Staff Picks - 2012 June

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Staff Picks June 2012 (705KB)
The Ball

The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game by John Fox. With the mind of an anthropologist's and heart of a fan, Fox chases many balls in this thoroughly entertaining book about the best toy ever invented. From the familiar (American football) to the obscure (ulama), a wonderful read for anyone who has ever wondered why we play. ~ Stan Hynds

If God hadn't invented the ball, humanity would have had to. Oh wait - we did! This fascinating, funny, wise examination of our obsession with spherical objects is an educational delight with an amazing historical scope. More importantly, you'll be unable to resist the primal urge to go out and play! ~ Karen Frank

The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812 by Troy Bickham. Why did it happen? Who won? The war was relatively brief, overall casualties limited, no major territorial adjustments resulted. Yet it was contested in deadly earnest and the stakes were high. A superb study of a war poorly understood if even remembered. ~ Bill Lewis Enemies: A History of the F.B.I.Enemies: A History of the F.B.I. by Tim Weiner. A comprehensive history of an organization that has been at the vanguard of every major national and international trauma of the past century, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Informative and compelling, but probably not reassuring, on the state of the American intelligence network. ~ Alden Graves.
America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the UnionAmerica's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union by Fergus M. Bordewich. Loaded pistols drawn in the Senate, a governor invading a foreign country, states convening to secede, armies on the march. The Civil War should have begun in 1850. A fascinating study of memorable characters narrowly avoiding catastrophe - for a while. Terrific, page-turning history. Highest Recommendation. ~ Bill Lewis The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and FamilyThe New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family by Madeleine Kunin. Vermont's former governor proves that the personal really is political in this informative - and slightly frightening - account of how the United States lags behind nearly every advanced country in paid family leave, child care and women in office, and what we can do about it. ~ Jessica Krawczyk
HitlerlandHitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski. Fascinating, surprising that this is the first book of its kind. Picks up where Erik Larson's In the Garden of the Beasts leaves off and in many ways is more stimulating because it's more comprehensive. A welcome read for serious and casual students of Hitlerian Germany. ~ Bill Lewis Twilight of the ElitesTwilight of the Elites by Christopher Hayes. One of the smartest books I have read by the host of Up with Chris Hayes, the smartest political show on television, showing how the American elite has embraced the new financial and social inequality that sets them apart, making them more prone to failure and corruption. Cogent, clear, savvy. ~ Erik Barnum In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab EmpireIn the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire by Tom Holland. In explaining how Islam arose from the ashes of the Roman Empire, Holland demonstrates how East and West have always uneasily rubbed shoulders. A provocative, revelatory history. ~ Charles Bottomley
Baby's in BlackBaby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf. The Beatles' years in Hamburg, as experienced by the Germans who became their first fans. The gorgeous charcoal illustrations are so atmospheric, you can smell the cigarette smoke. ~ Charles Bottomley NonNonBaNonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki. This wonderful graphic memoir recounts the childhood of a master Japanese cartoonist, filled with youthful hijinks, supernatural beings and an unexpectedly heartbreaking friendship. ~ Charles Bottomley
CanadaCanada by Richard Ford. A 15-yearold boy is left virtually alone after his parents unsuccessfully rob a bank. To save him from placement in a state home, a friend transports him to Canada into the care of a mysterious - and unstable - American expatriate. Beautifully written and emotionally involving. ~ Alden Graves

Ford's introspective writing is eloquent and absorbing. ~ Louise Jones
CapitalCapital by John Lanchester. Lanchester examines the disparate lives of the residents of one street - once working-class, now posh - in 2008 London. Longtime residents, immigrants and the newly rich start receiving postcards picturing their homes with an ominous message. Foreboding and humor join in this stylish and irresistible novel. ~ Stan Hynds Heading Out to WonderfulHeading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick. When a writer introduces a character of depth and complexity like Charlie Beale, you know you're in for a great read. For good or ill, events unfold driven by passion, affection, respect and all the emotions between. A remarkable novel about the bottomless well of human feelings. ~ Karen Frank
A Lady Cyclist's Guide to KashgarA Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson. An engaging, richly textured first novel spanning time and place. In 1923, two English missionary sisters travel to western China; their experiences connect 80 years later with a woman in London. Joinson evokes intellectual and emotional differences, and cultural and physical landscapes, that divide but transform our lives. ~ Louise Jones InterventionsInterventions by Richard Russo. Two stories, one novella and a most affecting, bittersweet tribute to Russo's family and hometown, Gloversville NY, comprise this beautifully packaged set, illustrated by Russo's daughter Kate. Subjects range from the travails of a contemporary Maine real estate agent to the life of a reluctant nun. ~ Alden Graves The Second-Last Woman in EnglandThe Second-Last Woman in England by Maggie Joel. The dark despair of post- WWII London creeps up on the reader as the story twists and turns like the back alley of a bombed-out neighborhood. A wealthy family's multiple secrets are gradually revealed in this gripping novel that delivers one thoughtful shock after another. ~ Karen Frank
The Last NudeThe Last Nude by Ellis Avery. A tour through decadent art deco Paris in the company of an ambitious artist and her gorgeous model. Filled with backstabbing and bitchery, Avery's sparkling novel is one delicious read. ~ Charles Bottomley Stranger Here BelowStranger Here Below by Joyce Hinnefeld. This spare yet intense novel won't take up a great deal of your time but will carve a permanent place in your soul. Strains of old time music and Shaker history frame the story of two friends and the family histories that shape their lives. ~ Karen Frank LuminariumLuminarium by Alex Shakar. Few books have knocked me out quite like this one has - an unclassifiable tale about avatars, magicians and dealing with existence in both the real and digital worlds. Shakar isn't just a writer to watch; he's right there in the front line. ~ Charles Bottomley
The YardThe Yard by Alex Grecian. One year after the last Jack the Ripper killing rocked London, another series of grisly murders begins in the city. This time, the targets seem to be policemen. Involving and atmospheric thriller with some clever tie-ins to the original -- and all too real -- reign of terror. ~ Alden Graves The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. In a world where women are valued and classified based on their reproductive abilities, one Handmaid, Offred, tells a frightening tale of domination, silenced voices and ultimate fear in the not-so-distant future. Sends chills up your spine - impossible to put down. ~ Jessica Krawczyk