Tag Archives: world fiction

2015 Reading Resolutions: Onward and Upward!

With another year of books under our belts, it’s time to look ahead. To bring the blogging year to a close, some Eleventh Stackers have chosen to share their reading resolutions for 2015. There’s nowhere to go, but up, and our team has aimed high — check it out!


Every time someone asks for a mystery recommendation, I cringe. Despite my love for serialized crime shows (Criminal Minds, Veronica Mars, Murder She Wrote…), I just have a hard time with the genre in book form. 2015 is the year I step up my game and have some titles in my back pocket for the next time I’m put on the spot. I have Anthony Hororwitz’s Moriarty on my list (I read The House of Silk last year for our Tuesday book club, and liked his take on Sherlock). And a regular patron suggested the Ian Rutledge series, by Charles Todd. Readers, if you have any must-reads, maybe some non-historicals that are maybe a bit John Grisham-y, please send ’em my way.


Unfinished business.

Unfinished business.

I’m going to finish some books in 2015. This year, for whatever reason, I’d get almost to the end of a book and stop reading it. It didn’t matter whether I liked the book or not: I just stopped. I don’t know if this is a sign of mental illness or a newly shortened attention span. Here is a sampling of the books I started, thoroughly enjoyed, and never finished. Feel free to tell me the endings.


In 2010 I started Stephen King’s It. “Started” being the key word here.  That book is thick, yo.  Maybe 2015 will be the year I finish it.  Or maybe I’ll focus on the classics that I missed out on for one reason or the other, like Animal Farm or Moby-Dick.  Maybe I’ll go back to the books of my childhood, like the Narnia books. Or, since I just started re-watching Gilmore Girls, maybe I’ll focus on a Rory Gilmore reading list.


I’ve never had much use for audio-books, but I recently discovered how much I like listening to them on long runs. So my reading resolution for 2015 is actually more of a listening resolution: to delve into the library’s collection of super-portable Playaways. I just started listening to Runner.


I plan to read some more Anne Sexton. I am also slowly re-reading all of the Song Of Ice And Fire novels using the eCLP format.

Leigh Anne

I like to play along with formal reading challenges, to make sure that I regularly step out of my favorite genres and formats to try a little bit of everything. Luckily the magical internet is filled with such opportunities, most of which I find via A Novel Challenge, a terrific blog that collects news and info about different reading games. Of course, I always load up on way too many challenges, and rarely finish any of them…but I sure do have a great time trying!

Here are some challenges I’ll be signing up for in 2015:

The Bookish 2015 TBR Reading Challenge. I have two bookcases at home filled with books I own that I haven’t read yet (I blame the Library, both for being so excellent and for fueling my book-buying habit). It’s getting a little bit out of hand, so I’ve decided to dive into those TBR shelves and decide whether to keep or regift what I’ve got.

It's not bragging if it's true.

It’s not bragging if it’s true.

Janet Ursel’s We Read Diverse Books Challenge. It’s no secret that the publishing  industry is still predominantly white, which means there are a lot of stories out there untold or overlooked. This bothers me both professionally and personally, so I’m on a constant mission to make sure my own reading and reviewing is as inclusive as possible. This challenge was inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign of 2014.

The 2015 Ebook Reading Challenge. Ebooks are an important part of the reading landscape these days, and I really should be looking at more of them (Overdrive READ is my friend right now, until I finally decide which tablet I want). Ebooks are also sometimes challenging for me because of my vision impairments, but I’m hoping Consumer Reports , a little web sleuthing, and input from other users (maybe you?) will help me pick out the tablet with the best accessibility features. Thanks in advance!

The 2015 Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge. This one’s kind of a cheat, as I adore comics of all kinds. The problem is, I rarely make time to read them, mostly out of guilt because they’re so much fun and there are many other Terribly Serious Things I should be reading dontcha know. However, this means I missed a lot of good stuff in 2014, so I’ve decided to ditch the guilt and spend 2015 savoring the fine art of comics. Woohoo!

