What the Staff is Reading

in-the-land-of-invisibile-womenA spur-of-the-moment decision found Qanta Ahmed on board a flight from New York to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. As she boarded her plane, this US-trained physician of Pakistani heritage, raised in Britain, couldn’t help but wonder about many things: who were her fellow passengers; if she was appropriately dressed and how she would manage without the required abbayah; how would she manage to meet up with her sponsor (for as an unmarried female employee, she could not enter the kingdom without a male representative from her employer); and exactly what she gotten herself into.  In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom is a fascinating account that answers all these questions and more in great detail, from abbayah shopping her first day, through coworkers reactions to 9/11 shortly before she left two years later. The reader also learns a great deal about Islam, as Qanta is Muslim and makes a pilgrimage to Mecca, again, described in great detail.

ruthless-riverHolly Fitzgerald has experienced an abundance of heart-stopping experiences around the world, but none affected her as much as her near fatal river journey in the Amazon River basin. Years later, Fitzgerald’s daughter encouraged her to take a memoir class, and that resulted in Ruthless River: Love & Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless  Madre de Dios, a recounting of several weeks in the spring of 1973. The author kept a journal at the time, and so tells the tale as though it were yesterday, of how what was to be a wonderful year-long around the world honeymoon turned into terror. Holly and her husband Fitz survived a plane crash only to become stranded in a cove of the Madre de Dios, attacked by bees during the day and fearing the sounds of the jungle at night. They are truly lost in the jungle and resort to the unthinkable to survive. Anyone who enjoys a riveting true survival story will be fascinated by this one.

exit-westExit West is the fourth novel for Mohsin Hamid and deals with the very timely politics of immigration and refugees. A young couple in an unnamed country on the brink of disaster fall in love, and as conditions  get more and more explosive Nadia and Saeed make the decision to leave through one of the many doorways they have heard whispered about, a doorway not without risks but one that can get them out of the chaos of the country. Described by a staff member as “a spellbinding blend of reality and unreality with lots of social commentary,” readers who enjoyed those same elements of The Underground Railroad may find a great deal to like about this title.

News for Readers of Romance

Many readers were shocked at Harlequin’s recent announcement that they will stop publishing several “categories” of romance.  For those who want to more information,  please check out this informative post from Novelist.  I think it is also helpful that they explain how to find certain types of romance using specific searches in the Novelist Plus database.

What is Novelist, you ask? The Library subscribes to this database to provide patrons with even more reading recommendations for both fiction and nonfiction, for all ages and including audiobooks!  It’s also handy for series information and book discussions. If you haven’t played with it lately, you just need to sign in with your library card and PIN (from home) or ask Reader Services staff to give you a demonstration the next time you’re in the library!novelist

Patron Picks

Some of the books (and more!) patrons have said are so good, others need to know about them:

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias: 101 Stories of Caregiving, Coping and Compassion:  (616.831 CHI)

Patron who was just diagnosed with dementia said she read it in bed and her husband couldn’t watch her read it because she would start crying, and her daughters didn’t want her to read it because it made her cry. However, she felt she needed to and it helped her so much to learn what she will be going through. Learning how others have gone through dementia and strategies for coping, “was a tremendous help.”

Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay simply-saidSullivan (658.45 SUL)

Sophisticated yet simple book on communicating better with everyone. Author has a good writing style and says things in a new way – really great!

 

Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia by Peter Pomerantsev (306.0947 POM)

nothing-is-trueWith Putin and Russia in the daily news, this is a fascinating and highly-recommended read.

 

 

The Art of Beatrix Potter by Emily Zach (823.912 POT)

art-of-beatrix-potterA patron who was teaching a unit on Beatrix Potter said that, unlike so many that only give part of her story, this book had it all and is “wonderful!” (Note: some might also enjoy the fictional mystery series, “The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter” starting with The Tale of Hill Top Farm.)

 

And finally, if you are looking for something new to listen to, a patron says the podcast EconTalk is excellent. Hosted by Russ Roberts, it is billed as an “economics podcast for daily life.”

 

April is National Poet”Tree” Month: Branch Out and Read Some

Image result for tree booksImage result for tree books

Not a poetry buff? No worries. The library has an expansive collection of anthologies and favorite authors represented to whet any appetite. Haiku or Sonnet? Limerick or Epic?  From Collins to Whitman, Shakespeare to Angelou, whatever your interests, please stop by Readers Services for some suggestions.

We currently have two displays honoring National Poetry Month: Readers Services is celebrating Poets Laureate featuring Illinois’ own Gwendolyn Brooks, while the Young Adult department’s Poet Justice is promoting books written in verse. Don’t miss these special collections! As always, items labeled as “Display” can be checked out.

