Celebrate your local library by checking out one of these all-time greats | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Celebrate your local library by checking out one of these all-time greats

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The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is more than just books. It's a community space where both kids and adults are granted free access to computers, educational events, newspapers and magazines, language-learning courses, DVDs, and more.

But checking out books still remains one of the absolute best parts of having access to a library, and when our staff learned of the Carnegie Library workers' vote to join the United Steelworkers union, we compiled a list of some of our writers' all-time favorite books which you can borrow — for free! — at one of the city's many local branches in support of the librarians, library assistants, and clerks ready to help you check out your next read.

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The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol
by Nikolai Gogol
Borrow it here

They’re all funny, sad, and absurd, but favorites include “The Nose,” in which a barber finds a man’s nose in his morning bread; “The Overcoat,” a brutal story about a man attempting to better his station in life with a new coat (just like Marge Simpson with the pink dress); and the self-explanatory “Diary of a Madman,” which chronicles the unraveling mind of a government clerk who comes to believe he is the King of Spain. — Alex Gordon

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Severance
by Ling Ma
Borrow it here 

I'm not usually big on zombies or post-apocalyptic books because they feel too much like a fantasy about what would happen if the apocalypse hit. The end of the world could actually come, and we'd have no idea what to do because we spent so much time thinking about an unrealistic version. Severance follows Candace, a bible designer who is one of the few humans left after a deadly fever sweeps the world. She spends her time wandering around ghostly New York City and eventually meets up with a group of others and ends up living in the bleak ruin of capitalism: a mall. It’s sad and funny, optimistic, and disheartening. — Hannah Lynn

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Geek Love
by Katherine Dunn
Borrow it here

There's no book I've spent more money on than Geek Love. Not because the book itself is expensive, but because I love it so much that I've not only gifted it to friends and family, but I have a habit of lending it out to folks and forgetting to get it back. This has resulted in purchasing it for myself over and over again because it's that special kind of book I can't live without and still reread every few years. It's a beautiful love story about a family of traveling carnival freaks, children intentionally born with physical deformities like flippers and tails because their parents took drugs to purposely alter their genetics in hopes of saving the family business. I can't recommend it enough, but please, just borrow this book from the library so I don't have to lend you my copy. — Lisa Cunningham



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The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage
by Philip Pullman
Borrow it here

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
by Hannah Tinti
Borrow it here

I read a lot of books on my Kindle through the library app, Overdrive, and both of these titles are readily available. They're both engrossing, adventurous, highly romantic fantasies and in their own rights. This was the first Philip Pullman book I ever read and I adored it. I read Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief before this and couldn't wait until her next book. — Amanda Waltz

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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
by Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, and Steven L. Hopp
Borrow it here

Barbara Kingsolver and her family uproot from Arizona to a small farm in Virginia on a mission to eat only locally-grown food for an entire year. She takes you through their experiences: preserving, harvesting, cheesemaking, turkey butchering, and how it changed their perspective on the food industry. — Maggie Weaver

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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
by Tom Wolfe
Borrow it here

This book checks all my boxes: cross-country travel, fiction based on true events, and the 1960s. All made even better by Tom Wolfe, one of my favorite writers. His writing style — it's rumored he would write, throw the pages on the floor, and then randomly pick things up and put them together — is one I, and many others, wish to emulate. It's littered with specifics like brand names and cultural references, but at the same time, Wolfe can go on to describe one thing for pages, taking the reader off track but adding to the story overall. It's all over the place, yet somehow paints a picture better than most — a true master. — Jordan Snowden

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Mysteries of Pittsburgh
by Michael Chabon
Borrow it here

Before I knew anything about Pittsburgh, all my knowledge was wrapped up in the Carnegie Library, the Cloud Factory, and the Lost Neighborhood. (That’s the main branch in Oakland, its accompanying steam stack that billows steam into the air, and the Panther Hollow neighborhood below the Schenley Drive bridge.) Chabon’s first novel taught me to love a Pittsburgh summer, even before I had experienced one. —Ryan Deto

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