Four challenges is do-able, right?  I’ll report back regularly in upcoming blog posts.

Melissa F.

Browsing the historical fiction section

Browsing the historical fiction section

I’ve become a little too comfortable insofar as my reading habits go. On one hand, I don’t see any problem with this, since reading is something I do for fun and entertainment. Still, there’s something to be said for expanding one’s knowledge and horizons.

In 2015, I’m planning to do more of my reading from the World Fiction and Historical Fiction sections on the First Floor of CLP-Main. I’m not setting an actual numerical goal for this resolution, just challenging myself to read more from these areas (which I admittedly tend to overlook while perusing the new fiction, nonfiction, and short stories).  Your suggestions are most welcome.

And there you have it! Do you have any reading recommendations or advice for the Eleventh Stackers? Do you set yourself reading goals or just let the books fall where they may? Share the wisdom, leave a comment!


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The cherry blossom trees behind the Carnegie Museum have almost reached the end of their brief bloom.  The delicate pink and white petals inevitably remind me of Japan. And anytime I am reminded of anything, it’s time to browse the stacks and see what we can find to scratch that itch. With Japan in mind, my browsing led me to an old favorite, the works of Yukio Mishima. I might have preferred a nice non-fiction, perhaps something about the visually arresting and dramatic samurai period, maybe a samurai film (CLP has a great collection), or a fun travelogue.

But I ended up with Mishima. He is the type of author you can’t ever leave permanently. I read several of his novels about five years ago and I knew then I would be back for another round. For a guy who likes non-fiction and genre fiction, Mishima is an odd choice. This is good.  You have to shake things up. His books are complex and engaging, and at times rather difficult.  But a reader is richly rewarded.  Characters are dissected to their core amidst sensual and precise descriptions of casual detail that work magic on the reader’s subconscious. 

Mishima’s work stands on its own. But no discussion of it is really complete without a look at his life and death. I imagine there could be others, but as far as I know, Mishima is the only author to have attempted a coup d’ état.

Coup d’Wha?

That’s right. Mishima and a few members of his private army attempted to stage a coup d’ état.

Private army?

You read correctly. Mishima had a small private army. Two of its members assisted Mishima in the completion of his ritual suicide after the coup inevitably failed.

Ritual suicide?

Mishima ended his own life in the traditional samurai fashion.  Although he was a wealthy  and highly successful  author, he did have a bit of a reputation for outlandish behavior in the press with his late turn to nationalism , a private army, and the persistent discussion about his sexuality.  But no one was prepared for his actions on November 25th, 1970.  The coup and suicide were incredibly shocking.  


This all happened in 1970.

If you have a pulse, at this point you must be at least mildly curious about this man and his work. For those wishing to start with a critically acclaimed and accessible novel, I would recommend After the Banquet. It’s an engaging story about the conflicting pressures of love and ambition. If you are just wondering about the life of this unique and conflicted man then you should have a look at Henry Scott-Stokes The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima.   Confession of a Mask, the story of a closeted homosexual, was the first of Mishima’s works translated in the west. I am currently reading The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea.  Don’t worry, there are multiple copies.  And I would be very remiss if I failed to mention Mishima, A Life in Four Chapters, an amazing film about his life and work.

For the truly ambitious there is the Sea of Fertility, a tetralogy starting with Spring Snow. These novels delve deeply into Buddhist theology and ideas about reincarnation, spinning a decades long storyline into a shocking conclusion. The manuscript of the final volume, The Decay of the Angel, was submitted to the publisher on the very day of Mishima’s death.

Anyone interested in themes of love, life, beauty, and death, will find much to admire and enjoy in Mishima’s work.



