Staff Favorites 2018
Staff Favorites 2018
There’s no doubt that the man who painted The Mona Lisa was a genius, and in this thoroughly satisfying account, Isaacson explores the extent of his intellect and his amazing curiosity. He illuminates Da Vinci's interest not only in painting but also in science and nature. The artist/scientist dissected cadavers to study tendons and muscles. He also studied birds in flight and drew designs for tools, machines and props for stage presentations. The most intriguing of Isaacson's explorations, however, are his descriptions of Da Vinci's paintings and the techniques he used. With various paintings he discusses perspective, shading, even the geology of the backgrounds. It is utterly fascinating.
This amazing adventure memoir details the life of BBC and National Geographic cameraman Aldred as he makes his way into the canopies of the world’s magnificent trees. It’s an account that entails figuring out how to reach the lower branches of a 250 foot strangler fig tree in Borneo. There’s excruciating tension as he endures an attack by a nest of bees in Gabon. There’s heat and drenching humidity but also the great beauty of the view from the tree tops, and because Aldred writes well and loves what he does, the entire account is lyrical.
Sometimes, it seems, all that's necessary to recommend a book is mentioning the author. Such is the case with Millard, who wrote Destiny of the Republic about President Garfield's assassination, and River of Doubt about Teddy Roosevelt's trip to the Amazon. In this instance, Millard recounts Winston Churchill's determination to fight in the Boer War and his subsequent capture, escape and harrowing flight to safety. It's an exciting account, meticulously told and, once again, a Candice Millard triumph.
Dubus, author of House of Sand and Fog, has crafted another propulsive drama marked by excellence in character-driven plot and tension that quietly builds to the story’s climax. No one lays bare the minds of his characters the way Dubus does, and this novel, revolving around an act of violence that takes place within a family, deftly alternates points of view between a father, a daughter, and a grandmother, each with their own terrible need to come to terms with the long-ago incident. A masterful work by one of the great novelists of our time
Every night I read one or two poems from this, my permanent bedside companion, and I’ve given the compact anthology to numerous friends. Organized around the three themes of its title, this accessible collection is a source of comfort and delight, yet it’s filled with worthy mysteries and “aha” moments. The wonderful voices range from ancient to contemporary poets including Tu Fu, Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda, Gary Snyder, and Wislawa Szymborska. Especially insightful are the biographical notes provided by the editor. Reading this book helped me through a serious illness and I can’t recommend it highly enough
Charles Frazier's novels are worth waiting for. Ever since Cold Mountain, his phenomenal, National Book Award-winning debut of the Civil War, I have admired the masterful elegance, lyricism, and cinematic qualities of his work. Though more quiet than Cold Mountain, Varina also takes place in the Civil War era of the American South, and centers on the dark, harrowing exodus of Varina Davis - wife of Confederate president Jefferson Davis - and her family from Richmond during the war's waning months. In tandem with this narrative, Varina's post-war perspectives deepen fundamentally American themes having to do with the issue of race. This book is a gem.
Derek Miller’s debut novel Norwegian By Night is one of my all-time favorites, and American By Day is an astonishingly good sequel. Police Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård, last seen at the end of Norwegian By Night, must leave her native Norway and head to a tiny college town in upstate New York, where her missing brother is implicated in the mysterious death of a prominent African-American academic. Dry-witted, charming and utterly compelling, this blend of Scandinavian crime thriller and literary police procedural is not to be missed! It will leave you eager to learn more about Sigrid Ødegård and her American counterpart
During the worst Australian drought in decades, Federal Agent Aaron Falk is summoned back to his home town in the outback to investigate the death of his best friend Luke. Luke had been his alibi when he was accused of murder twenty years ago. But now it seems someone else knows a different version of the event and now that Luke is dead there may be vengeance afoot. So much more than the tale of a simple murder in a tiny town, Harper’s debut thriller is a pulse-pounding page turner with characters that seem so real you are tempted to cheer the hero and hiss the villains! Look for more by Ms. Harper soon. She is a formidable newcomer to the emerging genre of Australian mystery!
