2015 Summer Reads

Looking for an engrossing, entertaining or fluffy summer read? Check out some of the titles our patrons have recommended below. Some new, some old, some poignant, others pure entertainment, all noteworthy.

 

“The Meaning of Human Existence”  E.O. Wilson

How did humanity originate and why does a species like ours exist on this planet? Do we have a special place, even a destiny in the universe? Where are we going, and perhaps, the most difficult question of all, “Why?”

In The Meaning of Human Existence, his most philosophical work to date, Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson grapples with these and other existential questions, examining what makes human beings supremely different from all other species. Searching for meaning in what Nietzsche once called “the rainbow colors” around the outer edges of knowledge and imagination, Wilson takes his readers on a journey, in the process bridging science and philosophy to create a twenty-first-century treatise on human existence—from our earliest inception to a provocative look at what the future of mankind portends.

Continuing his groundbreaking examination of our “Anthropocene Epoch,” which he began with The Social Conquest of Earth, described by the New York Times as “a sweeping account of the human rise to domination of the biosphere,” here Wilson posits that we, as a species, now know enough about the universe and ourselves that we can begin to approach questions about our place in the cosmos and the meaning of intelligent life in a systematic, indeed, in a testable way.

Once criticized for a purely mechanistic view of human life and an overreliance on genetic predetermination, Wilson presents in The Meaning of Human Existence his most expansive and advanced theories on the sovereignty of human life, recognizing that, even though the human and the spider evolved similarly, the poet’s sonnet is wholly different from the spider’s web. Whether attempting to explicate “The Riddle of the Human Species,” “Free Will,” or “Religion”; warning of “The Collapse of Biodiversity”; or even creating a plausible “Portrait of E.T.,” Wilson does indeed believe that humanity holds a special position in the known universe.

The human epoch that began in biological evolution and passed into pre-, then recorded, history is now more than ever before in our hands. Yet alarmed that we are about to abandon natural selection by redesigning biology and human nature as we wish them, Wilson soberly concludes that advances in science and technology bring us our greatest moral dilemma since God stayed the hand of Abraham. ~Goodreads

 

“The Birth of Rock and Roll”  Jim Linderman

In “The Birth of Rock and Roll,” Americana collector Jim Linderman has arranged a storyboard of sorts that dramatizes the spirit of rock and roll in its early days-when “a juke-joint with fifty patrons was a big show,” as Linderman writes in his introduction. “A church with fifty congregants was a full house. The annual square dance at the town hall, a rent party, a fish-fry, the honky-tonk piano in the whore house, the union meeting There was no real money in it. A performer was lucky to be fed, get drunk and get laid.” The photographs have little to do with the conventional iconography of the birth of rock and roll: conspicuously absent are pictures of young white men in Memphis, poodle skirts, Alan Freed and Bill Haley’s Brylcream. These photographs instead document and celebrate the pure but indefinable essence of rocking. Ordinary, anonymous men, women and children-some white, some black-are holding guitars and strumming while looking relaxed or frantic, but nearly always blissful. Some of the action takes place in rural fields, some in dance halls, some at civic events, some in living rooms and basements. Wherever there was an urge to make acoustic or electric music-whether to help at a rent party, busk in front of a crowd or testify in the name of Jesus-there was an uncredited photographer there to snap an image, and these are the photographs that comprise Linderman’s fascinating narrative. ~Goodreads

Mistress of the Art of Death (Mistress of the Art of Death, #1)“Mistress of the Art of Death Series”  Ariana Franklin

A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction. In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town’s Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry II is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest “master of the art of death,” an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia-the king has been sent a “mistress” of the art of death. Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king’s tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia’s investigation takes her into Cambridge’s shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again.~Goodreads

 

Black River“Black River”  S.M. Hulse

“Reminiscent of Wiley Cash. Her first novel and one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. I got up early this morning just to read this!”
A tense Western and an assured debut, Black River tells the story of a man marked by a prison riot as he returns to the town-and the convict-who shaped him. When Wes Carver returns to Black River, he carries two things in the cab of his truck: his wife’s ashes and a letter from the prison parole board. The convict who held him hostage during a riot, twenty years ago, is being considered for release. Wes has been away from Black River ever since the riot. He grew up in this small Montana town, encircled by mountains, and, like his father before him and most of the men there, he made his living as a Corrections Officer. A talented, natural fiddler, he found solace and joy in his music. But during that riot Bobby Williams changed everything for Wes–undermining his faith and taking away his ability to play.How can a man who once embodied evil ever come to good? How can he pay for such crimes with anything but his life? As Wes considers his own choices and grieves for all he’s lost, he must decide what he believes and whether he can let Williams walk away. ~Goodreads

 

The Nightingale“The Nightingale”  Kristin Hannah

“Awesome!!! WWII in France. The best book I have read in a long time!”

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime. ~Goodreads

 

A Three Dog Life“A Three Dog Life”  Abigail Thomas
“Highly recommended! A great book for people who are caregivers.”
When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his brain shattered. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he must live the rest of his life in an institu­tion. He has no memory of what he did the hour, the day, the year before. This tragedy is the ground on which Abigail had to build a new life. How she built that life is a story of great courage and great change, of moving to a small country town, of a new family composed of three dogs, knitting, and friendship, of facing down guilt and discovering gratitude. It is also about her relationship with Rich, a man who lives in the eternal present, and the eerie poetry of his often uncanny perceptions. This wise, plainspoken, beautiful book enacts the truth Abigail discovered in the five years since the acci­dent: You might not find meaning in disaster, but you might, with effort, make something useful of it. ~Goodreads

