Staff Book Picks

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Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch) writes a monthly column for the British magazine Believer where he discusses the books he’s read in the past month. Compiling a group of these columns into a novel seems like a strange idea, but reading this collection is like joining a fun book club with a witty, well-read writer. Over the course of the 14 entries Hornby talks about fiction and nonfiction, but he also digresses often about writing and writers, life as a parent, the pleasures of reading, and the art of only reading short novels. Check our Catalog

Jan 25, 2013 by deirdres

I expected this to be an oral history of comedians so I was a little surprised at how much space was given over to improv and writing for sitcoms.  Not that it wasn't interesting but I kept wondering when we'd be getting back to the comedians.   A lot of the focus of the book is about women breaking into the largely male arena of stand-up comedy and the perception, by some people, that women aren't funny.  There is some rehashing of well-worn topics like how hard women had it on  Saturday Night Live, and other not so well known, like how supportive Janeane Garofalo was to other comedians. The author did get a number of big female comedy names: Ellen DeGeneres, Phyllis Diller, Kathy Griffin, etc. to talk to her,  but I would have liked to have heard from Elayne Boosler since she's mentioned so often.  But on the whole this was an entertaining and informative book. Check Our Catalog

Jan 23, 2013 by megana

As a boy, Daniel Mendelsohn was fascinated by his maternal grandfather’s stories and compelled by the mysterious absence of the single great-uncle (of seven siblings) who was “killed by the Nazis” along with his wife and four daughters. As an adult, the author doggedly pursued the truth about what happened to these “six of six million” in an attempt to know who they were as individuals caught up in the larger holocaust of history. His journey takes him around the globe over a period of years, seeking out survivors from the small Ukrainian town where his Jewish ancestors had lived, worked and thrived for three hundred years before World War II. He followed leads to dead ends and eerie coincidences, listened to eyewitness accounts and thirdhand gossip, and created from these a richly layered, beautifully written book about memory, family, moral choices, scripture, and storytelling itself. Check Our Catalog

Jan 23, 2013 by megana

Two damaged thirtysomethings with mysterious back stories return to their Wisconsin home town to lick their wounds and subsequently run into each other at a local gallery opening. Flash back to their experience as two high school oddballs assigned to do a science project together. Uh huh, you can predict the ending to this one: awkwardness leads to happily ever after. But not so fast. This suspenseful story has twists and turns that you won’t expect and you won’t really know which narrator to trust, and which version of the past to believe, until the very end. And maybe not even then… Check Our Catalog

Jan 3, 2013 by julier

In 1780s London Dr. Thomas Silkstone, a native of Philadelpia, has been studying anatomy for seven years and is gaining a reputation for himself as a skilled and dedicated anatomist.   Thomas would be more than willing to continue to pursue his studies purely to gain more knowledge of the human body but when Lady Lydia Farrell requests his aid in discovering whether her brother, Earl Crick, was poisoned he finds himself drawn out of his laboratory and into a court room.  Lady Farrell is desperate to find the truth as the local rumor mill has cast her husband as the murderer. The dissection scenes are fairly graphic.  The mystery itself is well plotted and tricky.  This is a first novel and it does have some rough edges but the story was interesting enough I'm looking forward to the next. Check Our Catalog

This comedic crime novel teems with memorable characters and laugh-out-loud situations. When you mix the aftermath of a destructive hurricane with money hungry ex-cons, an insane ex-governor, a rogue band of monkeys, innocent honeymooners, and an independently wealthy handsome skull juggler looking for direction, high jinks and hilarity are bound to happen. Check Our Catalog

Not intellectual fare, but wonderful fun and distraction and a great way to recontextualize whatever you're dealing with lately.  "You think you have problems?"  Cannell's recurring hero Shane Scully is up against an evildoer you can picture easily enough in your mind, a lurid "Reality TV star" whose mission in life seems to make life miserable for police.  One measure of a well written story is the solutions you think you have drawn as you move toward the conclusion, telling yourself how good it will feel, and how vindicated you as reader will be, when it turns out you had already solved the mystery.  Then you find out... well, no spoilers here, just a suggestion that if you like a really fast and fast-moving read, this is a good one.  Check Our Catalog

Dec 18, 2012 by deirdres

This book is about the effect a morbidly obese obsessive-compulsive eater has on her family.  It's true that matriarch Edie's non-stop consumption weighs heavily on her family, but so does her impending divorce from husband of 30-something years, Richard.  We get everyone's point of view. Pharmacist Richard who just wants to have sex again before he dies.   Schoolteacher daughter Robin who is forced to spend more time in the hated suburbs tending to her mother, son Benny and daughter-in-law Rachelle whose family in thrown into its own upheaval because of Rachelle's fear of them all ending up like Edie,  and several other relatives and friends of the Middlesteins.

