Tag Archives: Five Book Friday

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free For All Birthday to Armenian poet Daniel Varoujan.

Varoujan was born Daniel Tchboukkiarian in what is now Sivas, Turkey, on April 20, 1884.  He was educated in Turkey, and later in Venice.  In 1905, he enrolled at the University of Ghent, in Belgium, where he studied literature, sociology and economics.  He returned home in 1909 and worked as a teacher, and married Araksi Varoujan in 1912.

In 1914, Varoujan and several friends established the Mehean, a literary magazine and social group dedicated to Armenian literature and language.  At the time, Armenia was not a country, but a group of people bound together by a common culture, language, and religion, most of whom lived together within the bounds of the Ottoman Empire.  There was also a sizable population of Armenians in the Russian Empire (see the map below this paragraph for a visual).   As a group, Armenians became a target of political and personal violence when the Young Turks came to power in 1907.  The Ottoman Empire (to put it very simply) had been a site of religious and cultural tolerance for most of its history, however, the Young Turks imagined an empire led by those who identified as Turkish, who spoke Turkish, and who practiced the Muslim religion.  As outsiders in this vision, Armenians found themselves in danger of persecution.

Via Wikipedia, By YerevanciOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

With the outbreak of the First World War, and especially with the Ottoman entrance into the war in 1915, Armenians came under even more intense persecution.  As Christians who lived in both the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire (two empires on different sides of the conflict), Armenians were demonized as enemies of the Ottoman state.  On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman government authorized the arrest of Armenian intellectuals, religious and community leaders.  This event is recognized as the beginning of the Armenian Genocide.  Varoujan was among those arrested and later deported.  While on route, eyewitness testimony states that Varoujan and four other Armenian men were robbed, stripped, and tortured by Turkish police officers until they died.  Though his work was confiscated during the genocide, his unfinished work, The Song of the Bread ( in Armenian: Հացին երգը) was rescued by allegedly bribing Turkish officials.  Today, we bring you one of Varoujan’s poems as a tribute to the man, and in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, which is commemorated this coming week:


At the Eastern part of the earth
Let there be peace…
Let sweat, not blood, flow
In the broad vein of the furrow,
And at the toll of each hamlet’s bell
Let there rise hymns of exaltation.

At the Western part of the earth
Let there be fecundity …
Let each star sparkle with dew,
And each husk be cast in gold
And as the sheep graze on the hills
Let bud and blossom bloom.

At the Northern part of the earth
Let there be abundance …
In the golden sea of the wheat field
Let the scythe swim incessantly
And as gates of granaries open wide
Jubilation let there be.

At the Southern part of the earth
Let all things bear fruit…
Let the honey thrive in the beehive
And may the wine run over the cups
And when brides bake the blessed bread
Let the sound of song rise and spread.

Daniel Varoujan 1914

Translated by Tatul Sonentz (via armenian-poetry.blogspot.com)

*Name of the ritual of the Ceremonial Blessing of the 4 corners of the earth — a Sacrement of the Armenian Apostolic Church

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives: Pulitzer Prize–winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences.  This book brings together stories of writers from Mexico, Bosnia, Iran, Afghanistan, Soviet Ukraine, Hungary, Chile, Ethiopia, to name just a few.  Together, they are a formidable intellectual force: MacArthur Genius grant recipients, National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalists, filmmakers, speakers, lawyers, professors, and New Yorker contributors—and they are all refugees, many as children arriving in London and Toronto, Oklahoma and Minnesota, South Africa and Germany.  These essays reveal moments of uncertainty, resilience in the face of trauma, and a reimagining of identity, forming a compelling look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge.  The Economist wrote a glowing review of this book, noting, in part, that “…[Viet Thanh Nguyen] gives ordinary Westerners a heart-wrenching insight into the uprooted lives led in their midst…the collection succeeds in demonstrating that this dispersed community in some ways resembles other nations. It has its founding myths, but its citizens all have their own tragedies, victories and pain—and each has a story to tell.”

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and RecoveryIn January 2015, Barbara Lipska—a leading expert on the neuroscience of mental illness—was diagnosed with melanoma that had spread to her brain. Within months, her frontal lobe, the seat of cognition, began shutting down, and she began exhibiting dementia- and schizophrenia-like symptoms that terrified her family and coworkers. But just as her doctors figured out what was happening, the immunotherapy they had prescribed began to work, and repair the damage that had been done to Lipska’s brain and mind.  Just eight weeks after her nightmare began, Lipska returned to her version of normal–with one difference: she remembered her brush with madness clearly and nearly completely.  In this book, Lipska describes her extraordinary ordeal, explaining how mental illness, brain injury, and age can change our behavior, personality, cognition, and memory. She also shares what it is like to experience these changes firsthand, while contemplating what parts of us remain, even when so much else is gone.  This is a remarkable book that looks at illness from the view of both a physician and a patient, told by a scientist and writer of impressive talent.  Science Magazine hailed this book, writing that “Lipska’s evolution as scientist, patient, and person explores the physiological basis of mental illness, while uplifting the importance of personal identity…. Lipska’s prose soars when narrating her experiences… her story is evidence that rich personal narratives offer value to an empirical pursuit of neuroscientific investigation.”

Napa at Last Light: America’s Eden in an Age of CalamityJames Conaway has spent decades covering the Napa region, and in this eye-opening work, he compares the origins of this utopia of wine, started by family vintners and dedicated farmers, and the present-day reality, marked by multinational corporations and their allies who have stealthily subsumed the old family landmarks and abandoned the once glorious conviction that agriculture is the highest and best use of the land.  Inherent in that conviction is the sanctity of the place, threatened now by a relentless drive for profits at the expense of land, water, and even life.  A story about power, money, land, and, most of all, wine, Conaway’s book is an engaging, honest, sometimes unsettling account of an industry and a place undergoing fundamental change–and the people who are caught in the middle.  Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, declaring, “This is a stunning and sad look at how an idyllic community became a victim of its own success…fascinating and well-researched.”

