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Staff Picks: Browsing Bookstores

Contrary to my usual morning routine, I’ve been sneaking in my reading at night. After full days, those night-time sessions have been the only hope of turning off my brain.  

I picked up Mieko Kawakami’s All the Lovers in the Night at a fabulous bookstore in Manhattan, Albertine. The experience of the bookstore itself is enough to transport you, let alone reading the story. On the ground floor, a mix of French and English language books is packed within a tight space. The second room upstairs has a beautiful ceiling, worth stopping in just to check it out. I traveled to France for the first time last summer, so my interest in the culture is growing. I attended a talk there last October on Americans in Paris: Artists Working in Postwar France, 1946–1962, a book about American artists who took advantage of the GI bill and traveled to Paris. The most memorable part of this talk was learning about Shinkichi Tajiri, because his name took me a great deal of practice to pronounce and his work is very interesting. Anyway, less about the store and more about the book …

All the Lovers in the Night, surprised me. I had not read Kawakami before and wasn’t sure if I should expect a story akin to the Modern Love column. The plot pulled me in, although not because of exciting action and thrilling encounters, per se, since not a whole lot happens in much of the story. However, it had what I needed at the time – somewhere to escape to and relax at night. It was fun to escape to the different worlds belonging to Fuyoku, a proofreader in her mid-thirties. She is effectively isolated in her daily routines despite living in the hub of Tokyo. I found the book a beautiful story and thought-provoking regarding the networks of relationships in which we choose to engage. Also, the meta level reading about a proofreader, as she discusses the stuff of writing, was very enjoyable.  

Later on, I found myself taking another bookstore jaunt. This time I was in the Rutgers Bookstore, killing time before the bus arrived to take me home from the train station. First, I wandered through the store aimlessly, landing at the Rutgers Press section for a bit. As I was poking around, the cover of Nancy Wang’s Reel Inequality stuck out to me. I read the book jacket and made a mental note to find the book sometime in the future. On my run the next day, I was listening to Megan Markle’s podcast, Archetypes and Professor Wang was interviewed! I’m a total sucker for these moments of coincidence.

However, I was in the mood for something less academic. I found The Female Persuasion in the fiction section and picked it up because of the colorful cover. The book itself starts out in academia but ends up in the non-profit world. However, the meat of the story is found in the relationships and experiences of the protagonist, Greer Kadetsky, and her take on college experience. The author’s focus on how students end up re-centering their experience on finding a job at some point during their time at university becomes poetic through third-person perspective. Greer’s idol and feminist leader, Faith Frank, becomes a point of intrigue and sometimes satire. Additionally, the whole non-profit world and general interest in making a difference in the world becomes a topic for questioning how to lead a life without hypocrisy. I found the writing to be funny, on-point and always engaging. Check it out in the RecReads collection and peruse other titles through the libguide.

Other suggestions in the collection: