Posts Tagged ‘frank’

Get me out: a history of childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the sperm bank

November 7, 2012

Get me outTitle: Get me out : a history of childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the sperm bank

Author: Randi Hutter Epstein

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 302

Geographical Setting: Setting changes, as does time period

Plot Summary:  Get me out is an incredibly interesting, if not mildly disturbing overview of the history of childbirth.  Randi Hutter Epstein does a good job providing scholarly information in a popular and easily accessible way that non-medical professionals will be able to understand.  An example of this blending of scholarly and popular is the stylistic choice to include footnotes at the bottom of the pages, instead of having to flip to the end of the book to find the additional information.  The topics covered vary from medical to issue-oriented.  A few examples are discussions about how certain current medical procedures were perfected, how resistant doctors were to accept findings contrary to what suited their needs, and how influential health insurance providers were several decades ago.  This is  book is for everyone; however, I would caution the faint of heart, or anyone currently pregnant because the descriptions can be rather graphic and some of the topics covered are still current issues today.
Subject Headings: Birth customs; Childbirth; Gynecology; Midwifery; Obstetrics; Pregnancy; Reproduction; Reproductive technology; Medicine; Childbirth — History

Appeal:  Compelling; Engrossing; Sobering; Issue-oriented; Thought-provoking; Historical details; Accessible; Medical details; Descriptive; Episodic; Frank; Jargon; Well-researched; Informative; Graphic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling; Informative; Historical and Medical details;

Three fiction read-alikes:

The birth house by Ami McKay (Childbirth, Thought-provoking, Descriptive)

In an isolated village in Nova Scotia during the first years of World War I, a midwife and her apprentice, Dora Rare, face the challenge of protecting generations of birthing traditions and wisdom when a smooth new doctor comes to town promising fast, painless childbirths.

The birth of love by Joanna Kavenna (Childbirth, Issue-oriented)

In nineteenth-century Vienna, doctors did not routinely wash their hands.  In twenty-first-century London, a woman chooses to have a drug free homebirth.  In twenty-second-century Arctic Circle, a woman rebels against custom and becomes pregnant without the help of science.  Three different women, during three different centuries face their generations’ challenges of labor and childbirth.

 The zygote chronicles by Suzanne Finnamore (Pregnancy)

A humorous story, told in diary form, about a 30 year-old woman’s pregnancy and the changes and challenges she faces as motherhood nears.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Pink and Blue: telling the boys from the girls in America by Jo B. Paoletti (Social issues, Descriptive, History)

How important is it to dress children in the ‘right’ colors?  This book explores the fascinating history of gendered clothing in America.  A culmination of 30 years of research, this book covers issues of child development, gender studies, fashion, marketing, and parenting. For those curious about the answer to the question, blue used to be for girls!

Birth matters: how what we don’t know about nature, bodies, and surgery can hurt us by Ina May Gaskin (Science writing, Descriptive, Childbirth)

Ina May offers a global and practical look at pregnancy and the significance and purpose of childbirth.  Ina May is a famous midwife with years of experience and knowledge about different cultural approaches to childbirth.

Pushed: the painful truth about childbirth and modern maternity care by Jennifer Block (Science writing, Childbirth, Maternal health services)

Block, known to many from her previous book Our Bodies, Ourselves, tackles the current issues women are faced with when deciding where and how to give birth.  This book delves into questions pertaining to the number of cesarean sections and episiotomies performed and whether or not that number is reflective of necessity for a safe and healthy childbirth.

Name: Shira

Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

August 13, 2012

Author: Hadjii

Title: Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

Genre: African American Biography

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 219 p.

Geographical Setting: Georgia

Time Period: 1980s and 1990s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven, and humorous autobiography consists of stories from Hadjii’s childhood and teenage years.  Throughout the autobiography, Hadjii covers many interesting situations, like attending a predominantly white school, relating to his traditional parents, going to family parties, visiting church on Sundays, celebrating Christmas, drinking for the first time, taking a test for AIDS, and getting his first job.  In the author’s note, Hadjii admits that some parts of the autobiography are true while others are not although one consistent theme throughout many of the stories is Hadjii’s highlighting of the differences between people who are black and white.  In each chapter, Hadjii’s first-person language and voice are clear.  He is chatty and frank, and he uses this voice to plainly describe and comment on situations and characters from his early years.  Unlike many autobiographies, Hadjii’s story is not tragic or sentimental, but is sarcastic, critical, perceptive, and generally optimistic.  Nonetheless, even though the tone throughout the autobiography is generally light, Hadjii’s sharp observations often present deeper perspectives on issues, especially regarding being a black American growing up in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