Lawn Boy: Jonathan Evison manages to balance a moving, small-scale coming-of-age story with a large-scale discussion of class and success that is successful in everything it does.  For Mike Muñoz, a young Chicano living in Washington State, life has been a whole lot of waiting for something to happen. Not too many years out of high school and still doing menial work—and just fired from his latest gig as a lawn boy on a landscaping crew—he knows that he’s got to be the one to shake things up if he’s ever going to change his life. But how?  Though he tries time and again to get his foot on the first rung of that ladder to success, he can’t seem to get a break. But then things start to change for Mike, and after a raucous, jarring, and challenging trip, he finds he can finally see the future and his place in it. And it’s looking really good.  This is a book that has been added to a number of “Best Of” lists for its frank look at the persistence and pernicious nature of the ‘American Dream’, and also earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who cheered, “Evison convincingly evokes the small disasters and humiliations that beset America’s working poor. Mike’s gradual growth into self-awareness is punctuated by moments of human kindness and grace that transpire in and among broken-down trucks, trailer parks, and strip malls. Focusing on the workers who will only ever be welcome in gated communities as hired help, Evison’s quiet novel beautifully considers the deterioration of the American Dream.”

CirceWe readers have been spoiled by a resurgence and re-imaging of ancient classics of late, and Madeline Miller continues this trend in fine fashion with the tale of Circe, a supporting character in The Odyssey, but the heroine of this fascinating and insightful tale.  The daughter of the all-powerful Titans, Circe is an outsider–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft.  Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology.  But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.  Fans of Greek mythology, epic adventures, and deeply emotional tales will delight in this tale that has been receiving glowing reviews from around the country.  One such review came from The Washington Post, which reads in part, “”One of the most amazing qualities of this novel [is]: We know how everything here turns out – we’ve known it for thousands of years – and yet in Miller’s lush reimagining, the story feels harrowing and unexpected. The feminist light she shines on these events never distorts their original shape; it only illuminates details we hadn’t noticed before.”


Until next week, beloved patrons: Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

As we mentioned in a post a few years ago, beloved patrons, Friday the 13th is a day that plenty of people fear, but no one really seems to know quite why.  It might have something to do with the Knights Templar, as Dan Brown and Steve Berry have described in their books.  It might be because of  Thomas W. Lawson’s 1907 novel Friday, the Thirteenth, in which a stoke broker decides to take advantage of the superstitions regarding the day and create a panic on Wall Street.  It’s very much an Anglo-American fear, as Wikipedia notes that other cultures have superstitions regarding Tuesdays, or the 17th day of the month rather than the 13th.

Whatever the case may, we’re pretty sure that today is not going to be wildly different from any other Friday…at least insofar as we have books, and they are good, and they are eager to make your acquaintance.  So, without further ago, let’s take a moment to meet some of those brave titles who have trekked on to our shelves this week!

Unbury Carol: Fans of Josh Malerman’s sensational Bird Box need wait no longer, for his newest work is finally out and on our shelves.  This novel is a twisted, dark, and utterly engrossing re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, featuring a heroine named Carol Evers.  Carol has died many times . . . but her many deaths are not final: They are comas, a waking slumber indistinguishable from death, each lasting days.Only two people know of Carol’s eerie condition. One is her husband, Dwight, who married Carol for her fortune, and—when she lapses into another coma—plots to seize it by proclaiming her dead and quickly burying her . . . alive. The other is her lost love, the infamous outlaw James Moxie. When word of Carol’s dreadful fate reaches him, Moxie rides the Trail again to save his beloved from an early, unnatural grave.  And all the while, awake and aware, Carol fights to free herself from the crippling darkness that binds her—summoning her own fierce will to survive.  Brilliantly inventive, hauntingly claustrophobic, and touchingly human, this is another success for Malerman, and will no doubt prove a treat for any fans of his, or Poe, for that matter.  Kirkus Reviews noted in its review that “This one haunts you for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on. . . . Malerman is too fierce an original to allow anyone else’s visions to intrude on his. [He] defies categories and comparisons with other writers.”

Daughters of the Winter Queen: Four Remarkable Sisters, the Crown of Bohemia, and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots: Nancy Goldstone’s newest history tells the tale of Elizabeth Stuart, granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her four daughters.  When her godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, died and her father, James I, ascended to the illustrious throne of England, Elizabeth Stuart assumed a life of wealth and privilege that might surprise many even today.  At sixteen she was married to a dashing German count far below her rank, with the understanding that James would help her husband achieve the crown of Bohemia. Her father’s terrible betrayal of this promise would ruin “the Winter Queen,” as Elizabeth would forever be known, imperil the lives of those she loved, and launch a war that would last for thirty years.  Forced into exile, the Winter Queen and her growing family found refuge in Holland, where the glorious art and culture of the Dutch Golden Age formed the backdrop to her daughters’ education. The eldest, Princess Elizabeth, was renowned as a scholar when women were all but excluded from serious study and counted the preeminent philosopher René Descartes among her closest friends. Louise Hollandine, whose lively manner and appealing looks would provoke heartache and scandal, was a gifted painter. Shy, gentle Henrietta Maria, the beauty of the family, would achieve the dynastic ambition of marrying into royalty, although at great cost. But it would be the youngest, Sophia, a heroine in the tradition of Jane Austen, whose ready wit and good-natured common sense masked immense strength of character, who would fulfill the promise of her great-grandmother, a legacy that endures to this day.  Goldstone is a historian who is able to capture not only dates and trends, but to color in the details of individuals, to emphasize their successes and flaws so well that you’ll feel as if you’ve spent time with royalty after reading this book.  Fans of  The Crown, as well as history buffs of all stripes will love this book, which earned a starred review from Library Journal, which called it “A compulsively readable account of an otherwise unfamiliar royal family. Goldstone writes with knowledge, humor, and ease–a masterly storyteller who steers clear of overly academic language. Ideal for amateur Tudor historians who wish to be introduced to a lesser-known yet equally fascinating royal family.”

Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class:  In early August 1889, César Ritz, a Swiss hotelier highly regarded for his exquisite taste, found himself at the Savoy Hotel in London. He had come at the request of Richard D’Oyly Carte, the financier of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas, who had modernized theater and was now looking to create the world’s best hotel.  D’Oyly Carte soon seduced Ritz to move to London with his team, which included Auguste Escoffier, the chef de cuisine known for his elevated, original dishes. The result was a hotel and restaurant like no one had ever experienced, run in often mysterious and always extravagant ways–which created quite a scandal once exposed.  In a tale replete with scandal and opulence, Luke Barr transports readers to turn-of-the-century London and Paris to discover how celebrated hotelier César Ritz and famed chef Auguste Escoffier joined forces at the Savoy Hotel to spawn the modern luxury hotel and restaurant industry.  Booklist loved this energetic and illuminating book, calling it “[A] lively, gossipy account . . . not just a fluidly structured dual biography, but a provocative history of a turning point in the evolving hotel and restaurant industry.”

A Long Way From HomeTwo-time-Booker-Prize-winner Peter Carey is back with a book in which he confronts head-on his native Australia’s history of race and racism, all while capturing the beauty, zaniness, and audacity of its infamous 10,000-mile race, the Redex Trial. Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in southeastern Australia. Together they enter the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the ancient continent, over roads no car will ever quite survive. With them is their lanky, fair-haired navigator, Willie Bachhuber, a quiz show champion and failed schoolteacher who calls the turns and creeks crossings on a map that will remove them, without warning, from the white Australia they all know so well and into the heart of a country that is utterly unfamiliar to them–and yet one to which they are inextricably, and inexorably, bound.  As with so many of his best works, Carey uses comedy to soften some his fiercest punches, but doesn’t let the jokes get in the way of the deepest meanings of his books.  Many have agreed this is his best novel in decades (if not his best work, period), and Kirkus Reviews, who gave this work a starred review, said, “This picaresque comedy goes thematically deeper as it heads into the Outback… The comic spirit slyly suggests Shakespeare, an inquiry into identity and the farcical human existence. . . . Carey’s novel raises issues of culture and race that carry a thoroughly contemporary charge.”

A Necessary EvilReaders who enjoyed Abir Mukherjee’s first mystery featuring Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force will delight in their return in this second complex, historically detailed, and polished mystery.  The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines, and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-Not’ Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a modernizer whose attitudes―and romantic relationships―may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother―now in line to the throne―appears to be a feckless playboy.  As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules―and those who cross their paths pay with their lives. They must find a murderer, before the murderer finds them.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this second entry into a sensational series a starred review, calling it “Impressive. This successful evocation of the Raj in the service of a brilliant whodunit demonstrates that Mukherjee’s debut was no fluke.”’


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

Today, dear readers, as the birds begin chirping and the grass begins greening, and it nearly freezing and we very well might see snow this weekend, I find T.S. Eliot’s opening lines from The Waste Land more and more appropriate:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

 So, as we yearn for real spring to return to us, we can take solace in books–especially in these new books that have emerged onto our shelves this week, and are eager to pass the weekend in your company!


The Consciousness Instinct: Unraveling the Mystery of How the Brain Makes the Mind: How does physical “stuff”―atoms, molecules, chemicals, and cells―create the vivid and various worlds inside our heads?  The problem of consciousness has gnawed at us for millennia.  And while we’ve benefited in recent years from the marvels of modern science, the question about how brain matter makes ideas is still one we haven’t solved.  In this book Michael S. Gazzaniga, director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara, puts the latest research in conversation with the history of human thinking about the mind, giving a big-picture view of what science has revealed about consciousness.  The idea of the brain as a machine, first proposed centuries ago, has led to assumptions about the relationship between mind and brain that dog scientists and philosophers to this day. Gazzaniga asserts that this model has it backward―brains make machines, but they cannot be reduced to one. New research suggests the brain is actually a confederation of independent modules working together.  But what does that mean for us, as brain-possessing individuals?  And how does it help us learn more about our wonderful minds?  Gazzaniga’s wonderfully readable and enthusiastic book makes this all clear, and, as Kirkus noted in its starred review, “This is a book for readers of all ages who are intrigued by consciousness and how it works. As he has done in previous books, Gazzaniga easily draws readers into one of the most fascinating conversations taking place in modern science.”

TangerineChristine Mangan’s debut is drawing comparisons to authors like Gillian Flynn and Patricia Highsmith, so fans of those illustrious writers should definitely check out this taut, suspenseful novel!   The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.   But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind. The New Yorker wrote a glowing review of this book, calling it “A juicy melodrama cast against the sultry, stylish imagery of North Africa in the fifties. . . . [Tangerine is] endearing and even impressive in the force of its determination to conjure a life more exciting than most. . . . Just the ticket.”

The Woman Left BehindLinda Howard’s latest romantic thriller has all the action of a high-stakes espionage film, and enough passion and intrigue to keep fans (and new readers, too!) riveted.  Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it…But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit. The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly.  Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina, convinced that a ‘tech geek’ is going to ruin their elite operation.  In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Jina begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates–and the attention of her team leader.  Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria. Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time.  Pulse-pounding in more ways that one, this book earned a starred review from Booklist, who called it “High-adrenaline action and high-octane passion once again prove to be an irresistible combination in best-selling Howard’s latest addictive suspense novel… the literary equivalent of pure gold.”