The reader is taken through the years with the Middlesteins during important turning points in their relationships and the daily annoyances that build up to crushing anger. Attenberg has a way of conjuring up a distinct feeling in a few words.  My favorite being:  "Robin looked at Daniel and had the meanest thought of her entire life.  He'll do."   It's well worth reading. Check Our Catalog

The world is going to end, it is just a matter of time.  In The Last Policeman, they know when and they don’t have too long.  In a world threatened by an impending asteroid strike, Detective Hank Palace might just be the last working policeman.  Crime is on the rise, but who wants to waste the effort bringing criminals to justice, when the asteroid will bring its own.  Palace sets about solving a murder in this first of an anticipated trilogy.  The investigation won’t be easy since the murder looks like a suicide, and those have become all too prevalent with disaster so near.  Check Our Catalog

Dec 6, 2012 by megana

The subtitle of this book is "Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer". The author describes the latest research on physical fitness in a very readable and engaging way and addresses lots of exercise myths about stretching (before cardio? after cardio? never?), exercise and weight loss, how long and how often to work out depending on your own goals, and more. Reynolds writes a fitness column for the New York Times and she is adept at making physiology, biology and neurology make sense for the lay person. It's also fascinating to read about the creative ways researchers structure human and animal studies to test various fitness theories. How would you get a lab rat to lift weights? This book is not just for fitness buffs, but anyone who cares about their health and longevity. Whether you read the whole book cover to cover or just the chapters that address your personal questions, you will be motivated to stand up and get moving--immediately! Check Our Catalog

Dec 5, 2012 by julier

Ina Garten's cookbooks are always gorgeous to look at and chatty reads. She heads all of her recipes with a short paragraph about where the recipe came from or why she created it.  So far I've only made one recipe, Salted Caramel Brownies, and it was a hit at Thanksgiving.  Foolproof is a good name for this book; all of the recipes are well written and I wouldn't have a moment's hesitation in making any of them for the first time for company. I'll be making the  Mustard and Gruyere Batons for an upcoming party and there are a couple of soup recipes I'd like to try soon. Check Our Catalog

Dec 3, 2012 by megana

Born to a single mother and adopted by Pentecostal parents, acclaimed British novelist Jeanette Winterson's childhood was extraordinary by any measure.  In this raw, fiercely honest and deeply affecting memoir, she remembers growing up with a monstrous mother and a passive father in a very specific time and place: the 1960s and 1970s in the small North England industrial town of Accrington, where some of the poorer children brought dog biscuits to school for their mid-day meal and everyone Jeanette knew was as skinny as a ferret. Because reading books was deemed dangerous (only the Bible was allowed at home), Jeanette discovered English Literature A-Z at the local public library and hid books under her mattress. With exquisite prose, she delves deeply into matters of human love, loss and identity, and shows how stories and poetry can guide and save us when we are suffering. Check Our Catalog

Nov 29, 2012 by julier

The latest William Monk mystery follows the well established pattern of an early arrest but with lingering questions and a scramble for more information during trial.  With these books I find I'm not so much concerned with "whodunnit" as I am with the background history of the time period.  This story deals with early pharmacy reform and the the use, abuse and increasing addiction to opium in the 1860s.  I always enjoy Anne Perry's stories for their period detail. Check Our Catalog

Nov 29, 2012 by dorothyc

Ditch the chilly, gray, wet weather for a castle on the Italian Riviera. A group of four very different women do just that in Elizabeth von Arnim's The Enchanted April. Each woman experiences the happiness and freedom that come with leaving your everyday worries behind for days spent exploring nature and soaking up sunshine. A beautiful novel and the perfect escape for a wintry night. Check Our Catalog

In this breathtaking sequel to Kepler’s The Hypnotist, we find Swedish detective Joona Linna investigating the mysterious murder of a young woman.  The story switches between a terrifying chase scene played out over semi deserted islands, and the political intrigue of international arms deals.  Linna at times comes off as larger than life, but you want to know what he is doing and thinking.  Follow Loona and his colorful cast of heroes and villains in this excellent sequel.  Check Our Catalog

Celebrated American author Philip Roth has announced his retirement from fiction writing. He may also be retiring from the public spotlight as he gave his last interview, published in Sunday's New York Times. Roth has written 31 books since bursting onto the scene with "Goodbye, Columbus" in 1959. Some of his most notable books include: "Sabbath's Theater", "American Pastoral", "The Human Stain", and "The Plot Against America". He has won countless awards in his career, including two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle awards, multiple PEN/Faulkner Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize. Read his last interview, or enjoy one of his books.

The winners of this year's National Book Awards were announced on Wednesday night. Local poet, David Ferry of Brookline won this year's award for Poetry with his collection 'Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations'. Louise Erdrich's 'The Round House' won for best novel. This story of racial injustice that takes place on a reservation in North Dakota beat out some stiff competition. Katherine Boo's story of the poverty in the shadow of India's luxury hotels, 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity', won the non fiction award. Read more about these and the rest of the awards at

This is the story of a terrifying, yet compelling London hood and his nephew, who is trying to create a new life, free of his very heavy family baggage.  Amis creates fantastic dialogue for his characters and the language is brilliant.  Reader beware, however, this book shows glimpses of the seedier side of both the London underworld and complicated families.  Jump on board for quite the uproarious ride.  Check Our Catalog

Nov 13, 2012 by deirdres

I've wanted to read this book ever since I first saw the cover and it was just as good, better even, then I thought it would be based on that skimpy criteria.  This is the kind of book I love.  Lots of intertwined characters jumping  back and forth through time from 1960's Italy to present day Hollywood.   It begins on the coast of Italy at the Hotel Adequate View as the proprietor Pasquale's life is changed by the arrival of beautiful American actress, Dee Moray, who is in Italy to film Cleopatra.  What follows are stories of love in many incarnations involving the friends and relations of Pasquale and Dee, including Richard Burton who is amusingly portrayed as an boozy narcissist. Check Our Catalog

Duncan’s new novel picks up on the threads of the romantic entanglements of now deceased werewolf Jake Marlowe. His love, Talulla Demetriou, has survived the hunt described at the end of ‘The Last Werewolf’. Talulla is now coming to terms with being a werewolf, possibly the only one left. As she struggles with her new identity, the same forces that were after Jake now are coming after her. Will she survive?  Check Our Catalog

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