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  • Miwa Messer 12:00 pm on 2019/04/18 Permalink
    Tags: a bend in the stars, a prayer for travelers, american spy, ayad akhtar, bobby hundreds, , , , felicity mclean, , , gods of jade and shadow, grace will lead us home, h. g. parry, , , jennifer berry hawes, , , julia phillips, , karen dukess, kazuo ishiguro, , kimi eisele, lesley kara, lights all night long, , ocean vuong, , rachel berenbaum, regina porter, , rikke schmidt kjaergaard, ruchika tomar, sara collins, silvia moreno-garcia, sissy, , tembi locke, the blink of an eye, , the darwin affair, the last book party, the light years, the lightest object in the universe, , the rumor, , the travelers, the unlikely escape of uriah heep, the van apfel girls are gone, this is not a t-shirt, tim mason, , ,   

    Announcing the Discover Great New Writers Summer 2019 Selections 

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    Summer reading means lots of things to lots of readers: Indulgence and escape and a chance to delight in a new favorite author, mostly, though it’s also a chance for some us to catch up on books we missed earlier in the year. (And admittedly, Summer Reading is synonymous with homework for much of the younger set.) 

    For the booksellers who handpick books for our Discover Great New Writers program year-round, summer is another chance to wow other readers with books from writers who are not yet household names.  We’ve tapped twenty-one outrageously great books for you to experience this summer: Seventeen novels, three memoirs, and a true story of hope and forgiveness that we hope wow you as much as they wowed us.

    Historical Fictionis having a moment and we have four fresh, cinematic takes on the genre covering from 19th Century England to Russia during WWI and the 1960s:  A Bend in the Starsby Rachel Barenbaum, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins,  The Darwin Affair, by Tim Mason, and First Cosmic Velocity, by Zach Powers.

    Stories of Family and Home are always crowd-pleasers and we have four that readers and reviewers will be talking about all summer: How Not to Die Alone,by Richard Roper, The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, by Juliet Grames, and The Travelers, by Regina Porter.

    We’re not the only ones who love a classicComing-of-Age Story, and we can’t wait to see how other readers respond to The Last Book Party, by Karen Dukess.

    Kidnappings, mysterious disappearances, and the possible identity of a notorious killer drive a quartet of Literary Thrillers, starting withDisappearing Earth,by Julia Phillips, A Prayer for Travelers, by Ruchika Tomar, The Rumor, by Lesley Kara, and The Van Apfel Girls are Gone, by Felicity McLean.

    Escape into a trio of Wildly Inventive Novels grounded in Mayan mythology, classic literature, and the collapse of the world as we know it with Gods of Jade and Shadow,by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H.G. Parry, and The Lightest Object in the Universe, by Kimi Eisele.

    We also have Unforgettable True Stories from streetwear visionary Bobby Hundreds (This is Not a T-shirt) and actress Tembi Locke (From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home); an incredible story of illness and recovery from scientist Rikke Schmidt Kjaergaard (The Blink of an Eye); and an unforgettable story of violence and forgiveness from Jennifer Berry Hawes (Grace Will Lead Us Home).

    If you’re a reader who loves to use the summer to catch up on your reading, our Spring 2019 Discover picks, including novels like American Spy, We Must Be Brave, and Lights All Night Long, plus memoirs like Maid, Sissy and The Light Years are here; the winners and finalists of the 2018 Discover Awards including Kiese Laymon, Tommy Orange, and Tara Westover are here; and our 29-year-old archive, including Pulitzer Prize Winners Ayad Akhtar, Jennifer Egan, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Jhumpa Lahiri, countless National Book Award winners, and Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro is here. 

    The post Announcing the Discover Great New Writers Summer 2019 Selections appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ross Johnson 9:00 pm on 2019/02/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , andre aciman, , , , , diana gabaladon, fingersmith, flavor of love, giovanni's room, helen simonson, , , , kazuo ishiguro, , , major pettigrew's last stand, , , one day, , , , , , the age of light, the proposal, , valentine's day books, whitney scharer   

    15 Love Stories to Match Your Valentine’s Day Mood 

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    It’s almost Valentine’s Day—and the perfect time to year to read a love story. But our tastes in romantic tales vary as much as our dating profiles: sometimes we want our literary lovers to make us laugh, and just as often, we need a really good cry. Whether your tastes tend toward the lighthearted or the tragic, there is assuredly a romantic novel out there for everyone.

