Tag Archives: Five Book Friday

Five Book Friday!

The holiday season is approaching with remorseless resolve, dear readers.  If this is a time that makes your heart flutter, then we wish you heaping helpings of good cheer!  If you’d rather hide in a blanket fort until it’s all over, that’s perfectly alright, too.  We wish you warmth and good books, no matter the time or circumstances.

Your obligatory cornucopia picture, hooray!

But do please remember that the Library (the Main Library and Branches) will be observing our Thanksgiving Hours in the coming week:

Wednesday, November 22:    Close at 5 pm

Thursday, November 23:        Closed

Friday, November 24:             Closed

The main library and branches resume regular hours on Saturday, November 25.

So if you’re planning on stocking up on books, cds, or dvds for the long Thanksgiving Break, then make sure to check our hours and hurry in!  Here are just a few of the new books that shuffled their way onto our shelves this week and are eager to share your Thanksgiving plans with you!

ArtemisFans of Weir’s are no doubt already eagerly anticipating for this sci-fi-noir-thriller, but for those of you still on the fence, consider there–a number of outlets are claiming that this book is even better than Weir’s bestselling The Martian.  Set on on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, Weir tells the tale of Jazz, a criminal.  Well, maybe.  Life on Artemis is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay, and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.  This novel is getting starred reviews all over the place, with Booklist declaring it “An exciting, whip-smart, funny thrill-ride…one of the best science fiction novels of the year.”

Promise Me, Dad: When Vice-President joe Biden’s son was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, he demanded one thing from his father: “Promise me, Dad,” Beau had told his father. “Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe Biden gave him his word.  This book is the chronicle of the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden’s extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq.  For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family, all while directly in the public spotlight. This is a book written not just by the vice president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband, and tells a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.  This is not an easy read, or a trite bit of preachiness.  Biden’s heart-wrenching honesty about the loss of his son is deeply memorable, and his struggle to carry on is both aching and inspiration.  As The New York Times observed, “The book is a backstage drama, honest, raw and rich in detail. People who have lost someone will genuinely take comfort from what he has to say…These flashes of vulnerability are part of what makes Promise Me, Dad memorable; so, too, are the small, tender interactions between Biden and his dying son.”

Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World: In 2015, Noah Strycker set himself a lofty goal: to become the first person to see half the world’s birds in one year. For 365 days, with a backpack, binoculars, and a series of one-way tickets, he traveled across forty-one countries and all seven continents, eventually spotting 6,042 species—by far the biggest birding year on record.  This is no travelogue or glorified checklist. Noah ventures deep into a world of blood-sucking leeches, chronic sleep deprivation, airline snafus, breakdowns, mudslides, floods, war zones, ecologic devastation, conservation triumphs, common and iconic species, and scores of passionate bird lovers around the globe. By pursuing the freest creatures on the planet, Noah gains a unique perspective on the world they share with us—and offers a hopeful message that even as many birds face an uncertain future, more people than ever are working to protect them.  A book for bird-lovers, wanderlust readers, and armchair adventurers alike, this is a book that earned a starred review from Kirkus, who raved, “Strycker’s description of a year ‘expanded to its maximum potential’ will inspire readers to explore the world, ‘from the tiniest detail to the biggest panorama.’ . . . Colorful but unassuming—and unexpected—lessons for living life fully, presented from a birder’s-eye view.”

Mrs. OsmondAre you a fan of Henry James?  What about his novel The Portrait of a Lady?  Well, if you loved it, or you think James’ bizarre and hostile misogyny pokes through one too many times, John Banville has arrived to give us the further adventures of the Isabel Archer, the young a vibrant American who traveled to Europe to find herself, became an heiress, and became inescapably entangled in the machinations of a coterie of scheming women and dastardly men.  Banville follows James’s story line to the point when Isabel returns to Italy…but then takes over the story for himself,  and makes it his own with the narrative inventiveness, the lyrical precision and surprising humor.  It turns out that Isabel arrives in Italy along with someone else…who is it?  And why?  You’ll have to read to find out!  Banville has some pretty big, well-known shoes to fill in this tale, but, as Kirkus noted, in a starred review for this book, it is “A sequel that honors James and his singular heroine while showing Banville to be both an uncanny mimic and, as always, a captivating writer.

Vacationland : true stories from painful beachesDoes the winter weather get you down?  Do you need a chuckle?  Were you a fan of John Hodgman’s delightfully unique humor on The Daily Show?  If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then Hodgman’s first non-fiction work…the travel memoirs of a Massachusetts native, are absolutely the pick for you.  In his book, Hodgman recounts his real life wanderings, and through them you learn of the horror of freshwater clams, the evolutionary purpose of the mustache, and which animals to keep as pets and which to kill with traps and poison. There is also some advice on how to react when the people of coastal Maine try to sacrifice you to their strange god.  Though wildly, Hodgmaniacally funny as usual, this is also an unexpectedly poignant and sincere account of one human facing his forties, those years when men in particular must stop pretending to be the children of bright potential they were and settle into the failing bodies of the wiser, weird dads that they are.  If Neil Gaiman writing a blurb for this book isn’t enough reason to go take a look….I just don’t know what to say.  Here’s what Gaiman said, though: “This book is genuinely it-will-make-you-laugh funny, it is a wistful and sad examination of the impulse that causes us to move to out of the way places and of what John Hodgman found when he went there, and it is always wiser than it seems. If you do not read it, you will be missing out on something special.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And just a reminder, beloved patrons, we’ll be closed tomorrow in observance of Veteran’s Day.

