Staff Picks 2018 September

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CherryCherry by Nico Walker. This is an explosive gut punch of a story that never lets up! The characters, their warped relationships with one another, and their conversations are so vivid and realistic it is unsettling. It’s a perfect portrayal of the endless cycle of addiction, PTSD, and a failed support system. The desperation these characters cling to each other with, the constant planning around the next “fix” to the point where nothing else matters, is intense and arresting. Nico Walker, you really did send it home! ~ Liz Barnum
Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution's Lost HeroFounding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution's Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna. Radical revolutionary Joseph Warren advocated separation from Great Britain, by violence if necessary, long before most other colonists. He swiftly became both a respected doctor and leader in Massachusetts, and had he not fallen in the Battle of Bunker Hill, he may have been as revered today as Washington and Jefferson. ~ Mike Hare
CalypsoCalypso by David Sedaris. Incredibly funny and very personal, collection of stories based around Sedaris’ holiday house, the Sea Section. Tender, brutally honest observations of himself and his family that had me empathizing, commiserating and laughing out loud! ~ Becky Doherty
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted AmericaDopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy. Macy portrays an epidemic sowed by pharmaceutical companies and drug dealers, enabled by beleaguered bureaucrats, sustained by flailing politicians, and financed, often fatally, by the bodies of dopesick addicts. ~ Mike Hare
Less: A Visual Guide to MinimalismLess: A Visual Guide to Minimalism by Rachel Aust. This is a wonderful beginners guide to the minimalist lifestyle, or simply a great way to open your mind to the idea that maybe we don’t need so many “things” cluttering up our homes, closets, and thoughts. Not as strict as Marie Kondo’s brutal KonMari style of letting go, this is a more gentle and elegant step into paring down and living more. ~ Chris Linendoll
Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole WorldDreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield. Joyous, whimsical, soulful, trenchant, funny, moving: descriptions of the Beatles are equally apt for Sheffield’s tribute. His premise, that the group that defined the 60s keeps growing decades after its breakup, is proven by the wonder experienced every day, all over the world, when someone first hears a Beatles song. ~ Mike Hare
Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. What a debut novel! I could not put this story down. The vivid, yet delicate depictions of the marsh were so detailed, I felt like I was there. The character development of Kya and her supporting cast was excellent, almost, but not quite, overshadowing the plot of the story. I am eagerly anticipating more from this author. ~ Shirley Cagle
Severance: A NovelSeverance: A Novel by Ling Ma. Ma writes the apocalypse cooler, sharper, and fresher than anyone else I’ve read. As a mysterious fever consumes the world and New York City collapses around her, a young woman, held together by her daily habits, continues clocking in at her dull office job. About customs, corporations, immigration, consumerism, love, memory, and the end of the world, this story mesmerizes. It filled me with a spinning sort of recognition, the kind you get from recurrent jolts of déjà vu. Repetition, it turns out, is hard to break, even after death. ~ Cathy Taylor
The Silence of the Girls: A NovelThe Silence of the Girls: A Novel by Pat Barker. Weaving myth with historical fiction, Barker tells the story of Briseis, a girl Achilles won in battle. Through her candid first person narrative, we are shown life at the Greek camps during the last weeks of the Trojan war. If violence is the nature of men during times of war, Barker shows us that for women, navigating the violent nature of men is their war. With an unflinching and unlikely heroine, Barker delivers a story you won’t soon forget. ~ Hanna Yost
Whiskey When We're DryWhiskey When We're Dry by John Larison. After her father’s death, 17-year-old Jessilyn Harney sets off to find her older brother, a notorious outlaw, in the hope of convincing him to return home and help tend the family farm. She disguises herself as a man and parlays her skill with a firearm into a job with the territory’s rich and ruthless Governor, a man obsessed with bringing her brother to justice – dead or alive. This is a robust, brawling, and exciting story of frontier life, reminiscent of True Grit, set in a sweeping and unspoiled landscape where the powerful inherit the earth and the meek return to dust. ~ Alden Graves