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

“In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette”  Hampton Sides
New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides returns with a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded AgeIn the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: the North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans, although theories abounded. The foremost cartographer in the world, a German named August Petermann, believed that warm currents sustained a verdant island at the top of the world. National glory would fall to whoever could plant his flag upon its shores.James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric and stupendously wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world’s attention by dispatching Stanley to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone. Now he was keen to re-create that sensation on an even more epic scale. So he funded an official U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole, choosing as its captain a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. De Long led a team of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters, carrying the aspirations of a young country burning to become a world power. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of “Arctic Fever.”The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship. Less than an hour later, the Jeannette sank to the bottom,and the men found themselves marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia with only the barest supplies. Thus began their long march across the endless ice-a frozen hell in the most lonesome corner of the world. Facing everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and frosty labyrinths, the expedition battled madness and starvation as they desperately strove for survival.With twists and turns worthy of a thriller, In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on Earth. ~Goodreads

The Whites“The Whites”  Harry Brandt

The electrifying tale of a New York City police detective under siege-by an unsolved murder, by his own dark past, and by a violent stalker seeking revenge.Back in the run-and-gun days of the mid-1990s, when a young Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of an aggressive anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese, he made headlines by accidentally shooting a ten-year-old boy while struggling with an angel-dusted berserker on a crowded street. Branded as a loose cannon by his higher-ups, Billy spent years enduring one dead-end posting after another. Now in his early forties, he has somehow survived and become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch, a small team of detectives charged with responding to all post-midnight felonies from Wall Street to Harlem. Mostly, his unit acts as little more than a set-up crew for the incoming shift, but after years in police purgatory, Billy is content simply to do his job.
Then comes a call that changes everything: Night Watch is summoned to the four a.m. fatal slashing of a man in Penn Station, and this time Billy’s investigation moves beyond the usual handoff to the day tour. And when he discovers that the victim was once a suspect in the unsolved murder of a twelve-year-old boy-a savage case with connections to the former members of the Wild Geese-the bad old days are back in Billy’s life with a vengeance, tearing apart enduring friendships forged in the urban trenches and even threatening the safety of his family. Razor-sharp and propulsively written, The Whites introduces Harry Brandt-a new master of American crime fiction.~Goodreads

Uttermost Part of the Earth“Uttermost Part of the Earth”  E. Lucas Bridges

Rapturous praise met the publication of Lucas Bridges’ marvelous chronicle of Tierra del Fuego when it first came out in 1947, and that praise has hardly abated these past sixty years, nor has a book been written which supplants Uttermost Part of the Earth as the classic work on Tierra del Fuego and the little-known culture of the now-extinct Fuegian Indians.When the author was born in Tierra del Fuego in 1874, it was truly an unknown land. On the southern coast was the small settlement established by his missionary parents; the rest of it, over 18,000 square miles of mountain, forest, marsh, and lake, was the hunting ground of fierce and hostile tribes. Bridges grew up amongst the coastal Yaghans, learning their language and their ways. In young manhood he made contact with the wild inland Ona tribe, became their friend and hunting companion, and was initiated into the men’s lodge.Surely the New York Times’ critics’s prediction for this book on its first publication has come true: “I have no doubt that Uttermost Part of the Earth will achieve a permanent place in the literature of several subjects: adventure, anthropology, and frontier history.” Indeed it is still the essential work and indispensable introduction for anyone yearning to experience the breathtaking remoteness and stunning landscapes of this far-flung wilderness at the “uttermost part of the earth.” ~Goodreads

Staff & Patron Favorites, Winter 2015

 

PATRON SUGGESTIONS

A Bad Character / Deepti Kapoor

From Goodreads:
“She is twenty, restless in New Delhi. Her mother has died; her father has left for Singapore. He is a few years older, just back to India from New York.

When they meet in a café one afternoon, she—lonely, hungry for experience, yearning to break free of tradition—casts aside her fears and throws herself headlong into a love affair, one that takes her where she has never been before.

Told in a voice at once gritty and lyrical, mournful and frank, A Bad Character marks the arrival of an astonishingly gifted new writer. It is an unforgettable hymn to a dangerous, exhilarating city, and a portrait of desire and its consequences as timeless as it is universal. ”

 

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette / Hampton Sides

“Are you someone who has always been fascinated by the story of Shackleton and The Endurance, but felt that the ending was just too damn happy? If so, I highly recommend reading this book.”

From Goodreads:
“In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: the North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans, although theories abounded. The foremost cartographer in the world, a German named August Petermann, believed that warm currents sustained a verdant island at the top of the world. National glory would fall to whoever could plant his flag upon its shores.

James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric and stupendously wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world’s attention by dispatching Stanley to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone. Now he was keen to re-create that sensation on an even more epic scale. So he funded an official U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole, choosing as its captain a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. De Long led a team of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters, carrying the aspirations of a young country burning to become a world power. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of “Arctic Fever.”

The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship. Less than an hour later, the Jeannette sank to the bottom,and the men found themselves marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia with only the barest supplies. Thus began their long march across the endless ice-a frozen hell in the most lonesome corner of the world. Facing everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and frosty labyrinths, the expedition battled madness and starvation as they desperately strove for survival.

With twists and turns worthy of a thriller, In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on Earth.”

 

Maeve’s Times / Maeve Binchy

“Fascinating, what a gift she gave us with her writings!”
From Goodreads
‘As someone who fell off a chair not long ago trying to hear they what they were saying at the next table in a restaurant, I suppose I am obsessively interested in what some might consider the trivia of other people’s lives’

Maeve Binchy is well-known for her bestselling novels, the most recent of which was A Week In Winter. But for many years Maeve was a journalist, writing for The Irish Times.

From ‘The Student Train’ to ‘Plane Bores’, ‘Bathroom Joggers’ to ‘When Beckett met Binchy’, these articles have all the warmth, wit and humanity of her fiction. Arranged in decades, from the 1960s to the 2000s, and including Maeve’s first and last ever piece of writing for The Irish Times, the columns also give a fascinating insight into the author herself.