Subject Headings: African-American Families; African-American Young Men; African-Americans; Family and Relationships; The Eighties (20th Century); The Nineties (20th Century); Southern States – Social Life and Customs; Southern States – Race Relations; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing; Memoirs;

Appeal: fast-paced, candid, contemplative, edgy, exuberant, humorous, introspective, playful, thoughtful, upbeat, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, lifelike, recognizable, and vivid primary and secondary characters, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, issue-oriented, strong language, thought-provoking, evocative, small-town, accessible, chatty, colorful, concise, conversational, descriptive, direct, frank, informal

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: frank, funny, episodic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who are looking for another character-driven reflection about family and relationships in a small town in Georgia.  Although Bailey White recounts these stories as an adult and does not include an African- American perspective as in Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, readers of Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White will appreciate her humorous episodic tales, closely observed and eccentric characters, and conversational dialogue throughout the novel.

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who desire another autobiography that highlights family, relationships, and race relations in the United States.  Even though the tone and style ofLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams is far more serious and formal thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, both autobiographies focus on how race affected their childhood and teenage years.  Another difference, however, is thatLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams takes place in Indiana in the 1960s unlike Hadjii’s upbringing in Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii because it too is a satiric memoir that humorously focuses on perceptions and stereotypes that people have about African Americans in the United States.  Similar toDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, Thurston tries to present a more nuanced and detailed impression of race relations and his background of growing up and living in America, and like Hadjii, Thurston deemphasizes the need for every black individual to represent his or her entire race.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about an African American, Betsey Brown, growing up in a middle-class family and dealing with race relations in the United States.  Although the novel is set in Missouri in the late 1950s, Betsey is dealing with many of the same family issues as Hadjii inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried MemoirAlthough Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange is more poetic and atmospheric thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii too, it also is episodic and frankly humorous in many sections and contains a compelling story.

Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about African-American families, friends, and neighbors in a small town.  Although the book is more sentimental in tone and takes place in Oklahoma, as inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii,Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper contains multiple stories told by humorous main characters in a witty and lyrical style.

The Thang That Ate My Grandaddy’s Dog by John Calvin Rainey will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another humorous novel about a young African-American boy, Johnny Woodside, growing up in a small town in Florida.  Like Hadjii, Johnny tells many stories about his adventures and the friends and family that he relates to on a regular basis as he learns many lessons about life.

Fun Home

April 11, 2012

Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Autobiography; Graphic novels (Nonfiction); Memoirs; Family and relationships; Adult books for young adults;

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 232

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania

Time Period:  1960’s – early 1980’s

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: This graphic memoir—graphic as in comic strip, not explicit (though there is an explicit moment)—centers around the author’s slow revelation that she is a lesbian and her relationship with her closeted English teacher/historical house restorer/funeral home director father.  It’s full of references to Greek myths and American novels and plays that will please literary folks and non-literary types as the graphic representations help convey the meaning of the references.  This dark but not depressing multiple award nominee and winner will appeal to readers that like a more mature coming-of-age memoir.

Subject Headings: Bechdel, Alison, 1960 – Comic books, strips, etc.; Father and daughter; Closet gay men; Lesbian teenagers – Coming out; Brothers; English language teachers;  Gay men; Undertakers and undertaking; Parent and child; Children of divorced parents; Funeral homes; Teacher-student relationships; Divorce; Death; Historic preservation; Cartoonists – United States.

Appeal: candid; darker; humorous; introspective; melancholy; moving; moody; poignant; reflective; sophisticated; thoughtful; eccentric; quirky; realistic; sympathetic; well-developed; authentic; character-centered; issue-oriented; literary references; accurate; contemporary; accessible; chatty; conversational; direct; frank; informal; smart; straightforward; witty; award winner.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: witty; reflective; candid

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Epileptic by David B.  This is another moving and thoughtful memoir told in a graphic medium.  Epileptic, like Fun Home, is about a family with problems and how the author came out of the experience, though the problems are different.

