Finding that Special Book: Two Shortcuts

Coming up with the perfect next read can feel like trying to scratch an itch just out of reach: sometimes there's a craving for something in that charmed middle ground - not genre fiction, not a series, not one of the warhorse classics - but how to find it?

Though most readers probably don't think much about specific publishers, and even less of searching the library catalog by publisher's name, here are two richly rewarding ones guaranteed to supply years of engaging and often offbeat reading: Europa (also Europa Editions) and New York Review of Books (search also New York Review Books, without "of", and the series New York Review Books classics.).

Perhaps best known for their bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Europa offers a wide array of sophisticated international literature, much of it, like Hedgehog, in translation. Jane Gardam's Old Filth (Failed In London, Try Hong Kong) is the sharp, funny, and moving story of an expat English lawyer and his wife dealing with retirement in the motherland after years abroad, and is just one example of the excellent choices on hand from Europa.

The New York Review of Books has undertaken to reissue wonderful but neglected older books, including novels, memoirs, travel writing, and children's literature. One not to miss is  Richard Hughes' deeply weird A High wind in Jamaica, a story of inept pirates and kidnapped children sometimes compared to Lord of the Flies, but Golding's book is bland as butterscotch compared to this disturbing little masterpiece. Gregor von Rezzori's unforgettable portrait of his family in the obscure corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire called the Bukovina, Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, is one of those books which, once read, just begs to be passed along to a friend. And foodies will love Elizabeth David's A Book of Mediterranean Food, written during a time of gray post-WWII privation, which opened a sunny window onto views of olive and lemon groves for the ration-weary English.

Both of these publishers will steer the reader towards something completely new, or - just as fulfilling - towards one of those great, familiar-sounding authors one always meant to get around to reading.