Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Abdullah, Pari – as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named – is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her.
But Saboor, a laborer, has an entire family to think of, and that means hard choices. And so they leave their poor village of Shadbagh for Kabul, where his brother-in-law, Nabi, a chauffeur, introduces them to his wealthy employer, Suleiman, and Suleiman’s wife Nila…a woman who cannot have children of her own. The deal she brokers will Saboor will mean that his family will have money enough to live a while longer…and Pari, now being raised as the child of rich parents, will have a better life than Saboor could ever give her.
This one act causes ripples which resonate through the lives of all of those affected. The novel opens up from its initial tight focus on Abdullah and Pari to examine in turn the interlinked, branching lives of their families, their descendents, their friends, and those affected by them as the story crosses generations and continents.
The beauty of the writing is only matched by the humanity of the characters. Hosseini takes us inside their minds and their hearts and we see them laid bare, essentially good people but with their flaws and weaknesses exposed, to us and to themselves. Although much of the book takes place in Europe and America, Afghanistan remains at the heart of the story because Afganistan remains in the hearts of the characters, despite all the disparate paths their lives eventually take. A masterful and compassionate storyteller, Hosseini traces the traumas and scarring of tyranny, war, crime, lies, and illness in the intricately interconnected, heartbreaking, and extraordinary lives of his vibrantly realized characters. Perhaps his best yet!
Pollan, best-known for “The Omnivore’s Dilemma, starts off this new work of non-fiction with a simple question: Why, in an era in which most people go out of their way to avoid cooking, has the chef become a celebrity and the cooking show a guilty pleasure?
To answer that question, Pollan turns his journalist’s sensibility and straightforward, thoughtful powers of analysis to examining just why cooking should matter, speaking to those who still perform traditional cooking tasks and attempting to learn them himself.
The book is organized around the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth, which correspond to four basic ways to transform raw materials into nutritious, tasty things to eat. Fire is linked to grilling and barbecuing, water to cooking with liquid and braising, air to baking bread, and earth to fermenting, cheese making, and brewing. Among other culinary adventures, Pollan joins barbecue pit masters at the spit in North Carolina and New York, kneads with bread makers at Tartine in San Francisco, learns to put up sauerkraut with fermenter extraordinaire Sandor Katz, and observes the “Cheese Nun” (and micro-biologist) Mother Noëlla Marcellino as she creates a raw-milk cheese using techniques practiced since the 17th century.
The results of his researches into the secrets of cooking are fascinating, but the magic of “Cooked” lies not in its ability to unlock the secrets of slow-roasting a whole hog or brewing beer. Instead, he manages to illuminate the wealth of connections that stem from our time spent in the kitchen. As he writes, “Cooking — of whatever kind, everyday or extreme — situates us in the world in a very special place, facing the natural world on one side and the social world on the other.”
Benjamin Percy’s extraordinary new thriller is a blend of alternate history and supernatural fiction that holds a mirror up to contemporary America to reflect its fears and biases. The antagonists here are not jihadists, though, but lycans: humans infected with a prion-based illness which has turned them into a creature something like a werewolf. These lycans have lived among regular humans since prehistoric times, and in 21st-century America are now a stigmatized subclass, forced to suppress their true nature pharmacologically.
In alternating chapters, Percy introduces the characters who are the major players in his novel’s story: teenager Patrick Gamble, the sole survivor of the airplane attacks; Claire Forrester, a teenage lycan on the run from government agents who killed her parents; Chase Williams, the opportunistic conservative governor of Oregon who hopes to exploit fears engendered by the terrorist attack in his bid for the presidency; and Miriam, Claire’s aunt, who has defected from the lycan resistance movement--headed by her husband--which takes credit for the terrorist attacks.
Percy lends his novel credibility by working out a convincing pathology for the lobos prion, and by situating the lycan struggle at the center of historical moments that echo 20th-century eugenics experiments, the civil rights movement, the 1960s Days of Rage, and the current “war on terror.” By tapping into the contemporary sociopolitical climate, he has redefined the werewolf novel in a way which will appeal not only to fans of traditional horror, but fans of intelligent espionage thrillers.
Here are 10 debut novels that the publishing world is buzzing about for spring 2013. You can read more about each novel on Publishers Weekly's site.
Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Söderberg
Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
The Blood of Heaven by Kent Wascom
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
You Are One of Them by Elliot Hold
The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to teens. They were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official American Library Association award in 2002. For more information about current and previous winners, click here. The 2013 Alex Award winning books are:
Caring is Creepy by David Zimmerman
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Juvenile in Justice by Richard Ross
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
One Shot Forever by Chris Ballard
Pure by Juliana Baggott
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Beautiful Boy is a memoir about meth addition told from the point of view of the addict's father. As any parent could imagine, watching one's talented, athletic, and smart child fall into a horrible addiction is heart-wrenching. David Sheff is a parent who many of us strive to be—loving, engaging, and well-educated--but this does not prevent his son from becoming an addict.
