My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount and Thessaly La Force
Every bibliophile knows the surreptitious joy of peeking at other people’s well-curated bookshelves. (Curation is important: haphazard piles of dusty books make me sad, unless I’m a potential buyer.) The books that are so important to you they stay with you move after move, culling after culling… those are the ones you can count the rings on your soul with. This is exactly what artist Jane Mount was tapping into when she started the Ideal Bookshelf Project in 2007, painting people’s idealized bookshelves. The spectacularly named Thessaly La Force joined forces with her and added interviews to Mount’s pieces, resulting in My Ideal Bookshelf.
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Y’all know me—I rarely seek out brand new books by authors I’ve never heard of, especially anywhere near the time they’ve been released. But Melissa’s review of Where’d You Go Bernadette over at The Feminist Texan [Reads] made me reconsider, as did its inclusion on Book Riot’s Best Books of 2012 list. My temporal gap between publication and reading is usually a function of accessibility; I once had a hold on The Time Traveler’s Wife come in, six months after I placed it. Perfectly reasonable, given my place in line (somewhere in the hundreds?), but my appetite is easily distracted. But I had no such problem here, raiding the new bookshelf of my public library at home and then blazing through it in a day.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
I never read anything at the right time. This not only applies to seasonal reads, but generational reads. During a recent A. V. Club binge, I came across a Q & A post where contributors talked about what they would make required reading to graduate from high school. Among them was The Catcher in the Rye, which I have managed to completely miss. (That’s not too surprising; I’ve managed to completely miss The Wizard of Oz. Now I’m just holding onto that out of sheer stubbornness.) I have a hard time relating to teenage protagonists, but, for some reason, I found myself wandering the fiction shelves at the library and automatically taking it home. It’s not the usual time, perhaps, but it’s the right time for me.
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
I love Brideshead Revisited. It’s one of the few novels I knew of as a child (despite current appearances, I wasn’t a reading child) that has stayed with me to adulthood. My mother, whose love of British television I inherited (as well as her love of Lou Reed, which is another story), tried to sit me down and show me the BBC miniseries as a child. But Evelyn Waugh comes down hard on his best-known novel; upon review, he found it rather rich and gluttonous. As much as that disappoints me, I was curious about Waugh’s other novels, the ones that Brideshead Revisited deviates from. A Handful of Dust, as a recommendation, actually comes from The Lost City of Z, and it was the only Waugh in at the library that I could pin down.
Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters
My recommendation for Far From Xanadu comes from the dearth of butch heroines in literature, let alone young adult literature. Malinda Lo recommended it on Tor.com, so I thought it was worth picking up. This is actually a harder title to come by, if only because this book actually has two titles—the original Far From Xanadu and the recent reissue under the title Pretend You Love Me. But rest assured, they’re the same book.
Huntress by Malinda Lo
I really loved Ash, but I was somewhat slow to pick up Huntress, Lo’s sophomore outing. It was somewhere between forgetting about it—the premise feels more traditional fantasy than the hook of “queer retelling of Cinderella”, so it tended to get lost the mental filing cabinet—and wanting to save it for the right moment. The right moment arrived, and my local library here at school came through admirably. (I always feel like my two public library systems are competing with each other, so I keep a very close eye on the pros and cons of each.)
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Confession: I don’t watch 30 Rock. Not because I don’t want to, but television as a medium hasn’t been motivating me at all lately. Plus, I’d need to start over from the beginning; I’m a completionist. But what I have seen—namely, the episode that ends with a threesome involving James Franco, a body pillow with an anime character on it, and Liz Lemon—I’ve really liked. And, naturally, as a woman of letters in current American culture, I just like Tina Fey. I have fond memories of her on Saturday Night Live, although her greatest moment on the show came after she left. No, not her Sarah Palin impression, but her fervent declaration that “bitches get stuff done”. Is it any wonder her book is in the library at my women’s college?
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Ever since I started college, spring brings with it a new ritual—laying out on the quad and sunning myself like a cat as I read a book. While I don’t like the gender essentialism that comes with it, I’m always reminded of Jan Morris’ theory that women have a thinner barrier between them and nature and respond to nature accordingly. In any case, I stretched out on the first sunny day I could on the quad with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Now, as I’ve mentioned, most of the books for my children’s and young adult literature class can be hammered out in an afternoon, and this was no exception—but because of its compulsive readability, not just because of its length and target audience.
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd is one of those books I think everyone has read but me, albeit not in the massive numbers as, say, the Millenium trilogy. One of my cousins picked it up from my favorite independent bookstore the last time he visited my stomping grounds, a woman in my writing group read it ages ago, and other book bloggers have picked through it. The arresting cover—I’ve always loved pixel art—is eye-catching and the subject matter definitely appeals to someone who thoroughly identifies as a geek.
Ash by Malinda Lo
Ash is a book I’ve been meaning to read for what feels like forever. I don’t even remember where the recommendation came from; heck, I might have just stumbled across it on my own. The novel is advertised as a queer retelling of “Cinderella”, which immediately caught my attention—queer romance in fantasy is, I feel, fairly rare. I think the only other example I can give is Lynn Flewelling’s Luck in the Shadows, which doesn’t focus so much on the romance rather than on the adventures—hence why I just had to read Ash.