Ah, June is coming! We can smell summer from here. Time to stuff our beach bags with a little romantic comedy, fantasy (featuring librarians, naturally), suspense, memoir and microhistory. Here are the books hitting shelves next month that librarians across the country recommend. Place your holds now to have them in hand for your upcoming vacations or staycations.
“Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler
“The newest entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare series brings The Taming of the Shrew into the modern world. Kate is stuck in a life taking care of her absent minded professor father and her sister, Bunny. When her father suggests a marriage of convenience in order to secure a green card for his lab assistant Pyotr, Kate is shocked. This is a sweet and humorous story about two people, who don’t quite fit in, finding each other. Tyler’s wonderful writing updates and improves on the original.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
“The Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman
“Directed by powerful librarians, agents roam alternate realities searching out special volumes for their mysterious library’s collections. Irene is a spy for the library but something is a little off about her current mission; there’s something strange about her new assistant that she can’t quite put her finger on and worse, the requested volume has already been stolen. Cogman’s engaging characters and a most intriguing imagined world are sure to delight readers, especially bibliophiles.” – Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY
“Under the Harrow” by Flynn Berry
“Nora leaves London to visit her sister, Rachel, in the countryside often. But this trip is different – a silent house, a dead dog hanging from the railing and so much blood. Nora stays, trying to help the police solve the case. She thinks it might have something to do with the unsolved attack on Rachel when she was just a teen but it could be someone new. This story is thrilling and quietly gripping. We become as obsessed as Nora in finding her sister’s killer — what if he strikes again?” – Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX
And here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure!
- “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War” by Mary Roach
- “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi
- “Missing, Presumed” by Susie Steiner
- “Stiletto” by Daniel O’Malley
- “We Could Be Beautiful” by Swan Huntley
- “Lily and the Octopus” by Steven Rowley
- “Widowmaker” by Paul Doiron
“The Story of My Teeth” came into existence the way most novels do: at the behest of a Mexican juice company. But rather than merely extol the virtues of juice while spinning a tale about juice bandits who turned to a life of juice thievery due to being criminally deprived nature’s finest nectar during their formative years, Valeria Luiselli chose to tell a better, stranger tale.
The novel, in addition to being a “collaborative translation” with Christina MacSweeney, was also workshopped with workers at a juice factory. She would send a chapter, factor in their feedback, then write the next chapter. The novel’s quality makes it clear that more writers should seek the feedback of factory workers. Indeed, I’m so inspired by her tactics that I’ve taken the liberty of mailing this post to a number of factories. As you can tell, I’ve yet to hear back, but I imagine their feedback will transform this post into something nearly as magical as her novel, at which point I will use their suggested changes for the 10th anniversary edition of this blog post (“Now in 3-D and edited by factory workers!’).
“The Story of My Teeth” is mostly narrated by a man known as “Highway.” Highway opens the novel by declaring himself the world’s greatest auctioneer. He’s also capable, if given sufficient quantities of rum, of imitating Janis Joplin. Regardless of his rum levels, he’s able to balance an egg. Highway is also a fiend for collecting things. As a child, he collected over 10,000 of his father’s nail clippings, stored smartly in envelopes. If this wasn’t enough to have you hooked (I speed-read the novel hoping to find a scene featuring an upright egg), there’s also a scene in which four portraits of clowns menace poor Highway.
I may have opened the book expecting slow, laborious descriptions of teething, lost teeth and their corresponding visits from fairies, and dental procedures, but what I got was much more amusing and interesting, if significantly less fairy-laden. Highway was cursed with bad teeth, so once he has a little money in his pocket, he does what most of us would: buys Marilyn Monroe’s teeth and has them inserted. Soon after, he demonstrates his talents as an auctioneer by auctioning off his own freshly plucked and malformed teeth. He’s able to get a great price by claiming they’re from such famous mouths as Plato’s, Virginia Woolf’s or G.K. Chesterton’s. He gives each tooth its own flash fiction origin story, and the reader is left wishing he had more teeth to auction. Highway also wishes he had more stuff to auction, so he decides to auction off himself, with consequences that include paintings of clowns.
“The Story of My Teeth” does things that make book critics talk fancy. You’ll be questioning the narrator’s trustworthiness. There’s a section of the book that is a timeline. Photographs are included. Authors and philosophers are name-dropped. You’ll wonder whether G.K. Chesterton really damaged his teeth due to his affinity for chewing marbles. But ultimately, you’ll just enjoy this clever novel and redouble your efforts to keep your distance from paintings of clowns.
The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list of recommended reading sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association. Sixteen young adult book clubs from libraries across the country are responsible for narrowing down a list of nominees for teens to vote on nationwide. Below is this year’s full list of Top Ten nominations. Don’t forget that the library offers print, eBook and audiobook editions of many of the these titles!
“Alive” by Chandler Baker
Stella Cross has received a heart transplant, but it has not stopped her emotional suffering.
Then a mysterious boy named Levi Zin comes into her life. Stella’s pain goes away whenever she’s around Levi. However, Stella finds out a terrible secret about Levi. Can it be true?
“Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo
Young criminal genius Kaz Brekker is offered the chance to pull off a dangerous theft that can make him rich. He recruits a gang of six dangerous misfits to help him with the heist. The book follows the crew’s crazy adventure and features plot twists, betrayals, and schemes aplenty.
“The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black
In Fairfold, a place where both humans and Faeries live, siblings Hazel and Ben have grown up telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin in the woods. The boy has horns and ears pointy as knives, perhaps he’s a prince or a knight. Of course, they’ll never know because the boy will never wake. Then, unexpectedly, he does . . .
“The Witch Hunter” by Virginia Boecker
Elizabeth Grey is a witch hunter who is suddenly accused of being a witch. She is arrested and sentenced to burn. The only way for Elizabeth to avoid this fate is to help out her former enemy Nicholas Perevil, the most dangerous wizard around. The book is filled with magic and adventure, action and mystery and features a world full of witches, pirates and ghosts.
“The Game of Love and Death” by Martha Brockenbrough
Set in Seattle in the 1920s, a romance develops between Flora, who is African American, and Henry, who is white. Despite some differences, the pair has much in common, including a shared love of jazz music. However, it turns out that Flora and Henry actually are pawns in a game played by two other characters – Love and Death. This book is full of intrigue and is, at times, heartbreaking, and will have the reader racing to the final pages.
“Powerless” by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs
In a world full of powerful heroes and villains, Kenna is just a regular, powerless teenager who works in a lab. Then, three villains break into the lab, and Kenna decides to fight back. In the midst of this battle, Kenna is saved by a villain. Suddenly, she is forced to rethink her beliefs.
