Bookmark This #20

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!  Here are a few reading recommendations for you to consider as you gather with family and friends for beach excursions, barbeques and bonfires.

If you’d like to contribute a reading recommendation to an upcoming issue of Bookmark This, contact Erin Sapinoso at [email protected].


Marisela Norte is an author of poetry and fiction.  Her poems have been featured on MTA TV as part of the “Out the Window” project and were recently selected among the best transit poems in the world by The Atlantic Monthly.

Marisela recommends Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick.

“Beyond the deep Morroccan blue window sill, the chipped paint overlooking another row of windows and the rusted  movie marquee on the cover of Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights, are her stories.  Like broken pieces of jewelry tucked away for safe keeping should they ever be put together again, Hardwick’s scattered gems, her reflections, girlhood memories, and stories are a late night phone call that invites the strongest black coffee and cigarettes to listen in.  Observations of family, husbands, lovers or strangers on train platforms, in candlelit dining rooms or on vacation inside their own loneliness.  ‘If only one knew what to remember or pretend to remember,’ she writes ‘Make a decision and what you want from the lost things will present itself.  You can take it down from the shelf like a can.  Perhaps.’  I have chosen Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights as my personal surveyor, all of her questions laid out like a map of where I am going.”


Barbara Bilson is an 80-year-old Californian, born in Long Beach, raised in Los Angeles, educated at Fairfax High School, Stanford, and UCLA.  Though officially retired, she still teaches–memoir writing and Jewish literature at Leo Baeck Temple–and leading book-discussion groups.  In addition, she has a wonderful time with family, including 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and bird-watching, stamp collecting, and travelling.

Barbara recommends Mary Coin by Marisa Silver.

“It’s a pleasure to read a book that is beautifully written, tells an interesting story, and explores significant issues without being ponderous.  Marisa Silver’s Mary Coin is such a book.  Using spare, unsentimental language, Silver tells a fictionalized version of the momentary encounter between photographer Dorothea Lange and Florence Owens Thompson, the woman portrayed in Lange’s famous ‘Migrant Mother.’  Vera and Mary, their names in the novel, meet for the brief time it takes for Vera to snap pictures of Mary and her children at a migrant workers’ camp–a meeting that affects the lives of each woman.

Silver tells Vera’s and Mary’s story both before and after the photographic event, bringing into the plot the wholly fictional Walker Dodge, a social historian whose search for the ephemera of people’s lives leads us to issues Silver weaves into her tale: the ways in which an event changes depending on who is remembering it; the difference between looking at something and seeing it; and both the truth and the lie inherent in a photograph, a memory, time itself.  As Eugenia Williamson writes in the Boston Globe, ‘Mary Coin is a lovely and deeply satisfying read.’  I couldn’t agree more.”


Dennis Signorovitch is a long-time Member of the Library Foundation.

Dennis recommends American Romantic by Ward Just.

“Ward Just’s American Romantic is a writerly excursion through familiar Just territory: Vietnam, Washington, D.C., American embassies with all the acute observations he can offer. The drama of his main character’s experience in the jungle early in the book and then again much later in the book when he suffers a personal loss is quite intense. There’s also a clear-eyed, unsentimental meditation on old age with its infirmities and losses.  And yet, the ending is unabashedly romantic.”


Ela Jhaveri is a long-standing supporter of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and Member of The Council.

Ela recommends Stoner by John Williams.

“I just read a book that I highly recommend – a book that I learned so much from – Stoner by John Williams.  The main character fulfills his life doing what he loves and believes in despite all the disappointments and struggles of relationships and career.  It is so much about a character of a person and his inner life and not the way the society is today, where to many, what seems to matter is material success and what you project to the world outside on social media etc.  There is a fabulous review in The New York Times Magazine (May 9, 2014) that should be read before reading this novel.”


Katie Dunham is Communications Director for the Library Foundation.  Originally from Tennessee, she loves dachshunds, loud music, and USC.

Katie recommends Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade by Walter Kirn.

“As an avid reader of true crime, I was excited when I heard that Walter Kirn would be on the ALOUD schedule this spring with his new book about the Clark Rockefeller case. His interview in April (which you can listen to in podcast) was riveting, so I ran home with my new copy of the book that night and dove in immediately. What I found in the reading though was less a documentation of sordid details than Kirn’s own exploration of his strange 15-year friendship with the conman and convicted murderer. Kirn wonders how he had been so easily fooled, why he had been so complicit in allowing the wool to be pulled over his eyes – making for a much more illuminating account. The way Kirn unfolds his story builds less to an unveiling of the criminal’s motive than to a self-realization.”


These books – and more than six million others in print, audio and digital formats – are available through the Central Library, 72 branches and

Happy reading, and stay tuned for the next issue of Bookmark This!

Share on