As we’ve discussed, Americans have remembered those who served our country in uniform on November 11, first as Armistice Day, and then, since 1954 as Veterans Day.  The day itself commemorates the Armistice which ended hostilities on the Western Front of the First World War.

In honor of this day, here is a poem by American journalist and poet Carl Sandburg.  Though he did not serve in the First World War, Sandburg was nevertheless deeply affected by the violence, and anger, and the lasting trauma of the war on veterans and civilians alike.


There will be a rusty gun on the wall, sweetheart,
The rifle grooves curling with flakes of rust.
A spider will make a silver string nest in the
darkest, warmest corner of it.
The trigger and the range-finder, they too will be rusty.
And no hands will polish the gun, and it will hang on the wall.
Forefingers and thumbs will point casually toward it.
It will be spoken among half-forgotten, wished-to-be-forgotten things.
They will tell the spider: Go on, you’re doing good work.
(From Smoke and Steel, 1922)

We will be open on Sunday, so be sure to drop by and check out some of the new books that have scurried onto our shelves this week!  Here are just a sample:

A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf: We are huge fans of Book Buddies here at the Library, as well as devotees of the authors listed in this book’s subtitle, so this was something of a natural choice for us.  We so often talk about the friendship and collaboration between male authors, but the world’s best-loved female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses. Co-authors and real-life friends Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney prove this wrong, highlighting centuries of literary friendship, collaborations, and inspirations between women, from  the friendship between Jane Austen and one of her family servants, playwright Anne Sharp, to the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Brontë; to Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, whose complex relationship has gone understudied for generations.  Using letters and diaries, some never before published, this book emphasizes the need–and the incredible results–of female friendships, in a book that Publisher’s Weekly called an ” evocative and well-researched ode to female solidarity…The authors…astutely explain that the friendships they depict became lost to cultural memory due to prevailing stereotypes of female authors as “solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses.” It is a delight to learn about them here, as related by two talented authors.”

Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror: Just in time for the centennial of the Russian Revolution comes Victor Sebestyen’s fascinating new biography (and the first in English in over two decades) of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik party. Brought up in comfort and with a passion for hunting and fishing, chess, and the English classics, Lenin was radicalized after the execution of his brother in 1887. Sebestyen traces the story from Lenin’s early years to his long exile in Europe and return to Petrograd in 1917 to lead the first Communist revolution in history.  With Lenin’s personal papers and those of other leading political figures now available, Sebestyen gives is new details that bring to life the dramatic and gripping story of how Lenin seized power in a coup and ran his revolutionary state. The product of a violent, tyrannical, and corrupt Russia, he chillingly authorized the deaths of thousands of people and created a system based on the idea that political terror against opponents was justified for a greater ideal.  Sebestyen also emphasizes Lenin’s relationships with women, bringing his sister, his mother, his wife, and him mistress into the historical picture in a way never before attempted.  The result is a book that earned a starred review from Kirkus, who called it, “An illuminating new biography of the cold, calculating ruler on whom the subsequent Soviet state modeled itself . . . Sebestyen ably captures the man, “the kind of demagogue familiar to us in Western democracies.” A compelling, clear-eyed portrait of a dictator whose politics have unfortunate relevance for today.”

The End We Start From: From a language-and-use perspective, Megan Hunter’s debut work of fiction inhabits a magical land somewhere between poetry and prose.  In terms of plot, this is an apocalyptic novel of hope.  It is a hauntingly beautiful look at the ugliness of a drowned world.  It is utterly bizarre, and it’s a marvel.  As London is submerged below floodwaters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. They head north through a newly dangerous country seeking refuge from place to place. The story traces fear and wonder as the baby grows, thriving and content against all the odds. This book has earned glowing reviews, and both it and Hunter have secured spots on a number of best of lists, with The Guardian noting, “If motherhood now has its own literary subgenre, the same is true of climate-change catastrophe…Hunter sees both subjects afresh, through a sharp eye for detail that is both undeceived and faintly amused, and through the extreme spareness of her narration: the story proceeds in snatches, like a series of stepping stones across the blank expanse of an unknown future.”

To My Trans SistersDedicated to trans women everywhere, Charlie Craggs’ anthology represents an inspirational collection of letters written by successful trans women shares the lessons they learnt on their journeys to womanhood, celebrating their achievements and empowering the next generation to become who they truly are. Written by politicians, scientists, models, athletes, authors, actors, and activists from around the world, these letters capture the diversity of the trans experience and offer advice from make-up and dating through to fighting dysphoria and transphobia. By turns honest and heartfelt, funny and furious or beautiful and brave, these letters send a clear message of hope to their sisters, and also offer a world of insight to all readers on the nature of identity, the power of empathy, and the need to recognize all our fellow humans as people worthy of respect and love.  Library Journal gave this book a starred review, pronouncing it “A triumph in topics of gender and women’s studies, this anthology is unlike anything available today and is a must-have for those seeking to understand the trans community on a myriad of levels.”