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World Fiction: Modern Israeli

Within 4 days of each other this summer, two friends of mine – unknown to each other – and living in different parts of the world came up with book recommendations for the same author – Eshkol Nevo.  The first recommendation came in a letter from my friend Mark who lives in Kfar Sava, Israel.  In the letter Mark comments “You’ll have to read Nevo’s ‘Homesick‘, I want the lads to talk about it when we get together, he touched me.” (a trip several of us make every two years or so.)  Less than a week later on Facebook,  Ranen who teaches Literature at the University of Miami wrote me almost identical words about the book ‘World Cup Wishes‘, also by Mr. Nevo. Cover of book 'Homesick'

Both books (the library doesn’t yet own World Cup Wishes) are absorbing and may well be some of the best examples of modern Israeli fiction that are available . . . in English.   Here’s the rub; many respected foreign language writers find it very difficult to get sold in the US market. The translations are there, these titles are already being sold in the UK, Australia and Canada to critical acclaim, but US publishers aren’t picking them up.  I bought my copy of ‘World Cup Wishes’ from Amazon Canada.  In The Translation Gap: Why More Foreign Writers Aren’t Published in America, Emily Williams points out that the reasons for this aren’t so much cultural as much as economic and some literary pigeon-holing; does the writer get directed or marketed to target audiences in a way not done overseas?

From a reader’s standpoint, I adored both books, but I believe they challenge us because of how they’re written. The storytelling is intensely personal, the narrations are mostly multiple first person.  The style is polyphonic; the various characters narrating from their perspective.  It took me awhile to get used to it and to be able to follow the storyline and who was narrating; I sometimes felt like I was on a merry-go-round where I kept changing seats, but it’s well worth it.  Chapters are short because it’s the perception that changes, not the occasion. This isn’t how we (Americans) normally read a story.

I liked them because the people and places are real, what happens is day-to-day and not the sensationalized fodder we read or see in the news.  Nevo doesn’t run from what makes Israel fascinating (or horrifying if that’s your inclination,) or deny it’s importance; but there’s perspective – catching buses, class assignments, friendships or surgeries are more real for his characters than diplomacy and peace proposals.  The history between Jews and Palestinians underlies much of ‘Homesick‘, as does the unresolved tensions between the religious and the secular, but they aren’t what the story is about – it is a love story.

‘World Cup Wishes’ also touches on the things we see or read about as history and current events, but they’re peripheral.  It too is about relationships, the evolution of friendships, jealousy, forgiveness, and the place of spirituality in a modern society and using the World Cup as the timeline to measure accomplishment.


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Fine by me!

Something you might not know is that library staff are required to pay fines and fees, just like everybody else. Membership has its privileges, but ducking out of late charges is definitely not one of them!

Although I’m normally a squeaky-clean goody-two-shoes in this regard, I’ve been racking up — and paying down — overdue fines lately.  This is primarily because I’ve been enjoying some library items that are so darned interesting, it was worth taking the teensy financial hit to finish them.

Here are a few of the items I just couldn’t return on time:

book jacketThe League of Gentlemen is a darkly comic British television series about the town of Royston Vasey and its insular inhabitants. If Monty Python and H. P. Lovecraft had a child, this series–whose main plotline revolves around the ultimate “mystery meat”–would be it. If your sense of humor errs on the side of outrageous, you’re bound to love it.

NOTE: Not to be confused with the film version of  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is something altogether different.

Roberto Bolano’s 898-page epic, 2666, is a masterpiece of contemporary book jacketliterary fiction, and comes highly recommended for those who worry about the death of the novel.  Who is the mysterious author, Archimboldi, and why has he come to Santa Teresa, where hundreds of women are murdered each year? Commit a chunk of your summer to finding out!

 NOTE: I kept this for a full extra week because I simply couldn’t bring it back without knowing the outcome (Flip to the end?  Perish the thought!).

Product Details

Are you happy?