CensusJesse Ball’s tale of a father and son journey is one of those magical books that is wonderfully simple in its structure, but marvelously deep and complex beneath the surface.  When a widower receives notice from a doctor that he doesn’t have long left to live, he is struck by the question of who will care for his adult son—a son whom he fiercely loves, and who lives with Down syndrome. With no recourse in mind, and with a desire to see the country on one last trip, the man signs up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau and leaves town with his son.  Traveling into the country, through towns named only by ascending letters of the alphabet, the man and his son encounter a wide range of human experience. While some townspeople welcome them into their homes, others who bear the physical brand of past censuses on their ribs are wary of their presence. When they press toward the edges of civilization, the landscape grows wilder, and the towns grow farther apart and more blighted by industrial decay. As they approach “Z,” the man must confront a series of questions: What is the purpose of the census? Is he complicit in its mission? And just how will he learn to say good-bye to his son?  The Los Angeles Times wrote a beautiful review of this book, noting, in part, “If there’s a refrain running through [Ball’s] large body of work, it’s that compassion, kindness and empathy trump rules and authority of any kind…this damning but achingly tender novel holds open a space for human redemption, never mind that we have built our systems against it.”

Speak No Evil: A book about difference and conformity, about the power to speak and the power to identify one’s self in a society that encourages neither action, Uzodinma Iweala’s newest novel is garnering attention and praise from critics around the country.  On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.  When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.  The New York Times Review of Books loved this work and Iweala’s writing, saying in their review that he “…writes with such ease about adolescents and adolescence that Speak No Evil could well be a young adult novel. At the same time, he toys with other well-defined forms: the immigrant novel, the gay coming-of-age novel, the novel of being black in America. The resulting book is a hybrid of all these. If he’s something of a remix artist, Iweala remains faithful to the conventions of these forms, a writer so adept that the book’s climax feels both surprising and wholly inevitable.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free For All Birthday to  Czech poet, author, and painter Josef Čapek!

Via Weimarart.blogspot.com

Čapek was born on this day in Hronov, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1887.  We was originally trained as a painter,  and his works were representative of the Cubist school, with lots of geometric shapes and lack of depth perception (you can see an example of his work below this paragraph).  He also wrote plays and essays, especially on the subject of art, and the worth of art produced by those who were considered “unartistic,” especially children and natives in imperial countries (whose work was considered “primitive”).  In addition, he collaborated with his brother Karel on a number of plays and short stories.  One of those plays, which we’ll discuss in just a moment, brought the word “robot” into modern parlance.  Because of Čapek criticism of national socialism and Hitler specifically, he was arrested following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  He wrote He wrote Poems from a Concentration Camp there before his death, which was assumed to be in 1945.  Though his wife and friends searched after the war, his remains were never recovered.

Piják by Josef Čapek, (1913)

It was the Čapek brothers’ 1920 play R.U.R. which popularized the international word “robot”.  For years, it was assumed that Karel Čapek had developed the word, he wrote a short letter in reference to an article in the Oxford English Dictionary etymology in which he named Josef as the word’s actual inventor.  In a a later article published in 1933, Karel also explained that his idea was to call the creatures laboři (after the Latin word for labor). It was Josef, he said, who suggested roboti (robots in English), from the Czech word robota, which means, literally, “serf labor”, or “hard work”.

So today, let’s celebrate the courage, convictions, and creativity of Josef Čapek–and what better way that enjoying the remarkable books available to you at the Library (we don’t have robots, but we have books!).  Here are some of the great ones that shuffled onto our shelves this week:

Picasso and the Painting that Shocked the World: Since we’re celebrating a Cubist artist today, Miles J. Unger’s book on the origins of Picasso’s  Les Demoiselles d’Avignon seemed like an ideal selection today.  Picasso arrived in Paris in 1900, living and working in a squalid tenement known as the Bateau Lavoir, in the heart of picturesque Montmartre.  Slowly, painstakingly, he built his reputation, and amassed a wealth of avant-garde comrades and friends whose collective artistic influence is being felt to this day.  In 1906 Picasso began his early masterpiece known as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Inspired by the groundbreaking painting of Paul Cézanne, as well as African and tribal sculpture, Picasso’s work was seen as a defining image of modernity.  The painting proved so shocking that even his friends assumed he’d gone mad. Only his colleague George Braque understood what Picasso was trying to do. Over the next few years they teamed up to create Cubism, the most revolutionary and influential movement in twentieth-century art.  Unger’s book looks at the individuals, the interactions, and the influences that helped Picasso create this seminal work in a well-research and wonderfully readable book that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Riveting. . . . This engrossing book chronicles with precision and enthusiasm a painting with lasting impact in today’s art world.”

Broad BandThe Untold Story of the Women Who Made the InternetOh hey, and speaking of technology, how about Claire L. Evan’s book that re-frames the history of modern computer technology as female;  from Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program in the Victorian Age, to the cyberpunk Web designers of the 1990s, female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation. In fact, Evans points out, women turn up at the very beginning of every important wave in technology. They may have been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don’t even realize, but they have always been part of the story.   Seek inspiration from Grace Hopper, the tenacious mathematician who democratized computing by leading the charge for machine-independent programming languages after World War II. Meet Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler, the one-woman Google who kept the earliest version of the Internet online, and Stacy Horn, who ran one of the first-ever social networks on a shoestring out of her New York City apartment in the 1980s.   Join the ranks of the pioneers who defied social convention to become database poets, information-wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass ceiling-shattering dot com-era entrepreneurs. This inspiring history shines a light on some of the bright minds that have as yet gone unrecognized in the history of computer sciences that The Wall Street Journal called  “a celebration of the women whose minds gave birth to the motherboard and its brethren…. an engaging series of biographical essays on lesser known mathematicians, innovators and cyberpunks.”

