Recommended Books

Annual listings of recommended books compiled by our Information & Reader Advisory Staff.


Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (F BRODESSER-AKNER, T.)

Toby Fleishman is getting divorced and it’s not going well—and that’s before his wife leaves the kids with him and disappears. Funny, insightful, and much more than the ho-hum domestic novel you might expect—this book generated a lot of press over the summer and fall, and now a TV series is in the works. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Those People by Louise Candlish (F CANDLISH, L.)

Author Louise Candlish is popular in her native England for her brand of "suburban noir" and this is her second novel to be published in the US.  Candlish deftly weaves together the perspectives of the residents of Lowland Way, a quiet neighborhood, after a new family moves in a tragic death occurs. Sara, Information & Reader Services

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh (F CAVANAGH, S.)

Intricately plotted court room drama. The murderer is on the jury and it’s up to attorney and ex-con Eddie Flynn to figure everything out. David, Membership Services

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang (SF CHIANG, T.)

Ted Chiang is not a very prolific author, which is too bad because he is an excellent one. His readable stories extrapolate from science in ways that keep me thinking long after finishing the book. In Chiang’s hands, time travel, artificial intelligence, and alternate universes all expand our range of possibilities and our understanding of our own humanity. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Recursion by Blake Crouch (F CROUCH, B.)

What if you could rewrite your life?

Neuroscientist Dr. Helena Smith’s mother has Alzheimer’s. Driven to help her, she makes it her life goal to find a cure.  Much to her amazement, she creates a device to help people with their memories but what she truly ended up creating was something much more – the ability to rewrite their lives. People all around the world start having “false memory syndrome” and when New York Detective Barry Sutton starts investigating the cause of it, his life and Helena’s life are changed forever. If this creation gets into the wrong hands, it can have extremely disastrous consequences! It’s up to Barry and Helena to make sure that does not happen!

This fantastic read and is geared toward Sci-Fi buffs and anyone who loves a good thriller. An exceptional Sci-Fi thriller that ranks as one of my favorites! Gus, Information & Reader Services

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (BROWSING ROMANCE)

I cannot tell you, dear reader, how many times I have consumed Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in its original print form, never mind how often I have watched the various movie or mini-series adaptations. In terms of written retellings of this classic text, however, I am incredibly picky; I will not, for example, dedicate time to a rewrite of Pride and Prejudice if I am not enjoying it after ten pages.

This to say - I have read Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors three times since it was published in May 2019 and have already pre-ordered a personal copy of Sonali Dev’s next title (Recipe for Persuasion, May 2020). This was fun from start to finish and was such a new, interesting take on the original novel that I am just so pleased to have discovered it! Sarah Marie, Information & Reader Services

We Are Here Forever by Michelle Gish (GRAPHIC NOVEL GISH, M.)

Sometime in the future, all the humans are gone (or are skeletons) and the world has been populated by small squarish critters with bulbs for tails. They don’t know where they came from or how many things work, but their progress in problem solving and civilization building is hilarious and adorable. This book features new stories from Gish’s We Are Here Forever webcomic, where you can go to devour more. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg (F GOLDBERG, M.)

Does an artist and a mother have to be a mother first and an artist second, or can she be wholly both? Fictional 1950s street photographer Lillian Preston is arrested for obscenity after exhibiting a provocative photo of herself and her daughter. Here the story of their lives is told by Lillian’s daughter, and there was just so much to think about. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

The River by Peter Heller (F HELLER, P.)

Two college friends embark on a several weeks long journey canoeing down the Maskwa River in northern Canada. What starts off as a relaxing trip turns into a race for survival as a wildfire rips through the distant forest, heading their way.  When they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank and decide to warn them about the fire, their search for the pair turns up nothing and no one. But: The next day a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the man they heard? And, if he is, where is the woman?

Peter Heller once again awes me with his beautiful nature writing, thrilling adventure, and wonderful characters. He is not an author to miss! Michelle, Information & Reader Services

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (F HOLMES, L.)

This debut novel by podcaster Linda Holmes tells the story of Evvie Drake, a young widow -- everyone in her small Maine town thinks she's still grieving her doctor husband a year later, when in fact she's dealing with the guilt over the fact that she was planning to leave him on the day he died.  When a friend suggests renting her garage apartment to a former major league pitcher dealing with his own issues, they start a tenuous friendship that may turn into something more. Sara, Information & Reader Services

Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum (F KIRSHENBAUM, B.)

Books about depression can be a tough sell, but this one is a pleasure to read without shying away from its subject. Bunny, a writer, is acerbic and unable to tolerate boring snobs politely. But she also has trouble getting out of bed, practicing basic hygiene, or avoiding self-harm. Once institutionalized, she makes very funny reports on her life there but also begins writing, all the while gradually approaching some very difficult decisions about her treatment and her chances for any kind of recovery. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (F KRUEGER, W.)

Beautifully written tale of four young people’s escape and travels from a restrictive orphanage. They travel down the river, like Huck Finn, with many adventures along the way. David, Membership Services

Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (F LAUREN, C. & BROWSING ROMANCE)

When Olive's twin sister and her entire wedding party get food poisoning at the wedding reception, Olive and best-man Ethan (the only two who didn't eat the tainted seafood) end up going on the all-expenses paid honeymoon to Maui.  The two have a mutual dislike for each other, but when pretending to be honeymooners, sparks begin to fly! Sara, Information & Reader Services

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy (F LEVY, D.)

I love this kind of book: the ones where it takes me a long time to figure out exactly what is going on with the structure, but in the meantime, I’m just entertained by the writing. In 1988, academic Saul Adler is hit by a car while having his picture taken in the crosswalk on Abbey Road. He recovers enough to make his planned trip to East Berlin, where we gradually get to know him and he (maybe) gets to know himself better. Saul isn’t always likeable, but the book is. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken (F MCCRACKEN, E.)

In 19th century New England, Bertha is found unconscious in a cemetery. No one in town knows who she is or where she comes from, and Bertha isn’t saying. She doesn’t get much more conventional, as she proceeds to begin an interracial marriage with her doctor and open the town’s first bowling alley. This is a cracked and loveable family saga for those who don’t like them sugary. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (F MCQUISTON, C. & BROWSING ROMANCE)

No matter what angle you approach this title, it is an empirically delightful read. The book is about 300 pages and chock full of romance genre tropes (enemies-to-friends-to-lovers, stuck in a small space together, make a scene at a party, social media as a plot tool – it is all there); I never wanted this book to end, but the ending is so, so good all the same. 

McQuiston hit every emotional beat possible and I loved them all. I’ve already re-read this book twice and cannot recommend it strongly enough. Sarah Marie, Information & Reader Services

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsin Muir (SF MUIR, T.)

This is one for those who like dark fantasy with a sprinkle of science fiction, smart-ass protagonists and more than a bit of the ultra-violence.  The premise is fairly straightforward: an indentured soldier in service to a necromantic cult is given the opportunity to earn her freedom by acting as a bodyguard for the teen leader of said cult (who spent her formative years torturing her) as she takes on a very deadly exam in an effort to gain the favor (and power) of their dark god. Muir does an excellent job of immediately grabbing your attention with the fantastical world-building while balancing excellent characterization that keeps you engaged until the very last page. Will, Membership Services

Soon by Lois Murphy (F MURPHY, L.)

In rural Australia, a hamlet is haunted by an unexplained mist that appears after dark and rips apart anyone who’s not inside with all the doors and windows locked. Many residents have fled, but those who have nowhere else to go abide the nightly horror. While the premise may sound silly at first, the slowly building atmospheric dread is terrifying, and the dead-on descriptions of resourceless residents ignored by their government bring to mind real-life places “haunted” by environmental dangers. After I finished this book, I wanted to hide in bed for as long as I could. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

The Flatshare, by Beth O'Leary (F O'LEARY, B.)

I loved this book. It's a fun read about two strangers who share a flat and their relationship that develops.  It's a good story, with two great characters.  There are some funny moments, but serious ones, too.  A perfect vacation book, or book to read while curled up on the sofa this winter! Beth, Marketing

Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid (F REID, T.)

One of my favorite books of the year.  It's the story of a fictional rock band told by each of the members as they look back and recall their years in the band.  It's a fun look at the world of rock musicians, but the characters' stories make it more than just that.  It definitely reminded me of a certain band (no spoilers)! Beth, Marketing

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell (F RUSSELL, K.)

Karen Russell started strong with her first short story collection a dozen years ago and keeps getting better. She has become one of my favorite authors. In the stories in Orange World, a boy falls in love with an ancient corpse pulled from a bog, a tornado farmer tries to scratch out a living in a dying industry, a woman breastfeeds a devil to protect her baby, another woman becomes psychically linked to a tree, and more! What’s not to love? Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca Solnit (F SOLNIT, R.)

A retelling of the classic fairytale in which nobody gets married, nobody becomes a princess, and the prince needs liberation too. What else needs to be said? Also features illustrations by Arthur Rackham (1867–1939). Chad, Administration

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal (F STRADAL, J.)

Sisters, generations, women, friendship, family; wealth in all senses; IPAs, beer-making, beer industry are woven together to make this enjoyable read, and satisfy curiosity about those pretty amber colored liquids whether you are a beer lover or beer-illiterate like me. Not sure it made me a beer lover afterwards. I certainly love the book. Bin, Tech Services

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk and translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (F TOKARCZUK, O.)

A murder mystery outside the usual. Our narrator is an old woman—much less usual in fiction than in real life—who relies on astrology and has given everyone in her life nicknames that she believes suit them better than their real ones. She’s a retired engineer who teaches at the local school and helps a friend with his William Blake translations. When a neighbor is found dead, Tokarczuk doesn’t let the mystery wrest control of the story from the narrator. Maybe you don’t need my recommendation on this one: Tokarczuk won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature (awarded in 2019). Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Maggy Garrisson by Lewis Trondheim and Stéphane Oiry and translated by Emma Wilson (GRAPHIC NOVEL TRONDHEIM, L.)

Londoner Maggy Garrisson, looking for any job that will pay anything, finds a secretarial gig with private investigator Anthony Wight. When she arrives, Wight’s passed out drunk at his desk and doesn’t accomplish much else before getting beaten up by mysterious enemies and landing in the hospital. But Maggy’s resourceful and pretty hardboiled herself, and she quickly sets herself up as a freelance investigator, while the plot that began with Wight’s beating slowly tightens around her. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Rusty Brown by Chris Ware (GRAPHIC NOVEL WARE, C)

Chris Ware has been writing the Rusty Brown comic strip since 2001, and this book is the first collected volume, telling stories mostly centered around students and teachers at the local small-town school. Ware has a characteristic style that I can only describe as a tenderness that lets his characters’ sadness shine through, and this book is only more evidence of why he’s considered a standard setter in the graphic medium. This is a big book with unfortunately small lettering, but I still couldn’t stop reading it. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Several achingly-beautiful stories by Chris Ware. Chad, Administration

The Border by Don Winslow (F WINSLOW, D.)

The concluding novel of Winslow’s trilogy about Mexican drug cartels. It would be helpful to read the previous two books, Power of the Dog, and The Cartel to get the full benefit, but it does stand up as a standalone novel.  David, Membership Services



Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt (303.385 Eb16)
A good conversation starter.  You may not agree with everything she says, but it makes you think. Susan, Media Services

Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham (363.1799 H635)

This book is truly an amazing account of what occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986. Higginbotham not only did extensive research, but the book presents the happenings – both leading up to, during, and after – in an incredibly accessible manner. Craig Mazin, director of the HBO mini-series Chernobyl, was even quoted wishing that he had Higginbotham’s work as a reference before the show was produced. If you are at all interested in a good historical non-fiction, I encourage you to read this book.  Sarah Marie, Information & Reader Services

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (364.1523 K261)

Keefe's engrossing history of The Troubles in Northern Ireland begins with a murder. Mother of ten Jean McConville is abducted from her home, never to be seen again. What follows is an account of the paramilitary groups that tore Northern Ireland apart, interspersed with the McConville children's effort to uncover their mother's fate. Hannah, Youth Services

Norco 80 by Peter Houlahan (364.1552 H838)

True story about a bank robbery in southern California gone wrong. Although it’s nonfiction it reads like a novel. David, Membership Services

Secondhand: Travels in the Great Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter (381.19 M667)

Have you ever wondered what happens to the stuff you donate to Goodwill and other charitable organizations? In this absorbing and sobering look at what we discard, Adam Minter tracks our donations all over the world and interviews some of the people who reuse and/or recycle them. In the process, he makes a strong case for owning less--but better quality--stuff. Karen, Information & Reader Services

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe (500 M968h)

Munroe has a knack for explaining scientific phenomenon using absurd but correct examples and engaging cartoons.  You'll laugh as you learn! Laurie, Information & Reader Services

Munroe, an engineer who has worked at NASA and author of the popular webcomic xkcd, shows you how to work out the physics to solve all kinds of problems and make them fun! So, the next time you need to heat your house, you can try lava, and the next time you need to fill your swimming pool, you can try making a channel from Lake Michigan. Or you can just enjoy reading about it, which is safer. If I were Randall Munroe, I’d provide a chart here showing just how much safer, because that’s the kind of delightful guy he is. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World by David Owen (617.8 Ow97)

The author, a New Yorker staff writer who suffers from hearing difficulties himself, gives an entertaining and readable survey of how our ears work (or don't), how we (knowingly or unknowingly) endanger our hearing, and how to preserve the hearing we still have. Karen, Information & Reader Services

The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology by Mark Boyle (640 B792w)
The story of a year-long (winter solstice to winter solstice) experiment in living without technology in modern Ireland. Boyle wrote this book in pencil in a tiny cabin he built himself, having given up his phone, his laptop, and electricity. As he watches modern life encroach on his smallholding, he chronicles and mourns an Irish way of life that is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Karen, Information & Reader Services

Cribsheet by Emily Oster (649.122 Os85)

The bestselling author of Expecting Better moves her focus from pregnancy to early parenting in her new title. Oster, an economist, breaks down the research data on various topics of interest to new parents including feeding, sleeping, and other parenting decisions. Sara, Information & Reader Services

Generation Friends by Saul Austerlitz (791.4572 F911a)

I have... a lot of feelings about the TV show FRIENDS. I watched the show episode-by-episode during its original syndication and, later, on DVD as my sister and I patiently waited for each season to go on sale. Now that FRIENDS is so easily accessible through Netflix (and on HBO Max beginning in 2020), I have re-watched the series a truly awful amount of times, to the extent where I can note differences from the original, televised run to the DVDs to what has been put out for streaming. All that to say – I know a bit about FRIENDS. Of all the content – podcasts, other books, college lectures, studio tours, cast interviews, etc. - present dissecting or explaining FRIENDS, I really enjoyed Austerlitz’s essays and insights shared through Generation Friends. If you read this title and have a lot of feelings about FRIENDS, please come share them with me!  Sarah Marie, Information & Reader Services

Tough Luck by R. D. Rosen (796.332 L941r)

True story about the father of famed Chicago Bears quarterback Sid Luckman. An unknown story about the gangster father of one of the all-time great football players. Also, Sid was a Highland Park resident as was the author. David, Membership Services

Horizon by Barry Lopez (910.4 L864)

In this book covering many areas of the globe, Barry Lopez looks back on his long career writing on nature and ecology (his Arctic Dreams is one of my favorite books). Like the novel The Overstory by Richard Powers, Lopez describes humanity within our ecology, and in this book, I particularly enjoyed his insights on the “elders” model of leadership, humility, listening, and the attempt to understand or at least recognize different ways of knowing. “The human effort to listen to each other is, for me, one of the most remarkable of all human capacities, though...hardly a word is ever said about the human capacity to listen to another person. I bring this up because if the creation and maintenance of effective social networks, a particularly striking human attribute, is necessary to protect individuals against threats to this species’ health, then the ability to listen carefully to one another becomes critical.” Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Hitler's Last Hostages by Mary M Lane (940.5314 L266)

The book was so informative of how art was such a driving force behind Hitler's plans for the "Aryan race" and his dream for the Fuhrer museum in Linz Austria.  The book explains in detail what he considered "degenerative art" and how he went about destroying the lives and careers of these artists.  It also delves into the lives of the Jews who owned valuable art and how their masterpieces were looted by the Nazi's when they were sent off to concentration camps.  You learn how much of Europe's looted art was hidden by the Nazi's and their collaborators especially Gurlitt and his son.  The book unveils how in 2010 Cornelius Gurlitt was caught with over 1200 famous works of art and how some of the heirs of the deceased relatives who rightfully owned these have recovered some of their looted pieces through legal struggles with restitution. Laura, Media Services

The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between by Michael Dobbs (940.5318 D632)

Local history on a global stage

"The Unwanted" interweaves the stories of Jewish families in Kippenheim, a small village in Baden, Germany, and the Shoah.   The book's narrative details families' emigrations and expulsions; escapes and demises.  The juxtaposed description and analysis of American response(s) in Washington D.C. and its consulates reveal further the evolution of events.  Examinations of relief and assistance efforts provide additional insights to the human response as the Shoah unfolded.  The narrative recounts rich descriptions of French camps and Marseille as a port of exit and quagmire of bureaucracy.  The work also provokes thought on contemporary refugee crises.

Dobb's research in global, institutional, national, local, and family archives and interviews with survivors reveals the minute details of the families' responses and efforts to survive.  This sublime research is crafted into a gripping narrative.

Detailed family trees at the end of the book surmise the families and individuals' lives and fates.  The stories grip the reader intimately.  Nancy, Archivist

In 1940, getting a piece of paper with the correct stamp on it was literally the difference between life and death for many Jews.  The Jewish community of Kippenheim, Germany left an extensive record of their efforts to get away from the Nazis.  Dobbs uses their letters, diaries, and interviews with survivors to tell a gripping story. Laurie, Information & Reader Services

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr (973 Im33)

A provocative and absorbing history of the United States — “not as it appears in its fantasies, but as it actually is.” Wry, readable and often astonishing. Chad, Administration

The British Are Coming: The War for American, Lexington to Princeton 1775 - 1777 by Rick Atkinson (973.3 At87 v. 1)

Atkinson brings the early Revolutionary War to life with his ability to research and recreate what happened through the stories of major and minor participants.  It's really a fascinating book, please don't be put off by the length.  Laurie, Information & Reader Services

How to Be a Family by Dan Kois (B K797)

 A journalist and his wife decide to take their pre-teen daughters to live in four different locations around the world to learn "how to be a family". Dividing their year between New Zealand, Holland, Costa Rica, and finally Kansas, the Smith-Kois family gets to know locals and learn about the ways that life is the same and different for families around the world. A mix of research and wry humor about family life. Sara, Information & Reader Services

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (B W775)

What do you do when you lose your home (a farm in Wales) and livelihood and--within days--learn that your husband has a degenerative terminal illness? This 50-something British couple decided to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path. Out of shape, nearly broke, and accompanied only by what they could carry on their backs, they start walking. The book was shortlisted for several book awards; judges called it "a brilliant story . . . about the human capacity to endure." Karen, Information & Reader Services


Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and illustrated by Sami Kivela (GRAPHIC AHMED, S.) 

In gritty 1970s Detroit, Elena Abbott is a hardboiled investigative journalist not afraid to chafe the power structure. She likes her routine and doesn’t have many close friends, but she’s won the respect of a close circle—even if her newspaper’s owners are just trying to shut her up. When Abbott’s beat has her following a trail of animal and human mutilations, she has bigger problems: the signs point to a supernatural evil that took her beloved first husband. A fun graphic novel, and Elena Abbott is easy to root for. Catherine, Information & Reader Services 

Transcription by Kate Atkinson (F ATKINSON, K.) 

One more perspective into MI5's intelligence work during World War II. Fans of spy stories would not want to miss it. Bin, Technical Services 

The Only Story by Julian Barnes (F BARNES, J.) 

An introspective novel about the gradual loss of a person to alcoholism.  Loved ones watch in helplessness as isolation and irrationality eventually consume the person. It's also a mediation on the nature of love as played out between a young man and a woman many years his senior. Cynthia, Youth Services 

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland (F BUTLAND, S.) 

I was captivated with the prickly heroine. It reminded me of similar books, such as How to Find Love in a Bookshop, The House at the End of Hope Street, The Bookshop on the Corner, and others. I like the rotating chapters covering the present, three years before, and the past when Loveday was a child. Lisa, Membership Services

Beneath the Mountain by Luca D'Andrea (MYS D'ANDREA, L.) 

An American TV documentary maker, his wife, and their young daughter move to the wife’s German-speaking hometown in the Italian Alps. The beauty of the Dolomite mountains attracts tourists, but the terrain is dangerous to both inexperienced hikers and experienced locals. Soon our protagonist finds a new documentary subject: the Dolomite Mountain Rescue crew. However, after a harrowing accident, he finds himself digging into the area's history. He finds not just danger, but evidence of an insidious evil--other accidents, disappearances, and even murders. A small-town suspense story in a dramatic landscape. Catherine, Information & Reader Services 

French Exit by Patrick deWitt (F DEWITT, P.) 

Patrick deWitt does zany really, excellently well. THE FRENCH EXIT is irreverent and quirky but holds enough moments of properly drawn out introspection and character development to balance the novel. If you are looking for a purely serious book, this is not it; if you are looking for a meaningful read with plenty of hijinks along the way, put this title on your list. For those who would like a similar but more serious title, I would recommend Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests. Sarah Marie, Information & Reader Services 

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal (GRAPHIC NOVEL DHALIWAL, A.) 

This graphic novel takes place in a future in which birth defects cause the male population to die off and women have become the only humans left. An older woman has to explain what men were to her granddaughter. Her granddaughter becomes obsessed with one of the last relics of the old world: a DVD of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  This novel is charming and hilarious. Larissa, Membership Services 

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso (GRAPHIC NOVEL DRNASO, N.) 

