Titles of Intrigue

Here at the library, we really appreciate a good book title. Whether we are selecting, shelving, weeding or checking them out, we deal with a lot of library items throughout our careers. When you come across a title that you find intriguing, it is hard not to have admiration for its ability to stand out in a very large crowd. This is especially true when it comes to ordering books. While selecting, I scan many lists of books from several sources and have to admit that sometimes it is hard to keep my eyes from glazing over while trying to determine if titles like Algebra I for Dummies are a good fit for the collection.

But thankfully there are exceptions. Here are a number of new and on-order books with titles that might pique your interest as they have mine. While I can’t guarantee they will deliver on the promise of their intriguing titles, they are definitely worth a look. I’ve also taken a page from our Spot-Lit posts and have presented the covers in a slideshow so you can enjoy the titles in all their glory. Simply click on a book cover to view the show. Enjoy!

Unmentionable: the Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben

The Sick Bag Song by Nick Cave

Against Everything: Essays by Mark Greif

The Aliens Are Coming!: The Extraordinary Science Behind Our Search for Life in the Universe by Ben Miller

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolutions Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life’s Biggest Problems by Matt Simon

Void: The Strange Physics of Nothing by James Weatherall

The Thieves of Threadneedle Street: the Incredible True Story of the American Forgers Who Nearly Broke the Bank of England by Nicholas Booth

Star Wars Propaganda : A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy by Pablo Hidalgo

Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker

Not Dead Yet: the Memoir by Phil Collins

Murder & Mayhem in Seattle by Teresa Nordheim

Grizzlyshark by Ryan Ottley

Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine: the Curious Stories of 43 Amazing North American Native Plants by Tammi Hartung

Beethoven’s Skull: Dark, Strange, and Fascinating Tales from the World of Classical Music and Beyond by Tim Rayborn


Plot is Dead? Fiction and Reality Hunger

Manifestos are meant to provoke, and David Shields doesn’t disappoint. I wrote about Reality Hunger in an earlier post that focused on his views of reality-bending “non-fiction” and the collage-inspired appropriation of work by other writers. I have to say, I’m not ready to abide deliberate fabrications in what are purported to be factual accounts.  And though artistic creation is certainly colored by influence and tradition (that may include stylistic borrowing, derivation, satire and parody, etc.), I am uncomfortable with Shields’s view of carefree artistic appropriation. But in regard to fiction, the most astonishing claim Shields makes, in my opinion, is the idea that plot is dead. The future of fiction, as Shields sees it, is in fragments, collage, and the blending in of factual and essayistic elements.

Shields may be bored with plot, but the appeal of a good story continues to determine the reading choices for the majority of readers. Plot is of central importance in much popular fiction, and it is practically definitive for adventure stories, mysteries, and thrillers. Romance readers require happy endings, and plot-driven quests are common in science fiction and fantasy. It might even be argued (as Shields does) that some memoirists give in to temptation and introduce fake events in order to create a captivating story line. Storytelling has very deep roots, and I think plot-based books will continue to dominate the offerings of the major publishing houses.

But publishing trends and popularity aside, I would love to see more interest in the type of fiction Shields is espousing.  I’m glad for the passages in which he makes direct reading recommendations, and for the reluctantly supplied footnotes – both of which may help steer adventurous readers to deserving authors. Among the many rewarding though hard-to-classify writers Shields has singled out are: Lydia Davis, Jorge Luis Borges, J. M. Coetzee, Nicholson Baker (especially The Mezzanine and U & I), and Fernando Pessoa (for his The Book of Disquiet).

Just as Shields will occasionally spit out lists of books in support of his manifesto, I thought I’d add to his suggestions some titles I’ve enjoyed that use collage, fragments, ancedotes, restless inquiry, the prose poem, or essay-like explorations: Bluets by Maggie Nelson; The Bathroom by Jean-Philippe Toussaint; The Interrogative Mood: a Novel? by Padgett Powell; Most of It by Mary Ruefle; and Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas.

The links above will allow you to read reviews or summaries of the books in the library catalog, or to place titles on hold for easy pickup. David Shields has thrown down the challenge. Take a deep breath and crack open his book. Or step into the brave new world of fiction offered in the links above. Getting started is as easy as the click of a mouse – what have you got to lose?