A compilation of his Washington Post columns of the same name, Jonathan Yardley’s Second Reading (Europa Editions, $16) is a delightful summertime adventure in books. Yardley’s passion for reading is a neon sign blazing on every page as he revisits classics like Daphne du Maurier’s modern Gothic, Rebecca, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, on which the critic confers the title, “American masterwork.” He praises Roald Dahl’s adult short fiction collection, Someone Like You, for its genuine humor and precise character descriptions. John Cheever is lauded for his “clinical, yet sympathetic depiction of life in leafy suburbia” and Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir The Woman Warrior receives special notice as one of the first books to bring public attention to the causes of feminism and multiculturalism. In re-reading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Yardley takes a rare caustic stance toward an American favorite, sighting Salinger’s “execrable prose and Caulfield’s jejune narcissism,” though he begrudgingly acknowledges the book’s place in the American literary canon. After finishing Second Reading, my resolve to re-read favorites was outpaced by the length of my to-read list, to which Yardley contributes mightily. Lacey Dunham

Second Reading: Notable and Neglected Books Revisited Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609450083
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Europa Editions - June 28th, 2011

The five women featured in the nine stories of Susi Wyss’s debut, The Civilized World (Holt, $15), are from various cultures and countries linked by the commonalities of life: longing, fear, love, grief. As the stories progress, the women’s lives intersect and the novelistic aspects of the book emerge. In “Names,” Ophelia, the wife of an American Foreign Service Officer, writes down the names of Malawians she meets—a desperate attempt to manage the emotions around her infertility. Ophelia reappears in “Waiting for Solomon” as she tours Ethiopia with Janice while both women wait for child adoptions to be finalized. In the last story, “There Are No Accidents,” Janice happens upon a beauty salon in Ghana run by her former employee, Adjoa, whose twin brother robbed Janice’s house. Wyss’s humane portrait of modern Africa and African women is carefully drawn and astutely, beautifully delivered.

The Civilized World Cover Image
ISBN: 9780805093629
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Holt McDougal - April 12th, 2011

The orphaned nephew of a pastor, Jacob de Zoet is an earnest and naïve clerk with the Dutch East Indies Company. As he arrives on the tiny island of Dejima off the coast of Japan, his goals are two-fold: to prove his worth to his intended’s father and to wipe clean the corruption rampant in the Company. While the Europeans are strictly isolated from the Japanese population, Jacob nonetheless falls in love with a Japanese midwife, Orito, and her story widens the plot into a suspenseful saga of power and passion. David Mitchell is a spellbinding author and The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet (Random House, $15), like Jacob himself, is an endearing creation.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780812976366
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - March 8th, 2011

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