Greek to Me by Mary Norris
Mary Norris is sort of my idol. A grammar virtuoso, with a storied career editing some of the greatest writers of the last 40 years, and she studied Greek? In college I minored in Koine Greek, an ancient language so systematic that translating a sentence often feels like solving an algebra problem. In fact, my love for the precision of Greek led me to my current occupation as an editor. Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen is so suited to my interests that reading it makes me physically giddy—but I assure you that people with fewer than 18 credit hours of Greek to their name will also find plenty to love here. Norris is a sharp-witted, word-perfect narrator, and her wells of knowledge are as deep as they are lyrical. Anybody with a reverence for words will bow down to this book.
—Christy, Associate Editor
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
I’m a simple woman with simple tastes, and if a book can be genuinely described as a “romp,” I’m probably going to like it. Scott Lynch’s debut novel is a romp set in a fantasy version of Venice populated by con artists, gangsters and a cranky priest/mentor named Father Chains, so I was contractually obligated to love it to pieces. Our titular hero, a snarky trickster who’s very bad with a sword but very good at swindling people out of their money, decides to continue his most ambitious con yet, even though the mysterious Gray King is killing off members of the criminal underworld. Irrepressibly funny even as it goes to some very dark places, Locke Lamora’s heart is pure gold, albeit a bit crooked.
—Savanna, Assistant Editor
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds
Throughout life, I have lost many things. Many of those things cannot come back, and many of those things have been people. Every time I return to this collection, I am susceptible to a sense of longing. Every loss becomes current again, even the things I’ve recovered: The one that got away is getting away, the neighborhood I left is leaving, the dead in my family are dying. In my own poetry, I am open to returning to any point in my life, even the most heartbreaking. I love longing and reading about longing. Sharon Olds’ obituary for her marriage brings about feelings I share and enjoy taking notice of. I have found an abundance in loss, and I think, more likely than not, it can unite and bring about something else, or someone else—that someone else possibly being a better me.
—Prince, Editorial Intern
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I was 7 years old the first time I heard a pennywhistle. It was on a Chieftains cassette my mom played in the car. Something about that music—the plaintive whistle, the lumbering bagpipes, the sprightly fiddle, the pulsing bodhran—called to something deep in my bones. That same call sings in Maggie Stiefvater’s award-winning novel The Scorpio Races, a salt-soaked, wind-whipped ode to the way a fast horse at a flat-out gallop can feel like flight and freedom. The story is set on a small fictional island off the coast of Scotland you’ll be shocked not to find on a map. If you’ve ever experienced the bittersweet desire to visit a place that feels real but isn’t, the next boat for Thisby leaves on the first page of The Scorpio Races.
—Stephanie, Associate Editor
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
I moved away from Minnesota when I was 11, so I can’t claim any ownership of its lakes and woods beyond my earliest memories. But almost better than those recollections is the Minnesota that lives in my imagination, and Leif Enger has contributed to that vision in no small way. Minnesota is a heavenly and forbidding landscape, this I know to be true, but I’ve never had a chance to understand the people who choose to live in such a cold place. Enger’s stories give me a little bit of that, and his third novel finds the members of a small town doing their best to cultivate some collective healing. The reader is looped in to their process through Virgil, who’s attempting to reclaim his life after a car crash. Like the kites flown over Lake Superior by an elderly character, the heart can’t help but lift.
—Cat, Deputy Editor
The Hold List features special reading lists compiled by BookPage staff—our personal favorites, old and new.