If you loved Hidden Figures, try these books for other inspiring examples of women in math and science — from unsung heroines of the past, to those still pushing the limits of knowledge today.
If you loved Hidden Figures, try these books for other inspiring examples of women in math and science — from unsung heroines of the past, to those still pushing the limits of knowledge today.
2016 Maine Literary Awards Winners
In 2016, nearly one hundred and forty books were entered across the award’s categories; compare that to the 2011 awards when seventy books total were submitted. In addition, more than one hundred manuscripts were submitted into the award’s Short Works Competition, and nearly sixty Maine students submitted work in the same categories in the award’s Youth Competition.
Book Award for Fiction
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols
Book Award for Crime Fiction
An Unbeaten Man by Brendan Rielly
Book Award for Speculative Fiction
The Realm of Misplaced Hearts by Rick Hobbs
Book Award for Nonfiction
Love and Other Ways of Dying by Michael Paterniti
Book Award for Memoir
How to Cook a Moose by Kate Christensen
Book Award for Poetry
Little Arias by Kristen Case
Book Award for Young People’s Literature
Either the Beginning or the End of the World by Terry Farish
Book Award for Children’s
The Lemonade Hurricane by Licia Morelli (Illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris)
Book Award for Anthology (Editors)
A Gateless Garden by Liza Bakewell
John N. Cole Award for Maine-themed Nonfiction
Ghost Buck by Dean Bennett
Excellence in Publishing
Historical Atlas of Maine
by Stephen J. Hornsby & Richard W. Judd
(University of Maine Press)
On January 16, 2017 there appeared in the New York Times two articles giving us insight as to how important books and reading have been to the 44th President of the United States. Here’s a link to the article and the text of the interview transcript when Michiko Kakutani interviewed him in person. President recently gave one of his daughter’s a Kindle pre-loaded with books he felt were of great importance for her to read.
Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for The New York Times, interviewed President Obama about literature on Friday at the White House. Here are excerpts from the conversation, which have been edited and condensed.
These books that you gave to your daughter Malia on the Kindle, what were they? Some of your favorites?
I think some of them were sort of the usual suspects, so “The Naked and the Dead” or “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” I think she hadn’t read yet.
Then there were some books I think that are not on everybody’s reading list these days, but I remembered as being interesting, like “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing, for example. Or “The Woman Warrior,” by Maxine [Hong Kingston].
Part of what was interesting was me pulling back books that I thought were really powerful, but that might not surface when she goes to college.
Have you had a chance to discuss them with her?
I’ve had the chance to discuss some. And she’s interested in being a filmmaker, so storytelling is of great interest to her. She had just read “A Moveable Feast.” I hadn’t included that, and she was just captivated by the idea that Hemingway described his goal of writing one true thing every day.
What made you want to become a writer?
I loved reading when I was a kid, partly because I was traveling so much, and there were times where I’d be displaced, I’d be the outsider. When I first moved to Indonesia, I’m this big, dark-skinned kid that kind of stood out. And then when I moved back from Indonesia to Hawaii, I had the manners and habits probably of an Indonesian kid.
And so the idea of having these worlds that were portable, that were yours, that you could enter into, was appealing to me. And then I became a teenager and wasn’t reading that much other than what was assigned in school, and playing basketball and chasing girls, and imbibing things that weren’t very healthy.
I think all of us did.
Yeah. And then I think rediscovered writing and reading and thinking in my first or second year of college and used that as a way to rebuild myself, a process I write about in “Dreams From My Father.”
That period in New York, where you were intensely reading.
I was hermetic — it really is true. I had one plate, one towel, and I’d buy clothes from thrift shops. And I was very intense, and sort of humorless. But it reintroduced me to the power of words as a way to figure out who you are and what you think, and what you believe, and what’s important, and to sort through and interpret this swirl of events that is happening around you every minute.
And so even though by the time I graduated I knew I wanted to be involved in public policy, or I had these vague notions of organizing, the idea of continuing to write and tell stories as part of that was valuable to me. And so I would come home from work, and I would write in my journal or write a story or two.
The great thing was that it was useful in my organizing work. Because when I got there, the guy who had hired me said that the thing that brings people together to have the courage to take action on behalf of their lives is not just that they care about the same issue, it’s that they have shared stories. And he told me that if you learn how to listen to people’s stories and can find what’s sacred in other people’s stories, then you’ll be able to forge a relationship that lasts.
But my interest in public service and politics then merged with the idea of storytelling.
What were your short stories like?
It’s interesting, when I read them, a lot of them had to do with older people.