The Coincidence Makers: Israeli author Yoav Blum’s debut novel is now available in English, and is an idea blend of genres for anyone looking for something completely novel.  What if the drink you just spilled, the train you just missed, or the lottery ticket you just found was not just a random occurrence? What if it’s all part of a bigger plan? What if there’s no such thing as a chance encounter? What if there are people we don’t know determining our destiny? And what if they are even planning the fate of the world?  Enter the Coincidence Makers―Guy, Emily, and Eric―three seemingly ordinary people who work for a secret organization devoted to creating and carrying out coincidences. What the rest of the world sees as random occurrences, are, in fact, carefully orchestrated events designed to spark significant changes in the lives of their targets―scientists on the brink of breakthroughs, struggling artists starved for inspiration, future soulmates?  When an assignment of the highest level is slipped under Guy’s door one night, he knows it will be the most difficult and dangerous coincidence he’s ever had to fulfill. But not even a coincidence maker can see how this assignment is about to change all their lives and teach them the true nature of fate, free will, and the real meaning of love.  This quirky and heartfelt story earned a starred review from Booklist, who said in its review, “Artfully blending elements of thriller, romance, and fantasy in a beautiful prose, Blum’s novel is a flight of imagination that will echo in readers’ minds long after the last pages have been turned.”

Promise: Rooted in historical events, Minrose Gwin’s journey through the heart of the Depression-era South is evocative, insightful, and probing, offering fans of any time period plenty to savor.  A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a tornado struck the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, killing more than 200 people.  This figure does not include the town’s Black citizens, one-third of Tupelo’s population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.  When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family.  Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one, including Jo, the McNabbs’ dutiful teenage daughter, who has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she’s found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him. During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them.  Library Journal wrote a beautiful review of this book, which it called an “atmospheric whirlwind of a book. A memorable, dreamlike narrative…that vividly conveys what it was like to survive the fourth most deadly tornado in U.S. history; it also brings to light the vast disparity in the care and treatment of white vs. black residents.”

The Affliction: Beth Gutcheon’s second novel featuring Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin has all the dark humor and dastardly deeds that have made this duo a fan favorite.  Since retiring as head of a famous New York City private school, Maggie Detweiler has been keeping busy.  Most recently, she’s served as the chair of a team to evaluate the faltering Rye Manor School for girls, and determining what future (if any) the school might have.  With so much on the line for so many, tensions on campus are at an excruciating pitch, and no one  seems more keen for all to go well than Florence Meagher, a star teacher who is loved and respected in spite of her affliction—that she can never stop talking.  Florence is one of those dedicated teachers for whom the school is her life, and yet the next morning, when Maggie arrives to observe her teaching, Florence is missing. Florence’s husband, Ray, an auxiliary policeman in the village, seems more annoyed than alarmed at her disappearance. But Florence’s sister is distraught. There have been tensions in the marriage, and at their last visit, Florence had warned, “If anything happens to me, don’t assume it’s an accident.” Two days later, Florence’s body is found in the campus swimming pool.  When she is asked to stay and coach the new head of the Rye Manor School, Maggie determines to get to the bottom of what happened to Florence.  She’s joined by her friend Hope, who has been desperate for a reason to ditch her local bookclub, anyways.  There are plenty of secrets buried in this idyllic small town, and Hope and Maggie certainly have their work cut out for them if they are to get to the bottom of all the nefarious work that’s afoot, including Florence’s silencing.  Booklist loved this follow-up mystery, noting, “Humor and suspense in equal measure make for a delightful read in this second outing…for the well-heeled duo of Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And check out today’s Google Doodle, which celebrates our namesake, George Peabody!

Today is the 151st anniversary of Peabody receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States, given to a persons “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”

Peabody’s impact has certainly been long-lasting.  Born into a poor family in South Danvers (what is now Peabody),  George Peabody knew need and hunger growing up, and was only able to attend a few years of schooling.  As a result, he was notoriously thrifty as an adult (both in his private life and with his employees), but was also a dedicated philanthropist.  He established the banking firm of “George Peabody & Company”, which evolved, eventually into the firm  JPMorgan Chase.  The fortune he made from that endeavor provided the capital which he used to make his enormous and lasting donations.

In the UK, Peabody established the Peabody Trust, which is still among London’s largest affordable-housing associations.  Here in the United States, Peabody largely focused on providing funds for public education.  In 1852, he donated $217,000 to establish the Peabody Institute in his home town (that’s us!), and four years later, he donated $100,000 to the Peabody Institute in Danvers (they of the stunning building near the duck pond in Danvers).  In today’s currency, those donations are the equivalent (approximately) of $6.8 million and $2.85 million.  Ten years later, he donated the funds to build Georgetown’s public library (hello, Georgetown friends!) in honor of his mother.  He also established the Peabody Academy of Science in Salem, Massachusetts, which we know today as the Peabody Essex Museum.

Peabody also donated $3.5 million to establish the Peabody Education Fund in 1867 to provide educational funds for the children of the south following the Civil War (in today’s currency, that $3.5 million would be approximately $56,455,000).  The city of Baltimore, where Peabody enjoyed his first financial success, also benefited: The Peabody Institute in Baltimore (today known as the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University,) is the oldest conservatory in the U.S.   Today’s Google Doodle was actually created by students at George Peabody Elementary School in San Francisco, California, another site of George Peabody’s remarkable legacy.

So what better way to honor our namesake than with a selection of some of the book that have scurried onto our shelves this week, and are eager to make your acquaintance!


Happiness:  Aminatta Forna’s newest novel has been compared by some to The Remains of the Day, but her London-based novel is a wholly original tale that highlights the small moments and intimate connections that make us who we are.  A fox on a bridge causes two pedestrians to collide―Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech.  Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his “niece” who hasn’t called home in a while. The daughter, Ama, has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.  When Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the network of rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens―mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London―come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds, leading Attila to reconsider his own concepts about trauma, and the connections to the world around him.  This is a book that deals with difficult issues with dignity and grace, and weaves a tale that earned a starred review from Booklist, who explained, “The overarching message tucked into Scottish and Sierra Leonian writer Forna’s quietly resonant novel is this: Every living thing is the net sum of its history, and we carry the weight of our past on our shoulders…Forna’s novel is ultimately a mesmerizing tale studded with exquisite writing.”

