Staff Picks 2018 March

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The Great AloneThe Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Hannah’s marvelous new novel gives us both the tale of the struggling Allbright family, who started a new life in the wilderness of Alaska and the story of their fierce, lonely 13-year-old daughter, Leni, who not only finds a place to belong but discovers her own inner strength and worth. Powerful, enduring, spectacular, just like the Alaskan wilderness it portrays. ~ Tambra Johnson Reap


Leni doesn’t remember when her father wasn’t paranoid, angry, and abusive. He returned from Vietnam that way and now he is moving the family to the Alaskan wilderness. The family is unprepared for the rigors of living off the grid. Their neighbors help, but nothing can save them from her father’s dark and abusive mood swings. Beautifully written with vivid characters and powerful emotion. ~ Suzanne Rice

The Book: An HomageThe Book: An Homage by Burkhard Spinnen and Line Hoven. For Spinnen, a book is not words on a screen. Rather, it is tactile pleasure engaging sight and touch; an insignia of distinction in the bookshelf; a treasure sought in libraries and bookstores; a marker for a stage in life, proof of connection with the sentient world, and a talisman for the future. ~ Mike Hare
I Found My Tribe: A MemoirI Found My Tribe: A Memoir by Ruth Fitzmaurice. After living a life full of laughter and fun, the author is shaken when her husband is diagnosed with ALS. This memoir is about the strength and dexterity of the spirit and how her family and the friends who make up the Tragic Wives Swimming Club deal with “the tough stuff of life.” The book traces the essence of learning who you really are and what you are capable of accomplishing. ~ Maeve Noonan
Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest OldHappiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old by John Leland. Accepting and even embracing old age, with its severe limitations and huge compromises, is unimaginable for the young. That the six elderly people portrayed by Leland succeed, in their own ways, in achieving not only acceptance, but happiness, is a profound testament to the beauty and value of life. ~ Mike Hare
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. Over more than a decade, an unidentified attacker raped and murdered his way across California. His methods were precise and cunning, his MO always the same. McNamara (and many other amateur sleuths) dedicated a tremendous amount of personal time to solving this cold case. Unlike most true crime accounts, this one doesn’t have a happy resolution. ~ Nate George
Nine Irish Lives: The Thinkers, Fighters, and Artists Who Helped Build AmericaNine Irish Lives: The Thinkers, Fighters, and Artists Who Helped Build America by Mark Bailey. Relevant to our times, these essays written by contemporary Irish Americans tell inspiring stories of Irish immigrants who have made a difference in the course of American history. Informative, personal, and compelling. ~ Suzanne Rice
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your LifeDear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li. A thoughtful, beautifully observant memoir on despair, heritage, and the solace of reading. I read this book in a single quiet sitting, possessed by the magic of Li’s writing. ~ Cathy Taylor
Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale EndingsPrincesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie. It’s not all fairytales when you’re a princess. You’ve heard some of their stories, some you’ve not, but you’ll be amused, shocked and enlightened by them. These women, who history mostly or conveniently forgot, rocked the boat and, therefore, they rock! ~ Sarah Donner
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining WomenThe Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore. Shortly after radium was discovered it was billed as a miracle element with endless health benefits. It was used in many consumer products including watch faces because it glows in the dark. Thousands of young women were employed to paint numbers on watches, all thinking they were benefiting from the constant exposure to radium. How very wrong they were. Well written, poignant, and a little terrifying. An amazing read through and through. ~ Nate George
A Long Way from HomeA Long Way from Home by Peter Carey. Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in south eastern Australia. They embark upon the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the continent. This tragicomic historical novel not only covers the excitement of the Redex, but also examines personal journeys of self discovery, as well as the beginnings of Australia coming to grips with its own dark history of racism. The truths will haunt not only the characters but the reader as well. An unforgettable novel. ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
AsymmetryAsymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Two tales set in the years following America’s invasion of Iraq: a young woman takes up with an older award-winning author; an Iraqi living in America is detained at Heathrow Airport. The unrelated stories gradually fuse in empathy for those struggling with aging bodies and the horrors of war. ~ Mike Hare
PromisePromise by Minrose Gwin. The premise for this book, fictionally illustrating the events that befell the African American population of a Mississippi town destroyed by a devastating 1936 tornado, is a creative endeavor. The fact that none of the African American deaths were recorded and none of their voices heard belies the fact that all of the lives lost there were intertwined in daily life. The feelings of bewilderment in the face of injury and loss are palpable. An extremely moving and thoughtful novel. ~ Shirley Cagle
Red ClocksRed Clocks by Leni Zumas. In the near future, abortion is illegal in all 50 states along with other horrifying laws implemented by the patriarchy. This is the story of four women’s lives woven together by fate and this brave new world. Red Clocks is a testament to the strength and resilience of women throughout the centuries who continue to fight stereotypes and the systems that would deny them their humanity. ~ Whitney Kaaz
Bachelor GirlBachelor Girl by Kim Van Alkemade. This is one of those books that you can’t put down and when you’ve finished, you are so sad it’s over. It touches on so many societal issues - racism, sexism, homosexuality, adultery, loneliness. And the characters? All those lives, half-lived in so many ways... I can’t wait to read more of the author’s writings. ~ Shirley Cagle
The CloisterThe Cloister by James Carroll. This is one of the best examples of historical fiction I’ve ever read. The story is focused upon the early humanistic philosophy of Peter Abelard and Heloise. It is set against the centuries-long shadow cast by the Roman Catholic Church, the Crusades, and the growth of antisemitism and its contribution to the causes of World War II. This is a wonderfully written novel with characters I fell in love with. ~ Maeve Noonan
Reservoir 13Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor. A 13-year old girl disappears from a sleepy English village. What happened there the next day, the next week, the next year, the next decade: sunsets, marriages, walks in the woods, graduations, rainstorms, services, pantomimes. And, the search for the missing girl. ~ Mike Hare
The Heart's Invisible FuriesThe Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. This novel from John Boyne, acclaimed author of The Boy in the StripedPajamas, may be his masterpiece. The story follows the life of Cecil Avery, an adopted child raised in repressed Ireland by unconventional parents. Hilarious and awkward, heartbreaking and beautiful, the pains and small triumphs of its characters leave you feeling hopeful for the future. I loved this book! ~ Whitney Kaaz
The Book of JoanThe Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch. A brilliant, chilling, mind-altering reinvention of Joan of Arc’s life. A ruined, post-apocalyptic Earth and a space vessel under totalitarian rule form the backdrop for a cosmic battle between humanity’s mutated survivors. Yuknavitch’s gift lies in her penetrating and precise descriptions of the physical world, from dirt and bugs to the consuming, corporeal heat of desire and love. It’s a book full of destruction, passion, and joy, and one I was grateful to have read. ~ Cathy Taylor
Exit WestExit West by Mohsin Hamid. A little like Salman Rushdie’s stories of outsiders and magical realism, Exit West is about a couple who suddenly become refugees, passing through a door in what may be Syria to a door in a house in the UK. What they experience there and where they go next both mirror the real experiences of refugees today and project what their future might be. ~ Katelynne Shimkus
Lincoln in the BardoLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Echoes of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon RiverAnthology resound through this beautifully written and emotionally powerful story about spirits in the graveyard where Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, was laid to rest. The restless inhabitants observe in awe as the bereaved President visits his child. Fiercely original and almost hypnotic in its ability to cast a spell over the reader that is both mournful and joyous. ~ Alden Graves