With an introduction written by her husband, the writer Gordon Snell, this collection of timeless writing reminds us of why the leading Irish writer was so universally loved.

 

STAFF SUGGESTIONS

~Lisa Murray~

“A woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Though her own circumstances remain indistinct, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives, as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives.

Beginning with the neighbouring passenger on the flight out and his tales of fast boats and failed marriages, the storytellers talk of their loves and ambitions and pains, their anxieties, their perceptions and daily lives. In the stifling heat and noise of the city the sequence of voice begins to weave a complex human tapestry. The more they talk the more elliptical their listener becomes, as she shapes and directs their accounts until certain themes begin to emerge: the experience of loss, the nature of family life, the difficulty of intimacy and the mystery of creativity itself.

Outline is a novel about writing and talking, about self-effacement and self-expression, about the desire to create and the human art of self-portraiture in which that desire finds its universal form.” From Goodreads

 

“From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is a bold and brilliant collection; winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize.

Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain—real and imagined, her own and others’—Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory—from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration—in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.” From Goodreads

 

What we see when we read : a phenomenology ; with illustrations / Peter Mendelsund.

“A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading-how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader.

What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?

The collection of fragmented images on a page – a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so – and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved – or reviled – literary figures.

In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf’s Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature – he thinks of himself first, and foremost, as a reader – into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.” From Goodreads

 

~Mary Anne Mead~

Remedy for Love / Bill Roorbach. 

“This title is on the shortlist for the Maine Readers Choice Award and he’s coming to the Library on July 8th to do a book talk. Liking it a lot!”

From Goodreads
“They’re calling it the “Storm of the Century,” so Eric stops at the market for provisions on his way home from work. But when the unkempt and seemingly unstable young woman in front of him in line comes up short on cash, a kind of old-school charity takes hold of his heart—twenty bucks and a ride home is the least he can do, right? Trouble is, Danielle doesn’t really have a home. She’s squatting in a cabin deep in the woods, no electricity, no heat, nothing but the nearby river to sustain her. She’ll need food, water, firewood, and that’s just to get her through the storm: there’s a whole Maine winter ahead.

So he gets her set up, departs with relief, climbs to the road, but his car has been towed with his phone inside, and the snow is coming down with historic speed and violence. There’s no choice but to return to the cabin. Danielle is terrified, then merely hostile—who is this guy with his big idea that it’s she who needs rescuing? As the snow keeps mounting, they’re forced to ride out the storm together. For better and for worse.

The Remedy for Love is a harrowing story about the truths we reveal when there is no time or space for artifice.

“The Remedy for Love is not the remedy for sleep deprivation. You’ll stay up all night . . . It is relentless and brilliant. Leave it to Roorbach to tease out the subtlest nuances in the progress of love while stoking a tale that is as gripping as any Everest expedition—and that is also tender and terrifying and funny and, in the end, so true it seems inevitable. I’m not sure there’s another American writing today who can lay down a love story, or any story, with the depth and appeal and freshness of Bill Roorbach.” -Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars

 

All the Light We Cannot See / by Anthony Doerr

“Fantastic – every chapter like a poem – beautifully written.”

From Goodreads
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

 

First impressions : a novel of old books, unexpected love, and Jane Austen / by Charlie Lovett. 

“The title says it all.  It was a fun read – entertaining.”

From Goodreads
Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield.  Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

 

~Candy Emlen~

In the Country of Men / by Hisham Matar

“In honor of the Muslim Journeys program I was reading In the Country of Men.The writing is beautiful, very lyrical.”

From Goodreads
“Libya, 1979. Nine-year-old Suleiman’s days are circumscribed by the narrow rituals of childhood: outings to the ruins surrounding Tripoli, games with friends played under the burning sun, exotic gifts from his father’s constant business trips abroad. But his nights have come to revolve around his mother’s increasingly disturbing bedside stories full of old family bitterness. And then one day Suleiman sees his father across the square of a busy marketplace, his face wrapped in a pair of dark sunglasses. Wasn’t he supposed to be away on business yet again? Why is he going into that strange building with the green shutters? Why did he lie? Suleiman is soon caught up in a world he cannot hope to understand-where the sound of the telephone ringing becomes a portent of grave danger; where his mother frantically burns his father’s cherished books; where a stranger full of sinister questions sits outside in a parked car all day; where his best friend’s father can disappear overnight, next to be seen publicly interrogated on state television.”

 

~Kate McMullin~

Shards of Honour / Lois Bujold McMaster (The Vorkosigan Saga: Book 1)

“Hooked on the Vorkosigan Series by Lois Bujold McMaster. Classic space science fiction with intelligent dialogue and intriguingly unpredictable protagonists. Trying to limit myself so I don’t wiz through them and miss out on interacting with family and friends as happens when I get hooked. In attempting to slow myself down on the series, I read 2 of the Curse of Chalion series also by Bujold. Medieval fantasy.”

From Goodreads
“In her first trial by fire, Cordelia Naismith captained a throwaway ship of the Betan Expeditionary Force on a mission to destroy an enemy armada. Discovering deception within deception, treachery within treachery, she was forced into a separate peace with her chief opponent, Lord Aral Vorkosigan – he who was called “The Butcher of Komarr” – and would consequently become an outcast on her own planet and the Lady Vorkosigan on his.

Sick of combat and betrayal, she was ready to settle down to a quiet life, interrupted only by the occasional ceremonial appearances required of the Lady Vorkosigan. But when the Emperor died, Aral became guardian of the infant heir to the imperial throne of Barrayar – and the target of high-tech assassins in a dynastic civil war that was reminscent of Earth’s Middle Ages, but fought with up-to-the-minute biowar technology. Neither Aral nor Cordelia guessed the part that their cell-damaged unborn would play in Barrayari’s bloody legacy.”

