Staff Picks - 2010 June

Staff Picks June 2010
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Staff Picks June 2010 (2.3MB)
TinkersTroubles by J. G. Farrell.

At the end of WWI, Brendan Archer returns to Ireland to visit his fiancée, whose family owns a hotel which, like the British Empire, is on the verge of internal collapse, while the IRA menaces outside. Forty years ago this rich, ironic, splendid book was nominated for the Booker Prize, but the committee changed the rules and all 1970 publications were eliminated. Now - 40 years later - the award has come through and Troubles has deservedly won it. Farrell also received the 1973 Booker for his superb The Siege of Krishnapur. Two of my favorite novels. ~ Louise Jones
Rock Paper TigerRock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann.

Entertaining and well written debut novel from Lisa Brackmann. Ellie Cooper is a young woman who is involved with an artist in the fringe art community in contemporary Beijing. When the artist disappears Ellie finds herself in danger from both American and Chinese agents as she uncovers what happened to him. ~ Sarah Knight
The frozen RabbiThe Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern.

Teenage Bernie Karp inadvertently defrosts the body of a rabbi who's been kept in a block of ice by his family since 1889. Alternately serious and surreal, this exercise in black humor examines mysticism, belief and modern American values. A delightful read. ~ Louise Jones
Independent PeopleIndependent People by Hallador Laxness.

This is one of the most beautifully written novels I have ever read. Laxness' Icelandic landscape and its people are vividly imprinted on the pages of this touching tale. The misfortunes and triumphs of Bjartur and his family make this work a truly memorable one. ~ Cheryl Cornwell
Hailey's WarHailey's War by Jodi Compton.

Hailey Cain is a twenty four year West Point drop out who works as a bike messenger in San Francisco. One day an old high school friend, now leader of a Hispanic girl gang in Los Angeles, unexpectedly asks Hailey to take the very innocent cousin of a murdered gang member back to Mexico. (Read More) ~ Sarah Knight
The Same River TwiceThe Same River Twice by Ted Mooney.

Wonderfully written literary thriller. Odile Mevel helps smuggle historical Soviet banners from Russia to Paris. Her partner disappears, her apartment is tossed, she's threatened by Russian thugs and her filmmaker husband's latest project becomes involved in the intrigue. Atmospheric with interesting characters and story. ~ Sarah Knight
Into The Beautiful NorthInto The Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea.

A lighthearted novel about Mexican immigration with a twist. A group of youngsters venture to the U.S. to bring back film heroes to save their town. A delightful and thoughtful story by the author of "The Hummingbird's Daughter". ~ Karen Frank
The PassageThe Passage by Justin Cronin.

This book is awesome! It's a post -apocalypse book, a viruses-gone-wild book, and a vampire book, but at it's core it is an epic story of humanity and the ties that bind us to one another. Like a woven rug, Cronin's fantastic story seamlessly weaves together the narratives of several characters to create a whole and cohesive picture... (Read More) ~ Kate Jensen
Beautiful Maria of My SoulBeautiful Maria of My Soul by Oscar Hijuelos.

The rags to riches story of the glorious woman who broke the heart of Nestor Castillo, the hero of Hijuelos' Pulitzer prize-winning novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Drenched in atmosphere and alive with vibrant personalities. ~ Alden Graves
Every Man Dies AloneEvery Man Dies Alone by Hans FAllada.

After the death of their son during the Nazi assault on France, a German couple launches their own private war against Hitler, leaving inflammatory postcards in public places around Berlin. The book is a grueling chronicle of what proved to be a relatively insignificant assault on the tyranny and brutality of the Third Reich, but it pays a magnificent tribute to the example of courage that can be demonstrated by ordinary people. Fallada's novel is based on an historical incident. ~ Alden Graves
Henry ClayHenry Clay by Jeanne Heidler.

Splendid all the way - a rich biography of the most important American political figure of the 19th century, excepting Andrew Jackson. As smooth as the Kentucky bourbon Clay so enjoyed ! ~ Bill Lewis
The Last HeroThe Last Hero by Howard Bryant.

