I recently rediscovered the magic that is the Free Library. It happened a few weeks ago, on the way back to work from lunch with some friends. The conversation went something like this:
All: I love books! (Me too!) (I love books too!)
Lynn: Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to get free books? As many as you wanted?
Me: There is. It’s called…the library.
Herbie & Chris: [lol]
Lynn: Okay, fuck you guys.
I recognize now in the retelling that my response comes off as super sarcastic, but I promise it wasn’t (I am apparently only capable of sounding sarcastic, as anyone who knows me in real life will attest to). Lynn’s inquiry had honestly sparked a realization, though; something so simple and obvious, given my growing book collection and dwindling B&N gift cards, that I can’t believe it took me an unintentionally sassy, Phở-brained comment to remind me: the Free Library is amazing. When I was a kid, my library card got a serious work out, and the joy of visiting the main branch each week and coming home with a stack of new, exciting, hard-backed adventures to dive into –accompanied by the gloriously familiar crinkle of the plastic book covers– remains a highlight of my childhood. Why hadn’t I carried that into adulthood?
Well, I finally did. I renewed my library card and have been singing its praises ever since. And while the intervening years have seen some changes to the way the library operates (I can place holds on any title online, for pick up at my local branch; they don’t use rubber stamps or check-out cards anymore) the overwhelming enchantment hasn’t faded in the slightest.
Herewith, some upcoming reads:
|1 // Ajax Penumbra 1969, Robin Sloan
I was so smitten with Sloan’s “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” that I can’t believe I didn’t know until recently there was a second (prequel?) book in the same story. All I can tell you about the first one, if you haven’t read it already(why haven’t you read it already??), is that it is set in a bookstore in San Francisco, involves a secret organization of book lovers (where do I pledge my allegiance?), and that the cover glows in the dark. It was one of the best books I’ve ever read, hands down, and I am beyond thrilled there’s another one in the same vein.
|2 // The Painted Girls, Cathy Marie Buchanan
I recently checked this out from the library, with the intention of waiting to finish Donna Tartt’s “The Little Friend” first, but there was no way I could restrain myself. I’m already 100 pages into “The Painted Girls,” and it has everything I love: Paris in the 1880s, ballet, Degas, did I mention Paris? The story focuses on three young, impoverished sisters, one of whom becomes a figure model for the famous artist’s series of Danseuses. The narrative flips between the older two sisters, and I am so far loving all of the historical details.
|3 // Red Joan, Jennie Rooney
I actually received this book for free from Europa Editions, a wonderful and welcome surprise in my mailbox one afternoon. I’d joined their mailing list and was rewarded with this hefty historical fiction (I’m sensing a pattern), about the KGB’s longest serving British spy, thus making it the first time joining a mailing list has ever benefited anyone, ever. I love Europa Editions, from their selection of authors to the binding and paper choice of their books, and had recently finished their edition of “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” when “Red Joan” showed up. This may be getting ahead of myself, but I’ve been toying with submitting my manuscript to them when the time comes.
|4 // Gilded Youth, Kate Cambor
This book had been in my Amazon cart for months, as I’ve been intrigued by the plot since I first came across it: a coming of age story set in the early 20th century of the scions of three of France’s biggest cultural influencers, including writers Victor Hugo and Alphonse Daudet. Cambor’s book captures the “hopes and disillusionments of those who were destined to see the golden world of their childhood disappear.” You know how I feel about late 19th/early 20th century Paris, so this seems like an obvious book to place on my “to-read” shelf.
What are you guys reading these days? Any recommendations?