    Here are our suggestions for 15 different types of love stories to match your Valentine’s Day mood.


    Call Me By Your Name, by André Aciman
    This tender love story, the basis for the award-winning film, is a pure delight in terms of character and storytelling, chronicling the burgeoning attraction between the curious, precocious 17-year old Elio and 24-year old Oliver in the Italian Riviera of the 1980s and its reverberations through their lives over the course of two succeeding decades. The setting is almost as sumptuous as the romance, as the two live out a travel agent’s dream, lounging around the gorgeous Italian countryside and coming to rest in picturesque villas. It’s a perfectly sun-kissed love story for this dreary mid-winter month.


    A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
    For readers who like their romance with a bit of dark magic on the side. When factions of supernatural creatures set their sights on a document that could give them the upper hand in a war, a reluctant witch must seek the protection of an equally reluctant vampire, her supposed mortal enemy. Witch tales have a tendency to emphasize the importance of family… but in this case, it could the witch’s own family that wants her dead. Will true love prevail between these two warring beings?


    The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    This Booker Prize–winning novel tells the powerful, poignant story of a devoted English butler who takes a road trip to reflect upon his life, which mainly revolved around a 30-year career of service to his lordship. For much of that time, he harbors feelings for Darlington Hall’s housekeeper Miss Kenton—affections Mr. Stevens’ deeply ingrained sense of duty makes it inconceivable that he would ever express, or even fully acknowledge to himself. There is nothing that wounds the heart quite like an unrequited love affair, and this is a novel that will leave a scar upon every reader.


    An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
    Newlyweds Roy and Celestial find their marriage tested after a cruel twist of fate sends Roy to prison in another state for a crime he didn’t commit. As the years of separation drag on, Celestial turns to her friend since childhood, Andre, for comfort, and Andre’s perspective provides new insight into her painful situation. Letters sent between husband and wife further illuminate this incredible, contemporary study of marriage, loyalty, and racial injustice.


    Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
    Sarah Waters’ tale of Dickensian skulduggery is so twisty and deceptive, we can promise you’ll nearly drop the book in shock not once, not twice, but three times while reading it. The story begins with the low-born Sue, an orphan trained in deception by a Fagin-like mentor named Mrs. Sucksby, accompanying a master thief and con artist known as the Gentleman on his latest scheme. She’s taken on the guise of a lady’s maid, playing a supporting role as he seduces a wealthy heiress with an eye toward having the poor woman committed to an asylum as soon as they are wed so he can claim her fortune. It’s just another job for Sue—until she makes the mistake of falling in love with the Maud, the plot’s intended victim.


    The Proposal, by Jasmine Guillory
    Nikole Paterson has just experienced a bit of embarrassment: her ridiculous boyfriend of five months proposed to her via scoreboard at a baseball game—and spelled her name wrong doing so. Understandably, she’s not exactly feeling the ’til-death vibes, so she decides to hightail it out of the stadium, fleeing the nosy camera crews and 45,000 fans. Her exit is made more swift via the unexpected aide of one Dr. Carlos Ibarra, who even sticks around after she gets trolled via social media for hightailing it. (Dear trolls of the world—Get a life!) Nikole and Carlos tentatively embark on a quiet romance. She thinks she’ll be fine with just a fling to help her get over her embarrassment, but oon realizes that Carlos just might be the real deal.


    Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    “A timeless love story” is a discriptor to be taken rather literally in the case of Gabaldon’s beloved novel, the first in a series that mixes rich historical detail with a romance that stretches across centuries. Former combat nurse Ruth Randall, just reunited with her husband after World War II, walks through a stone circle in 1945 to find herself in war-torn Scotland in the year 1743. There, she meets the fiery Jamie Fraser, beginning a passionate, deeply sexy love triangle as she finds herself torn between two different men, two different centuries, and two vastly different lives.


    Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
    If you’re looking for love story that will break your heart open, most any Jojo Moyes book is a safe bet. Each one of them is filled with heart and characters you can’t help caring about, and none more so than Me Before You, which tells the story of Louisa, a sheltered girl whose life changes when she takes a job caring for Will, a suicidal man who resents that he must use a wheelchair following a terrible accident. Their love grows and endures through any number of challenges, but may not be able to overcome all. This book will definitely make you cry buckets—but it will also make you laugh, and nod your head in recognition, and flip back to the first page to read it again.


    Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
    In this novel and its sequels, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People ProblemsKevin Kwan dives into the funny, soapy world of super-wealthy Asian and Asian-American characters, centering on the relationship between New Yorker Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nicholas Young. When the two head off to Singapore for the summer, Rachel thinks she’ll be meeting Nick’s family and staying in their humble family home. But Nick failed to tell her that his family is rich. And not just a little rich—crazy rich. Thus Rachel becomes our eyes and ears on a journey into the decadent lives of some of Asia’s richest families. Much of the fun of Kwan’s trilogy comes from reveling in sordid stories of unimaginable excess, but the true magic is the way it makes you can about the love story at its center. Romance abounds, even if the books’ many relationships never quite play out as you might expect.


    Love and Ruin, by Paula McLain
    The past can certainly feel more romantic than the present, as in this thrilling tale of novelist and travel writer Martha Gellhorn, the third wife of Ernest Hemingway. Already famous for her journalistic work during the 1930s, Gellhorn meets the older Hemingway and their romance sizzles from the start—for a time. McLain masterfully brings these historical figures to life, depicting Hemingway’s neediness and instability, traits that slowly ruin an ideal marriage. Gellhorn makes her break from Hemingway in dramatic fashion, stowing away on a hospital ship bound for Normandy on D-Day, and subsequently becoming the first journalist of either gender to report back from the massive invasion of Fortress Europe. The story’s twists and turns wouldn’t be believable if they weren’t based on real events.


    The Age of Light, by Whitney Scharer
    Whitney Scharer’s historical fiction hit focuses on Lee Miller, a larger-than-life figure who worked as a fashion model in 1920s New York before traveling to Paris and apprenticing herself to famed photographer Man Ray. She eventually became his collaborator, lover, and muse as she develops her art and starts her own photography studio. During World War II, she serves as a war correspondent and photojournalist for Vogue—and somehow that’s only a handful of the twists and turns this dynamic woman’s life will take. Scharer not only brings to life the tempestuous and passionate love affair between Miller and Ray, but illustrates how they pushed and prodded one another to even greater creative heights in their work.


    Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson
    The retired and entirely proper Major Ernest Pettigrew lives in the tiny English village of Edgecombe St. Mary, enjoying tea and all the other sorts of things that retired Englishmen are meant to appreciate. Then his brother’s death brings him into the orbit of the recently widowed Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper with whom he develops first a friendship and then a romance. Polite society frowns on such a match, complicating matters for the Major in a novel that playfully explores a love that defies obstacles of race and class.


    Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin
    Tender but intense, Baldwin’s 1956 novel is a foundational work of 20th century gay literature. It tells the story of an American named David who is abandoned left in Paris by his girlfriend, and the Italian man, Giovanni, whom he meets at a gay bar and unexpectedly goes home with. Baldwin explores issues of masculinity and alienation as he plays out the lovely, forbidden, and ultimately doomed romance between the two men.


    A Walk to Remember, by Nicholas Sparks
    Oh, the tears that have fallen over the pages of this love-against-all-odds romance. Bad boy Landon meets Jamie after he is forced to participate in the school play—it’s that or expulsion. Over time, he finds himself drawn to the girl, who warns him it is in his best interests not to fall in love with her. By then, of course, it’s already too late for them both: Landon leaves his old life and friends behind to be with her, and when Jamie reveals a devastating secret to him, they cling to one another, even when it seems that all hope is lost.