“Mechanica” by Betsy Cornwell
A new take on the classic story of Cinderella. Mechanica uses her wit and her mother’s old engineering textbooks to try to escape her stepmother and stepsisters. Mechanica is a strong, smart, and capable character in a book that has an inspirational message for teenage girls.
“You and Me and Him” by Kris Dinnison
Maggie is overweight. Nash is out of the closet. They are the best of friends. But that friendship is tested when they both develop feelings for the same boy, a new kid named Tom.
“The Summer After You & Me” by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Lucy Giordano lives on the Jersey Shore and has a crush on a boy named Connor Malloy, whose family spends many summer weekends at the home next door. The pair eventually shares an unexpected romance. Then, Super Storm Sandy hits and alters Lucy’s life dramatically. Lucy and Connor go their separate ways. But several months later, Connor is scheduled to return to The Shore, which should definitely make for an interesting summer.
“The Devil You Know” by Trish Doller
Arcadia, or Cadie for short, is 18 years old and has been longing for something more in life ever since her mother died. Then she meets two handsome boys, cousins to one another, and they invite her and a friend on a camping trip. What seems like innocent fun takes a negative turn when Arcadia discovers one of the boys is hiding a terrible secret.
“Charlie, Presumed Dead” by Anne Heltzel
Charlie Price is presumed dead after his plane crashes. However, his body is never found. At his funeral, Lena and Aubrey meet and discover both were his girlfriend. Lena believes Charlie is still alive, and she and Aubrey set out on a journey across Europe and Asia to expose Charlie’s deceit. The girls try to work together, but the secrets they hide could prevent them from finding Charlie.
“Illuminae” by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Kady and Ezra have just broken up, and then their planet is bombed by a megacorporation. The pair escapes to a government ship, but must put their differences aside in order to survive and stop a plague that has resulted from the use of a bioweapon.
“When” by Victoria Laurie
High school junior Maddie Fynn has special powers that allow her to see numbers above a person’s forehead, which she soon discovers are death dates. She identifies the death date of a young boy, but is unable to prevent his disappearance. Then, Maddie becomes a suspect in a homicide investigation.
“The Novice” by Taran Matharu
A blacksmith’s apprentice named Fletcher discovers he can summon demons from another world. He soon gets chased out of his village for a crime he did not commit, ending up at an academy for adepts, where he is trained to serve as a Battlemage in the Empire’s war against the savage Orcs. Eventually, Fletcher discovers the fate of the Empire is in his hands.
“Mark of the Thief” by Jennifer. A. Nielsen
Set in Ancient Rome, a young slave named Nic finds an amulet that gives him magic powers usually reserved for the Gods. After discovering a conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and start a war, Nic is forced to use the magic within to defeat the empire’s most ruthless leaders and save Rome.
“All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven
Death plays a big role in the lives of high schoolers Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. He is constantly on the verge of suicide, and she is battling grief after her sister’s death. The Indiana teens come together to work on a project and soon develop a bond, showing each other what it’s like to live.
“I Am Princess X” by Cherie Priest
When they were young, best friends Libby and May created a comic character named Princess X. Then Libby was killed in a car accident. Lonely and grieving, May soon discovers an underground culture centered around a web comic at IAmPrincessX.com. The similarities between those stories and Libby’s own stories are striking. Could her friend still be alive?
“Hold Me Like a Breath” by Tiffany Schmidt
Penelope Landlow has an autoimmune disease that forces her to remain indoors. She is also the daughter of a notorious crime family that is involved in the black market for organ transplants. Penelope soon gains her independence and is forced to survive on her own in the big city. She learns about love, loss and how to survive in an often dangerous world.
“Con Academy” by Joe Schreiber
Will Shea (aka Billy Humbert) is a con man who has scammed his way into Connaughton Academy, an exclusive school for the American elite. He soon meets Andrea Dufresne, who also has conned her way into the school. The pair soon makes a bet to see who can con the school bully, Brandt Rush, out of thousands of dollars.
“The Ghosts of Heaven” by Marcus Sedgwick
An epic story about the journey of discovery told in four episodes. The first, takes place during prehistoric times, as a girl picks up a stick and creates some of the first cave drawings. Next, we visit the 17th century and a girl named Anna, whom many believe is a witch. Episode three is set in a Long Island mental institution and features a mad poet who watches the ocean. Finally, a trip to the future, as a spaceship travels to settle another world.
“The Glass Arrow” by Kristen Simmons
Set in the future, Aya is a 15-year-old girl who has spent her life hiding in the mountains in order to avoid the fate of most women, who are treated like property and auctioned off for breeding. Then, she is caught. Desperate to escape, she relies on the assistance of a wolf and a mute boy in her search for freedom.
“Black Widow Forever Red” by Margaret Stohl
Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, is one of the world’s most lethal assassins, and she once rescued young Ava Orlova from being subjected to a series of military experiments. Now, Black Widow and Orlova, who is 15 years old and living in Brooklyn, team up again to stop Widow’s former teacher, the evil Ivan Somodorov, from wreaking havoc on the children of Eastern Europe.
“Every Last Word” by Tamara Ireland Stone
Samantha McAllister seems to have it all: she is beautiful, bright and part of the popular crowd in high school. But looks can be deceiving, and she is hiding the fact she has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Samantha’s life changes after she visits a place at school called Poet’s Corner and she begins hanging out with new friends like Caroline and AJ.
“Zeroes” by Scott Westerfeld
Six California teens have special powers that aren’t always welcome. Like Ethan, known as Scam, who has a voice inside of him that will sometimes speak out when it’s not the right time to do so. When that “power” gets Ethan in trouble, the other Zeroes are the only ones who can rescue him. However, the members of this group are not exactly the best of friends.
“Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls” by Lynn Weingarten
June and Delia were best friends who grew apart. Then, Delia commits suicide. Or, at least that’s what others have been told. June believes her former best friend has been murdered, and she goes on a quest to find the truth . . . which, it turns out, is very complicated.
“Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon
Maddy is a teenager with a serious autoimmune disease that prevents her from leaving the house. Yet, she seems content to stay home and read books. That is until a boy named Olly moves in next door. The two meet, and their quirky relationship is chronicled through emails, journal entries, IMs and old notes.
Originally published at 2016 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees.
The winners for the Gateway and Truman Readers Awards have been announced! The recipients for these book awards are chosen each year by Missouri high school and junior high students, respectively. This year, over 8,000 votes were cast by students in grades 6-12.
Gateway Reader Award Winners
- 1st Place: “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey
- 2nd Place: “The Naturals” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
- 3rd Place: “The Program” by Suzanne Young
Truman Reader Award Winners
- 1st Place: “Prisoner B-3087” by Alan Gratz
- 2nd Place: “The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die” by April Henry
- 3rd Place: “The Testing” by Joelle Charbonneau
Originally published at 2016 Gateway & Truman Award Winners Announced.