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood / Fatema Mernissi

“A book that should be on the high school reading list. This is about her girlhood in a harem in Morocco in the 40s. Wow. No matter your thoughts on Islam, this is an amazing read for the context of female-female power struggle and political history of French and Spanish tug-of-war over Morocco.”

From Goodreads
”I was born in a harem in 1940 in Fez, Morocco…” So begins Fatima Mernissi in this exotic and rich narrative of a childhood behind the iron gates of a domestic harem. In Dreams of Trespass, Mernissi weaves her own memories with the dreams and memories of the women who surrounded her in the courtyard of her youth—women who, deprived of access to the world outside, recreated it from sheer imagination. Dreams of Trespass is the provocative story of a girl confronting the mysteries of time and place, gender and sex in the recent Muslim world.”

 

Spring 2014 Staff and Patron Recommendations

Patron Recommendations

“The Goldfinch” Donna Tartt

“The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind….Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction.”–Stephen King,

The New York Times Book Review Composed with the skills of a master, The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity.

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

 

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

Young Adult

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

 

 

 

gallery

A patron checking out cookbooks the other day suggested I might enjoy the webpage for James Lileks’ “Gallery of Regrettable Food.” Once there I couldn’t stop laughing at the collections of cookbook images from the 70’s on down to the golden age of 1950’s cooking meets Kodachrome photography.

They’re not really recipe books. They’re ads for food companies, with every recipe using the company’s products, often in unexpected ways. (Hot day? Kids love a frosty Bacon Milkshake!) There’s not a single edible dish in the entire collection. The pictures in the books are ghastly – the Italian dishes look like a surgeon got a sneezing fit during an operation, and the queasy casseroles look like something on which the janitor dumps sawdust. But you have to enjoy the spirit behind the books – cheerful postwar perfect housewifery is taught in every book. Sure, you’ll fall short of the ideal. But what’s an ideal for if not to show up your shortcomings? Perhaps the main reason people buy these books is the Mom factor. At least that’s my excuse. They’re everyday relics of another time, my parents’ time, and this gives them a poignancy they do not deserve, and do nothing to earn. But I love them anyway.” ~http://www.lileks.com/

 

“TransAtlantic” by Colum McCann

A patron returned this books with overwhelming praise: “A fascinating story and very well told. The audio version was amazing!”

GoodReads says: “National Book Award-winning novelist Colum McCann delivers his most ambitious and beautiful novel yet, tying together a series of narratives that span 150 years and two continents in an outstanding act of literary bravura.

In 1845 a black American slave lands in Ireland to champion ideas of democracy and freedom, only to find a famine unfurling at his feet. In 1919, two brave young airmen emerge from the carnage of World War One to pilot the very first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland. And in 1998 an American senator criss-crosses the ocean in search of a lasting Irish peace. Bearing witness to these history-making moments of Frederick Douglass, John Alcock and “Teddy” Brown, and George Mitchell, and braiding the story together into one epic tale, are four generations of women from a matriarchal clan, beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan. In this story of dark and light, men and women, history and past, fiction and fact, National Book Award-winning novelist Colum McCann delivers a tour de force that is his most spectacular achievement to date.”

Patron & Staff Recommendations: Summer 2013

What do you look for in a good summer read? Many folks are so busy they want something fluffy, pithy or intensely engaging. Others want something meatier than their usual fare, and still others take advantage of the lazy long days to read the old classics, or summer published titles, books on a specific ‘summer’ subject, or even to just get caught up on the bestseller list. Here are a few ideas from the library staff and patrons to get you through the chaos, or calm, of summer:

STAFF PICKS

Kate McMullin

“The Coroner’s Lunch” by Colin Cotterill

1970s Laos, National coroner of Laos, wry, crime drama, and historical context works.

From Goodreads
“Laos, 1975. The Communist Pathet Lao has taken over this former French colony. Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old Paris-trained doctor, is appointed national coroner. Although he has no training for the job, there is no one else; the rest of the educated class has fled.

He is expected to come up with the answers the party wants. But crafty and charming Dr.Siri is immune to bureaucratic pressure. At his age, he reasons, what can they do to him? And he knows he cannot fail the dead who come into his care without risk of incurring their boundless displeasure. Eternity could be a long time to have the spirits mad at you.”

 

 

“Divergent” by Veronica Roth

Future society in which U.S. population divided into 5 factions (Abnegation, Candor, Dauntless, Amity, Erudite). 16-year-olds must choose one
(those who do not chose their family faction are “Transfers”) and survive the initiation
into their faction. For those who may have more than one faction trait, they are
considered Divergent, AND to be shunned, factionless, or worse. Beatrice only learns
about Divergents as the realities of her society emerge, and she must choose between
Faction or Family.  Good stuff.
 


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Candy Emlen
In the summer I like to read books that involve severe weather. It’s so much fun to sit on the porch and read about someone surviving a storm at sea or living through a winter blizzard. I just finished Above All Things by Tanis Rideout – it met my criteria perfectly.

“Above All Things” by Tanis Rideout 

From GoodReads

The Paris Wife meets Into Thin Air in this breathtaking debut novel of obsession and divided loyalties, which brilliantly weaves together the harrowing story of George Mallory’s ill-fated 1924 attempt to be the first man to conquer Mount Everest, with that of a single day in the life of his wife as she waits at home in England for news of his return.A captivating blend of historical fact and imaginative fiction, Above All Things moves seamlessly back and forth between the epic story of Mallory’s legendary final expedition and a heartbreaking account of a day in the life of Ruth Mallory. Through George’s perspective, and that of the newest member of the climbing team, Sandy Irvine, we get an astonishing picture of the terrible risks taken by the men on the treacherous terrain of the Himalaya. But it is through Ruth’s eyes that a complex portrait of a marriage emerges, one forged on the eve of the First World War, shadowed by its losses, and haunted by the ever-present possibility that George might not come home.

