In the Library Recommendations
Two Reviews, August 17, 2018
Elizabeth Berg. The Pull of the Moon. Berg’s latest novel continues her exploration of finding yourself in the midst of family, aging, and change. Nan suddenly leaves home after turning 50, and we see her trip from her first person point of view, as she records it in a journal and via her letters home to Martin. Her journey is as much inward as it is across country, and it can be a bit of a bumpy ride.
Natalie Fergie. The Sewing Machine. This novel takes us ack and forth across a century, following the experiences of women – Jean, in 1911, around the Singer strike, and then others in following generations of the family – whose lives are reflected and recorded through all the items they sew and their own writings. Four generations of history are discovered by Jean’s grandson, Fred, and he pieces together the events & challenges of their lives. This fiction has history, family secrets, and lends a sense of continuity and understanding of how we get to where we are.
Quick reviews of three new titles in our collection, August 4, 2018
The Bookshop of Yeterdays, by Amy Meyerson. An independent book store, references to Bill Shakespeare (and other classic writers), long-held family secrets, and a puzzle to solve – all in one story. Miranda always loved her quirky uncle, but a rift in the family kept them apart. One day, years later, she is called to his funeral, and that is when she begins to piece together the clues he’d left for her about his own life – and maybe she’ll find her way to a new life for herself.
Welcome to Lagos, by Chibundu Onuzo. Nigeria is torn by war and rebellion, and by the environmental destruction caused by the oil industry. Chike, an officer in the army, simply can’t make himself kill anymore, so he and one of his men walk away in the midst of an assault on a village. As they make their way to the city of Lagos – a place of difficult politics, poverty, and hope – and wind up in a complicated situation in this complicated city. Each moment they encounter difficult decisions regarding us vs. them, or me vs. you, but they use some unexpected resources to support those in great need, and maybe find the connections needed for what comes next.
Southernmost, by Silas House. A Southern evangelical minister leaves his church and his wife after understanding that his beliefs are changing. He takes his young son and goes in search of his own estranged brother. Taking his son without having custody rights will cost him dearly, so he tries to stay anonymous, and they make a small life on Key West, among people who accept imperfection and can support them as they seek answers and forgiveness, as well as a way to make things right.
July 10, 2018 Reviews
Some Recent Nonfiction
On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old, by Parker J. Palmer. People call Palmer one of our cultural elders. That is a good term for what he has done over the years through his work at Center for Courage and Renewal. This newest book is a small collection of brief writings about how we grapple with issues around who we are and what our purpose might be as we move through our time of aging, emotionally, spiritually, and mindfully.
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, by Michael Pollan. The author applies the same sense of history and exploration to the science & uses of psychedelics as he did to his earlier work in The Botany of Desire. This is a fascinating trip through a long & complicated story of research into connections between these substances and the possible results regarding health, both physically and mentally. Pollan’s usual gifted writing.
What’s Making Our Children Sick? By Michelle Perro and Vincanne Adams. The authors start with the growing rate of chronic conditions among children, and wind up tying much of it to the industrial food system, especially the high use of certain pesticides and increasing reliance on genetically modified crops. They consider what parents and the medical community might do to try to diminish these illnesses.
Command and Control, by Erich Schlosser. If you read his earlier work from a number of years ago, Fast Food Nation, you know that Schlosser is respected for his deep and thorough research, as well as his ability to turn it into accessible, creative narrative. In this book, he delives into the history (and a bit of science) of our nuclear arsenal – how we built it, how it is protected, and the ethical dilemmas associated with it. He recounts the harrowing near accidents, the brave actions of the people on watch, and the constant vigilance and worries that surround our reliance on these weapons. He is a great storyteller, and his nonfictions eeps you on the edge of your seat.
We have added two new war fiction titles in the past month or two, and many of us love that genre. First up is Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight. Like the author’s earlier novel, The English Patient, this book requires the reader to slow down and savor the prose as well as the story (as does much war fiction). Ondaatje’s writing is lyrical, he lets us see all the small insights and reactions characters have to the impact of the events and people around them. This story is about two children whose parents left them with a mysterious person named the Moth, and they – along with a group of other somewhat shady characters – must survive London during WW2. This is about the sometimes subtle, long-lasting repercussions of what people must do in war: who do you trust? – and, who (and how) do you forgive?
Another good one, based on a true story of one Jewish family and told from the point of view of several characters during WW2, is Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones – a novel of how a family must disperse in order to escape the war, how they must adapt and deal with trauma and grief and horrific circumstances in order to survive, and how some of them might find a way to each other long after.
One last review, and not war fiction: There There: a Novel, by Tommy Orange. A tough, engaging, sometimes funny and always eye-opening story of a dozen characters who converge on the Big Oakland PowWow for a day. The book takes us through their back stories, interactions with others, and lets us see what it is to sort through what it means to be on land that once traditionally belonged to the ancestors of these people, and yet, to be so removed from it at the same time.
