Staff Picks 2021 October

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October 2021 Logo
The Lincoln Highway: A NovelThe Lincoln Highway: A Novel by Amor Towles. The Lincoln Highway is set in 1954 America as a young man, having just finished serving a sentence in a juvenile detention facility, returns home to gather his younger brother and his only material possession, a Studebaker, and begin to fulfill his plan for a better life. He is forced to follow a wild detour before he logs his first mile. Working within a time period of only ten days, Towles creates a story of epic proportions. A road novel, a hero's journey, and a richly textured folk tale with a Twainlike feeling, Towles' latest novel is sure to delight his fans. ~ Stan Hynds
Bewilderment: A NovelBewilderment: A Novel by Richard Powers. Nine-year-old Robin Byrne is subject to fits of violent rage. Out of desperation, his father, still grieving the recent loss of his wife, agrees to let the boy participate in an experiment that subjects him to brain wave patterns from other people, including one recorded from Robin's deceased mother, in an effort to counter his impulses to lash out. One of the most involving, thought-provoking, and ultimately moving books that I have read in a very long time, its implications will resonate with readers long after the last page is read. ~ Alden Graves
AssemblyAssembly by Natasha Brown. A Black woman in corporate London considers a life-altering choice as the reader follows her through a myriad of daily microaggressions and blatant racism. Is money and "success" worth a lifetime of this? An important read for those who want to learn the difference between opportunities that come with a life-long cost vs. challenges faced while privileged. ~ Misty Henrichsen
Olga: A NovelOlga: A Novel by Bernhard Schlink. This turn-of-the-century novel has all the grace and elegance of a classic. Olga is the story of an ambitious young German woman who defies the proscribed boundaries for women at the time, achieving an education and a degree of personal independence. Beginning in an era where horse and carriage are commonplace and letter writing is key to holding on to anyone far away, this sweeping saga plays out through both world wars and is saturated by her passionate lifelong relationship with a world adventurer. Readers will be spellbound by this enduring love story and Schlink's storytelling mystique. ~ Nancy Scheemaker
Crossroads: A NovelCrossroads: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen. A new novel from Jonathan Franzen is a significant event in the world of American literature. Franzen's strength has always been his ability to portray the minutiae of humanity's ego, id, and superego, specifically as regards the writhing, twisting, tortured wranglings beneath the surface of an American family. This novel, set in the flower-child world of the early 1970s, is about a family headed by a deeply conflicted associate pastor. Herein lies near-all-consuming religious zeal, horrendous sin, the rippling scars of personal history, and the everpresent power struggles that play out within a family. ~ Jonathan Fine
Cloud Cuckoo Land: A NovelCloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel by Anthony Doerr. The author of All the Light We Cannot See has delivered another masterpiece! It is about connections, beauty, nature, and human resilience. Ultimately, it is a love letter to storytelling. Doerr introduces us to many characters from many different points in time. Although their circumstances may be different, they are united by the mythical Cloud Cuckoo Land threading its way through each of their lives. We are taken on a wonderful journey and we come out better for it. ~ Chris Linendoll
Harlem Shuffle: A NovelHarlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead. Ray Carney owns a furniture store on 125th Street in Harlem and his dreams for a better life depend upon its success. He isn't too fussy about where his merchandise comes from and that brings him into the orbit of some fairly disreputable people. The novel encompasses three separate stages of Carney's risky and chaotic life. Although it is punctuated with episodes of violence, there is an affable, Damon Runyonesque quality to Whitehead's book, with a host of colorfully drawn characters swirling around his protagonist who, despite the crooks and the cons, the drugs and the racial turmoil in the 1960s, remains firmly anchored in a sort of determined decency. ~ Alden Graves
The Last House on Needless StreetThe Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. If you've listened to a single true crime podcast or watched an episode of Forensic Files, you think you have an idea how this one is going to end up—you're probably wrong. It's a weird one (you can tell because the first chapter is from a bible-reading cat's perspective), but that's not a bad thing and it's absolutely worth it. Dark and full of personality, bared teeth, and a little hope. Not for the squeamish! ~ Sara Gates
Beautiful World, Where Are You: A NovelBeautiful World, Where Are You: A Novel by Sally Rooney. Rooney presents a more adult world with a wider cast of characters, all delivering a narrative that might resemble her developing world view, post-fame, as well as building on themes and characterization from her previous two novels. The characters talk more philosophy and politics, but Rooney manages to keep her feet fixed on the ground, especially with a heightened, more poetic language sprinkled throughout the book. Reading Sally Rooney is as easy as cutting into flan and just as satisfying to consume. ~ Alex Bell
