Recommended Reads Spring 2017

Spring has arrived, and with it comes a sensory overload of great books that are teeming with inventive stories and rich characters, while also giving more than a casual nod to our modern political landscape. Have a look below for a curated list of our favorite reads for spring.

 1/ “We’ll Always Have Casablanca”
Noah Isenberg, W.W. Norton

Despite being 75 years old, “Casablanca” shows no sign of age. Still regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, it has come to embody everything that people love about the Golden Age of Hollywood and movies in general.

Film scholar Noah Isenberg’s new book, “We’ll Always Have Casablanca,” is a thorough account of the struggle it took to get the picture made, why it still matters and what it has come to symbolize in popular culture. As Isenberg takes readers into the history of the film, we discover its stature as a classic is deeply rooted in the fact that it was released during wartime and featured several actors (Peter Lorre and Conrad Veidt, for example) who came to Hollywood as immigrants looking to escape the maelstrom of Europe, a detail that was not lost the movie’s writer, director and production team.

Isenberg chronicles the origins of the film from archived material, interviews and research, and takes readers on a journey through its adaptation from a stage play to the big screen, where it would never fade away.

2/ “Havana: A Subtropical Delirium”
Mark Kurlansky, Bloomsbury

Mark Kurlansky’s three-decade love affair with Havana, a city rich in sights, sounds, tastes and traditions, permeates from the pages of “Havana: A Subtropical Delirium.” Part autobiography, travelogue, guidebook and cultural history, he reveals a robust portrait of historic and contemporary Havana, a city whose inhabitants live and breath boundless resilience, independence, pride and creativity.

Never dull, a jovial Kurlansky also touches on how Havana’s tenuous relationship with America has shaped the social psyche of the city. Facing emotional and economic duress for more than five decades, he illustrates how Havana defied the pinch of its nearby adversary with a tenacity and stubbornness that has been woven into the fabric of its very essence.

At its core, “Havana: A Subtropical Delirium,” is a well-written love letter to a cultural and evolving city that, for now, remains a mysterious enigma to most Americans.

3/ “Swimmer Among The Stars
Kanishk Tharoor, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

In one of the most absorbing short-story collections in recent memory, Kanishk Tharoor excels at using nuanced prose to write about the nature of language and communication in clever and interesting ways.

In one of the book’s more compelling moments, readers follow an elephant as it travels from Southern India to Morocco with genteel ease, visiting unnatural environments, yet going with the flow as it accepts new encounters. Another highlight is a tricky sci-fi/political hybrid about international ambassadors who live in space and helplessly look on from the Earth’s orbit as their respective worlds crumble around them.

These tales, succinctly told without neglecting passion and emotion, make Tharoor’s skills as a storyteller that much more special. He’s a writer who shows no hesitance in shedding wordy extravagance.

4/ “Celine: A Novel
Peter Heller, Knopf

Having loved his previous book, “The Dog Stars and The Painter,” I approached Peter Heller’s latest work with great interest. I was not disappointed. Laced with sensations of trepidation and secrecy, Peter Heller’s “Celine” features a great abundance of anxiety that seamlessly propel readers into the narrative.

“Celine” is at times both touching and grizzly as it follows its title character: a private investigator charged with uncovering the fate of a missing photographer, who has disappeared in Yellowstone Park. Complicating matters, there is no body and plenty of supposition that he was mauled and eaten by a bear. Once on the case, Celine, haunted by her own inner demons, is quick to surmise that things are not as they initially seem.

5/ “March 1917: On The Brink Of War And Revolution”
Will Englund, W.W. Norton

One hundred years ago this month, the world was going to hell.

In Will Englund’s poignant new book about World War I, we discover how much skill it took to maneuver around the hypocrisy of the times. While America was trumpeting itself as a new democratic force, freedom of the press was often suppressed, and sedition was a fit accusation for those deemed insufficiently patriotic. America’s entry to the Great War also came at a time when the nation was conflicted by the women’s suffrage movement and the cruelty of the Jim Crow South. The result is a fascinating historical read.

Rob Levy is a freelance writer who works at a local library. Each month he recommends five books for ALIVE Magazine readers. To see what we’re reading, visit ALIVE on Good Reads. 

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