Staff Picks 2018 August

The August Staff Picks can also be viewed or printed as a PDF (2.5MB)
August 2018 Logo
Clock Dance: A novelClock Dance: A novel by Anne Tyler. Willa Drake, uneasily drifting on the placid stream of advancing age with her second husband, impulsively leaves her comfortable home in Arizona for the mean streets of Baltimore. While caring for the child of her son’s former girlfriend, who has been left alone after her mother was hospitalized for a gunshot wound, Willa rediscovers the purpose that had evaporated out of her own life. The author’s gift for making gentle, beautifully understated observations about the tenacity and the frailties of human connections is evident throughout. I always feel a little wiser when I finish an Anne Tyler book. ~ Alden Graves
Not for Long: The Life and Career of the NFL AthleteNot for Long: The Life and Career of the NFL Athlete by Robert W. Turner II. Of the millions of boys playing youth football, only a tiny fraction reach the NFL and half of them play less than four years. Turner chronicles the difficulties players face transitioning away from a game that has defined their characters, altered their minds, and, often, permanently damaged their bodies. ~ Mike Hare
The Eye: An Insider's Memoir of Masterpieces, Money, and the Magnetism of ArtThe Eye: An Insider's Memoir of Masterpieces, Money, and the Magnetism of Art by Philippe Costamagna. Part memoir, part essay and wholly art history, specifically about being an “Eye.” Considered anathema by some within the discipline of art history, there is a rarer breed of specialist called “Eyes.” These are people who have attained the necessary knowledge, but also possess a talent of discernment; being able to verify (often at glance) the authenticity of art works. This book is a memoir of masterpieces, forgeries, money, and the mystery of what comprises art. This book is passionate and marvelous. ~ Maeve Noonan
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation HistoryFly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O'Brien. The iconic Amelia Earhart joined a cadre of women determined to challenge men in wildly popular, but often deadly airplane races during the Great Depression. Speed and spectacle fueled airborne ambitions where pilots, female and male, risked death for the rush to triumphantly soar. ~ Mike Hare
The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of TrumpThe Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump by Michiko Kakutani. The embedding of postmodern theory into contemporary society, warped and degraded by politics, has broken and divided us into our own bubbles and factions. The renowned importance of personal truths is what is at the heart of Kakutani’s well-researched analysis on our modern crisis. Thoroughly absorbing and important. ~ Alex Bell
Educated: A MemoirEducated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. was gripped by the conflicting emotions of this book. Westover puts serenity and danger at odds, each one vying to be the main focus of a chapter. Her parents had a fierce love for their children, but also had fiercely unconventional and harmful beliefs. Her writing is impressive. For all the bad things that were happening in this story, I couldn’t help but count down the minutes until I could be back reading about Buck Peak and the people who lived there. It is a story of triumph and self sufficiency that will inspire you to learn. ~ Molly Halpin
American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the WestAmerican Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee. This is the story of Yellowstone’s most famous wolf, affectionately known as 06 for the year she was born. Her legendary reign as the granddaughter of one of the first Canadian wolves brought to repopulate the park in 1995 is both fascinating and magical. Yet American Wolf is a much larger and critical story. It illuminates the inherent tensions of contemporary life in the American West and begs a number of important questions: What do we value? What are we willing to sacrifice to preserve our precious wild places? ~ Nancy Scheemaker
The Incest DiaryThe Incest Diary by Anonymous. A shocking anonymous confessional by a father of his daughter’s abuse, told decades later. Like knowing a car wreck is about to happen before your eyes – no good can come of it, but you can’t bring yourself to look away, or in this case, stop reading. Explicit and not for the faint of heart, but fascinating for anyone who can stomach it. ~ Hanna Yost
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape CultureNot That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay. An incredibly honest anthology involving the personal stories of individuals affected by sexual assault. Many unique insights from the authors provide the reader with the opportunity to understand the different ways sexual trauma can impact one’s life. This novel should become required reading to help rid the stigma and skepticism surrounding rape culture. ~ Laura Knapp
We Are All Shipwrecks: A MemoirWe Are All Shipwrecks: A Memoir by Kelly Grey Carlisle. A somewhat shocking memoir of a girl whose mother was murdered in the mid 1970s, possibly an early victim of the Hillside Stranglers. She is raised by her grandfather and his wife. He is, in turns, benevolent and indulgent, but also vulgar, demanding and selfish. An interesting voyage through somebody else’s normal. ~ Shirley Cagle
Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable CrimeRanger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum. On the night he was due to ship out to Iraq, U.S. Army Ranger Alex Blum instead robbed a Tacoma bank. His cousin Ben investigates why in this compelling story. Part memoir, part true crime, the book is ultimately a unique look at the complexities of family and the demands of our fighting forces. It will keep you gripped until the last page. ~ Charles Bottomley
The SeasThe Seas by Samantha Hunt. There are some novels I don’t want to speak too much about; I don’t want to dilute the thrall they held me in. This book was beautiful and mournful and full of raw wonder, and it lives inside me now. ~ Cathy Taylor
