Caitlin Goodman Caitlin Goodman is a rare book librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She writes City Paper's readers' advisory column, The Grumpy Librarian, and sometimes also book reviews. She is actually pretty cheerful in real life. If you send her an email with two books you loved and one book you hated, she'll recommend one that you'll probably like in her monthly column.
♥ Loved: Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone
♥ Loved: Leif Enger, Peace Like a River
X Hated: Rivka Galchen, Atmospheric Disturbances
Recommendation: Someone has been doctoring the Grumpy Librarian’s inbox — this is the third submission with the “history with a side of medicine” bestseller on the “loved” list. The GL is almost hesitant to admit that she thought the book tiresome, lest she be trampled by a horde of earnest scientific ladies in book clubs. Tragically, the GL isn’t getting paid to judge your taste. She does that bit for free.
Other than being “literary” bestsellers ignored by fine literature prizes, you picked two books with an emphasis on place and a quietness to the storytelling (despite hilarity of plot: Pregnant nuns and terrorists! Miracle workers and murder!). And, unlike Galchen’s philosophical whimsy, both are pretty humorless. No Lorrie Moore for you! Perhaps you should try another lyrical book with underpinnings of soap opera: Ann Patchett’s 2011 novel State of Wonder. The plot skeleton is uninspiring — pharmaceutical researcher leaves her Midwestern lab for a near-fantastical land of everlasting fertility and the crazed genius who’s “discovered” it — but the book is moving in small ways and Patchett’s attention to details (medical, natural and emotional) should please all those Verghese-lovers who apparently exist.
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