This graphic novel follows the murder of Sabrina and the lives that were affected by her disappearance. When her death spawns conspiracy theories, the truth isn't good enough. This novel has a simple art style that doesn't take away from this complicated story. Larissa, Membership Services 

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (F EMEZI, A.)  

Looking for something a little wild? Here is a story for you: A god/gods is incarnated in a baby human girl. The girl grows up, leaves Nigeria to attend college in the U.S., suffers from mental illness, and is abused. The god, for their part, rails against being unable to return from this body. Are the gods metaphorical? Maybe, but they carry most of the story, and this is a book that invites multiple interpretations. Catherine, Information & Reader Services 

Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (F HUGHES-HALLETT, L.)  

This book got rave reviews from critics but little attention otherwise. But out of all the books I read this year, this is the one I loved reading the most. Centered on the same grand English estate in the 17th and 20th centuries, the characters are linked more by the "peculiar ground" of the estate's garden than by a single overarching plot. This book was simply a pleasure to read. Catherine, Information & Reader Services 

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (F MAKKAI, R.) 

Perhaps my favorite book of the year!  Rebecca Makkai's novel has received much praise.  The book tells the stories of the AIDS crisis in Chicago in the 1980s, and a mother searching for her daughter in Paris in the present time. The stories captured my attention, one of the passages was so stunning and beautiful that it's become one of my favorites, and because part of the book takes place in Chicago, it was fun to read about the neighborhoods and stomping grounds of the characters. 

Through the characters of The Great Believers, we are an eyewitness to the early days of the AIDS crisis in Chicago, such a sorrowful time and unknown future. Beth, Marketing 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (F MORRIS, H.) 

 It tells the story of a Jewish man in Auschwitz who accepts the job of tattooing the incoming prisoners to help himself survive the camp.  While it is a story of the brutality and inhumanity inflicted on the Jews as well as Gypsies sent to the camp, it is also a story of how this man found love among the horror.  Although it was difficult to read about the suffering experienced by the prisoners at Auschwitz, it was interesting to learn how this man dealt with the small privileges that accompanied his job and the guilt he lived with by accepting this position in order to survive. Laura, Film & Music 

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik  (SF NOVIK, N.) 

This is a thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of the Rumplestiltskin tale with a dash of fantasy, science fiction, anti-Semitism and feminism. Laurie, Information & Reader Services 

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce (F PEARCE, A.) 

This book tells the story of a young woman, Emmy, making her way in wartime London in the 1940s.  Although there are some serious plot turns, the book was written in such a charming style that it's a fun read.  I loved the plot and the main character and was sorry to see the book come to an end! Beth, Marketing 

The Overstory by Richard Powers (F POWERS, R.)  

Based on current research into how trees communicate and migrate, this future-looking novel treats humans and trees as equal parts of the ecosystem. Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, it will change the way you think about trees and about the interconnectedness of humanity. Like Peculiar Ground, this is a great choice for readers who love long books. Catherine, Information & Reader Services 

Fox 8 by George Saunders (F SAUNDERS, G.) 

This book - short story, really - is one of those titles originally published in 2013 as an eBook. I picked it up again now that it is in print, and, reader, it is still so good. George Saunders has such an enchantingly heartbreaking way with words in this story, and little Fox 8 quickly became one of my most favorite of characters. This book delves into the heart of imagination as well as the power of words, and I hope you find it as beautiful as I did. A good watch-alike for this is the animated remake of Richard Adams’ Watership Down by the combined efforts of BBC and Netflix. Sarah Marie, Information & Reader Services


Creative Struggle by Gavin Aung Than (GRAPHIC NOVEL 153.35 T367) 

I enjoyed the fresh approach to inspire readers in their passionate quest to create, without letting those nasty doubts that plague us all, stop them. I love the artwork and the way each story is presented. The observations after each one was helpful, and interesting. The pep talks were also uplifting, especially one by the author/cartoonist. Lisa, Membership Services 

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson (170.44 P485) 

This book might aptly have been sub-titled "an antidote to victimhood" as it cajoles readers into the higher ground of healing, personal responsibility and whatever competency can be managed. More story-like than prescriptive, the book engagingly relates Peterson's experience as a clinical psychologist with connections the author makes to history, literature, religion, Marvel comics, dogs, cats, lobsters - etcetera. "Orient yourself properly" to reality we are told, that we may live in a grateful, meaningful, even heroic fashion. "Aim continually at Heaven, while you work diligently on Earth." For those who would rather read (Peterson's University of Toronto lectures are immensely popular on YouTube), 12 Rules for Life is a wise and encouraging tome. Amy, Membership Services 

How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price (302.231 P945) 

Ms. Price points out that she doesn’t mean you should give up your phone completely, just try to cut down on the amount of time spend on it. She points out all of the good, and bad factors, associated with any digital device that we can’t break away from, and lays out an excellent plan to readjust our relationship with them. Lisa, Membership Services 

There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story by Pamela Druckerman (305.244 D794) 

I really enjoyed her book on French parenting (Bringing up Bébé) and this one did not disappoint either.   I found it humorous and engaging.  Pam, Youth Services 

What Would Virginia Woolf Do?: And Other Questions I Ask Myself as I Attempt to Age Without Apology by Nina Lorez Collins (305.2442 C712) 

Some readers might take offense with the title, but I found it to be a wonderful source of useful information, and an entertaining experience as well. Lisa, Membership Services 

Heartland by Sarah Smarsh (305.569 Sm63) 

Sarah Smarsh grew up in "Fly Over Country," to poor working-class folks who struggle in various ways, but she consistently addresses an unborn child she never allowed herself to have. (Thus, breaking the teenage pregnancy cycle in her family...) she eventually rises above the economic status of her ancestors, only to study and tell stories of these oft-neglected poor, white American working-class people... Sara, Membership Services 

Things That Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett (305.896 B472) 

Michael Bennett is a Super Bowl Champion, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end, a fearless activist, a feminist, a grassroots philanthropist, an organizer, and a change maker. He's also one of the most scathingly humorous athletes on the planet, and he wants to make you uncomfortable. Chad, Information & Reader Services 

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston (306.362 L673h)  

In 1927, folklorist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston interviewed Oluale Kossola/Cudjo Lewis, one of the last known survivors of the transatlantic slave trade. Kossola’s story is told here in his own words, and it is amazing. In about 1860, he was a teenager training to be a soldier and preparing for marriage when his Isha Yoruba village was raided by female Dahomey fighters who slaughtered his family and most of the villagers. Kossola was among those captured and sold to U.S. smugglers profiting from the already-illegal importation of enslaved people. After emancipation, he and others from Africa bought land from the plantation owner who had been enslaving them and founded their own community: Africatown. Zora Neale Hurston died in 1960, but it took until this year for this narrative to be published in full. It’s short but brings little-known history alive. Catherine, Information & Reader Services 

Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich (306.9 Eh33) 

An insightful book, that ruminates on the obsessive habits of humanity, in its quest to take control of the natural progression of aging, and other physical events we try to curtail through medicine, exercise, etc., in the never-ending desire to stay fit and live longer. She offers plenty of facts and theories to mull over. Lisa, Membership Services 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (338.768 T343c) 

I was excited for the blood testing innovations promised by Theranos and followed developments about the company and its founder in the news.  This book shed light on the inner workings of a Silicon Valley startup that seemed to be a bright, shiny star. - Pam, Youth Services 

Beastie Boys Book by Mike D. (781.649 B368d) 

Hefty is a perfect word for this book. More Chicago style pizza than NY. Buy, steal, beg for, or borrow this book. Chad, Information & Reader Services 

I'll Be There for You by Kelsey Miller (791.4572 F911m) 

I cannot tell you how many times I have re-watched the 90s sitcom FRIENDS, but having a novelized collection of essays about all of the blessings and pitfalls (Ross Gellar) of the show is amazing. This book put a new perspective on things the show did or did not do that I had not confronted before and sparked so many conversations with my own friends, either about the show itself, other 90s TV, or social commentary in television overall. A similar read for this would be Kayleen Schaefer’s Text Me When You Get Home. Sarah Marie, Information & Reader Services 

Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean (810.992 D282) 

The only person I was familiar with already in this book, was Dorothy Parker, so I was looking forward to learning something about the other memorable women Dean talks about. There was just enough about each woman to be interesting, but not overwhelming. She provided a good jumping off point to read lengthier books about them, as well as their own works to be discovered or revisited. Lisa, Membership Services 

Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God: Poems by Tony Hoagland (811 H678p) 

Not a lot of people read contemporary poetry, but this is a poetry collection that most people can find relatable. The poems are short and the imagery and subtle humor make them top-notch. For example, the second poem, “A Walk around the Property,” begins, “There are too many people in this book I’m reading. / I can’t keep track of them all. / How can I care who marries who, or what they wear? / Nevertheless, each time one disappears, I feel a brief, sharp grief, / knowing they will not return.” For poetry lovers and poetry curious alike. Catherine, Information & Reader Services 

Calypso by David Sedaris (814 Se44c) 

I have read all of David Sedaris' works and this one is my favorite. The levity that defines a Sedaris work is a little more grounded and tempered with age in this work; that said, there is a running story thread about feeding a benign tumor to a turtle, so the frivolity is not wholly gone. The book was more somber than Sedaris' other works, but so, so good. Read-alikes for Sedaris would, in my mind, include Augusten Burroughs. Sarah Marie, Information & Reader Services 

In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules by Karen Karbo (920.72 K18) 

I loved Karbo’s previous books, and this one is an excellent addition. I enjoyed reading about so many exceptional women, such as J. K. Rowling, Elizabeth Taylor, Josephine Baker, Jane Goodall, Margaret Cho, and many others. I like how she divided the bibliography, covering each person separately, with a clearly designated list of other works about them. Lisa, Membership Services 

The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont (920.72 P621) 

What an uplifting, energizing, glorious book. I loved it, and I loved the moniker of “Matron Saint”. Starting with Artemisia Gentileschi, and on to the other 98 remarkable women in between, I was educated and delighted, and the portrait of each one is perfect (Thapp really brings out the vitality of each of them.) Lisa, Membership Services 

The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House by Norman Eisen (943.712 Ei36) 

If walls could talk, the current Prague residence of the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic would tell the story of twentieth century Czechoslovakia and the fate of its Jewish community. Instead Eisen tells the story through the lives Otto Petschek, who designed and built the mansion; Rudolf Toussaint, the German general who occupied it during World War II; Laurence Steinhardt, the first United States ambassador to postwar Czechoslovakia, who kept the palace out of Communist hands, and Shirley Temple Black, who was there during the Prague Spring and again as ambassador when Communism fell. The fifth life, that of Eisen’s mother, a Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia, is a poignant counterpoint to the others. Laurie, Information & Reader Services 

On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle by Hampton Sides (951.9042 Si56) 

Hampton Sides’ ability to write well-researched history that reads like fiction makes him one of my favorite authors. In this book he outdoes himself in portraying the heroism, bravery, hubris, and futility of this Korean War campaign. Laurie, Information & Reader Services 

The Soul of America: the battle for our better angels by Jon Meacham (973 M479) 

Historian Meacham gives reason to hope in these divisive times by exploring past times when things seemed as bleak: the Civil War Era, the 1900s, the 1930s, and the 1960s. If you like audio books, this was a good listen as well as a good read. Laurie, Information & Reader Services 

Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza (973.932 So72) 

I've been following the author's Instagram account to get some visual insight on the stark differences between the Obama and Trump presidencies.  We say so much with images every day and this book helps show how and why they really matter sometimes.   -Pam, Youth Services 

Passing for Human: A Graphic Memoir by Liana Finck (GRAPHIC NOVEL B F493) 

Liana Finck is a New Yorker cartoonist with a very interesting visual and written take on living, and she created a beautifully illustrated story that I think would be widely enjoyable. Sara, Membership Services 

Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery (B G666d) 

An enlightening discussion about the semi-mysterious person known as Edward (Ted) Gorey, who created a disturbing montage of enticing images, and unsettling books, that have captured the attention of numerous admirers. The explanatory excavation of various works, such as ‘The Unstrung Harp’, ‘The Doubtful Guest’, ‘The Gashlycrum Tinies’, and all the others, including the truly horrendous ‘Loathsome Couple’, as well as the background events of his life, helped me grasp a better understanding of the world he inhabited. Lisa, Membership Services 

The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987 by Riad Sattouf (GRAPHIC NOVEL B Sa253) 

I am beyond in love with Riad's story. I devoured all 3 installments and can't wait for #4 to be translated into English. I love all three equally but this last one has certainly made me laugh out loud the most, while also creating that sinking feeling inside my gut. Can't wait for more. Would recommend this to everyone and anyone. Chad, Information & Reader Services


The Power by Naomi Alderman (F ALDERMAN, N.)

Winner of the coveted Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, this novel imagines a world much like our own except for one major difference, teenage girls have awakened an immense physical power within themselves. The repercussions are stunning. The reader follows several characters as the world is re-shaped to reflect this new reality. A very provocative (and funny!) commentary on gender politics. Rachel, Information & Reader Services

The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet (F BINET, L.)

An intellectually intriguing work resembling a classic foreign film, containing the subtle strains of absurdity, vivid snippets of passion, and numerous examples of the grotesque, violent, and philosophical. The political upheavals of the past keep emerging in the various regions visited by an impressive roster of the academic elite, and after I finished the last satisfying pages, I turned to my reference sources to find out more about them. Lisa, Membership Services

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase (F CHASE, E.)

This satisfying gothic story, concerns the mysterious disappearance of Audrey, which hovers over the summer of 1959, when the Wilde sisters become tangled in the growing up process, and the present day, where Jessie feels overshadowed by her husband's first wife. It's a deliciously unsettling book. Lisa, Membership Services

The Graybar Hotel: Stories by Curtis Dawkins (F DAWKINS, C.)

A series of vignettes detailing life in prison. Curtis Dawkins reveals the idiosyncrasies, tedium and desperation of long-term incarceration. The stories are funny and sad and filled with unforgettable detail. I loved it! Robin, Membership Services

Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey (MYS DORSEY, T.)

Madness and mayhem in the Sunshine State! Serge Storms can find ways to explore Florida that will make you see it in a different light. In Clownfish Blues, he locates all the places where scenes from the TV show Route 66 were shot in his own version of Easy Rider. With his sidekick Coleman, Serge uses ingenuity to mete out vigilante justice in ways that make you cheer for the underdog. Hilarious! Wild! Robin, Membership Services

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi (F FABIASCHI, A.)

Each chapter contains the viewpoints of Madeline (wife and mother, now deceased), Brady (her husband), and Eve (their teenage daughter). As Eve and Brady try to figure out why Madeline would commit suicide, they uncover the imperfections of their relationship with her and each other. As they awkwardly try to salvage the pieces left behind, they learn how to adjust to life without her. Lisa, Membership Services

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. Book One by Emil Ferris (GRAPHIC NOVEL FERRIS, E.)

1960's Uptown is a rough neighborhood, and Karen Reyes is a kid with problems. Her block and her building are populated with junkies, prostituted women, gangsters, musicians, ventriloquists, and artists like Karen and her big brother Diego (known as Deeze). Obsessed with monster stories, Karen desperately hopes to get "the bite," which will transform her into a monster capable of protecting Deeze and their mother. But when her upstairs neighbor, a Holocaust survivor, dies in a suspicious suicide, Karen becomes a detective. The artwork in this graphic novel tells the story in a crosshatched style on a background of notepaper, and yes, monsters are everywhere in the pages. We'll have to wait for the next book in the series to see how the story continues, but you won't want to miss this first volume. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Cruel Is the Night by Karo Hämäläinen (F HAMALAINEN, K.)

Four Finnish friends and lovers meet in a luxurious London apartment for a reunion dinner. By the end of the night, three of the four will be dead. The fun of this novel, which alternates from the perspectives of all four characters, lies in slowly untangling the relationships and backstories between all the characters. There are infidelities, murder plots, crimes and cover ups, and it all comes to a head in one darkly entertaining evening. Additionally, Hämäläinen waits until the end to reveal who is actually dead, lending the book a sense of propulsive dread. Michelle, Technical Services

Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (F HOGAN, R.)

Anthony Peardew is a writer who collects the lost objects he comes across and stores them safely until they can, hopefully, be reunited with their owners one day. Laura, who was discarded by her husband, finds solace and purpose working for Anthony. The interaction between them, and the other characters they encounter, create a story that embraces the tender possibilities of being human. Lisa, Membership Services

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (F HONEYMAN, G.)

Eleanor is a damaged character, who doesn't fit well in life. The occasional glimpses of her frightening past alternate with her observations on various subjects that are surprisingly funny. As she navigated through the dead ends and hopeful beginnings of her existence, I became more acclimated to her unique personality, and learned something about my own imperfections as well. Lisa, Membership Services

Random Road: Introducing Geneva Chase by Thomas Kies (MYS KIES, T.)

A veteran crime reporter, stuck working for her small-town paper after a series of alcoholism-related firings from higher profile jobs, investigates the deaths of six people who were found naked and hacked to death in a mansion on Connecticut's Gold Coast. What makes this novel work so well is Kies's refusal to rely on formula and cliché. The main character is appealingly flawed (her struggles with alcohol and the negative choices that result from it are completely believable), both the murder victims and the murderers are three-dimensional people, and the end may result in tears, which is not too common in a mystery novel. Very much recommended. Michelle, Technical Services

A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carré (F LE CARRE, J.)

The 86-year-old Le Carré is still producing masterpieces. Legacy finds retired spy Peter Guillam confronting a lawsuit that forces him to revisit the tragic outcome of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (Le Carré’s 1963 bestseller). The complex plot introduces new details to the earlier story in Le Carré’s signature style – dark, brutal, and morally ambiguous. It’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad. Julia, Information & Reader Services

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (F MAKUMBI, J.)

The story of Uganda as seen through the generations of the Kintu family. The novel begins in 1750, with the patriarch Kintu Kidda, who accidentally unleashes a brutal curse upon his bloodline. It then jumps forward in time to his descendants in the twentieth century, who must deal with modern issues such as abandonment, sexual abuse, AIDS, Christianity, local traditions, poverty, and their own past. The characters are fully fleshed out and fabulous and the writing just keeps the reader turning pages. This book was riveting. Michelle, Technical Services

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (F MASTAI, E.)

Tom Barren comes from an alternative world that's somewhat similar to ours. It's the world that might have developed if the technological dreams of the 1950's had panned out. Through an unfortunate set of circumstances, he ends up in the world we know. As he realizes the pros and cons of each world, he discovers the complicated side effects if our actions, no matter the "good" or "bad" reasons behind them. Lisa, Membership Services

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (MYS MUKHERJEE, A.)

Captain Sam Wyndham is a war veteran at a loose end. He leaves Scotland Yard, and moves to Calcutta (1919), where the influence of the British Raj is starting the dwindle. As he familiarizes himself with the climate and culture (vividly described), he tries to get his bearings regarding the recent murder of a government official, which turns out to be one of several mysteries he must solve. Lisa, Membership Services

A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates (F OATES, J.)

Martyrs is a graceful and excruciating story of two families who do not live very far apart, but exist in different realities. Luther Dunphy is a zealous evangelical who envisions himself as acting out God's will when he assassinates an abortion provider in his small Ohio town, while Augustus Voorhees, the idealistic but self-regarding doctor who is killed, leaves behind a wife and children scarred and embittered by grief. Robin, Membership Services

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta (F PERROTTA, T.)

Eve is a divorcée who has just become an empty-nester after her son, Brendan, leaves for college. After receiving a racy (but flattering) anonymous text one night, she secretly begins watching pornography. While this new pursuit opens her mind to romantic possibilities, it also upends the quiet suburban life she previously led. At the same time, Brendan is facing the harsh realities of dating and sex in college, leading him to question his own chauvinistic ideas of women. This was a thought-provoking book on how different generations view sexuality. Perrotta, as always, is a master at pulling away the curtain of suburbia and exposing the dark underbelly. Rachel, Information & Reader Services

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (F PHILLIPS, G.)

Joan and her 4-year-old son have just finished a wonderful afternoon at the zoo. As they head towards the entrance at closing time, Joan hears gunshots, sees bodies, and instinctively grabs her son and runs back into the zoo. For the next few hours, the reader is on the edge of their seat as Joan uses all her knowledge of the zoo and its exhibits to conceal herself and her son from the gunman. How far will she go to protect them? Not your run-of-the-mill thriller. Rachel, Information & Reader Services

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (F RUSKOVICH, E.)

In Idaho, the author uses the tragic murder of a child to explore the psychological complexities of ordinary lives. Ann and Wade, who marry in the aftermath of his daughter's murder, have a close relationship that is nonetheless filled with challenges. The author is an astute observer who understands the depth of subtle communication between spouses. Cynthia, Youth Services

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (F SAUNDERS, G.)

Amid a chorus of ghosts, a grief-stricken Lincoln visits his recently deceased son Willie in a Georgetown Cemetery. Saunders’ strange and often strangely amusing tale of grief and the ‘not-quite’ afterlife will haunt you. Julia, Information & Reader Services

“Trap. Horrible trap. At one’s birth it is sprung. Some last day must arrive...All pleasures should be tainted by that knowledge. But hopeful dear us, we forget...” Chad, New Media

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (F SCHMIDT, S.)

What happened on August 4, 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts? Narrated by Lizzie, her sister Emma, the Borden’s maid Bridget, and Benjamin, a mysterious stranger hired by Uncle John, this fictional account describes what may have happened on that hot day. Jacki, Information & Reader Services

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (F SLOAN, R.)

Sloan, who wrote Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, once again weaves together high tech and low tech in this fun story about the tech and foodie culture in San Francisco. Laurie, Information & Readers Service

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland (SF STEPHENSON, N.)

