In Praise of Authors | Mechanics' Institute

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In Praise of Authors

It's that time of year when heart-shaped candy boxes, stuffy teddy bears, and other similarly-themed gift items are displayed prominently in stores. February is the month that we honor those special people in our lives on Valentine's Day. Here at Mechanics' Institute Library, it's all about sharing the love of books and their creators.

As E.B. White once said, “Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” 

We could not agree more. However, books would not be possible without authors. So let's celebrate their wonderful contribution to our literary lives. Break open the candy box, uncork the wine, and grab a fabulous book from MI Library's favorite titles about writers and their craft. 

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut - Kilgore Trout, a little known science fiction writer struggles to find peace and sanity in the fictional town of Midland City, Ohio. One of Vonnegut's best known and most influential works, his 1973 satirical novel explores themes of free will, suicide, and race relations, among others. In 1999, the book was adapted into a film by the same name and starred Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, Nick Nolte and Barbara Hershey. 

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff - A sassy New York writer develops a relationship through a correspondence with the staff of a stodgy British bookstore. Also available as an eAudiobook. In 1984, the book was adapted into a film by the same name starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft. 

Elizabeth Costelloby J.M. Coetzee - Elizabeth Costello is a distinguished, aging Australian author whose life unfolds through a series of eight formal addresses, including an acceptance speech at a New England liberal arts college to a lecture on evil in Amsterdam. A profound and haunting meditation on the nature of storytelling. 

The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth - Nathan Zuckerman, a promising young writer spends the night in the home of E.I. Lonoff, an established author whom the younger man idolizes. Also staying at Lonoff's home is a young woman with a vague past. Nathan begins to suspect her of being Anne Frank, living in the United States anonymously after having survived the Holocaust. From a literary grandmaster, Roth's 1979 novel examines an artist's conflict between the obsessive demands of his calling and the separate but equal demands of family and human contact. 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett - In 1962, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a recent college graduate returns home to Jackson, Mississippi where she is hired to write a column on housekeeping advice for the local paper. To fill her columns, she seeks advice from the Black maids. But Skeeter wants to become a legitimate journalist and she decides to write a book from the point of view of the maids, exposing the racism they encounter while working  for white families. Also available as an eAudiobook  and as a film adaptation by the same name on DVD.

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan - A once-successful novelist has exactly one month to write a thriller that could revive her flagging career. When her husband's business partner and best friend go missing, the lines between real life and fiction begin to blur. 

Miseryby Stephen King - After an almost fatal car crash, novelist Paul Sheldon finds himself being nursed by a crazed fan who holds him captive. King's 1987 page-turner was adapted into a film by the same name starring Kathy Bates and James Caan in 1990. 

The Tenants by Bernard Malamud - In New York City, two writers -- one Jewish and one African-American -- are the remaining tenants in a soon-to-be-condemned building. This 1971 novel about two unwilling neighbors and artistic rivals still resonates today. A 2005 film adaptation starred Dylan McDermott and Snoop Dogg. 

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips - When their long-imprisoned con-artist father reaches the end of his life, Arthur and his twin sister become the owners of an undiscovered play by William Shakespeare that their father wants published, a final request that represents either a great literary gift or their father's last great heist.

Wonder Boysby Michael Chabon - Grady Tripp, an overweight, aging writer who has lost his way, and debauched editor Terry Crabtee struggle to rekindle their friendship, sense of adventure and purpose in their lives. A fine introduction to Chabon's humor, this 1995 novel was adapted into a film in 2000, shot on location in Pittsburgh. 

The World According to Garp by John Irving - This 1998 novel about the exploits of nurse Jenny Fields and her illegitimate son, T.S. Garp is ribald and robust. Garp, who was conceived from one of his mother's patients, grows up and becomes a writer, whose "excerpts" appear throughout Irving's book. Irving's fourth novel won the 1979 National Book Award for Fiction and was adapted into a film by the same name in 1982 starring Robin Wiliams.

Posted on Feb. 12, 2021 by Celeste Steward