This semester, Associate Arts Editor Maggie Needham will give book recommendations once a month. Here’s the first batch:
“Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris
David Sedaris’ wit never fails, and he is at his best in this collection of humorous essays. With topics ranging from his childhood to his move to France to his career, Sedaris’ sarcasm drips from the page to the nonstop entertainment of the reader. His comedic insights into daily life never bore, and his descriptions of those with whom he interacts invite the reader into his life.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs
In his debut novel, Ransom Riggs strings together strange photographs he had collected into a fantasy narrative featuring an abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island. Equal parts creepy and charming, this young adult novel is a refreshing take on the supernatural genre that has been dominated by vampires and werewolves for far too long.
“The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach
Chad Harbach made quite the splash with this first novel, “The Art of Fielding,” which was named one of the best books of 2011 by The New York Times. Set in Westish College, a small fictional school in rural Wisconsin, “The Art of Fielding” tells the story of Henry Skrimshander, shortstop for the Westish Harpooners. As Henry’s life intertwines with and influences many others’, the story quickly becomes about much more than baseball: youth, love, ambition and growing up.
“Water for Elephants” by Sarah Gruen
This novel tells the story of Jacob Jankowski, a man in his 90s unhappily living in a nursing home and more happily reminiscing about his days as a young man in the circus. The two timelines beautifully interact, exchanging themes and constantly moving closer and further apart to bring the reader to a better understanding of Jankowski’s character.
“The Long Loneliness” by Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, is already on her way to sainthood. In this autobiography, Day tells her story from her beginnings as a journalist involved in the communist movement in the 1910s to her conversion to Catholicism and her strong advocacy of direct action to serve the poor. Day passed away in 1980 but lives on in Catholic Worker houses across the country.
“Maus” by Art Spiegelman
Part comic book, part history lesson and part memoir, “Maus” is a graphic novel like no other (as well as the first one to receive a Pulitzer Prize). Art Spiegelman lets his father Vladek narrate his story as a Polish Jew in the midst of World War II. Spiegelman’s own conversations with his father during the course of creating the graphic novel frame the narrative of Vladek’s struggles, highlighting the interaction of the past with the present. “Maus” is told in two volumes: “My Father Bleeds History” and “And Here My Toubles Began.”