We Recommend These Books: Random Staff Picks from Our Department

On the first floor of the Millennium Library there is a department called Reader Services. This is not, perhaps, the most descriptive name, but that’s because our department handles many different things. We look after the new books, bestsellers, paperbacks, and magazines found in the TD New and Noted room. We take care of the fiction collection (including Graphic Novels, romance, mystery, science fiction/fantasy, and western). We also plan a lot of programs with authors, publishers and community organizations.

We are the first information desk people encounter and as such perform a sort of triage for all sorts of questions. We get to try to answer anything from “I’m lost” to “which bus should I take?” to “I need to repair my car.”

Sometimes, we get asked questions like “I love Sue Grafton, but I’ve read all her books, what should I do?” or simply “can you suggest a good book?” We call answering these questions ‘Readers Advisory’, and though it can be fun trying to find good suggestions for someone’s next read, it can also be tough, because reading taste is so very personal. To help with this, we’ve started thinking about our own favourite reads, and have created a very eclectic list, representing the varied tastes of the personalities in our section.

We’d like to share a random selection of these with you here. Each of the books below is recommended by a different staff member who works in Reader Services. Enjoy!

Sometimes a Great NotionSometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

This novel may be overshadowed by Kesey’s first – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – but it may well be the work of his lifetime. Many critics consider it his magnum opus and compare it to William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!. Kesey took the title from the lyrics of the song Goodnight Irene popularized by Lead Belly:

Sometimes I lives in the country
Sometimes I lives in town
Sometimes I haves a great notion
To jump into the river an’ drown

The novel centers on the Stamper clan, a family of loggers in Kesey’s native Oregon, whose motto is Never give an inch. Vast, multi-layered and brawling, Sometimes a Great Notion is widely considered one of the masterpieces of Western American Literature.

Redemption in IndigoRedemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Like some of the best fiction, this little book packs a lot into a small space. One way to describe it might be as a contemporary fairy tale based on Senegalese folklore, full of wry humour and told in a vivid conversational tone.

“There are people who inspire others to reach lofty goals. Ansige was one of these. People got to know him, and it came to them in a flash of revelation that whatever it was that they wanted to be, it was not a man like Ansige, and they scrambled to occupy the opposite end of the accomplishment spectrum.”

Stone AngelThe Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

The first word that comes to my mind when I think of this novel is miserable. It follows the life of Hagar Shipley, who lives in the small town of Manawaka, Manitoba. Hagar’s father, a farmer, is cold and distant, two traits she inherits as she grows older and has a family of her own. There is nothing happy about this book. It’s heart wrenching, it’s depressing, and it made me bawl my eyes out the first time I read it. And yet, this is still one of my favourite novels. Why would I love a book that made me feel so terrible, you ask? Despite the very depressing content, it makes you look at yourself in the mirror and ask: is this me? When I’m 90 years old, and on my death bed, will I have the same amount of fight in me as this woman? Will I be as stubborn as her? Will I be as cruel as her? Will I be as lonely as her? “Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there was fear.” The Stone Angel is the novel that will give you a swift kick in the rear end and make you look at your own life and how you live it, making it a very worthwhile read.

Need You NowNeed You Now by James Grippando.

“Grippando grips from the first page.” If you are a fan of financial suspense, this book is for you. Patrick Lloyd, a young Wall Street advisor at the world’s largest Swiss bank, and his girlfriend, Lilly, try to uncover the conspiracy behind a $6o billion scheme. Will they succeed? You’ll have to read the book. It is a fast-paced thriller in which danger and suspense lie behind every plot.

WickedWicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

This novel turns the familiar tale from our childhood on its ear. The author creates an intriguing and funny fantasy world, full of compelling characters and satirical commentary. We follow the Wicked Witch – named Elphaba – from childhood, through college, and later into a life of underground activism as she battles forces of evil, including the Wizard of Oz and her old college headmistress Madame Morrible. A very clever and inventive journey through the Land of Oz

Painted GirlsThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

No social being is less protected than the young Parisian girl—by laws, regulations, and social customs.  — Le Figaro, 1880

Beneath the superficial glitz of Paris in the late 19th century, the van Goethem sisters scrape by at a time when prejudice against the “lower classes” excuses all sorts of abuses. They working their hands to the bone at any job they can find, and bodies to the brink of exhaustion in the Paris Opéra, for scant pay and a faint hope of someday rising to more. Inspired by the life of Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and his other works depicting fatigued young dancers, it is a completely captivating, sad, yet somehow heartening depiction of beauty and ugliness in many forms.

So that’s just some of what we like to read. Visit us sometime, and see what book suggestions we can come up with just for you…


2 responses to “We Recommend These Books: Random Staff Picks from Our Department

  1. Thanks for the post and reviews! I’m in a book club as well and some of these titles look great as suggestions for upcoming reads; they all look really interesting. You should check out the book we’re reading right now, it’s called “The Children of Gavrilek” by Julie Kirtón Chandler, http://www.juliekirtonchandler.com. We’ve all found it to be a fantastic so far! Thanks again for the post and for the book suggestions!

  2. Our book club is currently reading To Sleep…Perchance to Die by Don Grippo. We weren’t sure how a thriller would go over as a club read but this one has been fantastic for all. http://www.dongrippo.com for it’s info, if you want a good thriller then this one should do!

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