"The Reading List"| Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
They comfort, educate, inspire, challenge, sadden and tickle us—become treasures that live on in our minds and hearts. The most cherished may be passed on to friends, creating a shared pleasure that binds us one to another, bookworms attached at the hip.
“The Reading List,” a novel by Sara Nisha Adams, drives home the rapture of reading. It’s sure to be a favorite for any book lover, the sweet tale of an unlikely friendship between Aleisha, a lonely 17-year-old library aide in Wemberly, England, and Mukesh, an older gent, newly widowed and sorrowful after his wife’s death.
Their paths cross at the Harrow Road Library, a small library struggling to stay open.
Mukesh isn’t a reader, but his late wife Naina certainly was. When she passes, good hearted Mukesh feels obligated to return a book she’s checked out to the library, “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” Mukesh relates to the story and asks Aleisha if she could help him find other books he might like. But Aleisha is off-putting and rude.
We soon learn why Aleisha’s unhappy, and wears what her older brother calls her “resting bitch face.” The siblings’ mother is in a serious depression, and rarely gets out of bed, a dark period that’s been continual since her husband left her. Aleisha and Adian take turns staying with their mom, each manning a shift so she’s never alone.
When Aleisha finds a handwritten list of 8 book recommendations in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it becomes a catalyst for change, not only for Aleisha and Mukesh, but for others who find an identical list too.
The mystery of who created the list, and the reasons why aren’t revealed until the last chapter of this feel good story that stresses how books and libraries connect us. This impactful book might plant the seed for readers to create their own favorites’ list, an interesting project for book clubs who are sure to embrace this ode to all things literary.