Staff Picks 2016 August

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Staff Picks August 2016 (1.8MB)
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I Will Send RainI Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows. Set at the start of the Dust Bowl years, families are picking up and escaping Mulehead, Oklahoma. Samuel and Annie Bell, along with their children, have chosen to stay. Enduring the dust, heat, and drought, each family member chooses a different course as they wait for the rain to come. You will be drawn into their personal struggle to survive. Bare and honest, this story of determination is heart wrenching as well as beautiful. ~ Sue Rice

Steinbeck's immortal Joad family decided to leave their desperate lives in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. The Bell family in this emotionally potent new novel elect to stay, placing their faith in God and in each other to sustain them until rain renews the parched land. But, as the hellish storms smother everything in a layer of dust, determination begins to be eroded by despair and resolve becomes resignation. The endurance of this particular family is eloquent testimony to the power of the human spirit. ~ Alden Graves

Miss JaneMiss Jane by Brad Watson. This is an intensely rich story portraying a woman's search for fulfillment, growth and wholeness despite a physical abnormality that no one else can see. Jane Chisolm is a hermaphrodite living in the deep rural south, isolated by her condition and depending upon nature as teacher, healer, and guide. Many passages on this theme are framed magnificently in luminous prose. Watson has delivered an authentic novel about a woman's transcendence. Who wouldn't want to read about that? ~ Nancy Scheemaker
Carousel CourtCarousel Court by Joe McGinniss. What is the American Dream? Money? Power? Career? Watch what happens when a less-than-perfect couple struggle to have it all. With overtones reminiscent of Jonathan Franzen's Corrections and Hubert Selby's Requiem for a Dream, this cautionary tale is a compelling read. ~ Whitney Kaaz
The Heavenly TableThe Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Polluck. After murdering the tyrannical owner of the land they farmed on the Georgia/Alabama border, three brothers make a desperate run for Canada, managing along the way to acquire national reputations as the kind of ruthless outlaws that are immortalized in dime store novels. This is a rollicking and ribald adventure story, populated with shady characters and told in vivid,sparkling prose. Reminiscent of Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers and there is hardly a higher compliment. ~ Alden Graves
The MuseThe Muse Jessie Burton. In her second novel, the author has moved into the 20th century. World War II and the Spanish Civil War are fermenting rampant familial, personal, and political dissent. An art dealer and his family flee the anti-Semitic atmosphere in Germany and find love, solace, inspiration, and pain in the southern wilds of Spain. A great read. ~ Maeve Noonan
The Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. When Mrs. Creasy suddenly goes missing in a small English neighborhood during the summer of 1976, two schoolgirls, Grace and Tillie, decide to find her. Inspired by the vicar's sermon, they are also determined to find God. Rumors and secrets abound behind closed doors, as the girls zero in on the truth. The characters in this debut novel will touch your heart. ~ Amy Palmer
The Book of EstherThe Book of Esther by Emily Barton. This is a novel that defies easy categorization. It is swathed in great philosophical questions, such as , “Do Golem have souls and a conscience? What happens when they do?” This book is the story of Esther, the Biblical warrior queen, retold in the setting of the German invasions of the Khazic Steppes in 1942. Emily Barton is a new and permanent author on my shelf. ~ Maeve Noonan
HarmonyHarmony by Carolyn Parkhurst. Tilly's parents have tried everything to help their gifted daughter to succeed. After she is expelled from her last school, they seem to be out of options until a children's behavioral specialist, who runs Camp Harmony, demonstrates an understanding of the girl. The family gives up everything and moves to the camp, where they meet others facing similar challenges. After an unthinkable tragedy, each person finds a way to become stronger in their search for family unity, individuality, and acceptance. ~ Sue Rice
Another BrooklynAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. August, an anthropologist who studies death rituals in diverse cultures, returns to Brooklyn to attend the funeral of her father. A chance encounter with a childhood friend resurrects vivid memories of growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s. Flashbacks describe the isolation of moving from rural Tennessee to New York, and her vital connection with a close-knit group of bold young women poised on the brink of adulthood. ~ Amy Palmer

In 1970s Brooklyn, four adolescent girls form a deep, transformative friendship. Their bond places them in a dream-like, protective bubble, a space where they can be carefree, happy, and vibrant. Woodson's spare and poetic language recalls the beauty and pain of adolescence, the gracefilled period before we must grow up and become someone. I can't stop thinking about it. ~ Cathy Taylor