After just a few pages of this book, you will know you are reading something very special. No wonder it’s a best seller and a book group favorite! Gifted author Min Jin Lee delivers a beautiful historical novel, following her characters and generations from Korea to Japan. NPR describes it best when they say “Pachinko is the kind of book that can open your eyes and fill them up with tears at the same time.” I can’t describe it any better than that!
A New York Times best seller, this is a wonderful collaboration involving family stories and recipes. I’ve always admired Gaines’s decorating talents, and now we can enjoy her secrets in the kitchen, too. While we might not be able to get to Waco, Texas to visit Magnolia Table restaurant in person, we can now make a slice of the pie she so beautifully shows us in the book
Katherine Applegate is one of my favorite middle grade authors. She’s brought us The One and Only Ivan, Crenshaw and many more. Now comes this enchanting tale, narrated by an old oak tree named Red. People of the neighborhood write their wishes down and tie them to his branches. As Red watches over his neighborhood, a new family moves in, and as the heartwarming story unfolds, you will feel part of something very special and want to share it with a good friend.
Becoming allows the reader into the life and mind of one of the most admired first ladies of our generation. It is a breath of fresh air in this age of White House turmoil, as the former first lady makes her memoir much more personal and much less political. Well-written, insightful and inspiring, it’s no surprise this book quickly became the top seller of 2018
A perfectly wonderful and beautifully drawn story, ideal for starting conversations with young people about gender fluidity, taking chances and accepting yourself. The characters are all admirable and, though the story is simple, they will surely resonate with readers of all ages. Superb!
What a beautiful book, inside and out! The story teaches readers young and old about going for our dreams, having compassion, and that finding friends in the most unexpected places is always a possibility! (I love telling customers that there’s a surprise twist near the end of the book.) I cannot wait to read more about Claris’s adventures in Paris! Ages 4-8.
The new novel by the author of Peace Like a River is every bit as masterful, yet possessed of its own quiet magic. Kites, for example--the crafting and flying of them--play a transcendent role. A kind of homegrown odyssey, the story follows the owner of a movie theater in a small Midwestern town, the mysteries of his past, and myriad relationships he has with his fellow citizens and a handful of intriguing outliers.
~ John, Rodie, and Alison
In this big-hearted Mexican-American family epic, a burial and final birthday celebration bring together a large and complicated family. Although death plays a central part, this story is much more of a celebration of life, with the best ending ever!
Listed as a YA title, like The Book Thief, this novel will appeal to adult readers as well. A tumultuous and heart wrenching story of five brothers left to live their lives without parental supervision. Secrets, a death and a romance, horse racing and a bridge combine to twist your heart. A testament to the power of love. Rodie. There are five Dunbar brothers in this epic family saga of grief, loss and reconciliation, and Clay is the best of them. Clay is the bridge.
Where the Crawdads Sing is a murder mystery, a coming of age story and a story of survival, with my latest favorite fictional character—Kya—who is resilient, courageous, smart and above all respectful of the magical marsh and all the creatures who live there with her.
Little Bee is a timely, heartwarming (and at times, heartbreaking) story told from two perspectives, the most profound voice being that of a young, female Nigerian refugee living in London, UK. The prose sometimes reads like poetry, contributing to the emotional impact of this brutal, but beautiful, novel.
This reverent, close-up look at trees around the world is at once a gorgeous gem for your coffee table, and a fascinating and informative field guide to trees and their hold on human life and imagination. Jonathan Drori looks at the trees outside our windows, as well as many farther afield.
I like Mike! Jonathan Evison's 2018 release is a winning take on a modern Everyman — young, underemployed, uncertain, and on the wrong end of the stick on a wickedly recognizable Bainbridge Island. Mike, who mows lawns and dreams of topiary, will charm. His story will discomfort you, but it is well worth the read!