I think part of the reason was because I was working in communities with people who were significantly older than me. We were going into churches, and probably the average age of these folks was 55, 60. A lot of them had scratched and clawed their way into the middle class, but just barely. They were seeing the communities in which they had invested their hopes and dreams and raised their kids starting to decay — steel mills had closed, and there had been a lot of racial turnover in these communities. And so there was also this sense of loss and disappointment.
And so a bunch of the short stories I wrote had to do with that sense, that atmosphere. One story is about an old black pastor who seems to be about to lose his church, his lease is running out and he’s got this loyal woman deacon who is trying to buck him up. Another is about an elderly couple — a white couple in L.A., — and he’s like in advertising, wrote jingles. And he’s just retired and has gotten cranky. And his wife is trying to convince him that his life is not over.
So when I think back on what’s interesting to me, there is not a lot of Jack Kerouac, open-road, young kid on the make discovering stuff. It’s more melancholy and reflective.
Was writing partly a way to figure out your identity?
Yes, I think so. For me, particularly at that time, writing was the way I sorted through a lot of crosscurrents in my life — race, class, family. And I genuinely believe that it was part of the way in which I was able to integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole.
People now remark on this notion of me being very cool, or composed. And what is true is that I generally have a pretty good sense of place and who I am, and what’s important to me. And I trace a lot of that back to that process of writing.
Has that continued to be so in the presidency?
Not as much as I would have liked. I just didn’t have time.
But you keep some form of a journal?
I’ve kept some, but not with the sort of discipline that I would have hoped for. The main writing that I’ve done during the presidency has been my speeches, the ones at least that were important to me.
How has the speechwriting and being at the center of history and dealing with crises affected you as a writer?
I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to see when I start writing the next book. Some of the craft of writing a good speech is identical to any other good writing: Is that word necessary? Is it the right word? Is there a rhythm to it that feels good? How does it sound aloud?
I actually think that one of the useful things about speechwriting is reminding yourself that the original words are spoken, and that there is a sound, a feel to words that, even if you’re reading silently, transmits itself.
So in that sense, I think there will be some consistency.
But this is part of why it was important to pick up the occasional novel during the presidency, because most of my reading every day was briefing books and memos and proposals. And so working that very analytical side of the brain all the time sometimes meant you lost track of not just the poetry of fiction, but also the depth of fiction.
Fiction was useful as a reminder of the truths under the surface of what we argue about every day and was a way of seeing and hearing the voices, the multitudes of this country.
Are there examples of specific novels or writers?
Well, the last novel I read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad.” And the reminder of the ways in which the pain of slavery transmits itself across generations, not just in overt ways, but how it changes minds and hearts.
It’s what you said in your farewell address about Atticus Finch, where you said people are so isolated in their little bubbles. Fiction can leap —
It bridges them. I struck up a friendship with [the novelist] Marilynne Robinson, who has become a good friend. And we’ve become sort of pen pals. I started reading her in Iowa, where “Gilead” and some of her best novels are set. And I loved her writing in part because I saw those people every day. And the interior life she was describing that connected them — the people I was shaking hands with and making speeches to — it connected them with my grandparents, who were from Kansas and ended up journeying all the way to Hawaii, but whose foundation had been set in a very similar setting.
And so I think that I found myself better able to imagine what’s going on in the lives of people throughout my presidency because of not just a specific novel but the act of reading fiction. It exercises those muscles, and I think that has been helpful.
And then there’s been the occasion where I just want to get out of my own head. [Laughter] Sometimes you read fiction just because you want to be someplace else.
What are some of those books?
It’s interesting, the stuff I read just to escape ends up being a mix of things — some science fiction. For a while, there was a three-volume science-fiction novel, the “Three-Body Problem” series —
Oh, Liu Cixin, who won the Hugo Award.
— which was just wildly imaginative, really interesting. It wasn’t so much sort of character studies as it was just this sweeping —
It’s really about the fate of the universe.
Exactly. The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade. [Laughter]
There were books that would blend, I think, really good writing with thriller genres. I mean, I thought “Gone Girl” was a well-constructed, well-written book.
I loved that structure.
Yeah, and it was really well executed. And a similar structure, that I thought was a really powerful novel: “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff.
I like those structures where you actually see different points of view.
Which I have to do for this job, too. [Laughter]
Have there been certain books that have been touchstones for you in these eight years?
I would say Shakespeare continues to be a touchstone. Like most teenagers in high school, when we were assigned, I don’t know, “The Tempest” or something, I thought, ‘My God, this is boring.’ And I took this wonderful Shakespeare class in college where I just started to read the tragedies and dig into them. And that, I think, is foundational for me in understanding how certain patterns repeat themselves and play themselves out between human beings.
Is that sort of comforting?
