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Booklists Recommendations

Hot Books for Summer

by Adult Services Library Associate Debbie

Every time of year is a great time for reading but there is something about summer with it’s longer days, lemonade and lounging that is particularly inviting to curling up with a good book. Here are some of the buzziest books of the season for all sorts of summer fun!

Best Book to Throw in a Beach Bag

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry | print / digital

Alex is quiet and studious. Poppy is a wild child. But after sharing a ride home for the summer, the two form a surprising friendship. Every summer the two find their way back to each other for a magical weeklong vacation. Until one trip goes awry, and they lose touch. Now, two years later, Poppy’s in a rut and nothing is making her happy. In fact, the last time she remembers feeling truly happy was on that final, ill-fated Summer Trip. The answer to all her problems is obvious: She needs one last vacation to win back her best friend.

Best Book on a Family Vacation

The Guncle by Steven Rowley | print / digital

Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits. When tragedy strikes, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect. Quickly realizing that parenting–even if temporary–isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.

Best Book to Enjoy the Summer Sizzle

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams | print

Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer. Shane Hall is a reclusive, award‑winning novelist, who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York. When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that fifteen years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. While they may be pretending not to know each other, they can’t deny their chemistry—or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books through the years. Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect—but Eva’s wary of the man who broke her heart, and wants him out of the city so her life can return to normal. Before Shane disappears though, she needs a few questions answered..

Best Book for Readers Who like Twists and Turns

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris | print / digital

Young, literary, and ambitious, Nella Rogers has spent the last two years as an editorial assistant at Wagner Books, a premier publishing house, where she’s been the only Black person in the room. She’s excited when she detects another Black girl on her floor: finally, someone else who gets it. And she does, at first. Wagner’s newest editorial assistant, Hazel-May McCall, cool and self-possessed, is quick to befriend Nella, echoing her frustrations with the never-spoken racial politics of their office, encouraging her to speak up. But it doesn’t take long for Nella to realize there’s something off about Hazel, even if she can’t quite put her finger on it.

Best Book While Sipping a Cocktail

A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin | print / digital

For years, rumors have swirled about a secret, women-only social club where the elite tastemakers of NYC meet. People in the know whisper all sorts of claims: But no one knows for sure. That is, until journalist Jillian Beckley decides she’s going to get the scoop and break into the club. But the deeper she gets into this new world, the more suspicious Jillian becomes. The women are really into astrology and witchcraft, and their lives are somehow perfect. Too perfect. These women have a secret.

Have a fun summer of reading!

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Booklists Programs Recommendations Virtual Book Club

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

by Adult Services Library Associate Beth

Did you know that May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month? During the month of May, we recognize the contributions and achievements of Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans in history, culture, science and beyond. Celebrate with us this May (and every month) by reading, watching, and listening to the multitude of AAPI authors and artists available to you through the Bexley Public Library and the CLC consortium! See the small collection of films, musical albums and books below to get started. 

And be sure to register for this month’s BPL Virtual Book Club, where we’ll be discussing Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise, winner of the 2019 National Book Award. Provoking conversations about fiction and truth, friendships and loyalties, Trust Exercise is sure to inspire a lively discussion. The discussion will take place on Wednesday May 5 at 7pm on Zoom. Hope to see you there!

Films

  • The Farewell; Written and directed by LuLu Wang | DVD
  • Lucky Grandma; Directed by Sasie Sealy, Written by Angela Cheng and Sasie Sealy | DVD / digital
  • Minding the Gap; Directed by Bing Liu | DVD

Music

  • Omoiyari by Kishi Bashi | CD
  • Nectar by Joji | CD / digital
  • Be the Cowboy by Mitski | CD

Books

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Booklists Online Resources Recommendations

Literary Losses

by Adult Services Manager Whitney

Two literary legends, Larry McMurtry and Beverly Cleary, died last Thursday, March 25. Both were prolific and influential, and driven to write books that better reflected their lives than the stories they grew up reading. 

