LFLR is Up and Running!

LFLR is Up and Running!

Very exciting news to share: Little Free Library Reykjavík was installed in Hljómskálagarður (the park along Tjörnin), next to the statue of Bertel Thorvaldsen on June 14, 2013! It’s a lovely spot for the library—there’s even a bench right next to it so that you can sit and browse through books and read while enjoying the summer weather in the park.

(Keep reading here.)

Building the First Little Free Library in Iceland

(Reblogged from Eth & Thorn)

The Little Free Library in Reykjavík will look a lot like this–I’m going to build it myself using a kit. The wood in the kit has been salvaged from a barn that blew down in a tornado 100 years ago!

Yesterday was a big day, everyone. And if you haven’t heard about why via the onslaught of emails, Facebook messages, giddy phone calls, etc, I’d like to share my new pet project with you now. (For those of you who already know about this–bear with me!)

I’m trying to build the first Little Free Library in Iceland. And I started my fundraising for this project yesterday. I now have just over a month to raise the €860 (about $1,165) that I need to make this project a reality. (I decided to have the fundraising end on my mom’s birthday, incidentally–so to double the fun, we’ll call it a long distance, honorific birthday present for her if I can make this happen.)

Now Larissa, you are saying: you are always rambling on about libraries. What is this Little Free Library thing all about?

Well, dear reader, I am glad you asked:

The Little Free Library project was started in Wisconsin in the USA. The idea is to place a small, weatherproof hutch, house, or other interesting structure (there’s one in an old fridge in New Zealand, and Berlin is making them out of hollow tree trunks) in a public place, fill it with books, and then let people come borrow and return them at will. It’s like your typical “take a book, leave a book,” but better because it is not just a place to discard old books and magazines that you don’t want, but rather, a thoughtfully curated mini-library which can bring together broad communities of readers in a new way.

Little Free Library has now become an international project, and it is estimated that there are between 5,000 – 6,000 “branches” in 36 countries around the world. But thus far, there are no branches in Iceland. Given my own interest in (tiny) libraries, (Icelandic) literature, translation, and creatively utilized public spaces, it seemed to me like a great idea to build the first Little Free Library in Iceland–specifically, in Reykjavík, which as you all know by now, is a very literary city. (In fact, I’m working on this project with Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature office, the City of Reykjavík library, and the Icelandic Literature Fund among others.)

I’ve included informational links about the project–the fundraising page, website, and Facebook page–below, but would be delighted to talk about this project further if it is of interest. Just send me a message and I’ll be totally thrilled to talk tiny libraries with you.

The Little Free Library Reykjavík Fundraising Page: http://alpha.karolinafund.com/project/view/68

The Little Free Library Website: http://littlefreelibraryreykjavik.wordpress.com/

The Little Free Library Facebook Page: http://littlefreelibraryreykjavik.wordpress.com/

If you think this is a worthy project and can donate a little money to the cause, I will be extremely grateful (and will also send you a neat, probably handcrafted gift–see the first link for more info on that). If you are on the fence about why you, a reader who may not be in Iceland or have any immediate plans of visiting Iceland, might want to donate to this project, I encourage you to check out the Little Free Library Reykjavík FAQ page.

And donation or not: if you can share this project and its information with the library/literary lovers in your life, I would be immensely grateful. The success of something like this really depends on finding the widest audience possible–so thank you in advance!

Fun Reads for Friday: Rural Libraries (and Cake Pan Collections), NBCC Award Winners,Yrsa Sigurðardóttir in New York

A grab bag of events, award announcements, and more today:

Photo by Tina King at The Good Midwest Life

“Morality and Cake Pans: The Rural Library”
by Marcel LaFlamme, via The Daily Yonder

A very interesting review of a recently-published book by library historian Wayne A. Wiegand called Main Street Public Library: Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1876-1956. (The review title, I should note, alludes to a “lending collection of cake and muffin pans at the public library in Atkinson, NE,” which is pictured with the review (and above) but not mentioned, so far as I can tell, in the book itself.)