It gives me a sense of perspective. I think Toni Morrison’s writings — particularly “Song of Solomon” is a book I think of when I imagine people going through hardship. That it’s not just pain, but there’s joy and glory and mystery.
I think that there are writers who I don’t necessarily agree with in terms of their politics, but whose writings are sort of a baseline for how to think about certain things — V. S. Naipaul, for example. His “A Bend in the River,” which starts with the line, “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.” And I always think about that line, and I think about his novels when I’m thinking about the hardness of the world sometimes, particularly in foreign policy, and I resist and fight against sometimes that very cynical, more realistic view of the world. And yet, there are times where it feels as if that may be true.
So in that sense, I’m using writing like that as a foil or something to debate against.
I’ve read that Lincoln loved Shakespeare his whole life, but when he was dealing with the Civil War, reading the history plays helped give him solace and perspective.
Lincoln’s own writings do that. He is a very fine writer.
I’d put the Second Inaugural up against any piece of American writing — as good as anything. One of the great treats of being president is, in the Lincoln Bedroom, there’s a copy of the Gettysburg Address handwritten by him, one of five copies he did for charity. And there have been times in the evening when I’d just walk over, because it’s right next to my office, my home office, and I just read it.
And perspective is exactly what is wanted. At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted, the ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes — those two things have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president, I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.
Is there some poem or any writing or author that you would turn to, say, after the mass killings in Newtown, Conn., or during the financial crisis?
I think that during those periods, Lincoln’s writings, King’s writings, Gandhi’s writings, Mandela’s writings — I found those particularly helpful, because what you wanted was a sense of solidarity. During very difficult moments, this job can be very isolating. So sometimes you have to hop across history to find folks who have been similarly feeling isolated. Churchill’s a good writer. And I loved reading Teddy Roosevelt’s writing. He’s this big, outsize character.
Have you read a lot of presidential biographies?
The biographies have been useful, because I do think that there’s a tendency, understandable, to think that whatever’s going on right now is uniquely disastrous or amazing or difficult. And it just serves you well to think about Roosevelt trying to navigate World War II or Lincoln trying to figure out whether he’s going to fire [George B.] McClellan when Rebel troops are 20, 30, 40 miles away.
I watched some of the civil-rights-movement documentary mini-series “Eyes on the Prize” after the election.
It was useful.
You do see how far we’ve come, and in the space of my lifetime.
And that’s why seeing my daughters now picking up books that I read 30 years ago or 40 years ago is gratifying, because I want them to have perspective — not for purposes of complacency, but rather to give them confidence that people with a sense of determination and courage and pluck can reshape things. It’s empowering for them.
What books would you recommend at this moment in time, that captures this sense of turmoil?
I should probably ask you or some people who have had time to catch up on reading. I’ll confess that since the election, I’ve been busier than I expected. So one of the things I’m really looking forward to is to dig into a whole bunch of literature.
But one of the things I’m confident about is that, out of this moment, there are a whole bunch of writers, a lot of them young, who are probably writing the book I need to read. [Laughter] They’re ahead of me right now. And so in my post-presidency, in addition to training the next generation of leaders to work on issues like climate change or gun violence or criminal justice reform, my hope is to link them up with their peers who see fiction or nonfiction as an important part of that process.
When so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology and migration, the role of stories to unify — as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize — is more important than ever.
There’s something particular about quieting yourself and having a sustained stretch of time that is different from music or television or even the greatest movies.
And part of what we’re all having to deal with right now is just a lot of information overload and a lack of time to process things. So we make quick judgments and assign stereotypes to things, block certain things out, because our brain is just trying to get through the day.
We’re bombarded with information. Technology is moving so rapidly.
Look, I don’t worry about the survival of the novel. We’re a storytelling species.
I think that what one of the jobs of political leaders going forward is, is to tell a better story about what binds us together as a people. And America is unique in having to stitch together all these disparate elements — we’re not one race, we’re not one tribe, folks didn’t all arrive here at the same time.
What holds us together is an idea, and it’s a story about who we are and what’s important to us. And I want to make sure that we continue that.
I know you like Junot Díaz’s and Jhumpa Lahiri’s books, and they speak to immigration or the American Dream.
I think Lahiri’s books, I think Díaz’s books, do speak to a very particular contemporary immigration experience. But also this combination of — that I think is universal — longing for this better place, but also feeling displaced and looking backwards at the same time. I think in that sense, their novels are directly connected to a lot of American literature.
Some of the great books by Jewish authors like Philip Roth or Saul Bellow, they are steeped with this sense of being an outsider, longing to get in, not sure what you’re giving up — what you’re willing to give up and what you’re not willing to give up. So that particular aspect of American fiction I think is still of great relevance today.
