STAFF RECOMMENDATIONSall reviews are from Goodreads.com, unless noted otherwise
My “books on deck” pile list is out of control! I have been coming across so many interesting new and old titles there is no way I will be able to get through them this fall. Here’s to a snowy winter!
I am also just finishing up a wonderful series with my 9 year old son titled, “Gregor the Overlander.” Gently exploring the morality of war, xenophobia, genocide and what it means to be a man, this series follows a boy straddling not only two worlds, but boyhood and manhood, peace and war, and many other forks in the road to becoming the person he truly feels he is and wants to be.
“The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help” by Amanda Palmer
Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world’s most successful music Kickstarter.
Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn’t alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.
Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love.
“10:04” by Ben Lerner
In the last year, the narrator of 10:04 has enjoyed unlikely literary success, has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal medical condition, and has been asked by his best friend to help her conceive a child. In a New York of increasingly frequent superstorms and social unrest, he must reckon with his own mortality and the prospect of fatherhood in a city that might soon be underwater. Lerner captures what it’s like to be alive now, during the twilight of an empire, when the difficulty of imagining a future is changing our relationship to both the present and the past.
“If Nuns Ruled the World” by Joe Piazza
Veteran reporter Jo Piazza profiles ten extraordinary nuns and the causes to which they have dedicated their lives—from an eighty-three-year-old Ironman champion to a sassy campaigner for equal wealth distribution
Meet Sister Simone Campbell, who traversed the United States challenging a Republican budget that threatened to severely undermine the well-being of poor Americans; Sister Megan Rice, who is willing to spend the rest of her life in prison if it helps eliminate nuclear weapons; and the inimitable Sister Jeannine Gramick, who is fighting for acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church. During a time when American nuns are under attack from the very institution to which they pledge, these sisters offer inspiring, provocative counterstories that are sure to spark debate.
Overthrowing our popular perception of nuns as killjoy schoolmarms content to live in the annals of nostalgia, Piazza defines them instead as the most vigorous catalysts of change in an otherwise constricting patriarchy.
“Duplex” by Katherine Davis
* A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice * One of The Millions’s Most Anticipated Books of 2013 *
Mary and Eddie are meant for each other—but love is no guarantee, not in these suburbs. Like all children, they exist in an eternal present; time is imminent, and the adults of the street live in their assorted houses like numbers on a clock. Meanwhile, ominous rumors circulate, and the increasing agitation of the neighbors points to a future in which all will be lost. Soon a sorcerer’s car will speed down Mary’s street, and as past and future fold into each other, the resonant parenthesis of her girlhood will close forever. Beyond is adulthood, a world of robots and sorcerers, slaves and masters, bodies without souls. In Duplex, Kathryn Davis, whom the Chicago Tribune has called “one of the most inventive novelists at work today,” has created a coming-of-age story like no other. Once you enter the duplex—that magical hinge between past and future, human and robot, space and time—there’s no telling where you might come out.
“Gregor the Overlander Series” Set by Suzanne Collins
When Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, bats, cockroaches, and rats–but the fragile peace is about to fall apart.
Gregor wants no part in this conflict, but again and again, he and his family are drawn into the Underland. Gregor must find his place in the frightening prophecies he encounters, the strength to protect his family, and the courage to defend against an army of giant rats.
In this action-packed and masterful series, Suzanne Collins unfolds the fate of the Underland and its great warrior, Gregor the Overlander.
~MARY ANNE MEAD~
“Driftless” by David Rhodes
David Rhodes’s long-awaited new novel turns an unblinking eye on an array of eccentric characters and situations. The setting is Words, Wisconsin, an anonymous town of only a few hundred people. But under its sleepy surface, life rages. Cora and Graham guard their dairy farm, and family, from the wicked schemes of their milk co-op. Lifelong paraplegic Olivia suddenly starts to walk, only to find herself crippled by her fury toward her sister and caretaker, Violet. Recently retired Rusty finds a cougar living in his haymow, dredging up haunting childhood memories. Winifred becomes pastor of the Friends church and stumbles on enlightenment in a very unlikely place. And Julia Montgomery, both private and gregarious, instigates a series of events that threatens the town’s solitude and doggedly suspicious ways. Driftless finds the author’s powers undiminished in this unforgettable story that evokes a small-town America previously unmapped, and the damaged denizens who must make their way through it.
“The Chaperone” by Laura Moriarty
Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.
For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,’30s, and beyond—from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women—Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.
“Tenth of December” by George Saunders
A new story collection, the first in six years, from one of our greatest living writers, MacArthur “genius grant” recipient and New Yorker contributor George Saunders.
George Saunders, one of our most important writers, is back with a masterful, deeply felt collection that takes his literary powers to a new level. In a recent interview, when asked how he saw the role of the writer, Saunders said: “To me, the writer’s main job is to make the story unscroll in such a way that the reader is snared-she’s right there, seeing things happen and caring about them. And if you dedicate yourself to this job, the meanings more or less take care of themselves.” In Tenth of December, the reader is always right there, and the meanings are beautiful and profound and abundant. The title story is an exquisite, moving account of the intersection, at a frozen lake in the woods, of a young misfit and a middle-aged cancer patient who goes there to commit suicide, only to end up saving the boy’s life. “Home” is the often funny, often poignant account of a soldier returning from the war. And “Victory Lap” is a taut, inventive story about the attempted abduction of a teenage girl. In all, Tenth of December is George Saunders at his absolute best, a collection of stories and characters that add up to something deep, irreducible, and uniquely American.