Main Street Library sounds fascinating, as does some of the methodology that Wiegand employed in his research. From the review:

Wayne Wiegand’s new book delves into the histories of four small-town libraries in the American Midwest. Although 80% of public library systems today serve populations of less than 25,000, Wiegand argues that “we know little about the overall history of the small-town public library.” Each of the four libraries that Wiegand considers was established by transplants from the East, first on a subscription basis for the merchant and professional classes and then, with tax support, for the town at large. Three of them received funds from Andrew Carnegie to erect a library building. And each, despite the rhetoric that emerged later about libraries as “arsenals of democracy,” was first imagined as a source of moral uplift in a culturally barren region aspiring to respectability.

In addition to more conventional sources like meeting minutes and newspaper clippings, Wiegand makes imaginative use of the accession books in which his four libraries recorded the new titles they bought. (An army of work-study students entered the records into a database, which Wiegand has generously made available for other researchers to mine themselves.) Examining how the four collections changed over time leads Wiegand to some interesting comparisons and speculations: were summer tourists in Lexington, Michigan, the reason that the Charles H. Moore Library was the only one of the four to subscribe to Cosmopolitan? Why did the Bryant Library in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, collect Hardy Boys and Tom Swift novels, only to spurn the Bobbsey Twins?”

The review also included the supremely heartening factoid that “the United States presently has more public libraries in operation than it does McDonald’s restaurants,” which: who knew? (Yay!)

The NBCC Award Winners for Publishing Year 2011
via Critical Mass

At an award ceremony last night, the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) announced this year’s award winners in fiction, nonfiction, biography, poetry, autobiography, and criticism. I hadn’t read many of the nominees this year, but was rooting for either David Bellos’ Is That a Fish in Your Ear  or Dubravka Ugresic’s Karaoke Culture in the criticism category. Neither won, but I have to admit that the Geoff Dyer book that took the prize is actually on my bookshelf at home, and seems an admirable winner. Both Dyer’s book and the fiction winner looked particularly interesting to me, so here’s a little info on both (descriptions from the publishers’ websites):

  • Fiction: Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision

    “…these 21 vintage selected stories and 13 scintillating new ones take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales, and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them, are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.”

  • Criticism: Geoff Dyer: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews

 “Otherwise Known as the Human Condition collects twenty-five years of essays, reviews, and misadventures. Here he is pursuing the shadow of Camus in Algeria and remembering life on the dole in Brixton in the 1980s; reflecting on Richard Avedon and Ruth Orkin, on the sculptor Zadkine and the saxophonist David Murray (in the same essay), on his heroes Rebecca West and Ryszard Kapuscinski, on haute couture and sex in hotels. Whatever he writes about, his responses never fail to surprise. For Dyer there is no division between the reflective work of the critic and the novelist’s commitment to lived experience: they are mutually illuminating ways to sharpen our perceptions. His is the rare body of work that manages to both frame our world and enlarge it.”

Upcoming Event at Scandinavia House: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir in Conversation with Elizabeth Hand

A good opportunity for New York-based Nordic crime aficionados, particularly because author conversations are, I find, often more ‘productive’ than a straight Q&A. Yrsa (Last Rituals; My Soul to Take) is in New York on March 27.

“Icelandic crime author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir joins American writer Elizabeth Hand in a conversation about their work, the current Scandinavian crime fiction renaissance, what drew them to the genre, and ideas for future Iceland-related crime stories.”