Library Staff: What We are Reading…Books to end 2016 and to start 2017
2016-Best Man by Richard Peck
2017-Unbound by Ann E. Berg
2016-After the Crash by Michael Bussi
2016-Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
2017-The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeny
2017-The Girls by Emma Cline
2016-The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
2016-If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene
2017-The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth
2017- Ships, Swindlers, and Scalded Hogs by Frederick B. Hill
Mary Anne Mead
2016-Euphoria by Lily King
2017-A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
2016-The Mighty Currawongs by Brian Doyle
2017-The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz
2016- Night School by Lee Child
2016- Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie
2017-Nutshell by Ian McEwan
2017-News of the World by Paulette Jiles
2016- Some Writer! by Melissa Sweet
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
2017- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
On Bowie by Rob Sheffield
2017-Middlemarch by George Eliot
In this age of digital “everything” (or so it seems) libraries remain a public treasure. Here’s a review from the New York Times Book Review last week about a work of fiction set in one of the oldest public libraries in the world.
Book Review | FICTION
Library As Muse
By EDMUND WHITE
Chetham’s Library in England, one of the world’s oldest public libraries.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
And Other Stories
By Ali Smith
220 pp. Anchor Books. Paper, $16.
This collection of stories by one of England’s best novelists is both playful and serious in the manner of Laurence Sterne, the 18th-century author of “Tristram Shandy,” one of the most original novelists of all time, who influenced European literature in a way comparable only to that of the later James Joyce. Sterne was the master of the marginal, the random, the inconsequential. In our own day, David Foster Wallace, Geoff Dyer and Ali Smith have become the paladins of this goofy manner. Like Dyer, who wrote an essay ostensibly about D.H. Lawrence, “Out of Sheer Rage,” and then turned it into a report on his own health, Smith seems obsessed with Lawrence as well.
In a story called “The Human Claim,” she juxtaposes an investigation into what happened to Lawrence’s ashes with a dispute she had with Barclaycard over unwarranted charges. The two themes don’t seem related — but that may be the point. Just as Dyer travels to Oaxaca to research Lawrence but ends up distracted by his own health problems, in the same way Smith’s speculations about who might have charged a Lufthansa flight on her credit card crowd out her questions about whether Lawrence’s widow’s new husband, tasked with cremating Lawrence’s corpse and bringing it back to New Mexico, may have dumped the cremains and substituted unrelated ashes in their place. Maybe that was the connection. “I began to wonder . . . who the person was, the person who’d pretended, somewhere else in the world, to be me. What did he or she look like?” If Lawrence’s ashes could be replaced with someone else’s and no one suspected the substitution for decades, maybe that could be related to contemporary identity theft.
This book, as the title suggests, is a homage to public libraries at a time when budget cuts in the United Kingdom (or the disunited Kingdom, now that Scotland and Ireland seem to be on the brink of seceding) and new ways of communicating are closing these free, life-changing institutions. Seeded throughout the text are brief testimonials by established writers, often from a humble and not especially literate background, for whom an early access to books made all the difference. Referring to the earlier British edition of the book, Smith notes that “by the time this book is published there will be one thousand fewer libraries in the U.K. than there were at the time I began writing the first of the stories.” Libraries are lauded because they too offer the randomness, the “serendipity” that characterizes Smith’s style. A woman starts out reading up on chemistry but keeps drifting back to the philosophy shelves — and soon has changed her major. Books in general are called “the best possible medium of the transmission of ideas, feelings and knowledge.” One letter writer even has a political take, that libraries are essential to a democracy so voters can be educated, “and that there is therefore an ideological war on them via cuts and closures.”
If the testimonials are part of a campaign to save libraries, the stories are more fanciful. Smith begins one with a gesture — a young poet throwing a Walter Scott novel on the floor only to notice when she picks it up that the binding is lined with sheet music. All of which allows the story to exfoliate into a host of subjects — the poet’s unhappy mother (she can hear her “shifting about upstairs like a piece of misery”), the poet’s witchiness, her prizes and eventually her confinement in a mental hospital. It ends: “Think of the Waverly collection on the shelves, the full 25 novels, their spines sliced back and open and the music inside them visible.” In Smith’s prose, the music inside is certainly visible.
Take this paragraph from the same story, when the poet is wondering if her badness is contagious: “Would it ruin the feel of the mouth of the hill pony on the palm of her hand when she went the hike by herself and gave it the apple she had for her lunch, the bluntness of the mouth, the breath of it, the whiskers round the mouth she could feel, the warm wet and the slaver on her hand that she wiped on her skirt and got into the trouble about?”
