The Staff Picks: Week of May 9th

Well, hello again! It’s a new week and we have a new set of recommendations– books we love and can’t wait to tell you about.

See last week’s here.


Lucia Picks:

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower

Viking marauders descend on a much-plundered island, hoping some mayhem will shake off the winter blahs.  A man is booted out of his home after his wife discovers that the print of a bare foot on the inside of his car’s windshield doesn’t match her own.  Teenage cousins, drugged by summer, meet with a reckoning in the woods.  A boy runs off to the carnival after his stepfather bites him in a brawl.  Wells Tower’s version of America is touched with the seamy splendor of the dropout, the misfit: failed inventors, boozy dreamers, hapless fathers, wayward sons.


BJ Picks:

22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson

“Housekeeper or housewife?” the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight- year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of World War II. There her husband, Janusz, is already waiting for them at the little house at 22 Britannia Road. But the war has changed them all so utterly that they’ll barely recognize one another when they are reunited. “Survivor,” she answers.

Silvana and Aurek spent the war hiding in the forests of Poland. Wild, almost feral Aurek doesn’t know how to tie his own shoes or sleep in a bed. Janusz is an Englishman now-determined to forget Poland, forget his own ghosts from the way, and begin a new life as a proper English family. But for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.


Frank, Jr. Picks:

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

It’s the perfect time, Frank thinks, to revisit this classic. He’s been reading it again and trying to convince the rest of us to do the same.

Here’s where you should not go.


Lilly Picks:

Patti Smith 1969-1976, photographed by Judy Linn

“Linn’s collection of photographs is the perfect complement to Smith’s National Book Award-winning memoir, Just Kids . . . like Smith’s memoir, the photos-uninterrupted by titles, captions, or any other text-serve two purposes: they tell the story of young artists finding their voice and style and serve as a love letter to ’70s New York, four decades later.”

Lilly says:  “I LOVE it.”


Donna Picks:

French Leave, by Anna Gavalda

Simon, Garance and Lola flee a family wedding that promises to be dull to visit their younger brother, Vincent, who is working as a guide at a château in the heart of the charming Tours countryside. For a few hours, they forget about kids, spouses, work and the many demands adulthood makes upon them and lose themselves in a day of laughter, teasing, and memories. As simply and as spontaneously as the adventure began, it ends. All four return to their everyday lives, carrying with them the magic of their brief reunion. They are stronger now, and happier, for having rediscovered the ties that bind them.


Danielle Picks:

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales, by Lucy Cousins

Eight classic stories take on new energy as Lucy Cousins ramps up her artwork. In this bold, funny, and unflinching collection, the beloved author-illustrator retains all the emotion and humor of the original fairy tales: the heroes are courageous, the villains are horrible, and the children are tasty. With her sly, simple language and vibrant illustrations, even the scariest fiends become the stuff of shared hilarity and shivery thrills.


Aida Picks:

The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake


Jane Picks:

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah

Jane says: “Having traveled through most of the Moslem nations in the bygone era when there were still kings and emperors in Afghanistan and Iran, Morocco always haunted my mind as being so very different as to seem a sojourner outpost from an alien galaxy.  Nothing was quite solid, pathways of energy ran unseen under the surface, reality always had a half-glimpsed twin slipping around a shadowed turn.  It wasn’t until I read The Caliph’s House all these decades later that those rather hallucinatory impressions began to merge into something coherent. At first glimpse, you might take it for a crazier version of other International House Hunter sagas like Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and Frances Mayes’s Under the Tuscan Sun as one reviewer put it, “the…idealistic…pursuit of greener grass through domestic upheaval”.  But it has both a darker and a more luminous adventure to offer.  At the very moment Tahir Shah is signing the purchase papers for the crumbling palatial relic he has fallen in love with, a terrorist bomb goes off in the hotel across the street, shattering windows and blowing him and the attorney bloodied across the room.  With this sonic boom of penetration between cultures we are catapulted into a universe ruled by ancient and inscrutable tribal codes of honor and invisible meddling spirit jinns.  Restoring the Caliph’s house and garden courtyards to their full glory becomes a cultural, even spiritual, trial given vivid life by Tahir Shah’s sharp observations and sharper humor.  Full of bizarre events and characters, it’s a magical and very delicious dish.”

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