The best books about loss and discovery

Why am I passionate about this?

For three decades I have been the first violinist of the Takács Quartet, performing concerts worldwide and based at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I love the ways in which books, like music, offer new and surprising elements at different stages of life, providing companionship alongside joys and sorrows. 


I wrote...

Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home

By Edward Dusinberre,

Book cover of Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home

What is my book about?

For the first years after I moved to Colorado, my impractical strategy for overcoming homesickness was to avoid any music or books that inspired nostalgia. Thirty years later however, music seems to me a powerful way to connect past and present, triggering memories at the same time as it offers new experiences. When  I was unable to travel to England during the COVID-19 pandemic, I turned to the music and lives of composers whose relationships to home and travel shaped the pursuit of their craft—Antonín Dvořák, Béla Bartók, and Benjamin Britten. Distant Melodies tells the stories of their American sojourns as they try to reconcile new surroundings with nostalgia for their homelands. The backdrop is my own changing relationship to England, Elgar’s music, and the idea of home. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Edward Dusinberre Why did I love this book?

In these five stories music is the catalyst that shapes the narrators’ encounters with regret, failure, and loss. Through seemingly straightforward but complex dialogue, surprising plot twists, and individual revelations, Ishiguro mixes whimsy and melancholy with moments of connection and revelation—a cocktail that is oddly comforting.   

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Nocturnes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available*

In Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro explores ideas of love, music and the passing of time. From the piazzas of Italy to the 'hush-hush floor' of an exclusive Hollywood Hotel, the characters we encounter range from young dreamers to cafe musicians to faded stars, all of them at some moment of reckoning.

Gentle, intimate and witty, this quintet is marked by a haunting theme - the struggle to keep alive a sense of life's romance, even as one gets older, relationships founder and youthful hopes recede.

'Each of these stories is…


Book cover of The Emigrants

Edward Dusinberre Why did I love this book?

One of the most original books I have ever read, and as such impossible to classify by genrea dizzying mix of memoir, history, and travel writing. As the separate stories of four apparently unrelated individuals unfold, Sebald exposes a common theme: the loss of identity through trauma and displacement. The stories are devastating and yet there is something hopeful in Sebald’s melancholic and vivid writing, the powerful case he makes for these stories being heard.

By W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Emigrants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The four long narratives in The Emigrants appear at first to be the straightforward biographies of four Germans in exile. Sebald reconstructs the lives of a painter, a doctor, an elementary-school teacher, and Great Uncle Ambrose. Following (literally) in their footsteps, the narrator retraces routes of exile which lead from Lithuania to London, from Munich to Manchester, from the South German provinces to Switzerland, France, New York, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Along with memories, documents, and diaries of the Holocaust, he collects photographs-the enigmatic snapshots which stud The Emigrants and bring to mind family photo albums. Sebald combines precise documentary with…


Book cover of Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey

Edward Dusinberre Why did I love this book?

Suspicious of biography, Malcolm dissects various myths about Chekhov’s death in this engaging book that mixes travel writing with acute readings of Chekhov’s stories and plays. As Malcolm visits some of the places crucial to Chekhov’s life and work (the scenes in Ukraine are of course poignant), she moves seamlessly between her own everyday experiences and the predicaments of Chekhov’s characters. In amongst the despair, disappointment, and absurdity she discovers beauty, humor, and occasional visions of hope.

By Janet Malcolm,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Reading Chekhov as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To illuminate the mysterious greatness of Anton Chekhov’s writings, Janet Malcolm takes on three roles: literary critic, biographer, and journalist. Her close readings of the stories and plays are interwoven with episodes from Chekhov’s life and framed by an account of Malcolm’s journey to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Yalta. She writes of Chekhov’s childhood, his relationships, his travels, his early success, and his self-imposed “exile”—always with an eye to connecting them to themes and characters in his work. Lovers of Chekhov as well as those new to his work will be transfixed by Reading Chekhov.


Book cover of A Month in Siena

Edward Dusinberre Why did I love this book?

I am always grateful for guidance on how to look at paintings: Matar’s exploration of Siena and the paintings of the Sienese school offers that and much more. Color reproductions of the paintings are accompanied by Matar’s insights into the works and the companionship they have provided in the years that have elapsed since his father, an opponent of the Gaddafi regime, was kidnapped. The author’s recognition that he will never see his father again underlies this beautiful meditation on art and loss.

By Hisham Matar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Month in Siena as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FROM THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING AND MAN BOOKER-SHORTLISTED AUTHOR

'Sparkles with brilliant observations on art and architecture, friendship and loss' Guardian

'Everybody should get to spend a month with Mr. Matar, looking at paintings' Zadie Smith, Wall Street Journal, Books of the Year
_______________________________________________

Matar was nineteen years old when his father was kidnapped. In the year following he found himself turning to art, particularly the great paintings of the Sienese School. They became a refuge and a way to think about the world outside the urgencies of the present.

A quarter of a century later, having found no trace of…


Book cover of Last Orders

Edward Dusinberre Why did I love this book?

The adopted son and three friends of Jack Dodds set off on a day trip by car to the seaside to honor his last wish by disposing of his ashes. The story unfolds from the points of view of all the main characters: the reader learns of their ambitions, disappointments, secrets, and betrayals. Swift exposes the tensions inherent in grief that is both individual and shared. It is as if Jack’s death grants the mourners the clarity to understand their own lives as they fulfill his last order.

By Graham Swift,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Last Orders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 1996

The classic edition of one of the 20th Century's finest novels

Four men once close to Jack Dodds, a London butcher, meet to carry out his peculiar last wish: to have his ashes scattered into the sea at Margate. For reasons best known to herself, Jack's widow, Amy, declines to join them . . . On the surface a simple tale of an increasingly bizarre day's outing, this Booker-prize winning, internationally acclaimed novel is a resonant and classic exploration of the complexity and courage of ordinary lives. Intensely local but overwhelmingly universal, faithful to…


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American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason

By Brett Dakin,

Book cover of American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason

Brett Dakin Author Of Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Lawyer Traveler Dog lover Reader Swimmer

Brett's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Meet Lev Gleason, a real-life comics superhero! Gleason was a titan among Golden Age comics publishers who fought back against the censorship campaigns and paranoia of the Red Scare. After dropping out of Harvard to fight in World War I in France, Gleason moved to New York City and eventually made it big with groundbreaking titles like Daredevil and Crime Does Not Pay.

Brett Dakin, Gleason's great-nephew, opens up the family archives—and the files of the FBI—to take you on a journey through the publisher's life and career. In American Daredevil, you'll learn the truth about Gleason's rapid rise…

American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason

By Brett Dakin,

What is this book about?

MEET LEV GLEASON, A REAL-LIFE COMICS SUPERHERO!

Gleason was a titan among Golden Age comics publishers who fought back against the censorship campaigns and paranoia of the Red Scare. After dropping out of Harvard to fight in France, Gleason moved to New York City and eventually made it big with groundbreaking titles like Daredevil and Crime Does Not Pay.

Brett Dakin, Gleason's great-nephew, opens up the family archives-and the files of the FBI-to take you on a journey through the publisher's life and career. In American Daredevil, you'll learn the truth about Gleason's rapid rise to the top of comics,…


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