In the way of all successful art, Smith’s book triggered little chains of association that resonated with the other books I was reading at the time — the heart-stopping phrases in Rebecca West’s “The Fountain Overflows,” the wonderful tribute to the power of fiction to reconcile us to bright particulars in Martha Nussbaum’s “Love’s Knowledge,” that great homage to serendipity in Xavier de Maistre’s 18th-century “Voyage Around My Room.” As distinct and idiosyncratic as “Public Library” is, these intersections reveal how its themes are also timeless and universal.
In one of the first stories, the narrator is arguing with her father (who’s been dead for five years) about the past. He has seemingly perfect recall, remembers which prize she won for what, how she studied German years ago and how some German girls from Augsburg came over as exchange students; they had just learned about the Holocaust from a documentary and were speechless. The narrator, adrift in trivia, remembers that during World War I a man recorded all the various English and Irish dialects spoken by the soldiers (many of these dialects having since vanished). This idea of how people spoke in the past emphasizes how ephemeral both people and language can be. She thinks of her grandfather, who died before her birth: “I’ll never know what his voice sounded like.” She has a vision of a sort of huge golem that haunted her as a girl: “He speaks with all the gone voices.”
Books, libraries, writers, words — these are all Smith’s subjects. She tells us of the astonishingly common English words that were invented by John Milton. She tells us the original meaning of familiar words (“cheer” once meant “face”). She seldom fashions a good story in the usual sense; instead she gives us nosegays of associations, but these flowers have burrs. They stick in the imagination.
Unhappy romances (between women) are frequently the so-called back story. One woman wants to tell the other about her dream, but her partner doesn’t want to hear it. She accuses the narrator of playing stupid. There’s a lot about Dusty Springfield showing up in the unconscious.
These stories may be shattered or partial or half-buried, but the grateful reader does recognize that, unlike the more severely erased plots in some of Smith’s previous work, they contain the visible outlines of real and intriguing stories.
Edmund White’s most recent book is a novel, “Our Young Man.”
Inspiring Books to help bolster a feeling of wonder when in comes to the power of humanity and to help prepare our outlook for the coming holiday season.
The following list is from the Buzzfeed.com “31 Books that will restore you faith in humanity.” Buzzfeed.com
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
One incredibly moving aspect of this book is its message on kindness. Through the eyes of August Pullman, we see what it’s like to be on the receiving end of dirty looks, terrified stares, and ugly words. Because it’s told from multiple points of view, we also get the chance to tap into the mind of a bully, a friend, and a loved one during these events. The ending of this book and the way the characters dealt with these situations is what restored my faith in humanity. We can ALWAYS choose kindness.
You must, must, must, must , MUST read this book! Malala’s story is as unbelievable as it is inspirational: She survived a point-blank gunshot to the head, continued in her fight for girls’ right to education around the world, and, at the age of 17, became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is an unstoppable force for good and this book allows us all to learn from her incredible wisdom.
Whenever a friend is a little lost, or trying to figure out what to do with their life, I send them Mountains Beyond Mountains, the incredible story of Dr. Paul Farmer. His ambition? Attempting to cure the entire world of disease, one patient at a time, starting in the poorest towns in one of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti. Here’s proof that we can all dream a little bigger — there’s no challenge too great.
The moving memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother.”
When I read this, I had no idea what I was getting into — it was so much more than it seemed from the start (make sure you read everything, even the ISBN/Library page small print) and frequently left me in tears.
This book is infuriatingly heartwarming andcharming and loveable! It’s about a total grump named Ove who is an old, mean, loner. He has nothing to live for besides policing his neighbors and arguing with strangers until he meets a young family that needs his help. He takes it upon himself to help this young family and becomes the most sweet and loyal friend to them and others who need him. Such a gem of a book!
Sometimes looking at ALL the books on the NY Times bestseller lists is overwhelming and just a bit too time consuming for the start of your week. In each Book Review there is a recommendation list you can use to simplify your search for some new books to put on your “TO READ” list.
THE ATTENTION MERCHANTS: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, by Tim Wu. (Knopf, $28.95.) The history of the slow, steady annexation of our attention — whether by television commercials or war propaganda or tweets — is the subject of this expertly synthesized survey by Tim Wu, the star professor at Columbia Law School who coined the term “net neutrality.” The critic Jennifer Senior especially loved the book’s ending, which is “written so rousingly that it just may make you reconsider your priorities.” Delete your accounts.
ROGUE HEROES: The History of the SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War, by Ben Macintyre. (Crown, $28.) Nobody tells a true-life spy story with as much excitement and style as Ben Macintyre. Dig into his latest, an entertaining history of the S.A.S. from its North African desert origins, to watch the good guys outwit the Nazis.
