2019 Berkeley Law Library
Summer Reading List

Summer 2019 Reading List

Summer is here! Relax. Recharge. Read.

Thanks to our many contributors from the Law School Community.

The Berkeley Law Library

Click on book cover to read review.

 

The Autobiography of S. S. McClure
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage
Bowlaway
Boy, Snow, Bird
Building Stories
Circe
The Club
Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work by Victoria Ortiz
The Dry
Florida
The Good Detective
Heavy: An American Memoir
Heroic Failure
Indian-ish
The Infinite Prison
The Last of the Sandwalkers
The Lion in the Living Room
The Manual of Detection
The Maze at Windermere
Memoirs of a Polar Bear
National Lampoon 1964 Yearbook
Once Upon a River
The Overstory
Sapiens
Shetland Island Series
So You've Been Publicly Shamed
Song of Achilles
Tangerine

The Autobiography of S. S. McClure by Willa Cather

Heather Gevertz, Senior Director of Development

Who is S.S McClure? He is a person who has nothing and makes something. He faces adversity at every turn, and yet remains resilient, curious and open to what is coming. This true tale of adventure is heartbreaking, humorous, inspiring and surprising.

S. S. McClure was one of America’s greatest editors and publishers in the lively era of muckraking reform. He is remembered for McClure’s Magazine, which early in the twentieth century published the works of famous authors and social reformers. He was also the mentor of young Willa Cather. After leaving her position at McClure’s in 1912, Cather ghosted this graceful portrait of her former boss.

Cather’s developing style is clear throughout The Autobiography of S. S. McClure. She goes far inside her subject to find his voice and catch the rhythms of his exciting life: his immigration from Ireland to America, his Horatio Alger–like rise from poverty and struggle to success. Cather shows the risks he took in forming the first newspaper syndicate in the United States, which gave him access to such literary masters as Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Louis Stevenson. His extensive contacts were advantageous later in establishing McClure’s, the medium for muckrakers like Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens. These famous figures, and many others, enter into The Autobiography of S. S. McClure, which was originally published in 1914, just as Cather was launching her own illustrious career as a novelist.

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, Book of Dust, Volume 1 (Audiobook) By Philip Pullman, Narrated by Michael Sheen

Marlene Harmon, Reference Librarian

Both the Washington Post and Slate selected The Book of Dust as their Best Audiobook of 2017. Classed as a Young Adult audiobook, not quite a prequel to Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, it is intended as the first in a companion series with many of the same characters. It begins the story of Lyra Belacqua, rescued by young MalColm Polstead and Alice Parslow, from the forces of the Magisterium. The main characters and their daemons are cast upon the flooded Thames in Malcolm’s beloved and reliable canoe, Le Belle Sauvage where they are pursued by villains, human and nonhuman who are desperate to capture Lyra, a most mysterious infant. Narrator Michael Scheen produces one of the best narrated audiobooks I’ve listened to. You don’t need to be a young adult to thoroughly enjoy it and to wait impatiently for the next installment.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

Robert C. Berring, Jr., Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law, Emeritus

Ms. McCracken, a professor at the University of Texas, writes in a distinctive style. Her earlier book, The Giant’s House, is a favorite. She writes in a form that approaches magical realism as real life events (though they seem to be made up from whole cloth) are blended with surreal leaps. The center of the book keep shifting as time passes and major characters die; the central figure is actually a candlepin bowling alley in a small Massachusetts town. Having been a candlepin bowler of little talent but great enthusiasm the book worked for me at every level.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Kathy Hashimoto, Copyright Research Fellow, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology

Helen Oyeyemi is the author of folklore-based fiction, tallying six novels and one short story collection so far (including her latest, Gingerbread). Similar to other recent works that recast familiar stories from atypical perspectives, Boy, Snow, Bird is inspired by the Snow White tale, which Oyeyemi uses to launch her imaginative exploration of the complexities of good and evil, self-love and -loathing, and standards of beauty, complicated further by themes of race, gender, and identity as experienced primarily by women. The title refers to three characters: Boy, a young white woman who runs away from an abusive parent in 1950s New York to start life anew in New England, and who narrates the first and third parts of the story; her mixed-race daughter, Bird, who narrates the middle section; and light-skinned Snow, Boy’s stepdaughter. A surprise twist towards the end ties together earlier events and characters to add an additional psychological layer to the story. Boy, Snow, Bird is a fairly quick, entertaining, and thoughtful read.