It wasn't until several weeks after I'd read this entertaining, and mammoth book, that I was able to appreciate it (like a time delayed reaction, resembling one of the many issues that characters deal with as they try to make time travel work so they can bring magic back. Trust me, the authors make both of those ideas seem possible). There are some amusing examples of the administrative aspects of working in a government agency that's funding such a scheme, and what the main characters go through trying to justify that investment. They encounter friends, foes and several unforgettable historical individuals. Lisa, Membership Services

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (F STROUT, E.)

A lovely collection of short stories from Elizabeth Strout, exploring the rewards of human connection and the pain of disconnection, in infidelity, name-calling, and other hurts. In the last story, "Gift," a man's wife hears that in childhood he hunted through dumpsters for food and reacts, "Weren't you ashamed?" He thinks: Well, then, you've never been hungry. Strout's characters are exposed and emotional but never maudlin, as though her hunger is for knowing them. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan (F SULLIVAN, J.)

I loved J. Courtney Sullivan's Saints for All Occasions! It's a great family saga, and perfect to dive into when looking for your next book. It's one of the books I've recommended most often this year to family and friends. Beth, Marketing

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (F THOMAS, A.)

Starr Carter moves between two worlds, the poor neighborhood where she lives, and the fancy suburban prep school that she attends. Everything changes the night her childhood friend, Khalil is gunned down by a police officer while driving her home from a party. The shooting becomes national news with everyone wanting to know what really happened that night, and the only one who knows is Starr. A wonderfully written and heartbreaking debut that will stay with you even after you finish the last page. Highly Recommended. Michelle, Information & Reader Services

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (F WARD, J.)

Thirteen-year-old Jojo wants to learn what it takes to be a man and to take care of his three-year-old sister Kayla. They are cared for by their grandparents, pop and mam, while their black mama, Leonie, a drug addict, flits in and out of their lives and their white father, Michael, is in and out of prison. With Michael's recent prison sentence coming to an end, Leonie loads the children and a friend in her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. A beautifully written and heartbreaking family drama about race, love and ghosts. Highly Recommended. Michelle, Information & Reader Services


The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant: The Complete Annotated Edition by Ulysses S. Grant and John F. Marszalek (Editor) (973.82 G763a)

The best book on Grant is still the one he wrote himself. Often described as taciturn, Grant was an excellent storyteller among his friends and acquaintances. The original edition of his memoirs was sold door-to-door by former Union soldiers in the 1880s and has never been out of print. This annotated edition provides essential perspective and context for the story of a remarkable man and his role in history. Julia, Information & Reader Services

Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris (155.92 H315)

This brilliant book explores the benefits of occasionally breaking away from the ever-growing atmosphere of always being connected to each other (whether it's YouTube, Facebook, Twitter), or relying so completely on the selected choices offered by various agencies. Lisa, Membership Services

Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the U.S. Army and the Invasion That Opened the West by William Hogeland (973.4 H715)

Interesting portraits of Miami and Shawnee war leaders, Little Turtle and Blue Jacket. Chad, New Media

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym (B K99) The author recounts her life as a violin prodigy and the psychological undoing she suffered as an adult when her prized violin was stolen under her nose in a busy cafe. She writes movingly about her connection to her teachers and works of music. She also makes clear that artistic achievement does not come without a cost. Cynthia, Youth Services

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy (B L6681)

This memoir, based on the author's New Yorker article "Thanksgiving in Mongolia", details the author's horror of delivering her 5-month-old live fetus alone in a Mongolian hotel room. The memoir also recounts her work life, bisexuality, and lesbian marriage and divorce. Levy is a compelling writer who does not seem at all concerned with her likeability (which makes her very likeable!). Cynthia, Youth Services

Quicksand: What It Means to Be a Human Being by Henning Mankell (B M278)

In January 2014, Henning Mankell was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. This book was his response. Published after his death in October 2015, this book contains a series of reflections (some autobiographical, some not) on what it means to live and to die. Ruminating on everything from pivotal moments in his childhood to what human beings will leave behind after they're gone to the paralyzing terror of death, Mankell's essays are extraordinarily moving and brave. They manage to be both comforting and unsettling and are well worth a read. Michelle, Technical Services

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore (363.179 M822)

Don't be fooled by the modest size of this book. It's a riveting revelation, full of fleshed out individuals with distinctive characteristics and stories. It's full of adversity and hope. The Radium Girls have left a significant legacy behind them, which will continue to benefit the world ad infinitum. Lisa, Membership Services

Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast (GRAPHIC NOVEL 917.471 C489)

What began as a guide for her daughter leaving for college in Manhattan cartoonist Roz Chast has expanded it into a quirky, funny homage to New York City. David, Membership Services We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates (973.932 C652) Coates follows up his ground-breaking Between the World and Me with this thought-provoking collection of essays. He has become a leading voice on the African American experience. Essential reading. Julia, Information & Reader Services

It's All Absolutely Fine: Life Is Complicated So I’ve Drawn It Instead by Ruby Elliot (GRAPHIC NOVEL 362.2 EL46)

Elliot shares insights into her life and the terrible and strange and hilarious things life can do to a person struggling with mental illness. Combining short introspective essays with simple drawings of not-so-simple issues, she captures the humor and melancholy of everyday life. From mood disorders, anxiety, and issues with body image through to existential conversations, her thoughts are inspirational, empowering, and entertaining. Robin, Membership Services

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone (B F9113f)

Elizabeth Friedman, along with her husband, defined modern codebreaking. From the First World War through the 1950s, she cracked codes of rum runners, criminals, and wartime enemies as encryption methods got increasingly complex. Fagone gives her a well-deserved and fascinating turn in the spotlight. Laurie, Information & Reader Services

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel (B K694f)

The story of a man who lived in the woods of Maine totally off the grid for 27 years. Regarded as both a hero and a thief by neighbors whose homes he raided for supplies, he managed to escape detection. Some felt he was a myth, but he survived without human contact the entire time. David, Membership Services

The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen (947.086 G392)

This chilling account chronicles Russia's brief flirtation with democracy as well as its descent into a fearsome autocracy. Gessen expertly details the forces behind Putin's rise to power. She also includes testimonies from four young people who grew up in post-Soviet Russia and personally witnessed the dreams of democracy crumble. You don't have to be a historian or political scientist to appreciate this detailed, fascinating monograph. Hannah, Youth Services

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (970.3 Os81g)

An examination of a little-known period in American history. Osage Indians made wealthy by the discovery of oil on their land are exploited and systematically murdered by greedy outsiders. Eventually investigated by men who became the modern FBI, but not until numerous murders had been committed. David, Membership Services

At the beginning of the 20th century, Principal Chief James Bigheart of the Osage Nation deftly negotiated with the United States government for the mineral rights to the poor-quality land allotted to the Osage. Within twenty years, leasing out the oil-mining rights had made the Osage the richest nation per capita in the world. But despite the advantages money usually brings, they were dying at a much higher rate than their white neighbors. David Grann investigates the conspirators who swindled and murdered the Osage, perhaps over decades, in this new work of American history. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

The Decibel Diaries: A Journey Through Rock in 50 Concerts by Carter Alan (781.66078 AL31)

I read this book in chunks at a time, like a vicarious spectator at a huge music festival, comprised of artists like Neil Young, B.B. King, Yes, Ramones, Eric Clapton, Talking Heads, Tom Petty, Black Crowes, Nirvana, Bush and many other well-regarded musicians. His observations about the performances were enlightening gems of experience. Lisa, Membership Services

Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations by John P. Avlon (973.41 AV95)

Timeless advice from the Father of our country warns us about the dangers of political party dissension and despotism. For people who believe in small “d” democracy and the responsibilities of citizenship. Julia, Information & Reader Services Well researched and readable book that, by focusing on his farewell address, gives significant insight into the man who was our first president, how his words influenced the presidents who came after him, and how it resonates with what is going on today. Chad, New Media

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum (364.1552 B658)

Alex Blum’s dream was to become an U.S. Army Ranger and he did. The day before he was to leave for Iraq, he and three other men robbed a bank. Was it a training exercise as Alex claimed? Or was he under the influence of his commanding officer who planned the heist as the author claims? Jacki, Information & Reader Services

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden (959.704342 B784)

Bowden tells the story of this pivotal battle from the points of view of participants from all sides - North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, South Vietnamese, United States soldiers, journalists, and noncombatants. His descriptions of the building-to-building combat are riveting and exhausting. His descriptions of the out of touch Army command will make you want to scream. Laurie, Information & Reader Services

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat (641.5 N897)

This "uncookbook" is less about how to cook specific recipes and more about how the four elements named in the title—salt, fat, acid, heat—function in the creation of good food. Unlike some chefs whose advice focuses on a single "right" outcome, Nosrat provides a broad and practical approach to understanding and improving what you're doing in the kitchen, including some simple experiments and ideas for fixing mistakes. The second half of the book does provide a supply of recipes to practice working with salt, fat, acid, and heat, which you'll be well ready to try after reading about so much deliciousness. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Pandora's Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong by Paul A. Offit (500 Of32)

The author presents several instances throughout history, when the foundations for certain "scientific breakthroughs" (morphine, eugenics, butter substitutes, megavitamins, chemical warfare) eventually crumbled under the scrutiny of those dealing with the dangerous side effects. He offers some helpful guidelines when evaluating the validity of the latest "scientific" claims (which we could use more than ever these days). Lisa, Membership Services

A Grace Paley Reader: Stories, Essays, and Poetry by Grace Paley (818 P158g)

This compact selection of Grace Paley’s short stories, essays, and poems is great both for long-time fans and for readers new to her. Doris Lessing--like Paley, a great writer of women--wrote that the sixties are "seen, sometimes wrongly, as the starting point for all kinds of behavior that in fact began in the fifties—or before." Grace Paley informs us that also in the forties (or before) there was sex, married women seeking abortions, and single women raising children. Her stories feature ordinary people doing ordinary things, with wryness and humor. Her essays and poems mostly address writing and activism, as done by ordinary women and mothers, of which she was an extraordinary example. With an introduction by George Saunders. Catherine, Information & Reader Services

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca (363.25 H924r)

Grace Humiston is a very smart woman of means. She proves that “women’s intuition” is really just a thorough examination of the facts, a deep knowledge of the law, asking the right questions, and persistence. New York in the early 1900s was the place to be if you were a forward-thinking career woman dedicated to improving the lives of immigrants. Fascinating! Robin, Membership Services

Will It Skillet?: 53 Irresistible and Unexpected Recipes to Make in a Cast-Iron Skillet by Daniel Shumski (641.77 Sh56)

Of course, it will! The cinnamon roll was amazing! A cookbook for people who enjoy approaching a meal with enthusiasm for how it is made as well as how it tastes. Fun recipes. Robin, Membership Services

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder (321.9 Sn67)

Snyder has written extensively about the history of dictatorship in Europe and the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. In this slim book, sized to fit in your pocket for easy reference, he distills down his insights into how fascism and dictatorship get a foothold and grow, how to be aware of what is happening, and how to resist. Laurie, Information & Reader Services


Backman, Fredrik. Britt-Marie Was Here

Britt-Marie was no longer happy, so she left her 40-year marriage to start her life anew. But it was not easy, for Britt-Marie was used to her neat and orderly life, and the crumbling town of Borg, and the children of the soccer team she will be coaching are neither neat nor orderly. With every passing day her bond with the children and the town grows deeper, but will she finally find the place she belongs? Funny and heartwarming, this is a great read for anyone looking for a feel-good book - Michelle, Information & Reader Services

Bennett, Brit. The Mothers

This debut novel has received lots of buzz! Nadia is a motherless teen, about to depart for college who enters into a relationship with Luke, the pastor's son, and befriends Aubrey, also motherless.  The story pulled me in and I was rooting for Nadia and her dad to find happiness. – Beth, Marketing Specialist

Bjørk, Samuel. I'm Traveling Alone

A six-year-old girl is found in the Norwegian countryside, hanging lifeless from a tree and dressed in strange doll's clothes. Around her neck is a sign that says "I'm traveling alone." A special homicide unit in Oslo re-opens with veteran police investigator Holger Munch at the helm. He is joined by the brilliant but haunted investigator Mia Krüger, who has been living on an isolated island, overcome by memories of her past. When Mia views a photograph of the crime scene and spots the number "1" carved into the dead girl's fingernail, she knows this is only the beginning. This may seem like a standard serial killer novel, but what sets this book apart is its strong characters and the fact that it manages to be truly terrifying without resorting to graphic violence and genre clichés. - Michelle, Technical Services

Chevalier, Tracy. At the Edge of the Orchard

This historical novel, by the author of "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" takes the reader across 19th century America, traveling New England to the "Black Swamps" of Ohio and visits by Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman); to the Pacific Coast's Sequoia Groves where William Lobb collects botanical specimens.  Family dysfunction, alcoholism, violence, and ingenuity intersperse with well-researched descriptions and insights on apple farming and Californian flora and fauna.  The writing is excellent.  The story line seems to lend itself to sequels. – Nancy, Information & Reader Services

Donoghue, Emma. The Wonder

When an English nurse is called to investigate a supposed "miracle" in a small Irish village, she discovers a girl who appears to be surviving without food. However, as time goes on, the dark truth of the situation reveals itself to be anything but holy. Another compelling blend of history and psychological fiction that Donoghue is known for. This novel is sure to stick with you long after you finish reading it.  - Rachel, Information & Reader Services.

Haigh, Jennifer. Heat and Light

Jennifer Haigh's novel takes us back to Bakerton, PA, the setting of her 2005 family saga Baker Towers. It is some decades later, and Bakerton is a coal mining town in its last throes. That is, until we learn it sits atop an enormous deposit of natural gas. Let the fracking begin. Heat and Light, with its eclectic cast of characters, pits small town against big (greedy) business, and everyone has a stake in the game. -Barbara, Information & Reader Services

Hashimi, Nadia. A House Without Windows

In A House Without Windows an Afghanistan woman, from a small village, is put in jail while she awaits trial for murdering her husband. This novel illuminates the plight of women living in societies where customs, laws, and organizations are so different then our western values. – Cindy, Membership Services

Hawley, Noah. Before the Fall

After a small plane crashes into the ocean carrying a group of influential people, including a media mogul, a wall street titan and their families, everyone is desperate to find out why. What or who is responsible? The only two survivors, a down and out painter and a 4-year-old boy form a delicate bond based on their shared experience and together deal with the aftermath. 'Before the Fall' tells the stories of those who perished before reaching the dramatic conclusion of what really happened. Highly recommended. - Michelle, Information & Reader Services

Holt, Anne. No Echo

When a popular celebrity chef is found murdered on the steps of the Oslo police headquarters, police investigator Billy T. and long-absent Hanne Wilhelmsen team up for an investigation that reveals that few people really knew the victim or his mysterious activities. The third of four Hanne Wilhelmsen novels released in 2016, No Echo stands out for its well-drawn characters. From the victim, who was so loathed that he was murdered twice to Hanne herself, who is still reeling from a devastating personal loss, No Echo is one of those books that lingers long after you've finished turning the pages. – Michelle, Technical Services

Johnson, Julia Claiborne. Be Frank With Me

Alice, an assistant for a New York publisher, is sent to Los Angeles to watch over an author working on her long-awaited second novel.  She becomes part of the family, trying to help at the same time she's trying to figure out the author and her quirky 9 year old son.  Funny and thought provoking, this is an entertaining read – Laurie, Information & Reader Services

Semple, Maria. Today Will Be Different

Eleanor wakes up determined to have a good day, but then life happens. After she picks up her "sick" son from school, they embark on a strange sort of odyssey around Seattle, unearthing dark secrets from Eleanor's past and revealing uncomfortable truths about her marriage. Although tackling some pretty serious themes, this novel is laugh out loud funny and a true gem for anyone who enjoys humor, good writing and women's fiction. - Rachel, Information & Reader Services

Svensson, Anton. The Father

A novel inspired by the true story of three brothers, all under the age of 24, who held Sweden to ransom, committing ten bank robberies over a period of just two years. None had committed a crime before. Written under a pseudonym by the fourth brother, Stefan Thunberg, who did not participate in the robberies, and journalist Anders Roslund, this book is a riveting story of brotherhood, loyalty, and what happens when the relationship between a parent and child goes very wrong. The authors are currently writing a sequel. – Michelle, Technical Services

Towles, Amor. A Gentleman in Moscow

The story opens in June 1922 as 32 year old Russian aristocrat, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced by a Bolshevik tribunal to life imprisonment in the luxurious Metropol Hotel in Moscow. Accepting his incarceration with grace and bemused nonchalance, Rostov finds his life filled with surprising adventure and purpose. Amor Towles’ writing, like his main character, is elegant, sophisticated, witty and charming. –Julia, Director of Adult Services

Vaughan, Brian K. Paper Girls

A graphic novel set the day after Halloween in 1988. Four 12 year old girls start the day out on their regular paper route but the day quickly turns into a surreal adventure running from monsters and trying to figure out why everyone in their town is disappearing. Anyone who liked watching Stranger Things should love this. – Shannon, Film & Music

Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad

The metaphorical Underground Railroad is real in Whitehead’s tour de force adventure tale; a story of one woman’s desperate struggle to escape the horrors of slavery and a powerful meditation on the continuing journey to real freedom. A ground-breaking and essential read. –Julia, Director of Adult Services

Willis, Connie. Crosstalk

In a near-future America, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners is all the rage. The main character of the novel, Briddey Flannigan, undergoes this procedure with her boyfriend, Trent, and to say it doesn't work out as she planned is an understatement. Alternately funny and terrifying, Crosstalk portrays the dangers of constant connection and communication without being preachy, obvious, or boring. I couldn't put it down. – Michelle, Technical Services


Bascomb, Neal. Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb

Bascomb is a master of making history read like a thriller.  In his sixth book he tells the amazing story of a group of Norwegian resistance fighters who repeatedly sabotaged the heavy water plant that was the only supply for Hitler's atomic bomb program.  – Laurie, Information & Reader Services

Benincasa, Sara. Real Artists Have Day Jobs (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Teach You in School)

A sassy, savvy and entertaining book of 52 essays, that make the sun brighter and the clouds less gray. – Lisa, Membership Services

Bergner, Daniel. Sing for Your Life: a Story of Race, Music, and Family

This is the inspiring story of 30-year-old African American opera singer Ryan Speedo Green, who as a child spent time in a juvenile detention center, often under solitary confinement.  Through determination and hope he was able to overcome his rage and violent temper and eventually find a place where he could flourish.  Green is now singing at the Metropolitan and the Vienna State Operas, two of the greatest operatic theaters in the world. – Sylvana, Film & Music

Boilen, Bob. Your Song Changed My Life: From Jimmy Page to St. Vincent, Smokey Robinson to Hozier, Thirty-Five Beloved Artists on Their Journey and the Music That Inspired It

A collection of interviews that celebrate and explore the passionate influence of music on an extra-ordinary group of performers. – Lisa, Membership Services

Burnett, Dean. Idiot Brain: What Your Head is Really Up To

Stand-up comedian and neuroscientist, Dean Burnett writes an amusing and enlightening book on the weird and peculiar processes of the brain. Why do you enter a room and forget what you were going to do? Why do you remember faces but not names? Burnett admits that the brain is “undeniably impressive, but it’s far from perfect, and these imperfections influence everything humans, say, do and experience.” An entertaining and thoughtful explanation of our why our brains cause us to do such whacky things.  –Julia, Information & Reader Services

Carr, Nicholas. Utopia is Creepy: And Other Provocations

This collects several insightful posts from the author's blog "Rough Type", that point out the blind spots of the digital age. – Lisa, Membership Services

Dove, Rita. Collected Poems: 1974-2004

This is an excellent collection of outstanding work by one of our exceptional poet laureates. It's the kind of book I'll buy, just so I can dip into it, and enjoy the poems without rushing. I love the ones in "Museum", "Thomas and Beulah", "Mother Love", you get the idea. – Lisa, Membership Services

Edwards, Gavin. The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party

The profound and the humorous come together in this engaging book about a unique individual (and he loves poetry too. Be still my heart). – Lisa, Membership Services

Gaiman, Neil. The View from the Cheap Seats

 I confess, I love this author, and I love this book. I've ordered a copy, because it's perfect for  dipping into. It contains all of my favorite subjects, such as books and bookworms, libraries and librarians, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who, James Thurber, science fiction, fantasy, and many other topics. – Lisa, Membership Services

Gleick, James. Time Travel: A History

“The universe is like a river. It flows. (Or it doesn’t, if you’re Plato.)” Gleick's quirky sense of humor is super entertaining and his bonus suggested reading list is priceless!  A marvelous mind bender! –Chad, New Media
An exploration of the conundrum known as "time". Citing examples from H.G.Wells, Proust, Einstein, Feynman, Asimov, and many other commentators on a subject that inspires theories, assumptions, and several nifty books and films as well. -Lisa, Membership Services

Hamilton, Mary. Trials of the Earth

A long lost manuscript written in 1933 by Mary Mann Hamilton finally sees print in Trials of the Earth, an autobiography that recounts the life of one of the first women to settle in the Mississippi Delta during the last quarter of the 19th Century.  Life was incredibly harsh at that time and place. Many of Mary's children died in infancy. Strangers often became quick friends, or allies, in order to share knowledge, pool resources and survive. Through her many difficult and harrowing adventures, Mary keeps her humor intact. Over the years, we witness how she comes to deeply love a man with a mysterious past whom she only very reluctantly married as a deathbed promise. This book informs and inspires while helping the reader feel gratitude for all we have and the possibilities our own lives hold. -Amy, Membership Services

Harrison, Jim. Dead Man's Float

He shares his gritty outlook, while creating unforgettable connections between it and the essence of beauty contained within them. I loved "Reverse Prayer", "Seventy-Four", "Spirit", "Books", "Life", and basically, everything else. – Lisa, Membership Services

Hochschild, Adam. Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.

