Category Archives: Staff Picks

Oooh, oooh, ooooh!

Twice a week it’s like Christmas morning around here — fresh boxes filled with new books arrive on our doorstep. We have lust and covetousness in our hearts! Here are some of the brand-new ones we’re most excited about: (click on the covers for more info)

The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson

Donna is “seriously dying to read The Family Fang. It seems off-beat but compelling.  I’m always interested in how kids turn out when they have looney birds for parents.  Of course there are plenty of memoirs which fit that description so it will be interesting to read a novel of that genre.”

(This is also already one of my favorites of the season. If you like The Royal Tenenbaums, you’ll love The Family Fang)

How to Keep Your Volkswagon Alive, by Christopher Bucher

The title! And it’s about a single father raising a son — who happens to be a 1971 Volkswagon Beetle. It’s already brilliant and heartbreaking. Oooh, I can’t wait!

The Wizard of Oz – in Scanimation!

BJ says: “Fun and entertaining! No matter how many different incarnations one has read, the story never loses its punch- and in the end it is all about the story.”

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Calling all Decemberists fans! Lead guitarist and songwriter Colin Meloy has penned one of the most anticipated books for young readers coming out this year. Will it be good? Will it be great? Apparently Lemony Snicket and Michael Chabon want to live inside Meloy’s wild world forever:

This book is like the wild, strange forest it describes. It is full of suspense and danger and frightening things the world has never seen, and once I stepped inside I never wanted to leave.
-Lemony Snicket
“Dark and whimsical, with a true and uncanny sense of otherworldliness, WILDWOOD is the heir to a great tradition of stories of wild childhood adventure. It snatched me up and carried me off into a world I didn’t want

to leave.”
-Michael Chabon

Who Am I? And If So, How Many? by Richard David Precht

This international bestseller, apparently one of the most talked-about books in the world, has just made it to our fair city. Will we be talking about it, too?

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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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Staff Picks: Week of July 11th

Lucia recommends Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas, by Fany Gerson

From the pure, radiant flavors of classic Blackberry and Spicy Pineapple to unexpectedly enchanting combinations such as Sour Cream, Cherry and Tequila, or Strawberry-Horchata, Paletas is an engaging and delicious guide to Mexico’s traditional—and some not-so-traditional—frozen treats.

Collected and developed by celebrated pastry chef Fany Gerson, this sweet little cookbook showcases her favorite recipes for paletas, those flavor-packed ice pops made from an enormous variety of fruits, nuts, flowers, and even spices; plus shaved ice (raspados) and aguas frescas—the delightful Mexican drinks featuring whole fruit and exotic ingredients like tamarind and hibiscus flowers.

Whether you’re drawn to a simple burst of fresh fruit—as in the Coconut, Watermelon, or Cantaloupe pops—or prefer adventurous flavors like Mezcal-Orange, Mexican Chocolate, Hibiscus-Raspberry, or Lime Pie, Paletas is an inviting, refreshing guide guaranteed to help you beat the heat.

Donna recommends The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, by Alina Bronsky

Told with sly humor and an anthropologist’s eye for detail, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine is the story of three unforgettable women whose destinies are tangled up in a family dynamic that is at turns hilarious and tragic. In her new novel, Russian-born Alina Bronsky gives readers a moving portrait of the devious limits of the will to survive.
“Once you find yourself in the grip of Rosa’s saga, there is no escaping. Brutal, self-absorbed, perceptive, and hilarious, Rosa is as unreliable as she is unforgettable. Set both behind the Iron Curtain and in the reunified Germany, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine is refreshing as well as disturbing. The strengths of the three generations – unsinkable Rosa, her passive but loving daughter Sulfia, and her unpredictable and mysterious granddaughter Aminat – link these women together and simultaneously pull them apart. Their story will fascinate, repel, and bring you to tears.”
— Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL (Indie Next List selection)

Lilly recommends The Art Lover’s Cookbook – A Feast for the Eye, edited by Carolyn Miller

Still lifes, genre scenes, cartoons, photographs, and decorative arts illustrate the amusing and complicated relationships we have with food, our sustenance and our delight. Enjoy tasting and reflecting on these wonderful expressions of the artistry and creativity with which we celebrate food.