Drawing on years of research, this powerful and beautifully written novel is a timeless story of desire, redemption, and the lengths we are willing to go for honour, glory, and love.

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Lisa Murray
I like to use summer as a time to really broaden my sights with my book selection. I tend to read things I wouldn’t normally open during the rest of the year, more experimental writings and YA. I also don’t have a lot of time, so graphic novels and short stories tend to be a mainstay in the warmer months. Here are a few titles that are on my Summer To-Read list.

The Graphic Canon, Vol. 3: From “Heart of Darkness” to Hemingway to “Infinite Jest”

From GoodReads
“The classic literary canon meets the comics artists, illustrators, and other artists who have remade reading in Russ Kick’s magisterial, three-volume, full-color The Graphic Canon, volumes 1, 2, and 3.

Volume 3 brings to life the literature of the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st, including a Sherlock Holmes mystery, an H.G. Wells story, an illustrated guide to the Beat writers, a one-act play from Zora Neale Hurston, a disturbing meditation on Naked Lunch, Rilke’s soul-stirring Letters to a Young Poet, Anaïs Nin’s diaries, the visions of Black Elk, the heroin classic The Man With the Golden Arm (published four years before William Burroughs’ Junky), and the postmodernism of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Kathy Acker, Raymond Carver, and Donald Barthelme.

The towering works of modernism are here–T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “The Waste Land,” Yeats’s “The Second Coming” done as a magazine spread, Heart of Darkness, stories from Kafka, The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf, James Joyce’s masterpiece,Ulysses, and his short story “Araby” from Dubliners, rare early work from Faulkner and Hemingway (by artists who have drawn for Marvel), and poems by Gertrude Stein and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

You’ll also find original comic versions of short stories by W. Somerset Maugham, Flannery O’Connor, and Saki (manga style), plus adaptations of Lolita (and everyone said it couldn’t be done!), The Age of InnocenceSiddhartha and Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestLast Exit to Brooklyn, J.G. Ballard’s Crash, and photo-dioramas forAnimal Farm and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Feast your eyes on new full-page illustrations for 1984Brave New WorldWaiting for Godot,One Hundred Years of Solitude,The Bell JarOn the RoadLord of the FliesThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and three Borges stories.

Robert Crumb’s rarely seen adaptation of Nausea captures Sartre’s existential dread. Dame Darcy illustrates Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece, Blood Meridian, universally considered one of the most brutal novels ever written and long regarded as unfilmable by Hollywood. Tara Seibel, the only female artist involved with the Harvey Pekar Project, turns in an exquisite series of illustrations for The Great Gatsby. And then there’s the moment we’ve been waiting for: the first graphic adaptation from Kurt Vonnegut’s masterwork, Slaughterhouse-Five. Among many other gems.”

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“Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life” by Ulli Lust
From Publisher’s Weekly
“With the punk phenomenon so often romanticized in popular culture, it can be easy to skew or forget the realities of the time. Not for Lust, though, who chronicles even the most unsavory details of a road trip she and unstable companion Enid took along the fringes of European society in 1984. Originally released almost a decade ago in German to international acclaim, this sprawling bildungsroman follows the duo on their haphazard trek from the streets of Vienna to the Italian sea. Along the way they panhandle, hitch rides, and crash with total strangers, many of whom expect their hospitality to be reciprocated with sexual favors. Rendered with lithe and spontaneous forms washed in appropriately sickly green, Lust surveys issues of personal identity and sexuality through her various encounters with the local demimonde, as well as her frustration with a faceless and indifferent public. Her recollections willfully expose the dark side of an anarchic lifestyle, yet are void of any didactic embellishment, and instead form a genuine and nonjudgmental look at aimless youth and rebellion. And what’s truer to punk than that?”
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“Mermaid in Chelsea Creek” by Michelle Tea

“Cult memoirist and adult fiction author Tea (Valencia) makes her YA debut with a gripping, though bleakly imagined fantasy. Sophie Swankowski drifts along in the still and depressing backwater of Chelsea, Mass., numbing her pain by holding her breath by the creek until she passes out, along with her friend Ella. This becomes a dangerous but seductive game. In one such reverie, teetering between death and unconsciousness, Sophie awakens to see a mermaid, “unreal but unmistakable.” After Sophie’s mother learns of her daughter’s habits, she forces Sophie to work for her scary, mean grandmother in the local dump. A mysterious cast of characters leads Sophie on a bizarre and enchanting quest to uncover the truth about her identity. Even through the veil of magical realism, the world of Sophie’s adolescence remains ugly, hopeless, and suffocating, a mood that’s amplified by Polan’s b&w line drawings. Still, readers will be impelled to explore this tangled web of human beings and beasts while awaiting Sophie’s redemption, whatever form it may take.”

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“Byzantium” by Ben Stroud.

