Readers Guide


By Julie Forkner

March 2
March 1 
February #3 2018
February #2 2018

March 2 

For some, truths are truer than for others. You can’t go home again takes on a completely different weight when your family, friends, and village are all displaced by the Six-Day War of 1967. This is the case for Alia and her family living in Nablus, Palestine. Hala Alyan’s debut novel, Salt Houses (F), follows Alia’s family from their flight from Palestine to the 1990 invasion of Iraq and through all their attempts to assimilate into countries far from home.

Scott Kelly, along with his Russian colleague, Mikhail Kornienko, spent an entire year in space, orbiting the earth, dodging space trash, and finding out what happens when you live in a metal box high above the earth. Before he got to be an astronaut, however, he was a rough and wild New Jersey teenager who took school and responsibility less than seriously. When he came across Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff, he changed his course and determinedly set out to become an astronaut. His book, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery (629.442) reveals what life is like in place that is inhospitable to life as we know it. From the pre-flight rituals to the need to see growing, living things, Kelly’s straightforward style shows us a life very few people have experienced. 

Few people could make a car race as exhilarating as Peter Carey. In 1950s Australia, the Redex Trial is a brutal race requiring drivers to cover 10,000 miles in 17 days across dangerous territory riddled with dry creek beds, rockslides and cliffs, and interfering wildlife all while maintaining a their speed. Irene Bobs, along with her husband, the best car salesman in southeastern Australia, and navigator Willie Bachhuber, sets out to win the race and jumpstart a dull and failing life. Peter Carey turns their adventure into a hilarious but eye-opening race through a country already inhabited by a rich culture in A Long Way from Home (F). 

Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition took place from 1914-1917, and although the expedition failed, became famous for its heroic attempt at exploration. What is less well-known, however, is that a team of six people known as the Mount Hope party also crossed the Antarctic from the opposite side as Shackleton, dropping food and supplies for Shackleton’s team. The Mount Hope party did not know that Shackleton’s expedition had failed and persevered through deadly conditions. With the help of previously unpublished diaries, Wilson McOrist tells their story in Shackleton’s Heroes: The Epic Story of the Men Who Kept the ENDURANCE Expedition Alive (919.890). 

Surviving being a prisoner of war in Vietnam was only the first challenge for Ernt Allbright. Facing failure upon failure after returning home, Allbright makes the snap decision to move his family -- his wife, and his 13-year old daughter, Leni -- to Alaska. Alone in Alaska’s eighteen hour nights, Leni and Cora learn that the only way to survive is through their own inner strength. In The Great Alone (F) by Kristin Hannah, we discover what the spirit of an American pioneer truly is. 

Brene Brown first came into the mainstream with her excellent TED talk The Power of Vulnerability in December, 2010. Since then, the University of Houston professor and practicing social worker has published several influential books based on her lifelong study of human interactions. Her newest book, Braving the Wilderness (158.200), published in the fall of last year, helps us understand how to meet our basic need to belong when our society is polarized and polemicized more than ever. Brown argues that our current state of disconnection from each other has reached a crisis level, and explains how having the courage to be authentically yourself could be the solution the whole planet needs. 

Also at the Library:
     In this Moment (F) by Karen Kingsbury
     Rich People Problems (F) by Kevin Kwan
     Into the Black Nowhere (F) by Meg Gardiner
     Medical Medium Thyroid Healing (616.440) by Anthony William
     Start Your Own Etsy Business (658.872) by Entrepreneur Media and Jason R. Rich
     Love What Matters (152.410 Love)

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March 1  

James Whitehouse is the proverbial golden boy, educated in Britain’s elite schools, wealthy, and powerful. His wife, Sophie, is determinedly loyal, even after he admits to an affair. The tension in Sarah Vaughan’s marital thriller, Anatomy of a Scandal (F) doesn’t start, however, until Kate, an ambitious, sharp, and experienced prosecutor goes after James, unearthing allegations of something sinister from his college days. Each woman must decide how far she is willing to go – Kate to win her case and put a dangerous man behind bars and Sophie, to protect her husband and save her family.

Winter (839.820), the second in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Seasons Quartet, is a letter of introduction for his unborn daughter to the world. With his characteristic sensitivity and curiousity, Knausgaard introduces his daughter to the world describing everything from sugar and the moon to messiness and particle physics. Introducing a child to the world is an opportunity to take stock and consider things anew, an opportunity Knausgaard takes to a sublime level. 

A. J. Finn’s debut novel, The Woman in the Window (F), is receiving well-deserved but unique praise for a first time novel published so early in the year. Anna Fox lives alone in her upscale New York house, spending her days drinking wine, watching classic movies, and watching the world outside her window. Agoraphobic, Anna hasn’t left her house in over a year. When a new family moves in next door, Anna takes to observing them and witnesses a horrible act of violence. How does Anna, so unreliable and easily thrown off kilter, convince anyone she’s telling the truth? And just what is the truth, anyway? 

