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2015 Staff Picks by Genre



Book Cover for Ghost Bride Choo, Yangsze
Ghost Bride

I recently read Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. Poignant and easy to read, it celebrates and explains Asian customs so simply that you'll be fully engrossed by page 10!
Recommended by Linda L., April 2015

Book Cover for Mr. Bridge Connell, Evan
Mr. Bridge

Mr. Bridge is a hard-working Kansas lawyer in the mid-1900s. His success allows his wife and children to enjoy a large house, cook, laundress, luxury cars, country club membership, and all of the other extravagances of an upper middle class life. This beautifully written novel, told from Mr. Bridge’s perspective, comprise more than one hundred vignettes of happenings in his life and how he reacts to each. By learning about him through his relationships with others, the reader soon adopts a solid understanding of his character. The novel, published in 1969, is the companion piece to Mrs. Bridge, published a decade earlier. Fans of this book may enjoy moving on to the earlier book, to better understand the wife’s perspective on all of the same circumstances.
Recommended by Karen G., January 2015

Book Cover for All the Light We Cannot See Doerr, Anthony
All the Light We Cannot See

Lives that seem worlds apart intersect in various ways and culminate during the WWII bombing of Saint-Malo, France. Marie-Laure and her father live near the Museum of Natural History in Paris, where her father works as a locksmith. Marie-Laure has been blind since age 6 but learns to navigate through sound, smell, touch, and memory. When the Nazis arrive in Paris, Marie-Laure and her father go to live with his uncle in Saint-Malo, a walled city in Brittany. Her uncle, a recluse, has a special interest in a room in his house full of radios and transmitters, something that becomes outlawed once the Nazis occupy France. Werner is a young German boy living in an orphan’s home with his sister Jutta. Werner and Jutta are fascinated with an old radio they find, and Werner sees his way out of the grueling work in the coal mines that killed his father. He has a special aptitude for fixing radios, a talent soon discovered and groomed by the Nazis at a Hitler Youth academy. Werner becomes part of a team tracking resistance efforts in the war and eventually in Saint Milo. Throughout the story, we meet characters both young and old who are touched by war, but, more importantly, also by kindness. There is, of course, some violence, but it is not the overriding tone. Through the book, we catch a glimpse of how people live through war and what they do to help each other out. I really liked Doerr’s vivid descriptions of places and things, particularly when he’s describing how Marie-Laure experiences the world. I tend to like WWII books, but this one, in particular, is a wonderful story.
Recommended by Joanne, January 2015

Book Cover for The Girl on the Train Hawkins, Paula
The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train is the quintessential psychological thriller. Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee, rides the London commuter train each day to hide her recent job loss from her roommate. Bored, she creates a fantasy life for a couple she notices daily and is horrified when real life events overtake her make believe world. The story is perfectly paced and told in the viewpoints of three women who may or may not be trusted. Full of tension and aching to be read in one sitting if you have the time, this debut is a crowd-pleasing good read that is already optioned for an upcoming film.
Recommended by Karen G., April 2015

Book Cover for The Bluest Eye Morrison, Toni
The Bluest Eye

In this classic novel of African American culture, women's history, and family, Pecola desperately wants to have blue eyes. It takes the destruction of her mind and soul for her wish to come "true". You can't be sure who to root for in this novel of family devastation, but you can sympathize with everyone, in one way or another. This is a novel for thoughtful reflection; don't expect to be uplifted, though you just might come out the other end enlightened.
This novel is available to check out from the library in print or a book on CD and online through Overdrive as an eBook or audiobook.
Recommended by Melissa, February 2015

Book Cover for Nairobi Heat Mukoma, Wa Ngugi
Nairobi Heat

In this unconventionally conventional police procedural, a cop chases down the clues to a murder in Wisconsin by flying to Kenya. The writer is the son of the (absolutely wonderful) Kenyan writer, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, but, significantly, Mukoma was born in Illinois. This hybrid African/American perspective seems to offer Mukoma unique perspectives on racism in both the United States and Africa, the dynamics of the relationship between power and community, and the ambiguous ties between African-Americans and the African continent, making the read a worthy experience.
Recommended by Miguel, February 2015