From Publishers Weekly

“In the title story in this remarkable debut collection, the crippled son of a prominent general living in the eponymous ancient Greek city is called upon by the emperor for a harrowing and bloody task. “The Moor” features an academic who attempts to unravel the final years of a 19-century detective’s life. In “The Traitor of Zion,” an impressionable American cult member, also living in the 19th century, discovers the dark side of his leader and himself. And the death-obsessed middle-schooler of “Eraser” imagines ways to escape his step-father’s fishing trip while gaining the attention of his mother. Stroud writes convincingly in any time or mode, juggling heavily plotted stories of historical fiction that are cinematic in their sense of adventure and more traditional literary stories admirable for their restraint and close examination of intrapersonal conflicts. It can feel as if Stroud is trying to outdo himself, attempting to discover a narrative or time period he can’t conquer, as he places his characters into radically disparate worlds and genres; fortunately, every story is its own success, leaving the impression that Stroud can, indeed, do anything. This is an exciting and essential collection, unlike anything in recent memory, and a decidedly impressive debut.”
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Mary Anne Mead

I’ve been reading Jeffrey Archer’s “Clifton Chronicles.”  So far there are three in the series – “Only Time Will Tell”, “Sins of the Father”, and “Best Kept Secret”.  The first was good, a page turner, and the second, so far is as well.  I’ve been told he didn’t finish the third one very well – but there are more to come, so maybe it won’t be too bad.  They’re good summer reading! Also “A Land More Kind Than Home” and “The Uncommon Reader”.  Both are amazing books, very different from the Archer, which are good but summer fluff. The former is the author’s first and is one of the three finalists for the Maine Readers’ Choice Award! Another really good one I keep recommending is “A Stranger in the Kingdom.”

“Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles #1)” by Jeffrey Archer

From GoodReads
From the internationally bestselling author of Kane and Abel and A Prisoner of Birth comes Only Time Will Tell, the first in an ambitious new series that tells the story of one family across generations, across oceans, from heartbreak to triumph.

The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school, and his life will never be the same again.

As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question, was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

This introductory novel in Archer’s ambitious series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany. From the docks of working-class England to the bustling streets of 1940 New York City, Only Time Will Tell takes readers on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life one hundred years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the reader nor Harry Clifton himself could ever have imagined.

 

“A Land More Kind Than Home” by Wiley Cash

From Goodreads

A stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin, A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town.For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can’t help sneaking a look at something he’s not supposed to—an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess’s. It’s a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he’s not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil—but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.Told by three resonant and evocative characters—Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barefield, a sheriff with his own painful past—A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. These are masterful portrayals, written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.”

“The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett

From GoodReads
From the author of The History Boys and The Clothes They Stood Up In. A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading.
When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library  she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen’s transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word.With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England’s best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader’s life.

“A Stranger in the Kingdom” by Howard Frank Mosher

From GoodReads
Howard Frank Mosher has earned both critical acclaim and a wide readership for his vivid historical portraits of northern New England residents in his fictional Kingdom County, Vermont. A Stranger in the Kingdom tells the unforgettable story of a brutal murder in a small town and the devastating events that follow. The town’s new preacher, a black man, finds himself on trial more for who he is than for what he might have done in this powerful drama of passion, prejudice, and innocence suddenly lost . . . and perhaps found again
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PATRON PICKS

“Snapper” by 

“A great, hilarious new voice in fiction: the poignant, all-too-human recollections of an affable bird researcher in the Indiana backwater as he goes through a disastrous yet heartening love affair with the place and its people.Nathan Lochmueller studies birds, earning just enough money to live on. He drives a glitter-festooned truck, the Gypsy Moth, and he is in love with Lola, a woman so free-spirited and mysterious she can break a man’s heart with a sigh or a shrug. Around them swirls a remarkable cast of characters: the proprietor of Fast Eddie’s Burgers & Beer, the genius behind “Thong Thursdays”; Uncle Dart, a Texan who brings his swagger to Indiana with profound and nearly devastating results; a snapping turtle with a taste for thumbs; a German shepherd who howls backup vocals; and the very charismatic state of Indiana itself. And at the center of it all is Nathan, creeping through the forest to observe the birds he loves and coming to terms with the accidental turns his life has taken.”
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“The Shining Girls” by 

From Goodreads

THE GIRL WHO WOULDN’T DIE HUNTS THE KILLER WHO SHOULDN’T EXIST. The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own.” Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins theChicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .

THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

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Valley

“The Valley of Decision” by Marcia Davenport

From Amazon.com:
“On the eve of World War II  writer Marcia Davenport, best known for her biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, spent several years in Pittsburgh, her imagination caught by the drama of American industry.  In 1942, Charles Scribner’s sons published her Pittsburgh novel, The Valley of Decision.  It was an instant success, and its story of four generations of the Scott family – owners and operators of a Pittsburgh iron and steel works – has captured the imagination of three generations of readers.

The story is absorbing and complex, chronicling the family fortunes from the economic panic of 1873 through the dramatic rise of American industry and trade unionism, though waves of immigration, class conflict, natural disaster, World War I, to Pearl Harbor.

The first portion of the narrative covers the period 1873-83, when ironmaster William Scott, founder of the Scott Iron Works, marched with American industrial progress and died at the hands of union agitators.  The second section covers 1889-1929 and his son Paul, who inherits the mills and manages them well, embracing technology, the demands of the first World War, and an enlightened view of labor.  Part Three (1933-41) is the book of Claire, great-granddaughter of William.  Energetic, responsible, and worldy-wise, she fights to save the integrity of the family’s mills as they pass into the hands of corporation lawyers and bored Scott cousins.  It is also Claire who expands the story to Eastern Europe, where, as an international journalist, she brings the horrifying events leading to World War II to the attention of an impassive America.

But the central character in the Scott family saga is Mary Rafferty, an Irish maid who, as the novel opens, enters the Scott household at the age of sixteen.  Her sixty-eight years of service to the Scotts span the growth of the family’s mills and the vicissitudes of individual family members.  Mary is an advisor and trusted equal of the younger generations of Scotts, particularly Paul, for whom she is a driving force and lifelong love.  Mary sees beyond her station, perceptive in ways the wealthy Scotts are not.  Her unswerving loyalty to them, and her fierce independence from them, make her the core and the conscience of the family and of the book.”

