I am excited to launch Bookmark This!, the Library Foundation of Los Angeles’ recommended reading program. Each month, we will present you with a list of books, stories, or poems recommended by Foundation and Los Angeles Public Library staff, members, and ALOUD participants for your reading pleasure.
In this inaugural issue, we have five recommendations – the first of which comes from our very own Louise Steinman (curator of the award-winning ALOUD series, co-director of the Los Angeles Institute for Humanities at USC, and author of The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War).
Nemesis by Philip Roth
“It’s set in the Weequahic section of Newark, NJ during the war year of 1944 when the polio epidemic is stalking the town. It’s a stunning evocation of a fear-filled time and a lovingly wrought portrait of a tight-knit Jewish community in mid-century America. No one then knew the vectors for the spread of polio, so the finger of blame moved nervously and frequently—from particular individuals to entire ethnic groups. Bucky Cantor, Roth’s protagonist, is a humble man and a gifted athlete whose heroism comes at great cost. I was drawn to this story because I love Philip Roth’s work but also because the polio epidemic cast a shadow over the life of my own family here in Los Angeles– my sister contracted the virus in the early 50’s.” –Louise Steinman
Our second recommendation comes from Suzanne Lummis, a poet whose work has appeared in The Hudson Review, The New Ohio Review, in the Knopf “Everyman Series” of anthologies Poetry of the American West and Poems of Murder and Mayhem, and is forthcoming in The Rattling Wall. Last year her organization, The Los Angeles Poetry Festival, presented a 25-event citywide series, “Night and the City: L.A. Noir in Poetry Fiction and Film.”
The Untouchable by John Banville
“The Untouchable unspools the inner life of a double agent loosely inspired by the brilliant art historian Anthony Blunt, one of the Cambridge alumni publicly disgraced decades later, when it was discovered they’d spied for the Soviet Union. Related in the first person, the novel investigates the price to be paid for duplicity and betrayal, and in some devastating larger sense, for the inability to commit emotionally to any person or ideologically to any belief. The Untouchable is not a fast read — in fact, quite the reverse — but at a certain point, Banville’s masterful writing and the power of his slow, deepening disclosure, took hold of me.” –Suzanne Lummis
The next recommendation comes from Cheryl Collins, an avid reader and interim director of Branch Library Services, who has worked for the Los Angeles Public Library for 32 years.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
“I first heard of this book when the New York Times named it one of the best works of American fiction during some period of time. It looked harmless. It was short and I thought, ‘just another tale of a dysfunctional family in some American backwater.’ What I got was something so unexpected and so incredibly beautiful. This is a novel, and so a work of prose, but it comes so close to poetry that invites a careful reading because it seems that each and every word was chosen so carefully and so precisely and so perfectly. It is a really beautiful and emotional work of art.” –Cheryl Collins
The following recommendation comes from Stan Molden, Public Safety Officer at the Central Library. He has worked for the City of Los Angeles for over 20 years. In addition to ensuring the safety of library staff and patrons, he is a professional photographer and has a deep passion for music, most especially classic rock and roll. Fittingly, his recommendation is a biography of a very famous musician.
The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White
“The story of the ‘architect of Rock n Roll’ – as Richard Wayne Penniman called himself – captures Little Richard’s charismatic persona, humor and deep frustrations. Clearly reflected in his exuberant stage performances, Little Richard’s unabashed love of music and belief in himself established him as one of the great artists of the 1950s. He was such an energetic and flamboyant character and dominant figure in rock and roll. This book gives an incisive look into this great musician’s life. A-WOP-BOP-A-LOO-MOP, A-LOP-BAM-BOOM!” –Stan Molden
Our last recommendation comes from two of our most ardent and long-standing members, George and Randy Beckwith.
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
“This is an important book about North Korea written by a man who is one of few Westerners to visit the country. It details people’s lives there; there are some really grisly scenes. Various people in the State Department are reading it. It is not an easy book to read, but it is a story about the triumph of the human spirit.” –George and Randy Beckwith
These books – and more than 6 million others – are available through the Central Library, 72 branches and www.lapl.org. The library collection includes books in print, audio and digital formats.
Have you read these books? Post your comments and let us know what you think. I hope you enjoyed the first edition of Bookmark This! Happy reading, and stay tuned for next month’s issue.
–Posted by Erin Sapinoso