Staff Picks - 2011 May

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Staff Picks May 2011 (487KB)
The InformantThe Informant by Thomas Perry

This third Butcher's Boy novel is everything you expect from the superb Edgar-winner Perry: intricate plot, existential questions of identity, witty dialogue, pace that leaves you breathless, well-crafted characters, believable technology, a protagonist with no redeeming qualities that you root for. I loved it! ~ Louise Jones
DocDoc by Mary Doria Russell

I would not have read this wonderful novel had I not known of Mary Doria Russell's superb storytelling skills. This is the story of Doc Holliday's life told from the perspective of a cultural anthropologist - with Dodge City as the Petri dish under Russell's literary microscope. The author's seemingly simple prose soon dragoons you into experiencing the dusty daily life of her consumptive protagonist, as he coughs his way into Western legend. ~ Erik Barnum
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell SimThe Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe

Maxwell Sim is out of work, newly divorced, and clinically depressed. He has just returned from Australia where he failed to renew any sort of bond between himself and his distant and estranged father. How then can this book be so funny? Of course, it's a dark sort of humor but Jonathan Coe has crafted a brilliant tragic-comic tale with a hero who can't help but make a mess of his life. Despondent upon his return from Australia, he lucks into a job selling environmentally- friendly toothbrushes... ~ Stan Hynds
Caleb's CrossingCaleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Ms. Brooks' fourth novel is set on Nantucket and in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the 17th century. Sweeping ambitions and a passionate intent are apparent on every page. As she did with a small English village in Year of Wonders, with the American Civil War in March... ~ Alden Graves
FaithFaith by Jennifer Haigh

The already delicate interrelationship between the members of an Irish Catholic family is pushed to the breaking point when the eldest son, a priest, is accused of molesting a child. This is an emotionally potent and still topical examination of the destructive power of an accusation... ~ Alden Graves
The Fallen AngelThe Fallen Angel by David Hewson

When an English academic working in Rome falls to his death, the police must determine the cause. In this many layered, well-crafted ninth Nic Costa mystery, Hewson works Roman history and the city itself into the fabric of the investigation. An excellent read. ~ Louise Jones
The Particular Sadness Of Lemon CakeThe Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

It is so interesting how the characters in this novel shape their lives around a special gift that makes them different. Rose is cursed/blessed with the ability to taste the emotions of the person who made the food she is eating. A fascinating and complex tale unfolds that makes this alternate reality believable and poignant. ~ Karen Frank
The SnowmanThe Snowman by Jo Nesbo

He kills at first snow of each season and leaves a snowman. He only kills women who are mothers. Will Oslo Detective Inspector Harry Hole catch the killer or succumb to this evil. Excellent and scary. ~ Sarah Knight
What You See In The DarkWhat You See In The Dark by Manuel Munoz

A murder in the dusty and depressed town of Bakersfield, California coincides with the filming of location scenes for "Psycho." Among the characters in this intriguing and ambiguous novel are a hunky bartender, his lovelorn mother, an innocent young woman aspiring to be a singer, Janet Leigh, and Alfred Hitchcock. Totally original work that dares to leave some questions unnervingly unanswered. ~ Alden Graves
The Summer Without MenThe Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt

After poet Mia Fredrickson's husband leaves her, she flees Manhattan to her Minnesota hometown, where she's enveloped by her aged mother and five women friends, an unhappy young mother, seven teenage girls studying poetry. An insightful rumination on places where the sexes and generations rub shoulders. ~ Louise Jones
America AflameAmerica Aflame: How The Civil War Transformed America by David Goldfield

Thought provoking study that seeks to explain why the Civil War was unnecessary. The research and writing are excellent...though discerning readers may not agree withe author's premises. Stimulating. ~ Bill Lewis
In The Garden of BeastsIn The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

When Franklin Roosevelt offered William Dodd, an introverted college professor from Chicago, the post of American ambassador to Germany in 1933, Dodd accepted partially because he wished to expand his family's horizons. They were expanded beyond Mr. Dodd's wildest dreams (perhaps nightmares would be a more appropriate word). Engrossing and intimate look at the calculated formulation of murder and terror as official state policy, told from the standpoint of an American family that watched the horror as it unfolded. ~ Alden Graves
Cleopatra the GreatCleopatra the Great: The Woman Behind the Legend by Joann Fletcher