Please feel free to stop in and “leaf” through some “poet-tree” in April Image result for leaf image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the Staff is Reading

everyonebraveSeveral staff members have been reading Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven. Set in London and Malta, between September 1939 and May 1942, themes of class and race are dealt with while London is damaged by continuing nighttime bombings. Engaging characters are well-crafted, and the dialogue provides a good dose of dry British wit amid the most difficult of circumstances. Mary, young, idealistic, and from a privileged family is quick to sign up when war breaks out, but is disappointed when she is assigned to something as mundane as teaching. However, she soon falls for Tom, who is in charge of the school district. Tom has no desire to join the war effort, but finds himself conflicted when his best friend Alistair, joins up. Hilda, Mary’s best friend, rounds out this group of four. For audio fans, the narrator does a wonderful job of portraying the various voices. The story is inspired by the author’s grandparents’ wartime experiences.

signalflameAndrew Krivak’s newest novel, The Signal Flame, concerns the next generation of the family from his first novel, The Sojourn, but they don’t have to be read in order. With spare but beautiful language, Krivak reveals a family quietly going about their daily lives, dealing with issues of life and land while waiting to hear word of a family member missing in Vietnam.  The year is 1972, and the patriarch, Jozef Vinich has died, leaving his daughter Hannah and her son Bo to grieve. Gradually, more and more depth is added to the backstory of this family’s heartbreak. Set in a remote mountain area of northeastern Pennsylvania, the book conveys a strong sense of place.

32yolks“So good!” was how one staff member  described Eric Ripert’s  32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line. In this chef’s memoir, Ripert recalls how a difficult childhood in the south of France led him to find solace in the kitchen. A locally-renowned chef takes him under his wing, inviting him into his kitchen after school to make mousse and hear stories of a wider world. Eric finds his calling, and becomes determined to be the best chef he can be,  describing the intense pressure behind the scenes at the poshest restaurants. This is a good coming-of-age story that’s well-plotted.

Supreme Reads

As the Senate holds confirmation hearings, legal issues and the Supreme Court are getting a lot of attention. Here are several titles you might find of interest:

ShowdownShowdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America by Wil Haygood    347.732634 HAY

Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court justice and one of the most important legal minds in American history.  Haygood is an award-winning author.

Notorious RBGNotorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik B GINSBURG

An unprecedented look at a feminist pioneer and Supreme Court Justice and how she has changed the world.

 

The Case Against the Supreme caseagainstthesupremecourtCourt by Erwin Chemerinsky 347.7326 CHE

Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar from the University of California, Irvine, offers an accessible, refreshingly candid, and no-holds-barred indictment of the Supreme Court.

 

Then comes marriageThen Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA by Roberta Kaplan  346.0168 KAP

Civil rights lawyer Kaplan, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, tells the remarkable story of the landmark case that was a victory for gay rights.

 

the-burger-courtThe Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right by Michael J. Graetz 347.7326 GRA

A Columbia Law School professor and a New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning legal journalist combine expertise to provide the best kind of legal history: cogent, relevant, and timely, given the focus on the Court’s role and power.

Sisters in lawSisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman 347.732634 HIR

An account of the lives of the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court and their fascinating relationship.

court and the worldThe Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities by Stephen Breyer  347.7326 BRE

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer looks at the work of the Supreme Court in an increasingly interconnected world in which the Court must consider issues that no longer involve just U.S. citizens and corporations.

What the Staff is Reading

mrchurchA fast-paced, enjoyable read set in WWII London is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal. The rich period detail is a particular strength in this character-driven spy novel. The plot centers around Maggie Hope, a British woman raised in America after her parent’s untimely death. Now living in London with various roommates in her deceased aunt’s crumbling mansion, she finds herself  working in the War Rooms after a previous secretary is murdered. Her gender limits her to a typist’s job, but her skills at code breaking lead her to discover a murderous plot, while she also discovers hidden family secrets. Fans of Jaqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series may enjoy this.

last-days-of-nightAnother historical novel with spies and intrigue is Graham Moore’s  The Last Days of Night. Short chapters really move the plot along in this story based on fact set in  the late 1880s, the beginning of the electric age. Paul Cravath is a young, inexperienced lawyer hired by George Westinghouse, who is being sued by Thomas Edison over a patent for the light bulb. With all the power and money behind Edison, it seems like a nearly impossible case to win. Other intriguing characters thrown into the mix are the eccentric Serbian immigrant Nikola Tesla and the beautiful opera star Agnes Huntington. In short, nothing is quite as straightforward as first appears.

kindredSet in both the past and present, Octavia Butler’s Kindred is a sobering science fiction book involving time travel. Dana, a contemporary African-American woman, one day finds herself suddenly in antebellum Maryland, where she saves a young boy, Rufus, from drowning. Just as suddenly, she is back in California. Over a period of time, Dana is called back various times, and each time Rufus is older and in more serious trouble. However, what seems like hours in the past is only minutes in the present, and years in the past are hours in the present. Again, this is a plot-driven book that also deals with social justice as the atrocities of slavery are dealt with. This may be a good choice for fans of Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.

