While in college, I found a copy of Lolita in a pile of discarded library books. After scanning Vladimir Nabokov's opening paragraph, this line piqued my curiosity:. "Lo-Lee-Ta taking a trip three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth." Conjuring these images is how I fell under Humbert Humbert's spell, marveling at how the author could so convincingly present a monster as a respectable middle-aged man.
Reading a book as a spontaneous discovery, and not because it was just published or on your to-be-read list, has its own rewards. Lolita sparked my fascination with Russian literature. Accidental reading recently led me to Bookcrossing.com, a website that connects readers and books, where old favorites are passed on rather than collecting dust on a bookshelf.
In the spirit of reading it forward, several Mechanics' Institute staff members recently shared the following titles they found accidentally but thoroughly enjoyed:
"If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you probably have relegated Mrs. Hudson, his landlady and housekeeper, to a background character in his adventures. However, in Laurie R. King's The Murder of Mary Russell (2016), I learned her backstory and totally changed everything I ever thought about the housekeeper and her relationship to the famous detective. I couldn't put the book down!"--Deb, Library Director
"I am afraid of heights and I hate cold weather so Jon Karkauer's book Into Thin Air describing a disastrous expedition up Mt Everest would appear to be an unlikely choice for me. However, once I was convinced by some coworkers to give it a try, I was absolutely captivated. It is a remarkable work of reportage and self examination that reads like literature. I have been told that Into Thin Air is one of the greatest books written about mountaineering. It is the only one I have ever read and I recommend it highly. I couldn't put it down!" -- Lisa, Library Assistant
"From the moment I began reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, I was stunned by his ability to describe America's darkest truth in such an eloquent manner. I am struck by his feelings of "an old and distinct sadness" in the world around him. Here is a black man writing about his vulnerability, one that he shares often with his teenage son; not the black man that is often portrayed as a threat to justify violence against them. This book sunk into my soul and held me in a suspended state of being, until I realized I was holding my breath throughout most of it."--Rhonda, Library Assistant
"I remember when I was about 14, I still had difficulty reading and did not read unless compelled to do so. After my family watched the movie version of "Ice Station Zebra" on television, my father pointed out that it was almost entirely different from the book and that he liked the book better. It happened that we still had the book so I could start reading it right away. It was the first truly 'extracurricular" reading I ever did and although Alistair MacLean wrote popular fiction rather than great literature, there's an enormous value to a popular work of fiction if it gets people (especially children) to read. This was the first book that ever "grabbed" me and I read it over the course of a week and only put it down when I had to do my chores. I continued to read more and more on my own initiative ever since." --Steven, Head of Technical Services
"One I would definitely recommend is Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. It's about a sleepwalking epidemic and the political upheaval that happens as a result. It's also the first and only book to give me a panic attack -- which is a good thing in this case! It's extremely suspenseful and eerily similar to what is going on in the world right now. I also really enjoy the Miriam Black series by the same author (the first book is called Blackbirds). It's about a woman who can see how others are going to die and is a unique blend of horror and fantasy with a little bit of science fiction thrown in."--Hannah, Membership Coordinator
If you, dear members, would like to recommend a title that you discovered spontaneously, please share! Send it to [email protected] and we'll be happy to share with our readers.