Supernatural thrillers, compelling historical fiction and a boatload of mysteries? Summer reading must be coming! Enjoy this month’s LibraryReads list of books publishing next month that librarians across the country recommend.
“Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman
“Britt-Marie is a woman who is used to her life being organized. But when she leaves her cheating spouse and takes a temporary job as caretaker of the recreation center in the tiny town of Borg, her life changes in unpredictable ways. With its wonderful cast of oddball characters and sly sense of humor, this novel is sure to capture readers’ hearts. Highly recommended.” – Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA
“The Fireman” by Joe Hill
“’The Fireman’ is a novel that will keep you up reading all night. No one really knows where the deadly Dragonscale spore originated but many theories abound. The most likely is that as the planet heats up, the spore is released into the atmosphere. Harper Willowes is a young, pregnant nurse who risks her own health to tend to others.This is her story and I loved it! This is one of the most creative takes on apocalyptic literature that I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended for all Hill and King fans.” – Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX
“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven” by Chris Cleave
“Set during World War II and loosely based on the author’s own grandparents, this was a strikingly honest look at the changes that war creates on a country’s landscape and its people. These changes were so strongly shown by the progressive style of this novel. Bit by bit, we are privy to each character’s transformation. What a great tribute to what they endured. War gives birth to many endings, also to many beginnings. Bittersweet.” – Lori Elliott, Kershaw County Library, SC
Here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure:
- “Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler
- “I Let You Go” by Clare Mackintosh
- “Smoke” by Dan Vyleta
- “Redemption Road” by John Hart
- “City of the Lost” by Kelley Armstrong
- “Wilde Lake” by Laura Lippman
- “Sweet Lamb of Heaven” by Lydia Millet
“Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears.” Thus speaketh Luke Skywalker during a rousing oratory in “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.”
400 years after his death, on April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare continues to inspire new generations of writers. Arguably, everyone writing in English has been influenced by him, as he added so many new words and expressions to the language. Many authors have penned books in direct homage to his work.
Ian Doescher, for instance, has rendered the first six “Star Wars” movies into stories written in Shakespearean style. Iambic pentameter has never been more exciting. Action sequences are narrated by a chorus. Just as in the movies, many of the best lines go to C-3PO. “Fear has put its grip into my wires,” the droid laments. Each volume is a quick read and faithful to the related film’s plot.
“A Thousand Acres” by Jane Smiley, is a late twentieth-century retelling of “King Lear.” Smiley’s tale is set on an Iowa farm, where Larry Cook has decided to divide his estate among his three daughters. The story is told from the point of view of Cook’s oldest daughter, Ginny. Unlike Lear’s oldest, Ginny is a sympathetic, mostly non-treacherous character (with the exception of one notable episode.) But much like Lear, Larry seems to be losing his mind, perhaps to dementia, perhaps to long-held guilt. “A Thousand Acres” won multiple awards, including the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.
Any guesses as to which Shakespeare play inspired Matt Haig’s 2007 novel, “The Dead Father’s Club”? 11-year-old Phillip’s father recently died in a car accident. Or was it murder, as his dad’s ghost claims? Phillip is tasked with the job of exacting revenge against his uncle, who appears to be making moves on both Philip’s mom and the family business, a pub called the Castle and Falcon. Sounds a lot like “Hamlet” to me. Except contemporary, funny and — if possible — even more tragic in some ways.
In “The Dream of Perpetual Motion,” Dexter C. Palmer presents a steampunk version of “The Tempest.” Like Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s play, Harry Winslow finds himself stranded with a character named Miranda. But instead of a desert island, the setting is a perpetually orbiting zeppelin. The zeppelin has been designed by Miranda’s father, Prospero Taligent, who mirrors Shakespeare’s Prospero in his possession of abilities beyond the ordinary, creating mechanical beasts and people to do his bidding.
Shouldst thou further wish to pursue literature inspired by the Bard of Avon, look to the reading list contained in yon catalog.
John Wray’s latest awesome novel, “The Lost Time Accidents,” begins with its narrator declaring that he has been “excused from time.” Most readers will assume that he is waiting on a tardy chauffeur or a pizza delivery, but this statement is quickly clarified: Waldy Tolliver is literally outside of time. It’s 8:47 and he’s stuck in his aunt’s apartment, a shrine to the act of hoarding. Towers of newspapers threaten to crush careless occupants, and there are rooms divided into smaller rooms via walls of books with openings only large enough to barely crawl through. But this is more than a book about a man with a lot of a lack of time on his hands being stuck in a super cool house. It’s about his family, and their obsession with time, and the Holocaust, and a fairy that visits one half of a profoundly eccentric set of twins, and physics, and pickles, and the narrator’s doomed love affair with Mrs. Haven, and his father’s prolific career as a science fiction writer, and the powerful cult that his science fiction inadvertently spawned, and whether time is a sphere and other stuff too.
(While reviews for this novel are positive, some downright glowing, there are also a few that, while admiring Wray’s ambition and skill, don’t love its length (roughly 500 pages), nonlinear structure and tendency to meander. This gentleman enjoys a good meandering, though, and Wray’s meanderings are spectacular. Without them we wouldn’t get several hilarious summaries of Waldy’s father’s science fiction or the section written in the voice of Joan Didion. Besides, Wray’s genius needs the space to unfurl. The fellow writes sentences like someone that loves doing so and also owns a top-notch brain.)
The family’s obsession with time began with Waldy’s great-grandfather, Ottokar, an amateur physicist and proprietor of a thriving pickling business. He’d figured out the nature of time just prior to being killed by an automobile. His sons, amateur physicists and heirs to a thriving pickling business, search for clues to Ottokar’s discovery, but he’s left behind little more than some ambiguous and absolutely absurdly alliterative notes. (“FOOLS FROM FUTURE’S FETID FIEFDOMS FOLLOW FREELY IN MY FOOTSTEPS” — this reader thought maybe his sons should have thought about that a little longer.)
Ottokar’s sons, Kaspar and Waldemar, take very different paths. Waldemar becomes an anti-Semite (it doesn’t help that Albert Einstein, forever referred to by the family only as “the patent clerk,” gathered the glory he felt was meant for their father) and just generally insane and evil. He eventually becomes known as “The Black Timekeeper” for his time travel-related experimentation on prisoners during the Holocaust. Waldemar believes time is a sphere, and that with enough willpower, one can transcend it. He vanishes just prior to the destruction of his concentration camp.
