Staff Book Picks

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She counted among her best friends the literary giants of the nineteenth century yet few people really know her story. Megan Marshall’s suburb biography brings her story to a new audience who will enjoy discovering the life of this strong vibrant woman living in a paternal and masculine world yet forging her own path. Margaret was H. Waldo Emerson’s confidante, Thoreau’s editor and the first female war correspondent for the New York Tribune. She experienced firsthand the Italian revolution of 1848-49 while becoming romantically involved with an Italian soldier. Her “questionable marriage “ to him and subsequent birth of their son add to the romantic yet tragic account of her last days within sight of America’s shores. Marshall says : “My aim was to bring Margaret Fuller into the wider arena. She’s been studied by scholars for so long, but her life is so compelling and dramatic. She deserves this kind of attention.” Any miniseries action? “I’m not sure I’m at liberty to say,” she says, “but there has been some interest.” Oh, and by the way it just happened to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Biography! ! Check Our Catalog

New Rules for Everyday Foodies. Why do restaurants full of happy, attractive people usually serve mediocre food? Why is it difficult for consumers to see the real environmental costs of many of their decisions? Why is it common to find good ethnic restaurants in junky retail outlets? Where’s the best BBQ in the world? Why is airport (but not airplane) food getting better? Since food is a product of supply and demand Cowen helps us figure out where the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative, and the demanders are informed. A mouthwatering tour. Check Our Catalog

If Taylor Greer can manage to graduate high school without getting pregnant, she can manage anything. Ready for an adventure and a life better than what is offered in her small town in Kentucky, Taylor heads West in an old VW Bug. But before her car dies in Tucson, Arizona, and she begins her new life working at Jesus is Lord Auto Repair, Taylor becomes the one thing she worked so hard to avoid--a mother--after a stranger gives her a 3 year old. This is an awesome story with great characters, funny moments (and some heartbreaking ones), and a satisfying ending. Definitely worth checking out whether or not you are a fan of Kingsolver. Check Our Catalog

The intimate lives and revolutionary ideas of Abigail Adams and her two remarkable sisters. We all know about “Remember the ladies” Abigail. This book delves into the other strong women in her world, sisters Mary Cranch and Elizabeth Shaw Peabody. Because the Adams were often abroad, much of what we know about Abigail and her sisters and the events happening in Boston are through their letters. It’s like having an ear to the door as each sister comments, advises and admonishes each other on everything from politics to husbands! Check Our Catalog

Apr 23, 2014 by megana

Did you ever wonder who scraped the mud off Elizabeth Bennet’s shoes, and boiled the mud stains out of her petticoats, after her tromp through the fields to visit her ailing sister Jane over at the Bingley’s house? No, probably not (I didn’t either, even though I’ve read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice many times). Turns out it was Sarah, the Bennets’ young housemaid who toils away washing the young ladies’ linens and hauling water while dreaming of a life of her own beyond the visible horizon, perhaps even in London. This fascinating novel stands just fine on its own as a captivating portrait of life below stairs among the housemaids and footmen working for 19th century English upper class households. It’s an especially intriguing read for Austen fans: the plot is tightly connected to the plot of Pride and Prejudice but the focus is on a different cast of characters with equally compelling stories. You will never think of the Bennets in quite the same way ever again. Check Our Catalog

Flawed, alcoholic super ex-cop Harry Hole returns to Norway to take on his most personal challenge: Oleg, the boy he helped raise, has been arrested for murder. The detective’s investigations of Oslo’s seedy drug culture drives him to terrifying discoveries about himself and the implications of choices he has made in the past. Nesbo continues to serve up juicy plot twists and fascinating character development. Check Our Catalog

