Staff Book Picks

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May 22, 2015 by claytonc

Ike (pronounced Ee-kay) lives in New York City and is tired of scraping by on the meager money he earns as a cabdriver. He knows of a store that sells foreign artifacts to rich people for outrageous sums of money and nourishes a dream to return to his home village in Nigeria and steal the statue of Ngene, an ancient war god, to fund his future. He hasn’t visited his family since he left and has struggled to stay in touch, especially since his father died. One of his childhood friends has come across some great wealth, while a childhood love has fallen on hard times. His mother has fallen under the spell of an evangelical preacher with a sketchy past and his uncle (and his multiple wives) are very busy as the village’s holy man. Told with a masterful sense of pacing, place, and culture, this novel is a fascinating investigation of modern culture and the concept of the “exotic”. Check Our Catalog

May 18, 2015 by jimj

The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save lives in World War II.

Lt. Col. James Howard Williams, also known as Elephant Bill, is a man who loves animals. He also understands them. After service in the Great War he applies for a job as an elephant wallah with the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation. With the assistance of Bandoola, a magnificent bull elephant on the cusp of his prime years, Williams creates the blueprint for an “elephant school” in Burma. The school quickly becomes a “company” as Williams and his elephants report for duty and defy the Japanese during WWII. Croke paints a rich and intimate portrait of a fascinating man living in extraordinary circumstances, and the even more extraordinary people — and elephants — surrounding him. Check Our Catalog

May 11, 2015 by claytonc

Sci-Fi dystopian fiction meets missionary tale. Peter once was lost, a drunk and a thief headed for an early death. Then he fell in love with a devout nurse and the two of them started a new life spreading the good word. The novel opens as Peter is just about to head millions of miles away from home to the next chapter in his life. A multinational corporation (and even that description seems too small, given their inter-planetary reach) has recruited him to work on a planet they are active upon. The purpose of the corporation is never entirely clear (are they ever?) but Peter quickly gets absorbed in relations with the indigenous inhabitants and the corporation’s intentions fade into the background. Meanwhile, life back on earth is falling apart and the physical distance between Peter and his wife proves very challenge to manage. This book really drew me in with the perfect blend of plot, setting, and emotional depth. Highly recommended. Check Our Catalog.

Apr 29, 2015 by megana

I admit it, I cried at the end of this outstanding debut novel. Inspired by the historic Tri-State Tornado of March 18, 1925 (which swept across Missouri, Illinois and Indiana and killed 695 people), it is set in a small farming community that has been home to the Graves family for four generations. By a freak turn of luck, the entire Graves family is the only family in town that suffers no loss of life or property during the deadly 45-minute windstorm. At first, this feels like a good thing, but as their longtime neighbors and childhood friends turn against them in the months following the disaster, the Graveses come to realize they will not be spared, either. A heartbreaking meditation on envy, bitterness, loss and memory. Check Our Catalog

Apr 13, 2015 by jimj

The story of an extraordinary family, a vanished way of life, and the unique child who became Theodore Roosevelt

Reflecting on T.R.’s event-filled life his good friend, Edith Wharton, put it best: “ . . . he was so alive at all points, and so gifted with the rare faculty of living intensely and entirely in every moment as it passed . . . “. McCullough won the National Book Award for this masterful story of the remarkable little boy (and his family), handicapped by severe asthma, who developed into the robust figure we associate with the 26th President. Check Our Catalog.

Apr 1, 2015 by claytonc

What a fun little diversion! Marie is 30, recently released from jail, and in love with a toddler. She is only slightly more mature than her new charge and thinks it perfectly fine to bath together while she enjoys some stolen whiskey. That’s not the only thing she steals in this quick celebration of good things happening to bad people. It’s refreshing how good you can feel routing for her as she makes one bad decision after another. Like watching a french-language train-wreck, in black and white. This book took no time to read and was a blast. Every dream of ditching it all? See where it gets Marie! Check Our Catalog

Mar 25, 2015 by jimj

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) is the quintessential English gentleman. Sardonic, decorous, urbane, and endearingly opinionated. He has settled into a widower’s life when his brother’s death ignites an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper in their quiet village. A shared interest in literature and the loss of spouses creates something more than friendship. But the Edgecombe St. Mary’s inhabitants are scandalized by the harsh clash between culture and tradition. Hilarity, tentative romance and gentle wisdom ensue. A wondrous tale. Check Our Catalog