Building Stories by Chris Ware

Amy Utstein, Director of Administration

Building Stories is a graphic novel that won multiple awards for best graphic novel and was on many Top 10 books of the year lists (including the NYT Book Review.) It's a unique narrative experience made up of 14 individual items that can be read in any order. Made up of books, pamphlets, broadsheets, scraps, and a fold out game board, it follows the life of one main protagonist and the people who share a Chicago apartment with her. It's touching and beautiful and a truly novel way to experience a "book." I was able to take it out of the library (it's not the cheapest book on the shelf) and highly recommend checking it out!

Circe by Madeline Miller

Monique Macaulay, Acquisitions/Serials

Born of the Titan Helios and Oceanid, Perse, Circe is a lonely, willful nymph whose reinterpreted story in the hands of Madeline Miller is a breathtaking and compelling tale. The ancients told their stories in verse and I feel that Miller captures the essence of that in her prose. Or, she weaves the story like one of Circe’s spells. It has an urgency and a dreamlike quality all at the same time.

Circe, despite being lowly nymph, attains great powers and transforms into a formidable witch who then proceeds to defy, frighten, and defeat gods. Her punishment is to be banished to her island, but is it really a punishment or did Circe just attain her freedom? And that is all I am going to say about the story in this book. You have to read it to fully grasp how special and wonderful it is. I cannot stress enough how much I loved this book. If you would like to wander among the gods, Circe is available in the law library’s bestsellers collection. You should really check it out.

The Club by Leo Damrosch

Robert C. Berring, Jr., Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law, Emeritus

Samuel Johnson is one of my heroes. As we are both large men who are very myopic and have no fashion sense, he immediately appeals. One might think that Boswell’s Life of Johnson would say all that needed to be said about the man but this book goes one step better. The subject is the literary club founded by Johnson and Joshua Reynolds. Only good conversationalists who were men of distinction were invited to join in the weekly rounds of talk and drink. Club members comprise a list of England’s finest thinkers in the latter part of the 18th Century. Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Edward Gibbon, David Garrick and Oliver Goldsmith are the names best remembered but the list is long and impressive. The author provides a stunning picture of the men and of the times. No little amount of political theory slips as well. Professor Damrosch manages to write a book that is scholarly enough to be published by Yale University Press but which is an easy read and which has many pictures. Sometimes when I read a book like this one I wonder what the person discussed looked like and that desire is fulfilled here. It is a lovely book that works on every level.

Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work by Victoria Ortiz, YA

Former Berkeley Law Dean of Students Viki Ortiz has written a YA biography of Justice Ginsburg that demonstrates Ginsburg’s lifelong commitment to civil rights. Since we promote all things Berkeley Law, we wanted to let you know about this book which is available June 3.

From the Kirkus review: “The author has expertly selected cases for this readable volume that will pique the interest of teens. The gripping first chapter introduces Savana Lee Redding, the eighth-grade honor roll student who sued after being strip-searched at school and eventually won in the Supreme Court, due partly to Ginsburg’s explaining to her uncomprehending male fellow justices the humiliation the girl felt. ...Meticulous research and outstanding storytelling make Supreme Court arcana and the fight for equality come to life.”

The Dry, Force of Nature, the Lost Man by Jane Harper

Chris Tarr, Head of Cataloging

Jane Harper writes police procedurals set in Australia, often in the Outback. They are wonderful. In the first, The Dry, a financial crimes detective returns to the tiny outback town he grew up in to attend the funeral of his oldest friend, his wife and daughter. The crimes turns out not to be what you’d expect, but the real force of the book is the landscape and the drought that is driving everyone crazy. In Force of Nature, an informant is lost on a work retreat deep in the bush. Again, the landscape is the most important character. In The Lost Man, which I think is the best (though they are all great), one of three brothers is discovered dead on a remote border in the shade of the gravestone of an unknown stockman. The Lost Man is related only tangentially to the other two, and there is no detective. As with the other two, complicated family relationships turn out to be the key, and the landscape looms behind everything. I realize that I read mystery novels as much for the sense of place as for the puzzle, and these novels are great at giving you a sense of the remote parts of Australia. They’re wonderful.