The author employs individual narratives of Americans who (clandestinely) joined the fight against Francisco Franco to defend the young Spanish Republic.  Impeccable research, historiography and analysis weave personal narratives and ideology with unfolding events. – Nancy, Information & Reader Services

Homolka, Michael. Antiquity

The past and present become fluid in these poems. The atrocities, as in the "Goshen" and "Emanation" ones, could be from earlier decades, or just yesterday. My favorite, non-violent ones are "Listen Up Medusa", "Riposte to Ode", and "Phenomenon". – Lisa, Membership Services

Hurley, Kameron. The Geek Feminist Revolution

A powerful writer, who doesn't mince words when discussing feminism, ethics, bullying, censorship, gender/lifestyle bashing, and the barriers writers come up against in their quest to follow their aspirations. – Lisa, Membership Services

Kalanithi, Paul. When Breath Becomes Air

Well written and emotional. I thought it was awesome. – Gus, Information & Reader Services
A heartbreaking and powerful memoir written by a young neurosurgeon after he is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Yes, it is a story about dying, but also an exploration of how to live with purpose and die gracefully on your own terms. - Rachel, Information & Reader Services

Kelly, Kevin. The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

“The internet is the world’s largest copy machine.” Kelly is a relentless optimist when it comes to technology but is also intelligent enough to avoid utopian trappings. He throws a ton of "what ifs" at you and one or two of them just might leave you thunderstruck, in the best possible way of course! –Chad, New Media

Knisley, Lucy. Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride

Lucy Knisley provides funny and heartwarming stories from her personal life, while also showing interesting facts about the wedding industry. If you enjoyed her other graphic memoir about food, Relish, you will be happy to find recipes as well as instructions for DIY projects. It's also full of wedding planning tips and fascinating wedding myths and traditions from different cultures. – Karina, Youth Services

Phillips, Patrick. Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America

A very difficult, but important book about Forsyth County, Georgia where from 1912 to the 1990s it was America's only "whites-only" county. In 1912 a group of black men was accused of raping and killing a white woman. After a one day trial the men were hung, starting a series of arsons and threats by "night riders" that lead to all 1,098 black people to leave the county, never to return until late in the twentieth century. Well researched and heartbreaking, this is a must-read book for anyone who wants to know more about the deep roots of racial violence in America. - Michelle, Information & Reader Services

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal

It is the first time a book uses the ability to actually text the author while reading the book hence the title "Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal".  It’s clever, humorous and touching.  It is a sequel to her first autobiography, "Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Volume one" but very different.  It's quick and enjoyable reading. Our library owns most of Amy's books.  She is a Chicago author and the author of many children's books as well as several for adults. - Laura, Film & Music

Smith, Lee. Dimestore: A Writer's Life

I didn't think I'd find anything in common with fiction author Lee Smith's memoir of growing up in Appalachia.  This book explores universal themes of place, love and loss, and will appeal to everyone. – Laurie, Information & Reader Services

Thompson, Heather Ann. Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

Excellent research and writing - for those of us that lived through that time this is such a revealing account of the way NY handled it.   – Mary, Information & Reader Services

Vanderbilt, Tom. You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice

 This is the book I keep talking to people about. The author discusses what it means to "like" something, (food, music, books, etc.). He covers the agencies that collect that data, and the results they get from it (it turns out that what we don't choose, says just as much about us, as our preferences do). – Lisa, Membership Services


Atkinson, Kate. A God in Ruins.

A companion novel to 2013's Life After Life, A God in Ruins follows the life of Teddy Todd as he navigates the personal and global events of the 20th century. Beautifully written and stylistically profound, this novel will stay with you long after you have finished. The extraordinary life of one ordinary man.

Bolton, Sharon.  Little Black Lies.

In the early "90s, children started going missing in a small community in the Falkland Islands. This directly affects three specific Islanders- Catrin, a woman who lost her sons in a terrible accident, Callum, a troubled veteran of the Falkland War, and Rachel, Catrin's former best friend. I loved this book for being more interested in examining how loss and violence and grief change people and relationships than in being a simple whodunnit about missing children.

Brandt, Harry and Price, Richard. The Whites.

Follow the life of Billy Graves who is the night shift commander of a New York police department. Witness as they endure the stresses of the job and the daily grind of their everyday life. I enjoyed this book because of the character development. This book is authentic; it felt like I was watching the TV show "The Wire" but in a book. Gritty and thought provoking.

Cantor, Jillian. The Hours Count.

A fascinating fictional account of Ethyl and Julius Rosenberg told from the point of view of a neighbor who gets involved with more that she can handle as she wonders whether her own husband is a spy. It's a window into the cold war and life in post-World War II New York City.

Flournoy, Angela. The Turner House.

The thirteen Turner children all grew up in the house on Yarrow Street on Detroit's East Side. Now, as their ailing Mother is forced to leave home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers the house is worth next to nothing. The Turner children must come together in order to decide the fate of their childhood home while also confronting the ghosts of their pasts.

Freeman, Anna. The Fair Fight.

Two unlikely women in Regency England cross paths and change each others destinies. Ruth, a tough prize-fighter raised in a Bristol brothel, and Charlotte, manor-born and suffocated by class expectations, meet after Ruth suffers a disastrous defeat in the ring. Fast-paced and overflowing with historical detail, The Fair Fight is a spirited story of courage and power.

Gornick, Lisa. Louisa Meets Bear.

A quietly powerful collection of linked short stories surrounding two ill-fated lovers, Louisa and Bear. With each new story, the reader must decipher the relationship the character has to Louisa and Bear; where they crossed paths during their lifetimes. These interwoven tales of love and family are engrossing and deeply human.

Har'even, Gayil. Lies, First Person.

A middle-aged Israeli woman in a comfortable marriage with well-adjusted children finds her life spinning out of control when her estranged uncle, author of the novel "Hitler, First Person," and molester of her sister, announces he's coming for a visit. This novel was brilliant, from the writing style (especially the unreliable, circular narration), all the way to how it gets the reader (me, in this case) to think about how we really talk about, deal with, and confront evil.

Miller, Frank. Batman: The Dark Knight Saga.

The thrilling conclusion to the Dark Knight saga is now here. Batman returns to face his greatest challenge... the dawn of a master race. Written by Frank Miller, author of The Dark Knight Returns, arguably one of the greatest graphic novels ever.

Morton, Kate. The Lake House.

A young boy disappears during a lavish party at his family's estate in Cornwall. The case remains i=unsolved for 60 years until a young detective stumbles upon the abandoned estate and seeks to unlock its many secrets including what happened on the night the child went missing. History, family, mystery, and a split yet deftly interlocking time frame make Kate Morton's latest novel a wonderful page turner.

Moshfegh, Ottessa. Eileen.

The title character leads a dreary, narrow existence both at home with her abusive, alcoholic father and at her office job as a boys' juvenile detention center. Eileen is hopeful that the weight of her innate strangeness and isolation will finally be alleviated by a beautiful, young psychologist who joins the staff at work. But the looming sense of dread and unease that is present from the novel's beginning is frighteningly justified at the novel's end.

Russell, Mary Doria. Epitaph: a novel of the O.K. Corral.

We all think we know the story of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. In this historical novel, Mary Doria Russell makes life and death in Tombstone, Arizona, come alive with historical details about the U.S. Marshalls, justice in the old west, and how Earp's wife, Josephine, made sure that the Wyatt Earp legend would live on.

Snyder, Scott. Wytches: Volume 1.

Scott Snyder's new series is soon to be a horror comic classic. Throughout the years, many people died or were persecuted because of witchcraft. None of these people were witches, but the true witches that so exist are even scarier and more frightening then you could possibly imagine. These witches are mysterious, rare, secretive, but quite deadly.

Tremayne, S. K. The Ice Twins.

Is it Kirstie or Lydia? After one of their identical twin daughters dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to a tiny Scottish island hoping to rebuild their lives. As their surviving daughter grows increasingly disturbed, new revelations come to light as to what happened on that fateful day. The suspenseful and creepy atmosphere heighten the isolation and fear within the characters and haunt the reader until the very end.

Tyler, Anne. A Spool of Blue Thread. 

Anchored by their Baltimore home, four generations of the Whitshank family are revealed through the emotion complexities that all families have. Humorous, dazzling and impeccably written, this novel was short listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Ware, Ruth. In a Dark, Dark Wood.

For a first novel, Ware writes an excellent thriller with much suspense, a bit of humor in the right places and a number of characters with flaws. Many old friends are reacquainted, at Clare's hen party. For Nora, it has been 10 years since she has seen her once best friend. What secrets will be revealed? Should Nora trust her gut or is it just Nora's guarded personality? Forget about making dinner, this book is a thrilling story which will keep you guessing until the end.


Bell, Gertrude and Howell, Georgina. A Woman in Arabia: the writings of the Queen of the Desert.

Writings of the brilliant and multifaceted Gertrude Bell, an English woman who devoted her life to traveling and understanding the Arab world. Her exceptional grasp of the difficult Arabic language made her a valuable agent for the British dealing with early 20th century Arabs. Sometimes referred to as "the female Lawrence of Arabia".

Cavolo, Ricardo. 101 Artists to Listen to Before You Die.

I have an uneven relationship with graphic novels, but this one is not only visually stimulating, it's fun and informative too (and I picked up several new artists to try out as well).

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me.

In this heartfelt memoir/letter to his teenage son, Coates reflects on racial identity, its impact on his life and on his son's future. A stirring message for all people that black lives matter.

Cornwell, Bernard. Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles.

Cornwell, normally a historical fiction writer, authors a compelling work of nonfiction in Waterloo. The book takes the reader through the grueling four days of the Battle of Waterloo from the perspective of Napoleon and Wellington. It is fascinating to learn these two leaders, known as the best military minds of their time, took small missteps on each of their parts that could have led to a different outcome. A great book for history buffs.

Day, Felicia. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).

A delightful, smart, and funny book about the one of a kind Ms. Day, who had a quirky upbringing, which probably helped her navigate an even more unusual career.

Edin, Kathryn J. $2.00 a Day: living on almost nothing in America.

An examination about extreme poverty in America; why has poverty increased over the past 20 years, how do these families survive on little or no income, and how can the country address the issue of income inequality.

Goldberg, Daniel and Larsson, Linus. The State of Play: creators and critics on video game culture.

As a non-gamer, I was enthralled by the 14 essays in this book that explored and discussed issues of gaming entertainment, such as race, gender, violence, death, sex, and fantasy. It raised points that I'll be thinking about for quite awhile.

Goodman, Simon. The Orpheus Clock: The Search for My Family's Art Treasures Stolen by the Nazis.

When Simon Goodman's father passed away, he left behind boxes of files revealing he was not the quintessential British gentleman they thought he was. Born Bernard Guttman, primary heir of a prominent German banking family, Bernard had been trying to recover the family's extensive art collection plundered during World War II. Simon and his brother take up the search and learn their heartbreaking family history in the process.

Green, Kristen. Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle.

After the Brown v the Board of Education decision, Prince Edward County, VA., closed its public schools and opened private, all-white schools. The author examines the effect of the closure on the community and her family's role in the decision.

Larson, Eric. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.

Larson does it again! The suspenseful dual narrative of Dead Wake captures the looming disaster as experienced by those who lived it, the sad reckoning of lives lost, and the inevitable "if only" we could reach across time to send a warning.

Lyndsey, Anna. Girl in the Dark: A Memoir.

Imagine being allergic to light. That is Anna's reality. Once an ambitious young woman, she is now confined to live most of her days in a completely blacked-out room. Fascinatingly, she continues on with her life, fighting against the unbearable loneliness and instead finding the beauty in her new existence. A resonating and brave story.

Marsh, Henry. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery.

Marsh, one of Britain's foremost neurosurgeons, shares stories from the surgery in this riveting memoir, an examination of the exhilaration of successful operations and the despair of failure. Candid and compassionate.

McCullough, David. The Wright Brothers.

McCullough is a master storyteller at his best in relating the amazing story of two "ordinary" men whose genius, courage, innovation, and perseverance achieved human flight.

Rauchway, Eric. The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace.

Who was John Maynard Keynes and why does it still matter? An innovative economist and a bold president introduced a monetary policy with far-reaching effects that continues to influence the global economy. Worth more that the paper it's printed on.

Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of a Talk in a Digital Age.

Wonderful book. Amazing as it touches on so many aspects of our lives that are interlinked with technology. If you keep your smart phone on the table during dinner... read this.

Wulf, Andrea. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World.

An attractive and engaging biography of Alexander von Humboldt, a somewhat forgotten 19th century giant in the field of natural sciences. A native of Germany, he spent time as a young man on scientific expeditions in Latin America, where began his vision of the natural world as holistic and interdependent, a foundation of the modern concept of environmentalism.


Beah, Ishmael. Radiance of Tomorrow

Best known for his memoir A Long Way Gone, Beah here fictionalizes some of the same territory in a novel of Sierra Leone recovering in the wake of civil war. Appealing characters and an engaging writing style which lyrically recalls the oral traditions of the villagers rebuilding their town and trying to heal their wounds in the process, Radiance of Tomorrow is both a beautiful and an important read.

A missionary leaves Earth and his wife behind to spread Christianity to a race of beings eager for stories of redemption and the Afterlife. On a planet with rain that falls in spirals, the preacher befriends the aliens and becomes more estranged from his wife and all things Earth as he learns of the increasing number of disasters that occur back home and cause his wife to doubt her faith in God. Eventually he must choose between two very different worlds. 

Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven

Twenty years after a super flu devastated civilization as we know it, a band of musicians and actors travel along the great lakes, attempting to keep the culture they love alive while also dealing with the dangerous realities of the new American landscape. A linked narrative tells the story of a group of passengers stranded in a small airport when the epidemic breaks-out, who must learn how to survive in isolation and navigate the new social politics of their situation. The two stories weave themselves together, exploring the importance of retaining humanity and culture in a strange new world. 

Oyeyemi, Helen. Boy, Snow, Bird

Oyeyemi’s novel ingeniously builds upon the framework of the Snow White fairy tale to tell a story of love, fear, identity, and prejudice set in 1950s Massachusetts. Alternately narrated by Boy, her daughter Bird, and her stepdaughter Snow, the fully-realized characters build a complex and unforgettable story. 

Paull, Laline. The Bees

Set in the fascinating world of a regimented bee hive, Flora 717 is born into the lowest rung on the social ladder, as a sanitation worker. However, her uncharacteristic curiosity, courage and dangerous ability to breed set her on a course into the inner sanctum of the Hive, where she uncovers disturbing truths about the beloved Queen bee and the supposedly sacred laws that she and her fellow bees accept without question. This is a suspenseful, thrilling and brilliantly imagined dystopian tale.   

In this elegant tale about what it means to grow older, Rebecca Winter, an aging “one hit wonder” photographer, flees to a small town to recoup her finances and reconnect with herself. While there, she meets Jim Bates, a roofer, and starts taking photos of the eerie shrines she finds in the woods behind her cottage. Neither are what they seem. This multi-leveled story is moving, deceptively deep and a pure pleasure to read. 

Rojstaczer, Stuart. The Mathematician’s Shiva

When a famous mathematician dies, her eccentric colleagues and rivals descend on Madison, Wisconsin for her funeral.  Her son wants to grieve in peace but the mathematicians insist on sitting shiva with him.  Rojstaczer beautifully portrays a woman who triumphed through many seminal events of the twentieth century, dealt with sexism and academic chicanery, and the effect she had on her loved ones and her field. 

Smiley, Jane. Some Luck

The first of a planned trilogy that follows the Langdons, an Iowa farm family for 100 years. Through the 1920s, the depression and drought, World War II and mechanization, the pace of change for this family is ever accelerating as the next generation moves into the future. The bad news is that you have to wait for the next installment to find out the rest of the story. 

Waters, Sarah. The Paying Guests

In post WWI London, Frances, a young “spinster”, and her widowed mother are forced to take on lodgers in order to avoid poverty. After a modern young couple, Lillian and Leonard Barber, move in upstairs, Frances’s life is disrupted in ways that she never thought possible. Waters presents both a moving love story and a tense crime drama in this engrossing historical novel.  

Weir, Andy. The Martian

An astronaut is left behind on Mars during a mission gone wrong. Now Mark Watney must figure out how to survive with limited supplies and no communication with NASA or his team. This book is equal parts hilarious and thrilling as Mark uses his humor, inventive skill and imagination to get through each day on the lonely red planet. 

Williams, Niall. History of the Rain

From her attic room in the family's County Clare home, disabled Ruth Swain uses her father's books to decode the secrets of his troubled life, hoping to record his story before she dies. A fierce protagonist, mystical setting and a family's sad history make this an exquisite and moving book. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.  


Boyd, Danah. It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

The author explores misconceptions behind teens and how they use social media.  Her findings are revealing and a must read for parents, teachers, those who work with teens and/or anyone fascinated by the effect that new technologies have on our society and culture.  

Chast, Roz. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant

In her inimitable way, Roz Chast, cartoonist for the New Yorker, chronicles her family life as an only child and her experience dealing with the declining health and death of her parents.  

Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Gawande explores how, as a result of modern technologies, the medical establishment has been focused on preserving life instead of ways to better approach death.   Using engaging stories and research, he offers musings on how Americans can do better in coping with decline and death. 

Jacobsen, Annie. Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America

As World War II morphed into the Cold War, “inconvenient” Nazi backgrounds were overlooked to allow hundreds of scientists, and too many self-promoting bureaucrats, to immigrate to the United States.  At times Jacobsen can barely contain her indignation at the injustice that allowed ghastly misdeeds to be ignored – or rewarded. 

Lepore, Jill. The Secret History of Wonder Woman

Behind the superhero Wonder Woman is the fascinating story of her creators, and the history of feminism. 

Mullin, Jill. Drawing Autism

A beautiful and encouraging book displaying the artwork of various individuals who have autism. 

Pitts, Michael. Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King

The compelling account of the historic archeological dig led by a team from England’s Leicester University to uncover the remains of the infamous Richard III. The newly discovered information drawn from forensics gives us new perspective on the life of the legendary monarch. A gripping science adventure! 

Pressman, Steven. 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany

The little known story of an ordinary American couple who went to Germany just before the war to save Jewish children. Despite the dangers of isolationism and anti-Semitism, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus studied the law and used loopholes in the visa system to save over four dozen children. Their heroism is documented in this fascinating tale.  

Ross, John F. Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed

In a rather hagiographic biography, Ross tells the inspiring and thrilling story of Eddie Rickenbacker's death-defying exploits in the earliest days of auto racing, as America's greatest World War I flying ace, and in subsequent brushes with death.  An amazing tale of daredevilry, willpower and survival. 

Sides, Hampton. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette 

A riveting account of the attempt of the USS Jeannette to get to the North Pole in the late 1800’s.  Sides brings the era to life – the maps and technologies available, as well as the people obsessed with exploration. 

Wall, Carol. Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart

Carol Wall, a teacher in Roanoke, Viriginia, hires Giles Owita, a Kenyan émigré of abundant good will and surprising knowledge, to help her renovate her yard.  This memoir is upbeat and surprising, even when relating difficult life and health issues. 


Fagan, Jenni.  Panopticon.

Like everyone else in the Panopticon, 15-year-old Anais Hendricks has been in and out of foster care practically since birth. "[B]orn in a nuthouse to nobody that was ever seen again," she had her only successful foster placement with a prostitute later stabbed to death (Anais found the body).

Hill, Joe.  NOS4A2

Victoria McQueen has a knack for finding things. Riding her bicycle through an old covered bridge, she always emerges where she needs to be.

Hosseini, Khaled.  And the Mountains Echoed

A novel about how people love, how they take care of each other,and how choices made today can resonate through future generations. 

Jason. Lost Cat

Both a playful take on the classic detective story, and a story about how difficult it is to find a sister spirit, someone you feel a real connection to-- and what do you do if you lose that person?

Kent, Hannah.  Burial Rites

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Messud, Claire.  The Woman Upstairs

Relegated to the status of schoolteacher after abandoning her dreams of becoming an artist, Nora advocates on behalf of a Lebanese student and is drawn into the child's family until his mother's ambition leads to betrayal.

Meyer, Philipp.  The Son

A novel set amid Oslo's hierarchy of corruption, from which one very unusual young man is about to propel himself into a mission of brutal revenge.

Ozeki, Ruth.  A Tale for the Time Being

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than acentury.

Penny, Louise.  How the Light Gets In

In Three Pines, Chief Inspector Armand Gamacheinvestigates the disappearance of a woman who was once one ofthe most famous people in the world and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.

Rindell, Suzanne.  The Other Typist

It is 1923. Rose Baker is a typist for the New York City Police Department. 

Rowell, Rainbow.  Eleanor and Park

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits--smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Saunders, George.  Tenth of December

A collection of stories that includes "Home," a wryly whimsical account of a soldier's return from war; "Victory Lap," a tale about an inventive abduction attempt; and the title story, in which a suicidal cancer patient saves the life of a young misfit.

Semple, Maria.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Bernadette is a frightfully intelligent wife and mother whose intense allergy to Seattle specifically, and to people in general, has driven her to hire a virtual assistant in India to execute even her most basic tasks.

Wecker, Helene.  The Golem and the Jinni

Chava, a golem brought to life by a disgraced rabbi,and Ahmad, a jinni made of fire, form an unlikely friendship on thestreets of New York until a fateful choice changes everything.

The Diviners
Bray, Libba

When aspiring flapper Evie, gets into trouble in her small Ohio town, she is sent to live with her uncle who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult in New York.  But Evie has a gift: she is able to see your secrets just from holding an object belonging to you. Soon, she’s called upon to defeat a frightening supernatural enemy.  Teens and adults alike will enjoy this fast-paced period genre-bender.

