Tag Archives: Holidays

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy August to you, beloved patrons!

We may be, meteorologically speaking, in the doldrums, but for those of us who enjoy celebrating all that there is to be celebrated, August is far from a dull month.  Here are just a few of the holidays that you can savor this month:

August 8: National Sneak Some Zucchini On To Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

This is not a joke.  It’s in the Farmer’s Almanac, so clearly, it must be true.  August is high season for zucchini, and some people are lucky to have an over-abundance of the lovely green squashes, which can grow really quite mammoth if not picked, and really don’t store very well.  As a result, Pennsylvanian radio host Tom Roy designated August 8 as a day to off-load some of your zucchini by until the dead of night and quietly creeping up to your neighbors’ front doors, leaving plenty of zucchini for them to enjoy.

August 9: National Book Lover’s Day

This is not a drill.  It’s a whole day to celebrate you–and me–and all of us who measure our lives in pages and chapters.  So get out there and celebrate bibliophiles!  Or, better yet, come into the Library and visit with some treasured volumes!

August 24: National Waffle Day

The first U.S. patent for a waffle iron was issued in the U.S. on August 24, 1869 to Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York.  The first recipe for waffles (or, at least, a food recognizable as waffles) was written in the 14th century, so indulge in some history as well as some brunch today, and don’t skimp on the maple syrup!

August 30: National Toasted Marshmallow Day

Sponsored by the National Confectioner’s Association of America, this day is reserved for the blazing glory and the smoky deliciousness that is the toasted marshmallow.  Mind you, it’s not National Smores Day….that’s August 10th.  This day is for the marshmallows alone.

And every day in August is a good day for books!  So let’s take a look at some of the new titles that have paraded onto our shelves this week for your reading pleasure!

The Unwomanly Face of War: Nobel-Prize Winner Svetlana Alexievich’s stellar 1988 book is finally available in translation, and has lost nothing of its power or insight over the years.  Alexievich traveled thousands of miles and visited more than a hundred towns to record the oral histories of women who fought, worked, and served in the Second World War. nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners, and snipers. They battled alongside men, and yet, after the victory, their efforts and sacrifices were forgotten.  In this collection, this symphony of voices reveals a different aspect of the war—the everyday details of life in combat left out of the official histories, and the remarkable, every day women who made history.  This is an incredibly important work, and a huge book for anyone interested in military history, women’s history, human interest stories, and storytelling in general.  The Guardian summed it all up beautifully, calling this book “A monument to courage . . . It would be hard to find a book that feels more important or original. . . . Alexievich’s account of the second world war as seen through the eyes of hundreds of women is an extraordinary thing. . . . Her achievement is as breathtaking as the experiences of these women are awe-inspiring.”

Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe: Another fascinating tale of women in the Second World War, this one from Inara Verzemnieks, whose grandmother Livija and her grandmother’s sister, Ausma, were separated when they fled their family farm. They would not see each other again for more than 50 years. Raised by her grandparents in Washington State, Inara grew up among expatriates, scattering smuggled Latvian sand over the coffins of the dead and singing folk songs about a land she had never visited.  When Inara discovered the scarf Livija wore when she left home, this tangible remnant of the past points the way back to the remote village where her family broke apart.  This book is the interwoven story of Grandmother Livija’s life as a refugee, Ausma’s harrowing exile in Siberia under Stalin, and Inara’s quest for her family’s story, all coming together to form a beautiful, haunting tale of resilience, love, and profound loss, not only of one family, but of a nation and a generation.  Booklist called this work “Spellbinding and poetic, this is a moving tribute to the enduring promise of home.”

A Dark So Deadly: Beloved thriller-writer Stuart MacBride is back with a fascinating, fast-paced standalone story of an erstwhile group known as the Misfit Mob. It’s where the Scotland police dump the officers it can’t get rid of, but wants to: the outcasts, the troublemakers, the compromised. Officers like DC Callum MacGregor, lumbered with all the boring go-nowhere cases. So when an ancient mummy turns up at the Oldcastle tip, it’s his job to find out which museum it’s been stolen from.  But when Callum uncovers links between his ancient corpse and three missing young men, life starts to get a lot more interesting. The “real police” already have more cases than they can cope with, so, against everyone’s better judgement, the Misfit Mob are just going to have to manage this one on their own.  No one expects them to succeed, but right now they’re the only thing standing between the killer’s victims and a slow, lingering death. The question is, can they prove everyone wrong before he strikes again? Clever, funny, and full of sensational atmosphere, this is an ideal way for new readers to discover MacBride’s talent.  Library Journal agrees, praising this novel’s  “Wickedly twisty plotting and dazzling displays of black humour”.

The Half-Drowned King: It isn’t often that we get a fiction debut about mythical Vikings, but here one is, and we couldn’t be more excited!  Ragnvald Eysteinsson grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Meanwhile, Svanhild is desperate to escape the arranged marriage her stepfather organized–but when freedom comes at the hands of her brother’s hatred rival, will she have the courage to take it?  A fascinating adventure with lots of rich characters and deep questions, this is a book for all the adventurers out there seeking new literary lands to explore.  Kirkus Reviews loved this one too, saying in their review “While Hartsuyker’s prose is straightforward, the plot is as deliciously complex as Game of Thrones. And, in an era so dominated by the tales of men, it’s nice to see a complicated, cunning heroine like Svanhild swoop in and steal the show. Hold on to your helms and grab your shields—Hartsuyker is just getting started.”

