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The Librarian Is In

News Story

Looking to curl up with a book? Our librarians are here with their latest reading recommendations!

Welcome to The Librarian Is In! Brought to us by the Mortola and Birnbaum libraries, this new monthly column will answer the age-old questionwhat should I read next? This month we have a number of recommendations from our library staff, ranging from non-fiction, to thrillers, to plain-old page-turners.

1. The North Water—Ian McGuire

Recommended by: Rose Gillen, Pace Librarian

Got this book for Christmas and was hooked on the first pages when I found myself in a whaling town preparing for an ill-fated trip to the arctic. Not my usual fare but experiencing the vivid characters and the mystery/thriller storyline really pulled me in and kept me interested all the way through to the gory end! I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well-written story, but avoid if you dislike graphic violence, foul language, or are reluctant to submerge yourself in the dark belly of humanity.

2. A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, Portrait of an Age—William Manchester

Recommended by: Rey Racelis, Library Director

Having always been drawn to non-fiction, especially the historical genre, this work by a most prolific historian, writer, reporter, and biographer, turned out to be as entertaining as it is riveting and one of those “hard to put down” pieces of work. Manchester, in his florid narrative style, provides an almost breathless spin of concurrent events showcasing the medieval outlook and its world and later, the earliest insinuations of the Renaissance beginnings, all congealed within a framework partly centered on the West’s pursuit of new lands. And while tracing the difficulties and challenges faced by the intrepid explorers, the writer, in his characteristic style, effortlessly shifts, back and forth, the readers’ attention from the travails of voyages at sea into the political intrigues of the kingdoms of the known world—a narrative all replete with the horrid life of the medieval denizens, the sex scandals of the courts, the theological underpinnings of the medieval mind, as well as the revolutionary ideas and experimentations that eventually led to the Renaissance. Manchester, in this book, writes to regale as to inform, and despite the fact that this was written in 1992, the verbiage of the narrative and the facts narrated still never fail to captivate and entertain.

3. Herculine Barbin (Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth Century French Hermaphrodite)—Michel Foucault

Recommended by: Kristina Bilello, Pace Librarian

“I am twenty-five years old, and, although I am still young, I am beyond any doubt approaching the hour of my death.” Deeply personal, heartfelt, and ultimately tragic, Herculine Barbin (Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth Century French Hermaphrodite) hooks the reader from the first paragraph. Discovered by a modern French author (Michel Foucault) in a medical archive, the memoir was said to have inspired the Pulitzer prize-winning book, Middlesex. That aside, it’s a compelling story. While the writing is steeped in sentimentality and the descriptions of her life in Catholic schools are often torrid, the voice of Herculine wins your sympathy. S/he was incredibly intelligent, enormously charming, yet s/he was navigating a black and white gendered world while having the anatomy of both. How else could this story end? For those interested in reading a fascinating personal history, and a glimpse of a life in transgender history.

4. The Remarkable Rise of Eliza Jumel: A Story of Marriage and Money in the Early Republic—Margaret A. Oppenheimer

Recommended by: Sarah Burns-Feyl, Pace Librarian

I grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York, where a restaurant and bar named Madam Jumel’s was well-known when I was younger. I had heard vague references to “Madam Jumel,” but never really knew her true history. My mother gave me this book for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I put it aside in favor of my Kindle books. Recently, the battery in my Kindle was dead, so…I picked up this book, and I’m glad I did! What a riveting tale, and I had no idea Eliza Jumel had been married to Aaron Burr. The book provides a detailed, yet entertaining history of Eliza Jumel, from her youth through her adult life, complete with an international marriage, living overseas, her second marriage to Burr, her love for and collection of numerous pieces of art, and the children she adopted and cared for during her life. The book relies heavy on research, and does get a little dense at points, but it kept me interested and had a good pace, so I think even those who usually don’t enjoy non-fiction would enjoy this book. I would recommend this book to anyone who lives in, or has visited Saratoga Springs, or anyone who is interested in American history, particularly women in American history. I recommend it highly as it tells the story of a fascinating and enterprising woman, it’s a true “rags to riches” tale, with connections to this lovely upstate town.

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