Diaz, Junot

Stories of love, betrayal, and the other constants of adult romantic relationships feature heavily in Pulitzer winner Diaz’s second story collection. Yunior, the loud-mouthed authorial stand-in protagonist Diaz continues to return to, is the narrator for most of these stories, and the landscape will be familiar to anyone well-versed in Diaz’s earlier work.

Donoghue, Emma

In a departure from her thriller, Room,Donoghue here returns to historical storytelling. Drawing inspiration from historical newspaper articles and stories, she creates a collection of short narratives that are remarkably engrossing.  Using lushly detailed backdrops, she explores the themes of loss, struggle, love, grace and determination through richly drawn characters who are adrift in time and place, detached from their roots; gone astray.

Edugyan, Esi

This Booker Prize shortlisted novel evokes Berlin and Paris during World War II through the eyes of a rag-tag bunch of jazz musicians struggling to stay alive in a Berlin that has turned against jazz and turned against Jews, but also against half-breeds and black people of all nationalities. Cutting between 1940 and 1992, Half-Blood Blues is a story of race, friendship, secrets, and betrayal that showcases a side of World War II not often written about—that is, the story of the other, non-Jewish ethnic groups persecuted by the Reich.

Flynn, Gillian

When Amy Dunne goes missing on her 5th wedding anniversary, her husband Nick is plunged into a nightmare of controversy and media attention that threatens to rip open his life and expose dark secrets about his life, his marriage, and his possible involvement in Amy’s disappearance—or death.  Flynn’s break-out hit is a fast-paced, compelling thriller.   

Green, John

Hazel has resigned herself to being sick for a long time and then dying; That's just what happens when you have terminal cancer. But when she meets Augustus, a survivor in remission, at her usually uneventful cancer support group, both their lives change radically. This bittersweet novel from Green is a masterpiece. Hazel and Augustus are two characters so unique and wise beyond their years that you will not forget this story for a long while.

Groff, Lauren

In the 1970s, a group of idealistic hippies come together with a vision of utopia, following their charismatic leader, Handy, on a cross-country trek which ends in western New York state at a decaying mansion known as Arcadia House. Bit (the littlest bit of a hippie) is the first child born to the new Arcadians and he grows up in the commune among the optimistic, romantic, and ultimately all-too-human adult founders.  Bit is a thoughtful, sensitive, and entirely sympathetic narrator and it is a pleasure to grow up alongside him, watching as his perceptions and understandings change with time.

Harkaway, Nick

All his life, Joe Spork has been caught between the legacy of his grandfather Daniel, a brilliant and honest clockmaker, and his father Mathew, a vivacious and larger-than-life criminal mastermind who ruled London's underground. When an old friend of Joe’s brings him a client with a mysterious piece of antique clockwork needing repair, Joe’s quiet life is disrupted and now he must embrace parts of himself he’d thought long in his past if he’s going to not only survive, but save the world in the bargain. Impossible to categorize, the only thing one can call this novel for sure is great fun.

Hines, Jim

Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer, a special kind of magician who can make objects in books manifest in reality. He’s working as a librarian in small-town Michigan and doing database duty on the side for his other employers, Die Zwelf Portenaere—the Porters, an order of libriomancers.  However, the Porters are under attack, and their immortal founder, Johannes Gutenberg, is missing. Isaac and his friends are the Porters’ only hope. Fast-paced, intelligent, and funny; booklovers of all stripes will be trying to master libriomancy themselves after a visit to Hines’ world.

Landay, William

When a teenage boy is murdered, DA Andy Barber believes a local pedophile is guilty. But when Barber’s own teenage son, Jacob, is accused of the crime and arrested, Barber becomes more determined than ever to prove his son’s innocence. A taut and haunting legal thriller in the tradition of Grisham and Turow.

Moore, Christopher

Aspiring artist Lucien Lessard finds that his painting takes fire when Juliette, his mysterious lover, brings him a special tube of ultramarine blue paint from a strange paint dealer known only as the Colorman.  Lucien joins forces with his friend “the little gentleman,” the painter Toulouse-Lautrec, to discover the secret of the Colorman and the secret of the sacred blue before they end up dead like so many other painters who have used the Colorman’s paint. Humorous as Moore’s books always are, Sacre Bleu, like Lamb and Fool, also contains rich historical detail that is clearly the product of meticulous research and a deep passion for the material.

O'Malley, Daniel

"The body you are wearing used to be mine."  So begins the letter that Myfanwy Thomas finds after opening her eyes in the middle of a public park surrounded by dead bodies and with no memory of who she is. Now she has two choices: To begin a brand-new life under an assumed identity; or to take up the life and persona of Myfanwy Thomas and figure out who betrayed her and caused the amnesia.  She chooses the latter, and soon discovers that she is a Rook, a high-ranking executive in a secret agency keeping Britain safe from supernatural threats. But whoever caused Myfanwy’s amnesia won’t stop there. The safety and security of all of Britain is under threat and only the new Myfanwy can stop it. Thrilling and inventive.

Powers, Kevin

This deeply affecting novel, written by an Iraq war veteran (and recent M.F.A. graduate in poetry), is the heart-wrenching story of two young soldiers trying to stay alive, and one of the soldiers returning home only to find that the war continues on in his head. A 2012 National Book Awards finalist, this novel is an important read.

Ray, Jeanne

Clover, a fifty-something women, has felt invisible for years. So when she wakes up one morning to discover herself truly invisible, her worst fears have been realized. But soon she discovers that her busy pediatrician husband and teen children don’t even notice her condition. She finds a support group with other women who have vanished as she has, and begins to exploit her condition, even thwarting a bank robbery. But will her husband ever notice? A gently witty satire; many women will empathize with Clover’s plight.

Sloan, Robin

Clay Jannon, an out of work web/graphic designer, takes a job as the night clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. He soon discovers that, in addition to the shelves of relatively normal stock up front, there are also shelves full of strange encrypted books in the back and a small group of peculiar people who come in at all hours requesting books from the back shelves.  Clay builds a 3D computer-generated model of the store and begins to find strange patterns in the borrowing habits of these odd customers and finds himself caught up in a mystery dating back to the earliest days of printing. Unique, whimsical, and clever, combining new technology with old in a story sure to appeal to geeks of all stripes.

Stedman, M. L.

Tom Sherbourne, a lighthouse keeper on the western shores of Australia, and his wife Isabel enjoy their isolated life on Janus Rock.  But Isabel becomes depressed when  she is unable to have children.  So when a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a healthy baby girl, the couple make a decision that will haunt their lives, and that of a grieving young mother, forever. A truly beautiful novel; not to be missed.

Walter, Jess

Set in Italy in the ’60s and present-day Hollywood, this is a wonderful old-fashioned love story with a contemporary satirical edge.  Intertwining through relationships and time are an American starlet who comes to a remote Italian village to die, a movie producer who made his comeback with a reality TV show, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, an army veteran turned alcoholic writer, and a dissatisfied movie assistant.  Deep but not depressing, this novel is literary but also a page turner.  And it has a happy ending!


Instant: The Story of Polaroid

Bonanos, Christopher

Before there were Steve Jobs and Apple, there were Edwin Land and Polaroid. Land was a charismatic, inventive leader, holding over 500 patents. He took a garage start-up and turned it into a multi-national company which had a wide-ranging effect on American culture and business. A fascinating story of a fascinating man.

Boo, Katherine

Pulitzer-winning journalist Boo here depicts the lives of the inhabitants of Annawadi, a poverty-stricken slum across the street from Mumbai’s Sahar International Airport and surrounding luxury hotels. The product of three years of in-depth reporting, this is an eye-opening look at the ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots in contemporary India.

Cahan, Richard and Michael Williams.

Shortly after her death in 2009, an archive of thousands of Vivian Maier’s photographs and negatives was discovered. This previously unknown photographer took the world by storm with her compelling, beautiful, black and white street photography. This is the first comprehensive collection of her images in print, and serves as a portrait of the photographer and also of the woman.

Cain, Susan

Though they often fade into the background, introverts can be creative, dynamic people and in fact are responsible for many important contributions to culture and society, including but not limited to the personal computer. Cain’s carefully researched portrait of the type demonstrates how outspoken contemporary culture dismisses the introverted to its own detriment.

Canellos, Peter S. (ed)

This respectful but balanced biography of Ted Kennedy portrays his maturation from troubled, slightly wild youth to a respected, serious politician once described by John McCain as “the last lion of the Senate.”  With discussions of both Kennedy’s personal trials and also his political battles, this is the very readable biography of a flawed but remarkable man.

Egan, Timothy

Though not well-known today, photographer Edward Curtis (1868-1952) is best remembered for his controversial efforts to document the culture of every Native American tribe in North American before their ways of life vanished. This life’s work culminated in a 20-volume set, The North American Indian. Though he is often accused of overly romanticizing his subjects, it is nevertheless true that Curtis spent 30 years fighting to preserve Native American culture in an effort which left him divorced and destitute. Egan’s portrait of this polarizing figure is compelling.

Gibson, William

Gibson’s first collection of non-fiction draws from the last several decades of his writing career and features 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 that human culture has already been irrevocably altered by technologies as commonplace as radio and as pervasive as cyberspace. 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.

Krugman, Paul R.

Nobel-winning economist Krugman’s at times humorous, educational look at the current Great Recession in America, tracing out not just how the country got to this point, but also a clear path out of the depression and back to a strong, vibrant economy.  Never dry, this should appeal to anyone with an interest in economics and politics.

Lawson, Jenny

Jenny Lawson, best known for her side-splittingly funny blog at, delivers more of the same here, in her (mostly true) memoir.  Jenny grew up poor in rural Texas, the daughter of a taxidermist father whose idea of a good joke was making puppets out of roadkill.  An outsider who later struggled with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and more recently rheumatoid arthritis, she recounts the trials and tribulations of her life in a no-holds-barred, double-barreled, profanity-laden manner. T hose who share Jenny’s twisted sense of humor and irreverent outlook on life will find themselves laughing out loud and garnering strange looks from those around them.

MacIntyre, Ben

The success of the D-Day landing at Normandy was achieved due to a complicated web of spies, many of whom were double agents who were given carefully crafted misinformation to mislead the Germans.  MacIntyre here spins out the stories of the five main double agents, all quirky and fascinating figures in their own right, and how their activities intersected with wartime events. An absorbing story that reads like an espionage thriller novel but has the advantage of being completely true.

Makary, Marty

Surgeon Makary provides a searing indictment of the culture of secrecy in contemporary American hospitals, arguing that greater transparency related to hospitals’ success and failure rates would lead to greater accountability and thus, reduction of dangerous hospital error.  Thought-provoking and eye-opening.

Meacham, Jon

Pulitzer-prize winning biographer Meacham here lauds the political acumen of Thomas Jefferson. While conversant with criticisms of Jefferson’s character, including his stance on slavery,  Meacham presents an overwhelmingly positive view of the third American president, focusing on those aspects of Jefferson’s leadership that balanced cooperation and compromise with an often ruthless drive to advance his own authority and steer the fledgling nation in the direction of his own ideals.

Piper, Andrew

A lover of both books and computers, Piper here both reflects upon the history of reading and bookishness and also ruminates upon the future of reading in the digital age. Showing that rumors about the death of the book have been greatly exaggerated and that reading itself is integral in our lives in ways we may not fully understand, Piper has penned not an elegy for a lost pleasure but a celebration of an evolving one.

Silver, Nate

Statistician Silver built a innovative system for predicting baseball results and has now predicted two presidential elections to within a hair’s breadth of the actual results. Here he discusses the science of probability, dissecting how to pull a meaningful “signal” out of all the “noise” of raw data and just what causes so many predictions to fail. He speaks to other statisticians and prediction-makers, utilizing a series of case studies involving everything from hurricane tracking to counterterrorism to poker.  Thought-provoking and interesting even for the mathematics-shy.

Stott, Rebecca

After the publication of his seminal The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin was chastised by his fellows for not discussing the many thinkers and scientists who had entertained similar evolutionary ideas and hypotheses before him. Stott here remedies that lack, providing brief but information-rich biographies of some of the great thinkers who preceded Darwin’s theory of natural selection, from Aristotle to Charles Darwin’s own grandfather Erasmus Darwin. Fascinating, well-researched, and never dry, Darwin’s Ghosts is a treasure-trove for both those already interested in the topic and those coming to this history for the first time.


The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine

Bronsky, Alina

In this black comedy, Rosa Achmetowna is the strong-willed and acid-tongued matriarch of a transplanted Tartar family. When her selfless daughter Sulfia gives birth to a daughter named Aminat, Rosa embarks on a long and inventive campaign to steal her granddaughter’s affections  away from Sulfia. Outrageous and wildly entertaining.

Harkness, Deborah

Diana Bishop is a witch who has rejected her magical heritage and is studying  the history of alchemy in Oxford. She discovers a strange manuscript that has been lost for centuries and finds herself the focus of every supernatural being in England. Only her new relationship with vampire Matthew Clairmont  may save her. But such cross-species  affairs are strictly forbidden—and the penalty is death. Readers are sure to be hooked by both the centuries-old mystery of the lost manuscript and the forbidden love affair between the protagonists.

Moran, Michelle

Marie Tussaud, née Grosholtz, lived a long and colorful life. A talented wax sculptress, she gained entrée into the glittering world of Versailles when hired by King Louis XVI’s sister as a tutor. Meanwhile, her uncle’s home served as a meeting-place for revolutionaries plotting the monarchy’s downfall. Moran’s novel depicts this oft-fictionalized time and place with depth and elegance.

Obreht, Tea

Natalia Stefanovi, a young doctor in a contemporary Balkan country, is preparing for a goodwill mission across the border when she receives the news that her beloved grandfather has died.  Natalia is distracted from her work by memories of her grandfather, always coming back to two stories her grandfather often told her when she was a child: the story of Gavran Gaile, the deathless man who collected the souls of the dying; and the deaf-mute woman known as the tiger’s wife.  The seeming fairy tales of the deathless man and the tiger’s wife hold surprising kernels of truth and reality. Vibrant, lyrical, and compelling.

Otsuka, Julie

Narrated in the first-person-plural voice, a collective “we,” Otsuka’s slim novel tells the haunting stories of Japanese mail-order brides who came to America in the early 1900s seeking a better life but often found only prejudice, endless labor, and abusive husbands.  

Palma, Felix J.

In this elaborate time-travel genre-bender, Andrew Harrington becomes obsessed with turning back time to save his beloved from becoming Jack the Ripper’s final victim.  H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” has captured the Victorian imagination, and the author himself may know more about real time travel than suspected. Intricately plotted with multiple twisty storylines, Palma’s thriller is engaging and great fun.

Phillips, Arthur

This complex meta-fictional romp is a faux-memoir framed as the introduction to a long-lost Shakespeare play entitled “The Tragedy of Arthur.” Ostensibly written by Arthur, the son of the play’s discoverer—who happens to be a noted forger serving time in prison for his crimes. As the authentication process wears on, Arthur becomes convinced the play is his father’s greatest scam.

Sakey, Marcus

A man awakens naked on a deserted beach with no idea who he is or how he got there. Stumbling to a nearby car, he finds clothing in his size, a recently fired gun, money, and a car registration in the name of Daniel Hayes. Soon enough, he discovers that he is Daniel Hayes; that his wife, a famous actress, has been killed; and that he is the chief suspect. But he still remembers nothing. Gripping and riveting.

Shin, Kyong-Suk

After Korean wife and mother Park So-nyo's disappearance in a crowded Seoul train station, her life is reconstructed by her eldest son, eldest daughter, and husband as they reflect upon her dedication and sacrifice. A moving and poignant portrait of a woman and a family.

Skyhorse, Brando

Skyhorse’s affecting novel-in-stories offers unsentimental, clear-eyed tribute to the working class LA neighborhood of Echo Park and the Mexican Americans who live, work, and die there.  Lurking at the center of all of the stories is a tragedy: a young girl, shot and killed in a drive-by on the streets of Echo Park. Her death is the stone in the pond, and the stories presented here are the ripples.  Haunting and vibrant, The Madonnas of Echo Park is recommended those with a taste for thoughtful, character-driven stories.

Stevens, Taylor

Vanessa Monroe, or Michael as she is known by her clients, left her missionary parents at the age of fourteen and lived by her wits among gun runners in Africa, developing the skills to make a comfortable, if sometimes dangerous living for herself.  When she takes on the unusual but lucrative assignment of tracing an oil executive’s daughter who disappeared in Africa four years earlier, she must work frantically to find the missing girl while keeping herself safe from enemies old and new. Highly recommended for suspense fiction fans looking for something a little different.

Torres, Justin

This novel-in-stories delves deeply into the lives of a family balanced on the edge. The seven year-old narrator and his two older brothers enjoy a freedom uncommon to children their age, roaming the streets day and night while their mother works the graveyard shift and their father disappears for days at a time. What the boys fail to see is that their freedom is really neglect, their mother’s deep love for her children is also desperation, and their parent’s relationship is volatile and dangerous. This slim novel packs an emotional punch that will stay with you long after you have finished it.

Towles, Amor

It’s New York City circa 1938 and friends Eve and Katey meet the mysterious and wealthy Tinker Grey, changing their lives completely. Catapulted into the social jungle of the elite upper-class, the two compete for Tinker’s affections. When a horrible car crash leaves Eve disabled and Tinker becomes Eve's caretaker, Katey is left to fend for herself in her new and unfamiliar social circle. While she climbs the New York social ladder, she is unable to forget Tinker and Eve. This is a smart novel with plenty of drama.

Valente, Catherynne

Young Marya Morevna is surprised when Koschei the Deathless, the mythical Tsar of Life, shows up at her door to take her as his bride but soon finds herself at home as his wife.  But Marya inadvertently ignites war between Koschei and his brother the Tsar of Death and spends years leading Koschei’s troops.  When finally she returns home, she finds that the city of her birth is in the grip of famine and terror—the Siege of Leningrad. And when Koschei comes for her again, the power balance between the two shifts as Marya asserts her own control over her immortal husband. Author Valente seamlessly blends 20th century Russian history with Russian folklore in this unique novel.

Walton, Jo

Fifteen-year-old Morwenna and her twin sister fought a magical battle of wills against their evil mother, preventing her from threatening the order of the world. The girls won, but Morwenna, or Mori, is permanently crippled and her sister was killed. Mori seeks shelter with her father, who sends her off to a British boarding school where she is a social outcast due to her disability, her Welsh accent, and her love of sci-fi and fantasy novels. She finds a haven in books and a few like-minded friends, but knows another conflict with her mother is brewing and that this time she’s on her own. This novel is a love letter to genre fiction and to every sci-fi and fantasy fan who’s ever felt like a refugee from reality.

Watson, S.J.

Chrissie awakens in a strange bed, with a strange man sleeping beside her.  A look in the bathroom mirror reveals a woman some 20 years older than she last remembers.  Having only a few fragmented, disconnected memories, Chrissie soon discovers that she has a rare form of amnesia resulting from head trauma suffered years earlier and that she has been keeping a detailed journal of events for the past few weeks.  It is this journal that we read, following along as Chrissie makes unsettling discoveries about her past and present.

Willis, Meredith Sue

All of the stories in this slender collection are set in the same part of West Virginia, high in the Appalachian mountains.  Willis’s decidedly modern, contemporary voice lacks the over-sentimentality so common to stories set in this region, being instead focused on the very real problems faced by convincingly textured and flawed characters.  Many of the stories feature the same characters at different points in their lives, showing how things have changed—or not—and interweaving the lives of these diverse, three-dimensional people in intricate ways that reward careful reading.

Wilson, Kevin

Siblings Annie and Buster Fang have been a part of their performance artist parents’ works since early childhood. As art world darlings, the elder Fangs (Caleb and Camille) instigated and recorded public chaos in the name of art. Now they have disappeared, apparently the victims of a serial killer. But Annie, now an actress, and Buster, now a failed novelist, don’t buy it. They’re convinced it’s just another performance of the Family Fang. A mix of black humor and tragedy, this is the madcap chronicle of a most dysfunctional family.


