Reading Room Blog
Two years after the infamous and hideous Black Plague swept the continent of Europe, 18-year-old Oswald de Lacy finds himself the Lord of Somershill.
Although he does not wish to claim the title, he has no other choice since the Sickness took his father and two older brothers, leaving him to deal with a crumbling estate; an overbearing, paranoid mother; an unmarried, spoiled sister; and extremely fearful peasants.
What teenage girl has not sighed over the plight of Jane Eyre and the love story in Wuthering Heights? The novels contain “the collective imagination” poured into them by millions of teenage girls. In The Madwoman Upstairs, narrator Samantha Whipple is the last Brontë heir. She is related to three of the most famous women writers, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, but she has a contentious relationship with them. Gothic and imaginative, The Madwoman Upstairs is a tribute to the Brontës.
Small Southern towns have their share of eccentric characters, but they have nothing on Quinn, Montana. Quinn produces “devils and angels, queens and boy princesses, gritty souls that could survive anything.” The Flood Girls are a team of misfit softball players with their manager, Laverna Flood, the owner of the local bar, leading the pack. Living in Quinn and playing ball with The Flood Girls is never boring; it is a comedy of errors.
It’s 1879, and Captain De Long and his 32 men receive quite the send-off on their way to explore the Arctic. Financed by an eccentric playboy newspaper publisher, they are as prepared as possible for the grueling years of making camp on ice floes, as well as winters of darkness and aching loneliness. Hampton Sides’ In the Kingdom of Ice sets down their story of trying to be the first to reach the North Pole—which they and much of the scientific community believe to be a warm sea.
American counterculture hit the mainstream in the 1960s, but it had already been stewing for over a decade with the Beat generation. This group of novelists, poets, and playwrights pushed against the norms of Eisenhower's post-war optimism to reveal a different side to the nation.
I started listing adjectives to describe My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante: visceral; violent; passionate. This is the first in a series of four Neapolitan Novels by an elusive Italian author who writes under a pseudonym. Elena and Lila’s friendship is full of envy and love as they claw their way out childhood into adolescence in a poverty-stricken quarter of Naples in the 1950s.
Her sister’s young twins came to Luce after a hard patch. Which is to say, having their mother meet her end most violently at the hands of their stepfather. They were odd children, quiet to the point of not speaking and not looking people in the eye. Ever. They had some disturbing habits, too, which spoke of far more having been done to their small selves than they would fess to. Not that they were fessing to anything, encased as they were in their eerie, shared silence. In Charles Frazier’s Nightwoods, their eccentric Aunt Luce and the North Carolina mountain she calls home promise nothing to them, yet they do provide a haven—for a while.
A gray day, perfect for revisiting a twitchy acquaintance: Edgar Allan Poe. Roderick Usher and family inhabit their cracked, creepy house in one of his best short stories, “The Fall of the House of Usher." The Poe story has been used by other authors since he wrote it, even made into an opera. One offers a different perspective from Roderick Usher’s doomed sister, Madeline; the other features the descendants of Madeline and Roderick, from a master of modern horror, Robert McCammon.
There’s the car, the landscape, the people in the car, and the baggage, both real and psychological. Americans love a road trip, but this time of year, even if gas is cheap, the weather may hinder a real road trip, so grab one of these books and travel from your couch.
“The sharper your knife, the less you cry.”
Chefs dominate the cooking industry; the big ones have TV shows, cookbooks, their own magazines. Because of them, there are cooking shows for every taste and better produce in your local market. Here is a selection of notable memoirs; two of the authors uplifted home cooking in America.