Florida by Lauren Groff

Maia Livengood, 2L and Law Library Research Assistant

Much has already been written about Lauren Groff’s newest collection, Florida, but it’s hard to refrain from adding a take when the work is this good. As suggested by its title, Florida thematically weaves together short stories that relate—some closely, others only very remotely—to the Sunshine State. Though by Groff’s account, the State may be anything but: through a Didion-esque neutral voice, she artfully probes the effects of land development, climate change, and income inequality while managing to refrain from unimaginative diatribes. Instead, Groff uses her primary narrator’s neurosis as a lens to refract that dialogue, which has the effect of blanching its political tinge. Nowhere is this more powerful than in her travel narratives.

While many contemporary authors have explored the way in which constructs of race vary broadly by place (Zadie Smith does this quite well), Groff takes on the narrower issue of voyeurism in white tourism: “She had been surprised to find that this city upset some deep Northern Hemisphere sense of order that she didn’t know she treasured.” These poignant and thoughtfully-crafted lines are abundant, and stayed with me for weeks after finishing the book.

The Good Detective by John McMahon

Edna Lewis, Reference Librarian

Police Detective P.T. Marsh has gone off the rails and is drinking way too much after losing his wife and child in a horrific car accident. One night while very drunk, P.T. visits a lowlife to scare him off beating up the man’s girlfriend. The next morning the man is found dead. P.T. can’t remember the night exactly, but he doesn’t think he killed the guy. Then a black teenager is found partially burned and tied to a tree after what looks like a lynching. Marsh and his young black female partner investigate both murders which seem somehow connected, and there is an increasing sense of dread that something very bad is going on in their small town in the Deep South. The Good Detective is a police procedural with a Southern Gothic twist. A very satisfying first mystery by McMahon - can’t wait for the next one in the series.

Heavy: an American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

Ramona Collins

I chose to read this book as a means to understand institutional racism a little better and to learn about it from a black author. What better teacher than one who’s gained knowledge through personal experience?1 In an interview in the Paris Review2 however, the author explained why he wrote the book to his mother saying he was “just tired of reading books where black people talk to white folks about white folks.” Rather than an academic study, Heavy is intensely personal because it feels like you’re eavesdropping somehow on a conversation between a son and his mother. I was also interested in reading about the author’s unhealthy relationship with food since that’s a topic that hits home for me as well. The title of the book, Heavy, has so many connotations, and this memoir explores many of them.

This is not a fluffy, beach vacation read. Nevertheless I was drawn into the story and I became deeply invested in so many of the people -- not characters but real people. Since the author grew up in Mississippi, I got a glimpse into southern culture which is something I’ve never been motivated to explore. The history of the south is so deeply painful and its legacy lives on. We see how racism plays out in today’s south, and it is real as opposed to the caricatures we see in scripted TV shows and movies. The issues are complicated and intertwined. Heavy is the story of one family that takes a close look at itself through the process of writing. There is no neat and happy ending but there is a drawing nearer to the truth.

I strongly recommend this book. And as a bonus, how can you not love an author who donates his Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction money to youth programs in Jackson and the greater Mississippi Delta?