CITY OF DREAMS: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York, by Tyler Anbinder. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35.) “Immigrants, we get the job done” is one of the many lines from the musical “Hamilton” that so many of us have had stuck in our heads this past year. (It’s from the song “Yorktown [The World Turned Upside Down],” for those who don’t know.) Anbinder’s history tells the much broader story, offering a richly textured guide to the past of the nation’s chief immigrant city.
THE MAN WHO KNEW: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan, by Sebastian Mallaby. (Penguin Press, $40.) This thoughtful and provocative biography says Greenspan knew the dangers of financial success. Why then, Sebastian Mallaby asks, didn’t he put on the brakes? A thorough account of the former Fed chairman’s rise depicts him as political to a fault.
THE WORD DETECTIVE: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary, by John Simpson. (Basic Books, $27.99.) From a former chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, a charmingly frank account of a 35-year career dedicated to lexicography.
AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY: A Love Story, by John Kaag. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) In this book, John Kaag, a philosophy professor, discovers a hidden library that changes his life. What follows is a spirited lover’s quarrel with the individualism in our national thought.
THE MOTHERS, by Brit Bennett. (Riverhead, $26.) Brit Bennett marks herself as a young writer to watch in her much-buzzed-about (and already best-selling) debut. In this complex, ferociously moving novel, three young people come of age in a black community in Southern California.
THE MORTIFICATIONS, by Derek Palacio. (Tim Duggan, $27.) This sweeping debut novel, full of literary allusions, follows a Cuban family’s journey to America and back.
RICH AND PRETTY, by Rumaan Alam. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $25.99.) Two friends — one getting married, the other the maid of honor: It’s a familiar premise, but in this astute debut novel, the characters and situation feel fresh and three-dimensional.
There is a lot of information (and misinformation) swirling around about what feminism is and isn’t, where did it come from and what does it call for. What is “First Wave” feminism vs “third wave” feminism, and who are some feminist authors writing academically and in fiction form?
I’ve selected a few titles from this very comprehensive BookRiot list of “100 Must-Read Feminist Books” which I hope helps you explore a little deeper where this important movement comes from, where it is going, and what it means to different women, and authors. This is a subjective list, there are many other titles, fiction and nonfiction, and many other schools of feminism out there. Go forth and explore!
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
“Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is King’s most visionary feat of storytelling, a magical mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that may well be his crowning achievement. In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.” ~GoodReads
The Long Home Splinter Cell A Wrinkle in Time
The Bell Jar
“Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.”~GoodReads
Lost in the Jungle All the Bright Places The Lost City of Z
Ready Player One
“In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.“~ GoodReads
Live By Night Wonder The Death Cure
Every year, our book club takes a break for the busy summer months and reconvenes in early September. This meeting is dedicated to our dozen or so members’ summer reading lists. As a Readers’ Advisory librarian, this is my favorite meeting of the year! I come home with a long list of books recommended (or NOT recommended) by a wide variety of readers.
I submit my summer reading list below, followed by the others in the book group and a few from the SWHPL staff.
Limber by Angela Pelster
Poetic essays on life as told through trees. Some are analogies, some are literal, historical, human, emotional. From the story of Indian yellow pigment and mangoes, to a tree that owns itself, this collection is juicy and gorgeous and deeply philosophical. I look forward to reading more from her. ~Lisa
“Angela Pelster’s startling essay collection charts the world’s history through its trees: through roots in the ground, rings across wood, and inevitable decay. These sharp and tender essays move from her childhood in rural Canada surrounded by skinny poplar trees in her backyard to a desert in Niger, where the “Loneliest Tree in the World” once grew. A squirrel’s decomposing body below a towering maple prompts a discussion of the science of rot, as well as a metaphor for the ways in which nature programs us to consume ourselves. Beautiful, deeply thoughtful, and wholly original, Limber valiantly asks what it means to sustain life on this planet we’ve inherited.” ~Goodreads
How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball
14 and teetering on the edge of everything (poverty, sexuality, failure, enlightenment, trouble, ideology), Lucia is a brilliant observer and thinker. She is searching and experimenting, but her actions, and non actions, are deliberate and controlled, or she’d like you to think. My only complaint is I wish it were much longer because I wanted to spend more time with this complicated young woman. ~Lisa
“Lucia’s father is dead; her mother is in a mental institute; she’s living in a garage-turned-bedroom with her aunt. And now she’s been kicked out of school—again. Making her way through the world with only a book, a zippo lighter, a pocket full of stolen licorice, a biting wit, and striking intelligence she tries to hide, she spends her days riding the bus to visit her mother and following the only rule that makes any sense to her: Don’t do things you aren’t proud of. But when she discovers that her new school has a secret Arson Club, she’s willing to do anything to be a part of it, and her life is suddenly lit up. And as her fascination with the Arson Club grows, her story becomes one of misguided friendship and, ultimately, destruction.” ~GoodReads
Barkskins by Annie Proulx
Annie Proulx is one of my favorite authors for her intensely researched topics and skillfully written characters, often focusing on the darker sides of human nature (Postcards might be one of my favorite books), and her newest offering does not disappoint. Do not be intimidated by it’s heft; the 700 pages are immersive and engaging, exposing a Maine and Nova Scotia I knew little about culturally or economically. The first 3/4 of the book were the most interesting to me, but Proulx was able to do a good job bringing the modern day challenges back full circle to the late 1600’s.~Lisa
“In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.