Kaspar’s path is loaded with love and heartbreak, continent swapping, fatherhood and eventually a lucrative career as a watchmaker. He raises a set of eccentric twins, who cultivate their own obsession with time, encouraged by the fairy that visits one of them every so often. Those twin girls raise Kaspar’s next child, Orson. Orson loves writing science fiction, and though it tends to the erotic because that’s what sells, he’s pleased to be free of his family’s obsession with time. So of course, one of his novels becomes the text that inspires a time-obsessed cult. Orson’s son, our narrator, is compelled to write the story of his family, in part to free himself from his evil uncle’s shadow. Then he gets “excused from time” and has all the time to write he could ever want. So he uses it to write a family history in the form of a very long letter to a Mrs. Haven. He begins by informing her that he has been excused from time.
I like reading about real people — what happens to them and how they feel about their experiences. But I don’t want to read harrowing tales of survival. I want something lighter. I’ve read a number of these types of books recently that I recommend.
- In “Hammer Head: the Making of a Carpenter,” journalist Nina MacLaughlen decides she needs a change and answers an advertisement for a carpenter’s apprentice. She discovers she enjoys working with tools like a hammer, a saw and a level.
- “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” by Maya Van Wagenen was written for teens, but I think adults could learn from it. A middle school girl makes changes to the way she approaches people and how she presents herself to the world.
- “My Kitchen Year” by Ruth Reichl describes how the writer coped during the year following the loss of her job due to the closing of Gourmet magazine. Reichl includes recipes of the foods she cooked during this time.
- “Pardon My French: How a Grumpy American Fell in Love With France” by Allen Johnson chronicles his year living in France, making friends and struggling with the language (which he had studied) and the cultural differences. I enjoyed his sense of humor.
- “Education of a Traitor: A Memoir of Growing Up in Cold War Russia” by Svetlana Grobman tells about coming of age in a place very different from where she lives now. I found it interesting to read about someone growing up during the same time I did but in a very different environment.
- In “Wildflower,” Drew Barrymore tells about her life after she met the mentors and role models who helped her become a responsible adult.
- In “Melissa Explains It All,” Melissa Joan Hart tells about growing up working in the acting business. She knows a lot of other celebrities and reveals some behind-the-scenes moments from “Clarissa Explains it All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”
- In “You’re Never Weird on the Internet,” Felicia Day tells about being homeschooled and having little interaction with her peers. The Internet was one way she could connect with people. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet also led to problems once she got older.
- In “Bossypants” by Tina Fey and “Yes, Please” by Amy Pohler, both comedy writers use humor to relate some of their experiences.
Do you have a favorite celebrity? Maybe they’ve written a book. Need inspiration to make a change in your life? Read about other people who tried something different. And yes, we even have memoirs about surviving horrible circumstances if that’s your thing. The library has something for everyone.
A hip-hop-inspired Broadway musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton seems as unlikely as Hamilton’s own historic rise. Born out of wedlock and orphaned as a young child, he struggled out of poverty and became one of our nation’s most powerful political leaders. “Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry,” Hamilton sings in “Hamilton: An American Musical,” created by Lin-Manuel Miranda (composer, writer, lyricist, actor and all-around genius). This show is a smash hit, with even terrible seats going for hundreds of dollars. And just a couple of weeks ago President Obama hosted local students and the cast of “Hamilton” for a daylong celebration of the arts in America.
I came a little late to the “Hamilton” party, but once I heard the soundtrack this spring, I couldn’t stop listening. Or singing. Or rapping. I randomly shout “Lafayette!” or “I am not throwing away my shot!” at my kids, and they grin and dance around because, of course, they’ve heard the soundtrack multiple times by now. Mama cannot get enough. If you haven’t listened to “Hamilton” yet, and you live in Boone or Callaway County and have a library card, you can stream or download the whole thing through Hoopla. Right now! So, go ahead and take a listen. I’ll wait.
You back? Amazing, right? If you want to read the book that inspired this phenomenon, check out the biography “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, which is as much a story of the birth of our nation as it is an in-depth look at George Washington’s right-hand man, author of the majority of The Federalist Papers and the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
If an 800-page book is a little more than you want to commit to, how about learning more about Hamilton’s friend and Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette? Miranda has Lafayette rapping at about 100 miles an hour – in a French accent – in his musical, but Sarah Vowell makes him just as entertaining in “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.” With her signature voice and wit, Vowell discusses Lafayette’s nonpartisan influence on a fledgling United States, his relationships with the Founding Fathers and his contributions during the contentious 1824 presidential election.
If your Hamilton fever has given you the history bug, Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph J. Ellis has authored a number of lyrically written books that explore the birth of America. “Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation” analyzes the intertwined careers of the founders of the American republic and documents the lives of John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. The text doesn’t rhyme, though. Sorry. “American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic,” and “His Excellency: George Washington” (“Here Comes the General!”) are other works by Ellis worth exploring.
If all of this revolutionary reading only has you more excited about the musical, starting in September a travelling company will perform the show in Chicago. Road trip?
What It’s About: “Six of Crows” is an intense narrative following a group of teen criminals. Kaz, the master mind. Inej, the stealthy Wraith. Jasper, the sharpshooter. Nina, the Heartrender. Wylan, the runaway. And Matthias, the Druskelle ex-prisoner.
I warn readers, the narrative alternates between characters. Personally, I thought the change in point-of-view was amazingly well-done. Each chapter successfully builds a different character’s history while expanding the story of the giant and clever con they’re trying to pull. This story is one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Imagine “The Italian Job” or “Ocean’s 11” as a young adult fantasy. That’s this book.
What I Didn’t Like About it: That it ended? That it ended and the second book isn’t out yet? I mean really, this was an amazing read. “Shadow and Bone” was enjoyable, but honestly, “Six of Crows” blew it out of the water, into the atmosphere, and somewhere near the moon. That’s how much better “Six of Crows” was.
It seems like Leigh Bardugo built herself an original and interesting world involving Grisha, and also became an even better writer than she was when she wrote “Shadow and Bone.” Trust me, you want to check this one out, put it on hold, do whatever it is you need to do to make sure you read “Six of Crows.”
Alas, “Crooked Kingdom,” the second book in this series, isn’t due to come out until this September. Oh man, waiting that long is going to be so hard.
Originally published at Staff Review: Six of Crows By Leigh Bardugo.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month and the many women trailblazers who changed our country and the world, the name of an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, stands prominently in my mind. This is not only because she’s the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the highest court of the land, but also because to reach such a position, she had to overcome a lot of hardship and prejudice. In 2013, Sotomayor published her memoir “My Beloved World,” which quickly became a New York Times bestseller.
