Staff Picks: Week of July 18th

Danielle Recommends:

The Absolute Value of Mike, by Kathryn Erskine

“This is a lovely tale of resilience and discovery. Mike is sent to stay with his great-aunt and uncle while his professor father goes to teach in Romania for the summer. Mike shortly finds himself the leader of a whirlwind campaign to help the local minister adopt a boy who seems hauntingly similar to himself, although he was orphaned on the other side of the world. In the process, Mike learns that appearances are rarely dependable, but that he can depend upon himself, and that a person’s absolute value is measured in the people who care for you.”
— Elizabeth Anker, Alamosa Books, Albuquerque, NM
Lucia Recommends:
Free-Range Chickens, by Simon Rich
In the nostalgic opening chapter, Rich recalls his fear of the Tooth Fairy (“Is there a face fairy?”) and his initial reaction to the “Got-your-nose” game (“Please just kill me. Better to die than to live the rest of my life as a monster”). He goes on to present Count Dracula’s desperate Match.com profile (“I am normal human looking for human woman to come to castle. I am normal, regular human”). Later, he gets inside the heads of two firehouse Dalmatians who can’t understand their masters’ compulsion to drive off to horrible fires every day. And in the final chapter, he tackles some of life’s biggest questions: Does God really have a plan for us? Yes, it turns out. Now if only He could remember what it was. . . .
Aida Recommends:
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken

“This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending,” writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir. A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. But suddenly she fell in love, got married, and two years ago was living in a remote part of France, working on her novel, and waiting for the birth of her first child.
This book is about what happened next. In her ninth month of pregnancy, she learned that her baby boy had died. How do you deal with and recover from this kind of loss? Of course you don’t–but you go on. And if you have ever experienced loss or love someone who has, the company of this remarkable book will help you go on.
With humor and warmth and unfailing generosity, McCracken considers the nature of love and grief. She opens her heart and leaves all of ours the richer for it.

Jane Recommends:

The Interrogator: An Education, by Glenn L. Carle

The Interrogator is the story of Carle’s most serious assignment, when he was “surged” to become an interrogator in the U.S. Global War on Terror to interrogate a top level detainee at one of the CIA’s notorious black sites overseas. It tells of his encounter with one of the most senior al-Qa’ida detainees the U.S. captured after 9/11, a “ghost detainee” who, the CIA believed, might hold the key to finding Osama bin Ladin.

As Carle’s interrogation sessions progressed though, he began to seriously doubt the operation. Was this man, kidnapped in the Middle East, really the senior al-Qa’ida official the CIA believed he was? Headquarters viewed Carle’s misgivings as naïve troublemaking. Carle found himself isolated, progressively at odds with his institution and his orders. He struggled over how far to push the interrogation, wrestling with whether his actions constituted torture, and with what defined his real duty to his country. Then, in a dramatic twist, headquarters spirited the detainee and Carle to the CIA’s harshest interrogation facility, a place of darkness and fear, which even CIA officers only dared mention in whispers.

A haunting tale of sadness, confusion, and determination, The Interrogator is a shocking and intimate look at the world of espionage. It leads the reader through the underworld of the Global War on Terror, asking us to consider the professional and personal challenges faced by an intelligence officer during a time of war, and the unimaginable ways in which war alters our institutions and American society.


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