Cleary wrote many books about kids and their adventures, but is most famous for her books about Ramona Quimby and her family. She wrote books that realistically portrayed middle class kids, rather than the books she’d grown up with, which tended to be about rich, British children. “I wanted to read funny stories about the sort of children I knew, and I decided that someday when I grew up I would write them.” (New York Times, 3/26/21). Cleary’s books about the Quimbys and other characters from Klickitat Street are available on Libby and Hoopla, including some Spanish translations

Beverly Cleary signs books at the Monterey Bay Book Festival in Monterey, Calif., on April 19, 1998. (Vern Fisher / The Monterey County Herald via Associated Press)

McMurtry was known for writing “anti-westerns;” his stories were more realistic and based on his experience growing up in Texas, rather than romanticizing the American West. He described himself as “a critic of the myth of the cowboy.” While he may be best known for Lonesome Dove, his Pulitzer Prize winning book and popular mini-series, he wrote more than 30 novels, and many memoirs, essays, nonfiction books, and screenplays. He won an Academy Award for his screenplay of Brokeback Mountain (based on a Annie Proulx short story), and several of his books became movies, including Horseman, Pass By (Hud), The Last Picture Show, and Terms of Endearment.

The author Larry McMurtry in 1978 at home. In a career that spanned more than five decades, he wrote more than 60 novels and screenplays. mage via Diana Walker/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

If you’re curious about McMurtry, we’re lucky that his prolific catalog is available through BPL not only in print, but on Libby and Hoopla. In fact, Lonesome Dove: The Complete Miniseries, is available on demand through Hoopla. Be sure to check out these titles, available in either print or digital format:

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Bexley History Programs Recommendations

Pizza in Bexley

by Local History Librarian David

One of Bexley’s oldest businesses, Rubino’s, was established in 1954 by Ruben Cohen, who adapted his Jewish name to sound more Italian as the name of his pizzeria and spaghetti restaurant. There were only ten places in Columbus for pizza at the time, and Cohen made Rubino’s special for its thin crispy crust and “fairly secret” sauce recipe.

When the red brick building was sold in 1983, over five hundred Bexley citizens signed a petition while others picketed outside of city hall to save Rubino’s. The city denied the new owner’s request for a zoning variance that would convert the restaurant into a meat market, and Rubino’s renegotiated its lease.

In 1988, Cohen sold the restaurant to employees Frank Marchese and Tommy Culley. Operated today by Marchese’s children, little of the atmosphere, neon signs, and dining room have changed: only the competition along Main Street. 

Bexley Pizza Plus was established in 1980 by Don Schmitt. It was originally located in the 2500 block of E Main Street, and relocated next door to Rubino’s in 2006. Brad Rocco, a graduate of Bexley High School, started as a delivery driver at Bexley Pizza Plus, and went on to become the co-owner in 1994. They gained national and international attention in pizza competitions, like competing two years with the U.S Pizza Team, and winning the International Pizza Challenge in 2014.

Read more about the history of pizza in Columbus, Ohio in Jim Ellison’s new book, Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History, available now at BPL and Gramercy Books in Bexley.

To hear more about Bexley Pizza Plus listen to BPL’s podcast, 40+ Years of Bexley Pizza Plus with Brad Rocco.

Join us on Tuesday, March 23 at 7 PM to hear author Jim Ellison discuss his book by registering for Bexley Public Library’s virtual program, A Slice of Columbus Pizza History.

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Booklists Recommendations

International Women’s Day

by Adult Services Librarian Leann

With origins in socialist and communist political movements in the 20th century and second wave feminism in the 1960s, the United Nations recognized March 8 as International Women’s Day in 1977. According to the UN, “it is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.” March is also recognized as Women’s History Month in the United States.

The world has been ravaged by the pandemic since the last International Women’s Day and in the United States, communities which were already underserved have been especially hard-hit by rates of serious illness, death, and economic hardship. Likewise, there have been shocking, but perhaps not surprising, reports of the myriad ways in which the economic collapse brought on by the pandemic has singularly and negatively impacted women. The Brookings Institution released this report which helps summarize the complex range issues now facing working women, stating bluntly, “COVID-19 is hard on women because the U.S. economy is hard on women, and this virus excels at taking existing tensions and ratcheting them up.” A lack of access to childcare, traditional gender roles inside and outside the home, the fact that women are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs, and a lack of support and critical infrastructure for families and working women are all contributing factors making the impact of COVID-19 especially hard on women.