The Seventh Function of Language: If you, like me, like your literature quirky and insolent, then look no further than Laurent Binet’s newest release.  This book has elements of a Dan Brown caper, but with the French intelligentsia as its cast of characters.  We begin in Paris, 1980, when the literary critic Roland Barthes dies―struck by a laundry van―after lunch with the presidential candidate François Mitterand. The world of letters mourns a tragic accident. But what if it wasn’t an accident at all? What if Barthes was . . . murdered?  Jacques Bayard is the hapless detective sent to investigate the case, who finds himself in search of a lost manuscript by the linguist Roman Jakobson on the mysterious “seventh function of language.”  Filled with secret societies, French philosophy, mayhem, and a love of language, Binet’s story is a bizarre and wonderful adventure that earned as starred and a boxed review from Publisher’s Weekly (no mean feat, that), who called this tale “[A] loving inquiry into 20th-century intellectual history that seamlessly folds historical moments . . . into a brilliant illustration of the possibilities left to the modern novel.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very joyous la fête du 14-juillet to you, beloved patrons!

Storming of The Bastile by Jean-Pierre Houël

July 14th is indeed the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, when, in 1789, some 950 inhabitants of Paris, who were opposed to Louis XVI and his conservative regime, gathered around the Bastille prison in the hopes of securing the cannon, gunpowder, and other weaponry being housed there.  Three of the crowd were sent into the prison to negotiate with the 32 guards who were posted inside, but after hours has passed, the crowd grew impatient, and began marching into the inner courtyard.  Panicked, the soldiers began shouting at the crowd to disperse, but in the confusion, their calls were mistaken as a welcome to enter.  Gunfire started (I couldn’t find an accurate assessment of who first opened fire), and the crowd quickly turned into a mob, while the handful of guards were reinforced with guards and cannon.  Fearing a massive loss of life, the Governor de Launay capitulated around 5:30pm, and the now-mob swept in to liberate the fortress.  Fearing reprisals at the hands of government, the citizens of Paris began building barricades in the streets and arming themselves, officially marking the battle lines of the French Revolution.

Claude Monet

The holiday, however, began in 1790, when a feast was held to celebrate peace and the unity of the French nation.  Another feast was held in 1878 to commemorate and celebrate the French nation–a celebration that was commemorated in the painting by Monet above–and was such a rousing success that the day was enshrined as a national holiday in 1880.  So you don’t have to wish anyone a “Happy Bastille Day”, or anything like that.  But you can come in and check out some of the wonderful new books that have pirouetted onto our shelves this week!

Why?: What Makes Us Curious: An astrophysicist himself, Mario Livio is fascinated by the mechanisms that make human curiosity–why we are more distracted by only hearing one side of a conversation, why we care about places and people and things we cannot see before us.  Why we invent thins. In order to attempt to answer these questions, Livio interviewed scientists, examined the lives of two of history’s most curious geniuses, Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman, and talked to people with boundless curiosity: a superstar rock guitarist who is also an astrophysicist; an astronaut with degrees in computer science, biology, literature, and medicine.   And in this enormously readable book, he concludes that there is no definitive scientific consensus about why we humans are so curious, or about the mechanisms in our brain that are responsible for curiosity–but doesn’t that just make you more curious in the end?  Livio’s work has earned praise from Nobel winners, scientists, and readers alike, with Kirkus Reviews calling this fascinating book “A lively, expert, and definitely not dumbed-down account of why we’re curious.”

The Reason You’re Alive: From the author who brought you the Silver Linings Playbook comes another fascinating tale that transforms a personal journey into some much, much bigger.  After sixty-eight-year-old Vietnam Vet David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard–that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline, and whom David is now determined to track down and make amends.  As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and good-hearted American patriot fighting to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche that Publisher’s Weekly calls “Dark, funny, and surprisingly tender.”

Gork, the Teenage Dragon: With a title like this, how could you not resist a peek into Gabe Hudson’s debut novel?  Gork isn’t like the other dragons at WarWings Military Academy. He has a gigantic heart, two-inch horns, and an occasional problem with fainting. His nickname is Weak Sauce and his Will to Power ranking is Snacklicious—the lowest in his class. But he is determined not to let any of this hold him back as he embarks on the most important mission of his life: tonight, on the eve of his high school graduation, he must ask a female dragon to be his queen. If she says yes, they’ll go off to conquer a foreign planet together. If she says no, Gork becomes a slave.  In the course of his interactions with his fellow dragons, from the nerds to the jocks, from Dr. Terrible, the mad scientist to Metheldra, a healer specializing in acupuncture with swords, Gork begins to realize that his biggest weakness–that big heart of his–may just be the secret power he needed all along.  This is a delightful, silly, honest, and uplifting coming-of-age tale that will capture the hearts of readers of any age, and that Publisher’s Weekly hailed  as “Cleverly plotted and executed. . . . Gork’s amusing growing-up story unfolds in vignettes of encounters with various kooky fellow dragons. Throughout, Hudson makes…brilliant reflections on humans’ often reptilian behavior.”

Hannibal: If everything you know about Hannibal begins and ends with elephants, you are definitely not alone.  But thanks to Patrick Hunt’s insightful new biography, you can realize what an incredible tactician and leader Hannibal really was, and just what an impact he had during his life, even though he was by no means undefeated…or, indeed, successful.  Nevertheless, to this day Hannibal is still regarded as a military genius. Napoleon, George Patton, and Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. are only some of the generals who studied and admired him. His strategy and tactics are still taught in military academies. He is one of the figures of the ancient world whose life and exploits never fail to impress. Historian Patrick N. Hunt has led archeological expeditions in the Alps and elsewhere to study Hannibal’s achievements. Now he brings Hannibal’s incredible story to life in this riveting and dramatic book.  Though this is a book that will definitely appeal to military history buffs, Library Journal points out that “The military history is thorough and balanced. . . . Drawing on both ancient and modern scholarship, this book is accessible for the nonspecialist; military history buffs will enjoy.”