The Big Book of Rogues and Villains: Anyone who enjoys themselves a richly nuances baddie is going to delight in this new collection from Otto Penzler, that brings together the iconic traitors, thieves, con men, sociopaths, and killers who have crept through the mystery canon over the past 150 years, captivating and horrifying readers in equal measure. The 72 handpicked stories in this collection introduce us to the most depraved of psyches, from iconic antiheroes like Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin and Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu to contemporary delinquents like Lawrence Block’s Ehrengraf and Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder.  With stories from Bram Stoker, R.L. Stevenson, Earl Stanley Gardener, as well as  less well-remembered writers like May Edginton, and George Randolph Chester, this is a delightful romp through some of the darker personas in fiction that is a blast for mystery readers and fans of character studies.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, noting that “The fruits of Penzler’s decades of diligent study of the genre pay off handsomely in this fat volume.”


Until next week, beloved patrons, Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And welcome to our first 5BF of November, beloved patrons!

via The Library of Congress

And speaking of November, don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour this Sunday, as it’s the end of Daylight Savings Time.  Though we all give Benjamin Franklin credit for coming up with the idea of Daylight Savings Time, there is a debate as to whether he meant the idea as a lighthearted jest more than a practical suggestion.  It was, in fact, Germany, under the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II during the First World War, which was the first country to adopt daylight saving time – or “fast time” as it was then called – as a means to minimize artificial lighting and save fuel for the war effort. The act was quickly followed in both Great Britain and France, where it was also credited with getting in an extra hour for cultivation of war gardens.  As this article in the Great Falls Tribune points out, the movement had something of a rocky start in the US:

The cause for turning the clocks back an hour in the United States was taken up by Pittsburgh industrialist Robert Garland. Garland successfully lobbied for the “Standard Time Act,” establishing that U.S. clocks be set back one hour between March 31 and Oct. 27.

The act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on March 19, 1918, but was repealed just seven months later. The war had ended, and nobody seemed to like the idea, especially American dairy farmers who worked tirelessly to overturn the Standard Time Act, even overcoming a veto by Wilson.

Undaunted, Garland continued to advocate for daylight saving time. For the next 20 years, he argued before any group that would invite him that a permanent daylight saving time would improve industrial efficiency and add an additional hour so Americans could enjoy more outdoor activities such as golf, tennis and baseball. He even enlisted the support of the motion-picture industry, arguing that daylight saving would increase attendance at the theaters.

Garland’s efforts were largely unsuccessful, although several large U.S. cities including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston and New York did adopt the time switch. It wasn’t until World War II that the practice once again became universal.

So why not come into the Library and find a new book with which to enjoy your extra hour of weekend?  Or, you know, sleep. That’s fine, too.  But here are some books to tempt you otherwise….


An Enchantment of RavensFans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, who loved the weird fairy settings and the talented, resourceful women who populated it, need to read Margaret Rogerson’s book.  Isobel is a portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, who crave human Craft with a terrible thirst. Isobel’s paintings are highly prized, but when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.  Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. But when the are waylaid in their journey, Isobel and Rook are forced to depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts.  If this gorgeous cover isn’t enough to intrigue you, then come for the powerful, transformative love story, complex characters, and the simply sumptuous descriptions that make this book completely transporting.  RT Book Reviews named this book a Top Pick, noting “Though Rogerson fills her tale with unique and complex characters, and her storytelling is beautiful, it is the powerful bond between her mortal heroine and her constantly surprising, supportive and fascinating hero that makes this story such a phenomenal read.”

Beasts Made of Night: Another phenomenal fantasy book, this one from the African tradition, from debut author Tochi Onyebuchi, who drew on his own Nigerian heritage to write this powerful and utterly engrossing book.  In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts—lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt. Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.  When Taj is called to eat a sin of a member of the royal family, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves—and his own life.  The lessons of self-acceptance, forgiveness, the keen understanding of what really separates the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and an utterly bewitching world all combine to make this a book that fantasy and sci-fi readers of all ages won’t want to miss!  Kirkus Reviews agrees–they gave this book a starred review, noting “”Epic” is an overused term to describe how magnificent someone or something is. Author Onyebuchi’s novel creates his in the good old-fashioned way: the slow, loving construction of the mundane and the miraculous, building a world that is both completely new and instantly recognizable.”