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PUBLISHED THIS SUMMER

“Visitation Street” by Ivy Pochoda

From Publisher’s Weekly:
“Exquisitely written, Pochoda’s poignant second novel examines how residents of Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood deal with grief, urban development, loss, and teenage angst. In a fit of boredom, 15-year-old best friends Val Marino and June Giatto take a raft out on the bay one July evening, but only Val returns, her unconscious body washed up on the shore. June’s disappearance and what might have happened on the raft become the linchpin for Fadi, a Lebanese native who wants his bodega to be the pulse of neighborhood news; Jonathan Sprouse, a Julliard dropout with dark secrets; and 18-year-old Cree James, a kid from the projects who longs for a better life but remains stymied by his father’s murder. Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing) couples a raw-edged, lyrical look at characters’ innermost fears with an evocative view of Red Hook, a traditionally working-class area of Brooklyn undergoing gentrification that still struggles with racism and the aftermath of drug violence. By the end, the gap between “the front” of Red Hook with its well-tended streets near the waterfront and “the back” with its housing projects remains wide. Agent: Kim Witherspoon at Inkwell Management.”

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“One Thousand and One Nights” by Hanan al-Shaykh.

From Publisher’s Weekly
“For this retelling of the classic Arabic tales, Beirut-born al-Shaykh translated 19 of the originals and, beginning with its traditional frame story, embeds narrative within narrative to create a striking new version. To counter “the cunning and deceit of women,” King Shahrayar beds a new wife each night only to have her killed in the morning. But his vizier’s daughter, Shahrazad, vows to save the kingdom’s girls by marrying the king and then telling him stories that so enthrall him that he can’t kill her. From that opening, the stories build and fold in on themselves until we find ourselves back at the beginning. These stories pulse with sex, magic, and moral ambiguities; while terrible violence underscores moments of pure beauty. Guests are invited into a home only to encounter terrible cruelty; a woman becomes king so she can be a beacon for her lost love; a man plucks his eye for the pain he caused his family. Why retread such well-worn territory? In her foreword al-Shaykh (Women of Sand and Myrrh) speaks of rediscovering her own Arab roots while recognizing the power these ancient women held. Suprising and delightful, al-Shaykh’s masterful work has restored the tale to contemporary relevance.”

NONFICTION

“Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art”

 

Review from NPR

“The children’s author Maurice Sendak said that one of the highest compliments he’s ever received came from the mother of a little boy who had written to Sendak, and received an original drawing in return. The little boy loved it so much that he ate it. “He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.” Sometimes it isn’t enough to just look at a beautiful work of art. From Matisse parfait to Diebenkorn trifle, the desserts in this whimsical cookbook were inspired by the works on the walls of San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Caitlin Freeman, the book’s author and the pastry chef in SFMOMA’s cafe, decided to become a baker after seeing the cake paintings of Wayne Thiebaud. Her Mondrian cake, with its perfect De Stijl blocks of yellow, blue, red and white, pieced together with chocolate ganache, is a triumph — the coolest Mondrian interpretation since Yves Saint Laurent’s 1965 Mondrian shift dress. (Actually making the cake involves rulers and wire racks and specialty cake pans and, well, patience, but the batter tasted great.)”

Patron and Staff Recommendations: Spring 2013

Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

A rare and beautifully illustrated journey to fifty faraway worlds.

There are still places on earth that are unknown. Visually stunning and uniquely designed, this wondrous book captures fifty islands that are far away in every sense-from the mainland, from people, from airports, and from holiday brochures. Author Judith Schalansky used historic events and scientific reports as a springboard for each island, providing information on its distance from the mainland, whether its inhabited, its features, and the stories that have shaped its lore. With stunning full-color maps and an air of mysterious adventure, Atlas of Remote Island is perfect for the traveler or romantic in all of us.

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The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany by Graeme Gibson

From Goodreads
In this stunning assemblage of words and images, novelist and avid birdwatcher Graeme Gibson has crafted an extraordinary tribute to the venerable relationship between humans and birds.

Birds have ever been the symbols of our highest aspirations. As divine messengers, symbols of our yearning for the heavens, or avatars of glorious song and colour, they have stirred our imaginations from the moment we first looked into the sky. Whether as the Christian dove, or Quetzalcoatl—the Aztec Plumed Serpent—or in Plato’s vision of the human soul growing wings and feathers, religion and philosophy have looked to birds as representatives of our better selves—that part of us not bound to the earth.

With the passion of a birdwatcher and hoarder of words, Gibson has spent fifteen years collecting the literary and artistic forms our affinity for birds has taken over the centuries. Birds appear again and again in mythology and folk tales, and in literature by writers as diverse as Ovid, Thomas Hardy, Kafka, Thoreau and T.S. Eliot. They’ve been omens, allegories, disguises and guides; they’ve been worshipped, eaten, feared and loved. Nor does Gibson forget the fascination they hold for science, as the Galapagos finches did for Darwin. Birds figure charmingly and tellingly in the work of such nature writers as Gilbert White, Peter Matthiessen, Farley Mowat and Barry Lopez.

Gorgeously illustrated, woven from centuries of human response to the delights of the feathered tribes, The Bedside Book of Birds is for anyone who is aware of birds, and for everyone who is intrigued by the artistic forms that humanity has created to represent its soul.

From The Bedside Book of Birds ~

Stevenson remembered the story of a monk who had been distracted from his copy-work by the song of a bird. He went into the garden to listen more closely, and when he returned, after what he thought were only a few minutes, he discovered that a century had gone by, that his fellow monks were dead and his ink had turned to dust. The song of the bird had given him a taste of Paradise, where an instant is as a hundred years of earthly time. Was the same true of time in hell, Stevenson asked himself.
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Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian

From Goodreads
Delighting in the look and feel of books, conceptual artist Nina Katchadourian’s playful photographic series proves that books’ covers–or more specifically, their spines–can speak volumes. Over the past two decades, Katchadourian has perused libraries across the globe, selecting, stacking, and photographing groupings of two, three, four, or five books so that their titles can be read as sentences, creating whimsical narratives from the text found there. Thought-provoking, clever, and at times laugh-out-loud funny (one cluster of titles from the Akron Museum of Art’s research library consists of: Primitive Art/Just Imagine/Picasso/Raised by Wolves), Sorted Books is an enthralling collection of visual poems full of wry wit and bookish smarts.