Jodi, a psychoanalyst, is in denial that her companion of 20 years is unfaithful until he decides to leave her. Their comfortable relationship is now in peril. Has she enabled him long enough? Is revenge the answer? How far will that desire for revenge take her? Todd is comfortable with their relationship, too. His meals are cooked, his house is well kept, and they enjoy their high-end lifestyle. But he wants more and takes up with yet another woman, this time younger. This sounds like the same old plot, but it is reinvented here as Harrison shows both sides of her protagonists' feelings and actions in alternating chapters, Him and Her. By peeling back the layers of their lives and revealing circumstances that brought them to where they are, you are drawn into the spiral of lives torn apart and the unsettling disintegration of a marriage. But there are some twists and turns. You don't have to like the characters to appreciate the deft hand of the author that shows the emotional dynamics that twisted and turned their lives into a slow motion train wreck. Check Our Catalog

Pulitzer Prize-winning (for The Ants and On Human Nature) evolutionary biologist, naturalist and myrmecologist distills sixty years of teaching and research into 21 letters full of autobiographical anecdotes, self-effacing humor and wonder at both the bizarre and common into warm and wise counsel for those contemplating a life (not just a career) in science. More than anything such a journey begins with a passion for a particular problem, a willingness to fail, curiosity and hard work. The letters celebrate the joy of discovery. Check Our Catalog

Thinking about getting some chickens for your backyard? Before you build a coop and hatch some eggs, you might want to read this book written by Massachusetts resident and illustrator Laura Scheuer. Filled with fun anecdotes and observations, as well as many adorable photos and illustrations, this book tells the story of Scheuer's experiences as a proud owner of her own flock of chickens. From raising chicks in the living room to giving a fertile egg to one very special and broody chicken, Scheuer vividly describes all her experiences--the good, the bad, and the heartbreaking--raising and owning three hens. Check Our Catalog

Few can grumble their way on a journey through the dark heart of a continent with such captivating personal  insight and descriptive power as the well-travelled and celebrated Theroux. At 70 this is his “valedictory [African] trip” from Cape Town north through Namibia and Botswana and finally to the “zone of irrationality” that is Luanda, Angola. He endures all the worst that travel in the fiscally, politically and morally wrecked world can offer (broken down vehicles, surly, corrupt and drunken officials, meals of fly-invested chicken parts) with poignant sadness and the sort of “Afro-pessimism” he denies. Theroux’s plans to finish his trip in Mali are cut short when he crosses the “Red Line” into an impoverished anarchy that extends as far north as the Sahara. His chapter “What am I doing here?” is worth the price of admission. Check Our Catalog

Fifteen year old Jess is headed for California to witness the apocalypse. Accompanied by her fundamentalist parents caught up in end-of-the-world fervor and a rebellious older sister this coming-of-age road trip captures the tortured conflict between a desire to believe in something bigger than oneself and the ubiquity of popular culture’s pull. Narrated with pitch perfect skill Miller captures the heart and heartbreak of adolescence. Check our catalog

A debut novel about a dissolute artist, Thomas Bayber, and his relationship with two sisters, Natalie and Alice Kessler. This is a fascinating art history story and also a satisfying chronicle of the central character’s family histories. The story takes place over three time periods, 1963, when the teenage sisters first meet and become infatuated with the older artist; 1972, when Thomas has a brief affair with Alice and she becomes pregnant; and 2007 when the now famous artist is dying. Thomas reveals to his art historian friend, David Finch, that he has the center panel of a triptych painting based on a sketch of the Kessler sisters. He wants Finch and a young erratic art authenticator, Stephen Jameson, to find the two other paintings. Why use Finch and Jameson to find these panels when a large auction house would be better suited to the task? Where are the Kessler sisters? Who has and where are the side panels? Check our catalog.
Tracy Guzeman shares more in this short video:

Charles Dickens was the “celebrity” of the Victorian era. Well loved for his family oriented stories and novels, his life was a combination of romantic subterfuge, financial constraints and familial duty. This biography highlights the three intensely romantic interests in his life other than his wife, the mother of his ten children. The most interesting relationship with Ellen Tiernan, twenty seven years his junior, lasts until his death. The author delves into letters and coded diaries and paints a speculative picture of this man of conflicting personality traits so “in love.” Check Our Catalog

