Staff Picks 2020 March

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Greenwood: A NovelGreenwood: A Novel by Michael Christie. This majestic, century-spanning novel is largely told from the viewpoints of Harris and Everett Greenwood, who were thought to be brothers after they were rescued after a train wreck. Their impact upon each other would reverberate throughout their lives. Harris used his business acumen to become a prominent lumber baron. Everett led a shiftless, nomadic life until he came upon a baby left in a vast forest by her dying mother. The decline of Harris Greenwood’s fortune is counterpointed by the growing awareness in the world of the irreplaceable value of our natural resources; personified by his great granddaughter’s commitment to protecting the environment. In this rousing, engrossing saga of a dynamic family, the author has quietly woven a warning to us all. ~ Alden Graves
FICTION
Deacon King Kong: A NovelDeacon King Kong: A Novel by James McBride. Awesome. Great read. Highly entertaining while also poignant. A view into first generation black northerners in NYC during the mid-20th century. Unforgettable characters and a narrative thread that keeps interest up. ~ Chris Morrow

A memorable cast of characters with equally memorable names like Sportcoat, Sister Gee, Elephant, Four Pie Lady, and Sausage inhabit this Damon Runyonesque story of life in a Brooklyn housing project. A series of momentous events unfold after Sportcoat, in an alcoholic stupor, shoots the ear off a local drug dealer, a kid who used to be the star player on the baseball team he coached. McBride effortlessly spans the cavern between some of the most serious issues confronting urban America and humor that sometimes approaches a slapstick level. The new book by the author of The Good Lord Bird is infused with a zest for life that is exhilarating, suspenseful, and completely delightful. ~ Alden Graves