Live from Cairo: Another debut here, this one from Ian Bassingthwaighte, whose own work in refugee legal aid informs much of this story about an American attorney, a methodical Egyptian translator, and a disillusioned Iraqi-American resettlement officer trying to protect a refugee, Dalia, who finds herself trapped in Cairo during the turbulent aftermath of the January 25, 2011 revolution.  As these individuals come together, united to save Dalia, laws are broken, friendships and marriages are tested, and lives are risked—all in an effort to protect one person from the dangerous sweep of an unjust world.  Though very much a book of–and for–the times, Bassingthwaighte’s work is also a story about the human need to seek connections and hope in the darkest of moments, and the joys that can be found, even in the midst of tragedy and fear.   Kirkus gave this book one of its many starred reviews, saying “There are far too many great things about this book to list in this small space: the tension and energy of the plot…the richness and subtlety of detail in the writing…profoundly humanizing the global refugee crisis. Bassingthwaighte’s virtuoso debut deserves the widest attention.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons, Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Bloomsday to you, beloved patrons!

As we discussed a while back, Bloomsday celebrates James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, which is set entirely on June 16, 1904–which Joyce chose because it was the anniversary of his first meeting with his wife and muse, Nora Barnacle (pictured on the left).  Festivals are held around the world to commemorate the day in the life of Leopold Bloom (hence the name of the day), but there is no one who can outdo Dublin .  Don’t believe me, check out the Bloomsday website, with the week-long schedule of festivities!  For those of you on Twitter, also check out the feed of the National Library of Ireland, which is having way too much fun today with their mini-Joyce:

While we don’t have a Tiny Joyce wandering through out stacks today, we do have plenty of new books that have strolled onto our shelves this week that are very much looking forward to making your acquaintance!  Check out some of them below:

Love, Africa: Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jeffrey Gettleman has covered every world conflict for the past twenty years, and has spent the last decade as the New York Times bureau chief in East Africa–the fulfillment of one of his life’s goal, which this book documents.  At nineteen, Gettleman fell in love, twice. On a do-it-yourself community service trip in college, he went to East Africa—a terrifying, exciting, dreamlike part of the world in the throes of change that imprinted itself on his imagination and on his heart.  But around that same time he also fell in love with a fellow Cornell student—the brightest, classiest, most principled woman he’d ever met. To say they were opposites was an understatement. She became a criminal lawyer in America; he hungered to return to Africa. For the next decade he would be torn between these two abiding passions.  This book is his coming-of-age story that deals with tortuous long-distance relationships, screwing up, forgiveness, parenthood, and happiness that explores the power of finding yourself in the most unexpected of places.   Critics are cheering that Gettleman brings the same passion and drive to this, his debut novel, as he does to his journalism, creating a book that is at once a love letter–to Africa, to journalism, and to life–and a fascinating glimpse into the very challenging world of international journalism.  Booklist gave it a starred review, calling it “[An] exciting, harrowing memoir …. there’s a thrilling immediacy and attention to detail in Gettleman’s writing that puts the reader right beside him…Gettleman’s memoir is an absolute must-read.”

The Girl Who Knew Too Much: Amanda Quick creates terrific historical romantic mysteries, and this mystery brings all the glamour and danger of the 1930’s to the page with her signature flair for detail and character.  When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool.  The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, which Irene, a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag, is desperate to discover.  But when Irene’s investigation threatens the famous actor, she finds herself teaming up with the Burning Cove Hotel’s owner, a once-famous magician who suffered a mysterious injury during his last performance.  Together, they realize the dreadful secrets behind the Burning Cove Hotel’s glitz and glamour–but will they live long enough to expose the truth?  Quick’s books are the perfect summer reads, and this stand alone novel is sure to keep you guessing right up until the final scene.  Library Journal loved this one, saying “This swiftly moving romance brims with surprising plot twists, delicious sensuality, and a delightfully classy 1930’s California setting. An adventurous romp that will have readers hungry for more.”

The Teeth of the Comb: I don’t think that Osama Alomar, a Syrian writer living in exile in Pittsburgh, PA, sees the world quite like most of us do.  And that is a gloriously wonderful thing, especially because he is so talented at bringing his world to life in these little parables, political allegories, and short stories, all of which feature personified animals (snakes, wolves, sheep), natural things (a swamp, a lake, a rainbow, trees), mankind’s creations (trucks, swords, zeroes) as characters. They aspire, they plot, they hope, they destroy, they fail, they love. These wonderful small stories animate new realities and make us see our reality anew.   This tiny book with big messages and grand tales is getting enormous, rave reviews from all corners–I am fairly sure some of the quoted reviews are longer than the stories!  But that just shows you what a breath of fresh air Alomar’s writing is.  Take, for example, Publisher’s Weekly‘s starred review: “There are no wasted words in Alomar’s beautiful collection of very short fictions. Philosophical and subversive, these tiny parables deconstruct human failings with a keen insight. The title story, an anecdote about the uneven teeth of a comb, reveals a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of social stratification…By working together with C.J. Collins on the translation, the author succeeds in highlighting the inherent poetics of his prose….Alomar’s work swims in the aspects of the modern world that do not make sense upon closer inspection, like the correlations between poverty and capitalism. These brief narratives are not nihilistic; they convey a plea for progress and improvement. Alomar’s writing brims with hope, and this slim volume is full of compassion and depth.”

The Loyal Son: The War in Benjamin Franklin’s House: Ben Franklin is usually portrayed as the most lovable of America’s founding fathers. His wit, his charm, his inventiveness—even his grandfatherly appearance—are legendary. But this image obscures the scandals that dogged him throughout his life, as historian Daniel Mark Epstein’s new book explores.  When he was twenty-four, Franklin fathered a child with a woman who was not his wife. He adopted the boy, raised him, and educated him to be his aide. Ben and William became inseparable. After the famous kite-in-a-thunderstorm experiment, it was William who proved that the electrical charge in a lightning bolt travels from the ground up, not from the clouds down. On a diplomatic mission to London, it was William who charmed London society. He was invited to walk in the procession of the coronation of George III; Ben was not.  But the outbreak of the American Revolution caused a devastating split between father and son, who was, by then, royal governor of New Jersey. In 1776, the Continental Congress imprisoned William for treason. George Washington made efforts to win William’s release, while his father, to the world’s astonishment, appeared to have abandoned him to his fate.  Epstein gets under the skin of this well-known story to show the very personal effects of the American Revolution on one very famous family.  Historians and readers alike have always praised Epstein’s work, and this book earned a starred review from Kirkus, who hailed it “A gripping history of a family torn apart by political upheaval . . . Drawing on much unpublished correspondence as well as published works, the author constructs a fast-paced, vivid narrative with a host of characters whose appearance and personality he etches with deft concision. . . . A perceptive, gritty portrayal of the frenzy of war and a father and son caught at its tumultuous center.”