    One Day, by David Nicholls
    Dexter and Emma spend the night together in 1988 following their graduation from Edinburgh University, speculating about the future course of their lives. Each subsequent year, on July 15, Nicholls’ novel revisits the friends and sometimes lovers to chart the course of their lives, loves, careers, and romances. Before it’s over, we circle back to that first night in order to better understand the significance of the date, and of the long relationship between the two, and of the journeys they’ve taken as they’ve moved in and out of each other’s lives.

    What’s your Valentine’s Day romance of choice this year?

    The post 15 Love Stories to Match Your Valentine’s Day Mood appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 10:00 am on 2017/10/05 Permalink
    Tags: and the winner is, , , , kazuo ishiguro, , ,   

    Kazuo Ishiguro Wins The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature 

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    The announcement that Kazuo Ishiguro has been awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature is the sort of news that makes you frown and think, wait, he hasn’t won that already? Since the publication of his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, in 1982, Ishiguro has staked out a place in the literary world that is so singular and unique it’s more or less a genre category of one. The Ishiguro genre has been exploring isolation and loneliness in a crowded world ever since, always brilliantly.

    A Citizen of the World and Nowhere

    Born in Nagasaki, Ishiguro moved with his family to England when he was six years old and become a British citizen in 1982 as his first novel was published. This mixture of background shaped Ishiguro’s literary sense; the characters in Ishiguro’s literary world are often painfully alone and unable to bridge the gap between themselves and people standing just a few feet away from them. His best-known novel, The Remains of the Day (which won the Booker prize that year), is consumed by this. The story centers on an English butler, Stevens, who falls in love with the Housekeeper Miss Kenton over the course of years but never acts on his feelings. Stevens is dedicated to the ideals of service, and this commitment leaves him alone and pondering whether or not he has wasted much of his life. Then Ishiguro ends on a beautiful, complex note as Stevens decides to focus on the “remains of the day”—the time he has left—which would be an optimistic note if he was going on an adventure or making a bold play for happiness and not simply going back to his work as a butler. Ishiguro is a master of making characters feel like real people who are revealing their inner selves almost by accident as they tell you their story. The pervasive sense of being unable to truly connect with people or pursue your true self is the pathos that every reader can understand.

    The Chameleon

    Ishiguro effortlessly flirts with genre conventions in his work; his 2005 novel Never Let Me Go explores science fiction themes in a story about children at a special school who realize they are clones created to provide organs for their originals, doomed to die and to care for each other as they suffer. His 2000 novel When We Were Orphans is a detective story. His most recent novel, 2015’s The Buried Giant, trades in elements of fantasy in a story set in Arthurian Britain, playing with the idea that monsters and magic seem real to the people of the time and thus might actually be real in a sense. Ishiguro doesn’t just cynically adopt a genre’s tricks in order to put a twist on things, he uses these elements in service to a deeper story. These books can’t be called straight-up sci-fi, fantasy, or detective novels. They’re Ishiguro novels.

    A Dash of Darkness

    Ultimately, what makes an Ishiguro story so compelling is the way he weaves in the idea that our past, our memory, is simultaneously an illusion—an illusion often unconsciously edited and revised to suit our needs—and an unyielding force that determines our present and future. Characters in an Ishiguro story often appear to be in complete control at first, clearly recalling events and seeing their present with sober authority. Slowly, inevitably, their sense of self fractures as their past clarifies for the reader in subtle ways. More than one critic has noted a sense of the “Kafkaesque” in Ishiguro’s stories, a sense of slowly invading frustration and darkness that spoils a fictional world that seemed beautiful in the early going—The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go both begin on notes of pleasant recollection, then become sadder and darker in the telling. No one reads an Ishiguro novel without being moved, and it’s that power of emotion conveyed through words and images that makes the announcement of his Nobel Prize no surprise at all, but rather an inevitability finally come to pass.

