Staff Picks: Week of June 6th

Happy Monday, Everyone. It’s going to be a great day. And a great week. Say it with me!

Here are some of the collections of wordy paper we’re blabbing about this week:

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BJ has officially finished every book Kate Atkinson has published to date and  is now loving:

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran

Claire DeWitt is not your average private investigator. She has brilliant deductive skills and is an ace at discovering evidence. But Claire also uses her dreams, omens, and mind-expanding herbs to help her solve mysteries, and relies on Détection — the only book published by the late, great, and mysterious French detective Jacques Silette.

The tattooed, pot-smoking Claire has just arrived in post-Katrina New Orleans, the city she’s avoided since her mentor, Silette’s student Constance Darling, was murdered there. Claire is investigating the disappearance of Vic Willing, a prosecutor known for winning convictions in a homicide- plagued city. Has an angry criminal enacted revenge on Vic? Or did he use the storm as a means to disappear? Claire follows the clues, finding old friends and making new enemies — foremost among them Andray Fairview, a young gang member who just might hold the key to the mystery.

Littered with memories of Claire’s years as a girl detective in 1980s Brooklyn, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is a knockout start to a bracingly original new series.

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Lucia really likes:

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, by Piper Kerman

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424—one of the millions of women who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules, where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

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Donna is appropriately bonkers over:

The Post-American World: Release 2.0, by Fareed Zakaria

The “New York Times” bestseller, revised and expanded with a new Afterword.

“This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.” So begins Fareed Zakaria’s important new work on the era we are now entering. Following on the success of his best-selling The Future of Freedom, Zakaria describes with equal prescience a world in which the United States will no longer dominate the global economy, orchestrate geopolitics, or overwhelm cultures. He sees the “rise of the rest”-the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, and many others-as the great story of our time, and one that will reshape the world. The tallest buildings, biggest dams, largest-selling movies, and most advanced cell phones are all being built outside the United States. This economic growth is producing political confidence, national pride, and potentially international problems. How should the United States understand and thrive in this rapidly changing international climate? What does it mean to live in a truly global era? Zakaria answers these questions with his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination.

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If she could, Danielle would give every family a copy of:

Blackout, by John Rocco

One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, “Mommm!” His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can’t work on her computer, and Dad can’t finish cooking dinner. What’s a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights–in stars that can be seen for a change–and so many neighbors it’s like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun–talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again. Using a combination of panels and full bleed illustrations that move from color to black-and-white and back to color, John Rocco shows that if we are willing to put our cares aside for a while, there is party potential in a summer blackout.

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Aida hates making definitive statements of any kind, so is very happy this week to be in familiar territory with:

What?: Are These the 20 Most Important Questions in Human History–Or is This a Game of 20 Questions?, by Mark Kurlansky

What is What? Could it be that noted author Mark Kurlansky has written a very short, terrifically witty, deeply thought-provoking book entirely in the form of questions? A book that draws on philosophy, religion, literature, policy-indeed, all of civilization-to ask what may well be the twenty most important questions in human history? Or has he given us a really smart, impossibly amusing game of twenty questions? Kurlansky considers the work of Confucius, Plato, Gertrude Stein, Shakespeare, Descartes, Nietzsche, Freud, Hemingway, Emily Dickinson, the Talmud, Charles de Gaulle, Virginia Woolf, and others, distilling the deep questions of life to their sparkling essence. What? supplies endless fodder for thoughtful conversation but also endless opportunity to ponder and be challenged by-and entertained by-these questions in refreshingly original ways. As Kurlansky says, In a world that seems devoid of absolute certainties, how can we make declarative statements? Without asking the questions, how will we ever get to the answers? “Why are we here? Why is all of this here? Why do we die? What is death? What does it mean that outer space is infinite and what is after infinity? What is the significance of birdflight, why does matter decay, and how is our life different from that of a mosquito? Is there an end to these questions or is questioning as infinite as space?” With his striking black-and-white woodcut illustrations throughout, this handsome volume is a tour de force that packs a tremendous wallop in a deliciously compact package.

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Jane quietly offers you:

The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road, by Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveler. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel enumerates “The Contents of Some Travelers’ Bags” and exposes “Writers Who Wrote about Places They Never Visited”; tracks extreme journeys in “Travel as an Ordeal” and highlights some of “Travelers’ Favorite Places.” Excerpts from the best of Theroux’s own work are interspersed with selections from travelers both familiar and unexpected: 

Vladimir Nabokov           J.R.R. Tolkien
Samuel Johnson               Eudora Welty
Evelyn Waugh                  Isak Dinesen
Charles Dickens               James Baldwin
Henry David Thoreau       Pico Iyer
Mark Twain                     Anton Chekhov
Bruce Chatwin                  John McPhee
Freya Stark                      Peter Matthiessen
Graham Greene                Ernest Hemingway

The Tao of Travel is a unique tribute to the pleasures and pains of travel in its golden age.

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1 Comment

Filed under Staff Picks

One response to “Staff Picks: Week of June 6th

  1. Julie von Zerneck

    I am going to have to get some more bookcase what with all you wonderful suggestion.

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