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Beachcombing For a Shipwrecked God by Joe Coomer

Young and newly widowed archaeologist Charlotte leaves home with no forwarding address, fleeing the oppressive attentions of her grieving in-laws. She washes up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she rents a room on a houseboat with two other oddballs: elderly and a bit odd Grace, widowed a few years previously after a long and happy marriage, and 17-year-old Chloe, who has basically run away from home. This motley threesome becomes a family of sorts, caring for each other through Charlotte’s mourning process, Chloe’s unplanned pregnancy, and Grace’s sudden stroke.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It’s the last day of civilization, and famed actor Arthur Leander dies of a heart attack. This sets in motion the events of the story, with several characters and timelines weaving in and out, painting an elegiac ode to the survival of art in this brave new world. The author considers this book literary fiction, rather than sci-fi/fantasy, and her care with the book's ideas and characters make this statement ring true.

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

Alexander von Humboldt was one of the last polymaths. He died at a time when scientific disciplines were hardening into tightly fenced and more specialized fields. Largely forgotten in the English-speaking world, at one time he was the most famous scientist of his age. His portrait was placed in the Great Exhibition in London and hung in palaces as remote as that of the King of Siam in Bangkok.

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

I enjoyed listening to the women’s perspective of the Space Race and early days of NASA. This is the entertaining story of the wives of the heroes of the Mercury missions through the Apollo moon walks. These mostly military wives were transformed overnight into American celebrities. Pressured to conform to an ideal of “perfect American housewife,” these very human women had to deal with stresses of intense media attention - two families even went so far as to build their dream homes with no front windows.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

The story of seven lives intersecting on a rainy, cold November day in 1999 in Seattle. The setting is the street demonstrations outside World Trade Organization meetings - the year the protests were huge, had amazing solidarity across diverse organizations, shut down the city, and elicited an overwhelming police response, including the National Guard. This debut novel tackles themes both personal and global, from father/son relationships, race relations, nonviolent principles and conflict, and first world / third world confrontations. Raw language fuels intense moments of action.

The Weather Experiment by Peter Moore

It’s hard to imagine a world without a weather forecast. Or a time when the vagaries of nature were considered solely the mysterious purview of the Divine. Modern climate models are indescribably complex. They combine advanced mathematics, Newtonian physics, thermodynamics, radiative transfer, particle microphysics, chemistry and biology to create forecasts that can them be projected on to increasingly tiny squares of the earth to suggest how the climate might evolve in the years ahead. All the formulas are processed by supercomputers.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

Charlie Asher almost died in A Dirty Job. Thanks to Audrey, his Buddhist-nun lover, he survived, but now he’s stuck inside a fourteen-inch high body made from lunchmeat and spare animal parts. He doesn’t want to scare his adorable seven-year old daughter, Sophie, so he hasn’t seen her in a long time, which is really sad. Did I mention that she’s the Luminatus and has (or at least recently had) dominion over Death? In most author’s hands this would be the entire book. For Moore, this is just where it starts - it gets a lot freakier from here.

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham

A minor payroll fraud turns into a risky year-long undercover investigation for Welsh Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths. Assuming the identity of down-on-her-luck, intermittently homeless Fiona Grey, she abandons her regular life and descends into the dangerous world of highly organized crime. In the world of police procedurals, Fiona is a unique character with her mysterious origins and unusual history of mental illness. This is the third book in the series but you could either start with this one or go back to Talking to the Dead if you like to read books in order.

Reckless by Chrissie Hynde

The lead voice of the Pretenders waited for her parents to die before telling this story about her early years. Born in Ohio and a student at Kent State when the students were shot by the National Guard in May, 1970, Hynde was a flower child who hung out with scary bikers then moved to London and was tight with the burgeoning punk movement, almost marrying Syd Vicious (to help with her legal troubles). I listened to this as an audiobook, read by Rosanna Arquette, and thought it was wonderful.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Lonely and depressed A. J. Fikry owns a bookstore on Alice Island off the coast of Massachusetts.  His wife has died. He’s a literary snob and only stocks titles that satisfy his old-fashioned tastes. Rather unsurprisingly, he has few friends and fewer customers. Then his most valuable possession, a first edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tamerlane, is stolen. But everything changes when someone unexpected shows up in the children’s section of his bookstore. Plot twists abound and are wonderfully all tied up with the perfect amount of humor, sadness and grace.

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© 2011 Thomas Crane Public Library

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