Being a monarch had its perks but, in Cleopatra's time, it was quite possibly the most dangerous and short-lived of all careers, especially if you had a lot of relatives. Despite the odds, Cleopatra very nearly succeeded in restoring the Ptolemaic Empire to its former glory. The author makes the life and times of one of history's most important women come vibrantly alive. This is a uniquely detailed look at a complex and volatile world that has always been half hidden in the smoke of myths and legends. ~ Alden Graves
1861: The Civil War Awakening1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart

A remarkably successful piece of history writing that powerfully conveys the cultural mood of the country at the the war approached. Splendid writing, crammed with fascinating info, and feeling at times like very good time-travel. ~ Bill Lewis
Blood, Bones, and ButterBlood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Blood, Bones and Butter Gabrielle Hamilton An entertaining, irreverent and honest memoir, Hamilton, the owner and chef of NY City's restaurant Prune, writes of her journey through life,and how her passion for good food and good eating shaped it. Her other passion is writing and it shows! ~ Liz Barnum
A Bittersweet SeasonA Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents - and Ourselves by Jane Gross

Being intimately involved with the lives of our aging parents can be intense, all consuming and quite an experience navigating through. It can also be a joyous and wonderful time! Through her personal experiences, Jane offers advice, answers questions and helps unravel the mysteries of dealing with Nursing homes, Assisted Living, Medicare... ~ Liz Barnum
Johnny AppleseedJohnny Appleseed: The Man, The Myth, The American Story by Howard Means

We hope this juicy looking biography gets to the core of the man, peels away generations of myth, and sows the seeds for further learning. Worm your way into this polished looking work and let us know if it's rotten, delicious, or even saucy. ~ Bill Lewis
Malcolm XMalcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

X's journey from washing dishes with Redd Foxx to appearing on an Iranian postage stamp is a uniquely American story of jazz, religion and the sometimes violent struggle for equality. A gripping account of one of the 20th century's most controversial and complex figures. ~ Charles Bottomley
Founding GardenersFounding Gardeners: The Revolu-tionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf

Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison believed agriculture was the noble basis of democracy. In their lives and writing, their obsession with it shaped their political philosophies. Literate and fascinating look at our founders. A beautiful book with garden diagrams and color illustrations. ~ Louise Jones
Otherwise Known As The Human ConditionOtherwise Known As The Human Condition by Geoff Dyer

A man who appears to know everything and just the right way to say it, Geoff Dyer communicates an infectious excitement whether writing about Rodin, donuts, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or war reportage. He even makes jazz fusion seem interesting. I can think of no higher achievement. ~ Charles Bottomley

Animal FactoryAnimal Factory by David Kirby

Finally, a book about the direct negative impact of factory farms on people, their communities and the environment. It doesn't discuss animal welfare issues, but instead focuses on three different people and their battles with the CAFOs that come to their communities. ~ Krysta Piccoli

The Last HeroThe Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron 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. Bryant's book is a comprehensive look at the life of a man and a ball player who may just deserve the designation of hero. ~ Stan Hynds
eaartheaarth by Bill McKibben

This book should be required reading for everyone on the planet. Eaarth makes it clear that we're not saving our children anymore, we're saving ourselves. McKibben uses Vermont as a model for sustainability, but talks about large-scale projects also. No book makes it more clear that it's time to adapt to the world we've created. ~ Krysta Piccoli
Unlikely AlliesUnlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution by Joel Richard Paul

In 1776 the Continental Congress sent Silas Dean, a wealthy Connecticut merchant and a representative to the Congress, to France to plead Louis XV for financial aid. He was assisted by two Frenchmen but ran into more double-dealing, back-stabbing, dishonesty and fraud than he - or anyone - could imagine. An eye-opening book, well-researched and entertaining. ~ Louise Jones