Staff Picks - 2011 September

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Staff Picks September 2011 (1MB)

Salvage the BonesSalvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward writes with a power and depth of feeling that is rare and exhilarating. Her novel about twelve days in the life of a poor black family living on the Mississippi coast as a hurricane gathers in the gulf displays the gifts of a writer with exceptional skill and no fear. The characters seem almost to claw their way off the pages, so vividly has Ms. Ward created them. This is a novel of flesh and blood, heart and soul, dreams and terrors that I will not soon forget. - Stan Hynds

Jesmyn Ward is a wonder. In this powerful, absorbing yet poignant novel, the pacing is breathtaking, the tension all-consuming, the characters unforgettable. ~ Louise Jones

The Missing of the SommeThe Missing of the Somme by Geoff Dyer

Like Malcolm Gladwell, Dyer finds connections we didn't even know were there before. Drawing on photos, poetry, architecture and much more, this is a World War I history unlike any other. ~ Charles Bottomley

The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, And War In The West IndiesThe Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, And War In The West Indies by Matthew Parker

A rousing and compelling trifecta of brilliant research, excellent writing, and a very powerful story. You'll finish it quickly, enthusiastically recommend it, always remember it. ~ Bill Lewis

We Is Got HimWe Is Got Him by Carrie Hagen

Two young boys disappear from the front yard of their home in a Philadelphia suburb on a hot July day in 1874. It would prove to be the first kidnapping for ransom in American history. This is a gripping and expertly researched account of a complex and momentous crime. ~ Alden Graves
The Man Who Loved Books Too MuchThe Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

Was it book love or lust - John Gilkey's obsession with owning rare books he couldn't afford? Freshly out of prison, he confided in Bartlett about his thieving ways; she also interviewed the equally obsessive dealer who tracked Gilkey down. A delight for book lovers. ~ Louise Jones
1493: Uncovering The New World Columbus Created1493: Uncovering The New World Columbus Created by Charles G. Mann

Fascinating study explaining that globalization actually began over 500 years ago when germs, plants, animals, technologies, and people swept across hemispheres and onto continents with mixed results. Fact: 80% of immigrants to the western hemisphere from 1500 to the mid-19th century were African.The process continues today. Mann at his most engaging. ~ Bill Lewis
Turn Right At Machu PicchuTurn Right At Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Love to visit Machu Picchu but short on time and money ? Want to hike in the Andes but not really in shape ? Read this book ! Splendid combination of biography, history, and travel journal. Not a single dull page. ~ Bill Lewis
The Girls of Murder CityThe Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry

You can almost hear champagne corks popping in counterpoint with the machine gun fire in this atmospheric revisit to the Jazz Age. The book's two protagonists were immortalized in a contemporary stage comedy that was the basis of the 1940 Ginger Rogers movie, Roxy Hart and later the hit Broadway musical and subsequent film, Chicago. They just don't make dames like Belvah and Beulah anymore and maybe that's just as well. ~ Alden Graves

Desperate Hours: The Epic Rescue Of The Andrea DoriaDesperate Hours: The Epic Rescue Of The Andrea Doria by Richard Goldstein

The Italian liner, Andrea Doria, collided with the Swedish ship, Stockholm, shortly after 11:00 PM on July 25,1956. The bow of the Stockholm, reinforced for traveling in icy Scandinavian waters, sliced deeply into the side of the Doria. Eleven hours later, the Doria settled to the bottom of the Atlantic. The rescue of over two thousand people on the severely listing liner in a dense fog at night provides gripping reading. This is a meticulously researched account of one of the last century's most momentous -- and highly public -- disasters. ~ Alden Graves

Wind Sand and StarsWind Sand and Stars by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

