Celebrate Mad Hatter Day!

madhatter

Celebrate Mad Hatter Day on October 6th!

What is this, you ask? An opportunity for nonsense! Today is a day to call everything you think of as sane, “mad,” while everything you might call crazy on any other day suddenly makes complete sense!

The date was chosen from illustrations by John Tenniel in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which the Mad Hatter’s famous hat has a slip of paper in the band that says, “In this style 10/6.” Obviously, the paper is an order to make a hat in the style shown, at a cost of ten shillings sixpence, but what a perfect day to celebrate sheer silliness!

Today, drop your assumptions about what is “normal,” and do something that doesn’t make “sense.”

We happily recommend that you read one of these excellent titles. Why these? They all have hats on their covers, of course. Why else? It’s Mad Hatter Day.

Doc
Mary Doria Russell

Doc Holliday is the tragic hero in this terrific bio-epic set in a revisionist version of the Old West—more realistic yet more riveting than any movie or TV western. Born with a cleft palate in 1851, John Henry Holliday grows up in Georgia devoted to his tubercular mother who fosters his love of literature and music before her early death. A promising dental career in Atlanta ends when he is diagnosed with tuberculosis at age 22, and he heads west for his health. By 1878, when Doc turns up in Dodge City with his mistress Kate, professional gambling has eclipsed his dental career. He has also been accused and acquitted of murder, but according to Russell (Dreamers of the Day, 2008, etc.), he is neither a hardened gunfighter nor a pathetic dipsomaniac. Soon he sets up a dental practice and befriends Morgan Earp, the most intellectual Earp brother. Fact and mythmaking converge as Russell creates a Dodge City filled with nuggets of surprising history, a city so alive readers can smell the sawdust and hear the tinkling of saloon pianos. Losing their mythic, heroic sheen, figures like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson become more captivating for their complexity. Doc’s new friends are in their 20’s (years before the O.K. Corral brings Doc and the Earps fame), still defining themselves and their ambitions, while their girlfriends are prostitutes without hearts of gold, only depressing pasts and often-hopeless futures. Doc observes the feuds and changing Dodge City politics from his vantage point, treating teeth and dealing Faro. Meanwhile, he drinks to medicate against his physical pain and gambles because the dentistry he loves won’t pay his bills. He and Kate, his intellectual equal, whose life began as the highly educated daughter of a Hungarian doctor before her family’s ruin, share an increasingly tumultuous relationship, torn apart by her neediness and the inevitability of his deteriorating health. Their creed, heartbreaking and brave, becomes “Without hope, without fear.” Filled with action and humor, yet philosophically rich and deeply moving—a magnificent read. (Kirkus Review)

The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise
Julia Stuart

Balthazar Jones lives in the Tower of London with his wife, Hebe, his one-hundred-eighty-one-year-old pet tortoise, and a few eccentric neighbors. Balthazar is a Beefeater. The white-hot flame of his and Hebe’s love has dwindled in the few years since their son died. Their marriage is teetering on the brink of extinction, when Balthazar is unexpectedly tasked with setting up an elaborate menagerie within the Tower to house the many exotic animals given to the Queen. Life at the Tower is about to get all the more interesting. (Publisher’s Marketing)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera

A young woman in love with a man [who is] torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover—these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel “the unbearable lightness of being” not only as the consequence of our pristine actions but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine. (Publisher’s Marketing)

The Sisters From Hardscrabble Bay
Beverly Jensen

Published posthumously through the efforts of Beverly Jensen’s many supporters, this widely acclaimed novel-in-stories offers a richly textured portrait of a bygone era. In 1916, Idella and Avis Hillock live on the edge of a chilly bluff in New Brunswick—a barren world of potato farms and lobster traps, rough men, hard work, and baffling beauty. From “Gone,” the heartbreaking account of the crisis that changed their lives forever, through “Wake,” a darkly comic saga of funeral plans gone awry, The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay beautifully charts the trajectory of the Hillocks’ divergent lives against the background of a lost slice of Americana. (Publisher’s Marketing)