You’ll Never Know by Carol Tyler.  This moving and thoughtful story is the first book in this 3-part graphic novel/memoir that centers around the author’s relationship with her father and how it affected her later relationships.  Bechdel’s memoir Fun Home is also a moving and thoughtful graphic novel/memoir that focuses on her relationship with her father.

Running with Scissors by August Burroughs.  It’s not a graphic novel but, like Fun HomeRunning with Scissors is a candid, engaging and witty coming-of-age memoir.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Family Matter by Will Eisner.  Though this candid graphic novel only covers a day in the life, it too reveals family secrets that include suppressed dark family secrets.

Martin Bauman: or, A Sure Thing by David Leavitt is also a character-driven, moody and witty coming-of-age novel. Though this tale about an insecure writer struggling to come out of the closet may be based on the author’s own life, it seems that Leavitt may have also had a mentor-type figure that strongly shaped the author’s life.

Escape from “Special” by Miss Lasko-Gross is a coming-of-age graphic novel of a girl trying to get through a difficult childhood with hippie parents.  The muted colors of the artwork is similar to Fun Home (Fun Home uses grayish blues and Escape uses smoky grays) in that it evokes a moody tone throughout the darkly humorous story.

Name: Ally C.

One in a Million

August 17, 2011

Author: Kimberla Lawson Roby

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships; African American; Christian Fiction

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 183

Geographical Setting: Chicago, Illinois

Time Period: Present

Plot Summary: Kennedi Mason thinks that she has the perfect marriage with her husband Blake. After years of hoping and dreaming about this special moment, Kennedi can’t wait to share the good news with her husband; news that will change their lives for the better. But when Blake gets home, he has some news of his own that will turn Kennedi’s world into a tailspin. The aftermath of Kennedi and Mason’s announcements will set forth a series of events where lies and betrayal are uncovered. Kennedi will soon find out that perception is not reality.

Subject Headings: Divorce; Lottery Winner; Friendship; Betrayal; Extramarital Relations; Chicago – Fiction; African American

Appeal: Emotionally-charged, dramatic, flawed, poignant, satisfying, frank, insightful, engaging, conversational tone, passionate, sympathetic main character, fast-paced

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book: Emotionally-charged, dramatic, flawed

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Luck of the Draw: True-Life Tales of Lottery Winners and Losers by Chris Cudgeon (takes an in-depth look at the lives of lottery winners and losers, showing how the lottery has both positively and negatively affected lottery winners, entertaining and engaging read)

Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul by Jack Canfield (inspirational stories of African American women who, like Kennedi in One in a Million, withstood hardship and found success, includes quotes and stories from modern day heroines like Patti LaBelle, Halle Berry and Queen Latifah)

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice (poignant, engaging, frank, story of Condoleezza’s childhood and how she made it to the White House)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Can I Get a Witness? By ReShonda Tate Billingsley (Christian fiction, tale of marriage struggles, dramatic, engaging tone)

Tryin’ to sleep in the bed you made by Virginia DeBerry (sympathetic characters, theme of overcoming obstacles, plot twists that pull the reader into the story from the beginning)

Seen it all and done the rest by Pearl Cleage (women’s lives and relationships, character driven, dramatic, conversational tone)

Name: Tara Bauer

The Other Side of the River

August 6, 2011

Author: Alex Kotlowitz

Title: The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death, and America’s Dilemma

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 317

Geographical Setting: Benton Harbor, Michigan and St. Joseph, Michigan

Time Period: 1992-1996 with references to events occurring in 1991 and earlier.

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Journalist Alex Kotlowitz comes to Benton Harbor, Michigan with the intention of examining one of America’s poorest and most violent communities. This changes, however, when Kotlowitz discovers that 16 year-old Eric McGinnis, a black boy from the impoverished town, was found floating in the river dissecting Benton Harbor and its predominately white and affluent neighbor, St. Joseph. Kotlowitz becomes obsessed with the death, one that was hastily ruled an accident. The author spends four years traveling between the two starkly different communities in an attempt to discover the truth behind Eric’s death. Kotlowitz learns that the notion of truth vastly differs as he crosses the bridge connecting each town. Benton Harbor residents know Eric was murdered, likely by a white person from St. Joseph. St. Joseph residents, however, would like to let the tragic event live in the past. Despite their differences, residents of both towns fear the potential for race riots and chaos if the truth about Eric’s death is ever discovered. This investigative story offers a bleak account of race relations and racial inequality in the United States. It also presents a gritty report of the senseless violence prevalent throughout impoverished communities. Despite its stark tone, this book reads quickly as its subject compels its reader to learn more about the mysterious and tragic death.

