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 Brooklyn.
Greenlight’s pick: Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber
Set in Miami in the humid, pressure-laden days leading up to a hurricane, this book follows the story of a family that has been a bit torn apart. Their youngest daughter ran away from home as a teenager and is squatting in another part of town. Her mother and father are trying not to be estranged by these circumstances. Their oldest son is dealing with the challenges of running his own small business. Primarily narrated by the mother, the entire family is navigating the complexities of all this, trying to figure out how to work in concert, while really being torn apart. And then there is the new mysterious neighbor with the strange bird…
— Rebecca Fitting, co-owner, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200].
WORD’s pick: The Night Circus
This book is a true pleasure to read. Simply and vividly written, it’s a book for those of us who never stopped believing in magic. A centuries-old grudge, dueling magicians, feats of love and honor and daring, you name it, this debut has got it. There are times when you think you know exactly where the plot is headed — but Morgenstern avoids taking the easy way out each and every time. The ending is bittersweet and satisfying, and I confess that I have never in my life been so tempted to email a fictional character (read it, you’ll see what I mean). Bonus: It’s also teen-friendly!
— Jenn Northington, event manager, WORD [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383-0096].
Editor Gersh Kuntzman’s pick: “The Arriviste”
Jimmy Wallenstein’s “The Arriviste” bowled me over. It’s Wallenstein’s first novel, but you’ll abandon your prejudice against freshman efforts from almost the first page, as this richly textured story of begins. Ostensibly the story of a classic clash of cultures on Long Island — the monied first generation vs. the “Arrivistes” of the 1970s, the barbarians at the gate, if you will. But what struck me the most was Wallenstein’s lush prose style, which, no exaggeration, is reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald — and not only because the story is set in a land of privilege and man-sized pours of whiskey in a proper country club glass. Wallenstein’s “The Arriviste” is the best debut novel I’ve read since “Everything is Illuminated.”
— Gersh Kuntzman, editor, The Brooklyn Courier.