Staff Picks - 2010 March

Staff Picks March 2010
The Gardner HeistThe Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft ($14.99 paper) by Ulrich Boser.

A well researched and very entertaining account of the 1990 St. Patrick's Day robbery at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Boser interviewed the late "art detective" Harold Smith who became obsessed with the crime, and he continues the investigation. ~ Sarah Knight

Boser carefully interviews everyone from the only FBI agent on the case to all the unsavory characters seemingly associated with the theft, which included a Vermeer and Rembrandt's only maritime painting, and he has his suspicions. Here's fact that reads like fiction. ~ Louise Jones
Tammy WynetteTammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen by Jimmy McDonough. Wynette, singularly focused on becoming a country music star, attained that goal at a terrible price. From a relatively humble background, never completely comfortable with stardom, she was lost when she realized it all was slipping away. ~ Alden Graves New York's Unique & Unexpected PlacesNew York's Unique & Unexpected Places ($24.95) by Judith Stonehill & Alexandra Stonehill. A delightful guide to fifty unusual places in NYC. Interesting museums like The Skyscraper Museum, small gardens like the Garden of Stones and specialty bookstores like Idlewild Books, a travel bookstore, are a few of the places included. Fun and entertaining. ~ Sarah Knight A New History of Early ChristianityA New History of Early Christianity by Charles Freeman. A veteran scholar with superb writing skills delivers a flawless survey of the first, formative centuries of Christianity. Certainly leaves the reader questioning the value of any religion that allies itself with any state, squelches free inquiry and uses weaponry to do so. Highest Recommendation. ~ Bill Lewis
As If An Enemy's CountryAs If An Enemy's Country: The British Occupation Of Boston And The Origins Of Revolution by Richard Archer. Extraordinary study of tumultuous Boston during the late 1760s that puts the reader on the streets, the wharfs, and on the Commons as issues that led to revolution reached the boiling point. Careful research, crisp writing, and a reading pleasure. ~ Bill Lewis Dancing In the DarkDancing In the Dark by Morris Dickstein. The story of the people who helped America get through the darkest years of the Great Depression. Despite the economic devastation, it was one of the most fruitful periods in the country's cultural history. A meticulously researched chronicle of both the era and its dazzling cast of characters. ~ Alden Graves NEW PAPERBACK
The Age of WonderThe Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes. Utterly fascinating. Kudos to Holmes, who dazzles with his skills as a biographer, science writer and cultural historian - and keeps the reader learning and smiling. A staff favorite. ~ Bill Lewis
Deliver Us From EvilDeliver Us From Evil; the Slavery Question In the Old South by Lacy K. Ford. Comprehensive history of complex and competitive southern attitudes about slavery during the early 19th century. A surprising story. Big, serious, and rewarding. ~ Bill Lewis The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval EnglandThe Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer. The kind of history book you wish you'd had when you were in school. It transports you to a time and place and lets you experience history by engaging your imagination and your senses. A veritable Magical Mystery Tour that leaves the reader refreshed and enlightened. ~ Bill Lewis The Well-Designed Mixed GardenThe Well-Designed Mixed Garden: Building Beds and Borders with Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs by Tracy Disabato-Aust. A master designer shows how to create the most rewarding gardens by mixing all types of plants. Comprehensive, well-organzied and beautiful. ~ Louise Jones
The Age of HomespunThe Age of Homespun: Objects And Stories In The Creation Of An American Myth by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. One of the titles about early American history you'd certainly bring if banished to a desert island. Ulrich is brilliant in telling large stories by focusing on the ordinary. Great scholarship and beautiful writing can co-exist. ~ Bill Lewis ComplicityComplicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery by Anne Farrow, Joel Lanf and Jehifer Frank. Practically perfect starting point for understanding Northern involvement in American slavery. And it was pervasive. One of the best books in an emerging field. ~ Bill Lewis
Walking to GatlinburgWalking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher. Morgan Kinneson searches for his brother, missing since the Gettysburg battle, in this powerful, beautifully written Civil War novel, dappled with magic and fantasy. Mosher will be at the Northshire March 4. ~ Louise Jones Venetia Kelly's Traveling ShowVenetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney. This master storyteller returns to early 20th century Ireland with another splendid tale, drawing from the complex history of the time as well as the emotional culture he knows so well. ~ Karen Frank The Brothers KThe Brothers K by David James Duncan. Duncan has a gift for crafting outrageously eccentric characters and making them undeniably authentic and moving. His disarming humor is subterfuge, masking the ultimately poignant saga of the Chance family. ~ Erik Barnum
Among ThievesAmong Thieves by David Hosp. A plausible, fictionalized thriller about the 1990 Gardner Museum art heist. Scott Finn, a Boston attorney, discovers that a friend was involved in the theft. Mobsters, murder and kidnapping ensue. How these are related and what happened to the art makes a very entertaining read. ~ Sarah Knight The InformerThe Informer by Craig Nova. This elegantly written novel, set mainly in Berlin in 1930, combines crime, espionage and politics. A female police detective tracks a serial killer; a prostitute is conscripted to gather political information from her patrons. Strong characters, vibrant evocation of Weimar Germany's decline, intelligent, highly readable. ~ Louise Jones The UnconsoledThe Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. A frightening, frustrating and ultimately fascinating novel. The narrator, lost in a dreamworld, is living a life that has spiraled out of control. Trapped within a deliciously ludicrous landscape of art and music, he struggles to maintain a semblance of sanity. ~ Cheryl Cornwell
Hell GateHell Gate by Linda Fairstein. A boatload of illegal aliens comes ashore at Rockaway Beach, with one dead. A local congressman is involved in an accident with his lover, now missing. As Alex Cooper investigates, she realizes the two cases are related - and involve behind-the-scenes New York politics. ~ Sarah Knight Where The God of Love Hangs OutWhere The God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom. Each remarkable story is a poignant, insightful, humorous and, at times, terribly uncomfortable read. Bloom approaches the territory of love and loss with a fresh raw vitality, demanding attention and perhaps raising controversy in the process. What a writer! Highly recommended. ~ Nancy Scheemaker In the Time of the ButterfliesIn the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. Algonquin Books has reissued this powerful and mesmerizing novel of politicial and social upheaval in the Dominican Republic, based on the lives of three sisters who fought the Trujillo regime. Also in a new edition is Alvarez's splendid first novel about the immigrant experience, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. ~ Louise Jones
ShannonShannon by Frank Delaney. The onion of history, personal and cultural, is peeled back in this marvelous novel of character. When Father Robert Shannon, an American chaplain in WWI, is sent to Ireland to recover from shellshock, the complexity of his psychic injury is woven through events in Boston and Ireland's troubled climate. ~ Karen Frank The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. A cozy, engrossing read for lovers of old fashioned "Bronte-esque" literature. An intricate plot, involving several generations, traces the family of a little girl abandoned on a boat to Australia. Wonderfully rich locations and characters. ~ Karen Frank
Reasons for and Advantages of BreathingReasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peelle. All but one of these eight strong stories is set in rural and remote areas, commenting on the fragility of nature and the mindless development and sprawl taking place in our time. The characters are complex and always a little bit mysterious, grappling with one form of loss or another. ~ Nancy Scheemaker Ballistics: PoemsBallistics: Poems by Billie Collins. The former Poet Laureate's latest collection of wondrous poetry. His work is at once mischievous and affecting, eloquently observant of the obscure and subversive in everyday life. ~ Louise Jones