Green SunThose of you loving the ’80’s nostalgia that is seeping into tv and literature lately will love this newest release from fan-favorite Kent Anderson.  It’s 1983 in Oakland, California, and Officer Hanson, a Vietnam veteran, has abandoned academia for the life-and-death clarity of police work, a way to live with the demons that followed him home from the war.  But Hanson knows that justice requires more than simply enforcing the penal code.  He believes in becoming a part of the community he serves–which is why, unlike most officers, he chooses to live in the same town where he works. This strategy serves him well…to a point. He forges a precarious friendship with Felix Maxwell, the drug king of East Oakland, based on their shared sense of fairness and honor. He falls in love with Libya the moment he sees her, a confident and outspoken black woman. He is befriended by Weegee, a streetwise eleven-year-old who is primed to become a dope dealer.  Every day, every shift, tests a cop’s boundaries between the man he wants to be and the officer of the law he’s required to be.  At last an off-duty shooting forces Hanson to finally face who he is, and which side of the law he belongs on.  Anderson has the ability to tell a difficult story with compassion, and this tale is no less gripping for its fundamental humanity.  NPR agrees, noting in its review Green Sun succeeds on so many levels, it’s hard to keep count. . . . Hanson is a fascinating and memorable character, but the real star of Green Sun is Anderson’s writing. . . . Anderson is adept at finding a terrible kind of beauty in the worst circumstances, which makes Green Sun difficult to put down even when it’s emotionally painful to keep reading. Above all, it’s a stunning meditation on power, violence and the intractability of pain, which Anderson seems to understand all too well.”

The Chalk Man: Another ’80’s nostalgia novel here, but C.J. Tudor’s debut is a taut psychological thriller that has, apparently, kept a number of respected authors awake with its chilling premise.  In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same. In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank –until one of them turns up dead.  That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.  Full of flash-backs, twists, and revelations about its characters that will linger long after the final page, this is a book that Kirkus noted  will speak to fans “of the kids of Stand by Me and even IT…[the] first-person narration alternates between past and present, taking full advantage of chapter-ending cliffhangers. A swift, cleverly plotted debut novel that ably captures the insular, slightly sinister feel of a small village. Children of the 1980’s will enjoy the nostalgia.”

The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First CenturyIn the late thirteenth century, Marco Polo began a decades-long trek from Venice to China. The strength of that Silk Road—the trade route between Europe and Asia—was a foundation of Kublai Khan’s sprawling empire. Now, in the early twenty-first century, the Chinese regime has proposed a land-and-maritime Silk Road that duplicates exactly the route Marco Polo traveled.  In opening of this enlightening anthology, an essay recently released by the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, Robert D. Kaplan lays out a blueprint of the world’s changing power politics that recalls the geo-politics late thirteenth century.  Drawing on decades of firsthand experience as a foreign correspondent and military embed for The Atlantic, as well as encounters with preeminent realist thinkers, the essays in this book offer timely and insightful commentary on the role of the United States in the world that considers both where we’ve been, and some suggestions as we move forward.  Kirkus Reviews gave this collection a starred review, calling it a “Thoughtful, unsettling, but not apocalyptic analyses of world affairs flow steadily off the presses, and this is a superior example. . . . Presented with enough verve and insight to tempt readers to set it aside to reread in a few years.”

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South:   In 1990, Levon Brooks was arrested for the mrape and murder of a three-year-old girl in rural Mississippi.  Two years later, Kennedy Brewer was arrested and accused of killing his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter.  Both men waited two to three years in prison before their trial, and together, they spent a combined thirty years in prison before finally being exonerated in 2008. Meanwhile, the real killer remained free.  In this haunting work of investigative non-fiction, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington recount the story of how the criminal justice system allowed two innocent men to be convicted of these crimes, and how two men, Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West, built successful careers on the back of that structure. For nearly two decades, Hayne, a medical examiner, performed the vast majority of Mississippi’s autopsies, while his friend Dr. West, a local dentist, pitched himself as a forensic jack-of-all-trades. Together they became the go-to experts for prosecutors and helped put countless Mississippians in prison. But then some of those convictions began to fall apart.  This is a book about justice, and how the courts and Mississippi’s death investigation system–a relic of the Jim Crow era–failed to deliver it for its citizens. The authors argue that bad forensics, structural racism, and institutional failures are at fault, raising sobering questions about our ability and willingness to address these crucial issues. Publisher’s Weekly gave this troubling, fascinating work a starred review, calling it “A clear and shocking portrait of the structural failings of the U.S. criminal justice system… This eminently readable book builds a hard-to-ignore case for comprehensive criminal justice reform.”


Until next week,  beloved patrons: Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

We hope you weathered our latest round of New-Englandy weather safely, beloved patrons, and that your shoveling was easy and at least relatively ache-and-pain free.  We here at the Library are eager to help you have a relaxing weekend full of literary adventures, cinematic marvels, and audio revelations.  Here is just a sampling of the new books that braved the storm to make it on to our shelves this week:

Women and Power: This book is a wildly appropriate choice for this week’s selection, seeing as how yesterday was International Women’s Day, however, Mary Beard’s tiny-but-powerful manifesto on language and power is one that can, and should, be read by all humans.  In this magisterial little marvel, Beard, an internationally renown Classicist,  traces the origins of this misogyny to its ancient roots, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated strong women since time immemorial. As far back as Homer’s Odyssey, Beard shows, women have been prohibited from leadership roles in civic life, public speech being defined as inherently male. Using examples from ancient history as well as the present day Beard discusses cultural assumptions about women’s relationship to power―and how powerful women provide a necessary example for resisting these historically fraught issues of language and identity. With personal reflections on her own online experiences with sexism, Beard asks: If women aren’t perceived to be within the structure of power, isn’t it power itself we need to redefine? And how many more centuries should we be expected to wait?  This is a beautifully written, powerfully insightful work that is both timely and timeless.  Academics and popular reviewers alike have been praising Beard’s work and courage for speaking out about her own experiences as well as the experiences of women through time, with People magazine describing “Beard’s thrilling manifesto turns to ancient times to find the seeds of misogyny, beginning with Homer’s Odyssey (the first instance of a woman told to shut up) and continuing through Elizabeth Warren’s 2017 silencing in the Senate. An irresistible call for women to speak up, act and redefine their power.”

