Staff Picks 2016 September

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Staff Picks September 2016 (1.3MB)
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The Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Cora, a young woman born into slavery, has known no life beyond the bounds of her Georgia plantation before a fellow slave named Caesar convinces her to escape their bondage. Following the Underground Railroad, a mysterious labyrinth of tunnels and conductors, they set out on an arduous journey north. Weaving together the narratives of diverse characters and their varying sympathies, Whitehead portrays an America built on exploitation and fear and the choices its people make to strengthen or break that punishing system. Brutal, haunting, yet ultimately hopeful, this book will linger with you long after the last page. ~ Cathy Taylor
A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. With a light historical touch and a healthy dose of Tolstoyan philosophy, this novel grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. Returning to Moscow after The Revolution, mild mannered Count Rostov is placed under house arrest at the iconic Metropol Hotel. For the next 40 years he lives a well examined life interacting with marvelous characters and reflecting on the unique Russian personality while the tide of 20th century history ebbs and flows around him. Humorous, detailed and profound, this perfect and delightful story will steal your soul. ~ Karen Frank
The BallroomThe Ballroom by Anna Hope. A “progressive” asylum in 1911 Yorkshire is the setting for this poignant love story. With just enough meaty history to raise this novel to another level, the reader is drawn into the upheaval brought about by the disappearance of the rural way of life and the social turbulence which marked this period in England just before WWI. The eugenics movement is in its infancy and is championed by some surprising well known figures. Delightfully reminiscent of Thomas Hardy in atmosphere and descriptive language. ~ Karen Frank
MischlingMischling by Affinity Konar. All the appropriate adjectives fall short and sound cliched. Unflinching, heartbreaking, life-affirming, devastating. But they are accurate. Konar shows us humanity at its most depraved and its most resilient in this novel about a pair of Polish twins imprisoned at Auschwitz by the Angel of Death. ~ Stan Hynds
LaRoseLaRose Louise Erdrich. When Ojibwe Landreaux Iron accidentally shoots his neighbor's son, he and his wife seek guidance from the spirit realm and are directed to give their own son, LaRose, to the grieving family as an ancient means of retribution.The boy becomes a bridge between the two families, between ancestral roots and present family, between the corporeal and the spiritual. ~ Amy Palmer
Cooking for PicassoCooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray. This is the perfect summer read! The French Riviera had never looked so good. Art, beautiful food, secret affairs, and missing pieces of the past make this novel unputdownable! ~ Whitney Kaaz
The Invisible Life of Ivan IsaenkoThe Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach. Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko has lived his entire life at the Hospital For Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. His universe shifts when recently orphaned, terminally ill, gorgeous Polina arrives. This is their original, shocking, beautiful and absolutely sad love story. I loved Stambach's writing style and humor even when I was cringing. ~ Gail Cosgriff
Mr. EternityMr. Eternity by Aaron Thier. Mr. Eternity is fabulous! An adventure story - numerous adventure stories - with the same unforgettable protagonist set in different time periods. Filled with humor, social commentary and explorations of life and death, this unique book ultimately brings forth an appreciation of what it is to be human. So much fun to read! ~ Chris Morrow
The SubsidiaryThe Subsidiary by Matias Celedon. A man is trapped in his cubicle at work during an emergency shutdown. With barely enough light, he manages to chronicle several days of eerie events using only the official stamps and documents on his desk. Each page in the novel is created using a real stamp set. This is printing at its best and it is something you can’t get in an e-book. A creepy, engaging read. ~ Katelynne Shimkus
The NixThe Nix by Nathan Hill. In Norwegian mythology a Nix is a shapeshifting spirit that can steal children away. In protagonist Professor Samuel Andresen-Anderson's life, his Nix is his mother, who vanished when he was a child and stole a chunk of his heart. It is 2011, and she has reappeared, labeled The Packer Attacker after flinging stones at a political candidate, and needs her son's help. This funny, often dark debut novel moves from the suburban midwest to New York City to the Chicago riots in 1968. Peopled with characters from addicted gamers to a narcissistic media guru, a cameo by Alan Ginsburg, and touching with irony on academia and culture, family, home, and intersecting relationships, The Nix is a sprawling, spellbinding read. ~ Amy Palmer
