Six Book Sunday!

Another week gone by, dear readers, and another Friday where we missed our chance to showcase some of the terrific new books that hustled onto our shelves this week…

…But never fear!  We are here on Sunday, once again, with six sensational books to keep your literary appetites satiated.  We’re open from 1pm to 5pm, giving you plenty of time to stock up on books, audio recordings, and DVDs for the week.  To all those intent on savoring every second of the Superbowl, enjoy, stay warm, and stay safe.  And to all those of you who are not…frankly, the same rules apply.  Enjoy, stay warm, and stay safe!

And now…on to the books!

The Woman in the WindowAccording to the wonderful staff at NOBLE, this book has the most holds on it in our system, adding to the already sky-high hype about A.J. Finn’s debut, which is already, apparently, being developed for a major motion picture.  The story focuses on Anna Fox, a reclusive New Yorker who remains in her home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.  Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.  What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control?  This Hitchcockian thriller has already been recommended for fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn, but with so many ecstatic reviews pouring in, this is definitely a book that plenty of readers are going to want to check out.  As a matter of fact, Stephen King himself called it “one of those rare books that really is unputdownable. The writing is smooth and often remarkable. The way Finn plays off this totally original story against a background of film noir is both delightful and chilling.”

We Were the Lucky OnesWhen When Georgia Hunter was fifteen , she learned that she was part of a family of Holocaust survivors.  This moving, insightful novel is part of the result of her search to uncover and recover their history.  It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.  As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.  Hunter’s novel has already been nominated for several literary awards, and has been earning heartfelt reviews from a number of outlets, including Publisher’s Weekly, who observed, “Hunter sidesteps hollow sentimentality and nihilism, revealing instead the beautiful complexity and ambiguity of life in this extraordinarily moving tale.”

Afterland: Poems Mai Der Vang’s award-winning collection of poetry is beautiful and accessible, but it is also a stunning testament to the history of her family and her people.  Her poetry details the Hmong exodus from Laos, as well as the story of her own family, and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture’s ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry leaving the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum in jeopardy.   That history is little known or understood, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath.  These poems capture the fear and the outrage that many Hmong people carried with them in their flight, as well as the desperate need to preserve their culture and tradition after the disruption of asylum and exile, and a powerful memorial to a little discussed aspect of global history.  Booklist gave it a starred review, saying, in part “Vang’s collection interweaves profoundly personal recollections with unflinching glimpses into the circumstances of refugees past. . . . Vang imbues her imagery not only with loss but also with the remarkable resilience and crystalline spirituality of Hmong lore and language. “Ask me to build our temples / So rooted, so stone, we won’t ever die out,” Vang writes. With this luminous, indelible volume, she’s already built one.”

A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History: The civil rights movement has become national legend, lauded by presidents from Reagan to Obama to Trump, as proof of the power of American democracy. This fable, featuring dreamy heroes and accidental heroines, has shuttered the movement firmly in the past, whitewashed the forces that stood in its way, and diminished its scope. And it is used perniciously in our own times to chastise present-day movements and obscure contemporary injustice.  In this work, award-winning historian Jeanne Theoharis dissects this national myth-making, teasing apart the accepted stories to show them in a strikingly different light. Moving from “the histories we get” to “the histories we need,” Theoharis challenges the fable of the civil rights movement to reveal the diversity of people, especially women and young people, who led the it; the work and disruption it took; the role of the media and “polite racism” in maintaining injustice; and the immense barriers and repression activists faced, and challenges us to reckon with the fact that far from being acceptable, passive or unified, the civil rights movement was unpopular, disruptive, and courageously persevering.  Library Journal gave this powerful and gripping work a starred review, calling it “An important illustration of the ways that history is used, or misused, in modern social and political life. Required reading for anyone hoping to understand more about race relations and racism in the United States and highly recommended for all readers interested in 20th-century American history.”

Need to Know: It’s a good time for thrillers, beloved patrons.  Karen Cleveland’s political thriller has already been optioned for a major film, and is earning rave reviews from authors and reviewers alike.  In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, CIA analyst Vivian Miller uncovers a dangerous secret that will threaten her job, her family—and her life. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.  After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—is threatened.‎  Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?  It isn’t often that John Grisham writes a cover blurb for a book, but this is one of the rare exceptions, with Grisham saying “Perhaps there will be two or three readers out there who manage to finish the first chapter of this terrific debut and put it down for more than an hour. But they’ll be back. And they’ll devour it like the rest of us, skipping lunch, losing sleep, turning pages until the end, where we’re all left waiting for more.”

Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance: Today black Pittsburgh is known as the setting for August Wilson’s famed plays about noble but doomed working-class strivers, including Fences.  But this community once had an impact on American history that rivaled the far larger black worlds of Harlem and Chicago. It published the most widely read black newspaper in the country, urging black voters to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party and then rallying black support for World War II. It fielded two of the greatest baseball teams of the Negro Leagues and introduced Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pittsburgh was the childhood home of jazz pioneers Billy Strayhorn, Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner; Hall of Fame slugger Josh Gibson—and August Wilson himself. Some of the most glittering figures of the era were changed forever by the time they spent in the city.  Journalist Mark Whitaker has crafted a captivating portrait of this community, depicting how ambitious Southern migrants were drawn to a steel-making city on a strategic river junction; how they were shaped by its schools and a spirit of commerce with roots in the Gilded Age; and how their world was eventually destroyed by industrial decline and urban renewal.  Kirkus Reviews called this engaging, enlightening, and surprising work “An expansive, prodigiously researched, and masterfully told history.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!