Jane recommends Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything, by Kevin Cook

Born in a log cabin in the Ozarks, Alvin “Titanic” Thompson (1892-1974) traveled with his golf clubs, a .45 revolver, and a suitcase full of cash. He won and lost millions playing cards, dice, golf, pool, and dangerous games of his own invention. He killed five men and married five women, each one a teenager on her wedding day. He ruled New York’s underground craps games in the 1920s and was Damon Runyon’s model for slick-talking Sky Masterson. Dominating the links in the pre-PGA Tour years, Thompson may have been the greatest golfer of his time, teeing up with Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino, and Ray Floyd. He also traded card tricks with Houdini, conned Al Capone, lost a million to Minnesota Fats and then teamed up with Fats and won it all back. A terrific read for anyone who has ever laid a bet, Titanic Thompson recaptures the colorful times of a singular figure: America’s original road gambler.

Aida recommends Tree of Codes, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Danielle recommends the Simply Small Series, by Paola Opal

“Bare beauty is what you find in the Simply Small Series books…almost haiku-like.”
Word of Mouse Book Reviews

“…just perfect for the youngest readers.”
ABC Best Books for Children

“Opal uses vibrant onomatopoeic language, such as ‘swoosh,’ ‘thump’ and ‘splash,’ which makes reading aloud to children fun.” — CM Review

BJ recommends The Wheel of Nuldoid, by Russ Woody

The much-anticipated first book by veteran television writer/producer Russ Woody. Inspired by The Hobbit and The Wizard of Oz, The Wheel of Nuldoid is a dark tongue-in-cheek look at the very center of our world, where a society of short, quarrelsome creatures live and operate the machinery that rotates the earth. It’s the story of three unsuspecting humans-sixth grade teacher Warren Worst, his student Leo and Warren’s beautiful neighbor Lily-who are living quietly in San Francisco until the earthquake of October 1989 turns their lives upside down. Literally. Join them as they journey through the Region of Neither Norr, fall hundreds of miles through a giant tunnel-hole, cross the Plains of Low Weather and the Valley of Lopsided Water, fly down the ancient slide of the Droiden Frobble Dynasty and scale the Great Big Canyon.

Julie recommends Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See

In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are—Shanghai girls.

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Staff Picks: Week of the 4th of July

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Jane Picks:

The Wild Life of Our Bodies, by Rob Dunn

A biologist shows the influence of wild species on our well-being and the world and how nature still clings to us—and always will.

We evolved in a wilderness of parasites, mutualists, and pathogens, but we no longer see ourselves as being part of nature and the broader community of life. In the name of progress and clean living, we scrub much of nature off our bodies and try to remove whole kinds of life—parasites, bacteria, mutualists, and predators—to allow ourselves to live free of wild danger. Nature, in this new world, is the landscape outside, a kind of living painting that is pleasant to contemplate but nice to have escaped.

The truth, though, according to biologist Rob Dunn, is that while “clean living” has benefited us in some ways, it has also made us sicker in others. We are trapped in bodies that evolved to deal with the dependable presence of hundreds of other species. As Dunn reveals, our modern disconnect from the web of life has resulted in unprecedented effects that immunologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and other scientists are only beginning to understand. Diabetes, autism, allergies, many anxiety disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even tooth, jaw, and vision problems are increasingly plaguing bodies that have been removed from the ecological context in which they existed for millennia.

In this eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and well-reasoned book, Dunn considers the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Through the stories of visionaries, Dunn argues that we can create a richer nature, one in which we choose to surround ourselves with species that benefit us, not just those that, despite us, survive.

BJ Picks:

The Astral, by Kate Christensen

The Astral is a huge rose-colored old pile of an apart­ment building in the gentrifying neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For decades it was the happy home (or so he thought) of the poet Harry Quirk and his wife, Luz, a nurse, and of their two children: Karina, now a fer­vent freegan, and Hector, now in the clutches of a cultish Christian community. But Luz has found (and destroyed) some poems of Harry’s that ignite her long-simmering sus­picions of infidelity, and he’s been summarily kicked out. He now has to reckon with the consequence of his literary, marital, financial, and parental failures (and perhaps oth­ers) and find his way forward—and back into Luz’s good graces.