The River of ConsciousnessThe world lost a great deal when Oliver Sacks passed away, but his medical and literary legacy has touched countless lives.  Sacks, an Oxford-educated polymath, had a deep understanding and love of not literature and medicine, though, but botany, animal anatomy, chemistry, the history of science, philosophy, and psychology. The River of Consciousness is one of two books he was working on up to his death, a series of ten essays consciously written with his own mortality in sight, and it reveals his ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless project to understand what makes us human. Hope Jahren, author of Lab Girl, wrote a stunning blurb for this book that says it all: “Oliver Sacks knew how much his readers would miss him, and he outlined these ten essays before he left us. Indeed, blessed are we who mourn. His was a voice that could untangle even the most formidable knots of medical mystery—the bewildering maladies of the brain—and roll them out into smooth ribbons of human story. I read these essays in one night, spellbound as he described petals, cameras, bombs—and, of course, neurons—so enraptured with details that only later did I realize how he had also explained the weightiness of time, memory, and learning itself. The River of Consciousness is the precious voice of Oliver Sacks come back to us, to do what all great seers do: lead us to places that we could never have found on our own.”

Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill:  It was in Brooklyn, New York, in 1883 that William F. Cody—known across the land as Buffalo Bill—conceived of his Wild West show, an “equestrian extravaganza” featuring cowboys and Indians. The idea took off. For four months in 1885 the Lakota chief Sitting Bull appeared in the show.  This book, from award-winning author Deanne Stillman, tells the story of these two iconic figures through their brief but important collaboration.  Unearthing little told details about the two men and their tumultuous times, this book casts light not a broad swath of 19th century American history, but also on the cultural and personal importance of Wild West Shows for Native Americans and white performers alike.  During this time, the Native American rights movement began to flourish, but with their way of life in tatters, the Lakota and others availed themselves of the chance to perform in the Wild West. Cody paid his performers well, and he treated the Native Americans no differently from white performers. When Cody died in 1917, a large contingent of Native Americans attended his public funeral. This book enriches our knowledge of these two men, and the world they inhabited, in well-researched detail, and with beautiful storytelling.  In it’s review, Booklist called this work “Thoroughly researched…Stillman’s account of this period in American history is elucidating as well as entertaining.”

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone:  On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of northeast Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than eighteen thousand people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned. It was Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways. Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings, and met a priest who exorcised the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to one specific village that had suffered a loss too heartbreaking to forget.  This is a fascinating, heartbreaking, wrenching, and wonderfully insightful book that offers a stunning portrait of a tragedy that often feels completely indescribable.  As The Chicago Tribune recognized, this book is “Remarkably written and reported . . . a spellbinding book that is well worth contemplating in an era marked by climate change and natural disaster.”


Five Book Friday!

Happy Friday, dear readers!  If you’re looking for a fun adventure this weekend, be sure to check out the Boston Book Festival, a glorious weekend of book-loving, book-buying, and book-discussing!  It’s all taking place in Copley Square, and the line-up of authors this year is really impressive, diverse, exciting, and engaging.  You can get all the details at their website: https://bostonbookfest.org/

And if that isn’t enough books for you for one weekend, then feel free to check out these books (and many others!) that gamboled onto our shelves this week!


The Power: The winner of this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has at last arrived, both on our shores, and on our shelves!  This is a book that is both outlandish and challenging–but Naomi Alderman possess a phenomenal talent for making the world of her book feel normal, believable–and all the most chilling for it.  In this story, Alderman creates a world that looks remarkably like ours, with a wealth of intricate characters from around the globe, whose lives converge when a vital new force takes root and flourishes: Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.  This is a book is as much about our own world as that of the world that Alderman has created, and offers plenty of commentary on the state of gendered and age power structures.  Perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing is the correspondence that frame the main book, which highlights in painful clarity the language we use in talking about women, and how absurd it is taken out of context.  The Boston Globe‘s review echoed this sentiment, saying, “Alderman has conducted a brilliant thought experiment in the nature of power itself…Turning the world inside out, she reveals how one of the greatest hallmarks of power is the chance to create a mythology around how that power was used. In that sense, The Power is a testament to its own force – it begins and ends in the voice of the author herself – as if to say, lightning would be nice, but for now – and here – there’s the pen. It can do a lot.”

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: In 1916, at the height of World War I, brilliant Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith went to work for an eccentric tycoon on his estate outside Chicago. The tycoon had close ties to the U.S. government, and he soon asked Elizebeth to apply her language skills to an exciting new venture: code-breaking. There she met the man who would become her husband, groundbreaking cryptologist William Friedman. Though she and Friedman are in many ways the “Adam and Eve” of the NSA, Elizebeth’s story has always been overshadowed by William’s…until now.  In this well-researched and very well-told story, Jason Fagone presents Elizebeth’s life, her genius, and the real import of her work, bringing into focus the unforgettable events and colorful personalities that would help shape modern intelligence.  Fans of Hidden Figures are sure to find plenty to enjoy here!  Booklist gave Fagone’s work a starred review, too, hailing it as “Riveting, inspiring, and rich in colorful characters, Fagone’s extensively researched and utterly dazzling title is popular history at its very best and a book club natural.”