Self-Portrait With a Boy: Rachel Lyon’s debut novel deals with some heavy and difficult topics, but she does so in a way that is both sympathetic and spell-binding work that deals with the dues we pay for success, and the bonds that end up defining our lives.  Lu Rile is a relentlessly focused young photographer struggling to make ends meet, and with family and financial obligations weighing her down, she’s reaching desperation.  But then, in the background of a self-portrait, Lu accidentally captures on film a boy falling past her window to his death. The photograph turns out to be startlingly gorgeous, the best work of art she’s ever made. It’s an image that could change her life…if she lets it.  But the decision to show the photograph is not easy. The boy is her neighbors’ son, and the tragedy brings all the building’s residents together. It especially unites Lu with his grieving mother, Kate. As the two forge an intense bond based on sympathy, loneliness, and budding attraction, Lu feels increasingly unsettled and guilty, torn between equally fierce desires: to use the photograph to advance her career, and to protect a woman she has come to love.  With it’s early ’90’s setting, this book is a powerfully nostalgic one that is earning positive reviews from other authors and critics alike.  The Los Angeles Times, for example, raved “The conflict is rich and thorny, raising questions about art and morality, love and betrayal, sacrifice and opportunism and the chance moments that can define a life. The novel wrestles with the nature of art but moves with the speed of a page-turner.” 

The Gone World Here’s another book set in the ’90’s, but this sci-fi thriller posits the decade as the doorway to any number of possible futures with a chilling conspiracy at play behind each of them.  It’s 1997, and Shannon Moss is part of a clandestine division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.  Assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL’s family, and to locate his vanished teenage daughter, Moss discovers that the missing SEAL was an astronaut aboard the spaceship U.S.S. Libra–a ship assumed lost to the currents of Deep Time. Moss knows first-hand the mental trauma of time-travel and believes the SEAL’s experience with the future has triggered this violence.  Determined to find the missing girl and driven by a troubling connection from her own past, Moss travels ahead in time to explore possible versions of the future, seeking evidence to crack the present-day case. To her horror, the future reveals that it’s not only the fate of a family that hinges on her work, for what she witnesses rising over time’s horizon and hurtling toward the present is the Terminus: the terrifying and cataclysmic end of humanity itself.  Non-fiction and science lovers will find plenty to enjoy in Tom Sweterlitsch’s use of cutting-edge astrophysical theory to create his time-traveling protagonists, and readers looking for a thriller that pushes at all the boundaries of genre and expectation will love this book.  It earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who called it “A mind-blowing fusion of science fiction, thriller, existential horror, and apocalyptic fiction…The power of this novel is two-fold: Sweterlitsch’s intricately plotted storyline will keep readers on the edges of their seats until the very last pages, and his extended use of bleak imagery coupled with his lyrical writing style make for an intense and unforgettable read.”

Madness is Better than Defeat: Ned Beauman’s newest release is a startlingly-funny, strange and wonderfully literary thriller that has a little bit of something for everyone–and is sure to get the attention of those readers convinced they’ve seen it all already.  In 1938, two rival expeditions descend on an ancient temple recently discovered in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit it for his own ends, unaware that the temple is a locus of conspiracies far grander than anyone could ever have guessed. Shot through with insanity, intrigue, ingenuity, and adventure, this is a book that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “[A] rowdy, thoroughly satisfying literary adventure. . . . Exquisitely comic and absurd, Beauman’s imaginative novel brims with the snappy dialogue, vivid scenery, and converging story lines of an old Hollywood classic.”

The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Adventure: Carl Hoffman’s books are always filled with terrific sensory detail, an take even the most stories armchair explorer to new parts of our world.  This latest book tells the story of two western explorers, and their entangled history on the island of Borneo.  In 1984, Swiss traveler Bruno Manser joined an expedition to the Mulu caves on Borneo, and slipped into the forest interior to make contact with the Penan, an indigenous tribe living among the Dayak people, who were famous in western culture as the “Headhunters of Borneo.” Bruno lived for years with the Penan, gaining acceptance as a member of the tribe. However, when commercial logging began devouring the Penan’s homeland, Bruno led the tribe against these outside forces, earning him status as an enemy of the state, but also worldwide fame as an environmental hero. He escaped captivity under gunfire twice, but the strain took a psychological toll. Then, in 2000, Bruno disappeared without a trace.  American Michael Palmieri staged expeditions into the Bornean jungle to acquire astonishing art and artifacts from the Dayaks. He would become one of the world’s most successful tribal-art field collectors, supplying sacred works to prestigious museums and wealthy private collectors. And yet suspicion shadowed this self-styled buccaneer who made his living extracting the treasure of the Dayak: Was he preserving or exploiting native culture?   Hoffman’s book includes exclusive interviews with Manser’s family and colleagues, and rare access to his letters and journals, making this story as insightful as it is exciting.  Booklist agreed, giving this book a starred review and calling it “Compelling and haunting, a story of lofty ideals and base desires, a deeply personal story written by a man who loves Borneo and who struggles to understand the forces that threaten to tear it apart.”


Until next week, beloved patrons…Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

It may not be as autumnal-looking here as it is in the Hundred-Acre Wood, but as I write this blog post dear readers, and listen to the wind whistle down Main Street, this is all I can think of:

So a very Happy Windsday to you all!  Please be safe, and stay alert to any flood warnings and such.  Otherwise, we plan to be open according to our normal hours (though you can always call our Main Number and double-check!), in case you find yourself in need of some new books or media to while away this dreary deluge of a weekend.  Check out some of the new books that blew onto our shelves this week!

