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Cover art for By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review

By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review

Written by Pamela Paul
Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

I'm a sucker for books about books and I like to read about reading. If you do too, check out By the Book, which is a compilation of reading profiles of well-known readers (most of them also well-known authors) which originally appeared in The New York Times Book Review.

In reply to the question "Do you prefer a book that makes you laugh or makes you cry? One that teaches you something or one that distracts you?" P.J. O'Rourke says:

"A good book does all four. Three out of four isn't bad. Two is acceptable, except for books that make you cry and teach you something, which are to be avoided at all costs."

You can dip in to this fascinating, thoughtful and sometimes funny book and just read a few profiles, cherry-pick your favorite authors, or you can read it from cover to cover. You may be inspired, as I was, to re-read old favorites, or try new authors or titles recommended by the likes of Hilary Mantel, Neil Degrasse Tyson, John Grisham, or even Sting, and many, many others.

Recommended by Catherine
Cover art for The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Lifestyle

The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Lifestyle

Written by Jennifer McGruther

The Nourished Kitchen advocates a return to eating and cooking that is based on the way we used to eat; that is, before the advent of heavily processed, ready-to-eat convenience foods. The great recipes in this cookbook includes a wide range of ingredients, including meat, animal fat and grains, and advocates a balanced approach to nutrition, emphasizing local or home-grown healthy food sources.

Check out this cookbook and get back to eating the way your great-grandparents did.

Recommended by Mark
Cover art for Never Cry Wolf

Never Cry Wolf

Written by Farley Mowat

I know, I know. If you live in Alaska you probably have already read Never Cry Wolf. But if for some reason you haven't you should go to the nearest library and check it out. Like, right now.
With incredible insight and sense of humor Farley Mowat describes his own experiences researching wolves in Canada at a time when they were still considered just blood-thirsty vermin. We see how he gets his orders from a government office to prove through field research what was the widespread opinion about wolves. When he gets to actually meet a real wolf family and follows it for almost a year, he realizes that not everything is as it seems.

Recommended by Olga
Cover art for Strange Shores

Strange Shores

Written by Arnaldur Indridason

If you are a follower of the Scandinavian mystery writers then you probably have read some of Indridason's books.

Inspector Erlendur returns to the landscape and country of his childhood. This is the place where his younger brother went missing in a violent and cold blizzard. Erlendur learns of Matthildur, a woman who also went missing in a storm. Intrigued by her story he sets out to discover what happened and why her body was never discovered. By finding and interviewing the people who knew Matthildur he is able to piece together the mystery of her disappearance.

Engaging and a good character study... the question is: Is this the end of the Erlendur series?

If you've not read Indridason before we have several of his titles in this series in the Library..

Recommended by Suzi
Cover art for The Girl Next Door: A Novel

The Girl Next Door: A Novel

Written by Ruth Rendell

In a London suburb during World War II a murder is committed; decades later, gruesome evidence of that murder is discovered and a group of men and women who were children at the time of the murder are reunited during the course of the investigation. As you read this story, you already know who committed the crime, so the mystery revolves around if and how and when the characters will realize what happened over 60 years ago, and how becoming reacquainted with each other affects them all, in both positive and negative ways.

Ruth Rendell is an amazing, prolific mystery author, and if you've never read any of her work, this is a fine place to start. If you're already a Rendell fan, her first-chapter reveal of the culprit breaks the usual whodunit mold.

Recommended by Catherine
Cover art for The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling

Written by Erika Johansen

William Tear crossed the sea to found a new utopia, but during the voyage, certain knowledge and technologies were lost, and since then, things have gone from bad to worse. For over a decade, since the assassination of Queen Elyssa, The Tearling has been without a crowned leader, but now Elyssa's daughter Kelsea has come of age and is to take the thrown. However, opposition abounds from various quarters, and despite her training, 19-year-old Kelsea has a lot to learn about being in charge.

This coming of age story has fantastical elements, political intrigue, violent action, mysterious magic and is an unusual mixture of contemporary social values (and the villains who oppose them) in a setting that is in many ways distinctly medieval. While you're puzzling out the unusual combination, you'll become hooked and need to know what will happen next. Book two is due out June 2015!

Recommended by Catherine
Cover art for The Magicians: A Novel

The Magicians: A Novel

Written by Lev Grossman

Imagine a cross between Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia for grown-ups and you have a sense of this fantasy thriller.

Quentin Coldwater, long-obsessed with the magical fictional world of Fillory, is suddenly transported to Brakesbill College where he gets to study actual magic and become a real wizard. Unfortunately, it turns out that studying magic is not all that different from studying anything else, and adjusting to the real post-school world is just as difficult as it is for graduates of regular non-magical college, or perhaps even more so, since real-life magic jobs involve defeating evil forces. Quentin and his gang of friends go between the greatest and the worst situations (and back and forth). The author does a great job of portraying the reality of Quentin's world. If you loved all the classic children's fantasy novels, check out The Magicians (and the sequels The Magician King and The Magician's Land).

Recommended by Robert
Cover art for The Ghosts of Tom Joad:  A Story of the #99 Percent.

The Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent.

Written by Peter Van Buren

Earl lives in Ohio and tells his story from a metaphorical bus. As the bus moves along he introduces us to people he has known in his life. Some are living, most are dead. This is a story of dreams deferred until they vanish. It is also a story of middle America; if you've followed the impact of globalization on the manufacturing centers in America you should be familiar with what has happened to our friend Earl. Factories that towns depended on for employment were closed and the manufacturing was moved overseas. Earl's story is the story of many of the people left behind.

Don't expect a happy ending here, you won't find one. What you will find is a story of lost lives. When jobs move away they create a vacuum filled with alcoholism and drug use. Sure, some jobs appear but they are the low-paying and soul-destroying minimum wage big box store jobs.

The book gives us a look into Earl's childhood and the town he grew up in when there was hope in the future. We are able to see what happened and how everyone was affected.

Not an easy or comfortable story but relevant and thoughtful. Having been raised in Cleveland, Ohio I saw many of the factories close and leave and the impact it had and is still having on that City and its citizens....

Recommended by Suzi
Cover art for The Boreal Feast: A Culinary Journey Through the North

The Boreal Feast: A Culinary Journey Through the North

Written by Michele Genest
Illustrated by Cathie Archbould

There are lots of books out there about wild foods, but The Boreal Feast is much more interesting from a recipe perspective. This wild food cookbook is very applicable to Juneau; Michele Genest, who is from Whitehorse, writes about ingredients that are abundant in our region. The author is an amazing food writer and chef. Particularly delicious recipes include smoked Labrador tea short bread and rosehip jelly. The attractive photographs included in the book are an added bonus.

Recommended by Ani
Cover art for The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You

Written by Ella Berthoud

Not sure what to read next? How about this book about books? Specifically, this book about which books to read to cure all your troubles. Organized by an alphabetical list that contains the whole range of human emotions, conditions, and conundrums, including jealousy, looking for Mr./Mrs. Right, burning dinner, nameless dread and even the common cold, The Novel Cure proposes to alleviate them with the proper prescribed reading material.

For example, a person suffering from hypochondria ought to pick up The Secret Garden, and be inspired by Mary's fierce determination that her cousin Colin is merely suffering from imagined illness. Or, if you find yourself in a jam, try The Life of Pi, in which young Pi survives being stranded at sea with a ravenous tiger; if Pi can get himself out of that pickle, you can extricate yourself from
your own tricky situations.

You can dip in to this excellent, creatively written book, or read it straight through, and be reminded of great books you have read (or have yet to read), get ideas for what to read next, and have a chuckle at the same time.

Recommended by mj

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