The Lincoln Highway – Amor Towles

Simply put, this is a great book. Set in 1954 in Nebraska, the story covers only 10 days. The main characters are all kids: three are 18, one is 8 years old but surprisingly is the most clever and mature individual. A trip on the Lincoln Highway to New York is not straight forward, involving both a car and freight trains. Importantly, there are unexpected plot twists, all described with impeccable detail. The characters and themes are richly imagined – this is a must-read book.

The Woman In The Library – Sulari Gentill


The structure of this mystery/thriller is very intriguing. Hannah is writing a novel about 4 strangers who meet in a reading room in the Boston Public Library, and then hear a scream from a woman is later found murdered. One of the characters is writing about these events, so this is a book about someone writing a book about the same mystery. Is one of the 4 the murderer? A delicious plot with a slow reveal of information – very impressive.

Our Missing Hearts – Celeste Ng

Imagine a dystopian America dominated by the Preserving American Culture and Traditions (PACT) act. Particular negative attention is directed at persons of Asian origin so Bird’s Chinese American mother disappears to protect her son. Now 3 years later, he receives a cryptic message and embarks on a quest to find her in a world of surveillance and suspicion. What is remarkable in this topical story is the importance of words and stories, and libraries and librarians. Highly recommended.

The Personal Librarian – Marie Bennett and Victoria Christopher Murray

This is a fascinating fictionalized story of a real woman, Belle da Costa Greene, who in 1906 became the personal librarian to J. P. Morgan as he built the Pierpoint Morgan Library in New York city. Her expanding role in acquiring rare books, manuscripts and artwork is astonishing. But her prowess came at a deep personal cost; as a light-skinned African American woman, she had to masquerade as a white woman for her entire life. An insightful look at identity and legacy in America.

They Called Us Enemy – George Takei, with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

A graphic memoir of the Takei’s family incarceration into internment camps with other Japanese Americans from 1942-45. The stark black and white illustrations are particularly effective in showing the injustice of racism applied to innocent families. Indeed, the political rationale for these incarcerations is appalling. This racial injustice also happened in Canada, an important reminder of how mass hysteria can lead to overt racism. Thanks Rhoddy, for this gift.

All Adults Here – Emma Straub

This charming book is about complex family relationships – the good, bad and ugly. Astrid has three children and three grandchildren, and lives in the Hudson Valley in New York state. Astrid is somewhat closed and flinty: “She believed pets were useful only in teaching young children about death. She knew this was an unpopular opinion”. This multi-generational story is about delayed adolescence with some persistent poor decision making, but also about love and resilience. Finally, there are some inspired comic situations – highly recommended.

Harlem Shuffle – Colson Whitehead

This is a very different book from Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novels The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. The setting is Harlem in the early 1960s, so a time of change in the racial dynamics of New York City. The principal character, Ray Carney, sells furniture but also occasionally sells or disposes of stolen items. On page 31, it is stated that “Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked”. However, his ne’er-do-well cousin Freddie involves him in some serious criminal activity, so the story is enriched by gangsters, crooked cops and corrupt bankers. Ultimately this is a heist and crime story within the cultural context of Harlem. Overall, brilliant writing, as always. Thanks Amy, for giving me this fantastic book.

Humans of New York City Stories – Brandon Stanton

This is a remarkable book of street photography coupled with brief but insightful narratives from interviews with the subjects. The photos are outstanding but the narratives, the comments, are sometimes astonishingly candid. Comments range from the unbridled optimism of children to introspective insights from adults regarding loneliness and isolation that may include mental illness. This is a riveting book for NY-philes. Thanks Sarah, for giving me this book.

The Hidden Palace – Helene Wecker

A sequel to Ms. Wecker’s fabulous The Golem and the Jinni. Part of the charm of the story is the place, New York City from 1910-15, with tenements and factory fires and a Hebrew orphanage. Characters form the first book (Ahmad, Chava, Sophie) are supplemented by a tempestuous female jinni, Dima, in Syria, and Kreindel, an orphan with her own golem. Relationships are volatile; this is a historical epic story.