McCall Smith, well-known for his “Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency” series, brings his trademark warm humor and wise wit to the interlocking stories of a small group of Londoners. The stories here center around the inhabitants of an apartment building in the Pimlico neighborhood called Corduroy Mansions. William, a widowed wine merchant, schemes to oust his lazy freeloading twenty-something son from their shared apartment so William can get on with his life, and enlists Marcia, a single female friend with romantic ambitions toward William, to help him. Dee, a young woman who works in a vitamin shop, cannot understand why her young male coworker won’t let her give him the colonic irrigation she’s convinced he desperately requires. Art history student Caroline conceives a crush on a friend and fellow student who has recently decided he might not be gay after all. Poor Jenny works as a secretary for Oedipus Snark, an MP so odious that even his own mother can’t stand him and is working on his unauthorized biography in order to expose him to the world. These stories and others collide as McCall Smith’s characters each confront their quotidian, universal yet deeply personal, problems. (Dog lovers will particularly enjoy reading about the sprightly and intelligent pooch Freddie de la Hay!)
The wait is almost over! Popular book discussion leader Judy Levin will be returning to the Highland Park Public Library this spring for a three book discussion series. Multiple copies of each title will be available for check-out prior to the discussion, so come prepared to talk!
March 13, 1 PM: "Await Your Reply" by Dan Chaon
April 10, 1PM: "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown
May 8, 1PM: "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
The narrator of Donohue’s somewhat surreal novel, Jack, awakens on his bathroom floor with a cracked skull, apparently having fallen. From there, his night just gets stranger. A man who intially reminds him of his own father and later of Samuel Beckett has joined him in the bathroom and the two banter amusingly before being joined by seven women in succession. Each woman, apparently the ghost or spirit of a woman in one of Jack’s former lives, has an ax to grind with him—sometimes quite literally, as each woman initially tries to kill him before settling in to tell her story. Each woman was wounded, betrayed, or even killed by a man in their life—and Jack may well be that man. The woman’s stories are fascinating, told in a variety of styles and invoking their characters and periods vividly and effectively. When Jack is finally visited by an eighth woman, his own wife, the reason for the night’s strange events become clear.
The women’s stories are the true stand-out in this novel, with the slightly absurdist, Waiting For Godot-esque interludes in the bathroom serving almost as a distraction at times. Not for everyone, but those with a taste for the offbeat will be pleased.
Gibson, known for thoughtful science fiction exploring the ways in which technology changes human culture in impossible-to-anticipate ways, here brings his considerable talents to bear on the undiscovered country—non-fiction. Gibson’s first collection of non-fiction draws from the last several decades of his writing career, with essays and articles featuring all the usual Gibsonian subjects—the rise of the Internet; the technology and culture of Japan; Gibson’s own past in small-town Virginia and early discovery of science fiction; and all the ways, both small and large, that human culture has already been irrevocably altered by technologies as commonplace as radio and as pervasive as cyberspace. Many, if not all, of the articles, are grounded in Gibson’s own life and experiences, adding a personal touch to a topic which could otherwise seem dry. A sly wit and a lively intelligence shine through the writing, and every article, regardless of whether its predictions have been borne out by reality, is fascinating without fail.
This series of interconnected short stories explores the lives of those men and women who make sacrifices for the sake of the U.S. Army—both the soldiers in Iraq and those they leave behind. Centered around the Army base of Ft. Hood in Texas, each story explores the all-too-common issues faced by Army families—from the death of a loved one to infidelity, from loneliness to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While some increased variation in the story’s themes might be wished—perhaps the story of a husband left behind when his wife went to war?—these short stories are sure to be fascinating to both those families who have experienced this lifestyle and those who wish to better understand the sacrifices made by our armed forces everyday.
Our ever-popular Book Club Collection has gotten a makeover! A few less relevant titles have been cycled back out into our general fiction and non-fiction collections, and we have added four new titles for your consideration. These books, as always, are challenging, literary, and fascinating, chosen with an eye toward "discussability" as well as leisure reading pleasure. We hope you'll check them out! (Pun intended, by the way.)
Brown, Eleanor. The Weird Sisters
Fallon, Siobhan. You Know When the Men are Gone
Jordan, Hillary. When She Woke
Smith, Patti. Just Kids (782.42166 Sm65)
When the Bergamots' fifteen-year-old son, Jake, forwards a sexually explicit video from a thirteen-year-old schoolmate on to his best friend without thinking, he ignites a firestorm that threatens to consume his family and the life they have built for themselves among the socially elite in New York City.
Already in fragile territory, the scandal reveals the true problems in Jake's family such as his father's overactive ego and his mother's ridiculous attempts to cope as a stay-at-home mom with a PhD. When the video goes viral, Jake is suspended from school, prompting his family to hire a lawyer and start a battle that even Jake does not want to be a part of. Schulman's poignant portrait of a family in crisis is not to be missed for lovers of literary fiction.
Thinking the Twentieth Century by Tony Judt
An ambitious intellectual history of the Twentieth Century in which Judt examines the many currents that shaped the innovations, conflicts, economics and politics of our recent past.
"... this marvelous précis, vibrantly alive, rich, and piquant, is one last gift from an exceptional public intellectual. Not only academics and fans of Judt, but also those who enjoy the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker will flock to read it." (Library Journal)
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
A Pulitzer Prize winning author profiles the lives of everyday people living in the slums of Mumbai, illustrating the struggle to change their circumstances.
"Boo brilliantly brings to life the residents of Annawadi, allowing the reader to know them and admire the fierce intelligence that allows them to survive in a world not made for them. The best book yet written on India in the throes of a brutal transition." (Kirkus)
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
A National Book Award finalist, this new definitive biography explores the life of one of the most influential figures of social change in America.
"Combing through FBI and NYPD files, gathering Nation of Islam interviews, and fleshing out Malcolm's post-NOI activities abroad, Marable succeeds spectacularly in painting a broader and more complex portrait of a man constantly in search of himself and his place in America." (Publishers Weekly)
If you’re a fan of international novels that feature wholly original main characters, then you will love The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine. Rosa Achmetowna , the narrator of this story, is unlike any character I have ever encountered before. She is outrageous and nasty and one of the worst mothers of all time but, even so, I couldn’t help liking her. Set in the Soviet Union and then in Germany, this novel focuses on the relationships between Rosa, her daughter, and her granddaughter. The depiction of the Soviet Union is as fascinating as the depiction of the narrator. I highly recommend this dark comedy—the characters, especially Rosa, are so memorable and real, you will feel as though you know them.
Set in the near future, the twelve districts surrounding the powerful capital, Panem, must pay for a failed rebellion by sacrificing two of their teens every year to compete in a violent gauntlet where they must fight to the death: the Hunger Games. In District Twelve, the poorest of the districts, Katniss, a skilled hunter and provider for her struggling family, chooses to take the place of her younger sister who was chosen to represent their district in the games as Tribute. She, along with her male counterpart, Peeta, experience the shock of leaving their hunger-stricken home for the luxury of Panem, the stress of wondering whether or not they can match the skills of the other twenty two competitors and finally, facing off with them in the arena.
After Katniss and Peeta enter the game, the action is non-stop and they must face the terrifying reality of being hunted by other competitors, many of them bloodthirsty. Almost driven to death by thirst, fire balls, and poisonous tracker jackers, Katniss must also be strategic, playing the audience's desire to see her and Peeta develop a romantic relationship...perhaps not a top priority considering the circumstances. Readers will be on the edge of their seats rooting for Katniss and Peeta and be fascinated by the broader message of survival and rebellion.