National Book Lovers Day: Staff Picks
Ahoy, bookworms. It’s National Book Lovers Day (who knew we had a day?). Is this the bone that is thrown at as us bibliophiles between April (poetry month) and November (NaNoWriMo)? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But it’s here. And we’re excited. To celebrate, the TNL editorial staff has put together micro-reviews of their favorite books at the moment. Simply put, if there was ever a day to pick up a new book, try out a new genre, or simply trust your nerd-friends at TNL’s impeccable taste, it is today, August 9th (AKA National Book Lovers Day).
Gaby’s Pick: Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Overtime, Memoirs of a Geisha has received some hate from historical purists and defenders of cultural appropriation. For pretty much every other thing, I’m right there with them. But at the end of the day, Memoirs is fiction. Arthur Golden’s story follows the development of young Sayuri as she is trained to become a geisha. Continuously falling between the cracks of the Gion district hierarchy, Sayuri’s coming-of-age story exerts massive pressure on the archetypal thematics of the genre. While there are books with higher historical relevance, I think Golden does a fine job of presenting the girlhood arc in a world where we mistakenly believe grace and beauty are all that it takes. In reality, making it in the Gion district has all to do with perseverance and intelligence. Interpreted that way, I don’t see how this breathtaking, fictional narrative could be insulting.
Ivan’s Pick: The Professor’s House – Willa Cather
In the midst of his move to a new, more desirable home, Professor Godfrey St. Peter finds himself meandering the cluttered study of his former residence. Engulfed and unwilling to abandon the comforting, familiar sights of his past, he contemplates his life and the people he has loved—his wife Lillian, his daughters, and Tom Outland, once his gifted student and almost son-in-law to be. Enigmatic and courageous, Tom and the stories of his past life have remained a source of awe and wonder to the professor. But his passing has also left an unresolved legacy, mired with betrayal and fracture relationships. The Professors House is as much a story of the intimate tragedies of loss, aging and letting go, as it is a Midwest adventure through the New Mexico badlands. A narrative gem of the English language and a story that lingers long after the pages have run out.
Rachael’s Pick: Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
Station 11 begins at the end of the world. A flu that quickly becomes a global pandemic wipes out all but two percent of the population. 15 years after the fact, a young woman travels across what’s left of the country with a troupe know as the Traveling Symphony. They perform Shakespeare and Classical Music in small towns, keeping tradition and the arts alive as best they can. It’s a surprisingly hopeful take on the apocalyptic genre and Emily St. John Mandel seamlessly weaves a spellbinding tale of five characters: an actor, an EMT, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young woman traveling with the Traveling Symphony. Think The Road, but with more religious zealots, a badass female protagonist, and considerably less cannibalism. And have I mentioned that everything is tied together by a graphic novel? Like you needed more reason to read it.