Staff Picks 2018 July

July 2018 Logo
The Book of EssieThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir. The daughter of an Evangelical preacher, Essie Hicks has grown up on reality television. When Essie becomes pregnant, the handlers of the program need to decide what will be best for ratings, not what will be best for Essie. However, she has a plan of her own. An eye-opening novel in this age of the Kardashians and Duggers that will cause the reader to question if reality TV is, in fact, even close to being real. ~ Sarah Donner
The Addiction Solution: Treating Our Dependence on Opioids and Other DrugsThe Addiction Solution: Treating Our Dependence on Opioids and Other Drugs by Lloyd Sederer. Sederer offers practical yet controversial advice to deal with our raging opiate addiction epidemic. Recognizing our historic urge to use narcotics, alcohol, and other substances, he argues against harsh punishment and unrealistic goals of abstinence and suggests medically-administered alternative drugs, even small doses of LSD, could help purge dependency. ~ Mike Hare
Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El FaroInto the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro by Rachel Slade. In 2015 a container ship sank off the coast of the Bahamas in Hurricane Joaquin. Thirty-three souls perished. With modern technology, how could this happen? This is nonfiction at its best, with the ship’s last 26 hours of conversation recorded and transcribed in incredible detail, and a great look into the history of the Merchant Marine. ~ Hanna Yost
Heart Berries: A MemoirHeart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot. Mailhot’s writing is so searing and her language so taut that this book will burn a hole right through you. Much of this memoir is addressed to her husband Casey, and many segments read like a beautifully written letter. At its core, it is about story: as power, as reclamation, as connective tissue to the past and a way of transforming pain and shame, using the imperfect tool of memory to create art and having the strength to refuse to be silent. ~ Cathy Taylor
The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and EnglandThe Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England by Graham Robb. This is an excursion through a very small dense area of Northern England, an “Alcove” as Robb calls it, that has not been lost as much as overlooked; a misty half-mythic landscape. This book is for anyone who loves old maps and stories of reivers and highwaymen. Almost a time-travel log, Robb traverses the land and history by bicycle or on foot. A great followup to the author’s The Discovery of Middle Earth. ~ Maeve Noonan
A False Report: A True Story of Rape in AmericaA False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong. Weaving statistics with story, these two authors investigate the butterfly effect in one serial rapist case. An insightful look at the way police investigations of rape are often tragically flawed because of erroneous assumptions made by the people who judge and investigate them. This is a true crime story in which the worst offense is the systemic doubt of women. I read this cover to cover in a day. ~ Hanna Yost
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay LiberationTinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler. The Up Stairs Lounge was a popular gathering place for gay men in New Orleans in 1973, a time when the city dealt with homosexuals by pretending they were invisible. That ended when someone set a fire at the foot of the wooden stairway that led up to the crowded bar. The ensuing inferno killed 32 people and forced the entire nation to begin to confront the cruel marginalization, ignorance, and prejudice directed at the gay population. The societal ramifications of the tragedy marked an important milestone in the country’s constant struggle towards a greater tolerance and respect for minorities. ~ Alden Graves
Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They MatterEager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb. Castor canadensis is a pretty cool animal. We tend to take them for granted because they’re fairly common. Nearly trapped to extinction, the lack of beavers had a profound effect on the landscape (not for the better). But they are back and Goldfarb adroitly illuminates how they live and why they are critical to the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem in their native range. ~ Nathan George
Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives EvolutionDarwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution by Menno Schilthuizen. Schilthuizen hopes his readers will come away with an understanding that the rapidly expanding and multiplying urban centers around the world are as important to environmental studies as are forests, jungles, and deserts. After learning about all the ways in which various animals adapt to and, in fact, evolve in response to urban environments, I’ve become an ardent supporter of Schilthuizen’s viewpoint. At times funny, gross, and shocking, this book will change how you look at nature. ~ Josh Cohen-Peyton
The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's TableThe Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table by Rick Bragg. Reading this marvelous book is like sitting down at the kitchen table with a great storyteller spinning family tales while another great storyteller (his mother) makes the best biscuits you’ve ever had in your life. I don’t know what was more savory, the stories or the recipes, but I loved every bit of this book and am only sorry I may never actually get to sit in Rick Bragg’s mother’s kitchen. While reading this book, I was inspired to make a batch of biscuits for my family. Margaret Bundrum Bragg would not have been impressed. ~ Stan Hynds
