Staff Picks 2019 June

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Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper LeeFurious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep. There were very few things in Alabama during the 1970s that involved more risk than being related to Reverend Willie Maxwell. One by one, members of his family turned up dead. They all had one thing in common besides a close relationship to the Reverend. Unbeknownst to the recently deceased, he had taken out a multitude of life insurance policies on them. He collected tens of thousands of dollars from infuriated insurance companies and fended off investigations by frustrated state officials. This would be a mesmerizing true crime story on its own merit, but the Maxwell case became the focus of years of research by Harper Lee, who hoped to repeat the success that her mentor, Truman Capote, had enjoyed with In Cold Blood. This is bound to be one of the year's best nonfiction books. ~ Alden Graves
Underland: A Deep Time JourneyUnderland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert MacFarlane. Macfarlane's writing is a joy, lyrical prose that speaks directly to the heart. His latest book is a wonder and a treasure to behold. I turned each page enraptured, and met each new chapter with glee. You are taken on an epic journey of the underland, the land beneath our feet, and I had no idea of the marvels and the horrors that are encased there. To read this book is to know this planet we live on a little better and also maybe ourselves. ~ Becky Doherty
Walking: One Step At a TimeWalking: One Step At a Time by Erling Kagge. What does it mean to us, as a species, to walk? According to Kagge, it is everything. It is our most natural waking state, necessary not only to our well-being through breath and exercise, but also to our mental state and our connection with our surroundings. Being in nature can be healing and this book takes it even farther. It is also necessary to our creative selves to walk alone in harmony with our world, allowing our brains the space they need to create. ~ Becky Doherty
Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in CrisisUpheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond. Diamond's critique of countries in crisis reveals both failure and success. Finland and Australia employed honest self-appraisal and compromise to overcome crises in the 20th century, while Germany after World War I and Chile in the 1970s descended into deadly authoritarianism. The U.S. may be entering its own crisis and Diamond asks if we’re acting to avoid or abet our own upheaval. ~ Mike Hare
Shallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial KillerShallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial Killer by Maureen Boyle. New Bedford, Massachusetts was once a booming coastal city, but by 1988 it had fallen into a steep decline. Police authorities, already submerged by a tidal wave of drug related crime, were faced with an even greater challenge when the badly decomposed bodies of missing women began being discovered along local highways. This is a meticulously researched chronicle that delves into the sad lives of the victims, most of whom were drug-addicted prostitutes, and their devastated families while honoring the dedicated men and women who were determined to bring a serial murderer to justice. ~ Alden Graves
RobinRobin by Dave Itzkoff. Testimony to both Robin Williams' artistic brilliance and to this nation's utter inability to understand depression, Itzkoff's biography characterizes the actor's intensive vitae as spirited by his creative depths and by how Williams desired always to improve upon his art. Yet this desire manifested as a need to constantly push himself which, following his death, left even his family and his closest friends, almost all of whom are comedic performers, unwilling to accept his final act. ~ Ray Marsocci
HummingbirdHummingbird by Nicola Davies and Jane Ray. The author blends a story and hummingbird facts seamlessly. You see how a bird (that is born in an egg the size of half a walnut shell) can fly from the southern hemisphere all the way to the Canadian border. Through people and places the story unfolds as we learn about a bird that we usually only think of as just pretty. And, we learn stories about the people encountered along the way. Fantastically amazing illustrations that are frameable artwork. ~ Jeanette Sessions
Is This How You See Me?: A Locas Story (Love and Rockets)Is This How You See Me?: A Locas Story (Love and Rockets) by Jaime Hernandez. Few characters in comics are as beloved as Maggie and Hopey, the Latina punkettes introduced to readers in Love and Rockets No. 1 way back in 1982. Their adventures are one of life's great reading pleasures. This graphic novel reunites them at a concert for the veterans of their scene. Wise, tender, funny, gorgeous, looking back and looking forward, it's a keeper. ~ Charles Bottomley
Searching for Sylvie Lee: A NovelSearching for Sylvie Lee: A Novel by Jean Kwok. "We are all ultimately unreliable storytellers of our own lives, whether we wish it so or not."" This is a heartrending novel of family secrets, of discovering those you love are not always as you believe them to be, or even as they believed themselves to be. Intertwined with these discoveries is also a searing exploration of what it means to be an immigrant trying to both assimilate into the new and to hold onto the past. Beautifully written, you will be thinking about these people long after you have heard their stories. ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
