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Books

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Sci-Fi dystopian fiction meets missionary tale. Peter once was lost, a drunk and a thief headed for an early death. Then he fell in love with a devout nurse and the two of them started a new life spreading the good word. The novel opens as Peter is just about to head millions of miles away from home to the next chapter in his life. A multinational corporation (and even that description seems too small, given their inter-planetary reach) has recruited him to work on a planet they are active upon.

Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood

I admit it, I cried at the end of this outstanding debut novel. Inspired by the historic Tri-State Tornado of March 18, 1925 (which swept across Missouri, Illinois and Indiana and killed 695 people), it is set in a small farming community that has been home to the Graves family for four generations. By a freak turn of luck, the entire Graves family is the only family in town that suffers no loss of life or property during the deadly 45-minute windstorm.

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough

The story of an extraordinary family, a vanished way of life, and the unique child who became Theodore Roosevelt

Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky

What a fun little diversion! Marie is 30, recently released from jail, and in love with a toddler. She is only slightly more mature than her new charge and thinks it perfectly fine to bath together while she enjoys some stolen whiskey. That’s not the only thing she steals in this quick celebration of good things happening to bad people. It’s refreshing how good you can feel routing for her as she makes one bad decision after another. Like watching a french-language train-wreck, in black and white. This book took no time to read and was a blast. Every dream of ditching it all?

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) is the quintessential English gentleman. Sardonic, decorous, urbane, and endearingly opinionated. He has settled into a widower’s life when his brother’s death ignites an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper in their quiet village. A shared interest in literature and the loss of spouses creates something more than friendship. But the Edgecombe St. Mary’s inhabitants are scandalized by the harsh clash between culture and tradition. Hilarity, tentative romance and gentle wisdom ensue. A wondrous tale.

The Best American Travel Writing, 2014 edited by Paul Theroux

Need a break but don’t have the time or the money to get away? This is the perfect escape for you - two dozen tales that span the globe. Arranged alphabetically by author’s last name, I thought at first that this would be a very strange way to organize things, but it ended up working fabulously well. There was one piece that didn’t work very well for me, but it was short, and followed by a piece that completely redeemed the volume.

Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman

Pushing 90, shaky on his pins, and irascible as ever (not in an endearing way), retired Memphis cop Baruch "Buck" Shatz discovers that the Nazi who tortured him and got away after the war is still alive. Not only that, he may be sitting on a stash of gold stolen from the German Reich. Whether he suffers from a God complex or is just a thorough misanthrope, Buck is the funniest detective I've run into in a long time, and his refusal to concede to old age kept me laughing all the way through. This book was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves by James Nestor

Beginning with the almost sado-masochistic endeavors of those engaged in competitive freediving and ending in the abyssal depths of the hadal zone five miles below the surface and crawling with organisms that have never seen the light of day, Nestor conducts a fascinating underwater travelogue. He swims with sharks. But he also swims with school bus sized sperm whales who, we learn, don’t use those powerful jaws to catch prey but emit jackhammer “clicks” that stun their food. A fascinating read.

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills

The world of Atticus Finch, a small town Southern lawyer, is part of literary history. In 1960, Harper Lee published the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, still one of the best-loved American books and required reading in 70 percent of U.S. school systems. By 1965 she had refused interviews and never wrote another book, a one-hit wonder, until it was just announced on February 3 that a second book, a pre-quel will be published this coming summer.

Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Brothers Joseph and Mira began life 12 years apart in a remote hilltop village in Haiti when the country was still occupied by U.S. Marines. They died a few months apart in 2004 in Miami and New York, one a prisoner of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and the other a naturalized U.S. citizen.

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© 2011 Thomas Crane Public Library

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