Harry Quirk is, in short, a loser, living small and low in the water. But touched by Kate Christensen’s novelistic grace and acute perception, his floundering attempts to reach higher ground and forge a new life for himself become funny, bittersweet, and terrifically moving. She knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of men—and she turns them into literary art of the highest order.

Danielle Picks:

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading, by Tommy Greenwald

Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader ever born. And so far, he’s managed to get through life without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. But now that he’s in middle school, avoiding reading isn’t as easy as it used to be. And when his friend Timmy McGibney decides that he’s tired of covering for him, Charlie Joe finds himself resorting to desperate measures to keep his perfect record intact.This is the hilarious story of an avid non-reader and the extreme lengths to which he’ll go to get out of reading a book.

Lucia Picks:

You Lost Me There, by Rosecrans Baldwin

By turns funny, charming, and tragic, Rosecrans Baldwin’s debut novel takes us inside the heart and mind of Dr. Victor Aaron, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher at the Soborg Institute on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Victor spends his days alternating between long hours in the sterile lab and running through memories of his late wife, Sara. He has preserved their marriage as a sort of perfect, if tumultuous, duet between two opposite but precisely compatible souls.

But one day, in the midst of organizing his already hyperorganized life, Victor discovers a series of index cards covered in Sara’s handwriting. They chronicle the major “changes in direction” of their marriage, written as part of a brief fling with couples counseling. Sara’s version of their great love story is markedly different from his own, which, for the eminent memory specialist, is a startling revelation. Victor is forced to reevaluate and relive each moment of their marriage, never knowing is the revisions will hurt or hearten. Meanwhile, as Victor’s faith in memory itself unravels, so too does his precisely balanced support network, a group of strong women-from his lab assistant to Aunt Betsy, doddering doyenne of the island-that had, so far, allowed him to avoid grieving.

Rosecrans Baldwin shows himself here to be a young writer bursting with talent and imagination who deftly handles this aching love story with sensitivity and unexpected maturity. You Lost Me Thereis a treasure of a book filled with beautiful, intelligent prose, a book that wears its smarts lightly and probes its emotions deeply.

Aida Picks:
When Marlana Pulled a Thread, by Dave Eggers
Marlana is a girl who one day sees a strange-looking thread amid the grass and flowers, and she pulls it. Pop! Whistle! As Marlana pulls, the thread keeps coming. Soon, things begin to disappear: first a tree, then a palace, then a whole town. Marlana wonders if she ought to stop pulling, but she’s no quitter….
The first picture book written and drawn by bestselling author Dave Eggers, “When Marlana Pulled a Thread” is a classic story that will delight and disarm readers, leaving them with that special itch to go back to the beginning, read it all again, and attempt to get to the bottom of things.
The dustjacket unfolds into a large poster, revealing hidden drawings and secret messages.

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Staff Picks: Week of June 27th

Donna just finished and loved:

Faith, by Jennifer Haigh

It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city’s archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the fallout for one devout family, the McGanns.Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at thecenter of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. What she discovers is more complicated than she imagined. Her strict, lace-curtain-Irish mother is living in a state of angry denial. Sheila’s younger brother Mike, to her horror, has already convicted his brother in his heart. But most disturbing of all is Art himself, who persistently dodges Sheila’s questions and refuses to defend himself.

As the scandal forces long-buried secrets to surface, Faith explores the corrosive consequences of one family’s history of silence—and the resilience its members ultimately find in forgiveness. Throughout, Haigh demonstrates how the truth can shatter our deepest beliefs—and restore them. A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman’s quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief. Elegantly crafted, sharply observed, this is Jennifer Haigh’s most ambitious novel to date.

