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Our Favorite Books: Part Four

It’s that time…more of our favorite books! If you are struggling to find the right holiday gift or simply looking for a good read check out the books our co-workers love. After all, we work with books all day long; our opinions count for something. For more favorites check out part one, two and three.

Paige Casey- Marketing Manager, Online and Scholarly Reference

Like many people working in publishing, I don’t know that I could pick a single favorite book. I do Littlewomen
have a Favorites Arsenal, however, and one book I return to regularly – especially at Christmastime – is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It’s a book that was first read to me at a young age, that I returned to for an AP English assignment, and one I have read “on my own” several times since.

Every time I delve into the tale of the lovable and hardscrabble March family, I can almost feel the heat of the woodstove in my parents’ house (even when reading it on the NYC subway, crying into my coat). Each time I am filled once again with admiration for Jo’s strident sauciness, or want for an older sister like Meg, or renewed dread with each clue pointing to Beth’s fragile and declining health. [I’ll admit, the episode of Friends when Joey was reading Little Women and had to hide the book in the freezer in an attempt to avoid Beth’s fate struck a chord with me – and maybe gave me a fleeting crush on the fictional Joey]. But I have also enjoyed finding something new with each reading – its messages and story maturing with me though the Lauries – and Megs, Jos, Beths, and Amys – in my life. It’s a book I buy for all of my honorary nieces and I hope it speaks to them at some point in their lives, too.

Freddie LaFemina- Assistant to the History Editor

Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. I got really into American Romanticism and Transcendentalism during my junior year in high school. I have fond memories of spending my days seeking out adventure and experience and figuring out how best to record and relate those experiences to others. I was deeply inspired by the great books I read at this time, and for me, Walden was at the center of the Transcendentalist universe. Thoreau’s two years in the woods seemed a novel and noble experiment, perhaps one I would even try one day. Around this time I also attempted to adapt many of Thoreau’s ideas about simplicity into my own life, and reduced my wardrobe a bit too much for my mother’s liking, as was evidenced by the amount of new clothes I received for Christmas that year.

So, in my own view, I was pretty hot shit, but somewhere along the line I lost my way. By the time I started college, I was just another freshman punk taking Math and Economics classes. Then in the spring I got a chance to take a seminar called “Walden in our Time,” taught by English professor and Thoreau scholar William Howarth, a brilliant and humble man who wears many, many hats. We read two chapters of Walden every week, in addition to supplementary readings from Thoreau’s other writings and journals. We had imaginative discussions about how Thoreau might comment on the unique (or perhaps not so unique) challenges facing us today. I couldn’t have been happier. I was immersed in Thoreau’s world, and I loved it. I felt I’d finally found something to study in school that had both scholarly merit and great personal meaning. Walden has been important to me in so many ways, as a breathtaking work of literature, as a historical document, as a philosophical meditation on man and Nature, and as a handbook for simple living. It has been, at least in part, an inspiration for major changes in my life, from my decision to become a vegetarian to getting more active in political and social causes and better articulating my reasons for doing so. Thoreau can be a bit of a pedant, but fortunately there is ample opportunity for the reader to disagree with the man – especially when he comes off as a bit too much of a crusty old hermit – and to come to one’s own conclusions about what might be learned from living life a bit closer to the bone.

Disclosure: I was under the impression that I picked a non-Oxford book, but it turns out that Walden is included in the Oxford World’s Classics series. Clearly I’m more of a company man than I thought.

Sarah Russo- Publicity Manager

I’m not sure if I can call it my favorite book, simply because it drove me nearly mad over a 48 hour period but I’m still going to go with I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. For anyone who has siblings, this is a heart breaking story of twin brothers, one afflicted with schizophrenia and the other suffering from the guilt of being the “normal one.”

Yes, it was an Oprah pick. If it makes you feel more comfortable you can put a small piece of black masking tape over the “O,” I know I did. After nearly two days of pure, unadulterated reading I closed this book entirely spent, overwhelmed, and with the strongest desire to start it over again, thankfully I didn’t. Lamb is incredibly intense in this book but don’t let him fool you, She’s Come Undone (his previous book) is by far one of the worst books I’ve ever read.

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