Staff Picks - 2011 October

The October 2011 Staff Picks can also be viewed or printed as a PDF
Staff Picks October 2011 (1MB)

NightwoodsNightwoods by Charles Frazier

Brilliant characterizations enveloped in a suspenseful plot remind the reader what great literature is. The story, set in late 1950's North Carolina, vibrates with emotion, yet the writing is precise and delivers a stunning impact. This novel will haunt you. ~ Karen Frank

This book has an almost folkloric quality to it, with unforgettable characters living outside of society - some with peace and dignity, others frightening in their ferocity and oddity. Frazier's descriptions of people and place are exquisite. I couldn't put this book down until the end, which is appropriately ambivalent. ~ Louise Jones

Rin Tin TinRin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, has written a wonderful book about an unlikely subject. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend. Orlean's deft prose illuminates not just the life of the subject but the world he inhabited for eleven generations. It is chock full of fascinating anecdotes and great writing. To call it a great "dog book" is to give it very short shrift. It is a great book. I was bushwacked by this book, expecting an entertaining read about a beloved dog and coming away with so very much more. Highest recommendation, I am a complete sap for this. ~ Erik Barnum

The Savage CityThe Savage City by T. J. English

An unflinching journey back to New York City in the 1960s and 1970s when racial tension, police corruption, and dirty politics seemed to bring the city to its knees. Disturbing,provocative, and impossible to put down. ~ Bill Lewis

The Savage City chronicles a particularly inglorious decade in the history of New York City when racism and extortion were rampant within the ranks of the police department, This is a riveting book about official corruption on a scale so vast that it boggles the mind. ~ Reviewed by Alden Graves

The EndThe End by Ian Kershaw

Why in the name of common sense and simple humanity did Germany fight on long after the war was hopelessly lost ? An absolutely brilliant study of fanatical and delusional Nazis, a cowed military, and of course a weary, fearful, citizenry just hoping it would all end. Kershaw's finest work since his unexcelled biography of Hitler. ~ Bill Lewis
Hemingway's BoatHemingway's Boat by Paul Hendrickson

An extremely perceptive, beautifully written, even-handed biography of this complex man who committed suicide 50 years ago. Hendrickson uses previously unpublished material and delves into Hemingway's relationships with his sons, especially the very troubled Gregory. ~ Louise Jones
John HustonJohn Huston: Courage and Art by Jeffery Meyers

I enjoyed this book, although I never warmed to its subject. Huston charged out of the starting gate as a director in Hollywood and then spent the rest of his career laconically trotting around the track, only sporadically sprinting with projects like Reflections In a Golden Eye and Prizzi's Honor. Off the set, he was castigating and abusive and managed to either alienate or discard anyone who honestly cared about him. ~ Alden Graves

Viva Vegan!Viva Vegan! by Terry Romero

Terry Hope Romero can do no wrong! These recipes are easy and tasty. The ingredients are not hard to find, even in Vermont. The tacos on page 174 are especially amazing. ~ Krysta Piccoli
Death In The City of LightDeath In The City of Light by David King

During their own reign of terror and brutality, Dr. Marcel Petoit committed crimes that caused even the Nazis to draw back in revulsion. Despite the inevitable comparison with Erik Larson's bestseller, Devil In the White City, this blood-curdling account of a serial killer who operated during the German occupation of Paris stands on its own as a uniquely memorable account of the headlong descent into murder and madness. ~ Alden Graves
Prophet's PreyProphet's Prey by Sam Brower

