We’re always on the lookout for books that strike a chord with our readers. In our New & Notable series you’ll find picks that appeal to our editors and that we can’t help but share. This week we were intrigued by Jo-Ann Mapson’s “mystery of the human heart”; startled by the relevance of Belinda Jack’s history of the fierce, centuries-long opposition, by all cultures, to female literacy; and engaged by Janet Groth’s inside story of life at The New Yorker in an era when receptionists had no hope of being promoted out of the front desk.


Fiction | Women | Domestic Fiction

In Finding Casey, by Jo-Ann Mapson, Glory Vigil, newly married and unexpectedly pregnant at 41, is nesting in the home she and her husband Joseph have just moved to in Santa Fe, a house that is rumoured to have a resident ghost. Their adopted daughter Juniper is home from college for Thanksgiving and in love for the very first time, quickly learning how a relationship changes everything. But Juniper has a tiny arrow lodged in her heart, a leftover shard from the day eight years earlier when her sister Casey disappeared—in a time before she’d ever met Glory and Joseph. When a fieldwork course takes Juniper to a pueblo only a few hours away, she finds herself right back in the past she thought she’d finally buried. (Excerpted from Bloomsbury USA, Publisher.)


“In this eagerly awaited sequel to Solomon’s Oak (2010), the magical, masterful Mapson reinforces her deserved reputation as a storyteller who captures women’s issues with distinctive honesty and daring insight.” — Booklist


Nonfiction | Women | Books & Reading | History

The Woman Reader, by Belinda Jack. This lively story has never been told before: the complete history of women’s reading and the ceaseless controversies it has inspired. Belinda Jack’s groundbreaking volume travels from the Cro-Magnon cave to the digital bookstores of our time, exploring what and how women of widely differing cultures have read through the ages. Jack traces a history marked by persistent efforts to prevent women from gaining literacy . . . . The book introduces frustrated female readers of many eras—Babylonian princesses who called for women’s voices to be heard, rebellious nuns who wanted to share their writings with others, confidantes who challenged Reformation theologians’ writings, nineteenth-century New England mill girls who risked their jobs to smuggle novels into the workplace, and women volunteers who taught literacy to women and children on convict ships bound for Australia. (Excerpted from Yale University Press, Publisher.)


“Jack] gives plenty of juicy and breath-taking examples of repression and mockery in any period you care to look at. Here goes: Juvenal, around 40AD, on ridiculous and repulsive female scholars. Philippe de Novare, in the early 13th century, on why girls shouldn’t learn to read or write unless they are going to be nuns, “since they might write or receive amorous missives . . .” The Guardian


Biography | Publishing | History—20th Century

The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker, by Janet Groth. Thanks to a successful interview with a painfully shy E. B. White, a beautiful nineteen-year-old hazel-eyed Midwesterner landed a job as receptionist at The New Yorker. There she stayed for two decades, becoming the general office factotum—watching and registering the comings and goings, marriages and divorces, scandalous affairs, failures, triumphs, and tragedies of the eccentric inhabitants of the eighteenth floor. In addition to taking their messages, Groth watered their plants, walked their dogs, boarded their cats, and sat their children (and houses) when they traveled. And although she dreamed of becoming a writer herself, she never advanced at the magazine. . . . During those single-in-the-city years, Groth tried on many identities—Nice Girl, Sex Pot, Dumb Blonde, World Traveler, Doctoral Candidate—but eventually she would have to leave The New Yorker to find her true self. (Excerpted from Algonquin Books, Publisher.)


“Ms. Groth’s curious, stillborn career at the magazine, and the reasons behind it, are the subject of her new memoir, The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker (Algonquin). Written in lean, graceful prose that offers ample evidence of her talent, the book is as much a window into the mythologized publication as it is a chronicle of one woman’s self-discovery.” —The New York Times


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