And lastly:

Chad Post over at Three Percent recently posted about a new transdisciplinary journal called Translation. The biannual journal is “published by St. Jerome Publishing in Manchester and Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura in Rome.” From the journal’s site:

With this publication, the editors present the new international peer-reviewed journal translation, which from January 2012 will be published twice a year. The journal—a collaborative initiative of the Nida School of Translation Studies—takes as its main mission the collection and representation of the ways in which translation as a fundamental element of culture transforms our contemporary world. Our ambition is to create a new forum for the discussion of translation, offering an open space for debate and reflection on what we call post-translation studies, moving beyond disciplinary boundaries towards wider transdisciplinary discourses on the translational nature of societies which are increasingly hybrid, diasporic, border-crossing, intercultural, multilingual, and global.

Fun Reads for Friday: Dancing Books, Nancy Pearl’s Wishlist, New Libraries, and Library Phantoms

Happy Friday!

Stop-Motion Bookstore Dance-a-Thon

This stop-motion video, “The Joy of Books,” is making its way around the internet. The (unnamed?) couple who made the video staged this after-hours book dance-a-thon in Toronto’s Type bookstore, which gives me yet another reason to go back to Toronto.

Nancy Pearl Gets Her Own Book Line

The inimitable Nancy Pearl, librarian for the masses, is partnering with Amazon to kick off her own line of reissued books: Book Lust Rediscoveries. The line, which will release six of Pearl’s “favorite, presently out-of-print books” every year, has already announced its first two titles: A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller and After Life by Rhian Ellis. (The latter sounds particularly good to me.) Nancy has blogged about her “Reissues Wish List” before now–maybe we can guess what some of her future titles will be from this 2009 list. This is another example of Amazon using its new publishing power for good–I’m really looking forward to these (re)releases.

Canada Water Library — Review” (Rowan Moore, Guardian Architecture section, December 3, 2011)

Like libraries? Apparently, the Southwark neighborhood of London is the place for you. Not only have the    good people of Southwark decided to maintain all twelve of their existing libraries (it would be interesting to know what the size of the population that uses these libraries is), they upped the ante and decided to build a brand new one in the heart of a former shipping district, called Canada Water, within the old Surrey Commercial Docks area. “Ever since the 1980s, the intention has been to regenerate [the area], both to bring business and create something like a town centre.”

The article has a lot to say about this flagging process of regeneration and some of the features around the new Canada Water library, as well as about the building itself. Some highlights:

The best form for a reading room is wide and horizontal, but there was not enough space for this at ground level, squeezed between the tube exit and the waterside. So the reading room is at the top, with the building widening as it ascends to make space for it, with the added benefit that the most important part of the building is placed high up – if not in the clouds, at least sufficiently far from the ground to feel removed and a little dreamy, as a library should.

Raised, it makes occasion for the spiral staircase, which in turn makes the business of going somewhere for a book into a little event or ceremony, rather than a sideways drift such as you might make into a supermarket.

From a practical question – how to put a library on a site too small for it – comes the pleasure of the architecture. Within the ample volume of the reading room, zigzagging shelves create more intimate places in a way almost reminiscent of the great Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

But while it doesn’t, apparently, “achieve Scandinavian levels of craftsmanship,” says Moore, “…the important thing about the Canada Water library is that a new public place has been created, where the architecture contributes to and expands the experience of using it.”

The Library Phantom Returns!” (Robert Krulwich, NPR, November 30, 2011)

In September 2011, I posted about an anonymous book-loving book artist who was leaving incredibly intricate, beautiful sculpture tributes in libraries and literary organizations all over Scotland. After a bit of a hiatus, the artist left three more amazing creations in the Scottish Poetry Museum, the National Museum of Scotland, and the Robert Louis Stevenson Room at the Writer’s Museum. These will apparently be the last of the mystery sculptures (there have been ten in all). Said the artist (in a short, third-person statement): “It’s important that a story is not too long………does not become tedious……….”You need to know when to end a story,” she thought.”

The statement also indicates that the artist is not a professional–“this was the first time she had dissected books and used them simply because they seemed fitting.” Which makes these creations all the more fabulous. (I also just love her sense of humor–the T-Rex bursting out of The Lost World.) She called these sculptures “a tiny gesture.”