Death in the Air: the true story of a serial killer, the great London smog, and the strangling of a city: Fans of Erik Larson and David King should not waste a minute in checking out Kate Winkler Dawson’s fascinating and unsettling history of the deadliest air pollution disaster in world history…and the murderer who worked alongside it.  In winter 1952, London automobiles and thousands of coal-burning hearths belched particulate matter into the air. But the smog that descended on December 5th of 1952 was different; it was a type that held the city hostage for five long days. Mass transit ground to a halt, criminals roamed the streets, and 12,000 people died. That same month, there was another killer at large in London: John Reginald Christie, who murdered at least six women. In a braided narrative that draws on extensive interviews, never-before-published material, and archival research, Dawson captivatingly recounts the intersecting stories of the these two killers and their longstanding impact on modern history.  Authors from Douglas Preston to Simon Winchester have written blurbs for this all-around winner of a book, with the latter providing a poignant reminder of how close to these events we still are, and what a rare gift it is to be able to discuss such events in an insightful way.  He writes: “I was seven, and living in London, when these two dreadful and murderous events uncoiled, and I–asthmatic as a result–remember them still. It seems to me that only an outsider, a non-Londoner, could possibly bring them so vividly, so excruciatingly and so unflinchingly back to life. Kate Winkler Dawson has done the history of my city a great service, and she is to be commended for telling a terrible tale memorably and brilliantly.”

RighteousFans of Joe Ide’s debut mystery, IQ, should definitely check out this follow-up story featuring the compelling  Isaiah Quintabe.  Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for the killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again-or lose his mind.  But at the same time, I.Q. and his volatile, dubious sidekick, Dodson find themselves plunged into a case featuring Chinese gangsters, a terrifying seven-foot-tall loan shark, and a case that threatens not only I.Q. and Dodson, but the love of I.Q.’s life, as well.  This series is a hit with fans, critics, and other mystery writers alike, with its gritty scenarios, trash-talking characters, and the deep emotionality that Ide brings to the hardest of hard-boiled characters’ interactions.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this case a starred review, declaring it “Outstanding . . . Ide again makes his hero’s deductive brilliance plausible, while presenting an emotionally engaging story that doesn’t shy away from presenting the bleakest aspects of humanity.”

The Written WorldWhat is better than a book?  A book about books!  In this groundbreaking book, Martin Puchner leads us on a remarkable journey through time and around the globe to reveal the powerful role stories and literature have played in creating the world we have today. Puchner introduces us to numerous visionaries as he explores sixteen foundational texts selected from more than four thousand years of world literature and reveals how writing has inspired the rise and fall of empires and nations, the spark of philosophical and political ideas, and the birth of religious beliefs. Indeed, literature has touched the lives of generations and changed the course of history.  From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter, Puchner’s delightful narrative also chronicles the inventions—writing technologies, the printing press, the book itself—that have shaped religion, politics, commerce, people, and history, making this a book that history buffs, techno-geeks, and book lovers alike will savor.  Any time Margaret Atwood composes a Tweet to your book, it’s a good day, and this tweet says it all: “Well worth a read, to find out how come we read.”

Five Book Friday!

And a loud and joyful “Congratulations” to Margaret Atwood, who was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize in Prague earlier this week!

Via the Washington Post

The Franz Kafka Society has presented its prize annually 2001 to “contemporary authors whose literary works are exceptional in terms of artistic quality and can appeal to readers irrespective of their origin, nationality and culture, similar to the works by Kafka (1883-1924).”  Past winners of the Czech Republic’s only literary award include American Philip Roth, Austrian novelist, playwright and poet Elfriede Jelinek, British playwright Harold Pinter and this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner Haruki Murakami.

Though most people currently know Atwood as the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, which was made into an award-winning mini-series this year, she is also the author of more than 40 books across forms and genres.  Her novel Alias Grace will be released on Netflix starting November 3rd.

In accepting the award, Atwood noted that Kafka, the Prague-born Jewish-German writer whose writing revolutionized the world of fiction, was her first literary love.  And since Margaret Atwood was so many of our first literary loves here at the Library, we all take enormous pride in wishing her heaps of congratulations!

And now, on to some of the books that have tumbled down like leaves onto our shelves this week….

We Were Eight Years In Power“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”  But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period—and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective—the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.  This is a book for anyone who was touched or educated or inspired by Coates’ previous work, as well as for those who have not yet encountered his powerful insights and gentle way of educating.  This book has been winning acclaim across the country, in addition to earning a starred review from Kirkus, who celebrated it “Biting cultural and political analysis from the award-winning journalist . . . He contextualizes each piece with candid personal revelations, making the volume a melding of memoir and critique. . . . Emotionally charged, deftly crafted, and urgently relevant.”

The Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age: The internet is a place where we live, though it’s not a place we can physically inhabit.  It has changed our lives, without being a physical presence.  And in these three essays, writer Andrew O’Hagan explores those porous borders between cyberspace and real life…from a consideration of  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to how a dead man’s name was used to create a whole new life on the internet, O’Hagan’s searching pieces take us to the weirder fringes of life in a digital world while also casting light on our shared predicaments. What does it mean when your very sense of self becomes, to borrow a term from the tech world, “disrupted”?   This book is also being cheered as one of the best of the year, and earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly who hailed it as “Splendid . . . O’Hagan’s grasp of storytelling is prodigious…Taken as a whole, this is an unmissable collection of up-to-the-moment insights about life in our digital era.”