The Illness Lesson: A NovelThe Illness Lesson: A Novel by Clare Beams. Samuel, an aging Emerson/Alcott Transcendentalist type, founds an all-girls’ school with help from his last disciple and his adult daughter, Caroline, who serves as the point of view for this feminist historical novel. An atmosphere of dread grows as mysterious blood-red birds amass. Caroline enrolls Eliza, who is the daughter of Miles Pearson, someone from Samuel’s past and an Edgar Allan Poe type. Eliza starts exhibiting strange behavior which quickly spreads amongst the girls. And the men just know that they have all the right answers and know best. ~ Dafydd Woods
Follow Me to Ground: A NovelFollow Me to Ground: A Novel by Sue Rainsford. This book pushes the boundaries of literary fiction, sending it soaring to new heights. It held my attention from the first page and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Definitely one of the strangest books I’ve ever read, but in the best possible way. ~ Cassidy Washburn
The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1)The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A. K. Larkwood. This is a fast-paced, epic fantasy read with some space opera vibes. It is action packed and features LGBTQ+ characters. You will fall in love with Csorwe, an orc priestess turned assassin, as well as her diverse companions as they discover the power of choice and free will. Perfect for anyone who is looking to get into fantasy or science fiction. Highly recommended! ~ Cassidy Washburn
Saint X: A NovelSaint X: A Novel by Alexis Schaitkin. Tragedy strikes a family of four on a vacation to the island of Saint X in the Carribean. College-age daughter Allison is found dead and two island locals are accused of her murder, but never charged. Years later, her younger sister, Claire, by chance runs into Clive Richardson, one of the men who may have been involved in Allison’s death. The mystery of what happened to Allison consumes Claire’s life and she becomes intent on uncovering the truth. An entrancing and diverse read. ~ Kirstin Swartz
Apeirogon: A NovelApeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann. Instead of vowing vengeance after their beloved daughters are killed, two men, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, work to bring their wounded nations together. This is a powerful examination of a seemingly unquenchable conflagration, fueled by mistrust and hatred, that has consumed the peace and wellbeing of the people who live in its path. Unsparing in its commitment to bring the carnage into vivid relief for the reader, this novel is also an eloquent plea for the immeasurable value of simply putting the weapons aside and talking to one another. McCann has utilized a strikingly original concept, enriching his book with historical tributaries that give the central story a sad, tragic, and ultimately uplifting ring of truth. ~ Alden Graves
PAPERBACK
Kill CreekKill Creek by Scott Thomas. If you think the idea of four horror authors spending the night in a haunted house is cliche, you are in for a surprise. It’s what happens to them after they leave the next morning that is truly terrifying. This book scared me from start to finish...and what a twist ending! ~ Sarah Donner
A Woman Is No Man: A NovelA Woman Is No Man: A Novel by Etaf Rum. This is a contemporary story told through the eyes of three generations of women within a family, who have moved to Brooklyn from Palestine and live together. These women have been married off to men they don’t know, and abuse and subservience is not only accepted, but expected. The violence and humiliation they are subjected to is shocking. The shame and fear that pervades the culture they try so hard to protect slowly unravels as they become more self aware and “Americanized” over the years. This book, although painful to read at times, was hard to put down. ~ Jen Grigsby
NONFICTION
You Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time: Rules for CouplesYou Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time: Rules for Couples by Patricia Marx and Roz Chast. Perhaps the funniest and most accurate book about relationships that has ever been published. The book speaks for itself: “Honesty is not necessarily the best policy,” “Whoever cares the most that there are crumbs in the toaster gets the de-crumbing job,” or “Sexual favors in exchange for cleaning up the cat vomit is a good and fair trade.” ~ Dafydd Wood
Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham LincolnEvery Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln by Edward Archorn. Lincoln’s contradictions, compassion, and complexity color this vivid account of his Second Inaugural and the end of the Civil War. The celebratory, yet tense atmosphere of Washington D.C. is evoked through descriptions of muddy streets, galas, and throngs of citizens, including luminaries Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, and future assassin John Wilkes Booth. ~ Mike Hare
Rust: A Memoir of Steel and GritRust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit by Eliese Colette Goldbach. “What comes out of Cleveland?” Goldbach gives an honest and nuanced answer to that question in her heartfelt memoir. She vividly describes the inner workings of the steel mill where she works while grappling with her feelings about her upbringing and her hometown. A confident, fascinating memoir from a strong writer. ~ Stan Hynds
The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect BirdThe Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird by Joshua Hammer. By the author of the best-selling Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, this fabulous true tale follows the incredible decades-long story of one of the world’s most notorious smugglers of endangered raptors and the dedicated British detective determined to stop him. Woven in is the history of rare egg collecting and Arab high stakes falcon racing. Fascinating, eye-opening and thrilling from the opening page. A thoroughly enjoyable mix of history, nature, international adventure, and true crime. ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSIAmerican Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson. Edward Oscar Heinrich, known as the “American Sherlock,” was a renowned forensic scientist from the early twentieth century and one of our country’s first expert witnesses used in a criminal trial. Little was known about how much he contributed to modern forensic technology and procedures. This is an engrossing true-crime book with each chapter focusing on a specific case and the groundbreaking techniques Heinrich used to solve them. A really great read for anyone interested in the forensic sciences. ~ Kirstin Swartz
PAPERBACK
Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McKibben. Unlike sporting events, the human game has no clear end point, so Bill McKibben positions the game’s environmental, economic, and political components as crises we currently face. A eulogy and a plea that we all might play out this game as individuals and as members of the human community, so every one of us can win. ~ Ray Marsocci
Morning Meditations: Awaken Your Power to ChangeMorning Meditations: Awaken Your Power to Change. Do you need a small, portable, and fast read that helps you start off your day in the right mind? Filled with 150 enlightening entries, this self-help book is a great option for someone who needs quick mini-lessons on life, relationships, and reducing stress every day. I highly recommend getting this book and putting it by your bedside to read one page every morning to awaken your mind for a new and improved day. ~ Kirstin Swartz
YOUNG ADULT
Foul is Fair: A NovelFoul is Fair: A Novel by Hannah Capin. Lady MacBeth is blazingly reimagined as a savage 16-year-old SoCal girl. The St. Andrew’s prep school boys messed with her, not knowing she’d return regally, with nails like razors, blood on her lips, cruelty in her heart, and her coven always in the wings. ~ Mike Hare
OLD FAVORITE
The Optimist's DaughterThe Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty. A bittersweet account of the demise of an influential Southern gentleman and the effects of his death upon his family. Judge McKelva was a force to be reckoned with in the small town in Mississippi where he and his first wife raised their daughter. Laurel had long since left home to pursue a career in Chicago. When she returns for her father’s last days and his funeral, she has to deal with the Judge’s second wife. Fay is a painfully uncultured young woman who, Laurel begins to wonder, must have only seemed attractive to her father because of his loneliness and failing eyesight. By turns funny and moving. Ms. Welty is a towering presence even in an area of the country that has given America some of its best writers. ~ Alden Graves
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