Staff Picks 2018 June

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There ThereThere There by Tommy Orange. The difficult lives of members of the Native American community in Oakland, California reflect the struggle of the race throughout the history of the United States. This is a literate, sober examination of the generational devastation caused by a country that once beckoned strangers into its welcoming arms while systematically and cruelly marginalizing the people who were truly native to it. An impressive debut novel recounting a contemporary Trail of Tears that culminates in a tragedy that is all too familiar in America today. ~ Alden Graves

This impressive debut novel weaves an unflinching and provocative portrait of the challenges that face urban Native Americans today. Told through an assemblage of character studies, There There links together the experiences of multiple generations to show how small instances of erasure and elision become quite tangible over time — in this case, taking the shape of an incomprehensible tragedy in the novel's stunning conclusion. ~ Aubrey Restifo

Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and BetrayalSex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and Betrayal by Jonathan Green. The Bronx was a rough place in the late 80s and early 90s. Crack, gangs and violence dominated life in many parts of the borough. Rising to the top of the chaos was Sex Money Murder, a gang that achieved unparalleled notoriety for drug trafficking and violence. Green chronicles their exploits and those of the law enforcement officers and attorneys who committed themselves to bringing SMM down. ~ Nate George
Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present DayQueer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day by Peter Ackroyd. Gay culture and relationships in London stretch back centuries, with eras of relative permissiveness alternating with periods of brutal censure. And our newest acronym: LGBTQIA, or 'lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer intersex asexual,' could define gender mashups in London one hundred or one thousand years ago. ~ Mike Hare
Like BrothersLike Brothers by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass. Some people might say that the Duplass Brothers are a little weird. That they're a little too close. That they have seemed to fail upwards. They'd probably agree with you.This is a super-fun, breezy memoir by the brothers behind films such as “Safety Not Guaranteed.” While there is a bit of Hollywood name dropping here and there, this is mostly a coming of age tale, told by brothers who obviously have a deep love for others. I read the whole book in an afternoon and I smiled the entire time. ~ Chris Linendoll
God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star StateGod Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright. Gushers, cattle, LBJ, the Alamo, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, border patrols, Roy Orbison, gun love, and Sam Houston. Wright offers a huge helping of the Lone Star State's quirks, controversies, arrogances, beauties, contradictions, and most of all its celebrated and inescapable bigness. ~ Mike Hare
First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of PowerFirst in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of Power by Kate Andersen Brower. A look at our 13 most recent vice presidents, their complicated relationships with their bosses, and their less than stellar political afterlives. At the end of their terms, some left politics; three: Humphrey, Mondale, and Gore, ran for president and lost; and the three who rose to the top: Nixon, Ford, and George H.W. Bush, were either voted out of office or left the White House in disgrace. ~ Mike Hare
Tyrant: Shakespeare on PoliticsTyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt. Who would have thought Shakespeare could still be so contemporary? A lot of people as it turns out. In the case of our modern political atmosphere, Greenblatt helps us by doing most of the heavy lifting. The author scours through Shakespeare's historically tyrannical characters in a way that illustrates the correlation between the past and our present without ever having to actually mention current political events. He lays out the groundwork and allows the readers to find their own way. ~ Alex Bell
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for AmericaDemocracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean. This book digs below the surface of our current partisan divide and illuminates the path of Nobel Prize-winning economist James McGill Buchanan and his quest to "save capitalism from democracy." The author leads us on a six decades long journey, following this nascent movement from clandestine meetings to gatherings at influential universities, ultimately merging paths with billionaire Charles Koch. By shining a bright light on this movement, MacLean makes a very clear and compelling case that protections provided by the Constitution are in very real danger of being irrevocably lost. ~ Patricia Vunk
The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest DestinyThe Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny by Michael Wallis. The first account by an historian of the tragic Donner Party saga. In April of 1846, encouraged by their belief in Manifest Destiny, a group of pioneers led by George Donner and James Reed left Springfield, Illinois bound for a better life in California. The unfolding horror after the group found itself trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevadas that reached a depth of 22 feet has entered into the realm of American legend. Mr. Wallis separates the facts from the sensational stories. His book is as much a tribute to human endurance as it is a cautionary tale about careless folly. ~ Alden Graves
