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2020 Book Concierge: Ari Shapiro Picks 'Piranesi' By Susanna Clarke

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're celebrating an annual December tradition today, the launch of NPR's Book Concierge. It's bigger than a top 10 list - much bigger - more than 350 titles, including NPR staff picks. And one of mine is a novel called "Piranesi" by Susanna Clarke. When I interviewed Clarke earlier this year, she told me about parallels between her protagonist and her own experience. The character Piranesi is disoriented and trapped in a mysterious sort of house, and Susanna Clarke spent years struggling with an illness that left her disoriented and housebound.

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SUSANNA CLARKE: And I was writing a story about someone who lives largely alone but in a vast house, in a house in which there are many, many things to explore and many avenues of exploration. And there's still knowledge to be found and still wonders to be seen, and there's still beauty to fill your eyes even though you are cut off from a lot of other things.

SHAPIRO: In a labyrinthine mansion where oceans roar through the basement, Piranesi wanders through endless halls of marble statues.

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CLARKE: He's in a very strange and, in some ways, inhospitable place. But he doesn't feel it's inhospitable. It is a meaningful place. The statues and the house all feel, generally, overwhelmingly benevolent to him. And he feels like he is in communion with them, like he is sort of almost having a conversation with the world in which he finds himself.

SHAPIRO: Susanna Clarke on her novel "Piranesi," just one of the titles in NPR's Book Concierge this year. To help you find your way through this list, the concierge has categories like Ladies First, It's All Geek to Me and The Dark Side. The Concierge is at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF AGNES OBEL'S "MARY (INSTRUMENTAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.