A compilation of his Washington Post columns of the same name, Jonathan Yardley’s Second Reading (Europa Editions, $16) is a delightful summertime adventure in books. Yardley’s passion for reading is a neon sign blazing on every page as he revisits classics like Daphne du Maurier’s modern Gothic, Rebecca, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, on which the critic confers the title, “American masterwork.” He praises Roald Dahl’s adult short fiction collection, Someone Like You, for its genuine humor and precise character descriptions. John Cheever is lauded for his “clinical, yet sympathetic depiction of life in leafy suburbia” and Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir The Woman Warrior receives special notice as one of the first books to bring public attention to the causes of feminism and multiculturalism. In re-reading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Yardley takes a rare caustic stance toward an American favorite, sighting Salinger’s “execrable prose and Caulfield’s jejune narcissism,” though he begrudgingly acknowledges the book’s place in the American literary canon. After finishing Second Reading, my resolve to re-read favorites was outpaced by the length of my to-read list, to which Yardley contributes mightily. Lacey Dunham

Second Reading: Notable and Neglected Books Revisited Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609450083
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Europa Editions - June 28th, 2011

Summer is a good time for light reading; maybe a good mystery?  But before you delve into your next whodunit, take a short detour with P.D. James’s TALKING ABOUT DETECTIVE FICTION (Vintage, $14), and you will gain a whole new appreciation for the form. James is enthusiastic and lively, asking what makes the mystery or, as she prefers, the “detective story” such an enduring genre? Why are we fascinated with the most horrific of all crimes, murder?   She takes you on a tour of the detective story from its earliest incarnations to the present, examining the “Golden Age” of British mysteries and comparing them with the hard-boiled stories from America.  As in her fiction, James’s writing is precise and thoughtful.  Reading this will make you want to revisit some of your old favorites: Sayers, Christie, Conan Doyle, Chandler—you’ll see them in a new light.

Talking About Detective Fiction Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307743138
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Vintage - May 3rd, 2011

Anyone who loves books will feel an immediate affection for A Reader On Reading (Yale Univ., $18). Alberto Manguel is a warm and graceful writer who considers himself first and foremost a reader. The sheer joy of holding, opening, contemplating, and recalling books comes through in everything he writes. No facet of literacy is too small or large for his attention; here are fascinating histories of the period, the page, and libraries, while the political pieces on repression and censorship make powerful arguments for the essential role freedom of reading plays in a society. Manguel’s appreciations of his favorite books, Alice in Wonderland and Don Quixote (he also loves detective novels), are erudite and insightful, yet are less literary criticism than heartfelt recommendations. As every reader does with what he loves, he has made these books his own, and his essays demonstrate how reading, as much as writing, is autobiography, even as the books reciprocate, the cumulative readings bringing out their true character and giving them richer tones.

A Reader on Reading Cover Image
ISBN: 9780300172089
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Yale University Press - June 28th, 2011