Proulx’s inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid—in their greed, lust, vengefulness, or their simple compassion and hope—that we follow them with fierce attention. Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable and compelling American writers, and Barkskins is her greatest novel, a magnificent marriage of history and imagination.” ~GoodReads
Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III
Linked novellas explore the nature of people seeking gratification while they attempt to dispel loneliness. Painful to read at times, watching all too familiar personalities slowly spiral downward as a result of their own selfish yearning, I had to put this one down a few times, despite its skilled writing. Dubus is not one of my favorite authors, but he was able to avoid his heavy contrived characters for the most part. By linking the novellas Dubus creates a sense of a small Massachusetts seaside town and the area where most of these stories take place, and place plays as much a role in these stories as the characters. ~Lisa
“In this heartbreakingly beautiful book of disillusioned intimacy and persistent yearning, beloved and celebrated author Andre Dubus III explores the bottomless needs and stubborn weaknesses of people seeking gratification in food and sex, work and love.
In these linked novellas in which characters walk out the back door of one story and into the next, love is “dirty”—tangled up with need, power, boredom, ego, fear, and fantasy. On the Massachusetts coast north of Boston, a controlling manager, Mark, discovers his wife’s infidelity after twenty-five years of marriage. An overweight young woman, Marla, gains a romantic partner but loses her innocence. A philandering bartender/aspiring poet, Robert, betrays his pregnant wife. And in the stunning title novella, a teenage girl named Devon, fleeing a dirty image of her posted online, seeks respect in the eyes of her widowed great-uncle Francis and of an Iraq vet she’s met surfing the Web.
Slivered by happiness and discontent, aging and death, but also persistent hope and forgiveness, these beautifully wrought narratives express extraordinary tenderness toward human beings, our vulnerable hearts and bodies, our fulfilling and unfulfilling lives alone and with others.”~GoodReads
Book Club Reads
Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets
” The POV switches back and forth between a woman who gets lost in the woods while hunting, and the lady ranger who is out searching for her. It’s frickin’ awesome!”
Confederates in the attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz
Kate McM’s Summer Reads
The Electors by Roy Neel, not great writing, but interesting hypothetical about “faithless electors”
Kate Braestrup’s Anchors and Flares, and Here if you need me, Chaplain for the Maine Warden Service, i.e. comforting families of missing people and giving death notices – see Ted X talk.
John Palfrey and Urs Gasser’s Updated Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in the Digital Age, Palfrey also wrote Bibliotech: Why libraries matter more in the age of google
Naomi Novik, Temeraire series, Napoleonic wars w dragons – FUN! And Wonder by RJ Palacio
Klansville USA: The rise and fall of the civil rights-era Klu Klux Klan 1965, North Carolina largest kkk population, policies attracting business
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo -other great books by DiCamillo include The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and Because of Windixie
Juba by Walter Dean Meyers
The Points of my Compass, EB White
Nevada Barr’s new book, Boar Island, has a national park ranger protagonist and is set in Acadia
Listened to Circling the Sun by Paula McLean (fictionalized life of Beryl Markham)
The Argonauts recommend by Hilary, goooood
Christopher Moore’s books The Serpent of Venice, Dirty Job, also wrote Lamb and Fluke
Shelled and Shucked (The Rachael O’Brien Chronicles #3), by Paisley Ray series mysteries, 80s college
The Daughter of Union County by Francine Thomas Howard
Chance Developments: Unexpected Love Stories by Alexander McCall Smith
I found it a delightfully uplifting book of stories describing unusual ways in which relationships can unfold into life changing loves. It does not quite feel like reading short stories, although that is what it is, but instead it feels like you are taking a glimpse into private relationships in a way which is not intrusive but merely out of interest. Each story comes from a photograph. You look at the photograph and imagine what the story will be about and then you are pleasantly surprised by the author’s creativity in working backwards from the photograph to examine the relationship which resulted in the chance meeting.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
A non-fiction exploration of loss and love, power and discipline, and a look back into the life of T.H. White (The Once and Future King author). This author re-examines her own childhood and her relationship with her recently deceased father through her passion of practicing falconry in England. She draws parallels with the life and experiences of T.H. White who also took up falconry during his day. It is a fascinating, if at times a bit too detailed, examination into how we all experience loss and grieve and how our passions (work, hobby, art, etc.) can help us along in the process.