Montauk: A NovelMontauk: A Novel by Nicola Harrison. It's 1938, following the lead of other socialites of New York City, Beatrice and Harry Bordeaux are escaping the summer heat and spending the summer months in Montauk, Long Island. Beatrice finds herself caught between two worlds–one of high society and the other of the locals who are just trying to survive. It is here where she discovers who she is and what she truly wants. A beautifully written novel that I could not put down. ~ Suzanne Rice
Magic for Liars: A NovelMagic for Liars: A Novel by Sarah Gailey. An engaging debut novel centered around the murder of a student at a private school for young mages. But it's Ivy Gamble PI, a broken human who has struggled for years with the fact she is non-magical, that is the story's strength. Now her biggest case happens to be at the school where her estranged twin sister is a teacher. ~ Ben Parker
Keep You Close: A NovelKeep You Close: A Novel by Karen Cleveland. Just how well do you really know the person you live with? Single parent and FBI agent Steph Maddox thought she knew Zach, her 17-year old son, very well. When she found a loaded handgun hidden in his closet on the same day one of her FBI colleagues from the Domestic Terrorism Squad came to her and said that Zach was under investigation, she started to wonder. Determined to clear his name they find themselves in an intense conspiracy that could destroy both of them. ~ Suzanne Rice
Mostly Dead ThingsMostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett. This great American taxidermy novel is charming, eccentric, enjoyable, and pretty sexy. The narrator, a third generation taxidermist, finds her father in their shop after his suicide which sets in motion the total breakdown of their family. Chapters alternate in the present working towards the opening of the mother's show at a local art gallery and those set in the past anchored by grisly cadavers. There's an unforgettable sex scene while the narrator describes a childhood memory of tasting the husk of a dead cicada. ~ Dafydd Wood
The Sentence Is Death: A NovelThe Sentence Is Death: A Novel by Anthony Horowitz. Anthony is a busy man–a husband, a father, and an author with deadlines on novels and hit TV scripts. But when PI Hawthorne appears on the scene, he can't resist. There's been a murder that might make a good book. Horowitz is back with another funny, 4th wall breaking book. He's a great writer and an even better main character. I hope his (fictional) writing partnership with the rude ex-copper brings us many more mysteries! ~ Leah Moore
Tin Man: A NovelTin Man: A Novel by Sarah Winman. Winman is channeling a powerful talent here, as Tin Man is surely one of the most exquisite contemporary novels to explore unconditional friendship and love in such a magnificent way. I loved every understated moment, each character, every nuance and scene. There is so much to be admired here. Don't miss out. Just read it.~ Nancy Scheemaker
StalingradStalingrad by Vasily Grossman. On its U.S. publication in 2006, Grossman's Life and Fate was hailed as a masterpiece. Few knew that it was the second part of a work that began with this novel. Stalingrad sets the stage for a bloody confrontation between Russia and fascism, seen through the eyes of the Shaposhnikova family and a supporting cast that ranges from miners to refugees to Hitler himself. Startling in its epic intimacy, it's one of the best war novels ever written. ~ Charles Bottomley
The Golden House: A NovelThe Golden House: A Novel by Salman Rushdie. Comic-book characters infuse Rushdie's novel, where a Cat Woman, personifying both a hero and a sexy fraud, wrangles with an ever-grinning, always colorfully clothed caricature, a Joker who cackles malice and absurdity into America's collective unconscious. Littered with pop-cultural, literary, and cinematic and television allusions, the novel reads at once playful and astute, its writing a tongue-in-cheek tour through Americana, where bored, very wealthy men struggle with their ennui by creating and generating evergreater absurdity and often violent benevolence. ~ Ray Marsocci
The Ox-Bow IncidentThe Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. This powerful story of vigilante justice has taken its rightful place among the great American novels of the last century. In 1885 Nevada, three innocent men find themselves at the mercy of a lynch mob. The book provides an eloquent depiction of the systematic breakdown of the rules that govern civilized people and the tragedy that inevitably results. It is as potent a warning today as it was on the cusp of World War II. ~ Alden Graves
The Rest of the StoryThe Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen. Another beautifully written novel by one of my favorite authors! Emma Saylor is divided between two worlds–the easy suburban life with her dad and grandmother that she grew up in and the crazy, loud, busy life in North Lake with her mother's family that she found over the summer. How much can she learn about her mother and this other world before time runs out? ~ Jessie DeGarmo
I Wish You All the BestI Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver. This big-hearted, beautiful book is a must read. When Ben comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they're rejected and kicked out of the house, and must move to live with an older sister they haven't seen in years. As they work to adapt to a new school and all that has happened to them, Ben finds hope in being their authentic self. This book is sweet and sad and joyous, and every character will stay with your heart for a long time. ~ Rachel Person