The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints was an offshoot of the Mormon religion that was established when the Mormons rejected the practice of polygamy. Prophet's Prey details the sordid -- some might even suggest inevitable -- result. The FLDS degenerated into a sophisticated criminal organization overseen by a man named Warren Jeffs, who manged to accumulate millions of dollars and over eighty wives, some of them as young as twelve. Brower made it his job for seven years to bring Jeffs and his hypocritical church hierarchy to justice. ~ Alden Graves
Used Cookbook search
The Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Chad Harbach's first novel invites comparisons to at least one modern master. The combination of rich storytelling, fully developed characters whose lives and futures the reader cares about deeply, and crackling dialogue raise The Art of Fielding to a level of pure reading pleasure one finds in the work of Richard Russo. The fact that much of the action takes place on the baseball diamond is almost too good to be true for lovers of sporting fiction. ~ Stan Hynds
Chango's Beads and Two-Tone ShoesChango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy

After an interlude set in Cuba in 1957, Kennedy's novel moves to familiar territory for the author. It is a July night in 1968. Robert Kennedy lies mortally wounded in Los Angeles and simmering race relations in Albany, New York are beginning to boil over. Kennedy skillfully weaves the city's rich history into an exciting and topical narrative. His characters, which here include Ernest Hemingway and Bing Crosby, are as richly drawn as his portrait of the city he so eloquently celebrates. ~ Alden Graves
A Man of PartsA Man of Parts by David Lodge

A brilliant novel that brings to life the good and terrible of this multifaceted man, often in his own word - his enormous, wide ranging literary output; his advocacy of labor rights and women's suffrage; his extremely active sex life - and his era. ~ Louise Jones

Calling Mr. KingCalling Mr. King by Ronald De Feo

Quirky take of a hitman who, at the top of his game, develops a passion for art and architecture. What happens when his job as a contract killer interferes with visits to museums and art galleries makes for both a gritty and delightful read. ~ Sarah Knight
1Q841Q84 by Haruki Murakami

A wild fantasy of parallel worlds, fraudulent novels, cults, lady assassins and cranky bill collectors. Working on his widest canvas yet, Murakami does not disappoint. ~ Charles Bottomley
Tony and SusanTony and Susan by Austin Wright

A complex web spins when a woman is sent her ex-husband's
novel. Rescued from obscurity, this 1994 thriller makes the
reader an accomplice in the ultimate act of vengeance. ~ Charles Bottomley

Ghosts by GaslightGhosts by Gaslight by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers editors

Fans of both Horror and Steampunk will enjoy this chilling collection of Victorian and Edwardian era ghost stories. ~ Sarah Teunissen
The Stranger's ChildThe Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst

Booker prize winner Hollinghurst charts a poem's fortunes in an English novel to beat them all - filled with country houses, garden parties, class conflict and brittle emotion. ~ Charles Bottomley
LucilleLucille by Ludovic Debeurme

The unlikely romance between an anorexic girl and a runaway is beautifully rendered in delicate drawings and moments of emotional rightness. ~ Charles Bottomley
  HabibiHabibi by Craig Thompson

If Persepolis or Jimmy Corrigan grabbed you, prepare to be shaken by this contemporary version of The Arabian Nights. The artwork dances off the page; the love story is a haunting song. ~ Charles Bottomley
The NecrophiliacThe Necrophiliac by Gabrielle Wittkop

Sometimes it takes the story of someone who sleeps with the dead to make you appreciate being alive. ~ Charles Bottomley
FataleFatale by J. P. Manchette

After emptying a shotgun in her husband's guts, our heroine lands in a backwater teeming with secrets and violence. But these guys are messing with the wrong mademoiselle. ~ Charles Bottomley
Bomber CountryBomber Country by Daniel Swift

Daniel Swift's grandfather was shot down over the English Channel during World War II. To understand the pilot's experience during the war, Swift turns to the poetry of Eliot, Auden, Jarrell and others. The resulting biography/memoir is a fascinating look at the mentality of warriors and the destructive cost of combat. Beautiful and profound. ~ Charles Bottomley
Believing is SeeingBelieving is Seeing by Errol Morris

A forensic examination of history's most famous photographs - from the Crimean War to Abu Ghraib - that reads like a great detective story. ~ Charles Bottomley