Mar 9, 2015 by claytonc

Need a break but don’t have the time or the money to get away? This is the perfect escape for you - two dozen tales that span the globe. Arranged alphabetically by author’s last name, I thought at first that this would be a very strange way to organize things, but it ended up working fabulously well. There was one piece that didn’t work very well for me, but it was short, and followed by a piece that completely redeemed the volume. Highlights for me were Harrison Scott Key’s Fifty Shades of Greyhound, Alex Shoumatoff’s The Last of Eden, and Colson Whitehead’s Loving Las Vegas (with a significant appearance by his friend Darren Aronofsky). Fans of David Sedaris will surely enjoy his contribution as well. Never heard of urbex? Michael Power’s Excuse Us While We Kiss the Sky is a great introduction - imagine scaling Notre Dame Cathedral under cover of darkness and then go read about people actually doing it. Check Our Catalog

Feb 27, 2015 by megana

Pushing 90, shaky on his pins, and irascible as ever (not in an endearing way), retired Memphis cop Baruch "Buck" Shatz discovers that the Nazi who tortured him and got away after the war is still alive. Not only that, he may be sitting on a stash of gold stolen from the German Reich. Whether he suffers from a God complex or is just a thorough misanthrope, Buck is the funniest detective I've run into in a long time, and his refusal to concede to old age kept me laughing all the way through. This book was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Check Our Catalog

Feb 17, 2015 by jimj

Beginning with the almost sado-masochistic endeavors of those engaged in competitive freediving and ending in the abyssal depths of the hadal zone five miles below the surface and crawling with organisms that have never seen the light of day, Nestor conducts a fascinating underwater travelogue. He swims with sharks. But he also swims with school bus sized sperm whales who, we learn, don’t use those powerful jaws to catch prey but emit jackhammer “clicks” that stun their food. A fascinating read. Check Our Catalog

Feb 4, 2015 by claudias

The world of Atticus Finch, a small town Southern lawyer, is part of literary history. In 1960, Harper Lee published the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, still one of the best-loved American books and required reading in 70 percent of U.S. school systems. By 1965 she had refused interviews and never wrote another book, a one-hit wonder, until it was just announced on February 3 that a second book, a pre-quel will be published this coming summer. Searching for background material for the Chicago One Book program, Marja Mills traveled to Monroeville, Alabama and met Alice Lee, the 88 year old still practicing lawyer and older sister of Nelle Harper Lee. Here is a description of a small Southern town and its people that inspired the classic novel as well as the devotion between the Lee sisters. It often feels like Alice is the real story here and the more likable of the sisters. Harper is described as “prickly at times”, can be impatient and suspicious, and Alice, is the “steady, responsible, older sister,” Atticus in a skirt.” The controversy surrounding this publication has added to the Harper Lee reclusive mystique. Harper has stated that she did not cooperate with Ms. Mills. That’s hard to believe since the author lived next door at her suggestion for 18 months.  Harper Lee still knows how to sell a book! Check Our Catalog

Jan 30, 2015 by megana

Brothers Joseph and Mira began life 12 years apart in a remote hilltop village in Haiti when the country was still occupied by U.S. Marines. They died a few months apart in 2004 in Miami and New York, one a prisoner of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and the other a naturalized U.S. citizen. This moving family story is told by acclaimed Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat, the ‘daughter’ of both men—the uncle who raised her in Haiti from the age of four until eleven, and the father she came to know after she and her younger brother joined their parents in America.  A masterful and beautifully written look at how different life choices—to leave Haiti for a better life, and to stay in Haiti and make a better life—impact an extended family unto the next generation and the next after that. Check Our Catalog



Jan 28, 2015 by jimj

Abandoned for dead by the rest of his crew after a horrific storm forces them to evacuate the planet, Mark Watney’s challenges are immense. Facing starvation, loneliness, broken machinery, an unforgiving environment, human error and no way to contact earth this botanist/engineer nevertheless is not willing to surrender. Will his ingenuity be enough to overcome the impossible odds he faces? A terrific adventure/survival tale. Check Our Catalog