    To celebrate, why not re-read your favorite Ishiguro novel? And if you’ve never had the pleasure, this is as good a reason as any to finally discover one of the best writers we’ve ever had. If you’re skittish about committing to a novel, Ishiguro’s 2009 story collection Nocturnes contains beautiful, meticulously crafted (and subtly connected) stories that are an ideal bite-sized introduction to the singular genre the author has created for himself.

    The post Kazuo Ishiguro Wins The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2016/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: bad technology, dave eggars, , , , , kazuo ishiguro, , rudy ricker,   

    8 Books About Technology Run Amok 

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    Technology is here to stay. Anyone who imagines they retain the basic survival skills of their forebears has never lived through an extended blackout, marked by staring dully at blank screens, dead microwaves, and the puddle of melt dripping out of your refrigerator. To paraphrase Madonna, we’re all material beings living in a material world that runs on AC power and lithium batteries. The penetration of technology into our lives does cause plenty of perfectly legitimate anxiety—we all have our “Luddite” moments when it scares us, how much we rely on our gadgets. Tapping into that primal fear, these eight stories offer up tales of technology run amok that will make any Luddite feel smugly justified—and the rest of us, plenty disturbed.

    Player Piano, by Kurt Vonnegut
    Vonnegut is a master at presenting horrific, dystopian, and disturbing premises with so much cranky humor, you almost forget how awful his imagined worlds were. In Player Piano, automation has made human labor in almost any form obsolete. While that sounds pretty good on a Monday morning when the alarm goes off, what it means in practice is billions of people all over the world living on welfare and bored out of their minds. In a world where self-driving trucks are delivering our beer, we’d all best start making plans for how to fill our spare time when all we have is spare time.

    Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
    You may not think of this book as a story of technology—but at its heart, the premise cuts right to our modern-day, streaming-addicted lifestyle: a film that is so entertaining people can’t stop watching it, and in fact, would rather starve to death than do so. The Entertainment, as its called, is one of those simple ideas that haunts you, especially when you’re about to cue up your fifth Black Mirror episode of the day instead of standing up and accomplishing something (something aside from watching all of Black Mirror, I guess).

    The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells
    More than a century after its publication, Wells’ classic novel retains its power to horrify—a power that only increases as medicine advances. The question of whether or not we should do some of the things medical science is now capable of—or will shortly be capable of—will never be an easy one to answer. While Moreau’s insane experiments on animal/human hybrids may be a bit far-fetched no matter how far genetic science advances, the story demonstrates in horrific fashion just how much suffering awaits us if we ever decide that things like ethics and morals are holding back our ability to control the fundamental biology that makes each species unique—and makes us us.

    The Ware Tetralogy, by Rudy Rucker
    Robots in rebellion. Robots in rebellion living on the Moon. Who consume the brains of human beings in order to transform them into robots. Rucker’s classic series of cyberpunk novels doesn’t shy away from presenting an alternative to the sober, civilized robots in the Asimovian mode, constrained by Three Laws. Instead, his “Boppers” are woke, fiercely dedicated to natural selection, and ready to fight for what they see as theirs—which should scare the pants off of anyone who ever thought having a robot around the house would be cool.

    Trucks, by Stephen King
    This bonkers short story, which was turned into the bonkers film Maximum Overdrive, never really offers a sound explanation for how or why all the machines of the world suddenly become self-aware (and violently opposed to humanity). Instead, in classic King style, the story focuses on the horror of discovering just how surrounded you are by machinery you do not actually have any control over. All we have to do is glance out the window at all the cars parked outside to understand just how much trouble we’d be in if some alien force did animate the machines.

    Cell, by Stephen King
    King doesn’t go for subtlety in this 2006 novel either. When a mysterious signal broadcast to every cell phone turns the majority of the population into mindless, violent monsters, madness ensues. As society collapses, a few lucky (or unlucky) survivors try for safe havens, and King’s magic touch elevates the premise into a terrifying story predicated on our increasing interconnectedness. That connection we now share with almost everyone in the world should terrify us to some extent, because it’s a signal we can neither control or predict.

