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.
Having just finished the fifth installment of the endlessing entertaining Flavia De Luce series by Alan Bradley, I thought this would be a good time to promote an oftentimes underappreciated genre, the Cozy Mystery. "Cozies" are a subgenre of crime fiction, usually set in small communities and feature amateur sleuths who have great senses of humor. What's not to love, right?
Below is a list of some notable Cozies. Even if you are not a mystery reader, these books are a great light read. The plots are fast moving but the real focus is on the wonderfully witty characters who you will quickly fall in love with.
- Emma Graham mysteries by Martha Grimes
- No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
- Isabel Dalhousie mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith
- Agatha Raisin mysteries by M.C. Beaton
- Aunt Dimity mysteries by Nancy Atheron
- Flavia De Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley
Michael Hainey, GQ editor, lost his father at the young age of six. For all of his life, the little he was told about his father death--dying alone on the streets of Chicago's North Side--never made sense to him. When Hainey turned 35, the same age that his father was when he died, he fell into a depression and then, his journalist nature kicking in, he began a quest to find out the real story. He returns to Chicago to visit his mother in the house where he grew up, a stone's throw from O'Hare airport, and he begins breaking down the walls of secrecy. In addition to being a memoir about family and secrets, it is also a story of old-time newspaper men (his father worked for the Chicago Sun Times), and life in Chicago. A great read.
We have seen a fair share of Snow White adaptations, some good, some not so good. Valente's Six-Gun Snow White happens to be an excellent one. Set in the Old West, Snow White is the half-Crow daughter of Mr. H, a wealthy white silver magnate and Gun That Sings, a beautiful Crow woman who was forced into marriage. After her mother dies giving birth to her, Snow White is kept on Mr. H's large and luxurious estate with only a bear, coyote and fox to keep her company. After her father decides to take on a new wife, a mysterious and beautiful woman from New England, Snow White's life changes. Her Step-Mother is both loving and cruel, practicing a strange magic that causes Snow White to flee into wild Indian Territory on her horse, Charming.
While outrunning the bounty hunter sent by Mrs. H to bring back her heart, Snow White searches for her identity and some semblance of hope. This novella is simple in its prose, yet rich in the atmosphere that it creates. Six-Gun Snow White is a fresh and inventive take on the classic.
Siobhan Quinn—who goes by Quinn—is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Homeless from a young age, an unabashed junkie, she’s gotten a reputation as a monster hunter. She’s taken out a few ghouls, a vampire or two, and is even friends with a bridge troll. Problem is, all of those confirmed kills were just pure accident. But still, there’s enough of a shine on Quinn’s repuation that an underworld crime lord, the mysterious Mr. B., has taken her under his wing for reasons of his own, which may or may not be the ones Quinn thinks. When Quinn manages to take out another vampire, this time on purpose, she makes herself a very dangerous enemy, however, and starts a chain of events that leads to being bitten by first a werewolf and then a vampire, making her something of an abomination even by supernatural terms. And to make it worse, she’s somehow being controlled by her vampire maker, known as the Bride of Quiet, who’s using her to exact a complicated scheme of her own. Now Quinn has to get a handle on her new life—or unlife, as the case may be—and fast, before she ends up dead for good.
Dark, gritty, with a wisecracking and foul-mouthed narrator who is a refreshing change from the norm, this novel turns the urban fantasy genre on its head and then kicks it in the teeth for good measure.
Fans of Ogawa’s novel The Housekeeper and the Professor (2009) will find the same simple, yet luminous and elegant, prose in this collection of short stories. However, the tone is decidedly different, as be inferred from the title. The collection begins innocently enough, with a woman going into a bakery to buy a strawberry shortcake for her son’s birthday—but then it is revealed her son has been dead for twelve years, perhaps a murder victim? Similar threads of darkness and obsession weave through the remaining tales, all of which are interconnected by the thinnest of margins. A character leaves something in a trash can in one story which is later seen by a character in another; the narrator of one story is mentioned by the narrator of another, and so on.
This collection, despite its sometimes macabre content, is exquisitely crafted, delicately presented, and arresting in its imagery. A small gem.