1. Actually, this video sums it up pretty well. https://youtu.be/W2jp3ecTYss But you should still read this book.

2. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/10/18/a-reckoning-is-different-than-a-tell-all-an-interview-with-kiese-laymon/

Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain by Fintan O’Toole

Michael Levy, Associate Director, Law Library; Lecturer in Residence

I, like many others, have struggled mightily to understand the dynamics behind the UK electorate's referendum vote to leave the European Union. The drama that is Brexit is still unresolved and only a brave person would make any prediction as to the eventual outcome. The esteemed Irish journalist Fintan O'Toole (columnist for the Irish Times and regular contributor to The New York Review of Books) has written the most trenchant cultural critique of Britain's decades long ambivalence to the European Union. The most important takeaway from his analysis is that Brexit is the culmination of a specific type of English, not British, nationalism, with the EU and in particular Germany playing the role of pantomime villain. As O'Toole says, "Brexit is full of hysterical self-pity" as the English attempt to overthrow an "imaginary oppressor." This sense of grievance was summed up in the Leave campaign's effective yet meaningless slogan of "Take Back Control." O'Toole is a wonderfully fluid writer who has thrown some much needed light on the perplexing developments in Britain.

Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna, photographs by Mackenzie Kelley

Edna Lewis, Reference Librarian

This is the spring cookbook everyone is talking about and all I can say is “yum and yum again.” Krishna has created some great hacks of Indian cooking (or perhaps more aptly created some great recipes of American cooking with an Indian twist) that anyone can make. And she relates some wonderfully engaging stories about her mom and family in the process. It’s also a beautiful book with terrific Desi art. As a Dartmouth college student Krishna pioneered the research that led to Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks - her take on making college food plan offerings more exciting. Krishna has written for Bon Appetit, The New York Times and The New Yorker. Get Indian-ish, give it as a gift, buy it for your kids - I did all of the above.

The Infinite Prison by Matt Seneca

Jonathon Marley, Senior Development Officer, East Bay Community Law Center

Seldom do we receive a literary glimpse into our future that is both grounded in the reality of profound climate change and simultaneously tempered by the utter humanity that our descendants will need in abundance in order to endure the coming transformations. The Infinite Prison by Matt Seneca accomplishes this, and more. Set in Poland following the collapse of much of the known “civilized” world, the book follows the latter days of Nisz, a man trying to piece together a life from the rubble, and Anka, who may have found a path to transcend this devastation.

But The Infinite Prison doesn’t just tell us a tale – it literally shows us what may lie ahead. Through beautiful artwork done in vibrant colors, this book takes a Brechtian hammer and shapes reality, moving us through a landscape equally stunning and chilling. Billed as “a graphic novel about nuclear war, romance, human extinction, nature, superheroes, and suicide,” if you seek a read that challenges you to turn off Netflix, get up from the couch, and DO something, this one is for you.

The Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler

Edwin Bish, EMS Administrator

If you would like a pleasant change of pace from the intrigues of modern life, may I suggest this graphic novel delving into the intrigues of a civilization of insects?

The focus is on Lucy and her intrepid band of scientific researchers who are left stranded in the field after encountering astounding discoveries. Meanwhile back at the insect metropolis professor Owen, who heads up the anti-science society, is plotting against them and corrupting their research to support his political agenda. <insert evil laugh here>

Astoundingly well done, plus the author is an academic, so in place of footnotes he included an annotations section that runs 12 pages on its own. And then comes the list of books he referenced. And recommended videos.

I have my daughter Amelia to thank for this one, once again she brings home the literary gold.

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker

Monique Macaulay, Acquisitions/Serials

I love cats. When I was a little over two years old, I got mad at my mom and decided I was going to walk around the block to my grandparents’ house. My family all found me fifteen minutes later sitting in the parking lot of an apartment building down the street, surrounded by four or five cats, and desperately trying to get a large, reticent, fluffy black cat to come out from under a car. So imagine my delight when waiting for my flight home from JFK airport I spotted this little tome in a storefront in the airport.

Abigail Tucker, a writer for Smithsonian Magazine, delves into the world of the housecat and its place in human history. She covers the evolution of cats from big cat fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits to the snuggly, purring fluffballs that laze about our houses. Cats are not domesticated in the same sense as dogs; they found that being around humans is beneficial and have tricked us into loving them. Their cries or meows mimic the sound of crying babies kicking in our instinct to care for the cat. Also, the cats may be manipulating us by exposing us to the Toxoplasma gondii parasite in their urine. Mice that are infected with the parasite are drawn to cats, losing their natural fear of them. Have we been turned into cat loving zombies because we cleaned the litterbox? Possibly. The cat has travelled far and wide on boats and other modes of transportation, always a constant companion. Sadly, through our love of cats we have managed to transplant them all over the world and introduced them to sensitive areas where the cats have bred to huge numbers and killed off and/or driven some species to the brink of extinction. It is quite an environmental catastrophe. And still we love them. From ancient times when the cat was worshiped as a goddess, to internet memes, cat fancier shows, and special preserves to save endangered species from extinction; there is no denying that the cat is a successful apex predator and a sweet fluff-ball. This is a quick read for both the cat fancier and those who see cats as not so great.

