Staff Picks - 2011 January

Staff Picks January 2011
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Staff Picks January 2011 (600KB)
Bird CloudBird Cloud by Annie Proulx

Among Proulx's many strengths is her vivid evocation of place, and this - her first non-fiction in many years - is an eloquent memoir of the landscapes in her life. Her recounting of her peripatetic childhood will please her fans, but it is her purchase of a 640-acre Wyoming nature preserve and, especially, the building of her dream house by a group of master builders that occupies most of this splendid book. With characteristic humor, irony, imagination and curiosity, she describes the planning, building, successes and disappointments, as well as engrossing diversions into the natural and human history of Bird Cloud. ~ Louise Jones
BloodrootBloodroot by Amy Greene

This stunning debut novel tells the story of three generations of a family living deep in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee. Poverty, magic, suffering and redemption abound! You will not want to put this one down! ~ Liz Barnum
The ImperfectionistsThe Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

This is a terrifically written collection of linked short stories set at a English-language newpaper in Rome. Some of the stories have O. Henry-like endings. Dazzling. ~ Stan Hynds
Little BigLittle Big by John Crowley

This is a classic fantasy novel worthy of reading more than once, an epic of a family history and the making of a house, imbued with magic and wonder. With an amazing sense of place filled with remarkable details. ~ Whitney Kaaz
Beneath The Lion's GazeBeneath The Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste

This moving portrayal of a family negotiating the stormy waters of revolutionary Ethiopia is a must read. Mengiste's characters don't seem fictitious at all. Their love, loyalty, heartbreak, and fiery vigilance make for a truly compelling story of war. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
The Hand That First Held MineThe Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

What seems at first to be an interesting character study evolves into a stunning novel about intertwining lives and family history. When the light finally dawns, the reader has already been pulled deeply into everyone's lives and can only gasp at the artistry ~ Karen Frank
The Gift of RainThe Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

The Gift of Rain is a beautifully executed treatise on loyalty, betrayal, and the redemptive power of forgiveness. Set in Penang during the 1930s, this novel recounts the youth of an aging Philip Hutton, the half-Chinese son of a powerful British family... ~ Cheryl Cornwell
The Lotus EatersThe Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

This finely drawn novel tells the dramatic story of war correspondents caught in the vast, ever shifting quagmire of Vietnam. Three main characters fall in love with the country, the Vietnamese, and ultimately one another as they pursue the most desperate and dangerous moments... ~ Nancy Scheemaker
Starman Omnibus #1Starman Omnibus #1 by James Robinson

Thanks to our Random House rep, Michael Kindness, I am hooked on a superhero graphic novel, Starman. James Robinson is the author, and it is a literate and surprisingly grounded take on the genre. It is a finite tale, taking place over 6 anthologies, of which five are currently available, to my mind each one better than the last... ~ Erik Barnum
RebeccaRebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

A wealthy, secretive widower brings his unworldly young second wife to his country estate, where everything is overshadowed by the memory of her predecessor, Rebecca. A suspenseful page turner. ~ Sarah Teunissen

Clara and Mr. TiffanyClara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Another great story from Vreeland, who writes novels about historical figures in the arts. This is a fascinating portrait of the life and times of the woman who contributed so many design ideas to the Tiffany Company, including the concept of the stained glass lampshade. Detailed description of the creation and execution of stained glass as well as a study of the role of women in the New York art scene of the period. Marvelous! ~ Karen Frank
Skinny Legs and AllSkinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

Tom Robbins' unparalleled gift for weaving dazzling thematic tapestries from such seemingly disparate strands as art history, ethno-political insight, profane taboo-smashing and utter whimsy was never more strikingly on display than in Skinny Legs and All. This was the first Robbins novel I ever read, and still one of my all time favorite novels. Pure genius! ~ Jon Fine
GriftopiaGriftopia by Matt Taibbi

Taibbi, one of today's few fearless journalists, directs his unflinching gaze and stimulating, often profane prose at the financial industry. With total grasp of the subject, he not only takes the financial giants to task, but burns down their houses. Highly recommended ~ Erik Barnum
Bridge of SpiesBridge of Spies by Giles Whittell

A close examination of the first prisoner exchange between the USSR and the US in 1962: Col. Rudolf Abel for U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers (remember him?). A fascinating, well researched look at the political climate that reads like a spy novel. ~ Louise Jones
The Killing of Crazy HorseThe Killing of Crazy Horse by Thomas Powers

My favorite western Native American history book of 2010. Powerful writing that relentlessly builds tension and keeps the reader turning the pages. A winner ~ Bill Lewis
Frontier FeministFrontier Feminist by Marilyn S. Blackwell

This is a masterfully researched biography of one of the pioneering mothers of the women's rights movement. Beginning with her birth in Townshend, VT, Nichols' biography spans the length of her life highlighting her advocacy for westward expansion and her work for social and political reform. Highly readable and endlessly fascinating. ~ Cheryl Cornwell
Toward The Setting SunToward The Setting Sun by Brian Hicks

The expulsion of the Cherokees from their ancestral and legally acknowledged homeland was nothing short of criminal and immoral. This insightful, splendidly written account focuses on John Ross's principled, desperate and ultimately ineffective attempts to save his people. Stirring. ~ Bill Lewis
Desert SolitaireDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

Ed Abbey's definitive work. Desert Solitaire is a literary love affair with the southwest. There is beauty in the harsh cruelty of life in the wilderness of the Utah desert. ~ Krysta Piccoli
Brunelleschi's DomeBrunelleschi's Dome by Ross King

King's engrossing account of the political, personal and artistic jealousies that fueled the design and construction of a major architectural innovation of 15th century Florence - the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral - reads like a novel. ~ Louise Jones
We Go As CaptivesWe Go As Captives by Neil Goodwin

We are thrilled to discover and recommend this meticulously researched, marvelously illustrated and terrifically exciting tale of Vermonters caught up (literally) in the brutal violence of the Revolutionary War. Absolute winner. Author Appearance At Northshire on February 26. ~ Bill Lewis
Naturally Curious by Mary Holland Naturally Curious

Vermonter Holland's curiosity emphasizes the unusual - she stores beaver castor glands in her home freezer - but the comprehensive details she provides will enthrall experienced naturalists as well as beginners. A charming and visually astounding book, with nearly 1,000 color photographs. ~ Louise Jones
A Mountain of CrumbsA Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova

A graceful and engaging memoir of the author's coming of age in the former Soviet Union during the 1960's and 1970's. Exceptionally well written and notable for being upbeat, in contrast to so many "poor me" stories in this genre. As an American woman who grew up in the same period, I found the juxtaposition of the two cultures fascinating and beautifully told. ~ Cynthia Richards
Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont by Jeremy Davis Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont

A photographic journey back in time to 60 ski areas, of which 14 are still in operation. Most of the originals were run by families or communities, and Davis recounts the reasons for their demise, whether societal, financial, geographic or climatic. ~ Louise Jones
Early SpringEarly Spring by Amy Seidl

Seidl, an environmental research scholar at Middlebury, notes the subtle, incremental seasonal changes in the central Vermont hollow where she lives with her husband and two young daughters, showing how these changes are altering the way we live. ~ Louise Jones