Staff Picks 2018 January

The Janurary Staff Picks can also be viewed or printed as a PDF
Staff Picks January 2018 (.5MB)
Jan 2018 Logo
The Woman in the WindowThe Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn. The denouement of this Hitchcockian thriller will take your breath away. While watching her various neighbors from her window, an agoraphobic believes she witnesses a murder. Did she or was it just an alcohol or drug-induced hallucination? The questions keep mounting. What caused her separation from her family? Is her intense agoraphobia related to that? What secrets do the victim’s family hold? The twists and turns remain all the way to the end! I loved it! ~ Tambra Johnson Reap


Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and DreamsWhy We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. Walker is the rare author who applauds readers who doze off while reading his book. Why? Adequate sleep, Walker persuasively and enthusiastically argues, fends off disease, strengthens immune systems, enhances memory, aids mental acuity, promotes happiness, and is infinitely more beneficial than any drug. ~ Mike Hare
Spy of the First PersonSpy of the First Person by Sam Shepard. The author’s final work, written as he is slowly and cruelly dying from ALS, is a beautiful rendering, part minute observation of the natural world, part reminiscence, spare and eloquent. Devoid of self-pity, Shepard remains curious about his own demise and his often hallucinatory prose makes one consider what is important and unimportant. A lovely read. ~ Amy Palmer
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian MedicineThe Butchering Art: Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharis. Hospitals were overcrowded, gruesome dungeons with filthy surgical procedures through much of the 19th century. A surgeon named Joseph Lister, by his tireless advocacy of antiseptics, led a momentous and humane change in the treatment of the sick. The product Listerine is but a small tribute to a man who devoted his life to healing. ~ Mike Hare
Women & Power: A ManifestoWomen & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard. The author gives a powerful response, with little opinion or speculation, to her internet critics in two short essays. She takes us through the history of silenced women in the Roman era and compares them to the tactics of today’s trolls. Armed with perfectly crafted arguments and a subtle sarcastic humor, Beard makes sure her voice is heard. ~ Molly Halpin
1966: The Year the Decade Exploded1966: The Year the Decade Exploded by Jon Savage. If you think life happens fast now, consider 1966, when both the Beatles and the Stones imploded, and teenage pop became what we now know as “rock.” Savage tells the story of a year in pop culture by looking at 12 songs and using them as springboards for discussions of Vietnam, civil rights, the counterculture, and more. It’s a Pandora’s Box of a book, that will send anybody interested in pop culture to YouTube to recall the sights and sounds of arguably the most important year of the 20th century. ~ Charles Bottomley
The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in VietnamThe Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam by Max Boot. Lansdale was the CIA agent who, during the 1950s, helped save the Philippines from the Communist menace. A patriot with tremendous sensitivity to foreign cultures, his counter-insurgency strategy came unraveled in Vietnam. In this fascinating biography, Boot mines the life and work of a spy to see how his ideas still have relevance to American foreign policy. It’s a book that deserves to be read by anybody interested in our place in the world. ~ Charles Bottomley
Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a CityDeath in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson. Most people conjure up images of fog when they think of London. Jack the Ripper haunted its dank, gas-lit streets in 1888. In 1952, while another serial murderer was loose in the city, the fog itself became a mass killer. Thousands of vulnerable people succumbed to the thick, yellowish smog that lingered for days, trapping people in their homes, providing cover for criminal activities, and instigating a public outcry over the government’s promotion of toxic, cheap coal. This is a fascinating look at a little known and largely forgotten catastrophe. ~ Alden Graves
A Land More Kind Than HomeA Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. The influence of a morally corrupt, self-styled preacher on a rural community in North Carolina has tragic consequences in this beautifully written and emotionally powerful novel. The author displays a remarkable gift for creating memorable, flesh and blood characters whose striving, failings, and small triumphs are universal in their resonance. I loved this novel and will not soon forget the members of the Hall family. ~ Alden Graves
Picnic at Hanging RockPicnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. A subtly sensual, sinister story about the unexplainable disappearance of three girls in the heat of the Australian summer provokes investigations, recriminations, and fevered dreams. Dressed up as a query into an alleged occurrence in 1900, this is a most mysterious, strange, and haunting tale. ~ Mike Hare
