Staff Picks - 2012 January

The January 2012 Staff Picks can also be viewed or printed as a PDF
Staff Picks January 2012 (1MB)
A Thousand LivesA Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres

This is a meticulous look at one of the great tragedies of modern times, a story of religion distorted and faith betrayed. Jim Jones began his ministry as a crusader for racial equality and ended it submerged in a murderous, drug-induced madness. Ms. Scheeres details the long trek from Jones' first church in Indianapolis to the final stand of the People's Temple at their compound in Guyana. Horror on a truly epic scale. ~ Alden Graves

The Siege of Fort William HenryThe Siege of Fort William Henry by Ben Huges

Fascinating starting point for those who may not realize that The Last of the Mohicans is based on extraordinary events that occurred very nearby at Lake George in 1757. A reliable and understandable introduction to the dangerous world of French, English and Indian colonial relationships. ~ Reviewed by Bill Lewis


PulpheadPulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan

Hip takes on everything from Christian rock to W. Axl Rose to Tennessee's prehistoric cave paintings, from one of the smartest new voices around. ~ Charles Bottomley
Midnight RisingMidnight Rising by Tony Horwitz

Tony Horwitz invests one of the greatest of American enigmas with flesh, blood, and a remarkable clarity of thought. John Brown had a singular focus that overrode every other aspect of his difficult life -- the abolition of slavery in America, which he regarded not only as a barbaric institution designed to benefit wealthy and influential landowners in the South,... ~ Alden Graves
A History of the World in 100 ObjectsA History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

An informative delight that will astonish. MacGregor uses 100 objects from the British Museum collection to tell the history of human invention, innovation and creation in succinct short chapters that stir the imagination. Superb photographs of every item and expert writing. ~ Bill Lewis

The Nesting SeasonThe Nesting Season by Bernd Heinrich

Part colorful memoir, part scientific investigation in a charming and provocative book by the well-known UVM Professor Emeritus of Biology. Observing nesting birds at his rural Vermont home and cabin in the Maine woods, he muses on the similarities between their behavior and ours. ~ Louise Jones
Following AtticusFollowing Atticus by Tom Ryan

I fell in love with Atticus Maxwell Finch within the first pages of meeting him. Atticus' unique personality, will-power, and relationship with his two-legged companion Tom pulled me into their incredible story. Any dog-lover will appreciate the unique bond between Tom and Atticus and support them as they put their lives on the line to benefit humans and animals alike... ~ Jess Krawczyk
ZonaZona by Geoff Dyer

Not just a brilliant essay about Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker--one of the most forbidding/wonderful films ever made--but a lyrical ode to watching in the dark. See it! Read this! ~ Charles Bottomley
BreakdownBreakdown by Sara Paretsky

Chicago private eye V.I. Warshawski's latest case begins simply - rounding up some hookey-playing tweens - but widens to involve murder, politics and personal secrets. V.I. is tough, persistent, cranky - but what other contemporary sleuth takes public transportation? ~ Louise Jones
The ConfessionThe Confession by Charles Todd

It's 1920 and WW 1 veteran Inspector Ian Rutledge has one single clue into the investigation of the body of a murder victim found floating in the Thames. What starts as a search for the man's true identity leads to the discovery of two additional mysterious deaths at the beginning of The Great War. Once again Todd weaves a splendid tale of intrigue and murder. ~ Sarah Teunissen
Ghost LightGhost Light by Joseph O'Connor

This novelization of the relationship between the great playwright Synge and actress Molly Allgood, reads a bit like Joyce without the obscure references. Though it takes place within a single day, the stream of memories flows beautifully and creates a fascinating portrait of these characters and the complex Ireland they lived in. ~ Karen Frank
Death Comes to PemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

On a stormy night six years after the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy a man is found dead in the woods surrounding Pemberley Estate. Worse news is yet to come, the dead man is a friend of their ne'er do well brother in law, George Wickham. PD James does Jane Austen proud in this murder mystery woven out of the beloved characters from Pride and Prejudice. ~ Sarah Teunissen
There But For TheThere But For The by Ali Smith

A dinner guest locks himself in his hosts' bedroom and won't leave. A brainteaser filled with mischievous play and keen insight. ~ Charles Bottomley

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective AgencyDirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

After the onslaught of new titles during the holidays, it's nice to kick back with an old favorite. If you liked The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you'll love the lesser known and fantastically quirky Dirk Gently. ~ Krysta Piccoli
Out of OzOut of Oz by Gregory Maguire

It's here at last! I didn't want this series to end, but I'm so glad Maguire did so with such intensity and realism. Well, as much realism as you can get for a series inspired by the Wicked Witch of the West. This time around we follow Elphaba's granddaughter Rain as she navigates through warring Oz... ~ Jess Krawczyk
The RetributionThe Retribution by Val McDermid

Police detective Carol Jordan and profiler Tony Hill are targeted by an escaped psychopath they put in jail years ago (A Wire in the Blood). Meanwhile, another serial killer is on the loose. The stellar McDermid ratchets up the tension and suspense as Jordan's cops must find both criminals. ~ Louise Jones
How The Dead LiveHow The Dead Live by Derek Raymond

My discovery of 2011 was this unforgettable series of crime novels set in villainous '80s London. Dark, despairing and sometimes downright repellant. ~ Charles Bottomley