One of the most popular aviation books ever written, Wind, Sand and Stars captures the romance, exhilaration and danger of the early days of flying in Saint-Exupery's classic. Saint-Ex flew perilous mail routes across North Africa and the Andes in the 1920's. The section devoted to his crash in the Sahara in which he and his navigator were marooned for days with virtually no provisions is one of the great survival stories. Death-defying true-life adventure writing combine with deeply philosophical passages to create a memoir unlike any other. ~ Stan Hynds
The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I was dragged kicking and screaming to this book, as it has everything I hate in a novel. Nevertheless I adored this marvelous (literally) tale of rival magicians who raise competing apprentices. This is a true tour de force, the author charmed me right off the bat and kept me enthralled to the very last page. I'm afraid that Erin Morganstern has exposed me as a literary snob, but I'm awfully glad she did. ~ Erik Barnum
The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A very special novel. The reader is invited into the fascinating world of Victorian communication through flowers. We also become deeply involved in the life of a young girl who has just turned 18 and failed in the foster care system. She as well as the other characters are ultimately healed and enriched by the language of flowers. ~ Karen Frank
Where The Shadows LieWhere The Shadows Lie by Michael Ridpath

On "loan" to the Icelandic Police Department while waiting to testify against a Boston Drug Cartel unorthodox Detective Magnus Jonson becomes involved in the murder investigation of a professor which involves a 1000 year old ring, an ancient saga and elves. Originally from Iceland Jonson also begins to explore his dark past which he has avoided for twenty years. Well written thriller with evocative descriptions of the Icelandic landscape. ~ Sarah Knight
On Canaan's SideOn Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry

A very different Irish emigration novel. The author builds a subtle story around Lilly's recollections of her past. Told over a mere seventeen days, the plot shimmers and hovers as the pieces of her past start to fall into place for the reader. Fascinating subtext. ~ Karen Frank
The CutThe Cut by George Pelecanos

The superb Pelecanos introduces a new crime series featuring Spero Lucas, an Iraq War vet now an investigator for a defense attorney. As usual, Pelecanos writes an intriguing, complex story set against his familiar Washington D.C.'s tangled social, political and cultural past and present. ~ Louise Jones
This Beautiful LifeThis Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

A scandalous online video threatens to tear a family apart. To be read in one sitting, this novel rips into the American dream with uncanny accuracy and fierce passion. ~ Charles Bottomley
The Keeper of Lost CausesThe Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

In this U.S. debut of Denmark's most popular mystery writer, prickly, contentious Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Morck is assigned to head a cold case unit, leading to an investigation into the five year-old disappearance of a politician. Excellent character development, twisty plot, a terrific read. ~ Louise Jones
I Married You For HappinessI Married You For Happiness by Lily Tuck

Nothing short of genius, I Married You for Happiness, is my favorite novel of 2011. This is an intimate, honest, brave portrayal of a 40 year imperfect marriage between a painter and an accomplished mathematician. Original. Poetic. Stunning. Radiant. But not for the weak of heart. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
Thirteen Million Dollar PopThirteen Million Dollar Pop by David Levien

A tough, gritty crime novel featuring Frank Behr, a former Indianapolis cop now a PI, caught between his independent moral code and official indifference to a suspicious killing. An exciting, fast-paced read ~ Louise Jones
The Good DaughtersThe Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Great story! I couldn't stop reading about these "birthday sisters"... how their lives intertwined and diverged. Family dynamics are cleverly woven throughout, and the 1960's rural New Hampshire setting was familiar and comforting. ~ Karen Frank
The Three Weissmanns of WestportThe Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

Witty, delightful, insightful, charming. The two Weissmann sisters accompany their mother - dumped by their father for a younger woman - from upscale Manhattan to a shoddy Connecticut beach house and romantic tragedy/comedy ensues. A delightful take on Jane Austen. ~ Louise Jones
VillainVillain by Shuichi Yoshida

A shocking why-dunnit, a bizarre romance and a breathless race against time. A great mystery, sure, but Yoshida also looks deeply into a nation which has lost its soul. ~ Charles Bottomley