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: An ambitious title if there ever was one!  In our unique genomes, every one of us carries the story of our species—births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, …but those stories were always largely inaccessible, until recent scientific pioneering has led us to understand the smallest parts of our makeup.  In this fascinating and insightful work, Adam Rutherford explores how geneticists have suddenly become historians, and the hard evidence in our DNA has blown the lid off what we thought we knew. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story—from 100,000 years ago to the present.  This is a book filled with provocative questions that we’re on the cusp of answering: Are we still in the grasp of natural selection? Are we evolving for better or worse? And . . . where do we go from here?  Renowned science writer Siddhartha Mukherjee wrote a forward for this book, as well as providing a stellar blurb, which hails this book as  “Ambitious, wide-ranging, and deeply researched, Rutherford’s book sets out to describe the history of the human species—from our origins as a slight, sly, naked, apelike creature somewhere in Africa to our gradual spread across the globe and our dominion over the planet.”

Rebellion: Molly Patterson’s stellar debut crosses time and geography to tell a powerful story about four women whose rebellions, both large and small, change their worlds.  At the heart of the novel lies a mystery: In 1900, Addie, an American missionary in China, goes missing during the Boxer Rebellion, leaving her family back home to wonder at her fate. Her sister Louisa—newly married and settled in rural Illinois—anticipates tragedy, certain that Addie’s fate is intertwined with her own legacy of loss.  In 1958, Louisa’s daughter Hazel has her world upended by the untimely death of her husband.  Nearly half a century later, Juanlan has returned to her parents’ home in Heng’an. With her father ill, her sister-in-law soon to give birth, and the construction of a new highway rapidly changing the town she once knew, she feels pressured on every side by powers outside her control.  This is a work being celebrated by writers and critics alike, with Booklist calling it  “[A] remarkable debut… This is a book about the quiet unfolding of lives and the kind of rebellion that comes from following one’s heart.”

Here in Berlin: Cristina Garcia is a fascinating and insightful novelist whose work is utterly transporting.  This newest release brings us to the heart of Germany during the Second World War, delivering haunting scenes of survival, hope, and heartbreak.
An unnamed Visitor travels to Berlin with a camera looking for reckonings of her own. The city itself is a character―vibrant and postapocalyptic, flat and featureless except for its rivers, its lakes, its legions of bicyclists. Here in Berlin she encounters a people’s history: the Cuban teen taken as a POW on a German submarine only to return home to a family who doesn’t believe him; the young Jewish scholar hidden in a sarcophagus until safe passage to England is found; the female lawyer haunted by a childhood of deprivation in the bombed-out suburbs of Berlin who still defends those accused of war crimes; a young nurse with a checkered past who joins the Reich at a medical facility more intent to dispense with the wounded than to heal them; and the son of a zookeeper at the Berlin Zoo, fighting to keep the animals safe from both war and an increasingly starving populace.  This book also earned a starred review from Booklist, which said in its review “García, a transcendentally imaginative, piquantly satiric, and profoundly compassionate novelist, dramatizes the helter-skelter of lives ruptured by tyranny, war, and political upheavals with sharp awareness of unlikely multicultural alliances . . . García has created an intricate, sensitive, and provocative montage revolving around the question: ‘Do people remember only what they can endure, or distort memories until they can endure them?'”

Five Book Friday!

And, as everyone has probably noticed by now, it’s Friday the 13th.  A day of bad luck, of ominous premonitions, of evil portents?  According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day.  Donald Dossey, founder of the SMC, notes, “It’s been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do.”

But it’s important to bear in mind that the concept of Friday the 13th being unlucky is absolutely culturally constructed…and that construction is not as large as you might think.  For example, in Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th is considered the unlucky day, and 13 is considered a lucky number.  In a number of Spanish-speaking counties, Tuesday the 13th is the unlucky day, not Friday.   These beliefs are evolving now with the steady progress of Americanization, but nevertheless, it’s perhaps helpful and perhaps necessary to realize that the day doesn’t really have it out for you.

In fact, today seems like a perfect day to check out a few new Library books!  Why not have a look as some of the new titles that have fallen, like autumn leaves, upon our shelves this week…

Paradox BoundPeter Clines’ books are wild and inventive, and their stories feel so big that they can’t quite be contained by any descriptions–especially this book.  But here goes.  Eli Teague lives in Saunders.  A town where nothing ever happens.  A town that still has a video store.  But Eli refuses to leave.  He’s still waiting to see again that mysterious traveler he’s seen twice before–a traveler who stops  just long enough to drop tantalizing clues before disappearing in a cloud of gunfire and a squeal of tires.  So when the mysterious traveler finally reappears, Eli’s determined that this time, he’s going to get some answers. But his hunt soon yields far more than he bargained for, plunging him headlong into a dizzying world full of competing factions and figures, with the history and fate of America itself at its heart.  Fans of Doctor Who and Jules Verne alike are going to find plenty to enjoy here, and Clines’ characters are always so real that you tend to miss them when they’re gone.  Kirkus Reviews agreed, giving this book a starred review and calling it,  “A timey-wimey, full-barrel adventure novel that also teaches a non-ironic lesson in American civics…[featuring] an epithet-wielding, pistol-packing heroine that will capture hearts.”