The Republic of Imagination, by Azar Nafisi
This is a thoughtful, engaging look at contemporary American culture through some of America’s classic authors. Nafisi became an American citizen while she was working on this book. In it, she turns her clear critical eye toward life in America, contrasting our experience with living in freedom to her experience of living under tyranny in Iran. I found this a very timely book for our current political turmoil. ~Vesta
“Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her million-copy bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other classics to her eager students in Iran. In this exhilarating followup, Nafisi has written the book her fans have been waiting for: an impassioned, beguiling and utterly original tribute to the vital importance of fiction in a democratic society. What Reading Lolita in Tehran was for Iran, The Republic of Imagination is for America.
Taking her cue from a challenge thrown to her in Seattle, where a skeptical reader told her that Americans don’t care about books the way they did back in Iran, she challenges those who say fiction has nothing to teach us. Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite American novels—from Huckleberry Finn to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter—she invites us to join her as citizens of her “Republic of Imagination,” a country where the villains are conformity and orthodoxy, and the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.”~Goodreads
When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood
“1963, Mexico, Maine. The Wood family is much like its close, Catholic, immigrant neighbors, all dependent on a father’s wages from the Oxford Paper Company. Until the sudden death of Dad, when Mum and the four closely connected Wood girls are set adrift. Funny and to-the-bone moving, When We Were the Kennedys is the story of how this family saves itself, at first by depending on Father Bob, Mum’s youngest brother, a charismatic Catholic priest who feels his new responsibilities deeply. And then, as the nation is shocked by the loss of its handsome Catholic president, the televised grace of Jackie Kennedy—she too a Catholic widow with young children—galvanizes Mum to set off on an unprecedented family road trip to Washington, D.C., to do some rescuing of her own. An indelible story of how family and nation, each shocked by the unimaginable, exchange one identity for another.~GoodReads
Don’t Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz
It’s not his newest, which was also good. It is not the best written book but I have ever read but it sure is fun! If you want a thriller that will make your heart beat on every page, this is the book for you.
“In Don’t Look Back, Eve Hardaway, newly single mother of one, is on a trip she’s long dreamed of—a rafting and hiking tour through the jungles and mountains of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Eve wanders off the trail, to a house in the distance with a menacing man in the yard beyond it, throwing machetes at a human-shaped target. Disturbed by the sight, Eve moves quickly and quietly back to her group, taking care to avoid being seen. As she creeps along, she finds a broken digital camera, marked with the name Teresa Hamilton. Later that night, in a rarely used tourist cabin, she finds a discarded prescription bottle—also with the name Teresa Hamilton. From the camera’s memory card, Eve discovers Teresa Hamilton took a photo of that same menacing looking man in the woods. Teresa Hamilton has since disappeared.
Now the man in the woods is after whoever was snooping around his house. With a violent past and deadly mission, he will do anything to avoid being discovered. A major storm wipes out the roads and all communication with the outside world. Now the tour group is trapped in the jungle with a dangerous predator with a secret to protect. With her only resource her determination to live, Eve must fight a dangerous foe and survive against incredible odds—if she’s to make it back home alive.~GoodReads
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (Temeraire Book #1)
So much fun! Napoleonic wars with DRAGONS! Very authentic historic voice (not that I really know how folks sounded then, but can easily picture Russell Crowe as the gallant captain). There are 9 books in the series and I am on #4. They are holding up very well, and thoroughly satisfied my escapism during both sailing trips this summer! Also, I would like to read her 2015 novel Uprooted, not a Temeraire book, that has received good reviews.
“Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.”~GoodReads
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt
My favorite book of the summer or maybe even the year. A story about a “bad boy” abandoned, abused and a father. At 14 he is in foster care and has a daughter he has never seen. The telling is spare and powerful in the voice of the foster brother. As the two boys slowly bond we learn of Joseph’s abusive father and that his deepest wish us to see his daughter, Jupiter. She was named by her young mother for the planet Jupiter which Joseph always pointed out in the night sky. the story is heartbreaking but the spirit in this abused child shines bright and reveals the heart of a warrior, a savior, a father. Realistically things do not work in Joseph’s favor but the heartbreak is tempered by the inspiration gained by a child labeled “bad.”