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Joe Cera, Reference Librarian

I initially started listening to this story as an audio book. It was immediately attention grabbing and violated my primary rule for audio books: I should be able to ignore it or get distracted and still pick up the story without going back. I think I was about 20 minutes into the story when I realized that I need to read the book instead of passively listening to it.

The story is about a clerk who mistakenly becomes a detective with just a detective manual to help him solve a mystery that he doesn’t know exists. It’s complicated and straddles multiple genres throughout. One moment you feel like you are reading a mystery novel when suddenly your mystery walks into a fantasy novel. While wandering through the fantasy novel you remember that you have a mystery to solve but you can’t remember where the door you came through went. To add to this, dreams and sleep are a big part of the story. Just like dreams, I would say that 85% of the book made me feel like the end was going to be really thought provoking and deep. When the last 15% came, I wasn’t sure it was either of those things but it was incredibly enjoyable.

The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith

Chris Tarr, Head of Cataloging

What a great little novel! There are five story lines, following characters living in Newport, RI during the Colonial era, the Revolution, the Civil War (Henry James), the Gilded Age and modern times. This sounds like it might be dreadful and confusing, but I promise you, it isn’t. Each character is trying to figure out how they can fit in to the existing social structure, which for all of them is not quite right. My favorites were the Quaker girl who is orphaned when her father’s ship does not return who figure out how to advocate for herself, and the modern slightly seedy tennis pro who may be a better person than anybody thinks. It’s not ponderous, which you might expect from a historical novel, and it’s not fluff, either. A good summer read.

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from German by Susan Bernofsky

Kathy Hashimoto, Copyright Research Fellow, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology

Yoko Tawada, a writer who moved from Japan to Germany in 1982 and who writes in both Japanese and German, has been getting more attention lately as her works are translated into English. In 2018, Tawada and translator Margaret Mitsutani won the National Book Award – Translated Literature (this category was revived in 2018 after some 35 years of dormancy) for her novel The Emissary. Tawada’s books are decidedly offbeat and somewhat surreal; her use of language and strange, though cohesive, story elements are impressive, evoking Kafka. Memoirs is the story, told in a totally matter-of-fact voice, of three generations of a polar bear family living among humans, though perhaps what it really depicts is an expat’s experience, particularly in the Cold War era. The narrative takes some getting used to, but the end result is a thoroughly unique ride. This novel, along with Tawada’s other slim novels The Emissary and The Bridegroom Was a Dog, would be a good summertime armchair excursion to memorable alternative realities.

National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook by the Editors of the National Lampoon

Dean Rowan, Director, Reference and Research Services

Before Belushi and Animal House, National Lampoon was almost a counterculture phenomenon. Best known for an obscenely funny monthly magazine, the Lampoon produced a brief run of a radio show, a series of LPs, and two immaculately crafted parodies, one a faux-facsimile of a Midwestern local newspaper, the other of a high school yearbook from the same fictional town of Dacron, Ohio. The latter appeared fortuitously when I was in high school, hence during a stage in life when one is sharply attuned to tasteless, scatalogical humor that mocks the inanity of mid-century American mores. But the beauty of the yearbook parody transcends mere humor about poop, though at times barely. It is a kaleidoscopic extravaganza of text and image, running gags, lost and recovered narrative threads, in-jokes, and brazen stereotypes -- a feast of offal, prime cut, and rotten fruit heaped on a platter served chez Rabelais. (The yearbook title is, in fact, Kaleidoscope, the school mascot a kangaroo, and the school name Kefauver High.) It comes bundled with a mock basketball program, diploma (on a sheet of racing forum), U.S. history textbook (“In the writing of this text, the authors have intended not merely to produce another dry compilation of musty facts, but to bring history to life for the student as a vital, continuing drama as fresh and fascinating as yesterday’s newspaper.”), report card (“D -- Pupil is falling behind all students in his grade level due to lack of initiative and intelligence.”), student newspaper, literary magazine, and graded English exam, replete with marginalia. Senior class photos appear five to a page; the entire freshman class of 1548 students occupies one.