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War IIAnother book about “Girls”, but this is a true story, and a remarkable one that readers of military history, as well as women’s history and American history will all be able to savor.  More than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II.  Recruited from small towns, college, and universities across the country, they moved their lives to Washington, D.C., and undertook to learn the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through painstaking research and interviews with surviving code girls, Liza Mundy brings their riveting stories, and their enduring contributions to the Allied forces, to worldwide scientific knowledge, and to American history, to life.  The Washingtonian praised Mundy’s work, noting how her “fascinating book suggests that [the Code Girls’] influence did play a role in defining modern Washington and challenging gender roles–changes that still matter 75 years later.”

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American LifeGrowing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, Ernesto Flores had always had a fascination with the United States, the distant land of skyscrapers and Nikes, while his identical twin, Raul, never felt that northbound tug. But when Ernesto ends up on the wrong side of the region’s brutal gangs he is forced to flee the country, and Raul, because he looks just like his brother, follows close behind—away from one danger and toward the great American unknown.  In this stunning and harrowing tale, journalist Lauren Markham follows the seventeen-year-old Flores twins as they make their harrowing journey across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and eventually to life in California, where they try desperately to fit in with American culture without the language and only each other for support.  This book is a story of a beautiful bond, a nuanced portrait of Central America’s child exodus, an investigation of U.S. immigration policy, and an unforgettable testament to the migrant experience that is sure to rivet news junkies and novel-readers alike.  The New York Times gave this book a glowing review, noting that it is an “impeccably timed, intimately reported and beautifully expressed. Markham brings people and places to rumbling life; she has that rare ability to recreate elusive, subjective experiences—whether they’re scenes she never witnessed or her characters’ interior psychological states—without taking undue liberties.”

What The Hell Did I Just Read: A perfect selection for All-Hallows Read, David Wong’s third installment of the blackly-comic, spine-chilling series that began with John Dies at the End is absurd, the most artistic of ways, emotional in the most surprising of ways, and creepy in all the ways you’ve come to expect if you’ve ever savored one of his stories.  While investigating a fairly straightforward case of a shape-shifting interdimensional child predator, Dave, John and Amy realized there might actually be something weird going on. Together, they navigate a diabolically convoluted maze of illusions, lies, and their own incompetence in an attempt to uncover a terrible truth they — like you — would be better off not knowing.  Your first impulse will be to think that a story this gruesome — and, to be frank, stupid — cannot possibly be true. That is precisely the reaction “They” are hoping for.  Who are “They”?  What do “they” want…you’ll have to read the book to find out!  (Though that might be just what “They” want!)  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, and noted, in their delightful, delighted review, that “While the story gleefully wallows in absurdity, thoughtful themes of addiction, perception, and the drive to do the right thing quickly emerge beneath the vivid and convoluted imagery. The plot’s rapid pace holds the reader’s attention to the truly bitter end.”

The ApparitionistsIn the early days of photography, in the death-strewn wake of the Civil War, one man seized America’s imagination. A “spirit photographer,” William Mumler took portrait photographs that featured the ghostly presence of a lost loved one alongside the living subject. Mumler was a sensation: The affluent and influential came calling, including Mary Todd Lincoln, who arrived at his studio in disguise amidst rumors of séances in the White House.  Peter Manseau brilliantly captures a nation wracked with grief and hungry for proof of the existence of ghosts and for contact with their dead husbands and sons. It took a circus-like trial of Mumler on fraud charges, starring P. T. Barnum for the prosecution, to expose a fault line of doubt and manipulation. And even then, the judge sided with the defense—nobody ever solved the mystery of his spirit photography. This forgotten puzzle offers a vivid snapshot of America at a crossroads in its history, a nation in thrall to new technology while clinging desperately to belief.  Kirkus also gave this book a glowing review, which reads, in part: “Written like a novel but researched with academic rigor, this account of a photographer whose work seemed to incorporate images from the spirit realm stops short of either endorsing the veracity of the photographer’s claim or debunking his work as a scam…A well-paced nonfiction work that reads more like a historical novel than an academic study.”

Until next week, beloved patrons….happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

This week, beloved patrons, is the week that all readers (and libraries, and bookshops…) await all year.  It’s Book Season

This is the prime season where publishers release all the books  in advance of the upcoming winter/holiday season.  Included in this bushel o’ books are some of the most anticipated titles, like Dan Brown’s latest Robert Langdon book, OriginHarlan Coben’s Don’t Let Goand Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties.

But along with those well-publicized blockbusters, there are a huge number of other newly released bits of magic that are just as eager to share your adventures with you, and savor the time that the lengthening evenings offer to curl up with a new book!