Jan 22, 2015 by deirdres

Who doesn't love Joe Perry? If you are among the few, this book should win you over. Along with typical rock and roll memoir topics like drugs, infighting, and being manipulated by management, there are interesting insights into the events that formed him. He comes across as a being grateful to have made a career out of playing the guitar and as a genuine family man who not only loves and appreciates his wife and kids but the rest of his family as well. He is an unabashed fan of many other bands and musicians with one of the highlights of his life being the chance to play with Kiss and wear the platform boots. He is also a genuine fan of Steven Tyler's vocal and drumming skills, and while there is some illumination about his feelings toward Tyler's behavior, the other members of the band are rarely mentioned. You sometimes feel the restraint in his stories as he tries not to drag other people into the fray. I'm sure volumes are left unwritten but it is still an enjoyable read about a local favorite. Check Our Catalog

Jan 14, 2015 by maryd

It's 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day--July 15th--of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself. I love when a story has characters that make decisions that are super-realistic; ones that can remind you of yourself or people you know. This book really suceeds because it does just that. At times I got so frustrated because Emma and Dexter keep making the same mistakes over and over again, and yet you want them to change, be better people and to finally get together. The author understands people and the way their minds work. This book is well written and worth reading. It was also turned into a movie in 2011, starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, and Patricia Clarkson. Check our catalog

Jan 13, 2015 by jimj

America’s most recognizable icon was originally referred to as the “Bartholdi Statue.” Over time the sculptor’s name disappeared from popular memory. The fascinating story of the Statue of Liberty is the tale of potent whimsy, self-promotional hustle, dogged determination and French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi’s reach for his own version of immortality. Check our catalog

Jan 12, 2015 by megana

Adventurer, war correspondent and award-winning novelist Robert Stone died on Saturday. His second novel, Dog Soldiers, won a National Book Award and was adapted into the movie "Who'll Stop the Rain" in 1978. Other significant works include A Flag for Sunrise, Outerbridge Reach, and Damascus Gate. Never read one of his books? Try borrowing one from the library and see what makes his work worth reading! Check Our Catalog

Dec 30, 2014 by claytonc

Sometime in the near future a virus has infected thousands of people around the world and completely severed their ability to control their bodies. Being of sound mind these people (Holdens) are literally locked inside their human form. The virus had no respect for class or status and many very wealthy people were locked in. They were able to harness political power to subsidize rapid advances in technology that now enable people locked in their bodies to navigate the physical world by controlling very advanced robots - as well as habitating in expansive virtual worlds. The story opens on the poster child of Holdens’ first day in the FBI. Crimes against Holdens are on the rise, and political winds have shifted, as people who were not infected start to feel disadvantaged. Tightly written, this was a very fun read. Check our catalog

Dec 23, 2014 by claytonc

I first met local veterinarian Dr. Trout when he helped me diagnose a dear greyhound I had rescued. When I came across this, his fifth book, I knew I had to give it a chance - he was a great help in a tough time and I figured that his writing must be pretty good to sustain this many books. I was very pleasantly surprised. This novel is about a man who has returned to his home-town in rural Vermont to take over his recently deceased father’s veterinary practice. It comes with the expected animal related mysteries, a rivalry with a bigger, corporate practice in the next town over, and a couple possible love interests with complications. The writing is very easy-going and often humourous. Not incredibly deep, but quite comforting - much like my favorite canine companions. Check our catalog

Dec 19, 2014 by megana

Luz made the biggest mistake of her life when she left her one-year-old daughter in L.A. with her aunt and threw her lot in with a Mexican drug lord in Tijuana. Now married to Mexican drug lord #2, she is captive to her husband and her drug habit. After a year of careful planning, she manages to escape both and make a run for her “angel baby” back in L.A. Almost immediately, her husband is on her trail via a murderous paid thug/convict and a thoroughly corrupt U.S. border patrolman. Her only hope is Malone, a drunken and dissolute drifter who smuggles illegals across the border for money. Tightly written and un-put-downable, this thriller follows the chase from both the good guys’ and the bad guys’ point of view. Check Our Catalog


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