Staff Picks - 2013 May

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Staff Picks May 2013 (.7MB)

Three novels by the Icelandic writer Sjon, translated by Victoria Cribb.

The Blue Fox, From the Mouth of the Whale, and The Whispering Muse This year's most exciting literary discovery is here with a bang - three of them, actually. Plain prose illuminates surprising depths in these marvelous Icelandic tales of revenge, myth and the balance between savagery and civilization.

More Than FreedomMore Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889 by Stephen Kantrowitz. Reading this brilliant and compelling story may draw you to walk Boston's Black Heritage Trail. Protecting fugitive slaves, fighting the Confederacy and even ending slavery itself were only the first hurdles for Boston's free black population: the ultimate goal was nothing less than full equality. ~ Bill Lewis With or Without You: A MemoirWith or Without You: A Memoir by Domenica Ruta. Growing up in a chaotic, book-devoid, trash-filled home north of Boston, Ruta chronicles the insanity of a family ensnared in addiction, ruled by her locally notorious mother. How she makes her escape while facing her demons makes for a powerful and inspiring story. ~ Amy Palmer Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 by William Dalrymple. With its spies, betrayals and hairraising escapes, this chronicle of the First Afghan War is like something straight out of Kipling or McDonald Fraser. An unputdownable adventure that is also a timely lesson for any of today's would-be conquerors. ~ Charles Bottomley
For Adam's SakeFor Adam's Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England by Allegra di Bonaventura. Colonial New London teems with life, the reader gets up close and personal with an extraordinary cast of characters and their stories are unforgettable. You won't feel you've been watching a quaint costume drama after finishing this book. One of the finest New England history books in decades. ~ Bill Lewis In the Body of the World: A MemoirIn the Body of the World by Eve Ensler. From the author of the amazing Vagina Monologues, an equally important, yet sobering, memoir. Ensler draws irrefutable parallels between her cancer and the raping of Congolese women: each is undeserved, a violent upset, irreversibly damaging, leaving tangible marks upon its victims through disconnect and guilt. Simply astounding. ~ Jess Krawczyk 500 Crochet: Fun Designs & Projects for Blocks, Triangles, Circles & Hearts500 Crochet: Fun Designs and Projects for Blocks, Triangles, Circles & Hearts by Kath Webber and Hannah Elgie. I own several crochet books, but this one is by far my favorite. The size is perfect for travel and the variations on patterns are fun and imaginative. A book that will appeal to novice and expert alike. ~ Sarah Teunissen
Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the NazisSaving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel. Edsel shows how a special Allied arts unit tracked down Italy's hidden art treasures, preventing the Nazis from shipping them to Germany. A sequel to his fascinating The Monuments Men and just as absorbing. ~ Louise Jones

This month browse our Used Book Staff Picks. Check our blog and sign up for the monthly used books enewsletter. ~ Karen Frank

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A Constellation of Vital PhenomenaA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Marra's (astonishingly) first novel defies ordinary adjectives, makes trivial the phrases we commonly use to praise them. His small constellation of Chechen and Russian characters are as vital and phenomenal as any you could ever hope to encounter in a work of literature. ~ Stan Hynds The End of the PointThe End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver. A masterful evocation of time and place, spanning three generations of a New England family who return yearly to a fictitious Massachusetts summer community. A novel about change and the fissures and healing that occur within familial relationships. ~ Amy Palmer AbdicationAbdication by Juliet Nicolson. Splendid historical fiction by a great historian. A different perspective on the familiar tale of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII, told from the point of view of different characters, while darting into little known alleys of London life during this fascinating period. ~ Karen Frank
Maya's NotebookMaya's Notebook by Isabel Allende. The best book I've read in several years. Lyrical, rich, realistic prose; interesting, iconoclastic characters; timeless themes of emotional failings, love, redemption, addiction, family, adolescence, aging, culture. This is a complete book - I put it down feeling nothing was lacking. ~ Chris Morrow Criminal EnterpriseCriminal Enterprise by Owen Laukkanen. A successful family man loses his job during the recession and starts robbing banks to pay the bills. The reader roots for him – at first – then, when things turn ugly, for the cops. Laukkanen grabs the reader by the collar and doesn't let go! ~ Louise Jones The Legend of Pradeep MathewThe Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka. Cross Malamud with Rushdie and you'll get something like this terrific novel about the search for Sri Lanka's greatest athlete. Funny and tender, it's one of the best books about sports fans I've read. ~ Charles Bottomley
Dear LucyDear Lucy by Julie Sarkissian. If you enjoyed Room or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, you'll love this debut novel. What appears to be a straightforward story about a unique young woman named Lucy turns into a much more complicated and disturbing narrative about a family. ~ Jess Krawczyk The FlamethrowersThe Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. A young artist's adventures in "Drop Dead" New York's underground are the basis for one powerful literary performance. Like an art world Visit from the Goon Squad, but way better. ~ Charles Bottomley
Hand-Drying in America: And Other StoriesHand-Drying in America: And Other Stories by Ben Katchor. The secrets of the city are laid bare in these beautiful strips, populated by slugbearers, chair-breakers and cracked-cup inspectors. Katchor is a true comics genius and this is a must for any fan of the weird and wonderful. ~ Charles Bottomley
Marble SeasonMarble Season by Gilbert Hernandez. The endless summer of childhood is perfectly captured by the co-creator of Love and Rockets. A poetic love letter to youthful imagination and Superman re-runs. ~ Charles Bottomley
The Woman UpstairsThe Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. Any woman who thinks of herself as an artist will be seared by Nora's attempts to define herself, allowing her creativity to blossom while living her chosen normal life. An intricate story that poses many questions and offers some answers, full of thought and emotion. ~ Karen Frank A Working Theory of LoveA Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins. It's one thing to create an artificial intelligence program using your late dad's journals. It's quite another when "dad" starts talking back. Hutchins's debut novel is a father-son story unlike any you've read before. ~ Charles Bottomley
A Country Doctor's NotebookA Country Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov. Each of these autobiographical stories from the author of The Master and Margarita glows like a candle in the Russian wilderness, while "Morphine" is a harrowing insight into addiction. ~ Charles Bottomley