Red Platoon: A True Story of American ValorRed Platoon: A True Story of American Valor by Clinton Romesha. Elaborating on Tappert's The Outpost, Former Staff Sergeant Romesha's first hand account of the 2009 attack on Combat Outpost Keating is sobering and dramatic. A tactical and strategic nightmare, COP Keating was considered a death trap with no practical, reliable means of resupply or reinforcement. A thorough, blow by blow, minute by minute recounting. ~ Nate George
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child MurdererThe Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale. A foul odor emanating from a house in London led to the discovery of the badly decomposed body of Emily Coombes in an upstairs bedroom. Her two sons, Robert, 13, and Nathaniel, 12, were charged with her murder. Robert's sensational trial presented authorities with the unique problem of dispensing appropriate justice to such a young offender, one who remained conspicuously unrepentant. An unusual and fascinating true crime story. ~ Alden Graves
Secondhand Time: The Last of the SovietsSecondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich. Alexievich interviews people from all walks of life about the fall of communism in Russia, perestroika, and even invading German armies. Some insist they never liked communism, while others explain why communism worked in Russia. Readers new to Russian history, and even those with a more solid foundation, will find the book thought-provoking. It is an incredible journey during a tumultuous time through the eyes of those who lived it and, at its core, a looking glass into humanity. ~ Sam Williams
Espalier Fruit Trees for Wall, Hedge, and Pergola: Installation, Shaping, CareEspalier Fruit Trees for Wall, Hedge, and Pergola: Installation, Shaping, Care by Karl Pieber and Peter Modl. The use of espalier technique is associated with regions other than the U.S. If you have admired the elegance of this style, it can be created here. This lovely “how to” book details varieties, disease prevention, and strategies to treat disease. ~ Vicki Ward
Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human BodyYour Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin. Beginning with some of the earliest known vertebrates, Shubin guides the reader through the meandering course of human evolution. The book is geared toward the non-scientist with plenty of similes and analogies to alleviate the paleontological and biological jargon. A well-told story of anatomy and genetics and the origins and development of life. ~ Nate George
Hold Still: A Memoir with PhotographsHold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann. This book is the raw footage of the author's life so far. Narrated with grace, humor, honesty and sometimes wonder, she revisits all the corners of her life. The lonely and meticulous process of producing art and the consequences of public scrutiny are quite vivid in this memoir, as well as the terror of notoriety. But what resonates most of all is her wise and peaceful resolve. Clearly, these are valuable life stories from an artist who dares to be original and by doing so has arrived at herself. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother's StoryBarefoot to Avalon: A Brother's Story by David Payne. This is a painful, poignant recollection of the past 20 years of the author's life. There is so much within the story of a brother facing the deteriorating mental health of his sibling that resonates, breaks one's heart, and challenges us to pay attention, stand back, and do the right thing, even when it is the most difficult path. I can't seem to get this book out of my mind. ~ Barbara Morrow
Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied ParisAvenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alex Kershaw. A gripping true story of courage and resistance in occupied Paris. Dr. Summer Jackson was the chief surgeon at the American Hospital. After observing the ever-escalating levels of Nazi brutality, Dr. Jackson, at great danger to himself and his family, became directly involved in an underground network that smuggled imperiled people to safety in Spain and Great Britain. This is a moving testimony to the power of the human spirit. ~ Alden Graves
The New Jim CrowThe New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. This is a disturbing examination of what the author describes as a deliberate campaign to perpetuate the same kind of repressions upon African Americans that were practiced during the slavery and Jim Crow eras. The disproportionate incarceration of black men for drug related crimes and the restrictions placed upon them after release has succeeded in disenfranchising them from society and severely limiting opportunities to better their lives. America, she argues convincingly, will reap a bitter harvest. ~ Alden Graves
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. I generally avoid books that reveal too much reality. These shameful accounts are told in a way that I found utterly compelling. In spite of the clear injustices of these capital punishment cases, Stevenson relates his dogged efforts to rectify them in a clear way that left me with a sense of hope that these evils can and will be overcome. Read it. ~ Heather Belanca
The Nourishing Homestead: One Back-To-The-Land Family S Plan for Cultivating Soil, Skills, and SpiritThe Nourishing Homestead: One Back-To-The-Land Family S Plan for Cultivating Soil, Skills, and Spirit by Ben & Penny Hewitt. A great guide and the story of Hewitt's "practiculture homestead." The book is full of tidbits and gold nuggets on homesteading in the 21st Century from animal husbandry to soil health and making cheese. Perfect for the DIY, farmer, homesteader in your life. ~ Martha Cornwell
Washi Tape Crafts: 110 Ways to Decorate Just about AnythingWashi Tape Crafts: 110 Ways to Decorate Just about Anything by Any Anderson. Finally a Klutz-like book for adults. This great book is perfect for a rainy afternoon, a camp activity, a gift, or just for yourself. I loved making the yuletide candles and feathered napkin rings. The possibilities with washi tape are endless. ~ Martha Cornwell
Eye in the Sky - DVDEye in the Sky - DVD This is a powerful examination of the morality of using drones in the war against terror. The carnage is all inflicted by remote control, but the consequences are no less devastating to innocent people within the radius of destruction. Helen Mirren gives a beautifully nuanced performance as a British military officer weighing the consequences of a missile strike in a civilian neighborhood. Thought-provoking, topical, and emotionally potent. ~ Alden Graves