Fun Reads for Friday

One Book on the Shelf

After moving to London and discovering that the Travel Bookshop (of Notting Hill fame) had closed, a “new-Londoner and ex-bookseller” decided that she’d visit every bookstore in London (with a few caveats). As she explains:

“It’s a way for me to see more of London, spend more of my time around books and, perhaps, help the bookshops in some way.

I’m still working on my grand plan and questions seem to arise quicker than I can answer them, a nowhere-near-exhaustive list being:

What counts as a bookshop? (Not sure)   What counts as London? (Zones 1-3)   Will booksellers want to talk to me? (Hopefully!)   Will I have to visit the naughty bookshops of Soho? (Yes…)   Will I embarrass myself in some uber-cool comic bookshop? (Probably)   Does Waterstone’s count? (As an ex-W’stones, I think they may have to!)   Will I have to visit those super intimidating posh ones near St James’ Park? (Yes)”

She’s also got a Tumblr blog (that’s a photo-based blog for you uninitiated) on the same project, if you’re more visually inclined: http://onebookontheshelf.tumblr.com/

***

For those of you who routinely Win the Internet, you’ve probably already seen this fun feature from BuzzFeed:

Awesome Stacks of Books Found in Offices

This is exactly what it sounds like. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Our friends at The L:


And from NPR‘s “Fresh Air” Office:


A nicely thematic shot of the bookshelves at Archie Comics:

***

Library Thing Catalog for The People’s Library (created by librarians taking part in the Occupy Wall Street protest)

This continues to fascinate me. Not only did they create an outdoor, all-donation, volunteer-run, topically-relevant library on the fly, they created a catalog for it. When I bookmarked this link, they were just short of 1,000 books. Now, they have 1,185. Even if they don’t have a lot of details for each title, that’s a ton of books to catalog that fast. And honestly, Library Thing is a bit clunky: I was going to create a catalog for my home library and gave up because I found the interface unwieldy. So kudos to the librarians and catalogers of TPL. Even if the protesters had been evicted today as planned, I think that (aside/apart from the protest itself) these library volunteers would have accomplished a pretty impressive feat.

***

Free Samples of the National Book Award Finalists (via Galley Cat)

Free samples of nominated titles in all genres: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people’s literature.

Library Thieves and People’s Libraries

Okay, I usually save these for Friday, but why wait?

East Village Bookstore Owner Nabs NYPL Book Thief (via Galley Cat)

A nefarious library book snatcher is detained by the owner of East Village books when trying to sell some pricey graphic novels that he had peeled the library stickers off of. Says Donald Davis, the bookstore owner, “‘There’s no other situation where I would do this. I was so angry that he was stealing from the library…”

Donate to the Occupy Wall Street Library (Galley Cat, again)

This one is interesting to me if only because it’s a ‘pop-up’ library for protesters. I’m not sure how the books are being distributed/returned, but organizers are saying that donated books can be sent to a UPS store on Fulton street.

Further research on this has yielded a whole blog dedicated to “The People’s Library” which is part of the now three-weeks-and-running Occupy Wall Street protest. Recently, they issued a “Call for Librarians” in which they explain their mission and donation needs:

“We are working together to build a library for both the people of the city and for those who have joined the occupation. We are a mixed bunch of librarians and library-loving individuals who strongly support the #occupy movement and who also know that information is liberation. We liberate through knowledge. If you want to know more about #occupywallstreet and the #occupy movement please read the Principles of Solidarity and the Declaration of Occupation.

Right now need many different kinds of donations. We need books of resistance and people’s history. We need economics and finance books. We need contemporary philosophy and ecology. We need DIY books.  We especially need non-English books and materials for low literacy readers. Print outs of free stuff from the web are valuable to us– I personally handed out at least two copies of Citizens United on Saturday before the march. Also, we’re a free lending library operating on the honors system, so our materials come and go rather rapidly; multiple copies are always welcome. On that note, we need as many copies of A People’s History of the United States by Zinn as possible. We simply can’t keep a copy in stock as there are so many people who want to read it.”

