Apartment concierges are usually portrayed as friendly old men whose most difficult task is to shoot the breeze with their residents and hail taxi cabs. Not so in Muriel Barbary’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Philosophy professor Barbary’s concierge protagonist Renée Michel thinks about metaphysics and reason in the universe all day in her upscale French apartment building. Her residents would never know it, however. Renée never discusses her huge thoughts with her rich Parisian residents. For readers turned off by philosophical musings, Barbary’s characterizations of the haughty men and women of the apartment building are what makes the book immensely readable. As does Renée’s new friend, Paloma Josse, a 12-year-old who finally can match wits with Renée.