BJ gave this to everyone for Christmas and still hasn’t stopped talking about:

The Wonderful Future that Never Was, by Gregory Benford and the editors of Popular Mechanics 

Between 1903 and 1969, scientists and other experts made hundreds of predictions in Popular Mechanics magazine about what the future would hold. Their forecasts ranged from ruefully funny to eerily prescient and optimistically utopian. Here are the very best of them, culled from hundreds of articles, complete with the original, visually stunning retro art. They will capture the imagination of futurists in the same way Jules Verne’s writing did a century earlier. Every chapter features an introduction by astrophysics professor, science-fiction author, and former NASA advisor Gregory Benford.
PAST PREDICTIONS OF OUR FUTURE INCLUDE:
Skyscrapers so tall they’ll have their own climate  o  Underground pneumatic tubes to replace garbage trucks  o  Rooftop lakes that serve as air conditioning systems  o  Clothes made from asbestos and aluminum  o  Mail sorted by robots and delivered by parachutes

Lucia prefers this to this:

The Waste Land and Other Writings, by T.S. Elliot

First published in 1922, “The Waste Land” is T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece, and is not only one of the key works of modernism but also one of the greatest poetic achievements of the twentieth century. A richly allusive pilgrimage of spiritual and psychological torment and redemption, Eliot’s poem exerted a revolutionary influence on his contemporaries, summoning forth a rich new poetic language, breaking decisively with Romantic and Victorian poetic traditions. Kenneth Rexroth was not alone in calling Eliot “the representative poet of the time, for the same reason that Shakespeare and Pope were of theirs. He articulated the mind of an epoch in words that seemed its most natural expression.”

As influential as his verse, T.S. Eliot’s criticism also exerted a transformative effect on twentieth-century letter, and this new edition of The Waste Land and Other Writings includes a selection of Eliot’s most important essays.

In her new Introduction, Mary Karr dispels some of the myths of the great poem’s inaccessibility and sheds fresh light on the ways in which “The Waste Land” illuminates contemporary experience.

Jane would like you to avoid being negatively influenced by the hype, and read:

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Julie thinks you’ll love:

The Widower’s Tale, by Julia Glass

In a historic farmhouse outside Boston, seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement: reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond. His routines are disrupted, however, when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn. As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must reexamine the solitary life he has made in the three decades since the sudden death of his wife. No longer can he remain aloof from his community, his two grown daughters, or, to his shock, the precarious joy of falling in love.

One relationship Percy treasures is the bond with his oldest grandchild, Robert, a premed student at Harvard. Robert has long assumed he will follow in the footsteps of his mother, a prominent physician, but he begins to question his ambitions when confronted by a charismatic roommate who preaches—and begins to practice—an extreme form of ecological activism, targeting Boston’s most affluent suburbs.

Meanwhile, two other men become fatefully involved with Percy and Robert: Ira, a gay teacher at the preschool, and Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener who works for Percy’s neighbor, each one striving to overcome a sense of personal exile. Choices made by all four men, as well as by the women around them, collide forcefully on one lovely spring evening, upending everyone’s lives, but none more radically than Percy’s.

With equal parts affection and satire, Julia Glass spins a captivating tale about the loyalties, rivalries, and secrets of a very particular family. Yet again, she plumbs the human heart brilliantly, dramatically, and movingly.

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Staff Picks: Week of June 20th

We hope Dad loved all the books you gave him yesterday for his special day.

Here’s what’s got us talking this week.

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BJ Recommends: 

Your Voice in My Head, by Emma Forrest

Emma Forrest, a British journalist, was just twenty-two and living the fast life in New York City when she realized that her quirks had gone beyond eccentricity. In a cycle of loneliness, damaging relationships, and destructive behavior, she found herself in the chair of a slim, balding, and effortlessly optimistic psychiatrist—a man whose wisdom and humanity would wrench her from the dangerous tide after she tried to end her life. She was on the brink of drowning, but she was still working, still exploring, still writing, and she had also fallen deeply in love. One day, when Emma called to make an appointment with her psychiatrist, she found no one there. He had died, shockingly, at the age of fifty-three, leaving behind a young family. Reeling from the premature death of a man who had become her anchor after she turned up on his doorstep, she was adrift. And when her all-consuming romantic relationship also fell apart, Emma was forced to cling to the page for survival and regain her footing on her own terms.