Pieces of Her: A NovelPieces of Her: A Novel by Karin Slaughter. What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all? The author explores this concept with the story of a mother and her adult daughter in the aftermath of a shooting, which sends the daughter into hiding and prompts a search to discover her mother’s hidden past. Not only does she come to realize her mother is not what she seemed, but she in turn finds her true self. I have loved the author’s Will Trent and Grant County series, and her new stand-alone mystery does not disappoint! ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
FoeFoe by Iain Reid. The comfortable ordinariness of a couple's life on a farm is broken when a stranger arrives in the night and informs them that the husband has been selected as a candidate to be launched into outer space. He then moves into their home to prepare the bewildered man for the journey. Reading Mr. Reid's novels is a little like inching your way along a narrow ledge towards a window you are not sure will be open. The unusual premise of this one won't seem particularly odd to those who have experienced the author's I'm Thinking of Ending Things. ~ Alden Graves
CoDex 1962: A TrilogyCoDex 1962: A Trilogy by Sjon. One of the best writers you’ve never heard of, Iceland’s Sjon works in a strange seam somewhere between Haruki Murakami and Fredrik Backman. In this whale of a tale, a Jewish refugee, his nurse and their golem son navigate a teeming sea of stories, ranging from myth to noir to sci-fi, encountering everything from angels to Nazi stamp collectors on their way. Playful, profound and an absolute treat. ~ Charles Bottomley
Hits and Misses: StoriesHits and Misses: Stories by Simon Rich. Wickedly silly, surreal, unpredictable Monty Pythonesque tales. Paul Revere’s horse grouses about his owner; an ornery seven year old tries to become the foosball champion of the universe; GQ lands an exclusive interview with Adolf Hitler; Tom Hanks turns out to be a Really Nice Guy: Rich aims for the bull’s eye, and usually hits. ~ Mike Hare
The Reservoir TapesThe Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor. Rural English villagers talk to an interviewer about Becky Shaw, a 13-year old girl who had gone missing. They share details of their lives, filled with yearnings, unsolved mysteries, petty grievances, hopes deferred, and dreams. The breadth of emotion and humanity achieved by McGregor brings to mind Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, revealing the richness of life in a small town. ~ Mike Hare
Lake Success: A NovelLake Success: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart. A stupendous novel that is all at once mortifying, hilarious, and ridiculously smart. Our anti-hero, a hedge fund manager named Barry Cohen, is running away (via Greyhound bus) from his loveless marriage and his autistic son with only a small suitcase containing some of his favorite obscenely expensive wristwatches. He is Jay Gatsby written by Jack Kerouac and he knows it. The first Great American post-Obama novel. ~ Stan Hynds
Children of Blood and BoneChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. rebellious girl and her brother set out to revive magic in a world that banished it, with the help of some unlikely allies. For fans of Avatar, The Last Airbender, and strong female characters who ride giant cats. ~ Miya Molinelli
Perpetua's KinPerpetua's Kin by M. Allen Cunningham. This book succeeds beyond being an exceptionally rich piece surrounding the Civil War. Storylines such as this resonate because they remind us how important our personal histories become for those who follow us. The novel may be a distinctly American portrait, but the overarching themes - war, love, wanderlust, suffering - are quite universal. I always walk away from a reading like this ruminating on the largeness of life and the lasting impact of the arts. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
The Locals: A NovelThe Locals: A Novel by Jonathan Dee. The residents of a small town in the Berkshires manage to deal with life’s little earthquakes until a wealthy hedge fund manager, who recently joined the select board, causes some seismic challenges. The struggle of middle-class Americans to stay afloat in a world increasingly driven by the relentless and oftentimes pitiless pursuit of money is at the heart of this powerful, unsettling, and involving novel. You will recognize people you know on its pages. ~ Alden Graves
Conversations with Friends: A NovelConversations with Friends: A Novel by Sally Rooney. My mind was one giant exclamation point while reading this book! A debut novel from a young Irish writer, the story follows a college student and poet named Frances, who falls into an intellectually and emotionally intense menage à quatre with her ex-girlfriend and an older, alluring couple. Rooney’s writing about human emotions and desires is so cool and witty and smart. When I finished this novel, I was shivering it was so good. Read it, give it to your friends, and talk. ~ Cathy Taylor
Goodbye, Vitamin: A NovelGoodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. Goodbye to her boyfriend and job. Ruth is back with her parents. She keeps a diary, recording escapades, arguments, pranks, and many memories, especially of her father. He’s why she’s there. And each day, his memories of her, and of everything, slowly vanish without a goodbye. ~ Mike Hare