July 6, 2018 Review
Something in the Water, by Peter Scott
See George Smith‘s review of this Maine novel set during WWII, he gives you a good sense of Scott’s storytelling.
We also have the other two titles in the series by Scott, The Boy Who Came Walking Home (set on the same Maine island, during WWI), and Barter Island (same island, during the Viet Nam War and the hippie back-to-the-land movement). This is a great series, you get to follow various characters through their lives, from WWI to the early 1970s. Our patrons love Maine fiction, and this series has been well-received.
And, not set in Maine, but definitely island fiction, is Peter May’s The Black House. Like Scott’s work, this solid mystery definitely shows us the very rough life lived by islanders. Policeman Fin MacLeod returns to the island among the outer Hebrides off of Scotland where he grew up, to help solve a gruesome murder. While he makes his way towards finding the killer, he has to revisit difficult memories and relationships that he thought he’d escaped long ago. This isn’t new to the collection, we’ve had it for a couple of years, but it is a good mystery, and May is a good storyteller — we didn’t want you to miss it!
Review, July 5, 2018, by Mary Anne Libby
Harry’s Trees, by Jon Cohen
I always love what I’m reading, but this one stands out. It was an impulse buy – Anna and I both read it and thought highly of it, so of course I had to place it in the library collection for others to read.
Harry has always had a deep connection to trees, especially beeches, but is caught working in an office job with the US Forest Service. When his wife dies unexpectedly (and he feels it is his fault), he winds up heading into the woods in Pennsylvania to lose himself in one way or another. That doesn’t go as expected, of course. He winds up connecting with an odd young girl, Oriana, who is dealing with her own grief; her mother; and a cast of other imperfect local characters, one of which is a wonderful elderly librarian (my favorite character, of course).
This book is small town fiction – my favorite genre – meets the Grimm brothers (except not dark). Harry and the people around him wind up living out the story line of a homegrown fairy tale called “Grum’s Ledger”. There is even a belligerent Wolf character, too many suitors for Oriana’s mother to handle, a bit of a fairy godmother, a tree house, and a whole lot of gold. I’ll stop there so I don’t give away how things develop. Come check it out!
In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is an unforgettable story of friendship and second chances that highlights a little-known but historically significant movement in America’s past.
The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve- a suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath – based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history.
One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood-The One-in-a-Million Boy is a richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion. For years, guitarist Quinn Porter has been on the road, chasing gig after gig, largely absent to his twice-ex-wife Belle and their odd, Guinness records–obsessed son.
After You by Jo Jo Moyes – The sequel to Me Before You, which is now a major motion picture. “We all lose what we love at some point, but in her poignant, funny way, Moyes reminds us that even if it’s not always happy, there is an ever after.” —Miami Herald How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the trans-formative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi –At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.
When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.
The book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu – In this unique collaboration, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.
Widowmaker by Paul Doiron – 7th in a very popular series, by a Maine author. When a mysterious woman in distress appears outside his home, Mike Bowditch has no clue she is about to blow his world apart. Amber Langstrom is beautiful, damaged, and hiding a secret with a link to his past.. She claims her son Adam is a wrongfully convicted sex offender who has vanished from a brutal work camp in the high timber around the Widowmaker Ski Resort. She also claims that Adam Langstrom is the illegitimate son of Jack Bowditch, Mike’s dead and diabolical father
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.
One Plus One by Jo Jo Moyes – Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell.
The Nightingale by Kristen Hanna -The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah, is about two sisters struggling to survive during World War II in France. One sister is rebellious and intent on fighting for France while the other simply wants to survive the war with her family intact. Both sisters learn who they are and what they are capable of as the war wages on.
Gratitude by Oliver Sacks –Reflections from Dr. Sacks on what it means to live a good and worthwhile life. Together, these four essays–which went viral when first published in the New York Times–form an ode to the uniqueness of each human being and to gratitude for the gift of life.
Just read something you liked and want to read something similar? Try The Book Seer.
Looking for something new and exciting to read? Want to keep track of what you like and what you have read? Try going to GoodReads and exploring this very useful site with many book descriptions and recommendations. If we don’t have the book here in the library we may be able to get it for you via Interlibrary Loan!
The Greatest Books of All Time: This list is generated from 107 “best of” book lists from a variety of great sources. Find both fiction and non-fiction lists here.
New York Times 100 Notable books of 2015: The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. This list represents books reviewed since Dec. 7, 2014.
LibraryThing – The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time Mystery Writers of America. LibraryThing is another site that will let you catalog the books you have read. Enter what you’re reading or your whole library. It’s an easy, library-quality catalog.
National Geographic’s List of All Time Best Adventure Books – Extreme Classics: The 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time
YALSA 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults – Young Adult Library Services Association a division of the American Library Association selects best fiction for young adults each year.