Staff Picks 2019 April

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Women TalkingWomen Talking by Miriam Toews. A deeply moving, devastating novel based on real ev ents in a colony of Mennonites. All of the women and girls have been systematically drugged and raped at night for years by their brothers and fathers (though it had been blamed on demons). The novel is written as the minutes of their meetings, transcribed by a male school teacher, who is an outcast in their community since the women are kept illiterate. They meet to democratically decide whether they will stay and do nothing, take revenge, or leave into the larger world of which they know nothing. A painful document of the most powerless women seizing their own agency. ~ Dafydd Wood
The Silent PatientThe Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Why did rising artist Alicia Berenson violently murder her beloved husband Gabrielle one hot August night and then refuse to ever speak again? The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides, is a dazzling, seductive, deceitful, white knuckle ride. I was hooked from the first chapter and quite duped until the last. Leave room in your schedule once you crack the first page - this is classic unputdownable. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
Inspection: A NovelInspection: A Novel by Josh Malerman. In a secluded forest, 26 boys are being raised to be the best and brightest the world has to offer. They don’t know girls exist. A few miles away, 26 girls are being raised to be the best and brightest the world has to offer. They don’t know boys exist. In this suspenseful coming-of-age story, Malerman creates a dark experiment where boy and girl were never meant to meet and reveals the hellish ramifications when they do. ~ Hanna Yost
Lot: StoriesLot: Stories by Bryan Washington. The stories in this powerful collection swirl around the lives of immigrants trying to survive on the mean streets and in the drug-infested neighborhoods of Houston, Texas. The people who came there fight to escape the brutality watch as their hopes fade, and still try to break free from the chain link fences that society has placed around them. These are tough and gritty chronicles of urban life, many involving recurring characters, that eloquently speak to the disparity between the world those who came to America dream of and what they actually find here. ~ Alden Graves
The Last Year of the WarThe Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner. The Sontag family has been sent to an internment camp in Texas because Mr Sontag is suspected of being a Nazi sympathizer. The only thing that makes life bearable for 13-year-old Elise is her friendship with a Japanese-American girl whose family is also suspected of involvement with the enemy. Their friendship gives both girls a sense of belonging. When both of the families are repatriated to their homelands, the girls lose contact with each other. Years later they find each other once again. This is a story that speaks of love lost and found, hate, prejudice, and forgiveness. ~ Suzanne Rice
Beautiful BadBeautiful Bad by Annie Ward. Edgy thriller ricocheting from the Balkans to Iraq to New York City to the “perfect home” in Kansas. He is traumatized from years in war zones. She harbors aggressions and frustrations of her own. When it all cracks open, will either one be in Kansas anymore? ~ Mike Hare
QueenieQueenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Fun, yet frank account of the life of a young single woman living in today’s London. Queenie’s voice is a blast of fresh air, and you empathize deeply with her as she navigates the modern world of dating and deals with mental health issues. Coming from a Jamaican British family, Queenie has to figure out how to fit into both cultures and remain true to herself. I loved spending time with her and her best friends and could not put this book down. I wonder what they are all doing now. ~ Becky Doherty
The Parting GlassThe Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino. A magnificent debut exploring passion, obsession, and the social unrest in a turbulent period of American and Irish history. There are no frills in this novel of lady’s maids and high society. Guadagnino instead has chosen to expose the whalebone beneath in all its discomforts. The sibling rivalry, unrequited love, and the young gay female point of view from which the story is told all make this a remarkable work. Guadagnino has written a compelling story with nuanced characters against a well-researched historical backdrop. ~ Hanna Yost
The ImmortalistsThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Four young siblings work up the courage to visit a fortune teller who supposedly has the ability to name the day when someone will die. Although they try to dismiss her as a charlatan, the things that she tells them haunt them into adulthood, becoming even more ominous when her predictions of death begin to come true. The author injects such a vibrant life into each of her four principal characters that the reader regards the approaching date with much the same apprehension that they do. ~ Aldne Graves
OrfeoOrfeo by Richard Powers. Peter Els has given his person over to living his art to the detriment of his marriage and his relationship with his daughter. His music remains the chemistry by which he interacts with the world so, even if only a small audience accepts it, he retreats further into his isolation and segregation from the world. When federal agents confiscate his properties, Els abandons all towards producing a final, spiritual opus. ~ Ray Marsocci
Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and BadKeep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon. Need encouragement to persevere? Seeking a more creative path? Try a dose of Keep Going. This is a no-holds-barred approach to hanging tight with the mindset and habits we all need for an actively inspired life. A long line of creative people like John Waters, Emerson, C.S. Lewis, and Wendell Berry are quoted here, and if these alone don’t move you along, any of the recommended practices in this sweet little book surely will. Perfect for gift-giving, it has found a permanent perch on my nightstand. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War IIA Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell. An amazing tale of the overlooked WWII heroine Virginia Hall. At a time when women weren’t allowed on front line combat, Hall almost single-handedly pioneered secret warfare deep in Nazi territory; recruiting spies, directing guerilla warfare and equipping the French Resistance. A marvelous, illuminating look at one facet of newly developing covert warfare and of the woman who never gave up, even after betrayal and a harrowing escape over the Pyrenees. Mesmerizing! ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
An American Summer: Love and Death in ChicagoAn American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz. Kotlowitz’s Chicago summer bursts with harrowing violence and life-affirming humanity. There are no stick figures or statistics here, only full-blooded people struggling, and sometimes succeeding, in making the next day worth living. ~ Mike Hare
Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction MoviesTypeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies by Dave Addey. From Eurostile to Futura, from 2001 to WALL·E, Addey’s attention to detail is fascinating and his insight, astounding. What gives a font a sci-fi connotation, and how is type used deliberately (or even accidentally) to convey a specific message? In short, how does text become “the future”? ~ Andrew Bugenis
The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist RevolutionThe Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris & Daniel Dennett. The three remaining ‘horsemen’ reflect on the impact their one-time religion vs. secularism conversation has had since 2007. One of my great takeaways was the understanding and love for the beauty religion has produced in the arts and humanities, even for the nonbeliever. This is a deep and humanistic read meant to invoke further thought and comment. So, in the spirit of Hitchens, read, contemplate, debate. ~ Alex Bell
Humanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature—A New Evolutionary HistoryHumanimal: How Homo sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature—A New Evolutionary History by Adam Rutherford. Humans: the most intelligent, creative species to ever walk the planet. How did that happen? In delightful, often droll prose, Rutherford charts our staggered, still incomplete evolution. Along the way he discovers that rats, dolphins, chimps, crows, and a host of other animals share some savory or unsavory human characteristics, and we, for all our wonderful sophistication, share some of theirs. ~ Mike Hare
The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in AmericaThe Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole-Smith. A compassionate, thoughtful and moving read about our culture’s twisted relationship with food and eating. Through riveting interviews with eaters around the country, the author investigates the ways in which this necessary act has been divorced from both sustenance and pleasure and twisted with guilt. ~ Rachel Person
Murder by the Book: The Crime That Shocked Dickens's LondonMurder by the Book: The Crime That Shocked Dickens's London by Claire Harman. Nearly half a century before the Ripper stalked the dark streets, another murder galvanized London. The victim was Lord William Russell, a prominent member of a social class that regarded murder among their ranks as more of a personal affront than a brutal crime. Pundits were quick to point out that Lord Russell’s gruesome demise was probably inspired by the proliferation of popular novels that, at least in the minds of a titillated public, glorified such depravity. This book is both a compelling murder mystery and an insightful look at the impact of popular culture on public behavior. ~ Alden Graves
I Miss You When I Blink: EssaysI Miss You When I Blink: Essays by Mary Laura Philpott. What a joy this book is! The author’s voice is one of clarity, knowing, realism, and vulnerability, with a great deal of humor thrown in. Reading these essays is like an evening with good food and great company and it will leave you feeling nourished and fulfilled. It reminds us to be kind to ourselves, to listen to our inner voice, and to be grateful for the amazing people we already are. This is a book you will return to time after time and it will never disappoint. ~ Becky Doherty
108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns, and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns, and the Darndest Characters from My Time in the Game by Ron Darling. Just in time for baseball season, this is a wild ride through baseball history. Ron Darling weaves his way through America’s Pastime playing a bit of Six Degrees of Separation, often including personal anecdotes of players he crossed paths with during his time in the majors. With its quick, digestible chapters, this is the perfect book for reading in between innings or during those 7th inning stretches. ~ Chris Linendoll
Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful ChaosKid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley. Once again, Lucy Knisley delivers a heartfelt, funny, and honest look at life as only she can. Fans have followed her journey through motherhood across social media for a few years now and the antics of her little bundle of joy “Pal.” Knisley shows the heartbreak that followed a miscarriage, her journey through self-doubt, and anxiety over her preparedness for it all. Anyone who has had children can relate to all of these moments and the endless joy and love that having a child brings. I love this book. ~ Chris Linendoll