This recurring Arts feature offers short lists of book suggestions compiled by different local readers. To submit your own list of five titles, email the Arts desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s list of suggested titles was compiled by Liz Dodd, assistant legal editor for the Alaska State Legislature.
• “Lost Memory of Skin,” Russell Banks (2011)
After an isolated young man with a laptop and an iguana gets entrapped in a sex offender sting, in order to comply with the conditions of his probation, he cannot live near parks, schools, or other places frequented by children. The only location in his Florida town that meets this criteria happens to be under a freeway bridge, where he ends up encamped with an array of offenders — until the day an academic decides to make him the subject of a research project.
• “Blonde Indian, An Alaska Native Memoir,” Ernestine Hayes (2006)
A rare first-person account of growing up Native in segregated mid-20th century Juneau. Through layered modes infused with metaphor gathered from the oceans, glaciers, forests, and muskegs of Tlingit Aani, Hayes recounts her childhood in the Juneau Indian Village, her years in exile in the Lower 48, and her long journey home.
* “Slow Man,” J.M. Coetzee (2006)
After surviving a bad bike wreck, a tall, successful white male is forced to come to terms with his once-irrelevant imperfections.
• “The English Patient,” Michael Ondaatje (1992)
In the 1996 film “The English Patient,” Anthony Minghella rendered beautifully Ondaatje’s ill-fated love story but omitted the complex sequence of catastrophic events that form the novel’s anti-war core. Stopping at the movie and not reading this book is like taking the Mount Roberts tram to the gift shop and not walking to the cross.
• “Words Under the Words,” poems by Naomi Shihab Nye (1994)
The Palestinian-American’s poems explicate both the conflicts and commonalities of the post-boundary world citizen. The truths in these poems, often spoken softly, are well worth leaning in to hear. This from “Kindness”:
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
If the protagonists in the above five selections may be said to have anything in common, it is a shared familiarity with that “desolate . . . landscape . . . between the regions of kindness.”