Born in the South Bronx to a poor Puerto Rican family, little Sonya began showing the strength of her character at the age of nine, when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and had to learn to give herself insulin shots. Despite being raised in a family that hardly spoke English, Sotomayor was an excellent student – she was her high school valedictorian, graduated summa cum laude (the highest of three special honors for grades above the average) from Princeton and, while at Yale, was editor of the Yale Law Review. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice (2009), Sotomayor held a variety of positions: a district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, a partner in a private law firm, a justice of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York and, later, of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
A large part of Sotomayor’s memoir is dedicated to her family – her alcoholic father, her somewhat distant mother, her domineering but loving grandmother, her brother, aunts, uncles and cousins – as well as the island of Puerto Rico, which she first visited as a child and later as an adult.
Sotomayor doesn’t shy away from her difficulties either, as she describes her complicated feelings toward her parents and her unsuccessful marriage. The author’s recollections are clear-eyed and honest, and her American dream story is inspiring not just for women and minorities but for everyone in the country.
The Columbia Public Library will host a book discussion of “My Beloved World” on April 7 at noon, so bring a lunch and join us as we discuss the life of Justice Sotomayor.
This month’s LibraryReads list of books publishing in April that librarians across the country recommend includes a nonfiction work that wins the award (an imaginary award bestowed by me) for best title ever: “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts.” How could scads of librarians NOT recommend this book? We also have works inspired by Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes, so get ready to be entertained and place some holds on these forthcoming books!
“Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld
“Love, sex, and relationships in contemporary Cincinnati provide an incisive social commentary set in the framework of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Sittenfeld’s inclusion of a Bachelor-like reality show is a brilliant parallel to the scrutiny placed on characters in the neighborhood balls of Jane Austen’s novel, and readers will have no question about the crass nature of the younger Bennets, or the pride – and prejudice – of the heroine.” – Leslie DeLooze, Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY
“The Obsession” by Nora Roberts
“Readers who love romantic thrillers will be mesmerized by the latest Roberts offering. The suspense kept me up all night! Naomi Carson, a successful young photographer, has moved across the country and fallen in love. She thinks she has escaped her past but instead finds that the sins of her father have become an obsession. The serial killer premise makes it a tough read for the faint-hearted, but sticking with it leads to a thrilling conclusion.” – Marilyn Sieb, L. D. Fargo Public Library, Lake Mills, WI
“The Murder of Mary Russell” by Laurie R. King
“Worried about Mary Russell? Well, you should be. She’s opened her door to the wrong man and deeply troubling secrets are set to tumble out, rewriting her history and putting herself and the people she loves in a dangerous spot. Once again, King spins a tantalizing tale of deception and misdirection for her readers’ delight and scores a direct hit in her latest Russell-Holmes mystery.” – Deborah Walsh, Geneva Public Library District, Geneva, IL
Here’s the rest of this month’s list with links to the library’s catalog for your holds-placing pleasure!
- “‘Til Death Do Us Part” by Amanda Quick
- “Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly
- “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts” by Joshua Hammer
- “Every Heart a Doorway” by Seanan McGuire
- “Best of My Love” by Susan Mallery
- “A Murder in Time” by Julie McElwain
- “Tuesday Nights in 1980” by Molly Prentiss
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The April 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
Reading while traveling in a car can be difficult. I had a friend who read magazines and books while we drove to bicycle races when I was a teenager. He was the driver. Audiobooks didn’t exist then, but I wish they had because this would have avoided many hours of extreme anxiety for me. My daughter claims that the “barf monster comes” if she reads in the back seat of our subcompact Toyota. My wife can read for about .03 minutes in the car without feeling queasy. The answer is audiobooks, whether you are traveling this spring break as a family or alone with your phone and a backpack. Unless otherwise noted, all audiobooks reviewed below are available on CD and/or downloadable mp3 formats through OverDrive.
I can’t begin to explain my joy in discovering, with my little girls, the Harry Potter series of books by JK Rowling. (I know, I know, it is totally lame that I have not read/listened to them until now). I relish each book. If you are taking a road trip with your kids this spring break, I would highly recommend listening to the series. Narrated by the sublime Jim Dale, the audiobook version will quickly immerse you in the world of Hogwarts and Hagrid while you ply the dreary Kansas plains (or on that long flight to the East Coast). Start with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” especially with younger readers in the car. Perfect for families.
What better way to pass the time while traveling than listening to a travelogue? Bill Bryson’s new book “Road to Little Dribbling” examines the societal and cultural changes in Great Britain during our relatively young century, throwing in his trademark humor and wit. A must-listen if you are traveling to the British Isles or, indeed, Europe during the upcoming break.
Car (or plane and bus travel) can be stressful, chaotic and tedious. A calm mind and Zen attitude can help. Jack Kornfield’s classic “Meditation for Beginners” is an excellent introduction to basic meditation practices. The audiobook is also filled with relaxing music. Exploring breathing techniques and other basic tenets of the practice, Kornfield’s approach is not to overwhelm the listener with theory but to impart basic tips and techniques to make first attempts at meditation easier.
If you are traveling out West this Spring Break, I would highly recommend what some critics argue is the best book written about the American desert and the Southwest: “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey. The desert comes alive in Abbey’s prose: “Lavender clouds sail like a fleet of ships across the pale green dawn – each cloud, planed flat on the wind, has a base of fiery gold.” Abbey also sends a clarion call out to the nascent environmentalist movement (the book was written in 1968), arguing that the protection of our native species and wild lands are in many ways the most pressing issues of our time.
Further, the audio version of this book also gives me a chance to mention another format that we have available here at DBRL. “Desert Solitaire” is only available through Hoopla, which is another great source for downloadable audiobooks as well as other media here at the library.
In addition to the fourth or perhaps fifth rereading/re-listening of the first three Harry Potter books that is going on in my family, we have also started reading the fabulous Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. Riordan just put out an excellent companion to his books, called “Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes.” One of the real attributes of this series of books is that, written in Riordan’s entertaining style, they introduce my family to the wondrous world of Greek mythology. I needed a refresher, and my kids are getting a great education without the drudgery that oftentimes accompanies Greek mythology textbooks. “Greek Heroes” is meant to further our education and fills in the gaps that some of the books might have created. Again, highly recommended for family car trips!
What are your listening plans for this spring break?
It feels like I’ve read millions of stories about smart and awesome children who are bullied by their peers and hated, or at least mistreated, by their parents (or, more likely, their legal guardian(s) or orphan master), but eventually they find the right mentor and/or peers and flourish. But when this template is used by a good writer, it remains satisfying no matter how many times it’s been slipped past my…head windows. And Charlie Jane Anders is, at least in this gentleman’s estimation, a great writer. And “All the Birds in the Sky” is a great novel, a new classic in the genre of “extra-special kid(s) with unfortunate upbringing(s) rise above their station and show the world their greatness.”
