The Library of Forgotten Books

To commemorate the International Day of the Book on April 23rd, we're shining a light on some titles that have been hiding in the corners of the store, waiting patiently to share their stories with you. As they say in Catalonia, "a rose for love, but a book forever."

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past Are Condemned to Repeat It

Garry wants to tell you about The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk. It's a model work of history, outlining the decades-long imperial struggle between England and Russia for supremacy in Central Asia. Comprehensive and beautifully written, it lays an essential foundation for understanding contemporary politics. 

A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Gotham 

The first "forgotten" book on Lori's list is Joseph Mitchell's essay collection Up in the Old Hotel, which explores the now-vanished nooks and crannies of New York. Mitchell describes indelible characters and places in impeccable style, from saloon-keepers and street preachers to gypsies and steel-walking Mohawks, even a bearded lady and a 93-year-old "seafoodetarian" who believes his specialized diet will keep him alive for another two decades.

 

Lost in the Great Plains

Lori's also fond of a novel by Mildred Walker called Winter Wheat. It introduces the vivid heroine, Ellen Webb, who lives in the dryland wheat country of central Montana during the early 1940s. It's a powerful story about growing up, becoming a woman, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

 

Domestic Life As It Was Really Lived

Kay brings to you an intimate and densely imagined portrait of the industrious and reticent Martha Ballard and her New England society--a portrait that illuminates rural 18th-century medical practices, religious squabbles and sexual mores. Taking an actual period diary as inspiration, social historian Laurel Ulrich fleshes out the bare-bones detail with interpretation and context. A Midwife's Tale brings Ballard to life and makes her bygone era as clear to us as our own.

 

The Pleasures of the Communal Table

Weaving together memories, recipes, and wild tales of years spent in the kitchen, Home Cooking is Laurie Colwin’s manifesto on the joys of sharing food and entertaining, and Kay's second "forgotten" recommendation. From the humble hotplate of her one-room apartment to the crowded kitchens of bustling parties, Colwin charms with tales of meals gone both magnificently well and disastrously wrong. Hilarious, personal, and full of hard-won expertise, Home Cooking will speak to the heart of any amateur cook, professional chef, or food lover.

 

The Tender Side of the Frigid Ocean

Roger wants to introduce you to a love story in memoir form. Fishing with John outlines an unlikely convergence of two people from different worlds who were able to make a rich and tender life together, not only enduring each other's company in alarmingly close quarters but reveling in it. Edith Iglauer was born in Cleveland and lived an urban, sophisticated life in New York until she met and married John Daly, a commercial fisherman in British Columbia. She spent more than four years on his forty-one-foot troller, the Morekelp, until his sudden death.

 

A Quest into Sheer Wonder

Cindy's high on The Neverending Story, a book that leads readers into a fantasy world as it tells the tale of a boy led into a fantasy world by a mysterious book. It's a quest filled with all the wonders of myth and fairy tale, and adventure that will capture your heart—and recapture the magical dreams of childhood.


What Does One Life Add Up To?

Nancy's keen on a novel by Justin Cronin called The Summer Guest. On an evening in late summer, the great financier Harry Wainwright, nearing the end of his life, arrives at a rustic fishing camp in a remote area of Maine. He comes bearing two things: his wish for a day of fishing in a place that has brought him solace for thirty years, and an astonishing bequest that will forever change the lives of those around him.

 

Based on a True Story

Marni has picked the fictional tale of two young newlyweds, Grand Ambition, which tells of Glen and Bessie Hyde, who set out in 1928 to run the rapids of the Grand Canyon. The pair hoped to set a record: Bessie would be the first woman to negotiate that treacherous stretch of the Colorado River. When they failed to appear at their destination on time, Glen's father mounted a desperate search to find them. Based on the few known facts of a true story, Grand Ambition contemplates our need for risk and danger, and treats with great complexity the power of youthful passion. 

 

A Sleepy Town That's Not As Peaceful As It Appears

Typically, James couldn't settle on just one book. His first pick is Peace by Gene Wolfe. On the surface this is a realistic portrait of an old man, Alden Dennis Weer, who sifts haphazardly through memories of life in a small Midwestern town. The storytelling of this kindly figure is a mite confusing, as he tends to move on to the next anecdote before he’s finished with the first, but it’s still easy to enjoy the novel as a wholesome slice of American pie. Except that there’s a lingering aftertaste to every bite. Why are Weer’s successes so closely associated with the failures of others? Why do so many of his anecdotes take a turn into carnivalesque weirdness? Even a casual reader begins to realize there’s a darkness in Weer’s heart, and a truly attentive one will see that the stakes of the novel are far higher than they appear. “Life and death” doesn’t begin to cover it.

 

Every Bookshop Is a Treasure, Especially This One

His next choice is by Penelope Fitzgerald, a writer who didn't start publishing until she was in her sixties but still had time for an outstanding career. Every one of her novels is an absolute treasure of comic deftness, and The Bookshop is no exception. Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop--the only bookshop--in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town's less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors' lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence's warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn't always a town that wants one.

 

Before Sex and the City, Before Mary Tyler Moore . . .

Miriam's pitch is for a classic novel of urban life. When Rona Jaffe’s superb page-turner was first published in 1958, it changed contemporary fiction forever. Some readers were shocked, but millions more were electrified when they saw themselves reflected in its story of five young employees of a New York publishing company. Almost sixty years later, The Best of Everything remains touchingly—and sometimes hilariously—true to the personal and professional struggles women face in the city. There’s Ivy League Caroline, who dreams of graduating from the typing pool to an editor’s office; naïve country girl April, who within months of hitting town reinvents herself as the woman every man wants on his arm; and Gregg, the free-spirited actress with a secret yearning for domesticity. Jaffe follows their adventures with intelligence, sympathy, and prose as sharp as a paper cut.