Fall has finally (kind of) come to the Bay Area, and we’re excited to finally be able to curl up with a warm drink, a light sweater, and a good book. Check out the books that have been keeping us cozy lately.
Mallory: I discovered Brad Kessler several months ago while browsing some of the new additions to our library – his memoir, Goat Song, caught my eye. Only a few pages in, I was in love with Kessler’s style, and immediately wanted to read his novel Birds in Fall next.
The novel opens with a haunting scene of a plane crashing into the sea. Two strangers strike up conversation as the aircraft begins to falter – little do they know they are about to die together. What follows is a heartbreaking portrait of mourning: the families of the victims convening at the site of the crash in a time of collective grief. Birds in Fall is beautiful, compassionate, and told with a naturalist’s sensitivity to the connections that inexorably bind humans, animals, and the earth together.
Justin: I stumbled across this book as an undergraduate while browsing advance reader copies for the Harvard Book Review. Though it slipped by at the time, the title – unexpected, playful, just a little bit sinister – stuck with me the way great titles do. When I re-stumbled across it on Scribd, I jumped at the chance to read it.
An Arsonist’s Guide tells the story of a guy who accidentally burned down Emily Dickinson’s house and killed two people as a teenager and has been trying to live down the ignominy ever since. So when the homes of other famous writers start getting torched, he becomes the prime suspect and embarks on a quixotic journey to track down the real culprit. What follows is a story by turns hilarious, bleak, and heartbreaking, but also a brilliant meditation on all the ways people do (and don’t) relate to literature.
Niree: The first time I saw the Brooklyn Bridge, I was crossing it on bicycle after an eight-mile ride in the midst of a sweltering New York summer. Something about it – its size, its grandeur, its curious convex shape – piqued my interest to a degree that a simple Google search would not suffice. I turned to beloved David McCullough’s definitive history, The Great Bridge.
With his trademark verve and vitality, McCullough tells the 14-year story of this modern marvel, from men working in dangerous underwater caissons to faulty cables with an unnerving habit of splitting. Not only the story of a magnificent feat of engineering, The Great Bridge also reveals how the Brooklyn Bridge became a lasting symbol of Gilded Age America.
Alex: In honor of the film’s 75th anniversary, I’ve been revisiting Margaret Mitchell’s classic tale of Southern belles and the Civil War South. I admit I saw the (excellent, timeless) movie first – and consequently find it impossible to imagine Rhett Butler without envisioning Clark Gable’s smirk – but getting to know Scarlett on the page, in all her hot-tempered, coyly flirtatious, and manipulative glory, makes this Great American Novel well-worth a (re)read.
Ashley: A few years ago I was at an alumni event at Brown University when I heard Lindsay Harrison read from her powerful, tragic memoir, Missing. I was amazed at how she’d managed to cope with the disappearance and death of her mother. Finding the book on Scribd inspired me to go back and read the entire story.
Missing opens with Harrison frantically traversing New England in search of her mother. But unlike a mystery novel, there are no subtle clues to follow, and no clear solutions. Instead, we have an exploration of how elusive truth is, and how we need stories – even purely speculative ones – to give us hope and healing in times of despair.