The dramatic impacts of the pandemic on women in particular highlight how much there is still to address in the United States–and globally–if we hope to achieve gender equity. International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate and reflect on the achievements and struggles of women past and present, and take action for the future.

Here are 6 of my suggestions of books written by women, about women. Enjoy!

Required Reading: Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall | print / digital

From as far back as the movement for women’s suffrage in the United States, mainstream feminism has been plagued by either outright racism and/or the idea that feminism is, can, and should be, a color-blind philosophy. Feminism is bound up with all the other -isms: classism, racism, capitalism, tribalism. They’re inseparable, so talking about them at all can be complicated and overwhelming. Mikki Kendall, however, gets to the point with critical clarity in Hood Feminism stating, “true feminist solidarity across racial lines means being willing to protect each other, speaking up when the missing women are not from your community, and calling out ways that predatory violence can span multiple communities.”

For the History Buff: A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell | print / digital

Viriginia Hall’s story is exceptional in the specifics: she was an intelligent, savvy, single young American woman traveling the world and working for a living in the 1920s and 30s, and eventually became the first British spy in Vichy France, establishing its most essential network of informants, which was critical in winning the Allies the war. Her story, however, is all too familiar in the broad strokes for women in a male-dominated profession. Time and time again, Virginia was underestimated, undervalued, and underappreciated for her hard work, dedication, and skill. Nevertheless, through sheer determination and willpower, Virginia pursued the life she wanted for herself with astonishing results.

A Memoir: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado | print / digital

According to the publisher’s website, In the Dream House, “is a wrenching, riveting book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.” Author Carmen Maria Machado explores her experience of a traumatic relationship with a charming but volatile woman using second-person narrative and painful honesty. NPR’s Gabino Iglesias says in their review, “this book is a scream that ensures visibility, a chronicle of truth that weights more than a thousand theories and all the efforts to erase the reality of abuse in lesbian couples.” This revolutionary memoir is not to be missed. 

Essays that Hit Different: Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino | print / digital

The essays from this collection that I think about the most are called, “Always Be Optimizing” and “The Cult of the Difficult Woman.” Jia Tolentino’s adroit, sharp, and witty essays are a critical commentary on our culture made to feel deeply personal. She structures the book around nine different themes, including: being a person on the Internet, deified productivity, pop Feminism, and so forth. Not every essay is entirely relatable for every reader, but if you are an internet-using human, prepare to feel very seen.

The Multigenerational Family Saga: The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz | print / digital

This debut novel from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Connie Schultz is centered around a small blue collar town in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. To anyone who’s lived in Ohio, Schultz’s novel will immediately feel familiar. The story follows four generations of women in the Anyplace, Ohio town against the backdrop of World Wars and the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s, with attention paid to the setting to make it feel uniquely Ohio. All of the characters in Erietown must face dreams deferred, make hard choices, sacrifice for others, and find identity and meaning in their relationships to each other. Readers of historical fiction and those who like generational family stories will enjoy The Daughters of Erietown

For Fun: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite | print / digital

Fast paced and darkly comic, Oyinkan Braithwaite tells a story about sisterhood and the struggle – and power – of being a woman through the lens of an embittered Nigerian woman who realizes her beloved and beautiful sister is a serial killer. My Sister turns the classic competitive sister trope on its head. Sure, one sister is always cleaning  up the other sister’s messes, but in this case, the messes are murdered boyfriends. The plot intensifies when the murderous sister sets her sights on someone a little too close for comfort. Oyinkan’s style will make your heart pound with equal parts dread and delight. 

For the romantic check out this post!

And be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming BPL Podcast episode, Investing in Women w/ CEO Kelley Griesmer coming out March 12 at 12AM! To honor Women’s History Month, in this episode, Leann sits down with Kelley Griesmer, CEO of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, to talk about the wealth gap, the importance of investing financially in women, and the new Enduring Progress Initiative focused on breaking down barriers to racial and gender equity.

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Booklists Recommendations

Celebrating Toni Morrison

by Adult Services Manager Whitney

February 18 is Toni Morrison Day, a statewide holiday in Ohio due to legislation passed late last year. It also would have been her 90th birthday.

Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford, Morrison grew up in Lorain, and later set two of her earliest books, The Bluest Eye and Sula, in Ohio. Morrison was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for Beloved.