Donations for this outdoor library can be sent here:

Occupy Wall Street/Library Committee
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038

Anonymous Book-Loving Book Artist Leaves Sculptures in Libraries All Over Scotland

I think every country needs to have a bibliophilic book artist to brighten up our libraries…

Mysterious Paper Sculptures Pop Up in Libraries and at Book Festivals All Over Scotland (via Central Stn)

I just love this. Starting in March, an anonymous, book-loving book artist started secretly dropping off incredibly intricate and absolutely lovely paper sculptures in libraries and at book-related events all over Scotland. They were left with messages stating the artist’s “support of libraries, books, words, ideas” first at the Scottish Poetry Library, then at The National Library of Scotland, then at the Filmhouse, then the Scottish Storytelling Center, then the Edinburgh International Book Festival, then the Central Lending Library.

Never once did the artist name him/herself, although various media outlets claimed to have figured out the person’s identity. The original post at Central Stn has many more pictures, so check it out. You’ll also find links to The Guardian‘s coverage, as well as links to the sources that say they figured out who the artist is. I for one, do not want to know. Leave it a mystery for me!

Fun Reads for Friday (And the Long Labor Day Weekend)

Although this first one is more dispiriting than fun:

Book Loving City Forgoes Free Ones for a Week.” William Yardley for the New York Times, August 31, 2011.

“The Seattle Public Library, a beloved civic trophy in a book-loving city, whose directors are plucked away for plum jobs by presidents and philanthropists and whose buildings are often beacons of design, is closed all week — yet again. The furlough, intended to save about $650,000 from the system’s $50 million budget, has become something of a late-summer tradition in recent years, hardly as welcome as the weather.

“It’s an unfortunate tradition,” said Marcellus Turner, who started as the city librarian on Aug. 15 and promptly got a few days off, unpaid.

“Library Closed Aug. 29 — Sept. 5 Due to Budget Cuts,” say the bold red signs on the doors at the central library, a jolt of glass and steel by the architect Rem Koolhaas.”

The article also touches on an interesting trend that I was unaware of: “In Seattle…being the city librarian has become something of a launching pad.” It seems that several of the Seattle Public Library directors have been plucked from their positions by the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates and President Obama for other high profile librarian gigs.

***

Is BookLamp’s ‘Book Genome Project’ the Future of Discovery?” by Edward Nawotka at Publishing Perspectives, August 24, 2011.

Hailed by some as the “Pandora for Books,” BookLamp aims to break a book down by its essential elements and use those to hyper-scientifically make recommendations to its readers. The program

“…breaks a book up into 100 scenes and measures the ‘DNA’ of each scene, looking for 132 different thematic ingredients, and another 2,000 variables.”

So say, for some bizarre reason, you really want to read a book that is just like The Da Vinci Code. Says BookLamp CEO Aaron Stanton:

“We have found that it contains 18.6% Religion and Religious Institutions, 9.4% Police & Murder Investigation, 8.2% Art and Art Galleries, and 6.7% Secret Societies & Communities, and other elements — we’ll pull out a book with similar elements, provided it is in our database.”

Now I actually really enjoy Pandora–not having a really fine-tuned ear or a lot of in-depth awareness of music composition (although I have some), I like being able to enter a song or artist or composer and have Pandora tell me that I’m responding to the key that the music is in, or the fact that there is a strong male vocalist, or that there is a repeating structural element that is standing out. For books, somehow–and I’m guessing that this is more a function of my own relationship to literature and my general faith in my ability to select books I’ll like–the project seems a little cynical. Perhaps I’d like to think that there isn’t some formula that a computer program can use to dissect a novel and what someone responds to in it.