Five-Carat SoulFive-Carat Soul by James McBride. This is a collection of crazy, crackling stories. There’s nothing quite like a lion named Get Along, Go Along gossiping about life in the zoo. Animals communicate through Thought Speak and don’t much care for humans, who are commonly known as “Smelly Ones,” or “Smellies” for short. ~ Mike Hare
Grist Mill RoadGrist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates. This intriguing novel begins with a gruesome crime perpetrated by Matthew, a troubled 14-year-old boy while his best friend, Patrick, watches on in secrecy and silence. Matthew is caught and serves time for the act, but Patrick swallows the guilt and shame of his inaction. The twists and turns in this novel keep you guessing until the very end. ~ Shirley Cagle
Two Girls DownTwo Girls Down by Louisa Luna. After two girls go missing, their family feels the official investigation is lax. Alice Vega, a bounty hunter, is hired to explore avenues closed to the police. She teams up with a dishonorably discharged policeman and together they unravel events leading to the disappearances. This is a good recommend for people who are looking for a great read after the holidays are over and the day to day routine seems dull. ~ Sarah Knight
The ImmortalistsThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. What would you do with a subversive deadline? Namely, knowing the exact date of your death. And should you trust the source? Four young brothers and sisters learn their personal dates from a sketchy fortune teller. As they live, the clock ticks louder and louder. ~ Mike Hare
Carnegie's MaidCarnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict. She was not the Clara Kelley that the Carnegie family was expecting, but she assumes her new role as Ladies Maid to the mistress of Andrew Carnegie’s house in Pittsburgh. Her resolve to support her own family in Ireland propels Clara into maintaining the charade. But when Andrew begins to rely on Clara for her understanding of business, she wonders if she can actually keep her secret. A wonderful story that shows how Carnegie became one of history’s most influential philanthropists. ~ Suzanne Rice
ElmetElmet by Fiona Mozley. The irrevocable bond of family, even the ones that are tattered and torn, is at the heart of this moving story. Two children and their reclusive, difficult father eke out a hardscrabble living on an isolated farm in Yorkshire, England with nothing but their love for each other to sustain them. Told from the perspective of the young son, the encroachment of his father’s violent past moves the family inexorably towards tragedy. The author writes with a beautiful sense of place and remarkably conveys both the innocence and the chilling awareness coexisting in her two young characters. ~ Alden Graves
The DryThe Dry by Jane Harper. A brutal triple homicide is committed in a small Australian town in the middle of a ravaging drought. Federal agent Aaron Falk is called back to attend the funeral of his best friend after having been run out of town 20 years earlier when he and his father were suspected of drowning a school chum. Secrets, rage, and suspicions still linger as Falk joins the search for the killer. ~ Amy Palmer
Machine Learning: New and Collected StoriesMachine Learning: New and Collected Stories by Hugh Howey. The Silo Series is one of my favorite sci-fi discoveries of the past 5 years. If I could go back and read any book for the first time, WOOL would certainly be it. This new collection of previously released (mostly online) work contains 3 new stories set in the Silo Universe. I loved every single second of them. Howey is a talented writer and his other stories in this collection show that he’s not just a one-hit wonder. ~ Chris Linendoll
The Job of the WaspThe Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette. At a bleak school for orphaned boys, where it always rains, corpses are unearthed in unexpected places. Is the killer the Headmaster? The narrator? One or more of the boys? A ghost? And why do wasps mercilessly sting some boys and ignore others? ~ Mike Hare
The Girl in the GardenThe Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace. A young woman with an infant son is abandoned at a small motel on the coast of New England. The community rallies to give her the shelter and the support she needs to learn to trust and to find love again. In turn, her presence helps the people of the town to right the wrongs of the past. ~ Suzanne Rice
A Field Guide to the North American Family: An Illustrated NovellaA Field Guide to the North American Family: An Illustrated Novella by Garth Risk Hallberg. Don’t be fooled by the clinical title. Darting from different perspectives and time periods, two Long Island families crisscross in one-paragraph chapters with titles including Irony, Heirloom, Tantrum, and Secret. An imaginative, original, and challenging take on American life. ~ Mike Hare