Subject Headings: Murder Victims–Michigan, Unsolved Murders–Michigan, McGinnis, Eric, d. 1991, Race Relations–Case Studies–United States, Poverty–Benton Harbor (MI), Investigative Journalism, Violent Crimes–Teens, African-Americans

Appeal: Atmospheric, Compelling, Episodic, Bleak, Gritty, Poignant, Uneasy, Intriguing, Sobering, Multiple Points of View, Sympathetic, Investigative, Issue-oriented, Moving, Thought provoking, Violent, Tragic, Timeless, Urban, Informative, Journalistic, Frank, Well-Researched

Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: Issue-oriented, Gritty, Sobering

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge by T.J. English
(This journalistic account of race relations and violence during the most violent period in the history of New York City details murder investigations, corrupt police, and racial tension. The result is an issue-oriented, tragic, and timeless work of non-fiction that creates a gritty tone and sobering mood.)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
(This journalistic piece of non-fiction revolves around a violent murder and the ensuing investigation. In addition to representing a true crime story, Capote offers a frank discussion of senseless violence in the United States, thereby creating a sobering mood.)

Hate Crime: The Story of a Dragging in Jasper, Texas by Joyce King
(This investigative true-crime story offers a discussion of racism and inequality in the United States through the frame of a violent hate crime. The author creates a bleak and stark vision of race relations in the US that proves sobering)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Native Son by Richard Wright
(This novel features a violent murder in an urban setting. The events help demonstrate racial inequality and injustice in the urban United States. Other themes discussed include African-American poverty and hopelessness. Wright creates a novel with a compelling pace that is coupled with a bleak mood and thought-provoking story.)

A Murder of Justice by Andrew Roberts
(This novel tells a compelling story in which urban law enforcement coerce testimony during a murder investigation. The police force faces racially-charged pressure to convict the African-American suspect with a criminal past. The novel is thought-provoking, gritty, issue-oriented, and tragic.)

Snow Angels by James Thompson
(Thompson relies on a gritty writing-style and fast pace to present an investigative novel about the role of racism and xenophobia in a violent murder that takes place in Finland. The novel comes from the point of view of the passionate criminal inspector.)

Dan Thorson

To Tame A Land

July 19, 2011


Author:  Louis L’Amour                                                                                                                  

Title:  To Tame A Land                                                                     

Publication Date: 1955                                                                     

Pages:  269

Genre:  Western

Geographical Setting:  Western United States

Time Period: Mid 1800’s

Subject Headings:  Western stories

Appeal:  Fast-paced, suspenseful, optimistic, well-developed characters, strong secondary characters, action-oriented, linear, detailed, romance, descriptive, frank, resolved ending

Plot Summary:   Orphaned twelve-year-old Tyler learns how to survive on his own when he is abandoned on the westward trail in the middle of Indian country.  He learns to live off the land and develops a reputation for his quick, sharp shooting skills.  Tyler’s wanderings introduce him to an array of dramatic characters and situations.  This fast-paced story is filled with vivid descriptions of western landscape and is told with a refreshing frank style.

Three terms that best describe this book:  Fast-paced, action-oriented, descriptive

Similar authors and fiction works:

Gunman’s Goal by Max Brand

A crime story about a western adventurer who helps a beautiful girl find her missing father.  Fast-paced, romantic, descriptive

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Saga of engrossing characters on a cattle run. 

Descriptive, romantic, leisurely-paced.

Rangers of the Lone Star by Zane Grey

An ex-outlaw deputy U.S. marshal puts a stop to cattle rustling and deals with hostile rivals.

Fast-paced, insightful characters, contemplative

Similar authors and non-fiction works:

Breaking Clean by Judy Blunt

Rodeo’s, blizzards, family ties and isolation are part of life growing up on Northern Montana. 

Informative, intimate, authentic

Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West by Timothy Egan

New York Times correspondent goes on an eleven state journey in order to gain insight into the American west.

Compelling, descriptive, humorous,

This House of Sky by Ivan Doig

Memoir of a cowboy’s life growing up in Montana.

Unhurried, eccentric, engaging

Name:  Debbie Jancik

Read July 19, 2011














The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis

April 20, 2011

Author: De Robertis, Carolina

Title: The Invisible Mountain

Genre: Latino/a

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 364 p.