Facing old age is life’s most daunting challenges. When John Leland, reporter for the New York Times, took an assignment to get to know the fastest growing segment of America’s population, he did not expect the experience to be so uplifting. Instead of hearing solely about isolation, depression, and the struggle of dealing with declining health, Leland discovered a group of people from disparate backgrounds and circumstances all living with joy and a sense of lightheartedness. Drawing on the lessons he learned from the “oldest old,” Leland’s book, Happiness is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a year among the oldest old (305.260) reveals the lessons needed to make old age rich, wise, and enjoyable. 

Like Anatomy of a Scandal, Alafair Burke’s novel The Wife (F) puts a wife in the position of having to decide if her husband is trustworthy. This time, Angela Powell is hiding her own past when she was help captive for a year as a teenager until she and her baby were finally released. Engineering a quiet life away from any chance of a media frenzy, Angela marries an economics professor. When a college intern accuses Angela’s husband of inappropriate behavior, Angela sides with Jason, until a second woman also accuses Jason, and then disappears. Alafair Burke, a Stanford Law educated lawyer and daughter of author James Lee Burke of the Robicheaux series, has both the experience and the talent to spin a gripping domestic thriller. 

Alan Alda, actor, comedian, and writer, is a big fan of science. He recognizes, though, that scientists rarely feel they’ve succeeded in convincing anyone of what they are trying to say.  Alda is also a big fan of communication. During his time as host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, Alda spent hundreds of hours with scientists, interviewing them for the show, but also helping them communicate complex ideas without alienating their audience. Combining his time on Scientfic American Frontiers  and his experience as an acting coach and astute observer of people, Aldo delved into the world of communication and came up with his book, If I understood You, Would I Have this Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating (153.600). Released last summer, Alda’s book can be used by anyone hoping to better understand their doctor, their patients, their family and their friends. 

Also at the Library:
     The Bomb Maker (F) by Thomas Perry
     The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories (F) by Charlaine Harris
     Glad Tidings (F) by Debbie Macomber
     2017 Southern Living Annual Recipes (641.500) by the editors of Southern Living
     Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships (910.202) by Douglas Ward
     The Carolinas and Georgia (917.500) by Fodor’s Travel

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February #3 2018 

Philip Pullman’s long anticipated series La Belle Sauvage is finally here with the first novel, The Book of Dust (YPF). Set in Pullman’s intricately imagined world, which resembles but isn’t exactly like London and Oxford, The Book of Dust is the story of baby Lyra, the heroine of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Malcolm Polstead’s father runs The Trout, an inn on the banks of the Thames. From his vantage point at the Inn, Malcolm is well-suited for spying, and soon secrets concerning a new baby and a strange substance called Dust fall into his lap. When the spy those secrets were actually intended for finds Malcolm, he is drawn into a challenge to save baby Lyra despite the sacrifices it will cost him.  

In thirty years, the earth’s population will reach 10 billion. The conundrum of how to feed, house, and accommodate that many people has been the source of constant back-and-forth between scientists for many decades. One camp supports the idea that humans must cut back their consumption and use the remaining resources wisely before we cause widespread destruction. Author Charles C. Mann calls this camp the Prophets. The opposite side claims that innovation, not a reduction in consumption, will create the solutions to our problems. This camp is known as the Wizards. In The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Vision to Shape Tomorrow’s World (363.700), Mann brings to life the two largest personalities in this dichotomy – ecologist William Vogt and plant breeder Norman Borlaug. Giving equal weight to both sides of the conversation, Mann explores the pressing issue of human’s impact on our environment and which road is the safest path to our continued existence. 

Janet Fitch, author of novel-turned-movie White Oleander, has taken up the Russian Revolution as the subject of her new book, The Revolution of Marina M. (F). Marina Makarova is the daughter of an intellectual and minor aristocrat living in Moscow in the years leading up to the First World War. Pampered and spoiled, Marina is bored with her life and is fascinated by the revolutionary zeal creating turmoil throughout Russia. In a rush of youthful idealism, Marina is caught up in the political momentum not understanding the consequences it could have for people of her station. Rich in period detail, The Revolution of Marina M. is a lavish and sometimes surreal adventure through the Russia of the early 1900s.  