In order to judge the novel outside of the shadow of novels with similar conceits, I took the groundbreaking and head-breaking measure of attempting to induce amnesia. I tapped my noggin vigorously with all manner of mallets and took a number of tumbles down staircases, and in one regrettably memorable experience, sent myself plunging down my dumbwaiter, only to find that not only had my butler not been removing the now very rotten food scraps, but also one can earn a nasty infection from moldy silverware, and I don’t have a butler, and my dumbwaiter is just a second story window. Alas, the amnesia did not take. My mind, unfortunately, is still as sharp as…one of those, uh, sharp stabby things, the ones you use to affix pictures of your favorite monarchs to your dormitory walls…wallstabbers? Yes, wallstabbers.
Anyway, with my memory still as simultaneously boundless and confining as a prairie town, I am unable to judge “All the Birds in the Sky” without the knowledge of somewhat similar works coloring my perception. But, after further consideration, in what is a cruel twist given all I went through in order to provide a recommendation that would shatter all notions of what a recommendation could be and also my orbital bones, “All the Birds in the Sky” is a singular work.
For one, there are two protagonists. And the melding of science fiction, fantasy, comedy and action is so smooth, one would be forgiven for forgetting, even without a freshly battered head, to comment on its smoothness. Anders’ delivery and gift for jump-cutting to punchlines induce bountiful mirth. Also, I can’t think of another novel that features a school for witches. The school, Eltisley Maze, is fantastically imagined, and I doubt another author could, even with, like, seven whole volumes, create as fascinating a setting as Anders has here in just a few pages. It’s so cool. Go read the book, which describes the school, which I will not do.
The story begins with a girl saving a bird and learning she can talk to it. Soon she meets a boy who has followed cryptic instructions from the Internet to build a time machine capable of propelling the wearer two seconds into the future. This is a small aid in his quest to avoid bully fists, but using it too much will give the user a tremendous headache, as will wrapping your entire body save for your head in blankets and rolling down the steps of an amphitheater.
Difficulties abound. In order to get witchy again, Patricia must resort to taking unheard of amounts of spice in her food. Laurence’s parents insist he must go outside more. The guidance counselor at their school is actually an assassin (from an ancient order, naturally) plotting the pair’s demise. (To his credit, he’s only doing so because of a vision of apocalyptic catastrophe that featured the two children as adults at its center.) The children drift apart, though Patricia still converses with the artificial intelligence that is devouring Laurence’s closet space.
The novel really hits its highest…springy wheel thing with teeth that attaches to its wheel siblings to produce movement…when it jumps ahead to their early adulthood. Patricia is a witch who spends her time fixing wrongs, from turning a very bad man into a turtle, to making a heroin addict’s skin impervious to needles. Laurence is working as part of a billionaire’s think tank to create a wormhole that will transport a portion of the earth’s population to a fresh planet before this one is irrevocably torched. Also, this portion of the novel is home to the coolest tablet computer anyone has ever imagined, even if it is shaped like a…thing you use to scrape sounds out of a guitar.
With the duo at the height of their powers, and Patricia and her coven keen to save the world, and Laurence and his think tank keen to save some of the people on the world, even if the wormhole ray blows this one up in the process, one sees how the assassin’s apocalyptic vision may come to pass. Read the book and see if it does. Now I’m going to see a…person that puts cold metal on you to check for sickness.
When asked about the best early training for a writer, Ernest Hemingway reportedly answered, “An unhappy childhood.” This snappy reply may hold more than a bit of truth if we take as evidence the number of captivating memoirs written about growing up in (and surviving) extraordinary circumstances.
“The Sound of Gravel” by Ruth Wariner is one such memoir. In this intense and moving account of the author’s coming-of-age in a polygamist Mormon colony-bordering-on-cult, Wariner describes living on a rural Mexican farm as one of her father’s more than 40 welfare-dependent children. She recounts the extreme religious beliefs that haunted her daily life, the abuse she and her siblings suffered and her escape after a devastating tragedy.
At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, Wariner will talk about her book at the Columbia Public Library. Copies of “The Sound of Gravel” will be available for purchase and signing.
Want more memoirs of survival? Read on!
“Look Me in the Eye” by John Robison details an abusive childhood made more complicated by undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. This memoir describes Robison’s difficulties communicating and the resulting social isolation, his discovery of his mechanical aptitude, his struggle to live a “normal” life, his diagnosis at the age of 40 with Asperger’s and the dramatic changes that have occurred since that diagnosis. Robison’s understated humor and fascinating journey (he designed flaming guitars for the band Kiss and founded a successful high-end car repair business) make this an enjoyable, moving and memorable read.
To mentally escape abuse, young Amanda Lindhout lost herself in the pages of National Geographic magazine. When she turned 18, she left home, determined to see the world. Lindhout became an experienced backpacker, and her memoir “A House in the Sky” (co-written by Sara Corbett) details a harrowing story centered around Lindhout’s kidnapping, along with an Australian photographer, by Somali Islamist rebels. The two were held prisoner for more than 15 months, and Lindhout’s account of the ordeal is compelling, dramatic, disturbing and ultimately an incredible testament to her will to survive and how the worst imaginable circumstances can inspire something good.
“The Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer details his relationships with the father stand-ins he found at Publicans, a local bar and his uncle’s favorite haunt. Poor, and living with his single mother, he bonds with the bar’s regulars who form “one enormous male eye looking over my shoulder” as Moehringer grows up, taking him on outings, teaching life lessons and providing a refuge when relationships fail. This reflective, heart-warming book reminds us that home can be found in the unlikeliest of places.
For even more memoirs about survival and resilience, check out our book list in the library’s catalog.
On April 23, Columbia will welcome an impressive list of writers to the inaugural Unbound Book Festival. We’ve already highlighted the writers of fiction and nonfiction appearing at various venues on the Stephen’s College campus, and here are the poets who will be sharing their work. (Author information courtesy of Unbound Book Festival.)
- Mary Jo Bang is known as a poet of “gorgeous phrasing and imaginative leaps” (Washington Post) and as “an ingenious phrase maker, startling English out of its idiomatic slumber” (New York Times Book Review). Her poems are products and portrayals of our fractured twenty-first century world, yet timeless, whether concerning silent movie star Louise Brooks or of the tragic death of her son. She is the author of six poetry collections, including “The Last Two Seconds” and “Elegy,” which won the 2009 Nation Book Critics Circle Award, and the translator of a groundbreaking rendition of “Dante’s Inferno.”
