From Liz: Dear Committee Members

Here we go! First up is Liz Sher, children’s book buyer at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, MA. Liz started her bookselling career in 2009 at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., where she discovered some of her favorite people: me (hi, I’m Dana), Mal Peet, and Julie Orringer. She is one of the most passionate readers I know, and the look on her face while watching certain authors read from their books is the world’s purest example of bliss. Take it away, Liz!

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Ah, December reading round-ups! I look forward to these every year. And I’m grateful that Dana and Serena narrowed their field to books published in 2014. Otherwise the task of choosing just one book would have been (even more) impossible. So I won’t be talking about Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie mysteries; or Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land; or Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, which I read for the second time; or Dorothea Grossman’s slim little poetry collection The Fun of Speaking English, which I carried around in my backpack for a month like a fizzy stash of nips. (Read them anyway.)

As for 2014 books that I read in 2014, Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members brought me the purest joy. It’s a novel told in increasingly deranged letters of recommendation, as written by a beleaguered English professor at a small Midwestern university. It’s funnier, sadder, more serious, and more soulful than you expect it to be. It’s a paean to and a plea for the literary life. It offers one of the simplest, loveliest explanations for reading books at all: a great book “will speak to something within us – some previously unarticulated thought or reflection that, once recognized, we will never want to be without again.”

Where should you buy this gem? Let’s honor the book’s Midwest college setting and head over to Iowa City’s Prairie Lights.

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