The Refrigerator MonologuesCatherynne Valente’s imagination is absolutely limitless, and she is a marvel at analyzing, dissecting, and re-conceiving pop-culture, media, and our human fascination with in.  This book presents a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.  In an entirely new and original superhero universe, Valente subversively explores these ideas and themes in the superhero genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humor as she has analyzed fairy tales (and really, aren’t superhero tales pretty much the same thing in the modern age?).  With illustrations by Annie Wu, this is a wholly unique collection that showcases superheroes is a wholly novel way.  The Washington Post agrees, saying “In this novella, the superhero girlfriend gets to tell her own version of events in the afterlife. The women’s voices are strong: bitter and full of pain, yet steel-tipped in sarcasm and humor.”

 

Until next week, dear readers–Happy Reading!

And Happy Bloomsday!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy June, beloved patrons!  If the longer days and the promise of some prolonged sunshine in our future isn’t enough to get your celebration sandals on, here are a few more reasons to celebrate in June.

June is Pride Month, and a lot of Libraries around the area are planning some nifty events.  Check out the Boston Public Library’s Calendar of Events, in particular, for some great offerings!  In addition, the BPL also created its first ever “We Are Pride” booklist for children, teens, and adults, which you can access here.

June 2 is National Doughnut Day, which actually has a historic origin!  American women serving with the Salvation  Army during the First World War made doughnuts to serve to the troops, and their ingenuity became a symbol, of the Salvation Army’s work on the front lines, as well as a meaningful part of women’s history.  So have a doughnut today, and have a read of this article from the Salvation Army.

June 10 is National Ballpoint Pen Day, which commemorates the filing of the patent for the ballpoint pen by brothers Laszlo and Gyorgy Biro.  The ballpoint pen transformed who could write, because it made ink and pens so much cheaper, but also how we write.  Check out this nifty article from The Atlantic for just how.

June 18 is Father’s Day, an American holiday established by a woman named  Grace Golden Clayton after the Monograph Mining Disaster, which killed 361 men and left around 1,000 children fatherless in December 1907.  So celebrate the parental figures in your life today (and everyday!)

June 22 is National Onion Rings Day.  So go do your patriotic duty and enjoy!

And, because no celebration is complete without a few books, here are some of the new titles that gallivanted onto our shelves this past week–enjoy!

There Your Heart Lies:  Mary Gordon’s newest book is a part historical fiction, and part contemporary coming-of-age–a trend that is becoming super-popular these days.  Marian cut herself off from her wealthy, conservative Irish Catholic family when she volunteered during the Spanish Civil War—an experience she has always kept to herself. Now in her nineties, she shares her Rhode Island cottage with her granddaughter Amelia, a young woman of good heart but only a vague notion of life’s purpose. Their daily existence is intertwined with Marian’s secret past: the blow to her youthful idealism when she witnessed the brutalities on both sides of Franco’s war and the romance that left her trapped in Spain in perilous circumstances for nearly a decade. When Marian is diagnosed with cancer, she finally speaks about what happened to her during those years, inspiring Amelia to make a trip of her own.  A story of female bonds, of romance, and of the real challenge of defining a life, this is a book for arm-chair adventurers, history buffs, and literary aficionados alike.  Kirkus Reviews particularly loved the “Shifting points in time and points of view reveal a young woman shaped by the zealotry that can emanate from family, faith, or war . . . An emotionally and historically rich work with a strong character portrait holding together its disparate parts.”

D’arc : a novel from the war with no name: I hadn’t actually realized that The War With No Name was a series, but now that I have, I am thrilled that I will have more tales to share with my cat, who thinks these are among the best books we have on offer.  In the aftermath of the War With No Name, the queen used a strange technology to uplift the surface animals, turning all the animals in our world into intelligent, highly evolved creatures who must learn to live alongside their sworn enemies—humans.  Far removed from this newly emerging civilization, a housecat turned war hero named Mort(e) lives a quiet life with the love he thought he had lost, a dog named Sheba. But before long, the chaos that they escaped comes crashing in around them, bent on resuming the destruction of the war.  No longer able to run away, Sheba and Mort(e) rush headlong into the conflict, ready to fight but unprepared for a world that seems hell-bent on tearing them apart.  Not quite a fable, and not quite a science fiction book, these create a whole new world that is similar in its emotions, and yet utterly alien, making for a reading experience like no other.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this story a starred review, and called it “Fantastic . . . Well-drawn characters and emotional heft are hallmarks of this unusual series about the power of myth, love, and redemption in a dangerous time.”  My cat said it was almost better than his nighttime tuna.  Almost.

The Scribe of Siena: Remember how I said fiction that crossed the past with the present was big right now?  Well, Melodie Winawer’s debut falls into that category, but is also a romance, a thriller, and a time-traveling adventure that make it something wholly and wonderfully unique.  When neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato’s life is disrupted by tragedy, she welcomesa trip to the Tuscan city of Siena . There, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.  After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice is suddenly transported to the year 1347 in a Siena menaced  by the Plague.  Beatrice meets Accorsi, and falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.  Fans of Outlander, this is a story for you–and for anyone looking to be transported to another world.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this one a starred review as well, saying “The vivid descriptions of the people, way of life, food, and other details of medieval Italy deepen the plot, making the book a truly immersive experience…Winawer has created a prodigious, vibrant tale of past and present that transports readers and fills in the historical gaps. This is a marvelous work of research and invention.”

