Staff Picks - 2012 April

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Staff Picks April 2012 (2MB)
DriftDrift by Rachel Maddow

This intelligent, powerful, highly readable book shows how Congress's Constitutional war-making authority has been slyly appropriated by the Executive branch, with much of war now outsourced and the public out of the loop! A must read. ~ Louise Jones

Patagonian HarePatagonian Hare by Claude Lanzmann

A passionate memoir from the director of Shoah. Filled with globetrotting adventure and profound insight, it's as much about how to live as the mysteries of life itself. ~ Reviewed by Charles Bottomley

Autumn In The Heavenly KingdomAutumn In The Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen R. Platt

Superb, sobering, and vastly informative account of the deadliest civil war in recorded history . Should appeal to both serious and beginning students of Chinese history. Careful scholarship, elegant writing, and a cautionary tale about the consequences of foreign meddling. Stephen Platt is a young historian to watch. ~ Bill Lewis
The Lives of Margaret FullerThe Lives of Margaret Fuller by John Matteson

Educated by her exacting father, Fuller was a teacher, writer, conversationalist, editor, an early feminist and transcendentalist, the first foreign correspondent, finally, a revolutionary - brilliant, erratic, original. This stunning, engrossing biography skillfully places the reader in Fuller's many worlds. Thorough research, fine writing ~ Louise Jones
Olympic, Titanic, Britannic: An Illustrated History Of The Olympic Class ShipsOlympic, Titanic, Britannic: An Illustrated History Of The Olympic Class Ships by Mark Chirnside

This is the perfect book for everyone who thought that there was only one Titanic. There were, in actuality, three almost identical White Star superliners. This beautifully illustrated volume is filled with rare photographs and little known facts about the three sisters, only one of which survived to old age. ~ Alden Graves

Love Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives Of American Muslim WomenLove Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives Of American Muslim Women by Ayesha Mattu

These are engaging stories written by American Muslim women hell-bent on changing the misconceptions of their sex and religion. From religious freedom to sexual prowess, polygamy to homosexuality, these women are rebellious, sexual, witty, independent... this astonishing list goes on! Love, Inshallah effectively broke down Muslim habits... ~ Jess Krawczyk
The One: The Life and Music of James BrownThe One: The Life and Music of James Brown by R. J. Smith

The hardest working man in show business could sometimes be the hardest man to work for, but Smith's fantastic biography makes the case that his musical and cultural achievements stand alongside The Beatles and Malcolm X. Impeccably researched, enthusiastic and, like the best of Mr. Please Please Please's music, just plain fun. ~ Charles Bottomley
Eisenhower In War And PeaceEisenhower In War And Peace by Jean Edward Smith

With good reason historians often remind us that the passage of time usually improves our understanding of the past. Proving the point is this superb biography of a president whose reputation is on the rise. There were good reasons why it was easy to "like Ike". Another extraordinary work from Jean Smith. ~ Bill Lewis

Being FlynnBeing Flynn by Nick Flynn

The book formerly known as Another Bull---- Night in Suck City is (for now) Being Flynn, in keeping with the film title starring Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, and Julianne Moore. If the film is half as good as the book, be prepared for something superb. Flynn writes in a unique style about a troubled childhood and an alcoholic, homeless father who re-enters his life after years of estrangement. In the crowded field of literary memoirs, Nick Flynn's story is a stand out. ~ Stan Hynds
NarcopolisNarcopolis by Jeet Thayil

The languorous atmosphere of a Mumbai opium den is majestically evoked in this debut novel. Thayil exposes a side of the maximum city that many other Indian writers ignore. ~ Charles Bottomley
The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

A warmly enveloping novel about two people who come to the realization, too late, that they deeply loved one another. Tyler has that rare gift of emotionally involving her readers with the lives of her characters without a hint of manipulation or contrivance. ~ Alden Graves
The Good FatherThe Good Father by Noah Hawley

First-time novelist Hawley has written a thriller for literary fiction readers. A successful rheumatologist finds out, along with the rest of the world, that his 20 year old son has been accused of assassinating a leading presidential candidate. The evidence against him is overwhelming. The father applies the skills of an expert diagnostician to determine for himself if his son did, or even could, commit the crime. He discovers a young man he hardly knows and a father who was not there for him. ~ Stan Hynds
The Coldest NightsThe Coldest Nights by Robert Olmstead

Don't be misled by this book's cover. While it begins as a story of a young and passionate love affair, this is a book about war. After 17 year old Henry is forcefully removed from his sweetheart, he joins the Marines where the reader accompanies him through the hell of the battle of the Chosin Rervoir. He survives but at great cost. This is a novel about how war never leaves one who has endured it. ~ Stan Hynds
Gods Without MenGods Without Men by Hari Kunzru

Over the centuries, a shimmering patch of California desert is crossed by zealots, aliens, rock stars and a desperate husband and wife--all searching for something to believe in. A book of paranoia and wonder--often indescribable, always astounding. ~ Charles Bottomley
The Map & TerritoryThe Map & Territory by Michel Houellebecq

Roll over Jonathan Franzen and tell David Foster Wallace the news! This Goncourt prizewinner is as acute a dissection of the 21st century human condition as Freedom, as well as a deft literary performance involving a young art star and the dyspeptic writer Houellebecq himself. Shocking, subversive and seductive, few books are as the moment as this one - even fewer are as likely to be read a thousand years from now. ~ Charles Bottomley

Truth Like The SunTruth Like The Sun by Jim Lynch

Even if you have only a vague recollection of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair as a moment in U.S. history, you will be drawn into this fine story of a good man, an exciting city and its painful, sometimes seedy growth, leading to diversity and prosperity. I found this novel an absorbing and thoughtful adventure. ~ Karen Frank

A Long Fatal Love ChaseA Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

What a wild ride! Who knew the smart and sedate author of "Little Women" (etc) could write so passionately about love. This is a real "pot boiler", full of great characters and compromising situations, which is why it was not published in her lifetime. A great vacation read for the literary mind. ~ Karen Frank

The AwakeningThe Awakening by Kate Chopin

I am absolutely fascinated with this novel... and not only because it was temporarily banned in the 20th century for presenting scandalous themes. We follow Edna Pontellier on her quest for sexual, economical, and artistic gratification in lieu of Victorian women's "acceptable" roles. It's an ethical tug-of-war that speaks to women who try to sculpt their own identities in the midst of motherhood and argues that women have individual needs other than a house, husband, and children. The Awakening is rich with haunting images of caged birds, golden rings, and the pull of the sea, making this one of the most intriguing feminist novels I have read.... and a must read for any mother. ~ Jess Krawczyk
The Highest TideThe Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

A lovely and life affirming story suitable for young adult and up. A thirteen year old boy, who is small for his age, lives on the tidal flats of Puget Sound. The dysfunctional marriage of his parents has made him a loner and a seeker and he is obsessed with the rich marine life of this backyard science laboratory. In the time frame of the story he discovers marvels about the sea, the planet, humankind and himself. This is a beautifully written and thought provoking tale about our relationship with the natural world and how to find a place in it, as well as connect with our fellow humans. A great novel. ~ Karen Frank