This book is painful to read, but it is also hopeful. While this is an addiction story of one family, it is more than that. Sharing the knowledge of many medical experts with whom Sheff consulted, he is able to shed light on all drug addictions, looking at the brain chemistry of addicts as well as societal influences. I highly recommend this book to anyone who knows an addict or who has a child.
David Sheff’s new 2013 book Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy is also recommended.
Journalist Mitchell Zuckoff knew there was a story that must be told when he set out in 2012 on a recovery mission to the isolated polar cap of Southeast Greenland. There, almost exactly sixty years before, in the winter of 1942, three downed planes were part of a unbelievable story of survival and heroism, a compelling mystery that he was now a part of.
On November 5th, 1942, a lost cargo plane carrying five American servicemen crashed into a glacier due to hazardous weather conditions. Four days after that initial crash, the crew of an American B17 ferrying a long-rang bomber across the Atlantic to England were redirected towards Greenland, attempting to follow an increasingly weak radio signal from the downed cargo plane. They flew into a complete whiteout and crashed, breaking in half on impact, the tail of the plane hanging precariously over a crevasse. Nine airmen found themselves in one of the most inhospitable places on earth with hardly any resources. For five months, the B17 crew battled starvation, madness, frost-bite and failed attempts to walk more than a few yards into hurricane-strength blizzards. Amazingly, some were able to survive by sheer will, camaraderie and ingenuity.
But the glacier was not finished. It claimed a third plane, this one a Coast Guard Grumman “Duck” carrying a pilot and radioman whose mission it was to locate and rescue the B17 crew. They were successful in rescuing some of the survivors but vanished into a storm, not to be recovered until 2012, when a perilous expedition was launched to repatriate the bodies of these lost heroes from under 30 feet of ice. The book flips between this expedition and the events that began to unfold in November 1942, providing maps and the details on the scientific techniques needed to locate missing aircrafts. Together a fascinating and complex narrative is woven; one that will not disappoint fans of military history and true adventure stories. If you enjoyed books like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and Zuckoff’s previous book, Lost in Shangri-la, be sure to pick this one up.
To be only nineteen and exiled on a remote Chilean island, on the run from drug dealers and the police, is a life that Maya Vidal could not have imagined for herself. Growing up in Berkeley, California under the care of her eccentric Chilean grandmother, Nini, and loving astronomer Grandfather, Popo, Maya was happy despite being abandoned by her Danish flight-attendant mother. However, when her beloved Popo dies of Cancer and her Nini slips into an all-consuming depression, she begins a dangerous downward spiral, experimenting with drugs and committing crimes just to numb the pain she is feeling. When her Nini finally emerges from her fog and notices the trouble that Maya has gotten into, she sends her to a rehabilitation center for teens in Oregon. After only a short time, Maya escapes, hitching a ride with a trucker, who first sexually abuses her and then dumps her in Las Vegas with ten dollars. Emotionally and physically bruised, Maya takes up with the first man who shows an interest in her, Brandon Leeman, a drug-dealing junkie who offers her a job and a chance to be in his inner circle.
Even though she has all the drugs and money she could want at her disposal for the first time, in the back of her mind, Maya still longs to get clean and go back to her Nini in California. After there is violent betrayal among Brandon Leeman’s ranks, Maya loses the only protection she has, ending up on the streets of Las Vegas, on the run from the FBI and rival drug dealers.
Eventually her Nini comes to the rescue and Maya agrees to her radical plan of seeking refuge with her old friend, Manuel Arias, an academic recluse in his seventies who was once a political prisoner. She spends a year in Chiloe, disconnected from the outside world, immersing herself in the rich history of the island, its mythology and the villagers who she begins to care about like family. Even though a far cry from the man that her Popo was, Manuel, with secrets of his own, fills a part of the space within Maya that the death of her grandfather left behind. But she can’t hide there forever. Maya must still come to terms with her past after the men who are hunting her finally arrive at the doors of her remote sanctuary. Juxtaposing two pasts, Maya and the island of Chiloe, Isabel Allende has written a book in her trademark lyrical style but with a fast paced intensity not usually found in her other novels.
April is National Poetry Month. What better time to read a book of poetry? Come into the library and check out our display of poetry books in the Adult Services Room. You might also be interested in picking up the Gary Snyder Reader. Gary Snyder was recently awarded the Wallace Stevens Award, which recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Snyder, associated with the Beat Generation, is also a former winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. For a list of other Wallace Stevens Award winners, click here.
The 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction is awarded to The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. About the hidden world of North Korea with all of its misery, this novel is part political thriller, part romance, and part coming-of-age.
For a list of all of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winners in each category, click here.