Book Cover for Landline Rowell, Rainbow

Georgie McCool has always wanted to be a comic screenwriter, and she is now this close to landing her own television show with her long-time writing partner, Seth. Georgie's husband, Neal, landed in southern California by default and has never adored their Los Angeles lifestyle, but he is the heart and soul of their family and the primary caretaker of their two young daughters. When Georgie backs out of a Christmas trip to Omaha, their marriage may be irrevocably strained. Georgie finds refuge at her mom's place where she finds her old plug-in princess phone and slowly begins to realize that present-day Georgie is able to call fifteen-years-ago Neal. Georgie has the crucial opportunity to relive the significance and aspirations of their early love, and to reevaluate the distance that has come between them. The dialogue is quick-witted and flowing and the relationships between the characters are enviably quirky. Landline set the ball rolling for me, and I just finished Rowell's YA novel, Eleanor and Park (two thumbs up). I am not a fast reader, but I happily FLEW through Landline and reveled in the accessible language that belied a tangible poignancy.
Recommended by Sheila, January 2015

Book Cover for Dear Committee Members Schumacher, Julie
Dear Committee Members

Dear library patrons, I am writing to wholeheartedly recommend Julie Schumacher's latest novel, a very funny and slender series of letters by a professor at a mediocre Midwestern institution. Jason Fitger, whose colleagues include his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend, is a member of a department that receives little notice from administrators, is constantly under renovation, and churns out graduates whose job opportunities are scarce. He releases his resulting indignation and unchecked conceitedness in numerous cringeworthy epistles. Even so, his talent at writing recommendation letters is so polished that he can identify and promote the miniscule strengths of even the most pitiful candidate. If you count yourself as a member of academia - either as a faculty member or administrator - you'll instantly recognize the bureaucratic headaches, pedantic missives, and internecine departmental rivalries plaguing your profession. Do accept this book as a humorous antidote.
Recommended by Rita, March 2015

Book Cover for Season to Taste Young, Natalie
Season to Taste

...In which an otherwise normal housewife, Lizzie Prain, hacks up her husband and eats him piece by piece, with gourmet recipes to boot. "You can still wear earrings," she says. This is one of her first bits of advice to herself. Lizzie's 30-year marriage quietly dissolved over time - failed jobs, emotional distance, lack of trust and confidence, until one day she hit her husband over the head with a garden shovel. In a panic, she chops him up and throws his body parts, neatly labeled, into the freezer. In order to hide the evidence and make the environmentally responsible choice, she decides to eat him over a series of meals. This fictitious parable is both a dark comedy and a tale that cautions against letting a relationship consume oneself.
Recommended by Holly, April 2015


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Book Cover for Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted Armstrong, Jennifer
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic

While it helps to have some knowledge of and appreciation of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” when reading Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, this isn’t your usual television/celebrity retrospective. This focuses mostly on the women who wrote for the show and why having a team of female comedy writers was so groundbreaking in 1970. In today’s anything-goes television environment, it’s hard to remember how revolutionary MTM was. The idea of Mary being divorced and having a career was – to put it mildly – a hard sell to network executives. Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted explains how the writers and producers got around that and also explains how having a female writing team significantly shaped the controversial issues portrayed on the show. I enjoyed this for the inside stories and especially the perspective on the writers. It was also a dose of nostalgia, as Jennifer Keishin Armstrong references so many magnificent shows of television’s Golden Age of Comedy. Truly, Mary Richards’ influence and that of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is more far-reaching than anyone probably ever imagined.
Recommended by Melissa F., April 2015

Book Cover for Orange Is the New Black Kerman, Piper
Orange Is the New Black

As you probably already know, the hit Netflix series is based on the book of the same name by Piper Kerman. Like other exposés of prison life, this one offers compelling details of the incarcerated life and its culture, including the rituals surrounding welcoming new inmates, celebrating birthdays and holidays, the ingenuity of prison-cell cooking, and how the people bond and support one another while trying to maintain a routine that resembles normal life. There are many moments of warmth and compassion among the inmates that help them cope with infuriating commonplace injustices. For viewers of the show, an added layer of interest is the running comparison of how situations and characters from the book were adapted, and largely exaggerated, for the sake of good TV.
Recommended by Rick, March 2015

Book Cover for Half the Sky Kristof, Nicholas
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, have spent their lives advocating for, and reporting on the stories of, incredibly brave and courageous women in the most remote corners of the globe. These are women easily forgotten, yet in Half the Sky, Kristoff and WuDunn make sure their stories are heard. They take the reader to the brothels and the desolate hospitals; we see the inspiration of the women-owned businesses started with Kiva microloans. Half the Sky is not always the easiest book to read, but it is transformative, if only by knowing more about our world and those in it. It is also hopeful. Kristof and WuDunn show how it is possible for everyday, average people to make a difference in the world through even the simplest of acts.
Recommended by Melissa F., March 2015

Book Cover for On the High Line La Farge, Annik
On the High Line: Exploring America's Most Original Urban Park

