What we're reading: Reviews from the Northshire Bookstore

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"The Ghost: A Cultural History" by Susan Owens

Ghosts have performed a prominent part in British history since before Shakespeare's dawn, and after dead King Hamlet begged his son's most-eternal question, have become the country's moral guardian. Whether ghoul or haunt, specter or fiery apparition, or even when arisen as a romantic Victorian figure, ghosts have endured, in writings, in art, and now on our TVs, adding dimension to each new generation's spiritual environment, bringing solace, and providing perspective on what it means to remain alive and our fear for how we all shall die.

— Ray Marsocci

"Classic Krakauer" by Jon Krakauer

"Classic Krakauer" is an appropriate title in two ways. These collected articles are classic in that they exemplify what I love about Krakauer's entire oeuvre: his ability to make me care about subjects I otherwise would not have read about, the compassionate lens with which he views his subjects, and the richness of detail that can make topics like surfing and mountaineering feel more exhilarating on the page than in actuality. And they're classic in another way: though they span Krakauer's early career, they still feel as fresh and relevant today as when they were written.

— Joe Michon-Huneau

"Never Home Alone" by Rob Dunn

I can't praise this book enough, and it's about so much more than it appears. The research and details that are covered in this book are breathtaking. Rob Dunn is a biologist, as well as professor of biology at North Carolina University, and clearly, the things that live in our homes with us are a passion of his. Not only do we learn all about the things we can see — cockroaches, ants, mice, for example — but also the things we can't see, namely the seemingly endless kinds of bacteria that live on us, as well as around us. We learn the history of our emotions toward certain living things, the reasons why we prefer some over others, and the ways they can influence not only our health, but sometimes our personality.

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I had so many jaw-dropping moments while reading, and I could not wait to share these revelations to anyone who would listen. I can not recommend this highly enough.

— Becky Doherty

"Oraefi: The Wasteland" by Ofeigur Sigurdsson

As unpredictable as a drunken sleigh ride across the Icelandic interior, Sigurdsson's unclassifiable novel opens with the rescue of an Austrian toponymist from a glacier. One amputation of his frostbitten nether regions later, the poor sap tells his sorry story to the dotty veterinarian who saved his life at the cost of his manhood. Scheherazade-like, his tale becomes entwined with other stories: the expedition of Iceland's answer to Lewis and Clark, the history of death metal, the taste of cardamom and — since this is Iceland — an alcoholic freeloader or two. It's a mark of Sigurdsson's genius that this unholy tangle beguiles rather than infuriates. The concerns of his country and our time are addressed with a deft, always engaging wit. Not just a front-runner for novel of the year, but one that leaves the other sleds way behind.

— Charles Bottomley

"Doxology" by Nell Zink

Nell Zink has long been tipped as a novelist to watch. At last, here is a teeming magnum opus of life at the end of the last century and the beginning of the next. As the American empire careens toward a final reckoning with the logic of late capitalism, Zink presents the masque of anarchy as seen through the eyes of a couple of indie rock veterans raising their child in downtown Manhattan. Zink's prose has the ability to make you giggle with recognition and then sideswipe you with an insight that belies her years. For anybody who has lived through the time (that is to say, all of us), the book is a touchstone of opportunities met and missed. It's also a reminder that for all the mistakes we might have made, decency is still possible — even if we have to work at it.

— Charles Bottomley

The Northshire Bookstore, an independent family-owned bookstore, was founded in 1976 in Manchester and has shops at the historic Coburn House, 4869 Main St., Manchester Center, and 114 Broadway in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.


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