Director's Blog

Q: Help! The end of summer's Daylight Saving Time is always strangely disorienting: it's cold outside, and seven o'clock feels like nine o'clock. What should I do?
A: Ask a librarian.

by Galina Chernykh | November 5, 2012 | Previous Entries

The end of summer's Daylight Saving Time is always strangely disorienting, particularly in the evenings, which suddenly seem wintrier and certainly a lot darker than only a few days before.

It's cold outside, and seven o'clock feels like nine o'clock, so what better time to snuggle down on the sofa and read a book? But what to read?

If you're in the mood for something reliably fun, comforting and romantic, there's no better book than Truman Capote's wondrous and timeless novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's, which is simply a delight to read: luminous, enchanting characters, witty prose and dialogue, and a rather more complex narrative than the nonetheless hugely enjoyable Audrey Hepburn film.

If you'd like something a little more challenging, yet immensely rewarding, try Sarah Bakewell's extraordinary How to Live: or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. Winner of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award For Biography, Bakewell's book delves where most biographies fear to tread, into the deeper questions of existence.

This passage alone, which Bakewell describes as Montaigne's "strolling meditation technique," makes her biography worth every moment you spend with it:

"When I walk alone in the beautiful orchard, if my thoughts have been dwelling on extraneous incidents for some part of the time, for some other part I bring them back to the walk, to the orchard, to the sweetness of this solitude, and to me."

The recent devastation of Superstorm Sandy may lend a fresh relevance to Dave Eggers' remarkable non-fiction account of one man's experience of Hurricane Katrina, Zeitoun, whose eponymous hero for Syrian-born Abdulrahman Zeitoun surely qualifies as such strives to help his family, his neighbors and total strangers, while dealing with authorities more bizarrely obsessed with the risk of terrorist attack in Katrina's aftermath than with providing sustenance or comfort to those afflicted by the storm.

Back to fiction, and if the darkness outside has you in the mood for the darker side of human nature, Alexander Stuart's novel about incest, abuse and adolescent rage, The War Zone, may prove revelatory. The novel is explicit in its tone, language and content, but at the time of its publication, it was compared both to a contemporary A Clockwork Orange and The Catcher In The Rye.

Finally, for something a little more offbeat yet timely given this exhausting election season, Joan Didion's uniquely-conceived novel, Democracy, is an exquisitely-written exploration of late Vietnamese War-politics, a romance set almost entirely in Hawaii and the Pacific, and the story of an influential family with at least a hint of the Kennedys. Add to this Didion's presence in the novel as an "unreliable narrator" who writes about the novel she intended but failed to create, as well as the one you are reading, and you have a book that will not simply engage and entertain you, but awaken you to the vast and electrifying possibilities that good fiction offers.

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