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The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

From Goodreads
Leave it to Peter Heller to imagine a postapocalyptic world that contains as much loveliness as it does devastation. His hero, Hig, flies a 1956 Cessna (his dog as copilot) around what was once Colorado, chasing all the same things we chase in these pre-annihilation days: love, friendship, the solace of the natural world, and the chance to perform some small kindness. The Dog Stars is a wholly compelling and deeply engaging debut.” —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

A riveting, powerful novel about a pilot living in a world filled with loss—and what he is willing to risk to rediscover, against all odds, connection, love, and grace.

Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life—something like his old life—exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return—not enough fuel to get him home—following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face—in the people he meets, and in himself—is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.

Narrated by a man who is part warrior and part dreamer, a hunter with a great shot and a heart that refuses to harden, The Dog Stars is both savagely funny and achingly sad, a breathtaking story about what it means to be human.
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Still Life by Louise Penny

“I have had three separate patrons return a book in this series and beg me to let our patrons know what a fabulous series this is. It takes place in rural Quebec , outside of Montreal near the Vermont border.” ~Lisa Murray

From Goodreads
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

With this award-winning first novel, Louise Penny introduces an engaging hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces—and this series—with power, ingenuity, and charm.”

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gone girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“I have not been captivated and hooked on a book in a long time. I am a literary fiction reader,  NOT a mystery or detective reader, so I was a little dubious about my chances of actually finishing this book. After a dozen pages I knew I wouldn’t have any problem finishing. Flynn is an incredible writer…wry, clever and insightful. Her characters are interesting and multidimensional. The way she chose to tell the story just enhanced the entire storyline and character development.  I wasn’t wild about the ending, but not everything has to be neat and tidy!  Highly recommended by not just myself but many other librarians and patrons!” ~Lisa Murray

 

 

From Goodreads
Marriage can be a real killer.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

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The White Dove, by Rosie Thomas

white dove

From Goodreads

Born into an aristocratic family, beautiful Amy Lovell leads a whirlwind life of extravagant parties and debutante balls.

But Amy, curious about the world beyond the narrow confines of her class, is ill-suited to a life of indulgence. Eagerly embracing a nursing career, she is drawn into the radical politics of the day.

As the spectre of war looms, Amy’s bittersweet love for the proud miner Nick Penry – a love which defies the differences between them – leads them to the conflict in Spain, where love and pain become inseparable agonies.

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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

From Goodreads:

“In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook.

Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius  fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships: with plants and animals, the soil, farmers, our history and culture, and, of course, the people our cooking nourishes and delights. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.”

Patron Recommendations: October 2012

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg

“Amazing portrait of life on the Hebrides Islands, where a couple struggles to maintain their relationship in a place of extreme and brutal poverty.” ~SWHPL Patron

From Goodreads:

A portrait of a marriage, a meditation on faith, and a journey of conquest and self-discovery, Island of Wings is a passionate and atmospheric novel reminiscent of Wuthering Heights.

July, 1830. On the ten-hour sail west from the Hebrides to the islands of St. Kilda, everything lies ahead for Lizzie and Neil McKenzie. Neil is to become the minister to the small community of islanders, and Lizzie, his new wife, is pregnant with their first child. Neil’s journey is evangelical: a testing and strengthening of his own faith against the old pagan ways of the St. Kildans, but it is also a passage to atonement. For Lizzie — bright, beautiful, and devoted — this is an adventure, a voyage into the unknown. She is sure only of her loyalty and love for her husband, but everything that happens from now on will challenge all her certainties.
As the two adjust to life on an exposed archipelago on the edge of civilization, where the natives live in squalor and subsist on a diet of seabirds, and babies perish mysteriously in their first week, their marriage — and their sanity — is threatened. Is Lizzie a willful temptress drawing him away from his faith? Is Neil’s zealous Christianity unhinging into madness? And who, or what, is haunting the moors and cliff-tops?
Exquisitely written and profoundly moving, Island of Wings is more than just an account of a marriage in peril — it is also a richly imagined novel about two people struggling to keep their love, and their family, alive in a place of terrible hardship and tumultuous beauty.”

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

From Goodreads

“On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.”

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The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

From Goodreads:

“Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.”

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Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

“Centers around 3 women from their teen years until their 40’s growing up and going through WW II together. A real page turner. Reminded me of The Help in many ways.”      ~ SWHPL Patron

From Goodreads:

“For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, The Postmistress, and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave set during the years of World War II and its aftermath.
Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Next to Love follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.
Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.”

Welcome to SWHPL Readers’ Advisory!

One of my favorite jobs as a librarian is connecting people with books….in fact it is one of my favorite things to do in and out of work! I love readers’ advisory and I am very excited to be able to create a forum online where I can share some of what I know about the world of books as well as connect with my wonderful community online. On these pages you will find links to staff picks and reviews, helpful links related to finding and researching books as well as a variety of fun ways to contribute and show off your own collections. I will keep the library blog fresh and current, so return here often for monthly staff and patron reviews and picks as well as fun and interesting information I want to share with you. If you click on the monthly archive links on the bottom of the right-hand sidebar you will be able to sort through some past book reviews. Also on the right sidebar of each Book Nook page you will find a form you can use to submit to me your own book reviews. You can always email me directly at lmurray@swharbor.lib.me.us or connect with us on facebook here.