She also worked as an editor: she was the first black woman senior editor in the fiction department at Random House, and helped lift up black writers like Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, and Wole Soyinka.

There are many ways to celebrate Toni Morrison Day! Read or listen to her novels, watch a documentary about her life, and read other authors she promoted, admired, or inspired. Check out her books, as well as these titles, available with your Bexley Public Library card:

  • Toni Morrison, The Pieces I Am | DVD / digital
  • The Toni Morrison Book Club by Juda Bennett | print / audio ebook
  • Who’s Got Game? by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison | print / digital
  • The Source of Self-Regard: selected essays, speeches, and meditations by Toni Morrison | print / digital
  • Well Read Black Girl by Glory Edim | print / digital
  • Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays, and Conversations by Toni Cade Bambara | digital
  • Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis | print / digital
  • The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 | print / digital
  • Africa39 by Wole Soyinka | print / digital

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Booklists Recommendations

A Romance for Every Reader

by Adult Services Librarian Leann

Romance books are hitting the mainstream like never before. Have you ever heard of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton book series? No more do we shame people for reading delightful little paperbacks with scantily clad pirates or kilt-wearing-Scottsmen! (Or rather, we shouldn’t.) “Romance” is for everyone. Don’t believe me? Ask bestselling, blockbusting series like The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, or Outlander. Try to name a popular TV show, movie, or book that doesn’t include some sort of romance intrigue or love triangle. Even highfalutin literature is mostly about love or love lost or unrequited love. Let’s face it people, Where the Crawdads Sing is a romance novel and that’s okay.

In literature there is a bias against Romance. There is a pervasive belief among readers that a novel, where the driving plot device is a romantic relationship, cannot be considered Literature and is therefore unworthy of their time or critique. Readers often call books with romantic elements their “guilty pleasure.” I’m here to assure you, however, that it’s actually extremely fine to really like romance books. Liking romantic stories and reading romance novels actually does not correlate with intelligence levels among readers. Nor does it discount a book from being well written, plotted, and researched.

Likewise, while there are loads of paperbacks with heaving bosoms queens or 12-pack-ab cowboys taking up a lot of space in the romance zeitgeist, not every romance novel is based on Twilight fanfiction. Romance as a genre is just as varied as any other and we’re here to celebrate it!

Whether you’re just dipping your toe into the warm sultry waters of romance fiction or you’ve been camped out on the banks of Lake Romance for years, here are some of my top romance novel recommendations:

Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
For readers who are romance-curious and looking for political escapism.

Request Title | print / digital

If I were choosing a best-in-show for romance, this would be it. This book is all the gay romance you’ve ever wanted wrapped up in a compelling, lovely, spicy package. The set up is a classic rom-com scenario: extremely handsome and quintessentially charming First Son of the United States is in a public feud with the devastatingly gorgeous and properly polite Prince of England. A phony friendship-for-publicity’s-sake ensues and leads to, well, you guessed it, romance.

Red, White, and Royal Blue is for readers who love a bit of drama and lots (and lots) of kissing but also want the story to be well plotted, the characters to be developed, and the writing captivating. Quality does not have to suffer just because a story might be a little outlandish or, in the case of Royal Blue, a fantasy paradise of inclusivity. 

Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft
For readers of historical fiction, star-crossed lovers, and people who like to cry during movies

Request Title | print / digital

Jenny Ashcroft creates gauzy worlds based on real historical times and places. Meet Me In Bombay is the second-latest in her oeuvre of heart wrenching historical love stories where the characters’ interior lives are disrupted by the devastating consequences of circumstances beyond their control. In Meet Me in Bombay, on the eve of 1914 in British occupied India, a young couple falls in love. He’s a soldier and as war unfolds across Europe, he’s shipped off to fight. The woman’s wealthy family encourages our young heroine to move on and forget her soldier. Will the lovers be able to reconnect? When the soldier is injured in battle and loses his memory, that question becomes even more complicated and the answer even more harrowing.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole 
For readers of thrillers and those who enjoy when the main characters fall in love during their adventure. 