Richard Yates
Tao Lin

In a startling change of direction, cult favorite Tao Lin presents a dark and brooding tale of illicit love that is his most sophisticated and mesmerizing writing yet. Richard Yates is named after real-life writer Richard Yates, but it has nothing to do with him. Instead, it tracks the rise and fall of an illicit affair between a very young writer and his even younger—in fact, under-aged—lover. As he seeks to balance work and love, she becomes more and more self-destructive in a play for his undivided attention. His guilt and anger builds in response until they find themselves hurtling out of control and afraid to let go.
Lin’s trademark minimalism takes on a new, sharp-edged suspense here, zeroing in on a lacerating narrative like never before—until it is almost, in fact, too late. (Publisher’s Marketing)

The Soldier’s Wife
Margaret Leroy

Leroy (Postcards from Berlin) continues to explore motherhood and marital infidelity, now in the context of the German occupation of the British Channel Islands during WWII. Vivienne de la Mare loves her young daughters Blanche and Millie, but not her marriage, so when her husband is called up to the front, for her it’s almost a relief. Then the German army occupies her town, and Vivienne is increasingly torn between her sympathies for the POWs and her budding feelings for Gunther, a German officer who has moved in next door. She and Gunther begin an affair, but she remains committed to protecting and nurturing her daughters as they grow up in this tense, dangerous environment, with waning hope of their father’s return. Leroy lovingly portrays the era and the isolated Guernsey landscape while simultaneously offering an unsparing view of the specific horrors of war. Colorful, rich descriptions, particularly regarding food, are more affecting than depictions of Vivienne and her love affair, which is almost entirely devoid of warmth or passion. More compelling are Vivienne’s interactions with the preteen Millie, who becomes complicit in her mother’s actions even as Vivienne tries to safeguard her innocence. (Publisher’s Weekly)

Rhino Ranch
Larry McMurty

McMurtry ends the west Texas saga of Duane Moore, begun in 1966 with The Last Picture Show, with a top-shelf blend of wit and insight, sharply defined characters and to-the-point prose. Duane, now in his late 60s, is a prosperous and retired widower, lonely in his hometown of Thalia, Tex. Then billionaire heiress K.K. Slater moves in and opens the Rhino Ranch, a sanctuary intended to rescue the nearly extinct African black rhinoceros. Slater is a strong-willed, independent woman whose mere presence upsets parochial Thalia, and Duane can’t quite figure her out. His two best buddies, Boyd Cotton and Bobby Lee Baxter, both work for Slater, and the three friends schmooze with the rich, talk about geezer sex, rat out local meth heads and try to keep track of a herd of rhinos. Mixed in with the humor and snappy dialogue are tender and poignant scenes as the women in Duane’s life die or drift away, and Duane befriends a rhino and realizes that his life has lost its purpose. Nobody depicts the complexities of smalltown Texas life and the frailties of human relationships better than McMurtry. (Publisher’s Weekly)

The Emperor of Lies
Steve Sem-Sandberg

This is the story of the Lodz ghetto, located in Poland’s second-largest city. Unlike the bigger Warsaw ghetto, the one that the Germans established at Litzmannstadt (their name for Lodz) was highly organized and offered jobs to thousands of Jews, who made items for use by the German army and civilian population—before they were gradually shipped off to the death camps. Masterminding this giant enterprise was Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the Eldest of the Jews and the “Emperor” of the title. How this initially unmarried and childless man, whom some would call a misfit, came to a position of preeminence in the ghetto is the heart of this riveting narrative. Sem-Sandberg, who lives in both Vienna and Stockholm, relied on the “Ghetto Chronicle,” secretly compiled by the Jews of Lodz, which he has deftly fictionalized. Readers must struggle with the issue of whether Rumkowski was a crass opportunist or saved countless lives through his near monarchical rule. (Library Journal)

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Helen Simonson

In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? (Publisher’s Marketing)

The Lost Wife
Alyson Richman

A rapturous new novel of first love in a time of war, from the celebrated author of The Last Van Gogh.

In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of memory. (Publisher’s Marketing)

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