Blue Nights

Didion, Joan

Didion, known for her touching memoir The Year of Magical Thinking, meditates on tragedy again in this meditation on the life and untimely death of her adopted daughter, Quintana.  Didion’s thoughts on parenting and aging become an examination of her own mortality. (814 D556b)

Foer, Joshua

Journalist Foer examines the nature of human memory and the history of memorization as he prepares to compete in the U.S. Memory Championship alongside other “mental athletes” who are dedicated to preserving the ancient skill of memorization in a culture which has greatly externalized knowledge accumulation through the development of first printing, then computerization. (153.14 F654) 

Greenblat, Stephen

Shakespeare scholar Greenblat traces the roots of the Renaissance to one nearly-forgotten classical Latin text, De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius. Considered a dangerous book for its strangely progressive ideas about atomic structure; natural selection; and a philosophy free of religion and superstition the book only exists today because 15th century bibliophile Poggio Bracciolini found the last extant copy and had it reproduced. Greenblat’s theory credits this chance event with sparking the Renaissance—causing a “swerve” toward our modern world. (940.21 G798) 

Isaacson, Walter

When Steve Jobs died in 2011, the ensuing outpouring of emotion from those touched by his inventions pretty much assured this biography would be in demand. Luckily, Isaacson is up to the task.  His insightful biography gives Jobs’ adoring public the inside scoop on this temperamental, complex, and at times very unlikeable genius who changed the face of technology and American culture. (338.761004 J62i)

Jennings, Ken

Record-making Jeopardy! winner Jennings is a self-professed “maphead;” that is, he loves and collects maps and atlases of all kinds. And he is not alone. Cartophiles are a colorful and diverse community with wide-ranging interests and associated hobbies, including world travel and geocaching. Along with introducing his fellow mapheads, Jennings takes the reader through the history of cartography and the larger role of the map in human civilization. (912 J54)

Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy

In these interviews, conducted shortly after the Kennedy assassination in 1964 and presented here in both transcript and on audio CD, Jacqueline Kennedy speaks candidly about the details of her life with John F. Kennedy, revealing the often ugly truth behind the glitter and glamour of “Camelot.”  This intimate perspective is an invaluable and fascinating part of the historic record. (973.922 On58)

Larson, Erik

Larson examines Berlin circa 1933-1934 from the unlikely perspective of two Americans—William Dodd, an academic historian and liberal serving as Roosevelt’s ambassador to Germany; and Dodd’s free-spirited daughter Martha, who initially found Nazism’s zeal invigorating. As the family moved through the glamorous social strata of the Nazi ruling elite, however, they soon began to see the ugly brutality beneath the glitter and passion. Vivid and nuanced, offering an important perspective on the period. (943.086 D639L)

McCullough, David

Pulitzer winner McCullough chronicles the experiences of a dozen young Americans who traveled to Paris in the 19th century, demonstrating the many ways in which Parisian education and culture proved transformative to an entire generation of American minds.  McCullough’s popular history of this time and place is a rich fabric woven together from the diaries and memoirs of his subjects. (944.361 M133)

Massie, Robert

She started life as minor German princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst but ended up becoming Empress Catherine, called the Great, sole ruler and benevolent despot of Russia.  Massie ably depicts the life of this fascinating and powerful woman from her comparatively unremarkable beginnings through dethroning her husband Peter and becoming an able and powerful Russian ruler who imported European culture and philosophy and attempted to reform her country according to Enlightenment ideals. (947.06 C361m)

Millard, Candice

Often forgotten today, 20th US President James A. Garfield held office for only 200 days—the second shortest term of any president. Elected as a dark-horse candidate, Garfield was a teacher, Union army general, and congressman and would likely have been an effective and influential President. The bullet of a crazed assassin put an end to that, however. Not killing the President outright, the bullet became lodged in Garfield’s body and he lingered for months before inadequate or inept medical care led to infection and death. Millard ably and unpacks the politics and medical science of the era, while also providing a vivid portrait of not only President Garfield but his assassin as well. (973.84 M645)

Spiegelman, Art

Spiegelman’s groundbreaking 1986 book-length comic Maus was wildly influential, establishing the critical respectability and literary merit of what we now call “graphic novels.” It remains the only graphic narrative to have won a Pulitzer Prize, in fact.  For the 25th anniversary of Maus’s publishing, Spiegelman has compiled this fascinating companion volume containing concept art, family photos and history, and background on the whys and hows of putting together an unsentimental but moving Holocaust tale starring mice. In addition, an accompanying DVD provides exhaustive multi-media material. (741.5 Sp75m)

Suskind, Ron

Pulitzer-winning journalist Suskind spent hundreds of hours interviewing US administration members, including POTUS, to put together this assessment of President Obama’s handling of the financial crisis.  Ultimately, Suskind believes Obama was out of his depth and did not know to whom he should turn for advice, instead finding himself pulled between advisors calling for sweeping reform and advisors who wished to maintain the status quo. (330.973 Su96)

Switek, Brian

Switek ably presents what might be called “the evolution of evolution” in this popular-science work. Each chapter traces a path from scientists’ early understanding of a particular species and its place in nature through to current views, explaining the importance of transitional fossils while not losing sight of areas in which science’s understanding is still limited. Written for the layperson, the book nevertheless does not “dumb down” its topic, instead laying out the facts clearly and allowing careful readers to make their own connections.  Fascinating portraits of early naturalists and evolutionary theorists fill out this able survey of the history of evolutionary science. (599.938 Sw97)

Trillin, Calvin

Humor writer Calvin Trillin here collects the best “funny stuff” from his forty-year career and arranges it roughly into categories like finance, criminal justice, the literary life, and New York City life. In this definitive collection, Trillin is insightful, cutting, wise, and always hilarious. (818 T829q)

Zuckoff, Mitchell

In 1945, an American transport plane carrying 24 servicemen and women on a sight-seeing tour of a remote valley in New Guinea crashed into the jungle, leaving only three survivors. As they waited for rescue, they faced possible death from untreated injuries or at the hands of possibly-hostile local tribespeople who had never seen a white person before. It is these cultural interactions and misunderstandings which will hold a reader’s interest, though the entire situation is drama defined. That the story is true makes it only the more gripping. (940.544973 Z94)


The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica

Bledsoe, Lucy Jane.

This is the story of three women working in Antarctica whose lives quickly become entangled.  Alice is working as a cook, Mikala is an artist, and Alice is embarking on graduate work.  This is a compelling tale of their challenging and emotional time in the epic setting of the bleak Antarctic.

Brashares, Ann

Daniel has lived many lives over many centuries and unlike most other people, he recalls all of his lives and is haunted by his one love, Sophia.  Sophia has also had many lives but doesn’t recall them so Daniel must try to find her in each incarnation and convince her that she is truly his soul mate.  It’s a wonderfully entertaining romantic story with an intriguing premise.

Chevalier, Tracy

Elizabeth Philpot and her sisters are unmarriageable but well-educated and take up the unlikely hobby of fossil hunting. When a local woman they have sought to educate makes an extraordinary find, the women find they are excluded from recognition by the scientific community. Based on a true story, Remarkable Creatures shines a light on the lives of strong, intelligent women. We find it both fascinating and satisfying

Cronin, Justin

In the near future, a secret government experiment goes awry when the subjects escaped, taking their super-human and vampire-like powers with them.  A hundred years later, an enclave of humans hides out, awaiting their extinction when a child enters the fortress, bringing with her some powers that just may save them all.  Think Stephen King and Michael Crichton when considering this unputdownable post apocalyptic tale

Donoghue, Emma.

A finalist for the Man Booker Award, Donoghue gives us the perspective of a five year old boy who, with his mother, is held captive.  Since the boy was born there and knows no other life, he doesn’t understand that their tiny prison is unusual.  When his mother comes up with an idea for escape, she must balance the question of their safety with the knowledge that her son must experience the larger world.

Eastland, Sam

Once a close aide to Tsar Nicholas II, Pekkala is held prisoner in the decade after the assassination of the Romanov family. Now Pekkala is offered his freedom if he can find the Romanovs’ killers, find the royal child reputed to have escaped, and help Stalin change history.  This is a riveting historical thriller, and even better, it’s a debut novel.

Follett, Ken

Best known for his thrillers, Follett entranced us with a story with containing significant historical detail in Pillars of the Earth and its sequel. Now he brings us an entirely new historical saga dealing with five families as they struggle through events of the early 20th century.  This hefty novel is the first in a trilogy, and the critics loved it!

Fortier, Anne

Julie’s beloved adoptive mother, Aunt Rose, died without leaving Julie a penny.  Instead, Julie’s twin inherited Rose’s estate while Julie received only a key to a safe deposit box in Siena, Italy that had belonged to Julie’s mother.  What Julie finds in Italy involves a quest to solve a historical puzzle, as well as an unexpected romance. Fortier marvelously weaves together the contemporary and historical stories.

Franzen, Jonathan

This is the book of the year.  The critics all raved about it.  Touted as the great American novel, Franzen’s latest is the story of a once-perfect family that is now coming unglued.  Patty and Walter were envied.  They did all the right things, made the right choices, fed their child granola, and did their part to save the earth, so what went wrong? Franzen twists this family in a darkly humorous fashion as he explores the meaning of freedom and the choices we make.

Garcia, Cristina

Six people’s lives intersect in surprising and sometimes explosive ways over the course of a week in the Hotel Miraflor, located in the capitol city of an unnamed Central American country.  The internal and external battles of these characters take place against the turbulent political backdrop of the country. Vibrant, rich, and detailed, the characters are well-developed and the atmosphere is sultry and immersive.

Goodman, Allegra

A collector of rare books in the Silicon Valley finds herself at odds with her tech-savvy highly motivated and successful sister.  Goodman’s latest is part character study and part exploration of the choices we make and the resultant trade-offs.  It’s got humor, romance, a multi-layered plot, and deals with larger issues. It’s a notable and appealing story.

Gruen, Sara

Sara Gruen wowed us with Water for Elephants, a wildly entertaining story. She’s done it again with her latest, the story of a woman in charge of an ape research center and her relationship with the apes. Human-animal communication is a fascinating subject, and Gruen’s bonobos are all-too-human and are better people than many humans who populate the novel.  With thriller elements, this one is a page turner.

Hill, Joe

Son of author Stephen King, Joe Hill doesn’t trade on his father’s success and he truly doesn’t need to. In his latest, a murder suspect who was never convicted wakes up one morning after cursing God to discover that a pair of horns has sprouted on his forehead. Everyone meets is subsequently compelled to confess all of their darkest thoughts and desires to him. Using his new abilities, he tries to track down the real murderer and take his own special revenge. Hill has a hit with this exploration of good and evil.

Marlantes, Karl.

This is the story of a marine lieutenant and his fellow soldiers who are dropped into a mountainous area of Vietnam.  They quickly find that not only are they fighting the enemy, but also nature in the form of terrain, weather, insects, and tigers. This is a gritty look at young men coming of age under terrifying circumstances and is a memorable novel of war.

Mitchell, David

Mitchell presents a vividly detailed historical romance that takes place in 18th century Japan.  Jacob, a clerk, has come to Japan to earn his fortune so he can return to Europe to win the hand of his beloved.  When he falls instead for a Japanese woman, everything changes.  This novel rotates perspective between several characters, giving us a fuller view of this fascinating historical era.

Orringer, Julie

There were many excellent debut novels out this year, and this one is notable for its unique view of the Holocaust. Orringer shows us how Hungary treated its Jewish citizens In a gripping story of Hungarian brothers who go their separate ways just as war approaches.  Many area book groups have covered his title over the past year and it is that type of book that you’ll want to read and discuss. It’s unforgettable.

Pickard, Nancy

Here’s a change of pace. Call it a modern western, if you will; it’s the story of a young woman whose father was murdered years earlier at the same time her mother disappeared.  Living at her grandparent’s cattle ranch, she is shocked to discover the convicted killer has been released pending a new trial and is on his way back to the small town in which both families reside. Pickard tells an entrancing story of secrets that haunt a small town

Rendell, Ruth

Can we just say we all love Ruth Rendell and leave it at that?  Rendell’s artful crime fiction is not to be missed by readers of mystery or suspense. This latest story takes place in London and reveals a host of unusual characters brought together by bizarre situations that result in unintended consequences for them all.  This is an excellent example of Rendell’s brand of psychological suspense.

Smiley, Jane

Pulitzer winning Smiley has shown us time and again the range of her talent.  In Private Life, it takes us on the journey of an old maid who marries at age 27. Her husband is a successful and admired naval officer and scientist who has his enemies who also harbors a dark side.  The historical elements of the novel, post-Civil War to World War II, provide a balance to this study of a woman’s life as the wife of a difficult man in challenging times.

Thomson, Keith

A former spy and now an Alzheimer’s patient, Drummond, has wandered away from home.  When his gambler son tries to return him, they discover the house has been blown up. Drummond remembers enough to know how to hotwire a car and begin a very long chase in which they must dodge spies from various countries while trying to figure out who is after them and why.  This debut delivers.


At Home: A Short History Of Private Life

Bryson, Bill.

This is serendipity at its best.  Bryson takes us on a tour of his old house and along the way gives us historical and sociological lessons as they come to him from his observations of the rooms and the items they contain. It’s not as much a story as a collection of thoughts as only Bryson can think them.

Caldwell, Gail

Gail writes of her friendship with Caroline Knapp.  Both single writers, they came to know each other through their love of their dogs and they quickly became best friends.  Gail captures the meaning of their friendship as well as her grief as her friend struggles with and dies from lung cancer. Caldwell’s writing evokes strong emotions as she explores the beauty of their friendship.

Ephron, Nora

In essays, Ephron shares her outlook on contemporary life and her experiences with career, with men, and with being of a certain age.  She’s funny, forthright, and her stories strike a chord with all women.

Finkel, David

Washington Post staff writer Finkel captures the daily life of soldiers in Iraq as he follows an American infantry battalion for one year.  His detail in capturing not only the daily routines of combat soldiers but also the multitude of dangers they face is what makes this book especially memorable.

Junger, Sebastian

In another journalist goes to war tale, Junger follows a platoon through 15 months in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan.  What makes this one stand out is the excellent companion documentary and Junger’s engaging style.  This author of The Perfect Storm, shows us again just how compelling nonfiction can be

Lewis, Michael

Here’s an examination of the financial crisis in clear language.  Lewis takes the time to explain what happened in enough detail that it’s very understandable, yet not so much that it becomes a textbook.  This author of The Blind Side has another winner on his hands with this latest

Murray, Liz

With drug-addicted parents, Liz had to fend for herself by age 15, often riding the subway all night in an effort to stay warm.  This inspiring story takes us from Liz’s early unsettling days through her decision to make a better life for herself and culminates in her graduation from Harvard.  Readers who enjoyed The Glass Castle will appreciate this similarly inspiring tale.

Roach, Mary

Roach has a way of taking unusual scientific subject matter and turning it into a humorous exploration of topics we may never have considered.  In her latest, Roach takes us on a journey to Mars, exploring the ways that the human body is impacted by such a voyage.  You’ll find some amusement along with some truly indelicate descriptions.  Roach makes science fun.

Rosenblatt, Roger

The Rosenblatts were empty nesters living in their dream home when their accomplished physician daughter died leaving young children behind.  The Rosenblatts never hesitated in offering their assistance to their grieving son-in-law including moving into his home and helping care for his children.  This book is about love and loss and grief and hope.  It’s a wonderfully written and touching story.

Schiff, Stacy

This critically acclaimed biography captures the life and times of the last queen of Egypt.  Although her life was short by modern standards, there’s plenty to cover and Schiff looks to classical sources to discover the truth.

Simon, Scott

NPR host Scott Simon and his wife thought their life was complete, until they adopted two tiny infants from China and realized what they had been missing. Simon addresses the challenges and joys of adoption with humor and candor

Skloot, Rebecca

Henrietta Lacks was a poor farmer who died more than sixty years ago.  She lives on, though, through her cells which have been grown and used for scientific research ever since.  Her family didn’t know of the use of her cells until decades after her death and were never informed that they, themselves were used in testing.  Although fortunes were made off of Henrietta’s cells, her uncompensated family continues to struggle.  Skloot presents a gripping story of bioethics

Smith, Patti

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were truly just kids in the New York art scene of the late 1960’s.  Amidst the craziness surrounding them, they formed a deep bond.  More than just a portrait of a relationship, Smith takes us back in time and gives us the insider’s tour.

Twain, Mark.

Don’t let the heft of this volume or the fact that it’s just part 1 scare you off.  This is more than one brilliant man’s story, it’s also the story of how this autobiography came to be.  The autobiography itself is a few hundred pages.  The rest of the 700 plus pages consists of a long introduction and appendices that tell a lot more about the editors of this volume than about Twain.  Any fan of Twain will be fascinated with his final thoughts 100 years after the fact

Wilkerson, Isabel

Wilkerson researched this topic for many years before putting her pen to paper.  It’s the story of post-World War I migration of six million African Americans from the deep south to other large northern or western cities where they didn’t have to live in fear. Wilkerson follows the trend as well as several individuals who made this journey into the uncertain and it’s a look at a part of our history long overdue.


Archer, Jeffrey.  Paths of Glory
A fictionalized account of the life of teacher George Mallory follows his brilliant education, service in World War I, and his fatal attempt to summit Mount Everest in 1924.

Baker, Tiffany.  The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
Truly Plaice was born with acromegaly, a pituitary gland disorder causing her to grow without stopping. Compared to her delicate sister Serena Jane, the heavy-bodied Truly is a monster…a little giant. Isolated from her peers, Truly must learn to make peace with her own body and with those who have alternately loved and shunned her from childhood.

Bazell, Josh. Beat the Reaper
The carefully orchestrated life of Manhattan emergency room doctor and witness-protection program participant Peter Brown unravels in the course of a day that begins with a mugging and a new patient who knows him from his previous existence.

De Robertis, Carolina.  The Invisible Mountain
The story of three generation of women of the Firielli family as they search for love and identity during the tumultuous political events of twentieth-century Uruguay.

Dolan, Harry.  Bad Things Happen
The man who calls himself David Loogan is leading a quiet, anonymous life in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He's hoping to escape a violent past he would rather forget. But his solitude is broken when he finds himself drawn into a friendship with Tom Kristoll, publisher of the mystery magazine Gray Streets--and into an affair with Laura, Tom's sleek blond wife. When Tom offers him a job as an editor, Loogan sees no harm in accepting. What he doesn't realize is that the stories in Gray Streets tend to follow a simple formula: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die.

Ferry, Peter.  Travel Writing
After witnessing a fatal car accident one night on his way home from work, teacher and part-time writer Pete Ferry is deeply haunted by the events as his strange obsession for the beautiful victim begins to take over his mind, heart, and soul.

Finder, Joseph.  Vanished
Lauren Heller and her husband Roger, a brilliant executive at a major corporation, are attacked in a Georgetown parking lot after an evening out. Knocked unconscious by the assailants, Lauren lies in a coma in the hospital while her husband has vanished without a trace. With nowhere else to turn, Lauren's teenage son Gabe reaches out to his uncle, Nick Heller, a high-powered investigator with a corporate intelligence firm in Washington, D.C.

Goolrick, Robert.  A Reliable Wife
Ralph Truitt, a wealthy businessman with a troubled past who lives in a remote nineteenth-century Wisconsin town, has advertised for a reliable wife. His ad is answered by Catherine Land, a woman who makes every effort to hide her own dark secrets and her true motivations for answering the ad.

Grisham, John.  The Associate
Three months after leaving Yale, Kyle McAvoy becomes an associate at the largest law firm in the world, where, in addition to practicing law, he is expected to lie, steal, and take part in a scheme that could send him to prison, if not get him killed.

Henriquez, Cristina.  The World in Half
Miraflores has never known her father, and until now, she's never thought that he wanted to know her. She's long been aware that her mother had an affair with him while she was stationed with her then husband in Panama, and she's always assumed that her pregnant mother came back to the United States alone with his consent. But when Miraflores returns to the Chicago suburb where she grew up, to care for her mother at a time of illness, she discovers that her mother and father had a greater love than she ever thought possible, and that her father had wanted her more than she could have ever imagined.

Horn, Dara.  All Other Nights
Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army, struggles with difficult moral questions when he is ordered to murder his own uncle, who has been plotting an assassination attempt against President Lincoln.

Huston, Charlie.  The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
Working on a crime-scene clean-up crew, disaffected slacker Web Goodhue is hired by the daughter of a Malibu suicide victim who enlists his help in getting her brother out of trouble, making him the target of some gun-toting L.A. cowboys who are out for blood.

Kadrey, Richard.  Sandman Slim
Working as a sideshow gladiator and demonic assassin in Hell after being snatched by demons at the age of nineteen, hard-boiled magician James Stark escapes and returns to Los Angeles, where he plots to destroy the circle of other magicians who stole his life.

Levin, Daniel.  The Last Ember
Jonathan Marcus, a young American lawyer and a former doctoral student in classics, has become a sought-after commodity among antiquities dealers, but when he is summoned to Rome to examine a client's fragment of an ancient stone map, he stumbles across a startling secret: a hidden message carved inside the stone itself. The discovery propels him on a perilous journey from the labyrinth beneath the Coliseum to the biblical-era tunnels of Jerusalem in search of a hidden 2,000-year-old artifact sought by empires throughout the ages.

Mieville, China.  The City and The City
Twin southern European cities Beszel and Ul Qoma coexist in the same physical location, separated by their citizens' determination to see only one city at a time. Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad roams through the intertwined but separate cultures as he investigates the murder of foreigner Mahalia Geary, who believed that a third city, Orciny, hides in the blind spots between Beszel and Ul Qoma. As Mahalia's friends disappear and revolution brews, Tyador is forced to consider the idea that someone in unseen Orciny is manipulating the other cities.

Moore, Lorrie.  A Gate at the Stairs
In the Midwest just after the September 11 attacks, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin comes of age amid such challenges as racism, the War on Terror, and cruelty in the name of love, as she leaves her family's farm to attend college and takes a part-time job as a nanny.

Ogawa, Yoko.  The Housekeeper and the Professor
A relationship blossoms between a brilliant math professor suffering from short-term memory problems following a traumatic head injury and the young housekeeper, the mother of a ten-year-old son, hired to care for him.

Phillips, Jayne Anne. Lark and Termite
Set against the backdrop of the Korean War in the 1950s, a novel about family, the repercussions of war, and the bonds that sustain personal relationships focuses on a single family--Lark, her brother Termite, their mother Lola, and Termite's soldier father, Robert Leavitt.

Valente, Catherynne.  Palimpsest
Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single night. To this fantastic kingdom come Oleg, a New York locksmith; a beekeper, November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a Japanese woman named Sei, each of whom has lost something important in their lives.

Wilson, Robert Charles. Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America
Julian Comstock, the disgraced nephew of the tyrannical American president, grows up in a small town in what was formerly northern Canada. Adam Hazzard, Julian's working-class friend, and Sam Godwin, a bluff old retainer and secret Jew, struggle to keep Julian alive despite his uncle's hatred and Julian's proclivity for annoying the repressive Dominion Church. When Julian is drafted to fight the invading Dutch in Labrador, exaggerated tales of his heroism, written by would-be novelist Adam, catapult the young aristocrat to unwanted fame.


Bartlett, Allison Hoover.  The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession B G474b
In telling the true story of book thief John Charles Gilkey and the man who was driven to capture him, journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett explores the larger history of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages.

Beavan, Colin.  No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process  333.72 B386
Describes the author's one-year experiment with minimizing his impact on the Earth, an effort for which he eschewed technology, processed foods, and other negative-impact products while evaluating the plausibility and actual value of sustainable living.

