Please peruse this month's book recommendations and fill out the survey at the bottom.
November Book Menu
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis in this unforgettable historical novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the “epic and heart-wrenching World War II tale” (Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times bestselling author) The Winemaker’s Wife.
Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.
The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?
As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.
An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.
Where the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky
The magnum opus from Alejandro Jodorowsky―director of The Holy Mountain, star of Jodorowsky’s Dune, spiritual guru behind Psychomagic and The Way of Tarot, innovator behind classic comics The Incal and Metabarons, and legend of Latin American literature.
There has never been an artist like the polymathic Chilean director, author, and mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky. For eight decades, he has blazed new trails across a dazzling variety of creative fields. While his psychedelic, visionary films have been celebrated by the likes of John Lennon, Marina Abramovic, and Kanye West, his novels―praised throughout Latin America in the same breath as those of Gabriel García Márquez―have remained largely unknown in the English-speaking world. Until now.
Where the Bird Sings Best tells the fantastic story of the Jodorowskys’ emigration from Ukraine to Chile amidst the political and cultural upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries. Like One Hundred Years of Solitude, Jodorowsky’s book transforms family history into heroic legend: incestuous beekeepers hide their crime with a living cloak of bees, a czar fakes his own death to live as a hermit amongst the animals, a devout grandfather confides only in the ghost of a wise rabbi, a transgender ballerina with a voracious sexual appetite holds a would-be saint in thrall. Kaleidoscopic, exhilarating, and erotic, Where the Bird Sings Best expands the classic immigration story to mythic proportions.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
“Give me the splendid, silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling.” -Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892).
The poems of Leaves of Grass are loosely connected, with each representing Whitman's celebration of his philosophy of life and humanity. This book is notable for its discussion of delight in sensual pleasures during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral. Where much previous poetry, especially English, relied on symbolism, allegory, and meditation on the religious and spiritual, Leaves of Grass exalted the body and the material world.
Influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalist movement, itself an offshoot of Romanticism, Whitman's poetry praises nature and the individual human's role in it. However, much like Emerson, Whitman does not diminish the role of the mind or the spirit; rather, he elevates the human form and the human mind, deeming both worthy of poetic praise.
Leaves of Grass was highly controversial during its time for its explicit sexual imagery, and Whitman was subject to derision by many contemporary critics. Over time, however, the collection has infiltrated popular culture and been recognized as one of the central works of American poetry.
A True Classic that Belongs on Every Bookshelf!
The Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot
Loosely based on the Arthurian legend of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King, “The Waste Land”, which first appeared in 1922, is a landmark work of Modernist poetry. Containing hundreds of allusions and quotations from other works, “The Waste Land” is marked by a disjointed structure which moves between voices and imagery without a clear delineation for the reader, a hallmark of Modernist literature. Arguably Eliot’s most famous work, the theme of the poem, as the title would suggest, is ultimately a dire one, of disillusionment, despair, and death. Also included in this collection is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” a work which preceded “The Waste Land” having been first published in 1910. Regarded as the beginning of Eliot’s influential period, “Prufrock” was considered idiosyncratic at first but with time has been recognized as an important shift in poetry from the Romantic era to the Modernist one. “The Wasteland and Other Poems”, which includes an additional twenty-three poems, collects some of the most pivotal works of the Modernist literary movement, which would establish Eliot as one of the most important poets of the 20th century.
Post recommendations for our 'Book of the Month' for November in the comments. Get them in by Saturday, October 31st at 2:00 pm MT so they may be included in the survey. The survey will be available at 3:00 pm.
It is not a historical tradition but I suggest we officially make November into 'Non-Fiction November,' where in addition to traditional non-fiction books we could include anything that isn't a typical fictional novel. For instance, poetry could be included. I'm not a rule maker so I leave it as a suggestion, and other suggestions for themed months are welcome in the comments.
Update: Just to show you how not strict of a suggestion the non-fiction thing is, I myself suggested two books that could be technically categorized as fiction novels. Although in my defense, they both contain substantial elements of non-fiction. Just don't let my musings stop you from recommending a good book, fiction or otherwise.