Walking to Listen:  At age 23, Andrew Forsthoefel had just graduated from Middlebury College and was ready to begin his adult life, but he didn’t know how. So he decided to take a cross-country quest for guidance, one where everyone he met would be his guide. In the year that followed, he faced an Appalachian winter and a Mojave summer. He met beasts inside: fear, loneliness, doubt. But he also encountered incredible kindness from strangers. Thousands shared their stories with him, sometimes confiding their prejudices, too. Often he didn’t know how to respond. How to find unity in diversity? How to stay connected, even as fear works to tear us apart? He listened for answers to these questions, and to the existential questions every human must face, and began to find that the answer might be in listening itself.  Few of us have the resources or the time to do what Forsthoefel , but the lessons that he learned during his trek are ones that we can indeed apply to our everyday lives.  This work, first and foremost, is one of hope, and that’s something that we can all use a dose of right about now.  Booklist agrees, saying “[Forsthoefel’s] openness provides a window into the extraordinary lessons to be learned from ordinary people. This is a memorable and heartfelt exploration of what it takes to hike 4,000 miles across the country and how one young man learned to walk without fear into his future.”

The Flight: Dan Hampton: On the rainy morning of May 20, 1927, a little-known American pilot named Charles A. Lindbergh climbed into his single-engine monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, and prepared to take off from a small airfield on Long Island, New York. Despite his inexperience—the twenty-five-year-old Lindbergh had never before flown over open water—he was determined to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize promised since 1919 to the first pilot to fly nonstop between New York and Paris, a terrifying adventure that had already claimed six men’s lives. Ahead of him lay a 3,600-mile solo journey across the vast north Atlantic and into the unknown; his survival rested on his skill, courage, and an unassuming little aircraft with no front window. Acclaimed aviation historian Dan Hampton’s The Flight is a long-overdue, flyer’s-eye narrative of Lindbergh’s legendary journey.  Using Lindbergh’s own personal diary and writings, as well as family letters and untapped aviation archives, Hampton brings us into the cockpit with Lindbergh, and gives us a pilot-eye view of this remarkable feat of daring.  Kirkus Reviews loved the trip, and gave the book a starred review, calling it “Vivid. … Offer[s] a cockpit’s-eye view of the flight. This you-are-there perspective effectively evokes the tension, risk, and skill involved, from the moment Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field, crosses the coast of Newfoundland, and soars alone into the night above the roiling sea.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And for those of you celebrating today, Happy Mother’s Day!

In our family, Mother’s Day was celebrated with my Grandfather, who managed to be both a mother and father while my Mom was growing up.  As a result, I learned early on that “Mothers” could embody any number of identities–in fact, I’ve had any number of mothers in my life, both literary and physical.  From Marmee in Little Women, who told her daughters to be angry (as long as they used that anger to good purposes) and to be happy to Carson Drew, from the early Nancy Drew mysteries, who let his daughter think for herself…to my own Moominmamma, who gives the best hugs, and always has her purse on her arm.  I hope each and every one of you, literary and real, have a lovely weekend.

And now, on to the books!

House of Names: Colm Tóibín is one of the finest story-tellers working today, and in this work, that re-imagines the story of Clytemnestra, he puts all his talents to use.  Judged, despised, cursed by gods she has long since lost faith in, Clytemnestra reveals the tragic saga that led to her infamous, bloody actions: how her husband deceived her eldest daughter Iphigeneia with a promise of marriage to Achilles, only to sacrifice her because that is what he was told would make the winds blow in his favor and take him to Troy; how she seduced and collaborated with the prisoner Aegisthus, who shared her bed in the dark and could kill; how Agamemnon came back with a lover himself; and how Clytemnestra finally achieved her vengeance for his stunning betrayal—his quest for victory, greater than his love for his child.  Clytemnestra’s tale has become something of a feminist touch-stone recently, and here, Tóibín brings a modern sensibility and language to an ancient classic, and gives this extraordinary character new life, so that we not only believe Clytemnestra’s thirst for revenge, but applaud it.  The Washington Post echoes this in their review, which praises the book, saying “Despite the passage of centuries, this is a disturbingly contemporary story of a powerful woman caught between the demands of her ambition and the constraints on her gender…Never before has Tóibín demonstrated such range, not just in tone but in action. He creates the arresting, hushed scenes for which he’s so well known just as effectively as he whips up murders that compete, pint for spilled pint, with those immortal Greek playwrights.”

Cave Dwellers: Richard Grant’s new espionage novel is billed as “an eleventh hour attempt to overthrow Adolf Hitler”, but there is so much more going on here, and much more emphasis places on these unique characters’ identities, secrets, and connections, that even those who aren’t big into spy thrillers will find plenty to enjoy.  In late 1937, the young lieutenant Oskar Langweil is recruited to this cause while attending a party at the lavish home of a baroness. A high-ranking officer in Germany’s counterintelligence agency brings Oskar into the fold because of their mutual involvement in a patriotic youth league, and soon dispatches him to Washington, D.C., on a perilous mission. Despite his best efforts, Oskar is compromised, and must immediately find a way to sneak back into Germany unnoticed. A childhood friend introduces him to Lena, a Socialist and fellow expat, and they hatch a plan to have Oskar pose as her husband as they cross the Atlantic on a cruise ship filled with Nazis and fellow travelers. But bad luck follows them at every turn, and they find themselves messily entangled with the son of a U.S. Senator, a White Russian princess, a disgraced journalist, an aging brigadier, and a gay SS officer as the novel races toward an explosive conclusion.  Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review, praising it as “An understated, entertaining [and] exceptional period thriller focused on homegrown opposition to Hitler. . . . Grant builds tension slowly, then ratchets it up with fine pacing.  The main characters are well-drawn, but the minor ones are also memorable, from a White Russian princess in an ancien régime Berlin salon to a cabaret mentalist.”