 

 

Patron Picks

Looking for a new book to try? Some of your fellow patrons have taken time to stop by Reader Services and share about how much they enjoyed these titles:

What Angels Fear by C. S. Harriswhat-angels-fear

This is the first in a long series featuring Sebastian St. Cyr, son of an earl who becomes a sleuth when he finds himself the prime suspect in a horrible murder.  Set against the backdrop of 1811 London society, this well-researched historical fiction does have some violence, but is also filled with suspense, mystery and a bit of romance.

The Jealous Kind by James Lee Burkejealouskind

Burke’s writing is always great and this coming-of-age story set in Texas during the 1950s is not to be missed.

 

Forty Autumns: A Family’s Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall by Nina Willner  943.1552 WILfortyautumns

Readers of history will enjoy this page-turning memoir about generations of a German family torn apart during the Cold War. “It really helped me better understand my own family’s experience regarding the Berlin Wall and a divided Germany.”

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval N. Harari 909 HARsapiens

“What a fascinating, provoking look at where humans have come from and where we are heading – in a very nice way, the author points out we are all filthy murderers!”

Books – Always The Perfect Gift

Image result for bow on book imageI can’t think of a more thoughtful gift to give someone you care about during the holidays (or anytime) than a good book. With a little thought and some helpful suggestions, a personalized selection of a few of the best titles from 2016 are just a blog post away. Click on any of the items listed below to access their catalog record, which includes a summary of the item.

For the CookThe Chef’s Library: Favorite Cookbooks from the World’s Great Kitchens

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For the Traveler (armchair, or otherwise)Complete National Parks of the United States (National Geographic)

For the RomanticMe Before You; After You (2016 sequel) by JoJo Moyes.

For the Tech-Driven Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman

For the History BuffDevotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice by Adam Makos; News of the World by Paulette Jiles

For the Popular Fiction ReaderSmall  Great Things by Jodi Picoult

For the Crafter – Supercraft: Easy Projects for Every Weekend by Sophie Pester

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For the Audio LoverA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

For the High School StudentAll the Bright Places  by Jennifer Niven

For the Literary ReaderEveryone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave;         A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman

For the Self-Help Guru – Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle

For those who want to be amazed and inspiredWhen Breath Becomes Air  by Paul Kalanithi

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For the Middle SchoolerRaymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

For the Biography BuffA Life Well Played: My Stories by Arnold Palmer

For those in the mood for a Holiday Story – Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini

For the Comic Book JunkieBest American Comics 2016, Roz Chast, Editor

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Seasons Greetings!

 

 

 

Listen Up!

Grunt Hidden Figures A Gentleman in Moscow Journey to Munich Everybody's Fool

Looking for something to listen to over the winter holidays?  Here is a sampling of some of the best audiobooks of 2016.

Nonfiction

Grunt, by Mary Roach.  Bestselling author Mary Roach explores the science of keeping human beings intact, awake, sane, uninfected and uninfested in the bizarre and extreme circumstances of war. Narrated by Abby Elvidge.

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly. The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Narrated by Robin Miles.

American Heiress, by Jeffrey Toobin. The wild saga of the kidnapping, crimes and trial of Patty Hearst.  Narrated by Paul Michael.

Fiction

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. From the bestselling author of Rules of Civility –a transporting story about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.  Narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith.

Journey to Munich, by Jacqueline Winspear. The 12th installment of Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series.  This time Maisie heads to Munich.  There will be Nazis.  Narrated by by Orlagh Cassidy.

Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo.  After 23 years, the author returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters who made Nobody’s Fool, a huge success.  Narrated by Mark Bramhall.

The Black Widow, by Daniel Silva. An international thriller that finds the legendary Gabriel Allon grappling with an ISIS mastermind. Narrated by George Guidall.

Memoir

Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight.  The Nike founder and CEO  shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.  Narrated by Norbert Leo Butz.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer.  A refreshingly candid and raucously funny collection of extremely personal and observational essays.  Narrated by the author.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo   The Black Widow Shoe Dog American Heiress