers a lot of territory, but it’s a fun romp with a diverse cast of characters and obvious love for the original novel.

Pride by Ibi ZoboiPride by Ibi Zoboi
Set in the rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, young Zuri Benito loves her home, her family, and her community. When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, they embody to Zuri everything that is going wrong in their neighborhood.  She takes an immediate disliking to Darius, the eldest of the family’s sons, and the feeling seems to be mutual.  When circumstances lead Darius and Zuri to unexpectedly find themselves on the same side, though, those hard exteriors begin to melt just enough for the possibility of love to slip through.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma JalaluddinAyesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Ayesha would love nothing more than to be a poet, but instead she’s working as a substitute teacher to repay debts owed to a wealthy uncle. When she isn’t working, she’s keeping her irresponsible cousin, Hafsa, out of trouble, or at least trying to.  When she meets Khalid, she’s instantly turned off by his conservative attire and judgmental tone, even if he is the most intelligent and handsome man she’s met in quite some time.   She does her best to ignore the attraction, but when Hafsa’s family announces her engagement to Khalid, she can no longer push her feelings aside.  This vibrant retelling features a full Muslim cast in a Toronto setting, several villains you will love to hate, and some surprising twists and turns that still manage to stay true to the original.

Eligible by Curtis SittenfeldEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
When magazine writer Liz returns to her childhood home in Cincinnati, she finds everything about her family home, including its inhabitants, in total disarray. And, with Liz’s oldest sister about to turn 40, their mother has started a relentless campaign to find suitable husbands for all of her daughters.  When the handsome and popular Chip Bingly and his less-than-charming friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, meet the daughters at a barbecue, it sets off a lively series of events, mishaps, and misunderstandings.

For even more books based on Pride and Prejudice click here.

~Posted by Summer H.

Library Reads for October 2019

Ready to place some holds? Check out these ten books coming in October that librarians across the US are loving.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
A fascinating look at the human body and how it functions. Each historical tidbit is well-researched and thoroughly cited. Interesting stories, such as how diseases, cells, nerves, and organs were discovered, are woven throughout. For readers who like narrative nonfiction such as Gulp by Mary Roach, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, and Guts by Giulia Enders.
~ Carolynn Waites, Manvel Library, Manvel, TX

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas
In this fun, playful series, Thomas has created a female version of [Sherlock] Holmes who is vibrant, real, relatable, and intelligent. This fourth book has Holmes and Watson travel to France, with twists and turns the reader won’t see coming. Perfect for fans of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series and Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series.
~ Carrie Pedigo, Tippecanoe County Public Library, Lafayette, IN

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld
Denfeld’s writing is like lyrical poetry, with every word captivating. Add to this an amazing mystery, a plethora of suspense, and an ending that exceeds all expectations, and we have another 5 star book. For fans of What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan and Love You More by Lisa Gardner.
~ Cyndi Larsen, Avon Free Public Library, Avon, CT

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris
A powerful follow-up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, this story begins after the liberation of Auschwitz, when Cilka is sentenced by the Soviet liberators to 15 years in one of Stalin’s Siberian labor gulags. From one death camp to another–for doing what was needed to survive. For fans of Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter.”
~ Don Crankshaw, Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, Evansville, IN

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
Christopher and his mom run from an abusive boyfriend and seek peace and quiet in a new town. Instead, Christopher becomes agitated and sneaks out at night, doing anything a “nice man” tells him to do. This is pure horror, a classic battle of good and evil, and a must for fans of Stephen King, Joe Hill, and Paul Tremblay.
~ Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
The ideas of books never actually written possess dangerous potential and power. They are kept in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell. Determined librarians tend the library keeping watch for escaped characters, angels and demons. For fans of Genevieve Cogman or Neil Gaiman.
~ Jessica Trotter, Capital Area District Library, Lansing, MI

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Alex has always been able to see ghosts, and this talent uniquely qualifies her to become part of the Lethe, a group that regulates the eight magical societies at Yale. When a murder happens nearby the campus, Alex suspects that a society has their hand in this and it’s not just a normal homicide. For fans of urban fantasy and secret societies.
~ Amy Verkruissen, Calcasieu Parish Public Library, Lake Charles, LA

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
A funny, snarky narrator takes on the job of caretaker for kids with remarkable and strange abilities. Everyone involved learns that sometimes all we need after being repeatedly let down is someone to rely on. For fans of Chuck Kosterman and Gary Shteyngart.
~ Linda Quinn, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz
Diaz was out of control. Her life was a never ending cycle of indifferent (or worse) parenting, street fights, abuse, drugs, arrests, alcohol, skipping school—all are detailed in this coming of age memoir. Reading this extraordinary memoir, I was reminded that no one can make you do something until you decide to on your own. For fans of Hunger by Roxane Gay and When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago.
~ Linda Tilden, Mt. Laurel Public Library, Mt. Laurel, AL

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Engaging characters set off to follow the mysterious clues of the will of an elderly, wealthy eccentric for a chance at winning the grand prize. Young grief and loss, family guilt, secrets, and hilarity are featured throughout. Plus: ghosts! For readers who liked The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson and Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst.
~ Pamela Gardner, Medfield Public Library, Medfield, MA

BONUS!! Five additional titles were put into the Library Reads Hall of Fame, earned once an author has had three or more titles appear on the monthly lists since 2013.

