Bestsellers come, and then, they go. When first published they are raved about and read. The library can’t buy enough copies to meet the demand. Dozens of people wait patiently for their turn to read the latest James Patterson, John Grisham or Janet Evanovich. However, over a period of months, demand slows. Readers’ attention turns to yet another bestselling blockbuster while yesterday’s favorites are quietly forgotten – left to languish on the shelf. Many deserve to be forgotten, but there are just as many that deserve to be read beyond the flurry of their publication. Also deserving are the dozens of other wonderful books that are overlooked by the critics and never make the New York Times bestsellers list. Nothing saddens my heart more than seeing a favorite novel collecting dust on the shelf.
So in an effort to draw your attention to a few books that you may have overlooked, didn’t catch your eye in the first place, or you just missed, I offer these suggestions for your reading pleasure while you wait for that next bestseller. Be warned, these are not newly published, but books – at least to my mind – of enduring value.
First on my list is Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner, a novel that explores the mysteries of friendship. It’s the story of two couples, the joys and challenges of their marriages and enduring friendship and a life insulated within Ivy League’s walls. Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom,” Crossing to Safety, since its publication in 1987, has established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels. It is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.
A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin, is another of my overlooked favorites. Written before Berlin’s death in 2004, but not published until 2015, A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of this little known short-story writer. With her trademark blend of humor and melancholy, Berlin crafts scenes from the everyday–uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Northern California upper classes, and from the perspective of a cleaning woman alone in a hotel dining room in Mexico City. The women of Berlin’s stories are lost, but they are also strong, clever, and extraordinarily real.
For a complete change of pace, I recommend, Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, published in 1932. The plot concerns the efforts of “a rational, bossy London heroine” to bring order and serenity to her rustic relations, the Starkadders, on their run-down Sussex farm. Cold Comfort Farm is the perfect comfort read. It is a wonderful blend of British charm, comic characters, and a clever young woman at the heart of it all.
These are only a few of the hidden treasures on the library’s shelves. Explore; discover. Don’t be afraid to venture from the tried and true. For reading suggestions, visit Readers’ Corner on our webpage, subscribe to a monthly book alert service from LibraryAware (links on our webpage), pick-up a copy of the monthly BookPage, or a copy of recommended monthly reading from LibraryReads. You’ll be surprised at what awaits you beyond the bestsellers.