Geographical Setting: Uruguay and Argentina

Time Period: Spans the 20th Century

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: Three extraordinary women, grandmother, mother, and daughter, and their experiences span the 20th century. Pajarita, the Uruguayan miracle of 1900, Eva, her rebellious daughter with a traumatic past, and Salomé, the political rebel who cannot be contained during a political age. Pajarita endures a life of loneliness but filled with love for her children, especially her daughter Eva. Eva, whose traumatic childhood is disturbing and heart wrenching, yields way to a talented poet. Her daughter, Salomé, a political rebel, completes the lineage of women. Though plot-centered at times, this story is truly a tale of family, culture, and the bitter sweetness of life.

Subject Headings: Mothers and daughters, Fiction; Uruguay, Fiction; Miracles; Mothers and daughters; Family relationships; Survival; Motherhood; Daughters

Appeal: Engrossing, measured, engaging, well-developed, episodic, strong language, detailed setting, accurate, intimate, political, contemplative, dramatic, emotionally-charged, unpretentious, complex, frank, smart, vivid.

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: Character-centered, bittersweet, lyrical.

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

Amy Green’s Bloodroot: Literary, lyrical, interwoven; a similar style, but with more perspectives following an American family over generations.

Julia Alvarez’s Saving the World: Suspenseful, romantic, lyrical; a woman deals with disease in two time frames.

Jean M. Auel’s The Land of Painted Caves: Character-centered, strong sense of place, family relationships; a look at family relationships, but in a prehistoric setting.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Heart wrenching, researched, unhurried; Chang’s family saga, including her grandmother, her mother, and herself in China.

Asuncion Lavrin’s Women, Feminism, and Social Change in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay: Detailed, thought-provoking, accurate; a comprehensive look at the first part of the 20th century.

Lucy Moore’s Maharanis: Detailed, progressive, character-centered; the following of four queens of India in a similar time frame.

Annotation by Carlen

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

April 20, 2011

Author:  Wes Moore

Title:  The Other Wes Moore

Genre:  Nonfiction

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages: 182

Geographical Setting:  Baltimore, the Bronx

Time Period: late 1970s to present

Plot Summary:  Two boys grew up in West Baltimore at the same time.  Neither of them had a father figure, both were in low-income households, both struggled in school and were pressured to make poor choices.  Both of them are named Wes Moore.  One of them is now serving a lifetime prison sentence, whereas the other is a Rhodes Scholar and businessman in New York City.  This book tells the story of parallel lives that turned out drastically differently.

Subject Headings:  Memoir, African American, coming of age story

Appeal:  engrossing, issue-oriented, layered, vivid, well developed, tragic, hopeful, urban, gritty, candid, frank, unembellished

3 terms that best describe this book:  Honest, inspiring, real

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. My American Journey by Colin Powell:  The author mentions this as a very influential book in his life and about how much he admires Colin Powell, a fellow soldier.
  2. Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatterton Williams:  A memoir about a young black man growing up on the poor side of town and the decisions that led him to a successful life.
  3. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc:  Journalist LeBlance spends ten years with two impoverished families in the Bronx, where Wes Moore spent his middle school years.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  1. Monster by Walter Dean Myers: Like the Wes Moore that participated in a robbery and ended up in prison, this book portrays the social and economic struggles of a young African American man who makes a few bad decisions.
  2. Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton:  Set in South Africa, where Wes Moore studies abroad, the prize winning book describes a father’s pain upon learning that his son was sentenced to the death penalty.
  3. The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon:  An urban youth growing up in the early 80s struggles with the issues of race and violence.

Laura Melton

The Alchemist’s Daughter by Katherine McMahon

April 5, 2011

The Alchemist's Daughter

Author: Katharine McMahon

Title: The Alchemist’s Daughter

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships / Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 338

Geographical Setting: Buckinghamshire, England (some scenes in London)

Time Period: 1700s

Series (If applicable): none

Plot Summary: Nineteen year-old Emilie Selden has lived her entire life on her family’s estate, learning alchemy and natural philosophy from her father, himself a student of Isaac Newton. Her mother died in childbirth, leaving Emilie her exotic French features and not much else. While Emilie is a brilliant scientist, she has had no exposure to society, nor to matters of the heart. Her father protects her fiercely, but even his shelter can not keep her from the eyes or arms of the dashing merchant who comes to call. Cast out of her only home and into the clutches of the London social scene, Emilie makes startling discoveries about human nature, her father’s scribbled observations, her new husband’s motives and her own strengths and weaknesses.