Full Throttle by Joe Hill
Hill’s short story collection hits the sweet spot: thirteen supernatural tales that satisfy but also leave you wanting a tiny bit more. He also discusses the inspiration for each story, allowing fans more insight into his process.
~ Mahogany Skillings, Richland Library, Columbia, SC

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Moyes brings Depression-era Kentucky to life in this historical novel about five women who become horseback librarians. Vivid descriptions of daily life in a 1930s coal-mining community and great characters punctuate an informative, fun read that’s based on a true story.
~ Linda Sullivan, Mission Viejo Public Library, Aurora, CO

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge is back and still as crotchety, opinionated, and endearing as ever. Aging, death, racism, prejudices, infidelities–nothing gets past Olive as she sticks her nose into every corner of her small town.
~ Sharon Hutchins, Keytesville Library, Keytesville, MO

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
An irresistible Christmas fantasy about a woman of a certain age who falls for the queen of England’s private secretary on a visit to the U.K. Guillory describes Britain so well, and it was great to read a popular romance novel starring an older protagonist.
~ Meghan Sanks, Glenview Public Library, Glenview, IL

Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren
Sam was Tate’s first love and turned her world upside down. Years later they reconnect unexpectedly, and she wonders if young love should get a second chance. Another unputdownable book from Lauren.
~ Melissa Stumpe, Johnson County Public Library, Greenwood, IN

Author Vicki Conrad Shares Favorite Picture Book Biographies

We asked the author of Just Like Beverly, a new picture book biography of Beverly Cleary, to share her favorite biographies for children in this Nightstand Reads post. Here are five picks from Vicki Conrad:

As a child, the Ramona Series was dear to my heart. I truly felt so much like her. My two favorite books are Ramona and her Mother, and Ramona and her Father. I also loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

My 5 Favorite Biographies, right now:

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson
This book is packed with scientific information, but with lovely poetic language. It is a quiet gem.

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate
I have loved this story for years. I read it when I was a classroom teacher, my students always wanted to know more about his life.

The Flying Girl: How Aida de Acosta Learned to Soar by Margarita Engle
We can never grow tired of the women who were brave enough to break through barriers. Rhyme, colorful illustrations, and an unusual topic make this worth the read.

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Rachel Dougherty
Part lesson in engineering and architecture, part story of a woman blazing a new trail. Emily Roebling basic took over construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, by studying engineering all by herself. This books shows children and adults we are all responsible for our own learning, and you can figure hard things out with persistence.

When Marian Sang: the True Recital of Marian Anderson, the Voice of a Century by Pam Munoz Ryan
This book literally sings with a lyrical lilt and poetic language. It is masterfully written so you can almost hear her singing voice as you read. It is an older book, but she is a woman worth knowing about and the writing is brilliant.

Vicki Conrad is a Seattle author and also a teacher with a passion for literacy development and inspiring students to love reading just as much as she did as a child. As a young girl, Beverly Cleary struggled to learn to read and found most children’s books dull and uninteresting. She often wondered if there were any books about kids just like her. With hard work, and the encouragement of her parents and a special teacher, she learned to read and at a young age discovered she had a knack for writing. Just Like Beverly, illustrated by David Hohn and published by Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch Books) follows this beloved author’s journey. Meet Vicki and hear more about Just Like Beverly at the University Book Store on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 1 p.m.

Scary Stories: All Grown Up Now

As October looms near, I can’t help but to think about making a Spooky Stories display for the library. As a children’s librarian, I am mostly gathering books for young readers. I just put on hold several of my favorites, like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, and the thought occurred to me: what are the grown up versions of these stories?

Not that we can’t enjoy these stories as adults (I know I still do!), but I’ve also read a vast array of horror and scary stories in adulthood. I thought up some interesting pairs. Hopefully you enjoy reading these ‘grown up’ matches to a few childhood favorites.

Pairing Number One:

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and Fragments of Horror 1, by Junji Itō
Scary Stories and its sequels are books of short stories for children, interspersed with songs and games as well. The idea is to share these stories with your friends- told in your own way. I’ve decided to pair this book with the grown up manga Fragments of Horror. This is an anthology of body horror- a subgenre of horror centering on unnatural or graphic disfigurations of the human body. Much like the first edition of the Scary Stories books, it’s really the artwork that will haunt you. Each image will prickle your skin and will give you that feeling of hearing scary stories by flashlight.

Paring Number Two:

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia McKissack and How Long ’til Black Future Month?: Stories by N. K. Jemisin
The Dark-Thirty is a book of supernatural short stories for children that take place during slavery and civil rights in the south. How Long ‘til Black Future Month? is a grown up supernatural/ science fiction book of short stories that center black narratives in the future. I put these two together because both feature stories dealing with horrors routed in reality, such as slavery, racism, and natural disasters, intertwined with supernatural elements. These stories will make you think hard about the past and hope for the future.

Pairing Number Three:

Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn and White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Wait Till Helen Comes is a young adult novel about a family that moves into a haunted house after their mother dies in a house fire. White is for Witching is a grown up novel, also about a family that loses a mother. In this book, the father and twin siblings stay in their foreboding family home after the death, when one of the twins begins to hear spirits and starts to waste away due to a supernatural eating disorder. Both books will linger with you long after you read them, causing you to glance over your shoulder and jump at your own shadow long after the story is over.

Happy Booktober, everyone!

       ~ Amanda H.