    The Circle, by Dave Eggers
    Eggers’ 2013 novel tackles the one piece of technology billions of us use on a daily basis—Facebook and its sibling social media platforms. Eggers zeros in on the real horror of these services: the transactional nature that our privacy takes on. Trading our information—our likes, dislikes, movements, and opinions—for a few scraps of convenient photo sharing and communication code is what horrifies him, and what will horrify you as you read this novel, and realize just how close we already are to the terrible world he describes.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    The idea of extending your life always seems like a good one. If you could have some replacement organs grown so that your spoiled kidney, liver, or heart could be swapped out without any chance of rejection, why wouldn’t you? Except, of course, when you think about the sad, short lives of your clones, born and raised solely to keep your replacement parts warm until you need them. A lot of sci-fi presents technology as clean and sterile—encased in Apple-like white boxes. But the real horror of technology gone mad will be the visceral blood-and-guts cost.

    The post 8 Books About Technology Run Amok appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jenny Shank 4:00 pm on 2015/08/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , high school, kazuo ishiguro, , Muriel Spark, , , tobias wolff, university novels   

    5 Books That Give You That Back-To-School Feeling 

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    Fresh pencils, shiny shoes, and stuffed backpacks might not be enough to get you in the back-to-school mood, especially if your semester—or your kid’s—starts well before summer fades. Fortunately, plenty of good books distill that back-to-school essence. Here are five that will get you raring to meet new teachers and make new friends, or, if the depiction of school in several of these books is accurate, acquire new enemies.

    Old School, by Tobias Wolff
    Tobias Wolff’s terrific novel revolves around life at an elite East Coast prep school like the one Wolff once attended. During the 1960 to ’61 school year, the narrator, a scholarship student, vies to prove his literary mettle in a writing competition, hoping to win a meeting with three illustrious visiting writers: Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. Wolff’s dialogue and observations are droll and authentic as ever, and the student writing samples he includes—misguided imitations of those famous writers—are hilarious.

    Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt
    Frank McCourt may have riveted the book-reading public with his first memoir, Angela’s Ashes, but before he wrote it he taught English in New York City public high schools for 30 years. He reports in Teacher Man that his students were often less than attentive: “Tell them to copy what’s on the board. They stare. Oh, yeah, they tell one another. He wants us to copy what’s on the board. Look at that. Man wrote something on the board and wants us to copy it.” Not only do the students fail to take notes, they also turn in excuse notes “blatantly forged under [his] nose” and research papers that are “an ecstasy of plagiarism.” In this free-form memoir, we watch McCourt evolve from a harried beginning teacher into an innovative instructor who realizes when he begins to advise his students on the finer points of creative writing that he ought to write his own book some day.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    Okay, so maybe Halisham, the school depicted in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, turns out to be a totally creepy boarding establishment for cloned children whose organs will eventually be harvested, but Ishiguro’s descriptions of it before this is revealed portray it as a bucolic institution and estate in the English countryside, where the children are encouraged to get plenty of exercise and fresh air and display their creativity through regular art sessions. Lots of fun, if you just stick your fingers in your ears and say “la la la” so you don’t have to overhear any troubling rumors.

    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark
    At the Marcia Blaine School in Edinburgh, teacher Jean Brodie tells her students that she’s in her prime, and singles out a group of six ten-year-old girls as her special favorites, her “set.” The children are soon in the thrall of this woman who says, “The word ‘education’ comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul.” As much as Miss Brodie’s set loves their singular teacher, one of them will grow up to betray her.

    Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
    Chabon portrays the madcap dysfunction of a university English department in his second novel Wonder Boys, which details the travails of writer Grady Tripp, an English professor at the fictional Coxley College who is struggling to finish a 2611-page second novel to follow up his successful debut. Instead of writing, though, he’s busy with other matters: his wife leaves him, his mistress announces she’s pregnant, and he becomes involved with a troubled student, James Leer, who kills the university chancellor’s dog and steals a priceless Marilyn Monroe collectible. Sounds like college!

    What books put you in a back-to-school frame of mind?

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