But I’m inclined to ignore my gut reaction on this and consider that for someone who doesn’t have piles of “books to have read” strewn haphazardly around the house, this might be a great way to learn not only about new books, but also develop a better sense of what qualities she, the reader, is enjoying in a book. And what’s not to like about more self-aware, informed readers?

New assignment: I’m going to try out BookLamp in the next week and report back on the qualities considered in each book, and the types of recommendations yielded. Perhaps I’ll get some good book recommendations myself.

***

Jo Nesbø’s novel Headhunters (first published in 2008) will be released in English this month.

Lots of interest here. Firstly, this is not a Harry Hole book. (Nesbø has a number of non-Hole titles to his credit, including a variety of stand-alones and the “Doktor Proktor” series, which starts with the novel Doktor Proktor’s Fart Powder. These are for kids—see here.)

Secondly, it came out in 2008 and is only now being released in English here, even though it was apparently a big deal in Norway when it was first published–it won the Norwegian Book Club Prize for Novel of the Year in 2008. (The delay is also not that surprising, really. The Hole novels have been a hit here, so perhaps the publisher didn’t want to overflow the market with too many Nesbø books at once?)

But thirdly, and most interestingly, with the publication of Headhunters in 2008, Nesbø established the “Harry Hole Foundation” which will receive “[a]ll proceeds from Headhunters, in all editions and formats including the movie adaptation…” (The movie has already been made–it came out in Oslo last month.)

Nesbø talks about his decision to start the foundation here:

I also made a decision that was very important for me. But not until Greedy Jo had had a serious discussion with Decent Jo. The decision was that all the income from Headhunters, domestic and international, would go towards a plan I had been mulling over for a while: basic reading and writing classes for children in the third world. My motivation was principally twofold. I have been privileged enough to be able to travel all over the world, and what this traveling has taught me is that the ability to read is a basic prerequisite for citizens to find their bearings in society so that genuine democracy can exist and so that those same citizens can create a better life for themselves and their families. Besides, I had also realized that I did not have—and would never have—a lifestyle that matched what was gradually becoming a rather large amount of money in my bank account. And there were surely plenty of other very human motives there, too: feelings of guilt that things had gone absurdly well, the need to be liked, to buy myself karma, an indulgence, redemption, etc. But I do not imagine that self-analysis by an overpaid Norwegian writer is very important to an Indian girl who receives ten years of schooling and can return home to her village afterwards, perhaps as a teacher, and be a role model for other girls and mothers.

So we set up a foundation, the Harry Hole Foundation, which would award an annual prize called A Decent Guy or A Decent Lady, and a stipend that the prizewinner, with the help of a committee, would invest in literacy projects. And the following year, in 2009, we did just that. The Decent Guy prize went to a prison chaplain, Odd-Cato Kristiansen, and the stipend went to the Naandi Foundation that helps provide schooling for deprived girls in India.

So yeah. Jo Nesbø: Decent Guy. Read more about Headhunters on Nesbø’s website here and feel free to feel good about going out and buying a new book for yourself when it comes out.

Enjoy not working on Monday!

Fun Reads for Friday

Just two today:

Reykjavik is Declared a UNESCO City of Literature via Visit Reykjavík

There are some great tidbits in this short article, not least the fact that Reykjavík is only the fifth city in the world to earn this designation and also the first one for whom English is not the native language. For reference, the other Cities of Literature are Edinburgh (Scotland), Melbourne (Australia), Iowa City (USA–really? Because of the Writer’s Workshop??) and Dublin (Ireland). Also a good quote from Reykjavík’s mayor, Jón Gnarr, who is himself a talented actor, writer, and comedian. Says Gnarr:

“This is a great honour for Reykjavik. Icelandic art and culture is internationally known and this title confirms just how valuable our cultural heritage actually is. Our culture is the most valuable of all our resources”

What States Have the Highest Concentrations of Librarians? via GalleyCat

More sad news about the decline of working librarians in the last 30 years. There are two different ways of counting librarian populations in the quoted survey, which was complied by Social Explorer: largest librarian populations in general, and highest concentration of librarians, based on the overall population. It breaks down thusly:

Considering the nation today, the states with the largest librarian populations are: Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, Texas and California.  Meanwhile, the states with the highest concentrations of librarians (or librarians per capita) are: Vermont, D.C., Rhode Island, Alabama, New Hampshire.

