Staff Book Picks

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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

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

Oct 15, 2014 by deirdres

In the summer of her 13th year, during the Watergate hearings of 1972, Riddle Camperdown stumbles upon the aftermath of a crime.  A discovery she chooses to keep from her politician father "Camp" and her caustic, retired movie star mother Greer.  In due time Riddle becomes involved with the family of a teenager who has seemingly disappeared and discovers several more familial secrets.

This is no whodunit. The bad guy is clear from early on. The mystery here is why did he do it?  A word of caution: the villain is so cartoonishly evil that you must suspend your disbelief that he would be gainfully employed and welcome in anyone's home. That said, this is a beautifully written book and I loved Greer's wryly misanthropic one-liners and retorts which, alone, make this book worth reading. Check Our Catalog

Sep 29, 2014 by megana

“Lars” Larson is a middle-aged college English professor with a wife and daughter—and a wandering eye for pretty coeds. Iris Weed is one of those coeds, whose apparent romantic disinterest in Lars inspires him to obsess about her to the point of stalking and spying on her to find out who her boyfriend is. Things come to a head one night during an argument in Lars’ car, leading Iris to storm off and leave one of her diaries behind. The next morning, she turns up brutally murdered in a parking lot. As the police investigate, Lars employs all of his considerable charm in every direction to avoid telling the truth to investigators, his colleagues, his suspicious wife and his daughter. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we start believing our own lies! Check Our Catalog

I chose this because I thought, “Aha, someone’s finally written my story!” Then I discovered it was by and about--horrors-- A Pretender to the Throne! A hilarious pictorial parody of a clueless (but outrageously clever) father and his adorable daughter. I laughed so hard that I, well, a washing machine was involved. Check Our Catalog

Picture this: a multinational corporation specializing in internet-related services and products has been devouring all competitors for years. 90% of the the world’s searches go through this company. Without competitors this will only increase. Control the flow of information and you control everything including what anyone sees and knows. The company can bury information. It can ruin any person. No one can rise up against it because it controls all the information and access to it. What happens when the company controls all searches and has full access to all data about every person? When they know every move every person makes? That’s Eggers’s Circle. And this provocative tale is 2013’s 1984. Check Our Catalog

Sep 8, 2014 by claytonc

Reno is an artist living in NYC in the 70’s. She loves speed, especially fast motorcycles and downhill skiing. Always an outsider, she flirts on the fringes of several fascinating scenes, develops a long-term relationship with an older, more established artist/son of an Italian Motorcompany magnate, and finds herself mixed up with the Red Brigades, the radical movement that threw Italy into chaos in the late 1970s. Kushner has crafted a very tangible protagonist - I felt like I really knew her and can empathize with the challenges she faces. There are no tidy answers at the end. This book prefers to ask intricate questions and put answers to the test. The prose is beautiful and powerful. I really enjoyed reading this book. Check Our Catalog.

Aug 21, 2014 by megana

Little girls keep showing up dead--with bite marks on their bellies--in 1960s-era Florence, and world-weary 50-something Inspector Bordelli is tasked with finding their killer. This atmospheric novel really takes you back to a specific time and place that is palpably post-war 20 years after the end of World War II, with obvious scars remaining on both the physical landscape and on the psyches of police, witnesses and criminals alike.  Like many of his fictional Italian colleagues, Bordelli spends a fair amount of time sitting around and contemplating, eating spaghetti and drinking wine, but he gets there in the end.  Check Our Catalog

The subtitle of this book (The true story of the inventors and airmen who led the devastating raid to smash the German dams in 1943) only begins to scratch the surface of this thoroughly researched, fast-paced story. It opens with the genesis of an idea and doesn't end until a post-raid analysis of the success and fates of its participants. In a 10-week span, Squadron 617 was created, special low-flying Lancaster aircraft were manufactured, 9,000 pound bouncing cylindrical bombs were designed to skip across reservoirs into hydroelectric dams, and flight crews were trained. This all happened under the cloak of absolute secrecy and with the sole purpose of hampering Nazi war production. The fruit of the labors of a brilliant engineer, the organizational efforts of a squadron commander, and the heroics of pilots and crews all combine in this authoritative account of an oft-told event for white knuckle history writing at its best. Check Our Catalog

Aug 11, 2014 by claytonc

It is very clear why so many awards have been bestowed upon this writer. This beautiful, heartbreaking novel is two love stories starring the same character, continents apart. Alternating between war-torn Uganda during the revolutions in the 1970s and the American Midwest which was undergoing its own cultural revolutions at the same time, “Isaac” is a lover, a student, and a truly remarkable man. This haunting work evokes a strong sense of place in both worlds. There is bound to be something familiar and something new for every reader of this work. This is not a romance novel, but rather a deeply emotional one. It explores the names we are given and the names we keep. Check Our Catalog

Do you like thick (809 p.) inter-generational family stories full of historical details and drama? Read on - this novel is for you. In his research the author discovered fantastic historical street maps, drawings, paintings and models of the city of Paris in the Carnavalet Museum in the Marais and photographs from the Museum of Montmarte. He made use of these details to create an intimacy between the reader and this most beautiful and romantic of all European cities. We see Paris through the eyes of the noble family, the deCygnes and the revolutionists Le Sourds. The Gascon family helps build the Eiffel Tower and shows us the seedy underworld of the Moulin Rouge. Other characters give us a glimpse into the literary and artistic world of Paris in the 20’s. Rutherfurd’s style is often compared to James Michener, another lover of books that can be used as door stops based on their weight alone! However we have the advantage of e-books of which this title is available as well as his other tomes, e.g. London, New York and Sarum. Check Our Catalog

Jul 18, 2014 by deirdres

A group of vaguely unpleasant rich people on a vacation to Mallorca: adulterer Jim, food writer Franny, teen daughter Sylvia and adult son Bobby are joined by Bobby's 10 years older girlfriend Carmen, Franny's best friend Charles, and his husband Lawrence on a two-week vacation where secrets are exposed and relationships are changed forever. A quick, enjoyable read; I wanted to know how things would turn out, even though the characters are relentlessly spoiled and unlikable. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts are all part of the book's appeal. Check Our Catalog

Jul 15, 2014 by maryd

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo has so many people raving about how awesome these books are; I had to give one a try.  This mystery is certainly entertaining but I am currently at page 485 and I am still waiting to get to the plot. It is a book I definitely could put down (though I know many who raced through it). The sexual violence can be a bit hard to suffer through. I am disciplining myself to finish it.  Check Our Catalog

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