- David Clewell is the author of 10 collections of poems and two book-length poems. His work has appeared regularly in a wide variety of national magazines and journals – including Harper’s, Poetry, The Georgia Review, Kenyon Review and New Letters – and is represented in more than fifty anthologies. Among his honors are several book awards: two Four Lakes Poetry Prizes (for “Taken Somehow By Surprise” and “Almost Nothing to Be Scared Of”), the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize (for “Now We’re Getting Somewhere”), and a National Poetry Series selection (“Blessings in Disguise“). He served as Poet Laureate of Missouri from 2010-2012.
- Walter Bargen has published 18 books of poetry. Some of his most recent books are: “Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems” (2009), “Endearing Ruins” (2012), “Trouble Behind Glass Doors” (2013) and “Gone West” (2014). He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009). His awards include a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship (1991), Prose Award from Quarter After Eight (1996), the Hanks Prize (1996), the Chester H. Jones Foundation prize (1997), the William Rockhill Nelson Award (2005) and the Short Fiction Award – A cappella Zoo (2011).
- Mark Doty is one of America’s most acclaimed and beloved poets. His gorgeous, colloquial verse touches movingly on matters personal, natural and political, oftentimes weaving together these realms with wisdom and grace. Doty is the author of nine poetry collections, including “Deep Lane,” recently published, and “Fire to Fire: New & Selected Poems,” which won the 2010 National Book Award. Doty’s additional honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize.
- Camille Rankine has been featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, New York Daily News and American Poet as one of the country’s most impressive emerging poets. Her debut collection, “Incorrect Merciful Impulses,” is among the most anticipated first books of 2015; incisive, lyrical and intimate, it establishes her instantly as a literary force to be reckoned with.
- Patrick Rosal is one of America’s most dynamic poets of the immigrant experience, his poems ringing with the music of a multicultural existence. A writer of fierce conscience and big heart, Rosal is known internationally for his captivating recitations, his poems written to be performed and heard as much as read. He is the author of four poetry collections, including “Boneshepherds” and “My American Kundiman,” which won the 2006 Book Award in Poetry from the Association of Asian American Studies and the 2007 Global Filipino Literary Award.
- William Trowbridge is currently Poet Laureate of Missouri. His latest collection is “Put This On, Please: New and Selected Poems” (Red Hen Press, 2014). His poems have appeared in more than 35 anthologies and textbooks, as well as on The Writer’s Almanac and in such periodicals as Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, TriQuarterly, The Georgia Review, Boulevard, The Southern Review, Columbia, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Epoch and New Letters. He teaches in the University of Nebraska Low-residency MFA in Writing Program.
The post Columbia’s Unbound Book Festival: A Reading List (Part Two) appeared first on DBRL Next.
The March LibraryReads list is here! This month we have historical fiction, a smart thriller, an urban fantasy and even Jane Eyre re-imagined as a gutsy serial killer. Place your holds now on these 10 titles recommended by librarians across the country.
“The Summer Before the War” by Helen Simonson
“Fans of Simonson’s ‘Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand‘ have reason to rejoice. She has created another engaging novel full of winsome characters, this time set during the summer before the outbreak of World War I. Follow the story of headstrong, independent Beatrice Nash and kind but stuffy surgeon-in-training Hugh Grange along with his formidable Aunt Agatha. Make a cup of tea, and prepare to savor every page!” – Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI
“Jane Steele” by Lyndsay Faye
“Jane Steele is a great read for lovers of Victorian literature who especially love their characters to have a lot of pluck! Jane Steele is the adventurous, irreverent, foul-mouthed broad that I so often loved about Jane Eyre, but in more wily circumstances. Remember that fabulous scene in Jane Eyre when she stands up to her aunt for the first time, and how you wanted to stand up from your comfy reading chair and cheer for her? Imagine an entire book just of those sorts of scenes. Absolutely fabulous fun!” – Abbey Stroop, Herrick District Library, Holland, MI
“The Passenger” by Lisa Lutz
“This is a compulsively readable story of a young woman who has to keep switching identities and stay on the run. Is she a reliable narrator or not? What was the original event that sent her on the run? There is a lot of action and suspense as she tries to survive and evade the law while trying to keep her moral center intact. Unlike Lutz’s Spellman books, this reads more like a Charles Portis road novel, though considerably more serious and dangerous. Highly recommended.” – Beth DeGeer, Bartlesville Public Library, Bartlesville, OK
And the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure:
- “Marked in Flesh” (a novel of the Others) by Anne Bishop
- “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
- “Fool Me Once” by Harlan Coben
- “The Madwoman Upstairs” by Catherine Lowell
- “Because of Miss Bridgerton” by Julia Quinn
- “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life” by Lee Smith
- “All Things Cease to Appear” by Elizabeth Brundage
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The March 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
Book lovers and festival goers! Please mark your calendars immediately because Saturday, April 23 will be a celebration of books and writing not to be missed. The Unbound Book Festival is a brand-new event in Columbia, celebrating literature of all kinds. Nationally-recognized and bestselling authors across many different genres will be on hand to discuss their work and participate in a variety of stimulating events and environments. The inaugural event will take place on the campus of Stephens College, and all of the events are FREE! Here are just some of the writers who will be at the fest along with links to their works here at the library. Look for another post in two weeks for the poets who will be a part of Unbound. (Author information courtesy of Unbound Book Festival.)
- Eleanor Brown is the New York Times and international bestselling author of “The Weird Sisters,” which was an Amazon Best Book of the Month, Barnes and Noble Discover Selection, Indie Next pick and winner of the Colorado Book Award.
- Laura McBride is the author of the 2014 debut novel “We Are Called to Rise,” which was a #1 Indie Next pick and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer’s choice in the United States, and both a Simon Mayo BBCRadio2 Book Club selection and a Waterstones Book Club pick in the UK.
- Laura McHugh is the bestselling author of “The Weight of Blood,” winner of an International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. “The Weight of Blood” was named a best book of the year by BookPage, the Kansas City Star and the Sunday Times (UK), and has been nominated for a Barry Award, Alex Award, Silver Falchion Award and GoodReads Choice Award.
- Shann Ray is the author of the debut novel “American Copper,” an Indie Next Pick that has garnered acclaim from Esquire, Kirkus Reviews and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. His collection of short stories, “American Masculine,” received the American Book Award and the Bakeless Prize.
- Bob Shacochis is a novelist, essayist, journalist and educator. His work has received a National Book Award for First Fiction, the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He graduated from the University of Missouri Journalism School in 1973 and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1982. “The Immaculate Invasion,” about the 1994 military intervention in Haiti, was a finalist for the New Yorker Magazine Literary Awards for best nonfiction book of the year and was named a Notable Book of 1999 by the New York Times. His most recent work, the novel “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul,” was published in 2013.