As Canada and the USA move dangerously close to war, the entire planet stands poised on the brink of an environmental catastrophe caused by global warming and the energy crisis. And only Dirk Pitt and all the fascinating characters of the National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) can save the day! As with all Pitt novels (20 and counting), Cussler begins his story with an actual past historic event--here it’s a 19th century attempt by two doomed sailing ships to traverse the Northwest Passage--and connects it to a present-day thrill ride. Pitt matches wits with the machinations of a greedy CEO whose pristine “green” image cloaks a nefarious plot involving murder and mayhem to corner the market on a technology that will eliminate carbon from air pollution. A wonderful guilty pleasure of a read! Check Our Catalog

Troost has a good job in Washington D.C. One that might even lead to a career. But he’s bored and feels trapped. So he and his wife pack their bags and return to the South Pacific (he’s chronicled an earlier stay on Kiribati in the equally hilarious Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific). Her job takes them to Vanuatu--and later, Fiji--where Troost spends some serious time exploring the sedating properties of the local brew, kava. Along the way we enjoy a bit of history, a smidgen of social commentary, a healthy helping of self-effacing memoir all delivered with irreverent wit. It’s a handbook for living and surviving as an expat. But it’s also a poignant tale of finding one’s home. Check Our Catalog

Earth has recently discovered that the Colonial Union has become humanity’s home for super-soldiers and colonists. Earth is not amused and is exploring the possibility of aligning with the Conclave, a vast collection of alien races - which could spell disaster for the CU. Super soldier Harry Wilson and diplomatic corp officer Hart Schmidt do the heavy lifting in a fast-paced narrative full of wonderfully snarky characters. Scalzi returns to the universe he created in Hugo-nominated Old Man’s War (2004) with a wandering but always fascinating, collection of 13 previously published interconnected stories replete with galactic intrigue. Check Our Catalog

Faced with an environmental apocalypse created by the introduction of non-native creatures that devour our native flora and fauna Landers grabs his hunting gear, frying pan and a delightful sense of humor and instructs us on how we might all become responsible “invasivores.” Stalking everything from black spiny-tailed iguanas to Chinese Mystery Snails (and let’s not forget the culinary delights of the European Green Crab and Snakehead) we discover that devouring the enemy not only helps the environment. It tastes good, too! Check our catalog and watch the author talk about his adventures hunting and eating invasive species.

The semi-famous blog Hyperbole and a Half has a book counterpart! If you've never read the blog, go there now and read away and then read her book, too. It is heartwarming and heartbreaking. Funny and at moments somber. Using crude, yet perfect, drawings that convey every range of emotion, Allie Brosh tells stories of her childhood, life with two crazy dogs, and dealing with social anxiety and depression. The book--beautifully printed in full color--is a mix of a few stories already published on her blog, like fan favorite, The God of Cake, and many that her large fan base have never seen before. Check Our Catalog

Feb 25, 2014 by claytonc

Funny, outrageous stories from the personal life of the founder of Found magazine. Davy reminded me of a couple other Davids - Eggers & Sedaris - his writing is crystal clear and his grasp on reality is phenomenal. There's failed love for sure, but also incarceration, sex near a tarantula, death, music, a scam artist and 99 bottles of pee on the wall. Check our catalog and listen to Davy's friend talk about her favorite story:

Set against the Nigerian conflict of 1967-1970 Adichie blends political drama and relationships. Tribal loyalties, British colonialism and that universal emotion : love are explored. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor. Olanna is the professor’s privileged beautiful mistress and Richard is a young Englishman in love with the country and Olanna’s twin sister. These characters will be tested by family loyalities and personal decisions intertwined with  themes of class, race and war-time survival . Winner of the Orange prize for literature in the United Kingdom.Check Our Catalog

Watch a trailer for the soon to be released film based on the book:

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