What we're reading: Reviews from the Northshire Bookstore staff

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'Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women' by Anna Francese Gass

This wonderful book is far more than a cookbook of delicious recipes. It is a scrapbook and celebration of immigrant women and how they make and have made America great. Gass traveled around the country cooking with grandmas who came from around the world, so these recipes are legit. Everything I have cooked from this book is delicious — from the Spanakopita to the Pastitsio (which she rightly describes as the love child of lasagna Bolognese and fettuccine Alfredo) to the Brodo di mamma e polpette (made, successfully, by my 10-year-old son). I'm going to work my way through each recipe!

— Dafydd Wood

'Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress' by Christopher Ryan

"Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress" is an excellent exploration of what true quality of life really is. It dispels many myths about hunter/gatherer societies and the modern myth of perpetual progress. Is being overworked, stressed out, disconnected and anxious about the future better than having lots of free time and being intimately connected to community? It is time to question some assumptions about the society we have created, often on the back of false narratives of the past. "Civilized to Death" helps clarify the realities of the past and the stories we tell ourselves about the present in lively and readable ways, provoking new questions and potential answers. Highly recommended.

— Chris Morrow

'Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators' by Ronan Farrow

In an era when even the president of the United States, himself named as a predator, helps maintain a "precarious culture of secrecy," Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow unveils the fear-inducing lies which protect image-potent men from conviction for the sexual violence they enact against women. Mostly written in an impartial, TV-passive voice, "Catch and Kill" lets the victims speak, openly reporting on their testimony and allowing its collective volume to resonate, while Farrow hounds and then exposes the ego and arrogance these predatory men use in debilitating their prey.

— Ray Marsocci

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'Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland' by Patrick Radden Keefe

Jean McConville was "disappeared" from her modest apartment in Belfast in December of 1972. Recently widowed, she left 10 children to fend for themselves at a time when what was euphemistically called the "Troubles" turned Northern Ireland into a virtual war zone. Patrick Radden Keefe's meticulously researched history of the bloody conflict between England, a country that seems particularly slow to recognize when it has worn out its welcome, and ferociously dedicated members of the IRA, who were determined to drive the British out. Cruelty, brutality and murder was prevalent on both sides, leaving scars across the tortured land. This is a brilliant book about a very dark interlude in human history when, literally, the only way to survive was to say nothing.

— Alden Graves

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'Long Live Latin: The Pleasures of a Useless Language' by Nicola Gardini

Nicola Gardini's lively celebration of Latin is just the book for any lapsed or aspiring classicist in your life. With chapters devoted to individual Latin writers from Caesar and Catullus to Propertius and Petronius, Gardini rekindled my old love for Latin (though it's hopelessly rusty). Full of informative and delightful digressions on an array of topics, Gardini makes a loving defense for the continued study of the "useless" language, which, he shows quite clearly, isn't useless at all.

— Dafydd Wood

'Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation' by Andrew Marantz

Taking social media as his beat, New Yorker writer Andrew Marantz embedded himself with the internet cretins who tweeted while America burned. He shows how the trollish likes of Mike Cernovitch and Milo Yiannopolis seized the national conversation away from gatekeepers like CNN and The New York Times, and steered it toward a fateful reckoning at the Charlottesville, Virginia, "Unite the Right" valley. There's a bit of Joan Didion and Foster Wallace to Marantz's writing, but he has fashioned a tapestry of keyboard warriors who cry about free speech but are unable to accept the sometimes violent consequences of their superficial supplement-addled thinking.

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— Charles Bottomley

'It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track: Objects & Essays, 2012-2018' by Ian Penman

Is there anything left to be said about Prince, Elvis Presley, Steely Dan or Charlie Parker? As it turns out, plenty. These collected essays are thoughtful and heartfelt takes on a musical Mount Rushmore. Ian Penman's metaphors are as sharp as his wit, and he has a detective's eye for the telling detail. From a memorable image like Elvis going on a drug-fueled visionquest in the desert to Parker conducting his life from the backseat of a cab to Prince regarding himself in a bathroom mirror, Penman mines facets that will send anybody who loves music back to their stack of vinyl. Hear with new ears.

— Charles Bottomley

'Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel' by Bernardine Evaristo

In "Girl, Woman, Other," the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction, Evaristo finds the light in a dismal time that seems blighted by prejudice and uncertainty. A night at the theater brings together 12 characters — or are they single aspects of the same self? — representing the diversity of the woman warrior. They also reflect in their myriad manner the way that we live now. The poetic prose crackles with inventiveness and the sheer excitement of creating these indelible portraits, connected in ways both overt and subterranean. It's a joy to read.

— Charles Bottomley

The Northshire Bookstore, founded in 1976, is a family-owned independent bookstore with locations at 4869 Main St. in Manchester Center and 424 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.


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