It’s almost December, which means it’s time for book reviewers near and far to release their literary “best of” lists, heralding what they think were the best/most important books published in 2016. We don’t do that at Bas Bleu: For starters, we don’t carry books in our catalog unless we think our readers will love them, value them, and enjoy sharing them with others. Plus, many of our books aren’t recently published titles; we love digging up old favorites or spying those literary gems that fly under the radar.
But though we love all of our books, some do resonate more strongly than others with individuals on our staff. So today in the Bluestocking Salon, Bas Bleu’s editors (that’s us above) are sharing a few of our personal favorites from our 2016 catalogs.
Christie Hall (CH)
The Sound of Gravel: I’m always fascinated by autobiographies of people who not only survive, but thrive, despite enduring inconceivably difficult childhoods. Ruth Wariner (the 39th child of a fundamentalist Mormon high prophet) endured unimaginable circumstances throughout her youth…and shares her incredible story in this inspiring memoir. I kept aching to swoop in and rescue her from all her perilous situations, and was delightedly impressed when she rescued herself instead.
They Left Us Everything: Right from the beginning of this warm, funny, and poignant memoir, I felt like Plum Johnson was an old friend. As she cleaned out her childhood home after her mother passed away, each memento sparked a memory…and it was pure pleasure getting to know Johnson’s parents and siblings through her eyes. This is the meaningful kind of book that lingers in your thoughts for weeks after reading the final page.
Jane Austen Silhouette Necklace: I always get compliments when I wear this pretty periwinkle necklace featuring Jane Austen’s profile laser etched into natural basswood. I met the artist, Sarah Mandell of Once Again Sam, at an indie craft fair several years ago. I fell in love with her needle-felted curiosities (as well as her jewelry) and even commissioned her to create the cake toppers for my wedding…two friendly little otherworldly creatures with personalities to match mine and my husband’s!
Ann Gregory (AG)
The Neapolitan Novels: As an editor at Bas Bleu, I’m often asked—by family, friends, and even strangers—for book recommendations. This should come as no surprise, and yet somehow my mind usually goes blank at the question! So I was thrilled when I finally read Elena Ferrante’s quartet of novels about two friends growing up together in Naples, as the set is now my go-to recommendation for just about anyone. The writing is so good, the plots are so compelling, the insights are so striking…these books manage to be both widely accessible and brilliantly literary at the same time, a rare combination. Plus, there’s interesting controversy in the book world over the identity of the author!
The Spotting Books: These beautifully produced books for kids are a favorite of this mama, too. At our house, though, these are not bedtime books. My four-year-old daughter and I like to race to find the anomaly (in The Odd One Out) or the duo (in Where’s the Pair?), and it’s all a little too high-energy for wind-down time…as I learned the hard way. Instead, we bring these books out during the day, for a special activity/competition that both of us enjoy together.
Seven Year Pens: We’ve carried these ultra-long-lasting pens for years now…in all sorts of cute designs and bright colors. And I’ve brought home many a sample of them, hoping to add one to my desk drawer at home. But my husband snatches up each and every one! Whether it’s the Guitar design or the Cat Lady variety, he’s added a Seven Year Pen to his work “uniform,” attaching one to his shirt each day so he always has a durable pen at the ready. Recently I brought home the Mermaid Pen, thinking our daughter might like it. He let her keep it, but not without questioning her ability to appreciate the true quality of the writing implement!
Katherine Giles (KG)
The Improbability of Love: I’m often frustrated with novels that try to accomplish too many things at once, as it’s the rare book that can make multiple storylines and a bevy of disparate narrators coalesce…with skillfully crafted prose and well-placed cliffhangers to boot. Yet even as its opening chapter introduces a dizzying cast of characters—a British earl, feuding Russian oligarchs, a Middle Eastern emir, the president of France, an American philanthropist, an art historian, a sentient Baroque painting that refers to itself as “moi”—Hannah Rothschild’s effervescent novel nimbly balances their individual stories and shared obsession with a long-lost artistic masterpiece. And did I mention that my mother loved the book as much as I did? That almost never happens!
Sisters in Law: I devoured this dual biography of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the first female justices to serve on the U. S. Supreme Court. Even when I didn’t agree with their politics, I was in awe of their intellect, ambition, fortitude, and sly humor. As a beneficiary of the equal-rights movement they helped advance, I was enraged when reading about the misogyny they faced in a male-dominated profession, impressed by their canny maneuvering…and grateful that pioneers like them worked so hard to make America better for people like me.
Jane Austen Correspondence Cards: I’m a paper person who loves to send and receive snail mail…and I have an entire dresser drawer full of stationery to prove it! So I was thrilled when we partnered with Atlanta-based letterpress artist Julie Franklin, of Circle Collaborative, to design and print these lovely everyday correspondence cards. They’re just the right size for a casual note, the substantial cardstock holds up beautifully to my fountain pen’s ink, and Jane Austen’s pithy quotation—“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”—garners a laugh from everyone who’s received the card.
Don’t want to miss another post from The Bluestocking Salon? Sign up to receive our posts via email! Just scroll down past the comments section and you’ll see a space where you can enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts.