Monday, February 28, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of March 1, 2022

Here are the Boswellian's picks of the books released this week. Read on, dear readers.

Let's begin with Rachel Copeland, who has a recommendation for the paperback original (and event book!) By Any Other Name by Lauren Kate. We're super excited about this book, as we're hosting a special, virtual launch party in collaboration with our pals at Anderson's Bookshops of Illinois. Kate will be in conversation with our own excellent interviewer and romance book club creator Rachel along with Anderson's Danielle Dresser, who writes under the name Danielle Jackson. Here's Rachel's review: "Lanie Bloom has a great life - her dream job as an editor and a fianc√© who fits every requirement on Lanie's 99-item list, inspired by the works of beloved and reclusive writer Noa Callaway. No one has ever seen her, but Lanie and Noa have corresponded professionally for years. But when Lanie finally learns the truth about her favorite author, everything she thinks she knows is called into question. This book gave me all the good 80s and 90s Meg Ryan rom com vibes, and like a lot of reviewers out there, I actually did read it in one sitting - it's just that addictive. Lanie is a winning protagonist - at times frustratingly impulsive and stubborn, but with an outstanding capacity to reflect and redirect herself in a way that feels both relatable and aspirational. This book left me wanting more in the best way possible - like the best romance novels, I just wanted to spend more time with this story."

Released last week but recommended this week is Satisfaction Guaranteed: How Zingerman's Built a Corner Deli into a Global Food Community by Micheline Maynard. And Daniel's take: "Over the years, I’ve visited various Zingerman’s operations, read one of their books, bought their products by mail order and at Plum Market, and even attended a bookstore-specific version of the Zing Train. And yet I never fail to be impressed and a little surprised by how Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig were able to grow their business without doing the obvious expansion plan – chaining and franchising delis across the country. Instead, they made the conscious decision to center all expansion in Ann Arbor and nearby environs, venturing into new businesses in a way that leveraged employee talent, but would be unlikely to get bank loan approval. If I had a caveat about Satisfaction Guaranteed, it would be that there are a lot of implied exclamation points here - not every new idea has worked. And yet there is much inspiring in Maynard’s telling for entrepreneurs and corporate types alike - to contemplate growth not by what it should do, but what it could do."

Next we have Kay Wosewick for Jo Harkin's latest novel, Tell Me An Ending. Kay offers these words: "It has been well documented that memories change subtly each time we retrieve them. Imagine the complications that arise when scientists think they’ve devised a method to erase painful memories. And then they figure out how to retrieve those erased memories and feel morally obligated to offer everyone the opportunity to regain those memories, including people who pre-chose not to remember having their memory erased. This fast-paced, twisty story is populated with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters plus great surprises. The concept is brilliant, and the telling is first-rate. Bravo to Jo Harkin."

Jen Steele has two new recs for kids books this week. The first is for Elephant Island by author / illustrator Leo Timmers. Jen says of this picture book: "Elephants are my favorite animal, so naturally I had to read Elephant Island, and I'm so glad I did! Arnold is a sea-faring elephant who has always considered the sea his friend. One day Arnold's boat sinks during a storm. Ever resourceful, Arnold manages to make due and make friends on his tiny island. Charming illustrations and a creative way to find the silver lining make Elephant Island a wonderful picture book addition to your library."

Jen also has a write-up for the new Dan Santat graphic novel for kids, The Aquanaut. Of this, Jen writes: "Dan Santat has done it again! Another delightfully illustrated book with a moving story told in graphic novel form. Sophia's father, a brilliant marine biologist, was lost at sea during a research project. His research was saved, and Sophia is now in the care of her uncle who is continuing her father's project. While her uncle is hard at work, Sophia roams around Aqualand, a Sea World-esque park that may not be all it seems to be. Soon, Sophia comes across a most unusual creature - the aquanaut, which turns out to be a rag tag crew of underwater creatures are manning the aquanaut suit! It's a race against time for Sophia and her new friends to save the captive sea creatures in Aqualand."

In the realm of books getting their paperback release this week, we've got two recs for Klara and the Sun by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro. First, from Daniel Goldin: "Klara is an AF (artificial friend) waiting at the store with her friend Rosa for someone to take her home. Her odds have decreased since a new model has been released. Josie, a young girl, has been browsing the store and has set her eye on Klara, but hasn’t been able to commit. And when she does, Klara will find itself (herself?) plopped into a family drama of an ill girl and divorced parents who disagree on the best course of action. Ishiguro hints at an eerie future of genetically modified elites, professions replaced by robots, and worsening civil breakdowns. If there’s an author where the more you read, the greater the appreciation for the entire body of work, Ishiguro is it. I began Klara and the Sun imagining a connection to Never Let Me Go, noting later that Klara was also the obvious descendent of Stevens, the butler of Remains of the Day, dedicated to service and unmoored by a change. I love how Ishiguro’s heroes are both keenly observant and hobbled by blind spots. For Klara, it could be mistaking the sun for a deity, which makes sense, being solar powered. I’m almost disturbed to say this – Klara is perhaps the most empathetic hero I’ve read about in a long time. So what does this say about me?"

Tim McCarthy also weighs in: "This book is easy to read, and not because it's simple. Ishiguro creates tremendous emotional depth with a graceful narrative flow. That must be how you win a Nobel Prize: expertly crafting writing that sounds so natural. Klara observes the world and its people with open curiosity, at first untainted by her limited experience, but she’s always learning. Her ability to analyze human behavior with sincerity, consideration, and objectivity is something I would love to possess, but Klara isn't human. She's a machine, waiting for a future with a human family who would buy her as their child's Artificial Friend. She looks forward to being displayed in the storefront window, where nourishment from the sun will make her stronger, and she can see more of the city's intensity. Then there’s a wider world out there, where her status will be friend, family, and possession. Klara feels the effects. She has her own intentions, and her personal story has an unmistakable living warmth. Can Klara love and be loved? Is she ultimately being used for her owners' needs alone, or do they care for her as they would care for a person? One thing I can say without hesitation is that I wish Klara was my friend!"

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