The Maze at WindermereOne review compared Gregory Blake Smith’s new novel to a carousel ride–a magical blend of colors, faces, and narratives that swirl together to create an unforgettable and utterly enjoyable ride.  Fans of books of novels with multi-generational protagonists will be delighted with this work, which examines the multi-layered lives lived in Newport Rhode Island.  A reckless wager between a tennis pro with a fading career and a drunken party guest—the stakes are an antique motorcycle and an heiress’s diamond necklace—launches a narrative odyssey that braids together three centuries of aspiration and adversity. A witty and urbane bachelor of the Gilded Age embarks on a high-risk scheme to marry into a fortune; a young writer soon to make his mark turns himself to his craft with harrowing social consequences; an aristocratic British officer during the American Revolution carries on a courtship that leads to murder; and, in Newport’s earliest days, a tragically orphaned Quaker girl imagines a way forward for herself and the slave girl she has inherited.  At once brilliantly artistic and utterly human, this novel earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who raved, “Taken individually, each story is dramatic and captivating, but as the author makes ever-increasing connections among the stories and shuffles them all into one unbroken narrative, the novel becomes a moving meditation on love, race, class, and self-fulfillment in America across the centuries.”

The Spinning Magnet: The Electromagnetic Force That Created the Modern World–And Could Destroy It : Well, there’s an attention-grabbing title for you!  For anyone who found that unit on magnets in science class interesting, journalist Alanna Mitchell’s fast-paced and fascinating history of electromagnets is the book for you.  And for all you science buffs and history enthusiasts who enjoy seeing the real-world applications of theories and the influence of historic figures, look no further!  Mitchell roams through space and time to craft her story, from the thirteenth-century French investigations into magnetism and the Victorian-era discover that electricity and magnetism emerge from the same fundamental force–to the latest research into the Earth’s magnetic fields, which shows that our pole can reverse…often coinciding with periods of mass extinction….and that the Earth’s magnetic force field is decaying faster than previously thought.  Nevertheless, there is a lot to enjoy here, and plenty to learn, not only about magnets and the people who love them, but about the planet that is still shifting and changing around us.  Io9 broke with it’s tradition to feature this book, noting “We don’t usually feature nonfiction books on this list, but science journalist Mitchell’s narrative history of the science of electromagnetism—with a look toward the future and the imminent, inevitable reversing of the North and South Poles—sounds as thrilling as any scifi tale.” 

The Other Side of Everything: For all that Lauren Doyle Owens’ debut novel is a crime thriller, it is also a very insightful exploration of the connections between neighbors, and the power of community to bind, as well as to separate.  Bernard is a curmudgeonly widower who has lived alone in Seven Springs, Florida for decades. When his neighbor is murdered, he emerges from his solitude to reconnect with his fellow octogenarians. These connections become a literal lifeline as a second, and then a third, elderly woman is murdered.  Amy is an artist and cancer survivor whose emotional recovery has not been as successful as her physical one. After the woman next door is murdered, she begins to paint imagined scenes from the murder in an effort to cope with her own loss. But her paintings bring the wrong kind of attention, isolating Amy in ways she never imagined.  Finally, there’s Maddie, a teenage waitress coping with her mother’s abandoment and fighting to keep her family afloat, all the while being drawn to the man the authorities believe had a hand in the grisly crimes.  As Bernard, Amy, and Maddie uncover the connections that bind them, this novel becomes much more than a traditional murder mystery, challenging genre conventions and readers’ expectations to create a book that is as compelling as it is original.  Florida Weekly loved this book set close to home for them, saying in their review, noting that Owens’ “stunning literary murder mystery debut is at once a nail-biter and a brilliantly nuanced evocation of how communities work and don’t work….Ms. Owens builds a vibrantly realized world spreading across three generations. She traces the ebbs and flows of individual and collective destinies, her narrative charged by a lyricism that is constantly evocative and revealing.”

The Source : How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers: The North American continent has more than 250,000 rivers, coursing over more than 3 million miles.  These waterways connect the disparate regions of the United States, commercially, culturally, and historically.  Over the course of this nation’s history rivers have served as integral trade routes, borders, passageways, sewers, and sinks. Over the years, based on our shifting needs and values, we have harnessed their power with waterwheels and dams, straightened them for ships, drained them with irrigation canals, set them on fire, and even attempted to restore them.  In this fresh and powerful work of environmental history, Martin Doyle tells the epic story of America and its rivers, from the U.S. Constitution’s roots in interstate river navigation, the origins of the Army Corps of Engineers, the discovery of gold in 1848, and the construction of the Hoover Dam and the TVA during the New Deal, to the failure of the levees in Hurricane Katrina and the water wars in the west. Along the way, he explores how rivers have often been the source of arguments at the heart of the American experiment―over federalism, sovereignty and property rights, taxation, regulation, conservation, and development.  Kirkus Reviews really enjoyed this work, calling Doyle’s work “A vigorous look at American history through the nation’s waterways…Doyle speaks well to issues that are as pressing today as in the first years of the republic.”

Searching for the AmazonsThe Real Warrior Women of the Ancient World: For as long as western civilization has known of them, we have been fascinated by accounts of the Amazons, an elusive tribe of hard-fighting, horse-riding female warriors. Described as equal to men in battle, legends claimed they cut off their right breasts to improve their archery skills and routinely killed their male children to purify their ranks.  For centuries people believed in their existence and attempted to trace their origins through art, poetry, and archaeology.  Now, John Man’s sweeping and beautifully-researched book traces the origins of the actual Amazons (who did indeed exist).  This book not only sheds light on the history of the Amazons, but also of Man’s travels to the grasslands of Central Asia―from the edge of the ancient Greek world to the borderlands of China―to discover the truth about the truth about these women whose legend has resonated over the centuries.  Kirkus Reviews also had praise for Man’s book, calling it  “A great historical resource about a mysterious people that also shows how women, through the ages, have gathered strength from each other and continue to do so today.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!