Writing from a very different perspective, historian Mark Mazower traced his own family’s history through letters photographs, interviews and archives that took him into the siege of Stalingrad, the Vilna Ghetto, occupied France, and ultimately London. Mazower’s real life grandfather, Max, could easily have been a character in Janet Fitch’s novel, as a member of the revolutionaries that fought against the tsarist armies. Mazower’s grandmother, Frouma, had an equally eventful upbringing, but it took years of research to find it out. Heavily researched and eloquently told, Mazower’s exploration of his family’s flight from tsarist Russia to finally settling in London reveals a kind of political socialism that has been erased from our daily discourse. The socialism that brought Mazower’s Jewish family out of Russia encompassed the broad spectrum of humanity. Mazower brings that humanism to light along with the unexpected happiness of the defeated in his book What You Did Not Tell: A Russian Past and the Journey Home (940.500). 

In 1982 in upstate New York, two teenaged boys tied a thirteen-year-old girl to a tree and shot her with a BB gun until one eye was a bloody mess. That’s the opening for Christopher Yates’ new novel Grist Mill Road (F).  By 2008, all three teens, now grown, are living in New York City and two of them are married. In an absorbing thriller, Yates spins a terrifying tale of childhood treachery and adult consequences.  

Evolutionary biology is an endless source of fascination. From symbiotic relationships to extreme predation, the ways living creatures have grown to live with, or spite of, each other range from the sublime to the grotesque to the truly bizarre. Matt Simon, science writer for Wired magazine, delves into the world of evolutionary biology in his book The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar(578.540) bringing us into the world of creatures that can choke sharks to death with snot and caterpillars with mind control abilities.          

Also at the Library:
     Hidden Depths (M) by Ann Cleeves
     Shroud of Eternity (F) by Terry Goodkind
     Oathbringer (F) by Brandon Sanderson
     Remodelista: The Organized Home (648.800) by Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick
     The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss (613.250) by Jason Fung, MD

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February #2 2018 

Some writers write from the world they know. Some writers write to create a whole new world. Neil Mukherjee is the latter. The Man Booker Prize nominee’s new novel, A State of Freedom (F), is set in today’s India and follows the lives of several different people displaced by poverty, violence, and the desire for freedom. With fierce compassion and clarity, Mukherjee’s novel lays bare the basic human need for freedom.  

Freedom is exactly what the early European settlers to the Appalachians believed they would have in the mountainous regions of the New World. Freedom, specifically, to hunt, forage, and farm. However, as the Founding Fathers recreated much of what they knew from England, the people hunting and living in the mountains, soon to be known as hillbillies, were legally crowded out of their homes by absentee landlords. This was the first in what author Steven Stoll argues is a long history of disenfranchisement in the Appalachians. His book Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia (333.317) explains the economic history of Appalachia and how the impacts of that disenfranchisement play out today. 

Some people have a knack for telling the perfect joke, others a knack for picking the perfect present. Frank, the owner of a vinyl-only music store, has a knack for picking the right song for the right person at the right time. In 1988, CDs are quickly overtaking vinyl as the preferred delivery method for music of every type, but Frank refuses to give up on vinyl. Together with a collection of comedic misfits, Frank spends his days connecting people with music and spends his nights alone. Alone until Ilse Brachmann walks in, and knocks Frank squarely off-center. Fans of High Fidelity or Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (F) or Lyle Lovett’s song Record Lady will love Rachel Joyce’s new novel The Music Shop (F). 

There are many ways to trace a personal history. Some study genealogy, some record their grandparent’s stories. For Michael Twitty, food connects him to his heritage. Tracing his lineage back to West and Central Africa, Twitty studied the cuisine of those regions, and then how that cuisine changed as it came over with enslaved peoples. His book The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South (641.592) is not only a journey through the South but also an entreaty to heal cultural wounds with a shared love of good food.  

For a city built on drama and fame, highway chases complete with helicopters and search lights are nothing new in Los Angeles. In Ivy Pachoda’s Wonder Valley (F), however, the chase takes places at slow speed, on foot, and the person being chased through the afternoon traffic jam is stark naked. From there, Pachoda spins a dark, surreal thriller through the underside of L. A. Whereas most L. A. noir novels center on Hollywood, Pachoda focuses on the homeless and the runaways that inhabit the city alongside the rich and famous.  

John T. Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a project of the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Tasked with the challenge of recording the cultural history of the South through food, Edge’s new book The Potlikker Papers (641.309) brings a new dignity to food often dismissed, brings to light the South’s pivotal role in the country’s food renaissance, and paints one of the most wide ranging and astute pictures of our racial history available today.  

Also at the Library:
     City of Endless Night (F) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
     Fall From Grace (F) by Danielle Steel
     Dark in Death (M) by J. D. Robb
     Brave (791.430)  by Rose McGowan
     1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (791.437) Steven Jay Schneider, ed.
     Let Dogs by Dogs: Understanding Canine Nature and Mastering the Art of Living with Your Dog (636.700) by
        The Monks of New Skete and Marc Goldberg

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