Monday, September 7, 2015

Fall Book Preview: The First Five

In the spirit of New York Magazine, The New York Times and all enthusiastic list-makers Pro and Am, here are some of the leaves that will be scattered around my bed this autumn. If I read them in order, I’ll go from England to LA to three NYC boroughs back in the day, ending up where I truly belong in fall: deep in the woods of Victorian England.

[On the Move Oliver Sachs]
I picked this out for a friend's birthday because I knew he'd appreciate the mix of medicine and motorcycles and figured that he'd lend it to me when he was done. (Admit it: you've done the same.) No time right now to feel sad about Sachs's death; I'm too eager to learn about his life.

AAA Rating (Autumn Appropriate Assessment): 1 Leaf
Approximately a quarter of his days were spent this time of year.

[A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith]
All I know about this famous book, more or less, is what I've gathered from the movie poster or book cover or image I made up in my mind of a sad girl in pigtails sitting on a city stoop. But I hear that it's terrific and even if it's not, I am all in on evocations of Olden Days in Brooklyn.

AAA Rating: 2 Leaves
It has tree in the title.

[Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime That Changed America Kevin Cook]
I've been obsessed (from a healthy distance) with this event since I saw a fictionalized TV movie account in the '70s. Remarkable to learn after all these years that the defining narrative of 38 scared/apathetic neighbors was fabricated by Times reporters.

AAA Rating: 1 Leaf
Because fall is the time for true-life crime.

[Another Country James Baldwin]
I am embarrassed never to have read this, especially given Greenwich Village, jazz and France in all their '60s glory (cigarette smoke, bad plumbing, perfect clothes). Harlem! Also, Baldwin lived on Horatio, and I love reading writers who lived on my streets almost as much as I love reading about the streets themselves.

AAA Rating: 3 Leaves
Based on the jazz alone...

[The Woodlanders Thomas Hardy]
The best Hardy that most have missed, with all of Happy Tom's keynotes: nature as an emotional force, romantic melodrama at its somehow subtle extreme, utter fearlessness about the grand gesture (man-trap dead ahead!). This will be a re-read, but I've forgotten everything since that initial encounter ca. 1989 and expect to be stunned anew.

AAA Rating: 4 Leaves
The most autumnal book ever written!

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