Here are just a few of the titles that have crept up onto our shelves this week:

The Dark LakeThe debut work of Australian author Sarah Bailey seems to have wowed plenty of authors and critics alike, with it’s moody atmosphere, deep, complex characters, and an investigation full of secrets and shattering revelations.  The lead homicide investigator in a rural town, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is deeply unnerved when a high school classmate is found strangled, her body floating in a lake. And not just any classmate, but Rosalind Ryan, whose beauty and inscrutability exerted a magnetic pull on Smithson High School, first during Rosalind’s student years and then again when she returned to teach drama.  As much as Rosalind’s life was a mystery to Gemma when they were students together, her death presents even more of a puzzle. What made Rosalind quit her teaching job in Sydney and return to her hometown? Why did she live in a small, run-down apartment when her father was one of the town’s richest men? And despite her many admirers, did anyone in the town truly know her?  Gemma Woodstock is a wonderfully intriguing character in her own right, with plenty of secrets and shadows in her past, and we can only hope that this is the beginning of a series of outings for this fascinating detective!  Douglas Preston, co-author of the Pendergast series, provided one of the cover blurbs for this book, calling it “A crime thriller that seizes you from the first page and slowly draws you into a web of deception and long buried secrets. Beautifully written, compulsively readable, and highly recommended.”

The TrickEmanuel Bergmann’s tale deals with some of the darkest moments in the twentieth century, but the magic of his tale is how light it is, not only in terms of its narrative, but also in the way it continually shows the better side of human nature, the everyday ability we all have to work miracles.  In 1934, a rabbi’s son in Prague joins a traveling circus, becomes a magician, and rises to fame under the stage name the Great Zabbatini just as Europe descends into World War II. When Zabbatini is discovered to be a Jew, his battered trunk full of magic tricks becomes his only hope of surviving the concentration camp where he is sent.  Seven decades later in Los Angeles, ten-year-old Max finds a scratched-up LP that captured Zabbatini performing his greatest tricks. But the track in which Zabbatini performs his love spell—the spell Max believes will keep his disintegrating family together—is damaged beyond repair. Desperate for a solution, Max seeks out the now elderly, cynical magician and begs him to perform his magic on his parents.  But as their unlikely friendship develops,  Max learns some of the real secrets behind Zabbatini’s greatest tricks–and realizes the secret that binds them together.  This a beautiful book with an ending that will turn you inside out.  RT Book Reviews gave this book a ‘Top Pick’ rating, saying in its review, “Bergman’s storytelling is a feat of magic in and of itself; his light tone and deft descriptions capture the wonder of friendship, the heartbreak of youth, and the dread of some of history’s darkest moments with an ease that is both engaging and deeply emotional. The result is a story that is powerfully moving without being heavy-handed, and full of hope without being blind to the horror and selfishness of which humanity is capable.”

Ali: A Life: Jonathan Eig had access to all the key people in Ali’s life to write this complete biography, including his three surviving wives and his managers. He conducted more than 500 interviews and uncovered thousands of pages of previously unreleased FBI and Justice Department files, as well dozens of hours of newly discovered audiotaped interviews from the 1960s. Collectively, they tell Ali’s story like never before—the story of a man who was flawed and uncertain and brave beyond belief.  “I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me—black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”  In providing insight into our of our century’s most well-known, complicated, and larger-than-life personalities, Eig also helps us understand the times in which Ali lived, and the legacy he left behind for us, in sports, culture, and politics.  This book is being hailed as a triumph, and has already made a number of ‘must read’ and ‘best of’ lists, and Kirkus gave it a starred review, calling it “An appropriately outsized—and first-rate—biography . . . Eig does a fine job of covering all the bases . . . An exemplary life of an exemplary man who, despite a few missteps, deserves to be remembered long into the future.”

Iraq + 100: There is no traditional of science fiction in Iraqi literature–or in most of the cultures of the Middle East.  The genre is generally the purview of  society who can look to the future in confidence and security.  But this collection of stories features Iraqi authors, living both in Iraq and around the world, to imagine their world, their home, their society, in a century, and to tell the story of what they saw.  Collected by Iraqi screnwriter and filmmaker Hassam Blasim, the result is a stunning, chilling, thought-provoking collection of stories that not only forces us to consider the power of the science fiction genre, but also the way the reality around us shapes our understanding of fiction and the future.  This collection has earned starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and RT Book Reviews, and NPR described it as “Painful, difficult, and necessary; often beautiful, always harrowing. If that sits awkwardly with the conventions of Western science fiction that imagine dystopias at arm’s length and totalitarianism as fanciful thought-experiment, then perhaps now more than ever is the time for those conventions to change.”

The Indigo GirlYet another addition to the Books With ‘Girl’ In The Title collection, but this historic novel is yet another example of how that word, ‘Girl’, masks the strength, resilience, and determination of women across time.  This book is set between 1739 and 1744, and tells the story of Eliza Lucas, a sixteen-year-old whose father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry.  With international tensions rising, Eliza’s mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England.  Eliza, however, is determined to survive in this new world, even if her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return — against the laws of the day — she will teach the slaves to read.  The real-life Eliza Lucas was a powerhouse of strength and determination who fundamentally changed the economy of the American colonies, and this well-researched story gives her her due, without shying away from the abhorrent system upon which she built her fortune.  Library Journal agrees, noting “Without preaching or judging, the narrative integrates the politics of gender inequality, race, and class into Eliza’s quest for confidence and allies…Boyd’s first historical novel captivates on every level, refreshingly crafting the eighteenth-century world of real-life Eliza Lucas Pinckney.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!