John Belushi’s name is inscribed in the basketball program roster of visiting team players from St. Vitus High. The yearbook parody first appeared in 1974; Saturday Night Live would not premier for another year, thereby inviting a wider audience in on the joke. In its heyday National Lampoon’s humor could be coarse, yet also cutting-edge and whip-smart. For those of us who refuse entirely to abandon the inner-adolescent, the yearbook remains painfully funny to this day.

Once Upon a River (Audiobook) By: Diane Setterfield, Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson

Marlene Harmon, Reference Librarian

Another river tale (see my review of The Book of Dust), again upon the sometimes flooded Thames, peopled by humans and supernatural beings, living never quite ordinary lives. This is a book about telling stories, set near the end of the nineteenth century. It begins at the Swan, an ancient inn on the river Thames whose specialty being storytelling and not drink. The characters’ lives and stories ebb and flow, like the river itself, sometimes slow and languid, other times in a rushing flood. It begins, and ends with a young child, rescued from the river and brought back to life at the Swan. Who is she, who are her parents, where, besides the river did she come from? Is she even human? Other characters play out their stories around this main thread all tied together by the end and beautifully narrated by Juliet Stevenson.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Edna Lewis, Reference Librarian

It sounds so cliche and overly-dramatic to say a book changed your life, but honestly, this book changed the way I look at trees and humankind’s place in the ecosystem. It’s been on a zillion best book lists and has since won the Pulitzer Prize, so I am obviously not alone in appreciating The Overstory. However, I was initially skeptical because it’s really long, the protagonists are weird fringe types, and it seemed to be too much of the woo-woo school of environmentalism. In some ways it is all of that, but Powers grabs you with the backstories of the various characters, and the beautiful prose just pulls you in and doesn’t let go. The novel creates such an immediacy to the fragility of the ecosystem and the ways in which we are nurtured and sustained by the trees around us. I remember finishing it and looking at the oak trees in front of my house and being grateful they were there (which if you’ve ever met me is atypical). All I can say is read this book - it’s worth it.

Sapiens : a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (Audiobook)

Chris Tarr, Head of Cataloging

This book has been around for a while, but recently my neighbor told me it was the best thing she’d read in a while. When I asked her husband if he had read it, he replied that he felt like he had read it, because his wife had reported the whole thing to him as she went along. It’s very much the kind of book you need to share with people around you as you read. (I’m not completely sure he enjoyed the experience.)

Essentially, it’s exactly as described. It starts with Homo sapiens, one of many Homo species wandering the African savannah, and ends with us all alone, straddling the globe. The beginning is especially interesting in light of current discoveries of more and more species of humans: the Denisovans now in Tibet as well as Siberia, and the new species Homo luzonensis discovered in the Philippines.

I really loved Harari’s breezy and irreverent description of the development of humans. There is no nonsense about the existence of God – religion is just one of the myths that make it possible for groups of humans larger than 20 to live together in one society. Democracy is another. Writing about the demise of the very rich and unique species of megafauna on Australia shortly after the arrival of Homo sapiens, Harari notes that they could have all died of a changing climate, but that given our propensity to kill everything in sight, it’s more likely that we were responsible.

A great book for a long car trip.

Note: The fabulous and well read Bob Bering reviewed the print edition of this work in our December list if you’d like his perspective as well.

Shetland Island Series by Ann Cleeves, Audiobooks and BBC TV Series

Marci Hoffman, Associate Director & International and Foreign Law Collections

One of my favorite BBC television shows is the series called Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez. This is a detective/mystery series based in the Shetland Islands (home of the Fair Isle sweater).