The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the RoadThe Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy. Have you ever been curious about what the working life of a long haul van line driver might be like? The author takes us on a witty, humorous, and informative cross country trip with him. His first exposure to trucking resulted in his decision to drop out of college to spend the next 30 years as a high-end “bedbugger”, showing us a life few of us know about, with funny and poignant stories of the people he moves. A delightful, informative romp! ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
The Mercy SeatThe Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop. Winthrop's eloquence softens this grim yet tender tale of a small town in the Jim Crow South awaiting the execution of 17-year-old Willie Jones, caught in the arms of his white high school girlfriend and sentenced to death for rape. Based on the true history of Gruesome Gertie, a traveling electric chair circulating in the South after the Second World War, the novel illuminates the whispers and prayers of bewildered souls enduring the complex racial tensions of the era. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
MotherhoodMotherhood by Sheila Heti. This memoiristic novel founds itself on a question, simply put but almost impossibly answered: should the narrator have children? Through probing question both philosophical and mystical, the narrator pursues a decision that feels as enormous as time itself. This book is a struggle with body and soul, with the answers women are relentlessly given and the questions the narrator chooses for herself. ~ Cathy Taylor
Small CountrySmall Country by Gaël Faye. This is the tragic story of a boy's childhood cut short by the Rwandan Genocide.The majority of the novel follows the formative years of Gabriel, a child of a French father and Tutsi mother, as he struggles to have a childhood amidst growing chaos. Hate crimes, political corruption, and familial disorder are all featured in this debut novel. Gabriel's ingenuous first-person viewpoint makes all of this palatable without allowing for the significance of the events to be downplayed. ~ Josh Cohen-Peyton
Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian LionsAuntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano. Move over Miss Marple, Auntie Poldi is on the scene! Sassy, saucy, and subtly erotic, she's just turned 60 and moved to Sicily with plans to drink herself to death until her handsome young handyman goes missing. With beautiful scenery, local lore, and food descriptions to die for, this book will leave you yearning for a Sicilian lover! This is the first book in the new series. Best summer read ever! ~ Whitney Kaaz
Heads of the Colored People: StoriesHeads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires. These extraordinary, satirical vignettes are meant to give us a glimpse into the life experiences of middle-class African-Americans. The author touches on violent death, suicide, fat-shaming, fetishism, and other issues that affect us all. But while her stories are alternately harsh or sad, she infuses each one with just enough humor to make them incredibly readable. I cannot say enough good things about this compilation! ~ Shirley Cagle
The Word Is Murder: A NovelThe Word Is Murder: A Novel by Anthony Horowitz. This is a twisty, unique, and entertaining take-off on the classic British mystery. Uniquely told from the author's often ironic point of view, this delightfully witty romp follows him as he unwillingly plays Watson to Detective Hawthorne's Sherlock while the detective attempts to solve the mystery of the murder (or was it suicide?) of a woman who had just planned her own funeral. Because of the unusual perspective, I felt like I was right there with them, drawn into the twist and turns all the way to the surprising conclusion. I LOVED it, and can't wait for Horowitz's next mystery! ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
UnworthyUnworthy by Antonio Monda. Catholic priest precariously balances spiritual devotion and lust in New York City's squalid 1970s. Father Abram Singer's voice ranges from anguished prayer to beatitude, where the forgiveness he seeks for his frailty offers a path to atonement. ~ Mike Hare
That Kind of Mother: A NovelThat Kind of Mother: A Novel by Rumaan Alam. What constitutes a family? In this story, a white family adopts the child of their African-American nanny after she dies in childbirth. The nanny’s adult daughter is pregnant herself. Overwhelmed with grief and stress, she allows it to happen. The real story is the evolution of this complicated family post-adoption. A very thoughtprovoking novel! ~ Shirley Cagle
The Essex Serpent: A NovelThe Essex Serpent: A Novel by Sarah Perry. Ms. Perry is a talented writer with a masterful understanding of the human race. The litany of fully etched characters in this book trip forth as effortlessly as the various British landscapes. The foggy tides and marshy breath of Essex is the home of the much-feared serpent, which is both integral and non-essential to the story line. The true stars of this 19th century tale of love, religious devotion, disease, medical innovation, poverty, violence, death and rebirth are its cast of human characters. ~ Jon Fine
See What I Have DoneSee What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. 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
For Every OneFor Every One by Jason Reynolds. This book is a letter to the author’s past, present, and future self. It is a letter to people of all ages. It is a commencement speech for graduates of high school or college and the perfect gift for someone who is having a hard time due to a loss or seemed failure in their lives. It is something you read, keep, and purchase copies of to give to people. For ages 14 to adult. ~ Jeanette
Strange the DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. When Lazlo Strange finds the long-lost city of Weep, he also finds his true self. As a master storyteller, he’s about to become one of the central characters in the real life story unfolding before him. This novel is beautiful, one of myth and monsters, jump into this strange world and stay a while, you may not want to leave. ~ Becky Doherty