The Garden Party: A NovelThe Garden Party: A Novel by Grace Dane Mazur. Two dozen people from the families of the bride and groom gather for a rehearsal dinner in summery Massachusetts. A three-year-old who refuses to talk, a young woman fond of sitting on the roof, a golf fanatic, unhappily married couples, mischievous kids, and a gardener decked out in a tuxedo come together as nervousness and awkwardness yield to familiarity, including newfound friendship between two heretofore strangers, both about 90 years old. ~ Mike Hare
European Travel for the Monstrous GentlewomanEuropean Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss. In this sequel to The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, the Athena Club, along with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, race across Europe to save Lucinda Van Helsing from a grisly fate. As they close in on their quarry, our heroines face an evil so powerful it could destroy them and all they hold dear. Highest Recommend!! ~ Sarah Donner
The Last Cruise: A NovelThe Last Cruise: A Novel by Kate Christensen. A rickety, aging cruise ship, owned by a skinflint company, staffed by an insolent crew, and boarded by unwary passengers, chugs from California to Hawaii. In the middle of the vast ocean, things start to go very wrong, and people start to get very desperate, wondering if they’ll ever see landfall again. ~ Mike Hare
Some Trick: Thirteen StoriesSome Trick: Thirteen Stories by Helen DeWitt. This author’s curiosity is bottomless. Linguistics, statistics, the commodification of art and intellect – her interests are matched by writing so good it’ll knock around your brain for weeks. Her stories are lethally hilarious. Her characters are absurd and true, searching for sanity in a mad world. There may be no room for pure genius in a humdrum, capitalist world, but this book, like its author, is defiantly brilliant. ~ Cathy Taylor
FloridaFlorida by Lauren Groff. This second collection of Groff ’s short fiction contains stories of lost children, sinkholes opening up in backyards, persistent snakes, of French vacations, Guy de Maupassant, hurricanes, a parent’s immediate fears for the safety of her children and the long-term fears of what kind of future they might have in a world of worsening climate change. I’m not sure if the Florida Commission on Tourism will be very happy about this book. ~ Dafydd Wood
How to Be Famous: A NovelHow to Be Famous: A Novel by Caitlin Moran. The London music scene of 1995 is tantalizing for Dolly, a 19-year old journalist. Shows, parties, drinks, and drugs abound, with fame the giddiest drug of all. Its pursuit, complicated by sex and money, spawns edgy relationships, harsh reversals, and unexpected revelations. ~ Mike Hare
A Terrible Country: A NovelA Terrible Country: A Novel by Keith Gessen. Andrei Kaplan, an academic in Russian studies living in New York, reluctantly agrees to care for his aging grandmother in Moscow for a short time. The lonely old woman drifts in and out of reality, recalling to her grandson the turbulent history of his family and the country where he was born. Andrei is gradually drawn into a political movement dedicated to change, a risky endeavor in contemporary Russia. This is a warmly moving story of family bonds played out against a dark and dangerous backdrop. ~ Alden Graves
Spinning Silver: A NovelSpinning Silver: A Novel by Naomi Novik. This is the Jewish feminist fairy tale that I didn’t know I needed. A beautifully lyrical re-interpretation of Rumpelstiltskin, this novel is told in multiple voices as characters in a mythical eastern European land fight against the strictures that control their lives and take away their choices. Complex, beautifully written, and completely absorbing, this is a book I will return to over and over. ~ Rachel Person
Meet Me at the Museum: A NovelMeet Me at the Museum: A Novel by Anne Youngson. This wonderful novel is for anyone who loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Two people are drawn to each other by their shared interest in old bones, archaeology, and the mystery of “Bog Bodies.” This is a book about deep friendships and the grace of aging. It is romantic, poignant, and truthful. ~ Maeve Noonan
LessLess by Andrew Sean Greer. Arthur Less has always lived in the shadow cast by his relationship with a brilliant poet. His measure as a writer has always been eclipsed by the stature of his lover. He decides to accept invitations to a series of minor literary events around the world, because it provides a convenient excuse to avoid attending the wedding of another lover. Intermingling with people from other cultures, he regains a sense of his own value both as an individual and an artist. A dryly funny and immersive novel with a protagonist whose self-doubts will be very familiar to all of us. ~ Alden Graves
Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden MysteryHope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery by Andrew Shaffer. With plenty of references to the eight years they spent in office together, this mystery draws you in with the prospect of a madcap caper as Joe Biden and Barack Obama, amateur detectives, bumble their way around blue-collar America. The meat of the book – estranged friendships, an ever-deepening web of seemingly-disconnected evidence, and a vibrant cast of characters – is what keeps you invested. Recommended reading for anyone wanting to spend just a few more hours with America’s favorite bromance. ~ Andrew Bugenis
Nothing Is OkayNothing Is Okay by Rachel Wiley. Wiley does not hold back. She punches you in the eye with each and every poem. Sometimes twice, just to make sure you are paying attention. She can be intensely feminist and militant in her thoughts, words, and phrasing. Most of what she says, however, can be relatable to almost anyone. Mostly, she deals with being a “fat girl” who has learned to love herself despite having to fight for it. Other themes include love, loss, living as a biracial, lesbian woman, and so much more. ~ Jeanette