If you’re in the mood for a quirky documentary, The Inquiring Nuns may well fill the bill. Two nuns walk around Chicago asking random people if they’re happy. The responses are honest, heartfelt, and occasionally uncomfortable. Old-school “reality television,” a little Philip Glass, and a suite of interesting bonus features make for a thoughtful afternoon of small-screen enjoyment. 

NOTE:  Amy thought I would like this one, and she was right–why not visit the Film and Audio Department and let the staff pick out something fun for you, too?

Honesty forces me to admit that I am already several days late with this last item, but I’m not quite finished with the soundtrack to the film 24 Hour Party People.  I’d like to formally apologize to those of you on the waiting list who probably love Joy Division and New Order as much as I do, and I solemnly swear I will pay every single penny I owe for the privilege of making you wait. Karma will, I’m sure, repay me by keeping True Blood away from me as long as possible – library staff don’t get to jump the waiting list, either!

Don’t you feel better now that you know library folk play by the same rules you do? What book, CD, or DVD are you anxiously waiting for? What have you gladly paid fines for so you could finish enjoying it?

–Leigh Anne


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Welcome to the World!, or, How to Experience Exotic Lands for Free

I love travelling to new places—not so much to sightsee, but to sociologically deconstruct how other people live. It’s fun to find out what strange (to me) things people do and then attempt to discover why it’s done that way. It’s also a good way to analyze why I do weird things. 

Travelling is very expensive, and the easiest–and cheapest—way for me to spy on other peoples’ cultures and histories—and even perhaps their innermost thoughts—is to read fiction and nonfiction by their authors. In our library, we have a whole section called “World Fiction” that is comprised of new books translated from other languages. 

Here are some of our brand-spanking-new World Fiction titles:

Laish: A Novel by Aharon Appelfeld from Hebrew (Romania)
Wandering Stars by Sholem Aleichem from Yiddish (Russia)
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada from German (Germany)
The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa from Japanese (Japan)
The Possession by Annie Ernaux from French (France)
The Virgin of Solitude by Taghi Modarresi from Persian (Iran)
Tokyo Fiancée by Amelie Nothomb  from French (Japan)
Karnak Café by Naguib Mahfouz  from Arabic (Egypt)

Another way to immerse yourself in another culture is to attend our language clubs and cultural programs. This month we have hosted 23 programs related to cultures and languages. We kick off our new Japanese for Beginners program tonight, the fourth Tuesday of the month, which begins at 6 pm in the Center for Museum Education—Classroom A. This class is open to anyone interested in learning Japanese and about Japanese culture. Do you already know Japanese?  Come to our Japanese Conversation Club, which occurs at 6 pm on the second and third Tuesday of each month in the large print room.



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Shelf Examination: World Fiction

The second in our series of quick guides to the fiction shelves tackles the world of world fiction.  Here are four picks that show off the diversity of this collection, which features books from around the world, translated into English.

 The Book: The Chess Machine, Robert Lohr.

 Check it out if you like:  chess, con artists, 18th-century Europe, German authors, political intrigue, scandal, mystery, or scrupulous attention to historical detail.

book jacket

The Book: Stories of Little Women and Grown-Up Girls, Sonia Rivera-Valdes.

Check it out if you like:  Interlinked short stories, coming-of-age narratives, contemporary Cuban issues, the joys and challenges of women’s friendships, or down-to-earth prose styles.

The Book:   Nightwatch, Sergei Lukyanenko.

 Check it out if you like:  urban fantasy,  ill-fated romances, stolen artifacts, intricate plotting, dark humor, the Moscow scene, books that eventually become movies.

book jacket

 The book: Everyday Life, Lydie Salvayre.

Check it out if you like:  Unreliable narrators, office politics, troubling portraits of the perils of growing older, generation gaps, or the rapidly changing corporate world.

book jacketJonesing for more?  Take a peek at this booklist, and this one, for good measure.

Until next time, enjoy exploring brave new (or new-to-you) worlds!

–Leigh Anne


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