Staff Book Picks

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Fourteen-year-old June loves medieval history, Mozart, and fine art. She’s not a typical teenager and she doesn’t have many friends. Her closest friend is her Uncle Finn. To her, he’s the only person who fully understands her. When Finn dies of AIDS, she feels lost and broken. Her mother is keeping secrets about Finn and her sister is mean to her for reasons June doesn’t understand. It’s also 1987, a time when the disease came with a stigma. Then June strikes up a secret friendship with a man who knew Finn well and perhaps knew him better than anyone else. This friendship teaches June some important things about love and compassion. This book was not published as a young adult title, but would certainly be enjoyed and appreciated by teens as well as adults. Check Our Catalog

 

Mar 6, 2013 by jimj

Instead of studying fossils of long dead critters like any respectable paleontologist Fortey focuses on the survivors—“messengers from deep geological time”--that should not have survived at least 5 mass extinctions. There are the titular horseshoe crabs and velvet worms, of course, but also jellyfish, clams, bacteria and “slimy mounds” (stromatolites). And we must not forget the cockroach. Like a wise old grandfather who knows all things old and fascinating (and much more besides) Fortey guides us through 4 billion years of life. And when the journey is finished you feel enriched in a way that only good science writing can accomplish. Check Our Catalog



Mar 6, 2013 by jimj

Mahlia and Mouse are refugees in a dark, dystopic future America. The relative calm of their war-torn lives is shattered when they discover a wounded bioengineered war beast named Tool hunted by a squad of young war boys led by a psychopathic lieutenant. Mouse is captured by the squad and Mahlia faces an impossible decision: risk her life to save a friend or flee to freedom. A fast-moving adventure tale of love, loyalty and changes of heart. Check Our Catalog



Feb 26, 2013 by jimj

A delightful, witty investigation into the mysterious world of an ailment that touches every life on the planet on average four times per year. And the multi-billion dollar industry that repeatedly (and wrongly) claims to “cure” it. A gifted science reporter, Ackerman takes us deep into the places where the viruses begin their nefarious onslaught (the nose) and delights in relating the studies that debunk the curative effects of chicken soup, zinc, and various soaps and elixirs. But she also tells us what works. And how to avoid a cold (hint: children are germ factories). She even subjects herself to an intentional inoculation all in the name of science. If you’ve got a cold hunker down with this volume and enjoy the journey. Check Our Catalog



Feb 26, 2013 by jimj

Former planet-hopping soldiers John Perry and his wife Jane Sagan have retired to administrative positions on a peaceful colonial planet when they entertain a visit from a former commander who makes a proposal: they are the perfect candidates to lead a promising colony of citizens from ten worlds in the Colonial Union. But after they accept things deteriorate dramatically as they discover that they are pawns in a galactic chess game. Loads of political intrigue and plot twists make this a satisfying denouement to a trilogy that began with Hugo award finalist Old Man’s War and continued with Ghost Brigades. Check Our Catalog



Feb 15, 2013 by jimj

When 7-year-old Valentino Achak Deng, a Dinka living in southern Sudan, is forced to leave his village, his harrowing journey takes him through three countries, terrifying encounters with Arab militias, government bombers, wild animals and some of sub-Saharan Africa’s most challenging terrain. One of the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan, Valentino stands as an extraordinary example of a story that is equal parts bleak, lyrical, humorous and tragic. Even a resettlement in America brings is a bittersweet tale of social anomie and cognitive dissonance.  Beautifully written in the first person, this epic tale will instruct, illuminate and entertain from the first page to the last. Check Our Catalog



Feb 14, 2013 by jimj

With a suitcase full of philosophy books Klein returns to the Greek island of Hydra to discover the secrets of aging graciously and gracefully. While the ancient philosopher Epicurus is Klein’s most important guide, the author seeks wisdom in a variety of texts. Looking back over a life in the fast lane he contemplates the uncommonly content lives of the old men of Hydra. Men with deep roots in the island’s culture and deeper friendships. A lovely, thin volume filled with pithy and gently provocative observations on a topic of interest to us all. Check the Catalog

Frank Money has recently returned from the Korean War, less two friends and with many emotional scars. He has no plans to return to his hometown of Lotus, Georgia, until he receives a letter that his beloved sister Cee is sick. Morrison's beautifully written novel is haunting and heartbreaking, but the New York Times nailed it when reviewer Leah Hager Cohen wrote that Home is "on the basis of its publisher’s description a novel, on the basis of its length a novella, and on the basis of its stripped-down, symbol-laden plot something of an allegory." Fans of Morrison will be pleased. Check Our Catalog

Jan 29, 2013 by megana

Who knew that going to church could be deadly? North Carolina in the mid-1980s feels very far away from the world of 21st century Massachusetts in this debut Southern Gothic novel about 9-year-old Jess and his mute older brother, Stump. When the boys spy through a window and see something they shouldn’t, the consequences are fatal. We hear the story from three disparate but convincing characters: Jess, the sheriff, and the elderly local midwife who has spent a lifetime observing and helping the townspeople. This book was so compelling that I almost missed my T stop… Check Our Catalog

Jan 29, 2013 by megana

It’s 1913 Vienna and Lysander Reif, a young English actor, is in town seeking psychotherapy for a very private sort of ailment. He ends up enmeshed in a passionate affair with an enigmatic woman he meets at his therapist’s office. When his lover’s live-in boyfriend finds out and becomes enraged, she accuses Lysander of rape and the story gallops away from there. Upon his return to London on the cusp of war, Lysander finds it difficult to return to normal life, breaks up with his English fiancé, joins up and gets pulled into the dangerous world of wartime spying. By the end of the story, he experiences the trenches of France and an encounter with a secret agent in Geneva, and in both cases his acting experience proves key to his survival. This novel provides a rich portrait of Europe during World War I and the ways in which ordinary people’s lives turned extraordinary. Check Our Catalog

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


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