Danielle Recommends:

Along a Long Road, by Frank Viva

Follow that road!
Speed off on an eventful bicycle ride along the bold yellow road that cuts through town, by the sea, and through the country. Ride up and around, along and through, out and down.
Frank’s striking graphic style is executed in just five joyous colors, and his spare, rhythmic language is infectious.
Hit a bump?
Get back on track!
Reach the end?
Start again!

Donna Recommends:

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold, by Alexander McCall Smith

The heartwarming and hilarious new installment in the Corduroy Mansions series presents the further adventures of Alexander McCall Smith’s newest beloved character: the Pimlico terrier Freddie de la Hay.

In the elegantly crumbling mansion block in Pimlico called Corduroy Mansions, the comings and goings of the wonderfully motley crew of residents continue apace. A pair of New Age operators has determined that Terence Moongrove’s estate is the cosmologically correct place for their center for cosmological studies. Literary agent Barbara Ragg has decided to represent Autobiography of a Yeti, purportedly dictated to the author by the Abominable Snowman himself. And our small, furry, endlessly surprising canine hero Freddie de la Hay—belonging to failed oenophile William French—has been recruited by MI6 to infiltrate a Russian spy ring. Needless to say, the other denizens of Corduroy Mansions have issues of their own. But all of them will be addressed with the wit and insight into the foibles of the human condition that have become the hallmark of this peerless storyteller.

Jane Recommends:

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman

When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia’s parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run “Quiet War” in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia’s pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.

Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness aand healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe, while medical community marks a division between body and soul, and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former. Lia’s doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness, qaug dab peg–the spirit catches you and you fall down–and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.

Lilly Recommends:

Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid, by Simon Pegg

The unique life story of one of the most talented and inventive comedians, star of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Star Trek.

Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: actor, comedian, writer and self-proclaimed supergeek Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having landed on the U.S. movie scene in the surprise cult hit Shaun of the Dead, his enduring appeal and rise to movie star with a dedicated following has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronic, but mostly just plain great. From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with science fiction, his enduring friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up comedy which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his twelve-year-old classmates, Simon has always had a severe and dangerous case of the funnies. Whether recounting his experience working as a lifeguard at the city pool, going to Comic-Con for the first time and confessing to Carrie Fisher that he used to kiss her picture every night before he went to sleep, or meeting and working with heroes that include Peter Jackson, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino, Pegg offers a hilarious look at the journey to becoming an international superstar, dotted with a cast of memorable characters, and you’re rooting for him all the way.

Lucia Recommends:

Seconds Out, by Martin Kohan

New York, 1923: the Argentine boxer Luis Angel Firpo knocks out of the ring Jack Dempsey, heavyweight champion of the world. Dempsey is out of the ring for seventeen seconds, but is allowed by the US referee to get back in. In the second round, Dempsey knocks Firpo out. Seconds Out is a powerful reflection on memory and national identity.

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Staff Picks: Week of June 13th

Donna Picks:

The Tragedy of Arthur, by Arthur Phillips    

The Tragedy of Arthur is an emotional and elaborately constructed tour de force from bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist Arthur Phillips, “one of the best writers in America” (The Washington Post).

Its doomed hero is Arthur Phillips, a young man struggling with a larger-than-life father, a con artist who works wonders of deception but is a most unreliable parent. Arthur is raised in an enchanted world of smoke and mirrors where the only unshifting truth is his father’s and his beloved twin sister’s deep and abiding love for the works of William Shakespeare—a love so pervasive that Arthur becomes a writer in a misguided bid for their approval and affection.Years later, Arthur’s father, imprisoned for decades and nearing the end of his life, shares with Arthur a treasure he’s kept secret for half a century: a previously unknown play by Shakespeare, titled The Tragedy of Arthur. But Arthur and his sister also inherit their father’s mission: to see the play published and acknowledged as the Bard’s last great gift to humanity. . . . Unless it’s their father’s last great con.

