Having provided reader advisory services to library customers for more than 35 years, I have read and listened to more than my fair share of great books (and not-so-great ones). There are many books that enjoy great hype and popular demand, while other equally deserving books slip by the wayside and gather dust on library shelves. Here are a few of those titles, which may have escaped your notice, but certainly deserve your attention. (There is one among these titles that appeared doomed to go unnoticed, but then won the National Book Award.)
If you ever find yourself without a good book to read or are looking for a new author who writes like one of your favorite authors, the Beaufort County Library has reference librarians at every branch who are eager to share new authors and titles that meet your reading interests. Readers' advisory services are also available through the library's website at www.beaufortcountylibrary.org/content/recommended-reading.
Simply fill out the form, providing information about your specific reading likes and dislikes. Reference staff will create a personalized reading list for you. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for librarians to suggest titles you will enjoy. You will be contacted within a week with a customized reading list. Information will be kept in strict confidence between you and library staff.
"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"
by Sherman Alexie
I've been reading Sherman Alexie's novels since his first book, and he has indeed honed his craft. This is a captivating and hilarious story of Alfred "Junior" Spirit and his quest to leave the certain failure of life on the rez. It is a poignant and triumphant coming-of-age story detailing the high school horrors of being the only American Indian in an all-white rural Washington state high school. Told with humor, pathos, anger, scathing honesty, and the vivid, visual aid of cartoon graphics, this small yet oh-so-solid story should be required reading for all high school students.
"Let's Take the Long Way Home"
by Gail Caldwell
This is a must-read for those who have suffered the loss of a best friend (including "man's best"). Spoken with intimacy and the clarity of one who has undergone intense self-scrutiny (recovered alcoholic), the author reaches out to honor her best friend and also provide the reader with a road map for recovery from grief and loss; an intensely heart-rending yet redeeming read.
"The Good Lord Bird"
by James McBride
I'm a huge fan of William Faulkner's "'The Reivers," and "Little Big Man," by Thomas Berger. I guess I like my history served with a strong dose of humor by a wisecracking narrator. It doesn't get any better than McBride's fictional accounting of where it all went wrong for John Brown and his band of deadly, maniacal freedom (from slavery) fighters. Onion, an 11-year old mixed-race slave boy â€" who John Brown mistakes for a girl â€" continues the charade to save his skin and the storyline. Told in dialect with humorous regional witticisms and sayings from the period, it is a hoot. I read Tony Horwitz's "Midnight Rising," a historically correct rendering of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, and McBride's account is the icing on the cake. It captures the time and notable players across that stage of history in a fractured and thoroughly enjoyable yarn. By the way, this is the book that won the National Book Award.
"Saints at the River"
by Ron Rash
What happens when a drowning victim's body is wedged beneath the waters of a designated "wild and scenic river"? A young journalist is assigned this news story that has pitted local environmentalists against the community that only wants to help a grieving mother. This is a compelling story told by one of South Carolina's best authors. An added attraction is the locale of the story -- the beautiful mountains and scenic waterways of our own northwest corner of South Carolina.
"The Space Between Us"
by Thrity Umrigar
Poignant, evocative and unforgettable, this novel is an intimate portrait of a distant yet familiar world. Set in modern-day India, it is the story of two compelling and achingly real women: Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than 20 years. A powerful and perceptive literary masterwork, author Thrity Umrigar's extraordinary novel demonstrates how the lives of the rich and poor are essentially connected yet vastly removed from each other, and how the strong bonds of womanhood can be tragically broken by divisions between class and culture.
Francesca Denton is the reference manager at Beaufort library.