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LLA Reads: Love and Damage

At Louisville Literary Arts, we all love to read. But our interests in literature are as varied as hats on Derby Day. Some of us gravitate toward poetry, while others prefer an epic novel. A few of us love reading creative nonfiction. In this space, we recommend recent books we've read, and hope that you'll find something just right for your reading list.

Erin recommends: THE LOVER'S DICTIONARY by David Levithan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)

​Genre: Fiction

"There are some books that have a lasting impact on you. It's hard to shake them. For me, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros was one of those books. I was awed by how Cisneros could pack so much punch in the concise vignette form. With just a few words, she could cut to the heart of an emotion, or somehow illuminate the true nature of something. To my surprise, it was with this same awe and appreciation that I recently enjoyed David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary. While Levithan's Dictionary may at first sound a bit cute (dictionary entries about love), the work is anything but. It follows a relationship between a couple, from the excitement of first love to the doubts that accompany it, to the eventual decline of the relationship. Levithan's entries are short form, poetic little packets with all the punch of Cisneros's vignettes. Levithan doesn't flinch as he relates hard truths about the human condition and this thing we call love. What's more, he does it with such beautiful brevity you may find yourself pausing—book in hand—to savor the tiny gift he has just bestowed upon you. In many ways, I think that is the true job of an artist, to frame some part of the world and shine a light on it, saying: 'Life is like this.' It is a kind of truth finding. And, in no uncertain terms, Levithan’s Dictionary has got truth in spades. It is a book that will have a special place on my bookshelf for years to come. I highly recommend it."

Dean recommends: THE TUSK THAT DID THE DAMAGE by Tania James (Knopf, 2015)

Genre: Fiction

"Former Louisvillian Tania James’ second novel, The Tusk That Did the Damage, takes us inside the minds of an American documentarian in modern India, a reluctant Indian elephant poacher, and the feared elephant, the Gravedigger, alluded to in the book’s title. James weaves narratives from each of their perspectives into a satisfying whole, capturing the struggles and sorrows that lead them into each other’s paths. Rich with details and motivations, James persuades the reader to empathize with each of her characters to understand a world far from ours, but beating with the same universal rhythms and emotions. James is at her allegorical best when one character begins recalling the lengthy elephant myth she created for her story: 'Long ago, in the time before tusks, every bull elephant had wings.' Her novel soars as well."

Amy recommends: IN THE WOODS by Tana French (Viking, 2007)

Genre: Mystery

​"In the Woods is the first of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series. Her sixth book in the series will come out this year; each book focuses on a different Murder Squad Detective.

This book focuses on Rob Ryan, a Murder Detective who was involved in a mystery when he was a child. His two friends disappeared, and Rob was found with his sneakers filled with blood. But he doesn’t remember anything about the events of that day. The other two children were never found, and the police weren’t able to figure out what happened.

20 years later, Ryan is assigned to a case that bears striking resemblances to his own mystery. Of course, he can’t resist trying to solve the case with his partner, Cassie Maddox.

I always read French’s books because she creates such compelling characters, plumbing the depths of their psyches. When you read one of French’s books, you truly understand the motivations of the protagonist, which always makes for a compelling read. French also gives insight into the setting of Dublin, which went through its own upheavals in the financial meltdown of 2008. For a twisty ride of a mystery and characters you’ll care about, look no further than In the Woods. "



If you would like us to consider recommending your book, please contact LLA Reads editor Alice, who will let you know how to get your book to our readers.

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