Staff Book Picks

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May 21, 2012 by jimj

Continuing and expanding on the adventure, steampunkery and general Victorian madness of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack Hodder’s protagonists Sir Francis Burton and his assistant poet Algernon Swinburne deal with catastrophic threats to "life as we know it". A seemingly routine robbery leads to a dubious claim on an aristocrat’s estate and quickly morphs into wraith-induced rioting in the streets of London. Haunted mansions, terrifying visits to the madhouse Bedlam, and missing diamonds are all part of the journey to expose a plot that both threatens the British Empire and could create international conflict leading to world war. It’s all resolved rather nicely but, thankfully, the book ends with a clear to-be-continued note. Excellent! Check our Catalog

May 21, 2012 by jimj

The final book of the Bible is a strange and violent tour de force of apocalyptic imagery. Full of dragons and angels, blood and war, Revelation presents the prophecies of divine judgment on the enemies of God. Who wrote this volume? Why? What do the visions mean? What is revelation? In this slim, well-written and researched volume, Pagels, a scholar of ancient Near Eastern religious literature (check out her award-winning Gnostic Gospels), patiently guides us through the provenance of this 2000 old year example of “wartime literature.” Revelation condemns pagan Rome. But its author, John of Patmos, also has an axe to grind with followers of Jesus living in towns in what is now western Turkey who have strayed dangerously close to heresy. Pagels surveys other “revelations” and explores the reasons why John’s book found its place in the canon. Wide-ranging and stimulating. Check our catalog.

May 16, 2012 by megana

Explore the work of this celebrated Mexican writer who died on May 15. Try The Old Gringo (a best-seller in the U.S. when published and later made into a movie starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda), The Death of Artemio Cruz, or Aura, about a young scholar who falls in love with the niece of an aged widow and discovers the true relationship between the two women. Check Our Catalog

As an adolescent, Billy Abbott was preoccupied with having crushes on the wrong people: a lusty librarian, his stepfather, the wrestling star at his all-boys prep school. John Irving's newest novel, In One Person, is narrated by adult Billy as he looks back on life and shares the details of past relationships and sexual encounters, the books he read, the places he traveled, and tender moments and conflicts between his family members. Fans of Irving will find the usual subjects--wrestling, New England, writers and sex--but also another good story with likeable, and very human, characters. Check Our Catalog

In this new book, local author Alan Lightman brings us a new rendition of the creation story.  This time the story is being told through the eyes of God.  Constantly barraged by his meddling aunt and uncle, Mr. G creates multiple worlds and universes out of the void.  Lightman provides as much scientific info as he does spiritual in this whimsical take on creation. Check our Catalog

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

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