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell:  The subtitle of this book will probably give you the best insight into what’s between the covers:Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian.  But if that isn’t enough, let me describe some of this book to you: It’s a humorous, well-informed take on the world today, tackling a wide range of issues, from race relations and the state of law enforcement today to comedians and superheroes; from politics and failure to Bell’s interracial marriage; from  his up-bringing by very strong-willed, race-conscious, yet ideologically opposite parents to his own adventures in fatherhood; from his early days struggling to find his comedic voice to why he never seemed to fit in with the Black comedy scene . . . or the white comedy scene; and how it took his wife and an East Bay lesbian to teach him that racism and sexism often walk hand in hand.  Those who have enjoyed Bell in his wonderful show United Shades of America will love these essays, and those who have yet to discover his unique voice will find much to enjoy here…or, as Publisher’s Weekly put it: “Those unfamiliar with Bell’s work or expecting a lighthearted read from a popular comedian will be surprised by the book’s breadth and depth…This informative read will be illuminating and worthwhile for aspiring comedians and general readers.”

The Song and the Silence: In 1966, Yvette Johnson’s grandfather, Booker Wright, who owned his own business, and also worked evenings serving white diners at a local restaurant, appeared on the NBC documentary Mississippi: A Self-Portrait, and explained what life was truly like for Black people in the segregated world of Greenwood.  His act of truth and courage became a beacon for the civil rights movement; but Yvette herself was born a year after Wright passed away, and grew up in a wealthy San Diego neighborhood.  As such, she never had to confront race the way Southern Blacks did in the 1960s. Compelled to learn more about her roots, she travels to Greenwood, Mississippi, a beautiful Delta town steeped in secrets and a scarred past, to interview family members and townsfolk about the real Booker Wright. As she uncovers her grandfather’s compelling story and gets closer to the truth behind his murder, she also confronts her own conflicted feelings surrounding race, family, and forgiveness.  An astonishing work about history, identity, and the potentially hopeful future we can forge, Johnson’s memoir is a fascinating and heartfelt piece that won a starred review from Booklist, which stated, “In addition to beautiful, evocative descriptions, a great strength of Johnson’s writing lies in her unique ability to absorb and relay several dimensions of conversations about painful and emotional topics.”

Less Than a Treason: Readers of Dana Stabenow’s mysteries featuring native Aleut Private Investigator Kate Shugak will know by now that very little can stop Kate in her pursuit of the truth.  For those who don’t know her, Kate Shugak is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5’1″ tall, carrires a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat, and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine—and she needs to be, to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her.  In this, her 21st adventure, Kate is recovering from a gunshot wound, enjoying some hard-earned solitude when some unwelcome visitors pass by, begging for Kate’s aid after discovering a heap of human bones on their trail. The intrepid Kate packs up the scanty remains, which a variety of animals have picked clean, and heads for the nearest town. But this case is much more deadly than a simple cold case.  2,000 people go missing in Alaska’s inhospitable terrain a year–is Kate about to become one of them?  Booklist loved this one as well, saying “Starting a Kate Shugak book is like going somewhere everybody knows your name, given the warmth and familiarity of the Niniltna cast, even to readers new to the series. The twenty-first series installment…maintains Stabenow’s reputation for concise prose, pithy dialogue, full bodied characters, and intriguing plotting. Crime fiction doesn’t get much better than this.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a top of the mornin’ to you, dear readers!

Saint Patrick, and some less-than-metaphorical snakes…

I’ve already seen plenty of green being worn around the Library today in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which makes my heart happy.  We’ve all, I’m sure, heard different stories about traditions that are meant to be performed on St. Patrick’s Day…I grew up with a lot of Irish relatives who taught me to throw salt over my shoulder to keep the Wee People distracted, and not to leave milk out because it attracts ghosts, so some of the newer traditions have been lost on me.  So, in honor of the day, let’s take a look at the real St. Patrick, and what we are really commemorating today.

  1. St. Patrick’s acutal name was most likely Maewyn Succat.  Though we don’t know too much about him, we’re pretty sure he was from what is now Wales…or maybe Scotland, and was captured by Irish pirates/brigands around the age of 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave, escaping via ship around six years later.
  2. He returned to Ireland after becoming a priest, and began converting local pagan inhabitants to Christianity.  Many of the symbols associated with Ireland today, especially the shamrock, were symbols with Druidic power that Patrick co-opted as symbols of Christianity.  That whole thing about him ‘driving the snakes out of Ireland’?  It’s a veiled reference to Druids being driven out.
  3. The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York on March 17, 1762, and referred to a soldiers’ parade (when they display their ability to march and stuff).  It’s gotten a bit…bigger since then.
  4. For the love of all that is good and noble on this earth, don’t pinch people.  Please.  It’s not nice.  And it didn’t start as a thing until the later part of the 19th century by Americans (some of whom were Irish immigrants).  The explanation for this was that wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns, so if you are not wearing green, other people get to pinch you on behalf of the leprechauns.  Which is absurd.  Leprechauns can always see you.  And they are far too clever to resort to pinching you.  And you are not a leprechaun (unless you are, in which case, fair play).  So don’t pinch people.  Today or any other day.  Thank you.
  5. Go to the Library!  Ok, this isn’t strictly a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, but libraries were and are critically important institutions around the world, as well as on the Irish island.  The Linen Hall Library in Belfast became a repository of materials for all sides during The Troubles, with all sides tacitly agreeing that a library was a safe, non-sectarian place to collect their history.  While there is an ongoing debate about staffing and funding in Libraries across the UK and Ireland, right now, one single library card will let you into every library in the Republic of Ireland.  How cool is that?  So why not come by, and enjoy a few of the books that are merrily performing jigs on our shelves today?