Around the turn of the last century, a group of dedicated Chelsea neighbors gathered to try to rescue and reimagine the elevated rail line that runs through more than 20 blocks of west Manhattan. Derelict and unused except by the occasional graffiti artist, the High Line nevertheless provided unique perspectives and unparalleled vistas of the city. After CSX donated the structure to the city, landscape architects and residents transformed the space into a public park, with the first section opening to the public in 2009. Today an additional portion is open, and visitors will soon be able to explore the final section on the rail yards. Pedestrians enjoy the High Line all day long, lounging on the lawn at 23rd Street, observing traffic and passersby below, or savoring the ever-evolving public art displays, billowing grasses, and seasonal blooms. La Farge provides the perfect guide to the High Line by melding local history with botany and illustrating it via maps and photos. As you follow the guide block by block, you learn about the West Side Cowboys, the area's meatpacking and cold storage legacies, and surrounding landmarks such as the Chelsea Market and Whitney Museum. Recommended for both the armchair and in-person traveler. For more photographic panoramas of unusual and (at times) abandoned Big Apple landscapes, check out Christopher Payne's North Brother Island: the Last Unknown Place in New York City.
Recommended by Rita, January 2015

Book Cover for Men We Reaped Ward, Jesmyn
Men We Reaped

Jesmyn Ward won the 2011 National Book Award for her fiction title Salvage the Bones, and she approaches this memoir in a novel way, telling her own life story through the deaths of 5 young men. The title is from Harriet Tubman: "We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped." If this sounds dark, know that it is. Growing up in Mississippi, there were many dangers in Jesmyn’s community: poverty, drugs, resignation. The young men in Jesmyn's life all died in different ways, and each grief shared is as agonizing as the next. The book does not read in chronological order, but the story works and comes full circle in the end, with the detailing of the closest death, that of her brother. You’ll find moments that are tender, funny, angsty and also terrifying – sometimes in the same paragraph. The sense of hopelessness in this rural community is defined deftly by Jesmyn: "We tried to outpace the thing that chased us, that said: You are nothing. We tried to ignore it, but sometimes we caught ourselves repeating what history said, mumbling along, brainwashed: I am nothing." Ward, with brutal honesty and beautiful prose, tells a story that needed to be told. Coming to the Drue Heinz Lecture Series Monday, February 9, 2015.
This novel is available to check out from the library in print or a book on CD and online through Overdrive as an eBook.
Recommended by Holly, February 2015


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Science Fiction

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Graphic Novels

Book Cover for Sally Heathcote, Suffragette Talbot, Mary
Sally Heathcote, Suffragette

Graphic Novels
You may know the names and struggles of American suffragists such as Amelia Bloomer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott. The names and struggles of the British suffrage movement are less well-known, but not less dramatic. Sally Heathcote, Suffragette chronicles a large part of the story through the eyes of an orphan girl who grows up in the household of one of two rival families who champion the cause of suffrage in England. Stirring black and white art lit by pops of color takes Sally on a journey from the beginning of the 20th century to her deathbed in the '60s and covers debates on pacifism, guerilla protest tactics, the right to vote and, of course, the nature of love. The graphic format makes covering such a large swath of time an easy prospect, and the research done by Mary Talbot and the artists shines through on the page.
Recommended by Tessa B., March 2015


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Short Stories

Book Cover for Nine Inches Perrotta, Tom
Nine Inches

Short Stories
Tom Perrotta's latest collection of stories, Nine Inches, is rife with my kind of action. People see, hear, think, and sometimes even walk and talk at the same time. You can't wait to find out what isn't going to happen next. Being transported into the mind of the protagonist wrestling with his/her dilemma is enough to keep the pages turning. If you're worried that the action in these stories may be too subtle for you, there is almost always a revelation at the end. Satisfaction guaranteed. I was recently reading More Baths Less Talking, by Nick Hornby, and discovered that Hornby is also a fan of Perrotta — and for the same reasons that I am!
Recommended by Geo, April 2015

Book Cover for Spoiled Brats Rich, Simon
Spoiled Brats

Short Stories
Simon Rich's Spoiled Brats is very clever and entertaining. He will relieve you of your complacency throughout this collection of stories. Unusual characters will deliver assaults to your sense of reality. The muscles of your imagination will ache from the unfamiliar and strenuous exercise herein. No matter how outrageous the premise of a story, it all makes sense by the end. Look for Rich's Last Girlfriend on Earth for more of his peculiar style of seduction.
Recommended by Geo, March 2015


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