Every Wednesday we will each share two books that caught our eye from that week’s Mailbox Monday.
We encourage you to share the books that caught your eye in the comments.
The son of a devoted Jane Austen scholar, Ted Scheinman spent his childhood eating Yorkshire pudding, singing in an Anglican choir, and watching Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Determined to leave his mother’s world behind, he nonetheless found himself in grad school organizing the first ever UNC-Chapel Hill Jane Austen Summer Camp, a weekend-long event that sits somewhere between an academic conference and superfan extravaganza.
While the long tradition of Austen devotees includes the likes of Henry James and E. M. Forster, it is at the conferences and reenactments where Janeism truly lives. In Camp Austen, Scheinman tells the story of his indoctrination into this enthusiastic world and his struggle to shake his mother’s influence while navigating hasty theatrical adaptations, undaunted scholars in cravats, and unseemly petticoat fittings.
In a haze of morning crumpets and restrictive tights, Scheinman delivers a hilarious and poignant survey of one of the most enduring and passionate literary coteries in history. Combining clandestine journalism with frank memoir, academic savvy with insider knowledge, Camp Austen is perhaps the most comprehensive study of Austen that can also be read in a single sitting. Brimming with stockings, culinary etiquette, and scandalous dance partners, this is summer camp like you’ve never seen it before.
A gorgeous story about friendship and working together from a star picture-book partnership, the inimitable Julia Donaldson and award-winning Catherine Rayner.
‘The Go-Away bird sat up in her nest, With her fine grey wings and her fine grey crest.’ One by one, the other birds fly into her tree, wanting to talk or to play, but the Go-Away bird just shakes her head and sends them all away. But then the dangerous Get-You bird comes along, and she soon realizes that she might need some friends after all . . .
The Go-Away Bird combines brilliant rhyming verse from much-loved children’s author Julia Donaldson, creator of the bestselling picture books The Gruffalo and What the Ladybird Heard, with stunning illustrations from the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Catherine Rayner.
A charming story about the power of friendship from a thrilling creative partnership, this beautiful book is perfect for reading together.
“I like birds and this cover, title and message caught my eye quickly! Sounds wonderful. (Sorry if I snagged this choice before Leslie who cares for birds.)”
Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.
Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?
Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin’s engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).
“I was curious about the title and then became intrigued by the description.”