Request Title | print / digital

We know that gentrification is scary, but is it also…sexy? True, this book is actually a thriller, but Alyssa Cole was previously best known for her work as an author of paperback romances! In When No One Is Watching a Brooklyn neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and Sydney, who was born and raised there, finds the prospect disorienting and almost frightening. When Theo, a handsome stranger she’s not even a little bit interested in, butts his way into her research for a historical walking tour, Sydney realizes that not everything is as it seems in the old neighborhood.

When No One Is Watching has all the elements of a modern psychological thriller paired with adroit social commentary and, you guessed it, plenty of steamy romance. This book is in the same tradition as Get Out, in the vehicle of Rear Window, with a classic odd-couple romantic intrigue. 

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
For seasoned romance readers and new-to-the-genre readers who want something that’s light but still grounded in reality.

Request Title | print / digital

Can romantic comedies centering a straight relationship feature strong, capable, career-driven women who have a realistic and supportive network of friends and families? Can they have a main character who views romance, not with either cynical skepticism or dogged devotion, but as an enhancement to life? Can romantic comedies be light-hearted and heart-warming but also offer nuanced representation of multiracial relationships and modern love? Let me introduce you to author Jasmine Guillory. You might know her for her 2018 work, The Wedding Date and she’s been churning out lovely, readable, steamy, upbeat romantic comedies ever since.

Party of Two features an independent young black woman who moves to LA to start her own law firm. She meets a cutie at a bar and, oops, it turns out he’s a well-known senator. Party of Two follows the lovebirds as their initially secret romance hits the front pages and their bond is tested by intense media scrutiny, and the pressures of celebrity and politics.

The Awakening: The Dragon Heart Legacy, Book 1 by Nora Roberts
For readers who want a bit of fantasy with their romance or a bit of romance with their fantasy.

Request Title | print / digital

Nora. Roberts. Does. Dragons. Now. Yes, that Nora Roberts! You can’t do a romance list and not include Nora Roberts and lucky for us in the same way that steamy romance is becoming less declassé for the masses, so too has fantasy risen from the murky depths of nerdom to claim its rightful place at the front of the Popular Media race. It doesn’t really even matter what the story is about exactly, because as previously stated: Nora Roberts + dragons.

Here’s what you need to know: The Awakening involves two worlds—one with magic and one in Philadelphia, there is a young woman in her twenties who discovers some real wild secrets about herself and her family. Then, we go to Ireland, a place we all know is lousy with magic portals and fairies, etc. Oh, and she’s been dreaming about a silver-haired elusive man who she’s never met who calls her by a different name and tells her to “come home.” That sounds like an excellent set-up for a steamy paranormal romance to me!

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Booklists

Multiracial Family Reading List

by Adult Services Librarian Sue Shipe-Giles

Raising my two multiracial children for the past twenty-plus years has proved challenging. During this time, we have each encountered a variety of discrimination and misunderstandings. I have been ostracized by other school moms and even harassed by an employer once they met my husband. My son was bullied starting in preschool, while my daughter has had to “prove” on many occasions to classmates, and once even to a teacher, that her dad is really her father.

During these extremely difficult times, I wanted to shed more light on the unique experiences and difficulties multiracial children and their parents encounter. I hope the following books will provide much needed insight and understanding on this topic. All of these titles are available to request through BPL’s catalog.

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Staff Book Reviews

Boom Town by Sam Anderson

A book review from BPL team member, Jeff.

It feels necessary to start this review with a disclaimer: I have never been to Oklahoma City (OKC), nor do I have any family roots or any ties whatsoever to Oklahoma. I first heard about Boom Town from an interview with the author, Sam Anderson, on Zach Lowe’s basketball podcast, The Lowe Post. (Another disclaimer: you don’t need to be a basketball fan to enjoy this book).

The “boom” in Boom Town takes on a number of roles throughout this book: in one instance, literal sonic booms as a result from supersonic flight. In one of the book’s most entertaining chapters, Anderson describes Operation Bongo. In the 1960s, the U.S. government wanted to test supersonic flights, or more specifically, the effects of repeated sonic booms and the disruptions they cause to human lives. Oklahoma City, with its need for commerce and desire for relevance, happily agreed to become the site for these tests and Operation Bongo was born. The results are equal parts amusing and awful.

