by Mary Coté
North Olympic Library System
How do you find your next great read? Word of mouth, blurbs, reviews? Do you judge books by their covers? Perhaps you seek out stories of immigrants, coming-of-age tales or Pulitzer Prize winners. You just might discuss the question with your local library staff!
Librarian and author Nancy Pearl helps us think about our reading proclivities by organizing them into four “frames” or “doorways” — story, character, language and setting. Thinking about which of these form the biggest wedges of your reading satisfaction “pie” will help library staff help you find that next great read. With the caveat that there’s no arguing taste, here are some suggestions for great reads that demonstrate each frame.
For depth of character, Colm Tóibín’s fictional portrayal of American writer Henry James, “The Master,” led this reader to Henry James’ “The Portrait of a Lady.” Each novel closely examines the characters’ inner workings with glorious language and explores the depths of duty, freedom, marriage and death.
For more gorgeous language, try Toni Morrison. Artist Kara Walker writes of the Nobel Laureate’s “Tar Baby,” “Toni Morrison has always written for the ear, with a loving attention to the textures and sounds of words.” See also Jenny Offill’s page-turner of a love story “Dept. of Speculation.” According to Booklist, “(Offill) is … so precisely articulate that her perfect, simple sentences vibrate like violin strings.”
If what you look for in a book is a plot-driven, self-propelling story, “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” by Daniel James Brown, comes highly recommended. This is a great story to enjoy with friends: In addition to individual copies, NOLS also offers this book as a set, with 10 copies for members of your book group.
For more information about this book kit, visit the library catalog at www.nols.org and search for “Boys in the Boat kit.”
Lastly comes place. Journalist and novelist Geraldine Brooks takes the reader on a journey through time and place in “People of the Book.” With a page-turning plot, she wends her way through Vienna, Venice, Barcelona, Seville and the former Yugoslavia.
For something completely different, visit Roz Chast’s parents’ cluttered apartment in “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” — a poignant graphic novel about her parents’ last days.
One might dare add a doorway for books that question, like Phil Klay’s National Book Award-winning collection of short stories, “Redeployment,” which chronicles the experiences of soldiers and veterans of the Iraq War. As reviewed by Booklist, “Redeployment is most remarkable … for the questions it asks about the aims and effects of war stories themselves, and Klay displays a thoughtful awareness of this literary tradition.”
Have questions? Join in the conversation at your library! To reach the friendly staff at the Sequim Library, call 683-1161 or stop in for a visit at 630 N. Sequim Ave. The library always is open at www.nols.org.
Mary Coté is a customer service specialist at Sequim and Port Angeles branch libraries.