The Grey Bastards (Lot Lands #1)The Grey Bastards (Lot Lands #1) by Jonathan French. Grimdark + raunchy humor + plot twist = a fun fast fantasy with a band of half-orcs patrolling the badlands between the human and orc kingdoms. ~ Ben Parker
Dear Mrs. BirdDear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce. This wonderful debut novel takes place in early WWII London where Emmeline thinks she has landed the perfect job as a war correspondent. Instead, she finds she is merely the assistant to the old-fashioned writer of a totally unhelpful advice column for women. She takes it upon herself to send clandestinely her own thoughtful and modern responses. The reader is reminded of the pluckiness and daily acts of heroism of the British during these turbulent times. Fun, quick, and totally delightful, Mrs. Bird is a great summer read! ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
Little Moments of LoveLittle Moments of Love by Catana Chetwynd. Catana Comics slowly spread to take social media by storm. Every strip depicts something that feels unique to the artist’s relationship, but resonates because every couple has their own language of love. Anyone in a relationship can pick at least half of the strips in this book, show them to their significant other, and exclaim, "It's us!" ~ Andrew Bugenis
The Lost Vintage: A NovelThe Lost Vintage: A Novel by Ann Mah. Before she can take a Certified Wine Master test, the restaurant where she worked closes, leaving Kate with no option but to go to her family’s ancestral Burgundy winery. Once there, she helps clear the home’s basement of mostly forgotten belongings where Kate finds a hidden room with a cot, resistance pamphlets, and a large stash of valuable wines hidden away during WW II. The discovery of a long-lost diary reveals a great aunt she never knew existed. What was once a dark stain on the family name brings a better understanding as to what Kate really wants in her life. ~ Suzanne Rice
My Year of Rest and RelaxationMy Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. This novel’s narrator is hot, rich, and utterly miserable. With the help of a deranged psychiatrist, she constructs a plan to sleep away the pain with a truckload of pharmaceuticals. I fell hard for this bitter, hysterical trip through one young woman’s despair and heavily medicated pursuit of happiness. ~ Cathy Taylor
All We Ever WantedAll We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin. It's all Nina thought she ever wanted: money, a wonderful husband, and great son, who just got accepted into Princeton. One fateful night it all goes wrong. Her son makes a very bad decision and their entire world is turned upside down. What is the truth? What is her son covering up and why? ~ Sue Rice
Convenience Store WomanConvenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. Rebels tend to be outlandish, extroverted, opinionated, and brassy. Thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident, Keiko Furukura, working half her life in a convenience store, defies expectations, spurns relationships, irritates her family, and ignores social pressures, inadvertently and joyously flipping rebellion on its head. ~ Mike Hare
The OutsiderThe Outsider by Stephen King. The police and the district attorney are certain they have got their man after a local teacher’s fingerprints and DNA connect him to the vicious killing of an 11-year-old boy. The problem is that the suspect has irrefutable proof he was somewhere else at the time of the murder. What begins as a dark mystery drifts into territory that Mr. King has expertly traversed for a long time. Compulsively readable and as unnerving as an extended stay at the Overlook. ~ Alden Graves
A Place for UsA Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. The author evokes, with equal skill and nuance, the specifics of the first and second generation immigrant experience, and the universal themes of family unity and discord. She captures the complicated dynamics of a family’s relationships with one another with astonishing insight. I found it tremendously moving in a way that only the most authentic stories can be. How can a story about characters who in many ways are so unlike my own experience be so hauntingly familiar? ~ Stan Hynds
The Last LaughThe Last Laugh by Lynn Freed. Three women run away to a Greek island to escape their importuning children and grandchildren. Hilarity ensues. But this novel is so much more than that - a witty and wise look at the realities and complexities of the lives of older women. ~ Rachel Person
I'm Thinking of Ending ThingsI'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. What do pears, pigeons, and rancid mutton have to do with the infamous Lizzie Borden murder case of 1892? Sarah Schmidt's novelization of the event is an eerily compelling read for those with a taste for the macabre. The book is populated by numerous unreliable narrators who construct the events before and after the murders with an exquisitely dark and chilling effect. Squeamish readers beware! ~ Nancy Scheemaker
We Don't Live Here Anymore: Collected Short Stories and Novellas, Volume 1We Don't Live Here Anymore: Collected Short Stories and Novellas, Volume 1 by Andre Dubus. These stories, written in the 1970s, remain fresh and profound today. Dubus mines his Catholic upbringing and service in the Marines to portray characters often confused or in crisis. Completely free of condescension and cynicism, these stories recognize and humanize our struggles to prevail. ~ Mike Hare
Stories of Your Life and OthersStories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. In my line of work, I read a lot of books and most of them are good. But I, like all of us, live for the literature that reminds me that writing can be astounding. Stories tickles the little-used ventricle in my heart that is simultaneously in love with both science and literature, using narrative, mathematics, linguistics, physics, and neuroscience to achieve a perfect golden spiral. ~ Katelynne Shimkus