Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Well, Christopher Paul Curtis has done it again! The Mighty Miss Malone is not only about a girl but its about a family. It's about a family doing everything it takes to survive together and then just doing what it takes to survive.This story is not only about a family's struggles with the economic aspects of the Great Depression but also the political aspects. With this historical fiction Mr. Curtis has proven to me that the fights between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling in 1936 and 1938 were more than just heavyweight bouts. He calls them the perfect storm.
The Mighty Miss Malone
The engaging and darkly humorousCare of Wooden Floors, a debut novel by UK journalist Will Wiles, tells the tale of a nameless house-sitter who is given the opportunity to get away from his rather drab life in London and visit a nameless eastern European city to watch over the sleek and ultra-modern apartment of an old college friend and finally concentrate without distraction on the creative writing that he tells himself he has in him. Oscar, the friend, a renowned minimalist composer and beyond serious neat freak, leaves nothing in his life to chance. As the narrator discovers a series of obsessively specific notes concerning the care of the flat, and particularly the unique wood floors, it becomes clear that there is more to the house-sitting, and more to the relationship with Oskar, than was assumed. As the story unfolds, and then absurdly unravels, a sense of schadenfreude sets in and readers will revel in the “it can’t get any worse” twists and turns as the simple house-sitting assignment morphs into a downright Kafkaesque existential struggle.
Care of Wooden Floors
On the day their divorce is to be finalized, Kelly returns to the small boutique hotel in New Orleans where she and her husband, Mike, fell in love and visited frequently.
The story follows their lives as it chronicles the complexities of their twenty year relationship and as Kelly faces a major decision and the impact of it for her daughter.
A Small Hotel is a passionate love story showing the consequences of miscommunication and insecurity written by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Robert Olen Butler.
Good writing, a good story that can be read and appreciated on various levels.
A Small Hotel
Yesterday, the National Book Award winners were announced. Here is a list of the Fiction and Nonfiction books that were nominated including the winners.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Winner)
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956 by Anne Applebaum
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (Winner)
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro
The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez
House of Stone: A Memoir Of Home, Family, And A Lost Middle East by Anthony Shadid
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian is a love story set against the horror of the Armenian genocide in 1915. The novel moves between the present day narrated by Laura Petrosian, and the early years of the war. Laura is researching her family history to learn the story of how her grandparents met and fell in love.
The woman who would become Laura’s grandmother, Elizabeth Endicott, is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke when she arrives with her father in Aleppo, Syria, in 1915 to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees. Laura’s future grandfather, Armen, is an Armenian engineer who has come to Aleppo in search of information about his wife and infant daughter who have been killed by the Turks. Elizabeth and Armen fall in love but are temporarily separated as Armen leaves to travel to Egypt to join the British Army.
Elizabeth and Armen's story includes other compelling characters. Nevart, a widow who lost her husband during the genocide, has unofficially adopted Hatoun, a young girl who witnessed the decapitations of her mother and sister. And, two German army engineers risk their lives to photographic the savagery of the Armenians' predicament for posterity.
Laura Petrosian’s journey back through her family's history reveals not only love, tremendous loss, and gruesome images of the Armenian genocide, but a wrenching family secret that has been buried for generations.
The Sandcastle Girls : A Novel
When I read the new picture book Sky Color, I was reminded of a fascinating piece from Radiolab called "Why Isn't the Sky Blue?". In different ways, Peter Reynolds' new picture book and the Radiolab program acknowledge that the color concept of a clear blue sky may be largely a social and linguistic construction.
In Sky Color, Marisol has the opportunity to share in painting a mural in her school library. When she can't find the color blue, which she thinks she needs for the sky, she thinks a bit more on how to represent the sky on her mural. That night, she has a dream and realizes she may not need the color blue to present the color of the sky after all.
Sky Color is the third in a series of picture books by Peter H. Reynolds about creativity. The first two titles are The Dot and Ish.
In The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff weaves two stories into one engaging novel, which takes the reader back and forth between historical fiction and modern day murder mystery. While the former helps to lay the groundwork for the latter, each is its own journey. Using a series of fictional documents to tell the story of Ann Eliza Young, whose divorce from Brigham Young in the mid 1870’s, and outspoken criticism of polygamy became national news, the author provides the almost unbiased feeling of being a researcher. Meanwhile, his first person narrative of Jordan, the excommunicated son of fundamentalist Mormons from an isolated community, immediately draws you into to his struggle. This is the character I really cared about, and what keep me up at night to read “just one more chapter.” This definitely does not read like a judgment of a religious practice, but rather a glimpse into a different world. As you follow Jordan on his path to confront his past, you feel the weight of how much history has defined it, and you really care about him, and the unlikely heroes who help him find his way.
The 19th Wife
This fall is an exciting time for fiction readers. A handful of greatly loved, established writers are releasing new books this season. Earlier this month, Zadie Smith released her fourth novel, NW. Louise Erdrich's fourteenth novel, The Round House, will be published at the beginning of next month. Early November will see the publication of Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel, and Dear Life, a new collection of stories by Alice Munro. And later this week, J.K. Rowling's much anticipated first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, hits shelves. Place your holds today!
Thursday, September 20th marks the beginning of the seventh season of Classics Revisited, a book discussion group held at KPL that focuses on classic literature (with a few contemporary standards thrown in for good measure). This month we’re discussing the masterful epic Middlemarch by George Eliot. Middlemarch, published in serials between 1871-72, follows the ambitions, successes, and failures of a number of the residents of a provincial English town during a time of political reform. Eliot had amazing insights to human nature—in fact, it was surprising to me just how modern her observations and characterizations were. If you’re familiar with Middlemarch and would like to join us for a lively discussion, please feel free to stop by the Central branch Thursday at 7pm.
Classics Revisited meets on the third Thursday of every month, September through May. Up next is Hemingway’sThe Sun Also Rises, which we will discuss on October 18th. The complete schedule is available on the KPL website and also on the Classics Revisited blog.
Life of Pi is an award winning novel by Canadian author, Yann Martel. It tells the story of Pi Patel, the 16 year old son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry India. Pi is a spiritual seeker at an early age. He is a Hindu but falls in love with the stories of other religions and tells his parents that he wants to also be a Christian and Muslim. His family emigrates from India to Canada aboard a Japanese cargo ship along with their zoo animals. When the ship sinks, Pi ends up alone in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger.
The book describes the experience of how Pi survives 227 days adrift in the ocean with his unlikely companions. When he is finally rescued, Pi tells his extraordinary story to representatives of the Japanese shipping company searching for the cause of the sinking. They express deep disbelief, so he offers them a second, more believable story that parallels the first one. The company reps, and the reader, can choose to believe either one. The book depicts how all people use stories to give meaning to their experiences and process reality around them – some based on faith and religion.
Life of Pi is a readable book with a thought provoking ending and would make a great selection for a book club discussion.
Life of Pi