The main significance of “boom” in Boom Town, however, is that of boom and bust. It’s the idea of balancing meticulous planning and the love of the process with chasing something glamorous and immediate. This narrative thread ties the book together and is the lens that just about every aspect of OKC history is viewed through. From the chaotic “Land Run” that birthed the city and the tornadoes that threaten to upend its very existence, to Sam Presti, the scrupulous, bespectacled General Manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who has carefully constructed one of the best franchises in basketball and given the city a much needed source of civic pride.

Oklahoma City is not without its share of tragedies, both self-inflicted and otherwise. It is unfortunately unsurprising to learn of the city’s history of displacing both the Native and Black populations. However, as Anderson points out, OKC tends to cultivate particularly tenacious citizens such as Clara Luper, a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement whose nonviolent sit-in protests led to the desegregation of many OKC establishments. And sadly, the people of Oklahoma City were subjected to the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in U.S. history during the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building.

And yet, the city mourned and rebuilt. Throughout its 100+ year history, Oklahoma City has struggled with its sometimes misguided, perpetually optimistic dream of becoming a first-rate American city. Today, it finally resembles the bustling metropolis so many of its residents fantasized about.

As an outsider to the city, Sam Anderson treats the history of Oklahoma City with curiosity, and depending on the situation, skepticism or reverence. In Boom Town, Anderson has crafted a thoroughly engaging, wide-ranging history of a city that truly encapsulates the breadth of the American experience.

Recommended for fans of U.S. history, basketball, and easily readable non-fiction in general.

Categories
Staff Book Reviews

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

A book review by BPL team member, Christian.

While going through some literary articles recently, I stumbled upon one by The Japan Times that discusses the idea of the new Japanese literary golden age. This article debates the merits of whether Japan is experiencing a new literary golden age and how Anglo-saxon translations funnel that to a Western audience. While the outcome of a contemporary literary Golden Age for Japan is left open-ended, it is certain that the voices of women authorship has significantly grown. However, an aspect of it, as mentioned previously, is determined by translation. For instance, one of the books shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, was initially published in Japan in 1994. A lot of writers that are defining the contemporary Japanese literary landscape have yet to make their impact in the Western world, but with the recent translations of authors such as Hiromi Kawakami, Hiroko Oyamada, Yukiko Motoya, and many more, that is slowly changing.

While virtually unknown to a Western audience, Sayaka Murata has become a well-respected author in her home country, winning multiple literary prizes, including most recently becoming a recipient of the Akutagawa Prize in 2016, as well as selling 600,000 copies for Convenience Store Woman alone. Serving as her first English-translated novel, Convenience Store Woman tells the story of a 36-year old convenience store worker, Keiko Furukura. Having spent 18 years working in a convenience store with no ambitions of pursuing another career or finding any romantic partners, Keiko is viewed as an outsider among her circle of friends, family, and coworkers.

Keiko is an enigmatic person, almost alien-like, as she displays a mimicry of others around her (speaking, dressing, and acting based off her coworkers), living outside the boundaries of social norms, but pretending to others as if she isn’t. In actuality, her view of the world treats the convenience store as the epicenter–all her thoughts, energy, and dreams gravitating to her workplace. She expresses ecstasy from the moment she greets customers in the morning, exclaiming, “I love this moment. It feels like ‘morning’ itself is being loaded into me. The tinkle of the door chime as a customer comes in sounds like church bells to my ears. When I open the door, the brightly lit box awaits me–a dependable, normal world that keeps turning. I have faith in the world inside the light-filled box.” The way she describes and articulates herself comes off as an extraterrestrial expressing thought and desire–something Keiko is almost aware of when she thinks about how she feels in the world outside the convenience store: “The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of.” Keiko’s alienation showcases the inconveniences of social expectations and constructs. Keiko’s only desires are to stick to the routine of the convenience store, as she’s already familiar with it–questioning why anyone thinks it’s strange why she doesn’t move on from that job. Even when she goes through a fraudulent relationship with an ex-coworker, which results in herself being recognized as a normal member of her social circles, she ends up coming to terms with that fact that her place in this world is to serve in a convenience store.The novel is a beautiful exploration of defying normality.

Similar Reads:The Memory Police by Yoko OgawaEvil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura
Me by Tomoyuki Hoshino