Read Like Library Staff Part 1

Hey hey, how’s your May reading coming along? Are you ready for another challenge? After all the reading challenges we’ve thrown your way, this month’s is my favorite because we’re essentially telling you what to read. [Insert evil emoji here] In May we’re asking you to read a book recommended by a library employee. This week I’m bringing you not one but two posts so full of book recommendations that they will make your TBR scrape the ceiling.

The Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
This is Will’s first book, and I think he did a superb job! I very much enjoyed this book. We have two old college roommates, similar to The Odd Couple. Now, years later, one is doing a favor for the other and house sitting. What happens to the perfect wooden floors and the comedy of errors that follow will keep you laughing! Will has an enjoyable style of writing, and his descriptions alone make it worth taking a look!
–From Linda, Evergreen Branch Circulation

Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze
This is a gem of a noir novel, first published in 1953, about an escaped convict who wants to pull off a big-time heist. When he meets and partners with a suspiciously well-spoken vamp, who trusts him as little as he does her, the heist plan begins to really take shape. The action moves from bayou country to the mountains outside of Denver, and Chaze writes as well about the mountain west as everything else in this engaging and desperate tale. If you like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James Cain or Jim Thompson you’ll want to read this.
–From Scott, Main Library Reference

The Hike by Drew Magary
Basically this guy is on a business trip and checks in to a lodge type hotel. He decides before dinner he’ll go for a short hike, call his wife, and relax a little. He walks past a barrier on the property and eventually realizes that not only are impossible creatures trying to kill him but he’s now in a different dimension from his hotel, his wife, and everything he knows. As the days, weeks, and months go by his fight for survival also becomes a struggle to find his way home.

This book was creepy as hell and definitely not my typical read. It’s horror for people who don’t like horror. I recommend it for anyone looking for something both weird and wonderful.
–From Carol, Main Library Cataloging

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
I highly recommend An Unkindness of Ghosts. Solomon has done an amazing job with her world building, creating a range of complex characters whose personalities and inner conflicts feel very real. It’s a story of racial tension and class struggle set aboard the HSS Matilda – an interstellar life raft containing the last traces of the human race, fleeing from a dying world. I don’t want to give away much more about this addictive read; I hope that there is more to come from the creative mind of Rivers Solomon. Side note: I enjoyed this book as an eaudiobook via the library’s CloudLibrary platform and thought that the skillful narration performed by Cherise Boothe added a lot of depth to the experience.
–From Lisa, Northwest Room

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper
Every one of Tropper’s too-few books is witty, deeply insightful, yet breezily readable & fun. The finest of literary fiction. In this one, we accompany Doug, the titular character, as he comes to terms with his grief and the transformation is as entertaining as it is authentic.
–From Alan, Evergreen Branch Manager

Compass by Mathias Énard
Compass won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2015, and it’s an extraordinary book that might best be summarized as a love letter to readers and scholars of cosmopolitan literature, music, culture, and history. The story unfolds as a single sleepless night in the life of a Viennese man, Franz Ritter, and his nightlong reflections on his work as an ethnomusicologist, his mostly unrequited love for a fellow European scholar named Sarah, and his travels abroad – with her and without her – to such places as Istanbul, Damascus, Palymra, Aleppo, and Tehran.

A major theme is the influence of Eastern culture on the music and literature of the West, and Énard weaves the names of many well-known Western authors and composers into the narrative. Sarah and Franz, as “Orientalists,” share with the reader their deep understanding of this cultural cross-pollination while seeking “a new vision that includes the other in the self.”

Franz is a sensitive, insightful and voluble narrator, and after taking the reader on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East and his life, the book ends on a sweetly hopeful note.
–From Scott, Main Library Reference

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell
While I initially wanted to read this because I wanted to learn more about Kamau, I quickly realized that this was way more than just another comedian’s memoir. Race, racism, and politics are heavily threaded throughout. Kamau is candid about his experiences in stand-up and in the entertainment industry, which really opened my eyes to not just how completely screwed up the showrunning/writing relationship can be, but also how representation is in the entertainment industry is just as important as it is in every other working environment.
–From Carol, Main Library Cataloging

One Last Thing Before I Go

Drew Silver, the protagonist of One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper, is a screw up. His ex-wife thinks so. His 18-year-old daughter thinks so. The other divorced men he’s friends with think so. I thought he was kind of a screw up, too. He’s an endearing screw-up, if that makes any sense.

Silver was in a rock band 15 years ago that produced a mega one hit wonder. Now he lives in The Versailles, a run down apartment building where divorced and depressed men go after leaving their families. He still plays the drums at weddings, bat mitzvahs, and sweet 16 birthday parties. Sometimes he’s recognized (Hey, you were in that band that had that song!) but he mostly lives a dull existence. Sometimes he goes home with one of the back-up singers in the wedding band. Most of the time he goes home alone.

He has no relationship with his daughter Casey, having kind of given up being a father after realizing he’s complete crap at it. He still loves his ex-wife Denise. She still hates him.

One day while hanging out by the pool at The Versailles, Silver’s daughter Casey drops a bomb on him: she’s pregnant. He doesn’t understand why she’s come to him when he’s been an absent father all her life. Maybe she’s giving him a chance to redeem himself. She’s about to head to college in the fall and Baby on Board is not what she had planned. She wants him to take her to get an abortion. Casey refuses to tell her mother mainly because Denise is getting remarried in a couple of weeks and is in full Bride Mode: she can’t see anything unless it’s about her wedding.

Silver and Casey are in the waiting room of the abortion clinic when Silver’s life really goes down the tubes. He blacks out. He thinks he’s died. He can hear his daughter’s voice shouting at him as he fades away. She hasn’t sounded that scared since she was a child. He wakes up in the hospital and is told that he has to have heart surgery to repair a defect or he will die. The doctor who wants to perform the surgery? His ex-wife’s fiancé. Awkward.

Silver decides against the surgery which almost made me stop reading until I understood why he decides against it. He thinks he’s a piece of…work, if you get my drift. He believes he’s no good to anyone and no one wants him around so death is a better option than hanging around The Versailles for the next 40 years where the college girls around the pool never age but the heartbroken men who live there do.

Silver doesn’t seem to understand a few things: his daughter wants him around. His parents want him around. Denise wants him around. Even her fiancé the surgeon wants him around (he’s one of those obnoxious people who sees the good in everyone). But Silver is adamant that he’d rather die.

But he seems to have forgotten how persuasive families can be. He gets in a fist fight with his brother because his brother wants him to have the surgery. His rabbi father goes Old Testament on him to try to change his mind. His mother pulls the ultimate Mom Card of “I’m very disappointed in you.”

And you know where this is going, right? I’m not ruining anything here. You kind of know he’s going to have the surgery. Although there were a few pages there I thought “This guy’s actually going to die on purpose”.  By the end of the book he finally sees the light (and no, it’s not the Other Side) and finds out what he has to live for.

If I took anything away from this book (besides laughing my head off because Jonathan Tropper is one funny dude) it’s the simple and sappy message of let people love you. That’s it. Those that care if you breathe or not are the most important ones and you have to let them care if you breathe or not. And let’s face it, when we feel at our most unlovable, that’s when people come swooping in with their wonderfully annoying unconditional love.

Jennifer