What We’re Reading

The last time we visited this occasional series, I found myself in the middle of reading pieces from the 2011 Best American Nonrequired Reading. Little by little, I drifted away from that story collection, especially as my annual July beach vacation drew closer. I managed to finish three books (one of which I was halfway through when we arrived) and get most of the way through another with sand between my toes.

The first one, Chuck Klosterman’s essay collection Eating the Dinosaur made me think that he thinks too much. He brings up some great points, but sometimes people just need to turn off their brain and enjoy life. I easily conquered Candy Everybody Wants, an enjoyable romp by Josh Kilmer-Purcell about a young gay man who accidentally finds himself making a run at Hollywood stardom, and How I Became a Famous Novelistwhich gave comedy writer Steve Hely the opportunity to skewer writers, the publishing industry, and readers and still come off as unpretentious. I’m just about done with The Fine Art of Mixing Girls, by Jack Newcastle, which doesn’t live up to those two novels mainly because it’s thin on plot and heavy on Newcastle showing us how much he knows about early 1950s New York geography, manners, and dialect. Still, it’s kind of a fun read.

But enough about me. What are my colleagues dog-earing these days?

Sara Cleary, Books Acquisitions Assistant

I typically do not consider myself a “self-help” book kind of person, but I made an exception in this case. Quite frankly, I bought Neil Fiore’s book The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play from Amazon out of desperation. It was late at night, I was still hard at work on a freelance project with a looming deadline, and I stopped a moment to ponder how I always seemed to find myself in these predicaments. “I am a procrastinator,” I said aloud. And then I promptly procrastinated a bit more to go online and order The Now Habit. This book is not life-changing by any stretch. As my husband commented, perhaps if I put the book down and took a cue from Nike (JUST DO IT), I might solve the issue a little faster. Nevertheless, they say that the first step is acknowledging that you have a problem, and The Now Habit has definitely helped me to do that. I have successfully determined that I am a textbook procrastinator. Now if I only I could get around to finishing the book to see how I might break that habit . . .

Shannon Jackson, Rights and Permissions Assistant

If you are a fan of the historical romance novel like I am, you will enjoy Darcy Burke’s Her Wicked Ways. It’s the story of a spoiled, rich, rebellious young lady forced by her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Holborn, to spend the summer in a small country town after being caught in a potentially scandalous situation. As part of her punishment she has to work at an impoverished orphanage and she starts to fall for the owner of the orphanage — to the dismay of her family and, initially, herself. It’s a great blend of romance, spice, and humor. I can’t wait to read the other two books in Burke’s Secrets & Scandals series!

Claire McCabe Tamberino, Ebook and Digital Promotion Manager

I am, admittedly and unapologetically, an Anglophile, so chances are I am reading something about our friends over the pond and, in this case, two things. I had been talking about reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life for about a year and a half before I finally picked it up (just ask my annoyed colleagues). And I’m glad I did. From the comfort of his own home, Bryson gives readers a fascinating social history of domesticity as he walks from room to room in his Victorian parsonage in England. But during a recent trip to the beach, my Mom gave me a copy of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and now I am hooked. At Home will have to wait until I finish Mantel’s brilliant novel about the familiar story of Henry VIII’s split with Rome, all through the sometimes devious, sometimes compassionate, always shrewd eyes of Cardinal Wolsey’s right-hand-man, Thomas Cromwell.

Jennifer Malat, Books Acquisitions Assistant

I couldn’t wait for The Prisoner of Heaven, a companion to Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s stellar The Shadow of the Wind. The novel is set in 1957 Barcelona, with extensive flashbacks to the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and the early years of Franco’s dictatorship. The central mystery involves a one-handed man, a reclusive politician, secret identities, a prison escape straight out of The Count of Monte Cristo, and a return to the hidden library known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This series is perfect for bibliophiles, as Zafón’s passion for books shines through.

Kris Zgorski, Journals Production Coordinator

Gone Girl is the third novel by Gillian Flynn, a former movie critic for Entertainment Weekly. As with her other novels, it is clear that she is a master of plot construction. On the surface, Gone Girl is a mystery about the disappearance of Amy Dunne, wife of Nick and daughter of two leading child psychologists. But just under the surface, this book pits the idea of the ideal marriage against the reality of day-to-day life. Told in alternating chapters (one from the husband’s perspective and the other from the wife’s) and charting 5 years of marriage, this novel will forever change how you view matrimony. Along with this, the book also explores a number of other seemingly disparate subjects: the long-term effects of childhood celebrity, the dangers of obsession, the unique dynamics of twinhood, and the strains caused by a declining economy. All of this is wrapped into a page-turning novel with a twist to rival The Sixth Sense. This is the book everyone is talking about this summer, and rightfully so. Reese Witherspoon just bought the movie rights and plans to produce and star in the film.

John Cronin, Design & Production Manager

As a reading Rehoboth lounging lizard last month, two books stood out for me. J.C.A. Stagg’s The War of 1812 pulled that conflict out of the mists of my history learning. What a jumble of events with the infant United States caught in the middle! The British seizing our ships and sailors, the rise and fall of Napoleon’s France, the “loss” of what became Canada, the acceleration of misfortune for Native Americans, the inability to find enough troops and competent officers, what the 2nd Amendment really meant about state citizen militias–all cogently discussed. This book added much to what our group of recent Johns Hopkins University Press 1812 titles provide to readers. My family mostly owned Ford and Mercury cars as I grew up, and I became an auto racing fan in the 1960s from Ford’s participation, so American Icon by Bryce Hoffman, a Detroit newspaper writer, was a must-read for any follower of the Blue Oval. Alan Mulally probably did save Ford from itself and changed their product mix over the last five years, staving off bankruptcy, and the younger Fords (Billy and Edsel II) knew their own limitations and gave him the authority to do it. The 100 years of history is there too of a pretty unique (and flawed) family multinational corporation, from Old Henry, son Edsel, Hank the Deuce, Lee Iacocca, and Jac “The Knife” Nasser.