Today, Carin Pratt, bookseller extraordinaire at the fabulous Norwich Bookstore, has graciously agreed to be our guest blogger. We were thrilled when she said yes because neither of us can ever resist even one of her recommendations. Her "you must read this book" statements always point us to books that challenge our thinking and are graced with incredible writing. We are excited Book Jam readers will benefit from her latest recommendations with today's special post. And, we apologize in advance for the fact that the stack of books you purchase from your favorite bookstore or check out from your library will be a bit bigger than usual as a result of Carin's recommendations. (We hope you have been keeping that New Year's resolution to lift more weights.)
So, thank you Carin! Happy end of the USA's Presidents' Day Weekend! Happy reading!
I have taken the challenge of Liza at the Norwich Bookstore to read outside my comfort zone this year. As my comfort zone consists of literary fiction, literary fiction, and literary mysteries, with a smattering of not-so-literary mysteries tossed in, and since I work in a bookstore and all kinds of books are pretty handy, this shouldn't be too hard. To that end, here is what I am reading this month, and here's to breaking out of long-held habits!
When was the last time you read an art book? I thought so. I am no exception. Then The Secret Lives of Color
(Kassia St. Clair) walked into my life. St. Clair tells the stories of seventy five colors, how they came about, what they are made of, what they are associated with, and how, in some cases, they changed history. A fascinating, even thrilling book. You will never look at anything yellow again in the same way. And now, when someone walks into the store looking for a "red" book, I can be even more obnoxious than usual and ask "Would that be rosso corsa, hematite, vermilion or cochineal?" ~ Carin Pratt
As I lived in Washington DC for 30 years, I pretty much have sworn off DC tell-alls and books about politics. Been there, done that. But I did pick up Fire and Fury
(Michael Wolff). As a former journalist, I did have some issues with the sourcing of his book about Trump and question how Wolff knew exactly what some people were thinking and feeling, but I found the book riveting and read it practically straight through. A warning, though: if you are looking for a book about Trump that will make you feel better about him and his administration, this ain't it. ~ Carin Pratt
As a voyeur, I am more of a reader of memoirs than biographies. But this year could change things, what with my husband
regaling me day after day with Grant
's trials and exploits. ("Wait, wait, I can't walk the dog. Grant
's about to conquer Vicksburg.") Then a patron came into the store and told me I had to read Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill
. (Sonia Purnell). Why, I asked. Because, she said, did you know that Winston Churchill liked to turn somersaults in his bathtub? Well, no. But that was certainly enough to get me to read the book. And turns out she was a remarkable and complex woman, who has been totally overshadowed by her somersaulting (admittedly he had other talents) husband. ~ Carin Pratt
Good essays make you think and that can be hard work. I can be a lazy reader. But the essays of Peter Orner in Am I Alone Here? Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live
, have not only altered how I look at essays -- I love to think about things, especially books and writing, and now I pledge to read one book of essays a month. There are so many good and provocative essayists out there -- just check out our section at the store. Or ask me. (And yes, I consider the MOTH
collections essays.) ~ Carin Pratt
As kind of a meat-and-potatoes reader, not one for the weirder stuff, I avoid science fiction and dystopic literature, by and large. But I'll make exceptions for exceptional writing (i.e. Station Eleven
). There has been a lot of buzz around Carmen Maria Machado's stories Her Body and Other Parties
(National Book Award Finalist, a number of prizes...) and these eight impossible-to-characterize stories deserve every bit of it. Mythic, fantastic, horrifying, provocative and utterly original, they are wonderfully written and totally unforgettable. Try as you might. ~ Carin Pratt
And now an image (see below) and tribute
from Carin's previous life in DC. (Trust us, your day will be a bit brighter if you click on this link
to her former boss's tribute to Carin. And although we can picture Carin laughing and/or rolling her eyes when she reads this -- we admit we teared up a bit when Mr. Schieffer did.) Thank you Carin for guest blogging, for your recommendations, and for just being you. We are grateful you now live in a small Vermont town next to our small Vermont town so that our lives can intersect a bit. DC's loss is our gain.