Staff Picks 2016 February

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Staff Picks February 2016 (1.6MB)
Early WarningMy Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. The beloved author of Olive Kitteridge does not disappoint in this magnificent story of a mother and daughter. An inescapable tension–and love–develops after Lucy and her mother are reunited. Eloquent and deeply human. ~ Barbara Morrow

A woman recalls her hellish childhood after she receives an unexpected visit from her mother during an extended stay in the hospital. This is a decided change of both place and pace for the author. The novel is an emotionally potent examination of the scars we carry and the ones we inflict upon others. The quiet conversations between the two women are like strolls down a road strewn with landmines, with only a tentative promise of reconciliation at journey’s end. ~ Alden Graves

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll by Peter Guralnick. That one man could have such a profound impact on the musical and cultural trajectory of an entire nation is astounding. That so many people don’t know even who Sam Phillips was or what he accomplished through single-minded determination, passion, instinct, and a unique musical “vision” is even more amazing. His life’s work defined an era and shaped our history. A must read. ~ Jon Fine
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs. A brilliant young man ultimately falls victim to the lure of easy money offered by drug trafficking. Against tremendous odds, Robert Peace was accepted by Yale University, where he majored in molecular physics, but he could never quite shake his life on the mean streets of Newark. This contemporary tragedy, written by Peace’s roommate at Yale, recalls not only a valuable life lost, but an enormous potential wasted. ~ Alden Graves
Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World by Aja Raden. What makes an object precious? Marketing master-minds have known for thousands of years. “You want it because everybody else wants it, and everybody else wants it because someone else has it. Nobody wants it if everyone can have it.” An amusing and informative historical and psychological eye-opener! ~ Karen Frank
Roadshow!: The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s by Matthew Kennedy. You probably didn’t realize how close Julie Andrews came to destroying Hollywood. This is a delightfully readable account of a period in movie history when all the major studios were desperately trying to emulate the success of The Sound of Music. Vastly informative and entertaining without ever being smug or catty. A must read for film buffs. ~ Alden Graves
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This memoir from a young neurosurgeon facing his own terminal cancer diagnosis is emotional, heart-breaking and very thought provoking. As you follow his journey you’ll find yourself reflecting on your own mortality and on what’s important in life and in death. Unforgettable and inspiring! ~ Liz Barnum
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff. A straight-forward account of what happened in Benghazi during the evening/morning of Sept. 11-12, 2012, as told by the security operators defending the Special Mission Compound and CIA Annex. Objective with no intent to analyze. A synopsis of Libyan history lays the foundation for this story of dedication to duty. ~ Nate George
Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks. No one manages to describe the human condition quite like this author. This story traces the mind and soul of Robert and the rest of the characters through two world wars and beyond. While the new science of psychiatry attempts to “fix” the mind, the damage to the soul can never be fathomed. The result for many is passive acceptance, but not necessarily peace. ~ Karen Frank
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild. A wonderfully intricate novel about the provenance of an 18th century painting, coupled with a complex and mysterious cast of characters involving the Holocaust as well as the modern day London art scene. A tour de force, beautifully written. ~ Barbara Morrow
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley. Both a mystery and historical fiction par excellence, this is a witty and articulate novel set in the early Reformation. The quandary of the hero, a former mercenary turned relic hunter, is how do you make a living when everyone starts questioning the authenticity of your treasured discoveries? ~ Maeve Noonan
The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee. The lives of three American expat women living in Hong Kong are woven together. A young Korean American desperately searches for a life for herself, a rich housewife tries to have a child, and the third woman has suffered a traumatic loss. How these women's lives collide and the consequences each must face makes for a compelling and satisfying read. ~ Sarah Knight
Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson. What wonderful, quirky, loveable characters! Nine-year-old Frank, an insomniac with OCD issues and an unusual taste in clothing, is one of the most endearing characters you’ll ever meet. His work-obsessed writer mother hires Alice Whitley to be companion, cook, and chief of all around everything else. Their unintended escapades will have you laughing and or crying and each and every character will stay with you long after you finish the book. ~ Jen Canfield
Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz. A fast paced thrilling adventure, Orphan X is a great spy/specialized agent read that keeps the reader intrigued from beginning to end. An excellent start to the new series by Hurwitz, readers have a new hero in Evan Smoak. Fans of Ludlum and Grisham will enjoy, but great if you love a good story too. ~Misha D'Andrea
The Dressmaker's War by Mary Chamberlain. Ada dreams of a better life in 1939 England. She gets swept up by an Austrian aristocrat and thinks her prayers have been answered. But when the war breaks out during their Paris getaway, her lover vanishes and Ada is taken prisoner by the Germans. For fans of All the Light You Cannot See or The Nightingale comes this unique point of view of World War II. ~Jess Elder
The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura. Walking along a riverbank one night in Tokyo, a young man finds a dead body with a gun beside it. On an impulse, he takes it. The man’s obsession with the weapon makes for a stylish noir in which he contemplates life and death as he spirals toward madness. ~Sarah Knight
After the Crash by Michel Bussi. A three-month-old girl is the only survivor of an airplane crash in the Swiss Alps. There were two girls of that age on the flight. Which one is she -- the rich one or the poor one? Years later, a detective is hired to find out. An tense and involving tale of intrigue and mystery. ~ Sarah Knight
The Other Joseph by Skip Horack. A man sets out from his native Louisiana in the hope of establishing contact with a girl in California, who claims to be his brother's daughter. Mr. Horack masterfully captures his protagonist's nomadic nature and underlines the enormous personal cost of America's foreign policy mistakes. ~ Alden Graves
Coal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman. When forced to return to the Pennsylvania coal mining town she left as a child, Emma Malloy is horrified at the conditions the miners and their families must endure. Her courage and spirit fly in the face of social convention and allow her to expose the illegal and dangerous conduct of the mine owners. This well plotted historical fiction with a surprising twist at the end was an absorbing and satisfying read. ~ Jen Canfield


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I think about this book every day , it is so deeply affecting, the characters are so memorable, the writing is so courageous. But grab hold of your seat because it will take you to deep dark places that you may never have traveled to before. ~ Liz Barnum