Taduno’s Song: Nigerian author Odafe Atogun’s debut is a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, with a modern infusion of Nigerian music, and an homage to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.  When Taduno receives a stained brown envelope from his homeland, from which he has been exiled for years, he determines to return again.  But though he arrives full of hope, the musician discovers that his people no longer recognize him, or remember his voice, and that his girlfriend, Lela, has been abducted by government agents. Taduno wanders through his house in search of clues, but all traces of his old life have been erased. As he becomes aware that all that is left of himself is an emptiness, Taduno finds new purpose: to find his lost love.  But in the end, will he forsake his people and give up everything, including his voice, to save Lela?  By translating Orpheus’ Underworld into a modern totalitarian government, Atogun expands his fable into something much more modern, and infinitely more complex than a mere fable, but his beautifully accessible language keeps this story entrancing.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, celebrating the “Uniting a retelling of the Orpheus myth, an indictment of totalitarian inhumanity, and a Kafkaesque meditation on identity within the spare language of fable, Atogun’s memorable debut novel testifies to the power of both oppression and art”.

The World Remade: America in World War I The US didn’t declare war until 1917, but it was certainly involved in the First World War from the very beginning.  In this accessible and thought-provoking history, journalist G.J. Meyer takes us through the bitter debates within American politics and society over the war and the possibility of American military intervention, as well as the global conspiracies, policies, and plans that affected those decisions.  His passion for understanding characters and personalities makes this story an engaging one that history buffs of all stripes will enjoy.  There is always a concern with journalists writing history, as the tendency is to over-simplify matters for easy consumption.  Meyer, however, does an impressive job outlining just how complicated and divisive a time this was in American history, and keeps a keen eye on the ramifications that the decisions made in 1917 have on us today.  The Washington Post agrees, saying, in a really excited review, that this book is “Thundering, magnificent . . . a book of true greatness that prompts moments of sheer joy and pleasure . . . It will earn generations of admirers.”

Shadowbahn: I’ll be honest with you, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this book, dear readers.  And that is precisely what makes it so exciting.  Steve Erickson’s story begins 2021 with the Twin Towers suddenly reappearing…in the Badlands of South Dakota.  To all the people who flock to visit them, including siblings Parker and Zema, who are traveling from L.A. to visit their mother in Michigan, the towers seem to sing–but everyone hears a different song.  But as Parker and Zema drive on, taking a detour through a shadowland that doesn’t appear on any map, ghosts, spirits, and the neverborn begin to awake, lured and driven mad by the music of the towers.   This is a story about music, about American culture, about what’s wrong with it–and full of hope for what might be made right again, and is being hailed as a wholly original kind of masterpieces by readers and critics across the country, with The New York Times Review of Books cheering that it is “compassionate, weird, unpredictable, jaunty. It’s sad, and it’s droll and sometimes it’s gorgeous … In this novel, Erickson has mobilized so much of what feels pressing and urgent about the fractured state of the country in a way that feels fresh and not entirely hopeless, if only because the exercise of art in opposition to complacent thought can never be hopeless”.

The Principles Behind Flotation: And speaking of books with bizarre premises, this delightfully quirky coming-of-age novel features a magical sea that appears overnight in a cow pasture in Arkansas.  Around that sea grows a religious order that puts on passion plays for tourists about the sea’s appearance and a thriving tourist destination, but the Sea’s owner has no interest in allowing any one to study the Sea of Santiago itself, which is hard news for A.Z. McKinney, whose lifelong dream has been to chart the sea’s depths and wring all its secrets from it, drop by drop (she resorts to carrying samples home in her bathing suit).   But for all of A.Z.’s big dreams, she is still a teenager, and still trying to figure out how she fits in the world, and on dry land, let alone on the great and mysterious Sea.  Alexandra Teague’s novel is one of the weirdest I’ve read in a while, but also one of the most fun, defiantly inventive, and strangely moving.  Also, there are lots of scenes set in a library (where A.Z.’s mom works), so that is always a plus.  Romantic Times Book Reviews agrees, giving this one a Top Pick rating, calling it “A rich, insightful, ambitiously inventive coming‐of‐age tale that will fire the imagination and capture the heart . . . The delightfully quirky details of this setting combine to create a richly textured world that readers will find difficult to leave behind, and the beautifully flawed and fully realized characters will linger long after the final page has turned.”

The Book Thieves The stories of how Nazis looted the museums, galleries, and private collections of Europe has been well told in film and in print.  But what we don’t talk about as much is how many books the Nazis stole.  Not to burn–though they did plenty of that–but to hoard, with a plan to wage intellectual warfare against the very people from whom these books were stolen: Jews, Communists, Liberal politicians, LGBT activists, Catholics, Freemasons, and many other opposition groups. But when the war was over, most of the books were never returned. Instead many found their way into the public library system, where they remain to this day.  But there is a team of librarians in Berlin who are working through their library system to find stolen books and return them–and Anders Rydell tells their story, and his own, in this heartbreaking, infuriating, hopeful, and redemptive story.  This is a book about history, about heroism, and about Rydell’s journey across Europe to return one book to its rightful family–the only item that survived its owner’s murder.  This is a book for book lovers everywhere, and a shatteringly powerful story about fascism, hatred, and hope.  A review from Rydell’s home country of Sweden states that his work  “constitutes a solid mapping of the quiet work being done in Berlin, Vilnius, Prague, Paris and other cities. The author tells of the monstrosities committed in the best possible manner. He mixes his library visits and historical background with a consistently confident tone. It might appear cynical to talk about tone here, but Rydell’s at times beautiful, at times matter-of-fact and restrained writing does wonders for the reader’s engagement. Reality as it has been – and is today – does not have to be added to with emotionally loaded pointers.”

Until next week, beloved patrons, happy reading, and Go mbeirimíd beo ar an am seo arís!

International Women’s Day!

