Greetings from the NMRT Communications Committee!
Since many of us are working through our TBR piles during the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought it would be timely to share what we have been reading lately, in case you need suggestions for yourself or another reader.
Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Over the summer, I put in a hold request for this novel when I saw a lot of praise for it on social media, including the way in which Moreno-Garcia makes the racist, eugenicist views of main character Noemi Taboada’s antagonists explicit in the text, instead of using subtextual clues. The lengthy waitlist (37 weeks when I was added!) meant that I didn’t get to read it until September, when I devoured it over four days.
While I’m not a big romance or thriller reader, I read a lot of Mary Stewart’s books because my mom is a fan. Mexican Gothic started like a romantic thriller, ramped up into a gothic romance with Rebecca vibes, and then escalated to Shirley Jackson and weird horror heights. This isn’t a book for the faint of heart, but I thoroughly recommend it!
Absolutely On Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa, Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa
I grew up playing two instruments and have gotten into choir as an adult; I’m also a big fan of Murakami’s work, and music–Jazz, classical, opera, the Beatles–is woven throughout his novels. It was very interesting to see the different ways Ozawa (a true Maestro) and Murakami (a non-musician enthusiast) discussed composer’s oeuvres, conducting, and specific recordings.
While you don’t have to be a musician to appreciate the book and the way these two friends play off of one another’s train of thought, I think it does help to know a bit about creating and interpreting music. Currently, this is on a list of potential holiday gift ideas for one of my family members.
Your Throne, SAM
I’ll admit that over the past month I’ve been spending less time reading books in conventional formats and have become more interested in the new ways artists and writers from around the world are adapting their trade to webcomics specifically designed to be read on a smartphone. The Korean webcomic series Your Throne may be one of the perfect gateway series for this format, with detailed art matching the quality of most libraries’ graphic novel sections and a plot of fantasy intrigue that had me scrolling down on my phone faster than I had anticipated. What at first seems to only be a tale of spite and revenge by a spurned noble turns into a story of sympathetic perspectives from two women who share surprising common ground when it comes to experiencing pain at the hands of an overbearing imperial structure. Your Throne is readable for free online and on the WebToon app – a good recommendation to give to YA and manga fans who may not be in your library as much during the pandemic!
To Love Your Enemy, written by Jungyoon and art by Taegeon
For those looking for a webcomic with fewer speculative elements, To Love Your Enemy is a contemporary romance with a lot to like for readers of young adult or new adult fiction. Yeonhee Bae is a mid-twenties woman who wants to turn over a new leaf as a college student and abandon her previous scamming career. However, a fellow student happens to be aware of her past – and she feels like she has to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t spill the beans with her new social group. Confusion, jealousy, and maybe even a slow-burn romance ensue? This was another series where I got invested quickly and was surprised at how much I liked the realistically flawed protagonist. The characters skew a little older than many mainstream comic series but still reflect the kinds of social situations common to many walks of college and young adult life. To Love Your Enemy is also free to read online and on the WebToon app.
Aubrey/Maturin novels, Patrick O’Brian
Always a joy to reread these. [The first book is Master and Commander]
Earthsea Cycle, Ursula LeGuin
These make me cry every time. I may read the latter ones this time through.
Big Dirty Money, Jennifer Taub
Looking forward to digging into this history of White-Collar Crime.
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt
Grim and topical, especially in its treatment of statelessness and the loss of human rights of refugees and the dispossessed.
Rusty Brown, Vol. 1 by Chris Ware
A unique graphic novel that is inventive and creative in its use of page space as it transitions between character events, thoughts, and dreams. My expectation going into the novel was the traditional block by block breakup of action and events. While there are elements of this “comic style,” Chris Ware is playfully imaginative in making story segments stand out. By doing this, I believe it allows Ware to create content that speaks to the event’s individual significance within the novel and the uniqueness of that particular conscious experience for the character. For example, a character’s childhood experiences expressed in a pixelated format or reading a detailed graphic novel within a graphic novel. Not something I expected, nor anticipated, and I enjoyed it.
Author Chris Ware provides a highly existential experience for the reader as it explores hopes/dreams, reality, the regret of characters. An immersion in the experience of humanity. While the novel doesn’t heavily focus on the life of Rusty Brown at this point. Woody Brown and Joanna Cole were two stories that resonated with me and left an impression. If you are a fan of graphic novels or looking to dabble in the genre. I highly recommend taking a look at Rusty Brown.
Clyde Fans by Seth
A thoughtful graphic novel that explores the interplay of family life in a family business against the progression of technology and modernity. A once vibrant and successful fan business that struggles to meet with the times and gradually loses ground to the upcoming and booming A/C unit. The stresses this places on the two brothers within the story, how they deal with an aging mother with mental illness, and eventually closing the family business.
Seth put a great deal of thought into this story, as it weaves back and forth in the timeline and how various events shape the story. A detailed exploration of the lives of both brothers, their interpersonal relationship would resonate with many readers. I didn’t expect a story about a family business to be compelling, but Seth packs a powerful, detailed storyline. Clyde Fans was an interesting read!
The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation by Fania E. Davis is an excellent choice for educators and school leaders who are looking for a quick introduction to the topic before diving deeper.
Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga, a 2020 Newbery Honor book, tells the story of Jude who moves from Syria to the United States with her mother. It is a beautiful story and perfectly matches my sentimental fall mood.