Lucia Picks:

Ada, or Ardor, by Vladimir Nabokov 

Published two weeks after his seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of Nabokov’s greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist.  It tells a love story troubled by incest.  But more: it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue.   Ada, or Ardor is no less than the supreme work of an imagination at white heat.

This is the first American edition to include the extensive and ingeniously  sardonic appendix by the author, written under the anagrammatic pseudonym Vivian Darkbloom.

Julie Picks:

The Queen Mother, by William Shawcross 

The official and definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: consort of King George VI, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of Prince Charles—and the most beloved British monarch of the twentieth century.

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon—the ninth of the Earl of Strathmore’s ten children—was born on August 4, 1900, and, certainly, no one could have imagined that her long life (she died in 2002) would come to reflect a changing nation over the ourse of an entire century. Now, William Shawcross—given unrestricted access to the Queen Mother’s personal papers, letters, and diaries—gives us a portrait of unprecedented vividness and detail. Here is the girl who helped convalescing soldiers during the First World War . . . the young Duchess of York helping her reluctant husband assume the throne when his brother abdicated . . . the Queen refusing to take refuge from the bombing of London, risking her own life to instill courage and hope in others who were living through the Blitz . . . the dowager Queen—the last Edwardian, the charming survivor of a long-lost era—representing her nation at home and abroad . . . the matriarch of the Royal Family and “the nation’s best-loved grandmother.”

A revelatory royal biography that is, as well, a singular history of Britain in the twentieth century.

Martha Picks:

Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, by Sara Marcus 

Girls to the Front is the epic, definitive history of Riot Grrrl—the uprising that exploded into the public eye in the 1990s and included incendiary punk bands Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, and Huggy Bear. A dynamic chronicle of not just a movement but an era, this is the story of a group of pissed—off girls with no patience for sexism and no intention of keeping quiet.

Lilly Picks:

Bring Me Your Love, by Charles Bukowski, illustrated by R. Crumb

A story with illustrations.

and:

Unlikely Friendships: 50 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom, by Jennifer S. Holland

Written by a “National Geographic” magazine writer, “Unlikely Friendships” documents one heartwarming tale after another of animals who, with nothing else in common, bond in the most unexpected ways.

Danielle Picks:

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes 

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

Ninth Ward is a deeply emotional story about transformation and a celebration of resilience, friendship, and family–as only love can define it.

Jane Picks:

The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball

Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn. Kimball and her husband had a plan: to grow everything needed to feed a community. It was an ambitious idea, a bit romantic, and it worked. Every Friday evening, all year round, a hundred people travel to Essex Farm to pick up their weekly share of the “whole diet”—beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and forty different vegetables—produced by the farm. The work is done by draft horses instead of tractors, and the fertility comes from compost. Kimball’s vivid descriptions of landscape, food, cooking—and marriage—are irresistible.

“As much as you transform the land by farming,” she writes, “farming transforms you.” In her old life, Kimball would stay out until four a.m., wear heels, and carry a handbag. Now she wakes up at four, wears Carhartts, and carries a pocket knife. At Essex Farm, she discovers the wrenching pleasures of physical work, learns that good food is at the center of a good life, falls deeply in love, and finally finds the engagement and commitment she craved in the form of a man, a small town, and a beautiful piece of land.

Finally, BJ Picks:

Oh, The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss, because as long as people are going places this will always be a good one to take along.

“Don’t be fooled by the title of this seriocomic ode to success; it’s not ‘Climb Every Mountain,’ kid version. All journeys face perils, whether from indecision, from loneliness, or worst of all, from too much waiting. Seuss’ familiar pajama-clad hero is up to the challenge, and his odyssey is captured vividly in busy two-page spreads evoking both the good times (grinning purple elephants, floating golden castles) and the bad (deep blue wells of confusion). Seuss’ message is simple but never sappy: life may be a ‘Great Balancing Act,’ but through it all ‘There’s fun to be done.'”–(starred) Booklist.

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