Prompted by the show, I started listening to the audio books upon which the show is based. (I make a long drive twice a week and audio books make the drive more bearable.) The books were written by Ann Cleeves and there is an entire series of these mysteries (8 in all). The TV show and the books do not follow each other exactly, but each genre holds its own. The first story in the book series is Raven Black (which is not the first story in BBC series). Raven Black introduces us to the geography and weather of the Islands as well as the community. The body of a young woman is found an on the frozen ground and the community decides that her death was caused by an odd man named Magnus Tait. Perez investigates the murder and that leads to uncovering a whole host of issues that have been buried below the surface of the frozen ground for decades.

Each story has multiple layers in terms of the story line and the characters. If you watch the show, you will picture the characters as the actors that portray them and then get confused when the character described in the book is different from the way they look and act in the show. For example, in the books, Jimmy Perez has an olive complexion and dark hair (reflecting his Spanish roots). In the show, he looks more like someone from Scotland (fair skin and hair). No matter, he’s still a brooding character in both. And while some characters and side story lines exist in one and not the other, I enjoy each story on its own.

You can binge watch the 5 seasons of the show on various streaming services. You can listen to the books through the Audible audiobook service. Or, you could go old school and read the books!

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Joe Cera, Reference Librarian

This book was published more than 4 years ago and will likely be relevant until the electrical grids shut down and/or there is a revolt against social media. I hope one of these events happens sooner than the other but I’m not optimistic. You might have heard Jon Ronson talking about this book on NPR, the Daily Show, or some other related circle. It started with a parody Twitter handle that used his name and tweeted about things that were unrelated to any of his interests. It turns out that this account and tweets were the work of an AI program and the creators refused to take it down. Ultimately, Jon Ronson demanded they shut it down and posted a video of the interaction he had with the creators where YouTube users shamed the creators until the agreed to shut it down.

This book comes out of that interaction. He looks at specific events where something happened that resulted in large scale social media attacks and then interviews the victims of the public shaming as well as the instigators of the shaming (where available). If you have read anything by Jon Ronson, you know that this book is written in a humorous and engaging manner that is both academic but easy to read. While you would expect many of the outcomes and reasons on both sides, there are a good number of surprises. One of the most interesting (and arguably relevant) examples from the book is the example of a person who was the target of a public shaming that absolutely felt no shame (see The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry).

At the very least, reading this book might make you think twice about your interactions on social media for at least a week. That might be a good thing.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

William E. Benemann, Library Archivist (ret.)

Madeline Miller, a classics scholar with degrees in Greek and Latin from Brown University, has recast the story of The Iliad, adapting it as a first-person narrative told by Patroclus. The gods are relegated to supporting roles, largely unseen, and the tale unfolds on very real Aegean shores, and amid the dust and heat of battles where guts are disturbingly literal. Nary a rosy fingered dawn in sight. Her depiction of Thetis, the sea nymph whose union with the mortal Peleus brings forth the hero Achilles, is particularly striking. Thetis in Miller’s depiction is perhaps a goddess, or is perhaps just an angry, mentally unbalanced woman fleeing from an unhappy marriage to live in a cave by the sea. We are in a liminal world where “reality” depends on your point of view. The result is a very human and moving adaptation that is compulsively readable. Homer (whoever they were) would approve.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Monique Macaulay, Acquisitions/Serials

Lucy and Alice were college roommates in New York until a freak accident kills Alice’s boyfriend and Lucy disappears. Flash forward a few years and Alice is now married and living in Tangiers, Morocco where Lucy tracks her down and shows up unannounced. Alice’s husband John treats her terribly and Lucy tries to persuade Alice to leave him and return with her to New York. Alice starts to think about the possibility until John mysteriously disappears. It is quite an intriguing tale with many twists and turns. I could go on but I think I will leave you with the author endorsement from none other than Joyce Carol Oates: “As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock—suspenseful and atmospheric.”

Suspense? Check! Atmosphere? Check! This novel has it all: manipulation, secrets, mystery, and murder. It’s located in the bestsellers collection in the law library. Check it out!