What We’re Reading: February 5

What We’re Reading: February 5

Here are the Bookish staff’s personal weekend reading recommendations; have you read any of them? Tell us in the comments what you’ll be reading this weekend! If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out our Winter Previews for a look at the best books of the season.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

My best friend and I decided to reread this series together over the next few months, dedicating a month to a single book, and meeting to talk about it in our own private book club. It is the best decision I’ve made in 2016. I haven’t read this book in a long time, and rereading the illustrated version made me feel as though I was reading it again for the very first time. Hogwarts was there to welcome me home, just like Dumbledore always said it would be. —Kelly

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

I’m rereading this collection of short stories, which I first read a few years ago and fell in love with. I really enjoy Raymond Carver’s minimalism, and am really interested in the impact of Gordon Lish’s edits (which, it seems, were substantial to say the least). —Elizabeth


Now that winter has truly arrived in New York, it seemed a good time to burrow into George Eliot’s Middlemarch again. I hadn’t read the novel since I was an undergraduate in 19th-century literature class, and I was curious whether I would experience the same kind of reassessment of the main character, Dorothea Brooke, that Rebecca Mead described in My Life in Middlemarch. I’ve been delighted to recognize a wickedly funny irony in Eliot’s portrayal of Dorothea that, like Mead, I missed the first time around. It’s given me a new appreciation for the book and for Eliot’s wit–a welcome reminder of the value of re-reading. —Anita

Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church

In addition to being an avid reader, I’m an avid moviegoer. As with books, I enjoy movies that bring me great entertainment, as well as those that offer insight into serious subjects. Spotlight fit into the latter, since it is inspired by a book that I can’t believe I haven’t read, but now I’m picking it up because the subject is very important to me. —Bob

Ripley Under Ground

Every couple years, I read Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. The precision and economy of the writing is fantastic, and her understanding of what makes a sociopath tick is startlingly persuasive. I thought it time to try another Ripley book, and this one is blowing me away just like the first one does. Not a is word wasted,  and Highsmith’s sly, bitter wit and uncanny psychological insight shine through. And its insight into the mechanics of deception and dissembling and rationalization and ego in all of us, not just empathy-free murderers. The flawless plot construction has me turning pages to the point where Ripley has to take the ultimate step to solve a “problem,” and then I more or less read with fingers splayed over my eyes till the deed is done. —Phil

Do No Harm

Hypochondriacs, stay away from this one! I don’t read a lot of medical books, but this one came highly recommended by Elizabeth (who reads a lot of them), so I picked it up because she has yet to steer me wrong. Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh chronicles his long career and isn’t overly boastful about his victories or unwilling to discuss his failures. The result is an honest narrator and a fascinating look into a world where life and death hang in the balance. —Kelly

Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery

I got my hands on an early copy of this interesting debut that features a young Walt Whitman. I’m interested to see how the book mixes together a classic writer with a brand new story. —Bob


A few years ago the ebook was on sale, and I had heard some buzz about the book, so I decided to pick it up. I’m finally getting around to it, and I have pretty mixed feelings about it. Alissa Nutting is clearly a talented writer, with precise prose and efficient storytelling. And her central idea is compelling: an attractive young teacher who has a thing for her 14-year-old students. The “her” is the important part; this novel would be seen totally differently were it a young male teacher making the moves on his 14-year-old girl students. Celeste, our main character, is no less a predator, no less a monster, and yet when in real life these situations have been reported, often people say things like “lucky boy.” So obviously the novel is both transgressive and confrontational—both things that interest me. The main problem is that at no point have I not been aware of the self-conscious conceit; I haven’t once believed in Celeste as a person as opposed to a character. I want to see where it’s all going, but for entirely different reasons than I usually read novels. —Joe







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