Serious baseball fans will want to grab The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron, by Howard Bryant. How the major league leader in career runs batted in, not to mention the obvious--one of the greatest home run hitters in the history of the game (#2 on the career list)-- could be under-appreciated is beyond me and yet this book shows how Aaron endured slight after snub throughout his career... ~ Stan Hynds
Lincoln AnthologyLincoln Anthology: 85 Writers On His Life and Legacy From 1860 Until Now by Harold Holzer.

From Emerson to Churchill, from 1860 through the 20th century, an extraordinary and unique treasury of reflective essays that should be essential to any real student of Lincoln. Read Tolstoy (page 386) for starters. ~ Bill Lewis
Furious LoveFurious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner.

A surprisingly thoughtful chronicle of the three-ring circus surrounding the entity that came to be known as "Lizandick." Although the personal trials of two pampered actors might never be called momentous, the book admirably points no fingers or assigns any blame. ~ Alden Graves.
Devil's GateDevil's Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy by David Roberts.

In 1856, five separate groups of Mormons set out on the arduous 1,300 mile journey between Iowa City and Salt Lake City. They were only allowed 17 pounds of belongings that were pushed by hand in wooden carts. Two of the groups began the trek too late in the season and were caught in severe snowstorms in Wyoming. Before rescuers could reach them between 200-240 men, women, and children had perished... (Read More) ~ Alden Graves
True NorthTrue North by Elliott Merrick.

First published in 1933, a splendid tale of survival by an iconoclast who left Manhattan for the Labrador wilds then, with his new wife, accompanied a trapper on a grueling 300-mile hunting trip through the snowy wilderness. Merrick later taught English at UVM. ~ Louise Jones
The Calculus of FriendshipThe Calculus of Friendship by Steven Strogatz.

Strogatz writes about math with incredible clarity and creativity. This book is simply a beautiful and honest story of mutual discovery, by way of the math which these two correspondents love. Just lovely! ~ Leah Wulfman
John WinthropJohn Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father by Francis J. Bremer.

This great work effortlessly takes the reader from East Anglia to Massachusetts Bay, from the late Elizabethan era to the mid-17th century. Simultaneously the finest biography of Winthrop and one of the great history books about early New England. ~ Bill Lewis
Goat SongGoat Song by Brad Kessler.

The author treats us to lyrical musings on a pastoral existence from the unsavory hormonal posturings of the billy goat to the sublime communication between a sweet milk goat and her keeper. He leads us on an important guided tour of an almost abandoned lifestyle, where a lovingly hand made cheese... (Read More) ~ Karen Frank
The ShallowsThe Shallows by Nicholas Carr.

Carr magnificently puts forth the case that the use of The Internet has indeed changed our brain. Not since the book itself became available to all, has our brain experienced such a shift. Backed by scientific studies that are ongoing, he articulates what is gained (multi-tasking, access to massive amounts of information, group connectivity) and what is lost (deep reading, original thought, imagination and empathy). Finally he makes the point that the online world is here to stay and that we must all be mindful of the consequences. ~ Karen Frank
Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the WorldGaviotas: A Village To Reinvent The World by Alan Weisman.

An environ-mental book full of hope! Gaviotas tells the story of the Utopian village created in Columbia that defied all the rules. They set out to prove that people living lightly could thrive, even in an impossible environment. In many ways their little village is more advanced than any major city in the world and it is certainly more sustainable. ~ Krysta Piccoli
The Places In BetweenThe Places In Between by Rory Stewart.

The timing could not be much better for us all to revisit the amazing-walking- journey reporter Rory Stewart undertook across the deep snow covered mountains and between the disparate villages of Afghanistan in 2002. The Places In Between is notable not merely for the sheer brazen, foolhardy guts displayed by Stewart in taking on such an expedition, but even more so for the invaluable insight that his trip provides... (Read More) ~ Jon Fine