You may very well have heard that today, dear readers, is International Women’s Day, a day that seems to be grabbing a lot more headlines this year for a number of reasons, including the spectacular turnout on seven continents for the International Women’s March in January…but what exactly are we celebrating when we observe this day?

New York, 1908

Some sources cite the first ‘Women’s Day’ as taking place in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York in support of shorter hours, better pay and voting rights, but one year later, in 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared a National Women’s Day on Sunday, February 28–the day was specifically chosen to allow even working women to participate (and let’s just remember here that a Socialist party is not a Communist party, and the goals of one are by no means the goals of the other).  And one year after that, and the second International Conference of Working Women. which was held in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin of Germany suggested an International Women’s Day. The day, as she proposed, would be recognized in every country, to advocate for issues critical to all women.   The next International Women’s Day, in 1911, was recognized by nine countries.

In 1913, the Russian Socialist Party moved the celebration to March 8, the day on which it is still observed today.  During the First World War, women’s work in international pacifist organizations used this day to promote work across borders and above international hostilities to make life better for human people everywhere. Though they didn’t bring the war to an end (though not through lack of trying), in 1917, women in Russian went on strike with a message of “peace and bread”–and four days later, the Tzar abdicated, signaling an end to Russia’s involvement in the First World War.

Bread and Peace Strike, Petrograd, 1917

Though the UN officially recognized IWD in 1975, it hasn’t been a big thing for quite some time…..until, in 2011, President Barack Obama declared March ‘Women’s History Month’, and the nine countries around the world that first celebrated IWD developed national programs to promote education and opportunities for young women.  This year, IWD will be celebrated in the following countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

So what can you do to celebrate?  If you want to go big, pledge to support the equality of human life worldwide by sponsoring universal education and access to fundamental resources.  And then do something about it.  Teach a kid to read.  Donate to a local charity.  Tell a young person in your life, regardless of gender, that their contribution to the world is important.  Listen more.
And then, come into the Library and check out some books that have been selected from around the world for this year’s International Women’s Day!

From London’s Evening Standard:

The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret Atwood:
Set in the near future, Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel follows the story of Offred, a young handmaid to a powerful commander, who is a lynchpin in a totalitarian Christian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. What unfolds is a story of female subjugation at the hands of a male dictatorship, and the desperate hope of a young woman who clings to the memories of her former life and identity. As unpleasant as it is brilliant, this cruel and bone-chilling story will stay with your for the rest of your life – not just because it’s terrifying, but because it’s terrifyingly possible. 

From Australia’s Reading Australia:

Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville:
Lilian Singer was born in 1901, a time when the education of women was considered unnecessary, even dangerous. Intelligent, resilient, and with a burning desire for independence, Lilian rejects the life deemed “acceptable” by society. Instead, she becomes an eccentric – energetic, happy and true to herself. This story is all the more captivating for being inspired by the real-life Bea Miles, a familiar figure to Sydney-dwellers, who lived on the streets and recited Shakespeare in exchange for money.

From TheCultureTrip:

A Woman in the Crossfire : Diaries of the Syrian Revolution by Samar Yazbek
Samar Yazbek’s writing takes many different forms: novels, short stories, cultural criticism and scripts fill her résumé, and she has even been responsible for editing a feminist e-zine, entitled Women of Syria. What unites all of her writing is a deep-seated political and social awareness and engagement with contemporary issues, which she weaves throughout her work. Her most recent work A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (2012) is a brutal account of her involvement in the protests against the Assad regime, before her eventual escape and exile to Paris. The book was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize, awarded yearly to an international writer who has been persecuted for their work.

In a survey by The Guardian on their readers’ favorite books by women:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Americanah has moved me like no other in recent memory…It’s an honest book about race, identity and the constant longing and nostalgia one feels for this metaphorical place called home…Reading this has made me realise that some of the most powerful narratives in contemporary fiction have been written by young, highly educated female African writers, who are tired of the old clichés frequently bandied around about Africa. Ngozi Adichie is a new, powerful and incredibly talented voice; her novel Americanah is the expression of a different African tale, of a continent and its people that have many more magnetic stories to tell, as well as critiques to raise about the so-called enlightened West.”

From the Center for Southeast Asia Studies:

Soul survivors : stories of women and children in Cambodia by Carol Wagner
Soul Survivors gives voice to women and children in Cambodia who survived the genocide (1975 – 1979), when nearly two million people died from execution, starvation, or disease. Through their detailed personal stories, fourteen people reveal the brutality of Pol Pot’s regime, how they managed to survive, and what it took to rebuild their lives afterward. This new edition is updated and contains recent historical events and an epilog telling what happened to the survivors since the first edition was published in 2002. It also includes information about the two charitable humanitarian organizations (friendshipwithcambodia.org and artinabox.org) the author and photographer were inspired to create to help the poor in Cambodia.

From SugarStreetReview:

Women of Algiers in Their Apartment by Assia Djebar
The elder stateswoman of Francophone literature, Djebar is one of the most distinguished writers in the Arab world, although she herself comes from the Algeria’s significant Berber minority.   Djebar, whose real name is Fatima-Zohra Imalayène, has written about the role and repression of women in Algeria in many of her novels and says “Like so many other Algerian women authors, I write with a sense of urgency against misogyny and regression.” …A number of her novels have also been translated into English from the French, and all are more than deserving of your time. We particularly recommend Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, if you can rustle up a copy from somewhere.

From Msafropolitan:

Part of My Soul Went With Him by Winnie Mandela:
For insight into the life of one of the most revolutionary, African female figures of our times, this semi-autobiographical book is a must read. Winnie has achieved more for Africans, female and male; and for women, of all ethnicities, than others could dream of. Her life is one full of sacrifices, personal and political, and yet one gets the sense that if she were to choose, she would do it all over again. Through the collection of conversations, letters, supplementary speeches and anecdotes, it becomes clear exactly how much in debt we are to her.

In solidarity, readers.  Happy International Women’s Day!