So due to some change in staffing yesterday, we weren’t able to bring you our traditional Five Book Friday post, dear patrons–however, we are making it up to you today (well, we’re going to try to make it up to you, anyways) by providing you with six new books that have traipsed onto our shelves this week, and who would be delighted to spend the final weeks of the year in your company!
If you’re looking for some more recommendations for reading over the long holiday weekends to come, our good friends at the Boston Public Library have released their lists of the Most Checked-Out Books of 2018. There is a list of Adult Books, Teen Books, and Kids Books, so have a look through these great lists and see what other readers have been enjoying this year!
And speaking of wonderful books, let’s see what’s on our list for today!
We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival: In her novel The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison confronts what she called the “Master Narrative“, which she described as “whatever ideological script that is being imposed by the people in authority on everybody else,” involving the way we understand beauty, competence, and our place in the world. In this new work, Jabari Asim contradicts that narrative and replaces it with a story of black survival and persistence through art and community in the face of centuries of racism. In eight wide-ranging and penetrating essays, he explores such topics as the twisted legacy of jokes and falsehoods in black life; the importance of black fathers and community; the significance of black writers and stories; and the beauty and pain of the black body. What emerges is a rich portrait of a community and culture that has resisted, survived, and flourished despite centuries of racism, violence, and trauma. These thought-provoking essays present a different side of American history, one that doesn’t depend on a narrative steeped in oppression but rather reveals black voices telling their own stories. Kirkus Reviews gave this collection a starred review, noting how Asim “places current events within the context of a legacy that is literary, political, and cultural, as well as racial, with a voice that is both compelling and convincing…A sharp vision that challenges readers to shift perspective and examine conventional narratives.”
Edenbrooke: This is an older romance novel, but Julie C. Donaldson’s novel is a staff favorite, so we’re delighted to welcome it into our collection! Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke. When it debuted, Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, calling it a “delightful and completely engrossing Heyeresque Regency debut…This beautiful love story will warm…the reader’s heart.”
Not of This Fold: Mette Ivie Harrison’s mystery series featuring Linda Wallheim is a fascinating, insightful, and honest portrait of Mormon Utah, as well as some inventive mysteries. When this fourth outing begins, all five of her sons have left home, leaving Mormon bishop’s wife Linda Wallheim with quite a bit of time on her hands. She has also become close with one of the women in her ward, Gwen Ferris. But Gwen is quickly losing faith in the church, and her issues with the Mormon power structure are only reinforced by her work with a ward of both legal and undocumented immigrants who aren’t always getting the community support they should be from their church. When Gabriela Gonzalez, a young mother and Gwen’s friend in the Spanish Ward, is found strangled at a gas station, Gwen is paralyzed with guilt. The dead woman’s last phone call was to Gwen, and her voice mail reveals that she knew she was in danger. When Gwen decides the police aren’t doing enough to get justice for Gabriela, who was undocumented, she decides to find the killer herself. Linda reluctantly takes part in Gwen’s vigilante sleuthing, fearing for her young friend’s safety, but what the pair discovers may put them both in danger. Harrison’s books confront homophobia, xenophobia, faith, and gender issues without flinching or compromising, making them unique and powerful in a number of ways. Even the Association of Mormon Letters cheered this fourth installment, saying in its review “Harrison has hit her stride as a front-rank mystery novelist . . . Come for the engaging intellectual puzzle and stay for the nuanced treatment of Mormonism. Or do it the other way around. But definitely come and stay. You won’t be sorry.”
American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts: As Chris McGreal writes in this deeply felt and pitilessly researched book, the opioid epidemic has been described as “one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine.” But calling it a mistake is a generous rewriting of the history of greed, corruption, and indifference that pushed the US into consuming more than 80 percent of the world’s opioid painkillers. Journeying through lives and communities wrecked by the epidemic, McGreal reveals not only how Americans were sold on powerfully addictive drugs, but the corrupting of medicine and public institutions that let permitted opioid makers get away with it. Although some were remorseless in sounding a warning against this operation, the power structures that were manipulated to produce, market, and sell opioid drugs over-whelmed all previous structures of warning. In this book, McGreal tells the story, in terms both broad and intimate, of people hit by a catastrophe they never saw coming. Years in the making, its ruinous consequences will stretch years into the future. Booklist gave this work a starred review, noting “McGreal, an award-winning journalist, presents this grim cautionary tale of opioids, greed, and addiction in three acts: ‘Dealing,’ ‘Hooked,’ and Withdrawal’…. McGreal goes on to successfully address the question of how the greatest drug epidemic in history grew largely unchecked for nearly two decades….What can be done to reverse this? McGreal’s powerfully stated indictment is a start.”
Influenza: The Hundred-Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History: On the 100th anniversary of the devastating pandemic of 1918, Jeremy Brown, a veteran ER doctor, explores the troubling, terrifying, and complex history of the flu virus, from the origins of the Great Flu that killed millions, to vexing questions such as: are we prepared for the next epidemic, should you get a flu shot, and how close are we to finding a cure? Dr. Brown digs into the discovery and resurrection of the flu virus in the frozen victims of the 1918 epidemic, as well as the now-bizarre-sounding remedies that once treated the disease, such as whiskey and blood-letting. He also breaks down the current dialogue surrounding the disease, explaining the controversy over vaccinations, antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, and the federal government’s role in preparing for pandemic outbreaks. Though 100 years of advancement in medical research and technology have passed since the 1918 disaster, Dr. Brown warns that many of the most vital questions about the flu virus continue to confound even the leading experts. Insightful and well-informed, this is a book that earned high praise from Science News, which described the book as “An in-depth look at what scientists know now about the 1918 strain [and] a fascinating look at the factors that make the more common seasonal flu so challenging to predict and prevent… For those who want more science with a frank discussion of the challenges influenza still poses, Brown delivers a clear and captivating overview.”
The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War: For decades after its founding, America was really two nations–one slave, one free. There were many reasons why this composite nation ultimately broke apart, but the fact that enslaved black people repeatedly risked their lives to flee their masters in the South in search of freedom in the North proved that the “united” states was actually a lie. Fugitive slaves exposed the contradiction between the myth that slavery was a benign institution and the reality that a nation based on the principle of human equality was in fact a prison-house in which millions of Americans had no rights at all. By awakening northerners to the true nature of slavery, and by enraging southerners who demanded the return of their human “property,” fugitive slaves forced the nation to confront the truth about itself. By 1850, with America on the verge of collapse, Congress reached what it hoped was a solution– the notorious Compromise of 1850, which required that fugitive slaves be returned to their masters. Like so many political compromises before and since, it was a deal by which white Americans tried to advance their interests at the expense of black Americans. Yet the Fugitive Slave Act, intended to preserve the Union, in fact set the nation on the path to civil war. It divided not only the American nation, but also the hearts and minds of Americans who struggled with the timeless problem of when to submit to an unjust law and when to resist. In this excellently-written and wonderfully-researched work, Professor Andrew Delbanco of Columbia University emphasizes how and why the fugitive slave story brought the United States to war with itself, and the terrible legacies of slavery that are with us still. This book has been getting enormous and well-deserved praise across the country, including from the New York Times, who described how “Delbanco . . . excavates the past in ways that illuminate the present. He lucidly shows [how] in the name of avoiding conflict . . . the nation was brought to the brink and into the breach. This is a story about compromises—and a riveting, unsettling one at that.”
Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!