Brinkley, Douglas.  Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America 973.911 R781b
"The movement for the conversation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method." So wrote Theodore Roosevelt, known as the "naturalist President" for his efforts in protecting wildlife and wilderness, merging preservation and patriotism into a quintessential American ideal. The Wilderness Warrior, Douglas Brinkley's massively readable new biography, intrepidly explores the wilderness of influences, personal relationships, and frontier adventures that shaped Roosevelt's proto-green views.

Egan, Timothy.  The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America  973.911 Eg28
When Theodore Roosevelt vacated the Oval Office, he left a vast legacy of public lands under the stewardship of the newly created Forest Service. Immediately, political enemies of the nascent conservation movement chipped away at the foundations of the untested agency, lobbying for a return of the land to private interests and development. Then, in 1910, several small wildfires in the Pacific Northwest merge into one massive, swift, and unstoppable blaze, and the Forest Service is pressed into a futile effort to douse the flames. Over 100 firefighters died heroically, galvanizing public opinion in favor of the forests--with unexpected ramifications exposed in today's proliferation of destructive fires.

Eggers, Dave.  Zeitoun B Z48e
Through the story of one man’s experience after Hurricane Katrina, Eggers draws an indelible picture of Bush-era crisis management. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees. After the levees break, he uses a small canoe to rescue people, before being arrested by an armed squad and swept powerlessly into a vortex of bureaucratic brutality. When a guard accuses him of being a member of Al Qaeda, he sees that race and culture may explain his predicament. Eggers, compiling his account from interviews, sensibly resists rhetorical grandstanding, letting injustices speak for themselves.

Grann, David.  The Lost City of Z  918.11 G759
Interweaves the story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who vanished during a 1925 expedition into the Amazon, with the author's own quest to uncover the mysteries surrounding Fawcett's final journey and the secrets of what lies deep in the Amazon jungle.

Holmes, Richard.  The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science  500 H752
The winner of the Somerset Maugham Award presents the earliest ideas of the explorers of “dynamic science,” including William Herschel and his sister, Caroline, who changed the public’s ideas about stars, and Humphry Davy, who invented the miners’ lamp.

Horner, Jack.  How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn’t Have to be Forever  567.9 H816h
A pioneering paleontologist and T. rex expert evaluates the potential for artificially growing a real dinosaur without ancient DNA, discussing the principles of the new science of evolutionary development; the relationships between dinosaurs and birds; and how it may be possible to stimulate latent Tyrannosaurus rex genes in a chicken to create a “chickenosaurus.”

Jacobs, A. J. The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment  814 J17
The author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically gives us a look at all crazy experiments he does in order to write amusing articles for Esquire. In one episode, Jacobs decides to outsource his life by hiring two firms out of India. In another, Jacobs decides he will be absolutely honest for an entire month, but not just by speaking the truth, but also by telling people his thoughts no matter how offensive.

Kamkwamba, William.  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope  B K156
A true story of tenacity and imagination describes how an African teenager built a windmill from scraps to create electricity for his home and his village, improving life for himself and his neighbors.

Kidder, Tracy.  Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness. B N736k
Presents the story of Burundi civil war survivor Deo, who endures homelessness before pursuing an education at Columbia and eventually returning to his native land to help people in both countries.

Krakauer, Jon.  Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman  B T577k
Traces the controversial story of NFL player and soldier Pat Tillman, describing the military's efforts to hide the truth about his death by friendly fire, in an account that draws on Tillman's journals and letters as well as interviews with family members and fellow soldiers.

Scotti, R.A.  Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa  759.5 L58sc
Part love story, part mystery, Vanished Smile reopens the case of the most audacious and perplexing art theft ever committed--the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" from the Paris Louvre on August 21, 1911.

Small, David.  Stitches: A Memoir Graphic Novel B Sm63s
The author recounts in graphic novel format his troubled childhood with a radiologist father who subjected him to repeated x-rays and a withholding and tormented mother, an environment he fled at the age of sixteen in the hopes of becoming an artist.

Stanton, Doug.  Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan.  958.1047 St79
Describes the secret mission of a small band of U.S. soldiers who battled against Taliban forces on horseback and captured the Afghan city of Maz’ar-i Shar’if, a critical location for further campaigns.

Teachout, Terry.  Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong  781.57 Ar73t
Draws on previously unavailable sources, including hundreds of private recordings made throughout the second half of the jazz master's life, to assess his artistic achievements and personal life.

Wolffe, Richard.  Renegade: The Making of a President 973.932 W858
Presents an insider's view of Barack Obama's run for the presidency, describing his many personal and professional triumphs and obstacles he encountered on the campaign trail and his eventual election as the nation's forty-fourth president.

Wood, Gordon S.  Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815  973.4 W875
One of America's most esteemed historians, Gordon S. Wood, offers a brilliant account of the early American Republic, ranging from 1789 and the beginning of the national government to the end of the War of 1812. As Wood reveals, the period was marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life--in politics, society, economy, and culture.

Wrangham, Richard W.  Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human  394.12 W941

Harvard biological anthropologist Wrangham dates the breakthrough in human evolution to a moment 1.8 million years ago, when, he conjectures, our forebears tamed fire and began cooking. Starting with Homo erectus, these innovations drove anatomical and physiological changes that make us adapted to eating cooked food the way cows are adapted to eating grass. Wrangham's accessible treatise ranges across nutritional science, paleontology and studies of ape behavior and hunter-gatherer societies; the result is a profound analysis of cooking's role in daily life and evolution.


Barry, Brunonia. The Lace Reader
Enthralling debut novel featuring a woman descended from a long line of fortune tellers who must use her gift to discover the cause of death of her aunt, an apparent drowning victim. Fascinating characters enrich Barry’s unusual plot.

Barry, Sebastian. The Secret Scripture
In Roseanne’s 100th year, she revisits her life by writing her autobiography. When the facility in which Roseanne lives is scheduled to close, she is evaluated by a doctor to determine her future living situation and he soon uncovers a totally different story than the one Roseanne recalls. Beautifully written with themes of love and tragedy.

Bear, Elizabeth. All the Windwracked Stars (Science Fiction)
It is Ragnarok—the Last Day of the Last Battle, the end of the world—and Muire, who thinks of herself as the least of the Valkyries, has survived. However she soon finds that it takes a very long time for her world to die out entirely. Lyrical, complex, and compelling this novel will draw you in with a finely honed combination of ancient themes and far-future tech.

Benioff, David. City of Thieves
A writer listens to his grandfather’s story of the siege of Leningrad where his grandfather, too young at the time for the army, along with a soldier were sent off on the improbable mission of gathering a dozen eggs for a wedding cake. Coming of age tale in which two young men are faced with an impossible task in a city devastated by war.

Davidson, Andrew. The Gargoyle
An unpleasant character is driving home late one night when a sudden hallucination causes him to lose control of his vehicle. He plunges off the road and is horribly burned over most of his body. What follows is a slow recovery during which he meets a mysterious woman who insists they know each other from a past life. Not for the faint-hearted, however well-crafted characters and beautifully sculpted imagery combine to sweep you away.

Enger, Leif. So Brave, Young, and Handsome
An elderly train robber is traveling to Mexico to find his ex-wife when he meets up with a man about to give up on his writing career.  The train robber convinces the writer to accompany him on his travels and voyage of self-discovery. Fans of westerns or those who just love a good story won’t want to miss Enger’s latest.

Erickson, Carolly. The Tsarina’s Daughter
This entertaining historical novel has it all: suspense, romance, glamour, and appealing characters. The Tsarina’s daughter is the story of the last few years of the Romanov family’s reign and their subsequent exile told from the perspective of second daughter Tatiana.

Jordan, Hillary. Mudbound
In 1946, a Memphis school teacher becomes a farmer’s wife when her husband buys land on the delta. She struggles with primitive conditions and a racist father-in-law who comes to live on the farm. When two young men return from WWII to help work the land, their unlikely friendship foments issues of racism in the post-war south.

Kushner, Rachel. Telex from Cuba
Ex-pat children growing up in pre-Castro Cuba live in a paradise seeing only glimpses of society outside of their privileged existence. In a parallel story, an exotic dancer in Havana and one of her patrons become involved in the political underground leading up to the revolution. Kushner’s debut novel is rich with history in a brilliant setting.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. Unaccustomed Earth
Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri presents another entrancing short-story collection dealing with themes of immigration and assimilation. Beautiful language and enthralling stories compel you to read on.

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Mystery)
Murder mystery featuring a man hired to find out what happened to a woman missing for 40 years. Family secrets and skeletons come tumbling out of the closets as the investigator takes on an assistant, a much pierced and tattooed computer hacker. Full of surprises, mystery fans will find the pair an intriguing duo.

Miles, Jonathan. Dear American Airlines
Bennie is on his way to his daughter’s wedding.  Unfortunately, he’s also stranded at O’Hare and busy writing a letter of complaint to the airline. Miles hits our hearts and our funny bones in this debut novel.

Shaffer, Mary Anne and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
During the German occupation of the Channel Islands, a group of residents make up a book club as an excuse for the late night feast they’re caught enjoying. Years later, a London reporter receives a letter from one of the book club members which begins a long correspondence in which the writer learns about the islands and their eccentric inhabitants and the books they read.

Wroblewski, David. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Edgar, born mute, speaks only in sign language.  He grows up in Northern Wisconsin with his family that breeds a type of dog known for loyal companionship. When Edgar’s uncle comes to live with them, and Edgar’s father dies suddenly, Edgar must find a way to survive on his own while trying to prove his uncle had something to do with his father’s death. Vivid setting and characterizations make this debut novel a winner.


Carr, David. The Night of the Gun  B C311
A reporter, Carr was inspired to write this memoir when he discovered that he and his friends and family had extremely different recollections of traumatic events triggered by Carr’s drug addiction. Carr takes a reporter’s skeptical look at his own memories of events and fact checks them against medical and legal records, and interviews with those close to him.  Fascinating look at what we choose to recall.

Donovan, Jim. A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Big Horn—The Last Great Battle of the American West  973.82 D687
Donovan reveals new details about Custer and what led him to the Little Big Horn.  Along the way, we also meet Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse and learn their backgrounds and motivations. Donovan gives us a clear view of what went wrong for Custer and why.

Friedman, Thomas. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How it Can Renew America  363.7 F911
Friedman has another hit dealing with the issues of  climate destabilization and energy consumption. Friedman’s straightforward language and numerous case studies clearly outline and support his arguments that we need breakthroughs in clean and energy technologies to keep America competitive and prosperous.

Horwitz, Tony. A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World  970.01 H824
With his hallmark humor and curiosity, Horwitz takes us on a journey of discovery as he travels in search of the history of early exploration of North America. On the way, he sorts out fact from fiction and reminds us of things we have learned but long forgotten.

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto  613 P771
Pollan argues, convincingly and with well-documented research to back him up, that eating in America has not only become a far too complex affair in which nutritional claims and nutrients have taken the place of simple healthy food, but that Americans—and anyone who eats a Westernized diet—are suffering for it. Fascinating look at what we eat vs. what we should eat.

Preston, Douglas. Monster of Florence  364.1523 Sp75p
Thriller novelist Preston moved his family to Florence Italy to pursue a simpler way of life in an old farmhouse. When he discovers that his own olive grove was the scene of a notorious and unsolved double homicide, Preston teamed up with an Italian reporter to try and solve the case. Monster of Florence chronicles their investigation.

Shubin, Neil. Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body  611 Sh56
Provost of The Field Museum and professor of anatomy at the University of Chicago, Shubin traces the evolution of the human body back to early sea creatures.  Explained with humor and straightforward language, Shubin takes a fascinating look at our origins.

Taylor, Jill Bolte. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey 362.19681 T243
Neuroanatomist Taylor suffered a major stroke at age 37.  Because of her scientific training, she was able to understand what was happening and was eventually able to help herself recover through her understanding of anatomy.  In her memoir, she shares the journey with vivid detail.

Torres, Alissa. American Widow  Graphic Novel B T693
On September 11, Alissa became a widow when Eddie, trapped on the 85th floor, leaped to his death before the tower fell. In this poignant and affecting graphic novel memoir, Alissa chronicles her first year as one of the 9/11 widows, including the birth of their child two months after his death.

Vanderbilt, Tom. Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What it Says About Us) 629.283 V228
Vanderbilt explains the hows and whys of traffic including how roads are designed, how we fool ourselves into thinking we’re better drivers than we are, how we misperceive speed and misjudge distance and why traffic jams happen. This is the book that teaches us what we should have learned in drivers’ education.

Walters, Barbara. Audition: A Memoir  B W235
Celebrity-filled memoir in which Walters chronicles her life and struggles to be successful in a competitive profession.  Bound to be full of surprise even for those who think they know much about Walters and her career.

Winchester, Simon. The Man Who Loved China  509.2 N374w
Winchester is a master of historical detail who never fails to make connections between cause and effect. This is the story of Joseph Needham, a British scientist who traveled to China to study history and science and who wrote the multi-volume Science and Civilisation in China. This is an extraordinary look at both Needham and China.

Wright, Robin. Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East  320.956 W953
Wright, a writer for the Washington Post tackles the subject of the people in the Middle East who are seeking change, whether by small shows of civil disobedience, or by public protest.  Wright wants to believe change is coming, but finds that despite the efforts of many, significant change is not right around the corner. Fascinating tour of the Middle East.

Zakaria, Fareed. The Post-American World  303.4973 Z21
Newsweek editor Zakaria shows us where we’re headed in the 21st century. This hugely discussable book talks not about America’s decline, but about the rise of other nations and the adjustments the U.S. will have to make to successfully coexist with newly powerful nations


Abu-Jaber, Diana. Origin (Mys)
Lena is a fingerprint analyst with a crime lab in Syracuse, New York. When she discovers a connection between several recent infant deaths, she is sure it’s murder and sets out to solve it.  At the same time, she’s also researching her early childhood before she was placed into the foster home where she grew up.  Evocative setting and interesting tandem mysteries make this one a winner.

Brooks, Terry.  The Elves of Cintra (SF)
Second in the Genesis of Shannara trilogy, Brooks keeps his readers on the edge of their seats.  In the near future, there are no governments and people either live in fortresses or roam the wilderness.  Among the survivors are a select few who have magic powers and whose purpose is to shape the destiny of the world and save it from evil.   For fantasy (Tolkien especially) lovers, start this trilogy off with Armageddon’s Children.

Ferris, Joshua. Then We Came to the End
In Ferris’ humorous debut novel, a Chicago ad agency is in its final agonizing days and layoffs must begin.  The anxious employees are each trying to cope with changes, trying to prove their worth, and stressing over the mundane up until the very end. Ferris captures the idiosyncrasies of each employee and brilliantly displays their group dynamic.  

Gibson, William. Spook Country
Gibson is difficult to pin down. He’s a writer of thrillers, a writer of science fiction, and this latest has some of each.  Hollis is a writer hired by a magazine that does not yet exist. Her task is to write an article on an art form that exists only virtually and that brings her all sorts of trouble as her investigation starts to make others nervous. Interesting characters and an engrossing story will keep you turning the pages.

Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist
A Pakistani man, named Changez, sits at a café in Lahore with an unnamed American.  Changez tells the American his life story, including details of his childhood in Pakistan, his days as a student in the U.S., his subsequent prosperity as a businessman,  and then of his ultimate decision to abandon his American ways. This is a powerful novel told skillfully.

Hill, Joe. Heart-Shaped Box
When a retired rocker with more money than sense buys a ghost from an online auction site, there’s bound to be trouble.  Hill’s debut novel has its terrifying moments including a car chase with a ghost behind the wheel.  Not for the faint-hearted, this horror novel by the son of Stephen King will have you hiding under the covers and thinking twice before submitting your next online bid.

Horan, Nancy. Loving Frank
In 1903, Mamah Borthwick Cheney and her husband commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a house for them. During construction, Mamah and Wright became attracted to each other and embarked on a scandalous affair.  Nancy Horan has taken the facts and woven them into a beautifully detailed historical novel focusing on the unusual path Mamah chose for her life.

Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns
Author of The Kite Runner, Hosseini’s newest novel again focuses on Afghanistan. This time, the story unfolds over decades during the Soviet jihad, the civil war, and during the days of the Taliban focusing on the women of Afghanistan.  Mariam and Laila are years apart in age and unlikely to ever become friends, but are bound together by their marriage to the same man.  Because of his brutality, they are drawn together as a means of survival.  This is a difficult story to read, but a memorable one.

Kyle, Aryn. The God of Animals
In this coming-of-age story, Alice Winston has to help her rancher father with everything. Her older sister has run off with a cowboy, her mother is in a deep depression and does not leave her room.  There’s no money for family needs and not enough hands to run the ranch properly.  When her father begins to board “rich women’s horses” to help make ends meet, everything changes on the ranch. The horses are not always treated humanely, but neither are the people connected to the ranch. It’s a haunting story you won’t soon forget.

Kagen, Lesley, Whistling in the Dark
Ten year old Sally O’Malley’s mother is in the hospital, her stepfather is on a bender, and her older sister is too interested in her boyfriend to watch Sally and her younger sister Troo.  This might have worked out in the 1950’s working class neighborhood in Milwaukee where everyone knew each other and kept an eye on each other’s kids.  Unfortunately, there’s a child killer on the loose and Sally believes she knows who it is.  This is an engaging story featuring a charming protagonist.

Lippman, Laura. What the Dead Know (Mys)
Riveting stand-alone mystery from the author of the popular Tess Monaghan series. A woman who fled the scene of a car accident is questioned at the hospital by medical personnel and the police. Carrying no ID, she refuses to tell them her name, instead hinting that she’s one of a pair of sisters who have been missing since they were teens.  She knows enough details to keep them interested, but not enough to allow them to entirely believe her story. Lippman’s plot-driven mystery is a page-turner.

McEwan, Ian. On Chesil Beach
A young couple embarks on marriage with differing levels of anxiety and knowledge about what will take place on the wedding night. She suffers from extreme apprehension, having held her husband off throughout the courtship out of dread. He is in turns eager and fretful; leading to an incident that forever colors their relationship.  This novella offers a fascinating and sensitive study of a marriage in its infancy

Olmstead, Robert. Coal Black Horse
At age 14, Robey Childs leaves the family farm in search of his father, who is one of the soldiers in the Battle of Gettysburg. Along the way, he borrows a beautiful horse who becomes his companion as he becomes witness then victim to the atrocities of war.  In this brief novel (just over 200 pages), Olmstead tells a straightforward story in which is buried a myriad of meaning.

Packer, Ann. Songs Without Words
Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, returns with a second novel about women’s friendships.  Sarabeth and Liz grow up as neighbors and become best friends when Sarabeth’s mother commits suicide when the girls are sixteen years old.  Their friendship remains constant through decades, but when Liz’s daughter reaches her teen years, circumstances force the women to take a fresh look at each other and their friendship.  Beautiful character development and intriguing story put this one on the list.


Atkinson, Rick. The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (940.54215 AT87)
Second volume in a World War II trilogy (Pulitzer prize winning An Army at Dawn is volume 1), Atkinson follows American and British forces as they land in Sicily and fight their way north to Rome. Atkinson is painstakingly detailed and thorough in his research while keeping his books readable.

Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (B B365)
Beah details his life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone.  He’s taught to handle an AK-47 and given drugs to dull his emotions.  Trained to be a ruthless killer, Beah nonetheless manages to survive and recover his humanity.  This one is difficult, but important to read.

Bergreen, Laurence. Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu (915 P76be)
Author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s terrifying circumnavigation of the globe shifts his focus to an earlier adventurer.  Polo was 17 when he first set out on his journey to Asia with his uncle and his father . Later, while imprisoned, he wrote an account of the trip.  Bergreen uses the various translations of this account and his own experiences traveling the same route to flesh out this captivating travelogue.

Danticat, Edwidge. Brother I’m Dying (B D193)
Novelist Danticat (The Dew Breaker) tells her family’s story.  At age 2, her father leaves Haiti for the United States.  Her mother soon follows, leaving Danticat with her father’s brother until she can be reunited with her parent 8 years later in the U.S.  Danticat considers her uncle a second father, and is distressed when she must leave him behind to go to people she barely remembers.  Along with the story of her early years with her families, Danticat also tells the tragic story of her fathers’ final days.

Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love (910.4 G464)
More than a travelogue, Gilbert’s book is a spiritual journey born of desperation.  After years of severe depression and a failed marriage, Gilbert embarks on a year of travel. Her plan is to spend four months in Italy reveling in the food and culture and doing as she pleases.  The next four months she plans to spend in India, and part of this time will be living in an ashram learning to meditate.  The final part of her journey will be spent in Bali, where she hopes a medicine man will show her how to balance pleasure and spirituality.  There are plenty of surprises along the way and Gilbert captures the right details to let you feel as if you’re along on her journey.

Isaacson, Walter. Einstein: His Life and Universe (B Ei35i)
If you’ve read his biography of Benjamin Franklin or Henry Kissinger, you know that Isaacson brings his subjects to life, flaws and all.  Isaacson studied the previously sealed personal correspondence of Einstein in preparation for this book and paints a portrait of Einstein unlike those by his other biographers. Isaacson’s portrayal is generally positive, while acknowledging Einstein’s foibles including several mistresses, illegitimate children, and a general and pervasive disregard for his family’s feelings.  Isaacson might have dwelled more on Einstein’s actual work, focusing on the math and theory, but instead focuses on Einstein’s humanity keeping this biography interesting and accessible.

Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (641 K55)
Kingsolver takes on the challenge of living for a year on home- or locally-grown food.  She discusses the importance of eating what’s available to us to save energy, as well as for economic and nutritional reasons.  It’s an interesting and sometimes humorous look at how we eat and how we might eat better.

