Staff Book Picks

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May 9, 2012 by megana

In the pre-dawn hours of a summer day, a carful of post-wedding revelers hits and kills a young girl on a dark country road. The accident reverberates throughout the lives of the driver (under the influence) who was driving without headlights and never saw the girl, the front seat passenger (also under the influence) who did see the girl in time but failed to point her out to the driver, the rear seat passengers, and the bride who let them leave her wedding reception knowing they were in no state to travel.  This nuanced novel follows a motley group of flawed human characters into the subsequent 25 years of their lives, with careful and convincing attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle impacts on their relationships, work and life choices.  Check Our Catalog

May 9, 2012 by jimj

In Island, Aldous Huxley suggests the possibility of using a psychedelic to enhance transcendental experience, spirituality, and consciousness. But in his Brave New World soma serves to illustrate how psychopharmacological enhancement can be dehumanizing.  Is there a middle ground? Stein (a practicing psychiatrist and medical school professor) tackles a large number of important ethical, philosophical and moral questions relating to this issue. What is the distinction between the use of psychiatric medications for therapy versus enhancement (so-called “cosmetic psychopharmacology”)?  Is there a rationale for using psychotropics to optimize psychological well being even in the absence of disorder? And how does one define a psychiatric disorder? Is it a necessary and sufficient condition or is it a category reflecting particular social practices, a social construct? Stein offers an integrated cognitive-affective approach to how we think about science, language, and medicine drawing insights from a host of authorities from Plato to Wittgenstein.  A 58-page bibliography provides a gold mine for further study. Get this title through interlibrary loan.

May 9, 2012 by jimj

Hodder’s clever and complex steampunk reimagining of 19th century London has it all. Sir Richard Francis Burton and his diminutive side-kick poet Algernon Swindburne take on villainous Technologists with visions of bigger and better machines, Eugenicists who have plans to develop weird modified animals, and Rakes in hedonistic defiance of all social propriety. Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Charles Babbage and Isambard Brunel all make appearances. In the middle of this exhilarating romp a strange red eyed apparition wearing spring-loaded boots and crackling with blue-flamed electricity—the legendary Spring Heeled Jack—is on a mission to erase a stain on his family’s history.  Eccentric, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, fast paced and most light hearted, this is a terrific page turner. Check our Catalog.

May 9, 2012 by jimj

For those who have enjoyed the exploits of the Knights of the Round Table through T. H. White’s soap operatic Once and Future King and/or the musical Camelot it was based on, we now have Ackroyd’s delightfully robust retooling (a paraphrase rather than a translation) of Malory’s 15th century masterpiece. The retelling is almost biblical in its cadence and an excellent use of the editor’s knife allows the narrative pace to hurtle along from one adventure to the next. There is a melancholic feel to the tale that even each character’s lack of psychological complexity cannot hide. Acts of chivalry, duty and love are jarringly juxtaposed with random cruelty, treachery and trickery. Honor is everything. And proves the reason for the downfall of many a good knight. They’re all here:  the oft-confused Arthur, mighty Lancelot, fickle Guinevere, magical Merlin, conniving Modred, the ill-starred lovers Tristam and Isolde, treacherous Gawain, heroic Galahad and many more.  And for a beautiful stretch the quest for the Holy Grail eclipses the adventures of the Round Table. Check our Catalog.

May 8, 2012 by julier

An unusual format, a fully illustrated scrapbook, makes this period romance unique.  Frankie Pratt receives a scrapbook, her father's old typewriter and a letter of acceptance to Vassar for her high school graduation in 1920 and begins to record her world.  Caroline Preston does a remarkable job creating Frankie's voice through the small snippets of conversation and captions she uses on each scrapbook page.   True to the way one really keeps a scrapbook it only hits the highlights, an almost disasterous romance before college gets a few gushing pages, the first tough year at Vassar gets a page and the rest of her college career is summed up in one page at graduation.  Working briefly in New York and Paris Frankie hits the high spots of those glamorous locations during the Roaring Twenties before heading home to care for a sick mother.  A fun light read with a well deserved happy ending. Check Our Catalog

Beloved children's author Maurice Sendak passed away early Tuesday at the age of 83.  Sendak is best remembered for his books 'Where the Wild Things Are' and 'In the Night Kitchen.' He was the winner of both a Caldecott Medal and the National Medal of the Arts.  Check out his classic, Where the Wild Things Are.

Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter and he is at the top of his game.  Roger Brown is also an art thief and in this he might not be at the top of his game.  In this standalone novel from the author who has brought us detective Harry Hole, we meet a man living beyond his means and trying to get by with just a little crime.  Our protagonist meets Clas Greve, who just might be the solution to all of Brown’s problems:  the perfect CEO and an art collector.  As we know, things are not always as easy as they appear… Check Our Catalog

Apr 24, 2012 by megana

Eloquent, powerful and prescient, this novel of South Africa just before apartheid was formally instituted in the late 1940s is well worth reading or re-reading. The alternating stories of two father and son pairs--black minister Kumalo and his ne'er-do-well son, Absalom, and white landowner Jarvis and his status quo-challenging son, Arthur--strip away the self-justifying rhetoric of white power to reveal the staggering human price we pay when one group systematically exploits another. A page turner that has become a classic for a very good reason. Check Our Catalog

