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Staff Book Picks

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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

Dec 15, 2014 by claytonc

If I could, I would make this book required reading for everyone of voting age in this country. In this age of mass-incarceration, with truly horrifying and mind-numbing statistics documenting our floundering with the administration of justice, this book provides powerful hope for how we can move forward. With incredibly engaging stories from the frontline of the struggle, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama recounts his experiences as a lawyer working to assist those desperately in need, reflecting on his pursuit of the ideal of compassion in American justice. Likened to Nelson Mandela by Desmond Tutu, this is a profound voice you need to hear. The interview below, originally broadcast on November 20, is Stevenson discussing Ferguson, prison reform and why the opposite of poverty is justice. Check our catalog

Dec 8, 2014 by jimj

Demythologizing the complications and vicissitudes of war requires a deft eloquence and brutal honesty. Klay’s powerful first-person stories explore the brutality and faith, guilt and doubt, commitment and fear and the ever present attempt to create meaning from the fog of our recent Middle East conflicts. Winner of the 2014 National Book Award for fiction. Check our catalog

Dec 3, 2014 by junet

No one writes dystopian science fiction quite like Octavia Butler. Captivating and terrifyingly real, Parable of the Sower tells the tale of young Lauren Olamina, an empath who feels and experiences the pain of others around her. Forced to flee her home in Southern California, Lauren finds an America where anarchy and violence have completely taken over as a result of unattended environmental and economic crises. What begins as a flight for survival becomes a mission to carry the hope of a new world and a new faith known as "Earthseed." If you enjoy compelling, thoughtful reads, Octavia Butler’s works are a must (especially to hunker down with this coming winter!). Check our catalog

Nov 25, 2014 by claytonc

This is a fabulous tale! It starts in the mid-1980’s in the English countryside when 15-year-old Holly Sykes storms away from home over her first-love - an older boy who does her wrong so fast its barely even mentionable. Earlier in Holly’s life she heard voices and had visits from what other’s chalked up to an imaginary friend. But it was never imaginary for Holly, and she is quite sane. The novel skips forward and around the globe, introducing several other interesting characters, all of whom have compelling stories of their own. There are sci-fi elements to this story, but, as a non-sci-fi reader re-assured me, this is NOT a sci-fi novel. Or at least that’s not a very significant portion, although there are some rather fantastical elements. What this IS, is a story of life, culture, loving, what lasts, and what is merely transitory. Many twists and turns, and utterly compelling, you may likely want to read it more than once. There is a good reason this ended up on the long list for the 2014 Booker prize. Check our catalog

Nov 21, 2014 by claytonc

Who is Jigme Drolma? Perhaps the Tibetan David Foster Wallace? Perhaps a fraud? Follow young literary artists across Brooklyn, Bloomington, Berkeley, and Bakersfield as they trip through life, art, love, and SOFA. What is SOFA? Think Occupy, but not as well defined. This novel is often quite funny, definitely proud of its geek edges, and a fun way to spend a few hours. Don’t read it for plot - there’s not a ton. Its never even entirely clear who the main characters are, but its a fun ride for sure. Check our catalog

Nov 17, 2014 by megana

It’s 1920 and Rosanna and Walter Langdon are just starting their lives as a young farm family in Iowa, Walter just returned from the European battlefield and Rosanna determined to be the perfect farm wife. The years pass one by one while babies are born, crops are harvested, tractors replace workhorses and the family lives within the arc of history (drought, Depression, another World War, the Red Scare). This is a satisfying family saga that is billed as the first of a trilogy, and you will want to keep reading about this extended clan of characters you’ve come to know and care about. Check Our Catalog

Nov 13, 2014 by briand

Local journalist and beer brewer Lauren Clark has delivered a well researched and witty book about the history of beer and the explosive emergence of craft beer brewing in the New England area. Starting with the Pilgrims first landing in Plymouth, Lauren explores the rich history and vital importance that beer had on the first settlers of America. With scarce resources, the early settlers of our nation had to get creative, using corn, spruce tree branches, pumpkins (actual pumpkins, not our modern nutmeg laced “pumpkin” beers), and molasses, as ingredients. These unique ingredients lead to some...interesting...flavors. Beer, as both a source of nutrition and reliably safe form of hydration, was an essential element of the Pilgrims survival in the New World, however, it was also a source of contention, as overindulgence was common and threatened their religious way of life. This conflict would culminate in the passing of prohibition years later. In the aftermath of Prohibition, the New England beer industry saw a big resurgence. With great detail, Clark explores the creation, and in some cases, failure, of post prohibition New England beer companies like Narragansett, Samuel Adams, Haffenreffer, Harpoon, Smuttynose, and many, many others. This is a great book for anyone thirsty for local history and beer/craft beer history. Cheers! Check our catalog

Nov 6, 2014 by jimj

A project to bioengineer a race of super warriors who can master any skill in moments and heal from the most catastrophic wounds produces mutant “virals” that wipe out most of the human population in short order. One hundred years later a small group of survivors at the end of their resources decide to place their hope in a young girl who can so something unusual: communicate with the “virals.” Meticulously plotted, full of a host of well-drawn and empathetic characters, and enough plot twists to keep one guessing to the pause at the end . . . eagerly anticipating the second installment. Yes, this is another first installment of a projected vampire trilogy, but this one’s very, very different. Check our catalog

Oct 24, 2014 by megana

We first meet Marie-Laure and Werner as youngsters in pre-war France and Germany. Marie Laure lives with her father, master locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and loses her sight at age six. Werner and his sister are growing up with limited prospects in a poor orphanage in the coal mining town where their parents died. The arrival of World War II disrupts their childhoods, causing Marie-Laure and her father to flee to the relative safety of Saint-Malo, a walled citadel on the coast of France, and providing Werner with an unexpected opportunity to avoid his inevitable destiny in the coal mines by joining Hitler Youth. This beautifully written story follows these two characters through the wartime years as their lives slowly converge and finally meet just as Allied bombs rain down and the Nazis flee in August 1944. Although it is closely focused on the lives of two sympathetic people, the novel is really about the devastation of war on every level—the way it destroys communities, rips apart families, and permanently warps the lives and personalities of individuals caught up in something beyond their control. Check Our Catalog

Lyddie Berry is a strong and independent thinking woman. She needs that strength when her husband dies because life as a widow in colonial America is almost unimaginable by today's standards. Besides her grief, she must deal with the fact that the house she shared with her husband for twenty years, her property, and her rights are now controlled by her nearest male relative. That man is her overbearing and thoroughly insensitive son-in-law. The author gives us not only memorable characters, but painless history lessons as life in pre-Revolutiuonary Satucket (read Brewster, MA) unfolds, and we follow Lyddie in her personal "war" as she challenges the laws and customs of the times.
This title became a book club favorite, and there are now even organized tours of Lyddie's Satucket during the summer and early fall months. My group spent a day in Brewster, a "field trip" to the Cape, and followed the map included in the book on our own. This is certainly a well-written and well-researched story, and is followed by others in which some of the characters reappear and bring the story up to Revolutionary times. I've enjoyed them all, but I think this is my favorite. If you liked Sally Gunning's Peter Bartholomew mystery series, do give her historical novels a try, you won't be disappointed. Check Our Catalog


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