Kurson, Robert. Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See (B M467k)
Mike May lost his sight in early childhood.  This didn’t prevent him from doing the things he enjoyed including setting downhill ski speed records.  He was a husband, a parent, and a successful businessman when a doctor offered him a chance to see again.  This is the story of Kurson’s life with and without sight and the tough decisions he faced when an amazing opportunity presented itself.  Kurson, author of Shadow Divers, presents scientific and medical information about sight that adds an interesting element to this story.

Mortenson, Greg. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations -- One School at a Time (371.822 M887)
When Mortenson attempted to climb K2 and failed, he was rescued and sheltered by Pakistanis in a remote village.  In return for their assistance, Mortenson promised to build a school for them.  He kept his promise and within a dozen years, Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute built more than 50 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite starting penniless and facing the hostility of warlords and extremists.

Tammet, Daniel. Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant: A Memoir (B T158)
Tammet is a genius.  His mathematical aptitude and ability to picture complex ideas and equations as symbols have made him a subject of scientific study. But this is more than the story of a whiz kid. This is also the story of a child growing up in a world where he is different from others and knows he will remain so.  Tammet’s autobiography offers a rare look into an intriguing mind.

Toobin, Jeffrey. The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (347.7326 T668)
Former assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and legal analyst Toobin presents a detailed look at the Supreme Court including profiles of each Justice and stories behind important decisions.

Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (327.1273 W423)
Weiner is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has taken on the study of recently declassified documents in an effort to piece together a comprehensive picture of the CIA.  What he exposes is an abysmal record and an important history for us not to repeat

Weisman, Alan. The World Without Us (304.2 W428)
Weisman interviews a variety of scientists and puts together a timeline of what would happen to the earth should humans suddenly disappear.  He takes an interesting approach, showing us step by step as the forests reclaim the suburbs and the subways collapse.  He also shows us what human traces will endure.  His entertaining style and fact-filled narrative will keep you turning the pages


Abrahams, Peter. End of Story: A Novel of Suspense. William Morrow (F)
Ivy Seidel has an MFA and a body of work. Unfortunately none of it is published. She begins to lose heart until she’s offered a teaching job at a prison and meets an extremely talented inmate she believes is innocent. Ivy embarks on a quest to clear his name in this psychological thriller.

Barnes, Julian. Arthur and George. Knopf (F)
Arthur is a famous British writer, George is a half-Indian lawyer. When George is accused of and imprisoned for a variety of unusual crimes, Arthur is convinced of his innocence and sets out to prove it. Short-listed for the Booker prize.

Carey, Peter. Theft: A Love Story. Knopf (F)
Famous Australian artist Butcher Boone has had a streak of bad luck and is forced to take on the role of caretaker for his brother Hugh as well as for an art collector’s large estate. After a stranger comes to the door one night, Butcher falls in love and becomes embroiled in an international art heist.

Cox, Michael. The Meaning of Night: A Confession. W.W. Norton (F)
Cox creates a dark and chilling world in which an obsessed killer sets out to get revenge against a man he believes is the cause of every unfortunate event he’s suffered in his lifetime. Psychological fiction with many surprises, The Washington Post dubs it “Victorian Noir”.

Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance of Loss: A Novel. Atlantic Monthly Press (F)
Man Booker Prize winner explores questions of class and postcolonial hardships as experienced by retired judge Jemubhai Patel and his family. Set near the India/Nepal border in the 1980s, the family grapples with political uprising, culture clashes, and the quest for a better life.

Gruen, Sara. Water for Elephants. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (F)
Jacob Jankowski, a veterinarian nearing retirement recalls his time with the circus during the depression. There’s a love story, lots of history, and the allure of the big top to keep this novel moving.

Hart, John. The King of Lies. St. Martin's Minotaur (MYS)
Hart’s debut novel is a legal thriller set in North Carolina. Jackson Workman Pickens (Work) is an attorney in practice with his father. When his father is murdered, Work becomes fearful his sister is involved and tries to protect her.

King, Stephen. Lisey’s Story. Scribner (F)
Mournful story in which a writer’s widow is compelled to explore her husband’s childhood. Supernatural elements are present in the form of a catatonic sister who speaks with the deceased’s voice, but mostly it’s a haunting love story.

Messud, Claire. The Emperor’s Children. Knopf. (F)
For three privileged college friends struggling with careers and relationships in New York, life gets interesting when the young college-dropout cousin of one of them moves to the city to learn how to be an intellectual.

Nemirovsky, Irene. Suite Francaise. Knopf (F)
Last manuscript by Nemirovsky who with her husband was sent to Auschwitz (where she died in the infirmary at age 39). The suite of two novellas describe the lives of French farmers under Nazi rule as well as those of sophisticated Parisians who flee the city in fear of the approaching German army.

Setterfield, Diane. The Thirteenth Tale. Atria (F)
Very gothic story including ghosts, ruins, and family secrets. Margaret is hired to write the biography of a famous author who has spent 60 years living a lie. This debut novel inspired a bidding war between publishers in the U.S. and in the U.K.

Yehoshua, Abraham B. A Woman In Jerusalem. Harcourt (F)
A woman is killed in a terrorist attack. A man supposed to be her employer at a bakery is charged with the task of discovering her background and delivering her body to her family. Along the way, the manager has plenty of time to consider his own life, relationships and moral issues.


Brinkbaumer, Klaus. The Voyage of the Vizcaína: The Mystery of Christopher Columbus's Last Ship. Harcourt (970.015 C726b)
Don’t let the title fool you. This is not just another book about Columbus. It’s also the story of the discovery of a wreck that may be one of the ships Columbus brought on his last voyage to the new world. We learn what happened to the sunken ship when politicians and treasure hunters got involved as well as the details of Columbus’ last voyage. Together they make for a great adventure read.

Bryson, Bill. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir. Broadway (910.4 B916)
Bryson’s memoir of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. Nostalgic and humorous look at what it was to be a child in the 1950’s.

Buford, Bill. Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. Knopf (641.59455 B929)
Buford goes inside the kitchen of Mario Batali’s Babbo to learn firsthand about cooking and the restaurant business. Without the benefit of cooking school, Bill learns things the hard way. He then goes to Tuscany to apprentice with “the best butcher in the world.” More than culinary writing, this book gets to the culture of cooking and of one Tuscan Village.

Child, Julia. My Life in France. Knopf (B C536m)
Child tells the story of her culinary training in France, her adventures in learning French and adapting to a new culture. This manuscript was begun before her death in 2004 and was finished by her grandnephew.

Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Houghton Mifflin Company (978.032 Eg28)
Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Nonfiction, The Worst Hard Time follows a number of families through tragedy during the dust bowl disaster. Profiled are those who toughed it out for the duration of this man-made crisis. Riveting cautionary tale.

Gardner, Chris. The Pursuit of Happyness. HarperCollins (B G2264)
Although Chris Gardner had a tough childhood, he had enough determination to set goals and was well on his way to achieving them--until a series of circumstances left him a homeless single father. Resolute about not leaving his children without a father, Gardner found a way to turn his life around.

Groom, Winston. Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte at the Battle of New Orleans. Knopf (973.52 G876)
Novelist Groom (Forest Gump) tells the story of how a small haphazard army defeated a British force twice its size in a battle that actually happened after the War of 1812 was officially over. Andrew Jackson, Jean Lafitte, pirates, Acadians, and troops from Tennessee were among those involved in the astonishing victory.

Junger, Sebastian. A Death in Belmont. W.W. Norton (364.1523 J95)
Author of The Perfect Storm explores the death of a family neighbor in 1963. Although the murder was similar to those committed by the Boston Strangler, a handyman doing work at the neighbor’s home was arrested and convicted of the killing. Junger studies both men in an effort to determine which may actually have been guilty.

Kaplan, Justin. When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age. Penguin Group (929.2 As85k)
Cousins William Waldorf Astor and John Jacob Astor IV epitomized the excesses of the gilded age. John was a blunderer; William was a connoisseur of art. Together they set the tone for luxury accommodation in the form of the Waldorf-Astoria.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. Viking Penguin (973.22 P545)
It didn’t happen exactly as we learned in history class and Philbrick is keen on filling in the blanks in our past. Inter-tribal relationships as well as those between tribes and the pilgrims were complex and often harrowing as alliances were formed, shifted, and dissolved into violence. Winner of the National Book Award for Sea of Glory, Philbrick digs up some surprising details and presents the Pilgrim story in an entirely new light.

Rusesabagina, Paul. An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography. Penguin Group (B R951z)
During Rwanda’s genocide, Ruesabagina offered a haven to 1200 refugees in the hotel he managed. He stayed their execution in a variety of ways including negotiation and diplomacy. This autobiography takes us from his childhood through the 100 days during which the fate of so many remained in his hands.

Tolan, Sandy. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East. Bloomsbury (956.9405 T647)
Journalist Sandy Tolan tells the story of two families—one Jewish and one Palestinian who have both called the same house their home. They meet when a trio of Arab cousins journey to Ramla to see the houses their families had lived in 20 years earlier. One of the current residents opens the door to them, which begins an often-difficult friendship.


Ciment, Jill. The Tattoo Artist.  Pantheon Books
When successful 1920’s New York artist Sara Ehrenreich and her not-so-talented husband Philip decide to take a job traveling the South Seas in search of carved masks, they run into serious problems with the inhabitants of one island and become forever changed.

Doctorow, E. L. The March. Random House
March tells the story of Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas through a shifting perspective including that of Sherman, his troops, and characters whose paths cross with Sherman’s army.

Erdrich, Louise. The Painted Drum. HarperCollins
While working in her estate sales business, Faye Travers comes across an old and valuable Ojibwe drum. Rather than sell it, she goes about researching and returning it to its North Dakota reservation home.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Houghton Mifflin
Blunt, brilliant, nine-year-old Oskar is on a quest. His father, killed on September 11 in the World Trade Center, has left a key behind. The precocious Oskar is determined to scour New York to find the key’s purpose.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. Knopf
Kathy and the other students at the elite Hailsham School in England are part of a special group whose true purpose is kept from them. What the sheltered children are not told is that they are clones, and they exist purely supply organ donations. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Krauss, Nicole. The History of Love. W.W. Norton & Co.
Complex and intriguing novel featuring retired locksmith Leo Gursky who wonders if anyone will remember him after his death. His ability to remain unnoticed helped him escape the Nazis as a young boy, but now Leo tries to be noticed in order to leave an impression.

Levy, Andrea. Small Island. Picador
A novel of race and colonialism set in post-war London, Levy manages to create realistically flawed characters that try to fit in with a changing world and sometimes fail miserably. Winner of the Orange and Whitbread prizes.

McCarthy, Cormac. No Country for Old Men. Knopf
McCarthy presents a new western in which a hunter stumbles on a drug deal gone bad, makes a quick decision, and is forced to run. He’s pursued by a few really scary and relentless bad guys as well as by the seasoned sheriff who is concerned about the missing hunter.

McEwan, Ian. Saturday. Doubleday
McEwan describes one day in the life of a London surgeon, but it’s no ordinary day. A simple altercation after a minor traffic accident changes a relaxing Saturday into an unexpected nightmare.

Miller, Sue. Lost in the Forest. Knopf Publishing Group
Story of love and loss set in California’s wine country. Miller deals beautifully with a variety of emotions experienced by this troubled family as they go through a divorce, a remarriage, a death, and adolescent troubles.

See, Lisa. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Random House
Lily is fortunate to have perfectly bound feet and a friend she is bound to for life. She and Snow Flower share all their thoughts using secret women’s writing on a fan they pass to each other through servants. Changing circumstances and misunderstandings affect their friendship as they marry and raise their own families.

Simon, Scott. Pretty Birds. Random House
When a Muslim teenager in Sarajevo and her family are driven from their home, Irena trades her school days for life working in a brewery that is actually a cover for the sniper team she joins. Simon is an NPR correspondent who actually met one such sniper and has filled his novel with rich realistic detail.

Smith, Zadie. On Beauty. Penquin Press
Academic rivalries, interracial families, extramarital affairs, class issues and identity struggles all play major roles in Zadie Smith’s new novel. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.


Berendt, John. The City of Falling Angels. Penguin Group
Author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt turns his eye and considerable talents to Venice. Berendt’s book is more than travel writing. He captures the essence of Venice through its quirky citizens as he examines an arson investigation.

Croke,Vicki. Lady and the Panda. Random House
1930’s socialite Ruth Harkness didn’t let dire straits get her down. After her explorer husband’s sudden death and the discovery of her penury, Ruth picked up where he left off and set out on an expedition to be the first to capture a live panda and transport it to the West.

Didion, Joan. The Year of Magical Thinking. Alfred A. Knopf
Didion’s husband died of a sudden heart attack as her daughter lay seriously ill in the hospital. This memoir follows Didion through her first year of grief as she struggles to help her daughter while sorting through her own anguished emotions.

Friedman, Thomas L. The World is Flat. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Friedman focuses on globalization, discussing technology that makes the world flat by connecting diverse groups of individuals who can collaborate and compete on an international scale. Friedman discusses how terrorists use technology to attack in the same way businesses use it to compete.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Little, Brown & Co.
How we make snap judgments and how we can train ourselves to make more discerning quick judgments form the basis of Blink. Gladwell uses entertaining style and real-life scenarios to discuss how quickly decisions are actually made and how marketers can use that information to appeal to consumers.

Greenhouse, Linda. Becoming Justice Blackmun. Times Books
Based on the personal and official papers of Justice Blackmun, this biography focuses, in part, on his longtime friendship with Chief Justice Warren Burger. Greenhouse uses a number of sources including entries from Blackmun’s elementary school diary to draw a comprehensive picture.

Harr, Jonathan. The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece. Random House
In 1992, an art student discovered a clue as to the location of a lost painting that had been missing for 200 years. Harr traces the painting’s history, its recovery and its restoration.

Levitt, Steven D, and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. William Morrow
Levitt and Dubner apply behavioral economics to real world issues. They show how drug gangs have a structure similar to many corporations and how parents’ expectations for their children affect how they name them. Highly unusual look at economics.

McCullough, David. 1776. Simon & Schuster
This time, biographer and Pulitzer winner McCullough focuses on one year. McCullough discusses the tactics, will, and luck that allowed an unskilled militia to win the war for independence.

Packer, George. The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Packer traces the roots of the Iraq war, discusses the arguments that led to it, the divisions within the administration, how the war was conducted, and its effect on the Iraqi people.

Seth, Vikram. Two Lives. HarperCollins
Memoir of Seth’s great aunt and uncle, Shanti and Henny. The stories were drawn from interviews with 86 year old Shanti and on Henny’s letters found in the attic after her death. Interesting look at two lives changed and bonded by World War II.

Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle. Scribner
Walls discusses growing up with unconventional parents who end up homeless by choice so they are unencumbered by material possessions. In Walls’ family, the children were left to their own devices in order to become resourceful, pets weren’t fed so that they didn’t become dependent, and the children were the victims of bullying and poverty.


Bohjalian, Chris. Before You Know Kindness. Shaye Areheart Books, 2004
The tale of a family in crisis after animal rights activist father is accidentally shot by a relative wielding a hunting rifle. A media free-for-all follows as each character tries to sort through the aftermath in this social commentary. 

Chaon, Dan. You Remind Me of Me. Ballantine Books, 2004.
Follows the lives of several people showing how they ended up with lives very different from those they expected. Chaon doesnt shy away from the realities of poverty and struggle in this first novel. 

Crichton, Michael. State of Fear. HarperCollins, 2004.
Crichton could have written another of the science-gone-mad thrillers for which he is known. Instead, he explores how information is used to keep us in fear. In this case, Crichton takes on global warmingnot as a threat, but rather as a way to show how we are made to fear by the media.

Dunant, Sarah. The Birth of Venus. Random House, 2004.
In 15th Century Florence, a young woman chooses marriage with an older man in order to have freedom to pursue her art. Dunant captures the politics, art, and flavor of Florence in this coming-of-age story.

Fowler, Karen Joy.  The Jane Austen Book Club. Putnam 2004.
Explores the personal lives of six book club members as they discuss a different Jane Austen book each month. Witty characters and faux discussion questions make for a fun read.

Greer, Andrew Sean. The Confessions of Max Tivoli. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.
Story of a man who is born at age 70 and ages in reverse. Original plot with interesting snafus as he crosses paths with his first love (who doesnt know his secret) at different points in his life.

Haruf, Kent. Eventide. Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2004.
In a small town where people encounter each other frequently, destinies entwine easily--and surprisingly. Follows major characters from Harufs earlier Plainsong and introduces other residents of Holt, Colorado.

Hiaasen, Carl. Skinny Dip. Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2004.
Skinny Dip is the story of what happens after a man throws his wife off a cruise ship but unknowingly fails to kill her. The characters in this humorous novel are wonderfully quirky.

Kunzru, Hari. Transmission. Dutton, 2004.
Satire in which an Indian computer programmer finds disappointment after moving to the U.S. and then losing his new job. His response? Create and unleash a computer virus so that he can find the cure, impress his boss, and get his job back.

Langer, Adam. Crossing California. Riverhead Books, 2004. [Available via the WorldCat]

Chicagos West Rogers Park neighborhood is the setting for this debut novel in which friendship and family are explored. This book comes complete with glossary in case you werent in the area (or born yet) in 1979.

Mirvis, Tova. The Outside World. Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.
This is the story of two Orthodox Jewish families joined by the marriage of their children. Each character wrestles with faith, doubt, and the unknowns of the world in this warm and often humorous story.

Munro, Alice. Runaway. Knopf, 2004.
Eight short stories about women in various stages of life. Recent winner of Canadas Giller prize.

Murkoff, Bruce. Waterborne. Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2004.
Exploration of the lives of three people who come together during the construction of the Hoover Dam. This is a noteworthy historical noveland a first novel for Murkoff.

Perlman, Elliot. Seven Types of Ambiguity. Riverhead Books, 2004.
Part thriller, part love story, Simon Heywoods obsession with the woman who dumped him ten years earlier leads him to kidnap her son. Story is told by six different narrators who are affected in different ways by Heywoods act.

Picoult, Jodi. My Sister's Keeper. Atria Books, 2004.
Picoult often tackles controversial subjects and her late plot twists are intriguing. This novel explores a familys decision to have and use a child as a donor for another child who has cancer. Interestingly told from multiple viewpoints within the family.

Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America. Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Alternate history in which Charles Lindbergh defeats FDR in the 1940 presidential race. A Nazi sympathizer and isolationist, Lindberghs election instills fear in manyincluding the Roth familys Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey.

Thompson, Jean. City Boy: A Novel. Simon & Schuster, 2004.
A Chicago apartment building is the setting for this story of love and betrayal and its tenants are the foils for Jack and ChloeChicago newcomers whose marriage begins to unravel in the face of lifestyle changes.


Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin Press, 2004.
Chernows latest reveals the complexities of Hamilton and the politics of his time.

Conlon, Edward. Blue Blood. Riverhead Books, 2004.
Harvard educated Conlon chose to become the fourth generation in his family to serve on the NYPD. Blue Blood explains the inner workings of the department and relates Conlons experiences on the force beginning with his time working in the South Bronx.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. Norton, c2004.
National Book Award nominee, Greenblatt brings the Elizabethan era to life and shows us the influences that created Shakespeares art. 

Gross, Terry. All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists. Hyperion, 2004.
Compilation of interview transcripts chosen by host of NPRs Fresh Air, Terry Gross. Includes interviews with actors, writers, and artists.

Kart, Larry. Jazz in Search of Itself. Yale University Press, 2004.
Highland Park author Kart explores major jazz artists and styles in a wonderfully readable collection of critical essays.

King, Dean. Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival. Little, Brown, c2004.
The story of an American ship that wrecked off the coast of Africa in the early 1800s. The perils that befell the crew were many, including being taken as slaves. This is the amazing story of the crew's endurance in unimaginable circumstances.

Kurson, Robert. Shadow Divers. Random House, c2004.
Discovery of a German U-boat leads two deep-sea divers on a quest to determine its origin. Full of detail on deep-sea exploration expressed in layman's terms, those not familiar with diving terms or techniques will still be able to appreciate the adventure undertaken by these divers.

Patchett, Ann. Truth & Beauty: A Friendship. HarperCollins, 2004.
The story of Patchett's friendship with Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face), which begins in college and continues until Lucys death in 2002.  Although not a light-hearted story, Patchett's account contains some wonderful anecdotes and uplifting moments.

Ralston, Aron. 127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Atria Books, c2004.
Minute by minute description of Arons solo trip to Blue John Canyon in which he became trapped by a boulder and his shocking escape. The account is interspersed with recollections of other adventures and close calls.

Rhodes, Richard. John James Audubon: The Making Of An American. Random House, c2004.
The story of Audubons life as an immigrant in New York, his courtship with his wife, and relocation to the Kentucky frontierculminating in his career as a wildlife painter. Color illustrations of some of his wildlife watercolors are a bonus.

Roberts, Cokie. Founding Mothers. William Morrow, c2004.
Biographies and writings of several women including Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Peggy Shippen (Benedict Arnolds wife). Their stories together tell us about the American Revolution from an altogether different perspective.

Sedaris, David. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Little, Brown, 2004.
More essays from Sedaris as he picks on his family, discusses his childhood, and sorts through the absurdities of living in a small town in France. Sedaris usual biting wit is present in full force.

Tucker, Neely. Love in the Driest Season. Crown Publishers, 2004.
In Zimbabwe, foreigners are not allowed to adopt. Tucker, a foreign correspondent, recounts the struggles he and his wife face in trying to adopt the baby they have fallen in love with.

Whitaker, Robert. The Mapmaker's Wife. Basic Books, c2004.
The story of Isabel Grameson who undertook a trip down the Amazon to reunite with the husband she had not seen in 20 years. Surviving such a trip with the gear available in 1769 was unlikely, but surviving alone in the rainforest after her guides and companions perished makes this an amazing story.