The rest of the report gives all sorts of information about librarian demographics from 1880-2009, for instance, it’s not always been a profession dominated by women (although that has basically been the norm since the 30s), and as a profession, we’re apparently at the height of our marriageability(62% of librarians are married today, vs. 1 in 3 in 1880). The GalleyCat article has some nice links to other organizations and sites tracking librarian data, but for the full Social Explorer report, see here.


Booklist’s The Year’s Best Crime Novels

Booklist‘s has just published a list of “The Year’s Best Crime Novels,” (compiled by Booklist publisher/editor Bill Ott) which does, of course, raise a few questions given that it’s only May. But whatever the logic behind this mid-year round-up (maybe it’s their own annual cycle? Some of the books were published in 2010, some in 2011…), it’s an enjoyable list of 20 books–there’s a top ten, and also a list of the ten best debut crime novels. You can check out the full list on their website, but I’ve cherry-picked a few of the ones that sound most interesting to highlight below.

I’ve actually only read one of the titles, but I was glad to see it on the list: Camilla Lackberg’s excellent debut novel, The Ice Princess, which I reviewed for Reviewing the Evidence in June 2010.

But here are some titles that sounded particularly interesting to me, just in time for summer reading!

Bury Your Dead. By Louis Penny. 2010. Minotaur, $24.99 (9780312377045).

Penny’s sixth Armande Gamache novel is her best yet, a true tour de force of storytelling. Juggling three freestanding but subtly intertwined stories, Penny moves seamlessly from present to past as Gamache, the chief inspector of the Sûreté du Quebec, investigates a murder in Quebec City, tries to determine if he jailed the wrong man in an earlier case, and struggles with his memories of a third case that went horribly wrong. Penny hits every note perfectly in what is one of the most elaborately constructed mysteries in years.

Painted Ladies. By Robert B. Parker. 2010. Putnam, $26.95 (9780399156854).

Are we honoring the late Parker’s career here or is this really one of his best books in its own right? Well, both. His penultimate Spenser novel captures all the charm of the landmark series. The iconic Boston PI can still nail a person’s foibles on first meeting, still whip up a gourmet meal in a few minutes, still dispatch the thugs who haunt his office and his home, and still do it all while maintaining a fierce love of Susan Silverman and English poetry. Parker was one of the first to show us that a hard-boiled hero doesn’t have to frown all the time, and we’ve been smiling along with Spenser ever since.

Started Early, Took My Dog. By Kate Atkinson. 2011. Little, Brown/Reagan Arthur, $24.99 (9780316066730).

In the latest entry in Atkinson’s brilliant Jackson Brodie series, the semiretired detective is touring abbeys in northern England, but soon enough he becomes involved in several interrelated cases, one of which concerns a police detective who has rescued a child from a prostitute by paying cash for her. Her odyssey as a new parent, relayed with tenderness and wry wit, must be one of the grandest love affairs in crime fiction. For its singular melding of radiant humor and dark deeds, this is must-reading for fans of literary crime fiction.

Mr. Peanut. By Adam Ross. 2010. Knopf, $25.95 (9780307270702).

Despite the fact that David declares that he has been in love with wife Alice ever since he first spotted her in a film class, he is continually imagining her death via everything from carjackings to “convenient acts of God.” Naturally, when she is found dead at the kitchen table, he is the leading suspect. Ross is interested in all the soul-killing ways men and women try and fail to achieve intimacy, and he explores his age-old theme (marriage as one “long double homicide”) in eloquent prose and with a beguiling noirish sensibility.