Local librarians suggest books for your back-to-school reading list.
This Is How You Lose Her
After all those fun, summer reads, it’s okay if you want to bum yourself out a little. Junot Díaz, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, has written a new collection of short stories for such an occasion. (And those who have read Drown know that his short stories are as excellent, if not more so, than his novels.) The tales in the book deal with break-ups, loss, heartache, and sadness—everything you’d need for a gray afternoon.
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel
You may think you know Frida Kahlo—the self-portraits, the eyebrows, Diego Rivera—but Mexico native F.G. Haghenbeck really knows her. He got to take a peek at what might be her personal journal, which she called “The Sacred Herbs Book,” filled with everything from memories to recipes. From there, he constructed a magical-realism-inspired novel about her entire life. Best of all, he reproduces those recipes—anyone in the mood for tamales de calabaza?
Son Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry’s The Giver is a young-adult reading-list staple, racking up a slew of awards, including the coveted Newbery Medal. Since then, Lowry’s written two additional books that take place in the same world as The Giver—Gathering Blue and Messenger—and Son completes the quartet, tying in threads and characters from all of the previous novels. The series takes place in a dystopian future, so you might want to put this in the hands of anyone you know experiencing The Hunger Games withdrawals.
My Last Empress
The Hudson Valley author known for his memoir, Colors of the Mountain, returns to China for his most recent work of adult fiction. Mixing history and romance, Chen tells the story of a man who, believing he is being visited by the ghost of his first love, travels to China and works for the emperor. Chen also is an accomplished brush calligrapher, and his poetic writing is similarly full of simple, beautiful flourishes.
From Candide to The Hobbit, we always love stories about wanderers and travelers. Emma Donoghue, author of the near-devastating Room, has created 14 “fact-inspired” fictions about characters who travel to or within North America. (After each story, she explains which newspaper clipping or diary entry inspired it.) The tales span four centuries and the whole continent, from puritan Massachusetts to the Yukon frontier. It’s a perfect fall-getaway companion—once you read about some of these journeys, you’ll never complain about airport security.
For even more recommendations, head to your local library, including the ones that helped us put this list together: Hastings-on-Hudson Public Library, Hastings-on-Hudson (914) 478-3307; hastingslibrary.org // Larchmont Public Library, Larchmont (914) 834-2281; larchmontlibrary.org // North Castle Public Library, Armonk (914) 273-3887; northcastlelibrary.org // Ruth Keeler Memorial Library, North Salem (914) 669-5161; keelerlibrary.org // Warner Library, Tarrytown (914) 631-7734; warnerlibrary.org.