I seem to be caught in a time warp with what I’m reading these days. It began with my interest in women detectives. A couple of months ago I searched Google for fictional women detectives, looking particularly for books set in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Among others, I found The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King, first published in 1994. I read it, loved it, and mentioned it to a few friends who also read mysteries. They all nodded and said, Oh, yes, they knew it, and they’d read it … oh, about twenty years ago. How did I miss this marvelous series for twenty years?
At about the same time, one of my students mentioned that his favorite book by Alice McDermott—an author I’ve always enjoyed—was Child of My Heart. I had picked up a used copy of the book at my local bookstore the previous summer, but it had remained on my to-be-read shelf. When I finished The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I fetched the Alice McDermott and read that. It was published in 2002. At least it was more recent than Laurie King’s.
Next in my stack is a more recent book: Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, originally published in 2011. Only five years old. The friend who loaned it to me, though, has read all of the books in the series, which makes me feel I am very far behind.
Other books that I’ve been meaning to read for some time now are: The Worst Thing I’ve Done by Ursula Hegi (2007), Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (2011), and The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (2010). But then there are all the books I circle in the New York Times’ Book Review every week, and the titles I scribble down in my notebook in class when students pass along book recommendations.
In February, the Times published an article about a charming bookstore in London called Heywood Hill. Among other pleasures about this bookstore is its A Year in Books program. For about $515, the store will send a book a month, choosing “the exact volumes after interviewing the recipient about their likes, dislikes and idiosyncratic interests.” What a tempting thought! Perhaps the store could find those twelve essential books published in the last twenty years that I have missed—although surely there are more than twelve.
But then a dash through the websites of some favorite authors turns up a new book by Joanna Trollope. I think I will have to set these older books aside once again….
NB: I went to my local library to get a copy of Joanna Trollope’s “new” book, Balancing Act. The library didn’t have it, much to the surprise of the two librarians I spoke to, and they have requested it for me. But I was surprised to see that this is not exactly a new book. It was published in 2014! I really need to do better at keeping up.