Charlie Whistler's Omnium Gatherum: Campfire Stories and Adirondack AdventuresCharlie Whistler's Omnium Gatherum: Campfire Stories and Adirondack Adventures by Philip Delves Broughton. This is a totally unique and fun little book. Presented as a faux-scrapbook filled with ephemera, Ominum Gatherum follows the adventures of a fictional family as they spend their leisure days in the Adirondacks. Photos, drawings, pressed plants, and more filled the pages in between journal entries, letters, and family-style recipes. A perfect coffee table book for your cabin or home away from home. ~ Chris Linendoll
The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic BombThe Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb. If Germany had succeeded in developing an atomic bomb, it would have changed the outcome of the war. This is the story of the attempt to destroy the plant in Norway that was supplying the Nazis with large quantities of heavy water, an integral part of the weapon. Perched atop a 600 foot cliff and accessible only by a narrow and heavily-guarded suspension bridge, the building was nearly impregnable. Easily rivaling the best fiction thrillers, this book is an Icily (in every sense) suspenseful account of one of the most daring and crucial missions of World War II. ~ Alden Graves
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. I read this book in one emotionally powerful sitting. Vance digs beneath the stereotypes we spout about white working class folks and finds a clarity that can only come from being entrenched in a stifling socioeconomic system. A stunning memoir of what it means to grow up chasing an increasing fleeting American Dream. ~ Martha Cornwell
Ship of FoolsShip of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter. A German ocean liner, en route from Vera Cruz to Bremerhaven in 1931, carries a disparate group of passengers. On the surface, those on board seem to share the same problems, both social and personal, that most people struggle with. On a deeper level, however, they each represent elements of a world tail-spinning into the abyss. This is a magnificent literary work and its message is as topical today as it was when it was published in 1962. ~ Alden Graves
Steely Dan: Reelin' in the YearsSteely Dan: Reelin' in the Years by Brian Sweet. For anyone who ever came to appreciate the inimitable brilliance of the music of Steely Dan in the 1970’s, Sweet’s review of their evolution from college friends to struggling songwriters to the toast of the music industry has all the answers to every question you ever had. The cryptic lyrics, the amazing rotating array of superhuman musicians, the famous studio travails... it’s all here!! ~ Jon Fine
The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern WorldThe Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. A gripping account of London's 1854 cholera epidemic and the scientific revolution it instigated. Johnson tells the story primarily from the perspective of physician John Snow, who presented the then-radical idea that cholera was caused by microorganisms, not miasma. Part detective story, part natural disaster narrative. Exciting and a bit terrifying. I hope I never get cholera. ~ Nate George
Cooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef's Story of Family, Food, and ForgivenessCooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef's Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness by Cat Cora. A candid and heartfelt memoir from renowned chef, Cat Cora. As a child growing up in the South, she was exposed to plenty of good home cooking, throw in the fact that her Father is Greek, and the fusion of flavors explodes, along with her inspiration. Not only do we follow her blossoming career, and her battle to be accepted in a male dominated world, but also her struggles with sexuality and early abuse. This is a rewarding and inspiring read. ~ Becky Doherty
Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A MemoirCan't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by Roz Chast. If your parent(s) are of a certain age, New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast's memoir of her parents' final years will strike a chord. A beautiful and sometimes humorous memoir of Chast's parents in their final years and how she handles their death. This is one to keep, reread and gift - a true gem. ~ Martha Cornwell
MooMoo by Sharon Creech. Reena and her family move to rural Maine from NYC and they don't know what to expect. When their parents volunteer them to work for their eccentric neighbor, Reena and her brother must learn to care for an ornery cow, pig, snake and cat and also learn more about Mrs. Falala. Heartwarming and Delightful! ~ Martha Cornwell
A Torch Against the NightA Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir. Laia is searching for her brother, captured by the Empire for his act of treason with the resistance and tortured for his secrets. Laia, who's people have been downtrodden and enslaved by the Empire for hundreds of years, travels with an unlikely ally- Elias Veturius, heir to a powerful Empire family. He has made enemies by going against the proper order, and by saving her life. Together they must save Laia's brother - or the resistance will fall. ~ Leah Moore