Witty and insightful, this book merges an account of the Obama White House with a truly entertaining coming-of-age story. As someone who doesn’t ordinarily read memoirs, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself drawn into this book. I was left with a feeling of hope that maybe things can get better.
Hastings blends personal experience and a knack for military history to craft an incredible history of all that's gone wrong for a country across 30 years.
A fascinating fantasy world, filled with great characters and intriguing plots.
Retellings of Greek epics seem to be in vogue, but this lament of the Trojan women is perhaps the most potent.
How is it that after spending four winters in Cape Town working on and reading about post-Apartheid South Africa that I remained relatively clueless about the complexity of the race question until I read this book? Stir in his childhood stories of being dragooned into multiple all Sunday church services by his formidable mama, and the result is pure joy and wonder. How did he survive to become the comic he is, or maybe, how could he have become who he is without growing up as he did? I haven't a clue but do know the clarity of his writing and his life as a kid in the fascinating mess of South Africa made for a marvelous read.
Egan conjures up a wonderful tableau of characters in this richly told novel about NYC during WW II. A precocious ingénue turned hard hat diver is the star of the show, a crippled sister who briefly arises Lazarus-like, a fraught dad, and a gangster who can't quite decide if he fits the mold. This tale starts slowly, but properly so, since developing these complex characters takes time. The research into the functioning of New York's waterfront during the war effort is fascinating and her treatment of how all these lives connect delights to the very end. No wonder Egan is a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Israel figures prominently in our political life, and understanding Bibi will be essential to understand Israel. His deep connections to the U.S. coupled with his barely disguised loathing of most American Jews, his convoluted personal life, uncompromising view of what his country must have to survive, and his willingness to directly inject his government into our political system are richly told in this comprehensive biography. The long conflict surrounding Palestine and Gaza and the Israeli internal politics driving that discussion is clear and vivid. It is refreshing to read a book on an individual and an issue about which so few find common ground that lets the facts rather than a political agenda be the focus of the story.
If Marcus Aurelius, the Buddha, and George Carlin co-wrote a book, it would be this one. Despite the title, this book is aimed at getting the average person to stop and think about the important priorities in life, especially in the age of anxiety filled social media and sensationalist news. My favorite book of 2018!
This intriguing mystery introduces us to the delightful character, Celine, a missing-persons private eye with secrets of her own. Her blue-blood New England background gives her access to unusual resources, and her fearless attitude creates rich drama. Heller is a master storyteller.
~ Jane & Susan
A mind-blowing look at the health benefits possible with the responsible use of psychedelics. History buffs will love the weird and wonderful characters in this book, and even skeptics will be impressed with the science.
If you've ever wondered how to commit the perfect murder, this book will give you some clues. Much delightful mayhem occurs in these five short chapters, where we come to know the seemingly mild-mannered Maud, an elderly retiree in Göteborg, Sweden. Maud leads a rather comfortable but pedestrian life of solitude, which she will protect at all costs. Helene Tursten, the author of many popular Scandinavian crime thrillers, has shifted gears to offer up this lively and darkly funny tale. It is a pint-sized book that makes a perfect gift. You will never take seniors for granted again!
2018 marked the 200th anniversary of Shelley’s seminal Gothic-Romantic novel. If you’ve only seen the inarticulate brute from film or television, you’ve never truly experienced the beautiful tragedy that would go on to inspire generations of writers.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay chronicles the lives of Josef Kavalier, a 19-year old Czech forced to flee his country and live with his cousin; and Sammy Klayman, a 17-year old street-wise teen desperately seeking a way out of his poor Jewish New York City neighborhood. The two forge a unique partnership and together create the fictional masked crime fighter known as the Escapist. While part of this novel is a love letter to the Golden Age of comics, it's Sammy and Joe's relationship through the years of World War II and post-war America that is the most compelling part of this funny and heartbreaking 2001 Pulizter Prize winning novel. A must read.