Welcome to the Demi-Monde.  In the year 2018, the Demi-Monde is the most sophisticated, complex and unpredictable computer simulation ever created.  Rees’ book is one of the most entertaining alternate reality/sci-fi books created in some time.  Rees populates the Demi-Monde, originally designed as a military training ground, with some of the worst villains from history.  We enter the Demi-Monde in search of a missing person, who is stuck in the simulation and cannot get out.  Once I started reading, I didn’t want to leave.  Check Our Catalog

Apr 14, 2012 by megana

This debut novel grabs you from the very first page, when journalist Troy Chance sees a small boy falling into the water from a passing ferry and impulsively dives in to rescue him.  The engrossing adventure that ensues includes interesting characters, a cross-border (US/Canada) police investigation, plenty of suspense, and a somewhat unpredictable outcome. Check Our Catalog

Woods' prose invokes "the voices," one saying "No one is that lucky or has that much libido," the other shouting "Shut up, I want to see what happens next!"  In spite of all that noise, this is a page-turner. Fun to read and very relaxing.  Check Our Catalog

James A. Garfield is a president that many of us forget.  His was also an assassination that many of us forget.  Millard tells the story of Garfield’s rise from rural poverty, to become a gifted scholar, Civil War hero, crusading Congressman, and finally President of the United States.  This book sheds light upon an extraordinary man, while offering the deranged mind of his assassin as a foil.  Check Our Catalog

Mar 30, 2012 by julier

Flynn Keirnan finds an odd 19th century photograph in a book bought at an estate sale.  She learns that it is a "spirit photograph" showing the victims and alleged murderer in the infamous Chicago "Free Love Murders" of 1875. The multilayered story is told in parallel tracks of the present day search for information and the events of 1875 as they unfold. Real life early feminist and advocate of Free Love, Victoria Woodhull, is called in to provide testimony for the accused, adding an interesting historical background to the story. Check Our Catalog

It is not easy to describe this one.  Our protagonist is a seemingly normal middle aged man who has just moved to a seemingly normal rural town.  Solomon Kugel has a lovely wife, and new son, and an elderly mother living with him in his newly purchased, sprawling farm house.  Apparently, he may also have Anne Frank living in his attic… Check Our Catalog

Mar 23, 2012 by julier

WWI widow Kate Shackleton has had some modest success locating missing soldiers in the years since the end of the war. Now an old friend from her days in the VAD has asked for her help.  Tabitha's father, the owner of a woolen mill, disappeared one day in 1916 and she refuses to believe he is dead and wants him at her upcoming wedding.  Kate uncovers much more than she, or Tabitha, ever bargained for in this mystery set amid the mills of England's Midlands. Check Our Catalog

Mar 23, 2012 by deirdres

In this tale of love and fate, two stories become entwined.  After waking from a coma with little memory of her past,  Jennifer Stirling finds her life as prop in her businessman husband's life disconcerting and uncomfortable.  Eventually, she finds some letters that indicate she was having an affair and that "B" was very much in love with her. Forty years later reporter Ellie Haworth stumbles upon some of "B's" letters and endeavors to find out the fate of these lovers. Check Our Catalog


Mar 22, 2012 by megana

Is Heathcliff (1) a tortured romantic hero or (2) an evil vindictive villain? If you've only ever seen the 1939 Merle Oberson/Laurence Olivier movie, you'll pick (1).  Read this classic novel and you might change your mind.  Whether you decide it's an over-the-top mythic romance or a pre-Freudian exploration of the psyche's dark side, Bronte's 1845 tale of child abuse, domestic violence, and social class prejudice will keep you reading until the bitter end.  Check Our Catalog

Welcome to Bangkok, an exotic land of love, drugs, and now human organ trafficking.  Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is on the case in Burdett’s fifth Bangkok novel.  Jitpleecheep’s boss is now running for public office and needs a good police scoop to help his ratings.  Burdett takes us away from his usual exotic and seedy Bangkok locales as Jipleecheep chases the bad guys to Dubai, Phuket, Monte Carol and Hong Kong.  Check Our Catalog

Mar 12, 2012 by jimj

The extraordinarily descriptive sub-title doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of this delightful adventure into the heart of the sea and all its mythmaking potential. Here’s the setup. On January 10, 1992 the container ship Ever Laurel, en route from Hong Kong to Tacoma, rolled violently and a shipment of 28,800 bathtub toys fell overboard. A rather mundane (and, as we learn, all too common) occurrence takes on a life of its own as a rather routine insurance claim becomes a media tale of epic (and more-or-less erroneous) proportions.  Hohn follows the trail of the toys from their humble metamorphosis as yellow polyethylene goo in China’s Pearl River Delta to seafaring icons.  It's all here: the science of hydrography, the chemistry of plastics, the history of childhood, the terrifying world Arctic exploration, the secret world of international shipping conglomerates, maverick environmentalism, and high tech oceanography. Hohn introduces us to a cast of intriguing and unforgettable characters and delivers it all in the sort of eagerly inquisitive, whimsical, self-effacing prose that will keep you fascinated to the very last page. Check Our Catalog

Leo Demidov returns for Smith’s third installment about the ex-KGB officer.  This book picks up later in Demidov’s life, after he has left the service and is fighting the ghosts of his past.  Demidov’s wife and adoptive daughters have gone to New York as part of a Cold War good faith mission.  What happens in New York changes his life and those of his entire family.  Smith has created a great character in Demidov and I hope this isn’t his last mission. Check Our Catalog

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