Subject Headings: history, scientists, romance, England, London, high society, fathers and daughters, 18th century

Appeal: easy pacing, engrossing, dramatic, introspective, thoughtful, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, flawed, sympathetic, well-developed, character-centered, domestic, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, detailed setting, details of scientific method, historical details, small-town, classic, descriptive, frank, polished, smart

3 terms that best describe this book: self-discovery, young woman, England

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Newton and the Counterfeiter: the Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist by Thomas Levenson.

Details how Newton outwitted master counterfeiters as Master of the Mint. (For those interested in more about the science of the time)

Hubbub: Filth, Noise & Stench in England 1600-1770 by Emily Cockayne.

An examination of how truly gross things were in ye olden days, from dead bodies on the curb to how horribly the living people smelled, too. (For those who appreciate lively, witty explanations of history)

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick.

A tribute to the lasting contributions made by the Royal Society 350 years ago. (For those interested in Emilie and her father’s work and the group he participated in/revered)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Glass Virgin by Catherine Cookson.

Detailed historical fiction about a sheltered young English woman whose family is not all it appears. She must also question who she really is and plot twists build as she grows from a girl into a woman. (Historical / similar dark family secrets and personal discovery/growth)

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys.

Historical fiction set in England during the Second World War. Gwen Davis leaves London to work with the Women’s Land Army raising crops in the countryside. She is socially awkward and inexperienced, thrust into a tumultous world, but perhaps the attentions of a Canadian soldier stationed nearby can open her eyes and heart. (Historical / similar awkward young woman and romance)

The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer.

A bawdy young woman in Victorian England enters the upper class world as a wet nurse, leaving her illicitly-conceived child and abusive father behind. (Historical / for fans of Emilie’s London-born maid Sarah, who had her own demons to hide)

Name: Genevieve Grove

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read

March 30, 2011

Author: Pierre Bayard, Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman

Title: How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Geographical Setting: Paris, France

Time Period: Contemporary

Summary: Pierre Bayard, a professor of Literature at a Paris University, wants to assuage the guilt associated with non-reading.  Believing the guilt to be part of a larger fear of culture, he attempts to build the confidence needed to discuss books that you have not read.  He offers advice on books “you don’t know”, “have skimmed”, and “heard of” in different confrontations and then delves into psychoanalytical advice on behavior and confidence.  Along the way he mentions characters and writers he has come across, with footnotes that label his level of non-reading for the particular book, who exemplify non-reading including Oscar Wilde, Paul Valery, and Michel de Montaigne.

Subject Headings: Literature-History and Criticism-Theory, Psychoanalysis, Books and Reading

Appeal: humorous, thought-provoking, insightful, literary, candid, frank, witty, informative, satirical, philosophical, tongue-in-cheek, practical, lucid, subtle

Three terms that best describe this book: Witty, thought-provoking, and satirical

Three relevant works of fiction:

The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil: The man without qualities is a thirty-something who is not ambitious nor contemplative and is no longer passionate about the only aspect of life he once cared for, mathematics. The librarian, a proud non-reader, claims to never have read a single book in order to know about them all equally.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: A post-modern take on a historical murder mystery set in a medieval Italian library that is based on Umberto Eco’s theory of Reader Response, similar to Bayard’s claims. The Inquisitionists are out to destroy a book that has the potential to ruin people’s lives.

Small World: An Academic Romance by David Lodge: Here is an entertaining look into the world of literary criticism.  Lodge’s characters, young academicians, try to find love at their yearly conferences, which are their break from work. An interesting look into the world of those who decide which books and acclaimed and which are not.

Three relevant works of non-fiction:

How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom: Bloom, also a Literature professor, promotes books and reading rather than satirically avoiding it like Bayard, but the subject matter and the authors opinions are the same: reading matters.

Literature and Psychoanalysis: The Question of Reading: Otherwise edited by Shoshana Felman: The definitive collection on the link between Literature and Psychoanalysis.

Falling into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature by David H. Richter: Richter examines why we read, what we read, and how we read.  He discussed these topics with students, critics, writers, and teachers and summarized his findings in this work.

-Mike Monahan