Who can you always count on when you’re in a bind and need a good book? Your neighborhood bookstore, of course, whose employees read all the newest books before you do. That’s why we’re running this semi-regular column featuring must-reads, handpicked and written about by the staff at some of our favorite independent bookstores.
In “Juliet” by Anne Fortier, modern-day Julie travels to Sienna, Italy, after her aunt’s death only to learn that she is a descendant of the real families that inspired Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Racing against the clock, Julie must unlock secrets buried for centuries before she herself becomes nothing but a memory.
— Bina Valenzano, co-owner, The BookMark Shoppe [8415 Third Ave. between 84th and 85th streets in Bay Ridge, (718) 833-5115].
Katey Kontent, the main character in Amor Towles’s New York City-set debut historical novel, is not only uncommon for her era and gender, but uncommon enough to stand out as what I look for in a fictional character. She serves as the moral, ethical, and emotional backbone of all the characters, while also serving as the backbone of the book. Love, loss, life and living ensue, with characters who mirror what it means to “make it in New York,” in all the possible permutations — the elusive and highly individual search for wholeness, happiness, and people’s very personal definitions of success. In addition to a rich story with memorable characters, this book has occasional passages that take my breath away with the caliber of the writing.
— Rebecca Fitting, co-owner, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200].
This marvelous novel has just been brought back into print by Melville House’s new Neversink Library program, and it’s about time. Irmgard Keun, who wrote the book after barely escaping Nazi Germany in 1937 (after having been blacklisted and sentenced to death for an earlier novel), has given narrator Sanna a clear voice and a barely disguised sarcasm that reflects the uncertainty of the time perfectly. In certain spots, the writing is so perfect as to be painful. It seems impossible that a love story set in Nazi Germany should be so compelling, but it is. Every assumption you make about Sanna and her friends will be gone by the last page. Completely engrossing.
— Stephanie Anderson, manager, WORD [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383-0096].