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.
The BookMark Shoppe’s pick: “Cleopatra” by Stacy Schiff
There aren’t many people in world history more fascinating than Cleopatra VII. She lost a kingdom, got it back, then almost lost it again; she built an empire, and then finally lost it all. She was revered as a goddess before she turned 18, had a child with a married man, and then more children with yet another. Unheard of at that time, she was a constant source of rumor and gossip. Author Stacy Schiff did an amazing job bringing drawing out this larger than life character, and bringing us into the life and times of Cleopatra. She weaves a story that sounds like fiction. A must-read this week for all.
— Bina Valenzano, co-owner, The BookMark Shoppe [8415 Third Ave. between 84th and 85th streets in Bay Ridge, (718) 833-5115].
Greenlight’s pick: “Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka
Written in the collective first person, Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic tells the stories of women who came from Japan to America in the 1920s to marry men they had never met. Beautiful and haunting, this book will linger long after you have finished reading.
— Eleanor Kriseman, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200].
WORD’s pick: “Among Righteous Men” by Matthew Shaer
Shaer uses a dramatic event in a yeshiva dormitory, and the following fallout and legal battle, as a springboard for this look into the Hasidic community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The lineage of the Hasidic rabbis and the ways in which Crown Heights came to figure into their story is a curious piece of history. This relatively closed, and for many off-the-radar, pocket of Brooklyn only became more intriguing in reading about these recent struggles. The neighborhood’s development as a Jewish enclave and then as a destination for Caribbean immigrants, and the culture clash which violently shook the growing community, is discussed as well, pointing to the constant and unforeseeable changes that reach all corners of our city.
— Simone Goldenberg, WORD [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383-0096].