Five Book Friday!

And a very happy June to you, beloved patrons!

We hope you are enjoying the more pleasant weather and longer days, and that you have some summertime adventures planned.  In case you are looking for some national holidays to celebrate (the quirkier, the better, of course!), here are just a few worthy of your consideration:

June 1: National Donut Day: Doughut Day?  However you spell it, today’s a day to celebrate this much-loved pastry.  The Boston Public Library’s Blog has a whole post devoted to donuts (doughnuts?), which you should definitely check out!

Via Fake Library Statistics:

June 4: National Cheese Day: It might only be an unofficial holiday, but if there’s cheese involved, that’s good enough for me.

June 6: National Drive-In Movie Day: This day honors the opening day of the first drive-in, by Richard M. Hollingshead Jr. of Camden, New Jersey. Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey on June 6, 1933.  If you’re looking to celebrate this day, here is a map with all the drive-in theaters still operating in the United States!

June 12: National Loving Day: Commemorating  the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving vs. Virginia, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws that banned inter-racial marriage in the United States.

June 17: National Turkey Lover’s Day: Apparently, in April 2016, this holiday was submitted by the National Turkey Lover’s to the National Days Calendar, and is celebrated the third Sunday in June.  So it’s a real thing.  And if turkey is your thing, we hope you enjoy this day!

And, as always, there is never a bad time for a good book–so let’s take a look at some of the new titles that have processed onto our shelves this week and are eager to make your acquaintance!

Lighting the Fires of FreedomDuring the Civil Rights Movement, African American women were generally not in the headlines; they simply did the work that needed to be done. Yet despite their significant contributions at all levels of the movement, they remain mostly invisible to the larger public.  Beyond the work of a few “remarkable” or “exceptional” women, most Americans would be hard-pressed to name other women leaders at the community, local, and national levels.  Thankfully, Janet Dewart Bell’s book begins to remedy this situation.  In wide-ranging conversations with nine women, several now in their nineties with decades of untold stories, we hear what ignited and fueled their activism.  Published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1968,  this book, and these voices offer personal and intimate accounts of extraordinary struggles for justice that resulted in profound social change, that deserve to be remembered.  Booklist agrees, calling this work  “A fresh and revealing oral history of the civil rights movement as told by nine African American women . . . striking and fascinating stories that greatly enrich our appreciation of the crucial roles women of diverse backgrounds played in the pivotal fight for civil rights.”

Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000 Mile Journey Around Wild Alaska, the Last Great American FrontierIn 1899, railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman organized a most unusual summer voyage to the wilds of Alaska: He converted a steamship into a luxury “floating university,” populated by some of America’s best and brightest scientists and writers, including the anti-capitalist eco-prophet John Muir. Those aboard encountered a land of immeasurable beauty and impending environmental calamity.  More than a hundred years later, travel writer Mark Adams set out to retrace the 1899 expedition. Using the state’s intricate public ferry system, the Alaska Marine Highway System, Adams traveled three thousand miles, all the way to the Aleutians and the Arctic Circle. Along the way, he encountered dozens of unusual characters–and a couple of very hungry bears, as well!  This book is the story of that remarkable voyage, as well as an investigation into how lessons learned in 1899 might relate to Alaska’s current struggles in adapting to climate change.  Told with flair, humor, and no little wonder for the incredible sights he took in, Adams’ book is a spectacular travel narrative for any armchair wanderer.  Outside magazine described this book as “Great nonfiction…takes a topic you thought you knew well and makes it new again…[Adams’] storytelling is guaranteed to make you want to get off your beach towel and book passage somewhere in the great wild north.”

Star of the NorthD.B. John’s gripping and timely thriller begins in 1988, when a Korean American teenager is kidnapped from a South Korean beach by North Korean operatives. Twelve years later, her brilliant twin sister, Jenna, is still searching for her, and ends up on the radar of the CIA. When evidence that her sister may still be alive in North Korea comes to light, Jenna will do anything possible to rescue her–including undertaking a daring mission into the heart of the regime.  At the same time, several other narratives, focused on the lives of North Korean citizens and officials, begin to unfold, progressing to a conclusion that is as creative as it is surprising.  A British writer, John’s novel has been receiving praise on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, with The Guardian noting “The best thrillers offer something more ambitious than simply raising the pulse rate of the reader. In Star of the North it is geopolitical complexity…This is a masterly evocation of life under the Kim Jong-un regime.”

Love and Ruin: Fans of real-life characters in historic fiction, this one’s for you.  In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid desperate to prove her journalistic skills by reporting on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War.  Through her work, she becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict.  But she also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend.  In the shadow of another World War, and within the turbulent, vivid, and unforgettable cities of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest’s relationship and their professional careers ignite.  But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer.  This isn’t your run-of-the-mill historical romance, nor is Martha your typical heroine–and in bringing her to life, Paula McLain has crafted a story that is as heartrending as it is redemptive.  The New York Times Book Review said it beautifully in their review, noting that “McLain does an excellent job portraying a woman with dreams who isn’t afraid to make them real, showing [Gellhorn’s] bravery in what was very much a man’s world. Her work around the world . . . is presented in meticulous, hair-raising passages. . . . The book is fueled by her questing spirit, which asks, Why must a woman decide between being a war correspondent and a wife in her husband’s bed?”

The Optimistic Decade: Although Heather Abel’s novel is set in a utopian summer camp in the 1990’s, this is very much a story for (and, in some ways, about) today.  In this camp live five fascinating people: There is Caleb Silver, the beloved founder of the back-to-the-land camp Llamalo, who is determined to teach others to live simply. There are the ranchers, Don and his son, Donnie, who gave up their land to Caleb and who now want it back. There is Rebecca Silver, determined to become an activist like her father and undone by the spell of both Llamalo and new love; and there is David, a teenager who has turned Llamalo into his personal religion.  Although the story is set in Colorado, Abel uses this summer camp as a symbol of the settlement of Israel, and to think about the act of building dreams on other people’s land.  As each character grapples with how best to more forward, they begin to realize that maybe, it’s not about the land at all.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, describing it as a “politically and psychologically acute debut… A strong sense of time and place anchors the story, and Abel’s well-crafted plot brings all the strands of the story together into a suspenseful yet believable conclusion. Without landing heavily on any political side, and without abandoning hope, Abel’s novel lightly but firmly raises questions about how class and cultural conflicts play out in the rural West.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

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