Detransition, Baby: A NovelDetransition, Baby: A Novel by Torrey Peters. What a funny, tender, whip-smart novel! Peters' book follows three main characters: a trans woman named Reese, Reese's ex Ames, who has detransitioned since they were married and now lives as a man, and Katrina, the woman whom Ames has impregnated. Desiring parenthood but uncomfortable with the expectations of being a father, Ames offers an alternative solution: involve Reese, who craves motherhood, and raise the child together. The wildly compelling story that follows explores gender, queerness, family, and desire, and has characters whose voices will stay in your head long after you finish! ~ Cathy Taylor
We Run the Tides: A NovelWe Run the Tides: A Novel by Vendela Vida. I loved this book so much that I actually forced myself to stop reading so that I'd get to spend more than one afternoon with it. Even so, I devoured it in two sittings. I'm always fascinated by neighborhood lore and the sticky politics of childhood: how children claw together a social hierarchy, the necessity of those at the top tirelessly performing their "coolness," and the maliciousness with which those neighborhood hierarchies unseat their leaders and trample them to the bottom. This book is a masterclass in exploring those ideas. The attention to detail is exquisite; the dark realities of the community are peeled bare. So, so, good. ~ Nadja Tiktinsky
The Forest of EnchantmentsThe Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I was inspired and transported by this gorgeous retelling of the beloved Hindu epic The Ramayana. With all of the pageantry, magic and colorful adventure of the original (we’re talking warrior monkeys and Bollywood-worthy demons here!), Divakaruni has lovingly crafting The Sitayana, in which the female protagonist, Lord Rama’s wife Sita, is given the strong, compassionate voice she is denied in the classic epic. Traditionally, Sita has been a role model for all meek and obedient wives in India. While being respectful and true to the original story, Divakaruni upends this stereotype and elevates Sita to role model for women of strength, wisdom, and compassion who are willing to risk their lives for future generations. ~ Lu French
The Glassy, Burning Floor of HellThe Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell by Brian Evenson. Evenson is a masterful short story writer, and these bite-sized creations are perfectly horrific. Bridging the gap between Lovecraftian terror and Bradbury-esque oddity, each story beckons its protagonist into ever darker domains. From a captain whose prosthetic leg turns murderous to a high-stakes card game with the devil himself, Evenson explores worlds where the air is unbreathable, where technology turns sinister, and where humans and monsters should be equally feared. ~ Joe Michon-Huneau
We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of SilenceWe Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper. This was my first foray into the True Crime genre, and it's the perfect introduction. Investigating the 1969 murder of an anthropology student, Cooper wonderfully weaves her own dedication for solving Jane Britton's murder while also uncovering the dark side of academia and how Harvard and the Cambridge Police swept the circumstances under the rug. ~ Samantha Beitler
Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can HealUnstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal by Brett Ann Stanciu. This thought-provoking book, part memoir and part sociological tract, was written by a librarian in a small Vermont town who was rightfully concerned when someone was routinely breaking into the library building. Suspicion fell upon a local man who had a history of drug abuse. After his suicide, she is haunted by the feeling that she should have done more to reach out to the troubled man. She embarks upon a personal crusade to better understand the causes of addiction and the treatments that are available to aid those caught in its web. This is a dark look at the Green Mountain State, where the profusion of drugs casts a long, tragic shadow over bucolic settings of pristine snowfalls and bright autumn leaves. ~ Alden Graves
The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American MonarchThe King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch by Miles Harvey. An intriguing chronicle of the early history of the Mormon church, and how one man rose from obscurity to become its leader. Following the murder of Joseph Smith, the church's founder, James Strang used the power of his charisma and the tools of mass media to convince an army of followers that he had been appointed by God to rule as prophet and "King of Earth and Heaven." In ways eerily reminiscent of our times, Strang turned lies into truth and established a virtual nation-state within the borders of antebellum America, causing people as powerful as the president to seek his downfall. Well-researched with writing that made it hard to put down, Harvey provides an in-depth look at an underappreciated part of American and LDS history. ~ Allen Boulet
The Witches Are ComingThe Witches Are Coming by Lindy West. I've been a fan of Lindy West since Shrill, her collection of essays that confronted and changed the way I thought about myself and other women. The Witches Are Coming took a different approach. It challenged me not to change my thinking, but to dig in, articulate, and own it. ~ Katelynne Shimkus
October 2021 Childrens Logo
The Beatryce ProphecyThe Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo. This beautiful fairy tale about the power of love, stories, and words resonates beautifully in a world where children sometimes unfairly suffer great loss. Beatryce, a child foretold by prophecy as the one who will unseat a king, has lost her family and must journey into love and danger in the company of an ornery goat, a boy, a monk, and a hermit. Whole worlds of emotion are packed into DiCamillo's deceptively simple prose and Sophie Blackall's perfect illustrations. ~ Rachel Person