- Candice Millard is a former writer and editor for National Geographic magazine. Her first book, “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey,” was a New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by, among others, the New York Times, Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor. Millard’s second book, “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine & the Murder of a President,” rose to number five on the New York Times bestseller list and was named a best book of the year by the New York Times, Washington Post, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. “Destiny of the Republic” won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime, the PEN Center USA award for Research Nonfiction, the One Book-One Lincoln Award, the Ohioana Award and the Kansas Notable Book Award.
- Nina Mukerjee Furstenau’s writing is “lush and lyrical” (Kansas City Star) and her memoir, “Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland,” won the Grand Prize as well as the 2014 MFK Fisher Book Award from Les Dames d’Esscoffier International for food and culture writing.
- William Least Heat-Moon was born of English-Irish-Osage ancestry in Kansas City, Missouri. He holds a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism and a doctorate in English from the University of Missouri. Among his writing credits, he is the author of “Blue Highways,” which spent 42 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 1982-83.
- George Hodgman is a veteran magazine and book editor who has worked at Simon & Schuster, Vanity Fair and Talk magazine. His writing has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Interview, W and Harper’s Bazaar, among other publications. His memoir, “Bettyville,” is a New York Times bestseller, the Amazon spotlight pick for March 2015 and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
- Kayt Sukel is passionate traveler and science writer, and she has no problem tackling interesting (and often taboo) subjects spanning love, sex, neuroscience, travel and politics. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Scientist, USA Today, Pacific Standard, the Washington Post, ISLANDS and National Geographic Traveler. Her first book, “Dirty Minds/This is Your Brain on Sex,” is an irreverent and funny tome that takes on the age-old question, “What is love?” from a neurobiological perspective.
Check out Unbound Book Festival’s website for more information on these and other writers coming to mid-Missouri in April.
The post Columbia’s Unbound Book Festival: A Reading List (Part One) appeared first on DBRL Next.
As Valentine’s Day approached, I, like most red-blooded Americans probably, found my thoughts turning to Richard Nixon. Coincidentally, I was absorbed by Austin Grossman’s latest novel, “Crooked.” “Crooked” is the first-person account of Richard Nixon’s rise to power and fall from power, and subsequent rise to power and fall from power. While others have chronicled Nixon’s life, none before have touched on the terrifying truth: Nixon was one of the few that knew the U.S. and U.S.S.R. had moved beyond the mutually assured destruction via mundane nuclear weaponry and were onto mutually assured destruction via weaponized monsters and pacts made with the elder gods that walked the earth before being banished below the surface.
It’s no surprise that Henry Kissinger was a thousand-year-old sorcerer, but the reader won’t expect to learn that Dwight Eisenhower could stop a bullet with magic, or that the British had long been allies with a miles-long krakken, and that the monster had plucked German planes out of the sky during World War II. These sorts of treats are abundant in the novel, as are fantastic sentences such as follows:
I had, I realized, lost track of whether I was a centrist Republican stalwart, a right-wing anti-Communist demagogue, a mole for Soviet intelligence, the proxy candidate for a Bavarian sorcerer, or the West’s last hope against an onrushing tide of insane chthonic forces.
Near the beginning of the novel we get a glimpse of Nixon’s fabled romantic streak and a taste of what is to come:
This is a tale of espionage and betrayal and the dark secrets of a decades-long cold war. It is a story of otherworldly horror, of strange nameless forces that lie beneath the reality we know. In other words, it is the story of a marriage.
Also, the reader learns why Nixon sweated so much during that one debate, and what was up with that Watergate debacle.
Grossman’s experiences as a video game designer provided fodder for his previous novel, “You.” The tale of a successful video game studio whose co-founder died and left behind a bug that threatened to break their gaming engine, much of the novel is spent watching the narrator play video games as he searches for the bug, which is more exciting than it sounds, unless you love watching people play video games, in which case it is approximately as exciting as it sounds.
Those weary of superheroes being confined to movie theaters, televisions, comics, Halloweens, lunchboxes and underwear will devour Grossman’s first novel, “Soon I Will Be Invincible.” A story of superheroes and a super-villain, it alternates chapters between their perspectives, and while it is funny, it’s an homage to the genre rather than a spoof. Even those who don’t wish for constant immersion in comic book universes should find the novel to be a well-written romp with a big heart. The reader will learn that sometimes superheroes have tremendous trouble in their personal lives, that they often rely on painkillers and sometimes super-villains are reduced to stealing away into the night with an entire ATM in order to pay the rent.
February 11 marks the 169th birthday of Thomas Edison. Known for holding over 1,000 patents, Edison’s work left a huge impact on the world. He helped usher in the era of electric light and gave the world a way to capture both sound and motion pictures. There are those who believe that Edison was a ruthless businessman, his iconic image more myth than reality, and that many of his great ideas should in fact be attributed to others. So what is the truth? The library offers several interesting items that explore different perspectives on Edison and the stories behind his many creations.
Readers interested in Edison’s many inventions may want to check out Leonard DeGraaf’s book, “Edison and the Rise of Innovation.” DeGraaf serves as the archivist for the Thomas Edison National Historical Park and draws from the collection he oversees to give readers an image-filled guide to Edison’s life and work. From photos of Edison’s workplace in Menlo Park, to drawings and diagrams of his many creations, DeGraaf illustrates the broad scope of Edison’s creativity.
Of all of his creations, Edison’s fame may have been his most incredible undertaking. Randall Stross’ book, “The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World” examines the fame Edison experienced during his lifetime and how he built his larger-than-life image. Stross’ book focuses more on Edison’s celebrity than his technical achievements, even downplaying them as less impressive than the public persona he created. By the end of his life, Edison held not only multiple patents, but also the title of the most well-known American in the world.
Edison not only seemed to crave fame, but he also was highly competitive. As the idea of electric power became a reality, Edison found himself drawn into the race to capture it for public consumption. “Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World” by Jill Jonnes explores the exciting race between Edison (who was pushing for DC power) and the eccentric Nikola Tesla and businessman George Westinghouse (who both were pushing for AC power). Jonnes’ book illustrates the challenges they faced as they worked to take their ideas from the drawing board to reality, as well as the somewhat ruthless methods Edison employed to ensure he would win the race.
One thing that is certain of Edison is that a big part of his success came from his ability to work with the other great minds of his day, particularly those in the financial and political worlds. Mark St. Germain’s play, “Camping with Henry and Tom: A Comedy,” offers a funny and entertaining take on a real-life meeting between Edison, President Harding and Henry Ford. Imagine the discussions the three may have had! The library offers both the print edition and the audiobook version of St. Germain’s play. (It is a great listen for a road trip!)
Whatever his exact role in shaping the technology of the 20th century, Edison certainly was an unforgettable character. Happy reading!