Staff Recommends: 2005

 


You'll find many more ideas in the Reader Services Page, the Fiction Booklist Section, and among our previous Staff Recommendations

Recommended by Emily Center, Young Adult Librarian
It's a lonely and dangerous other-world, but not always as harsh it seems...

Earthboy Jacobus by Doug TenNapel (YA Graphic Novel)
When Chief runs into a land whale on his way home one night, he discovers inside the whale's mouth a young boy from a parallel universe who is being hunted by ectoids that want to destroy him. So begins the touching tale of the life of Jacobus, trying to survive in a world where he is hunted and alone but for Chief and his holographic mother. The tale comes complete with fantastic action, science fiction, and wonderful art. (See also Creature Tech and Tommysaurus Rex, both by TenNapel.)

East by Edith Pattou (YA Fiction)
In this epic faery tale retelling, Rose is an adventurous spirit who feels out of place in her Norwegian farming family. When a white bear appears at their home and offers salvation from poverty and illness to her ailing family in exchange for Rose's company, she accepts the invitation. Taken to a distant castle, Rose discovers that the bear is an enchanted human, transformed by a troll queen, and falls in love with him - soon realizing that her travels through the wilderness are barely the beginning of her journey. (Try Beauty by McKinley or Elske by Voigt.)

Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon (YA/Adult Sci-fi)
When Ky is asked to leave the military academy in disgrace, her father's trading company offers her a ship to captain. Her assignment: take the ship to a scrapyard. Should be simple, but simple was never Ky's way of doing things. She takes a contract for an agricultural equipment delivery, but in the process of picking it up, her FTL drive fails and she and her crew get caught in the middle of a war. Boarded by mercenaries and asked to hold hostages, Ky must rely on all of her military instincts to ensure she and her crew survive. (Also try Ender's Game by Card and Warchild by Lowachee.)

Recommended by Sherry Baker, Assistant Branch Librarian, McAuliffe Branch
Each of these three books begins with a single phone call that will change the lives of the characters forever.

Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller. Fiction.
Divorced father and California vintner Mark, receives a phone call from his older daughter announcing an emergency requiring his presence. He arrives at the home of his ex-wife, Eva; her new husband; their young son; and his own two adolescent daughters, to find that the husband has been killed in a freak accident. Eva has fallen apart and Mark is left to guide her and her family through their shock and grief, even as they rekindle their own troubled relationship.

The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan. Fiction. 
Young, naive small-town housewife Patty, pregnant with her first child, receives a phone call from her husband as she waits in bed on a snowy night in the 1970s for him to return home from a night out with friends. He has been arrested for murder in a robbery gone wrong and ultimately will not return home for 28 years. This is a unique look at how crime and incarceration devastate the families of the convicted. Patty's life is altered forever as she navigates the New York penal system, struggles to support her child and remains hopeful of a future with her husband. 

The Sound of Us by Sarah Willis. Fiction.
Alice Marlowe, a 48-year-old childless sign-language interpreter, receives a late-night call from a child who has dialed a wrong number. The scared six-year-old biracial girl has been left alone in her apartment for many hours. Against all reason, Alice drives to the child's home to comfort her instead of notifying the police. The bond they form sets in motion a story that explores the foster care system, racial prejudice, and unexpected love. 

Recommended by Michelle LeMonde-McIntyre, Community Services Librarian
These books are personal favorites because the characters are so endearing...

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts (FICTION Letts)
Novalee Nation is "seventeen, seven months pregnant, thirty-seven pounds overweight," and, by the way, superstitious about sevens. Traveling to Bakersfield, California, she is abandoned by her boyfriend, Willie Jack Pickens, in the parking lot of an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. Within hours, Novalee has met three people who will change her life and destiny forever.

The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts (FICTION Letts)
Wheelchair-bound Caney Paxton is a Vietnam vet who has not left his Sequoyah, Oklahoma café in 12 years. The café, known as the Honk and Holler Opening Soon (due to a sign-maker's error), has brought new worries to Caney in the Christmas of 1985 with a slump in business and a leaky roof. Four-times-married Molly O is the waitress who helped raise Caney, and is currently very worried about her teenage daughter. Right at this time, fate intercedes to bring Caney two new employees: Vena Takes Horse, who becomes a carhop, and Bui Khanh, a cook and handyman. The story that unfolds demonstrates the power of love and community.

Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich (FICTION MYSTERY Evanovich)
Janet Evanovich introduces Alexandra Barnaby, aka Barney. When her brother, Wild Bill, wakes her up with a late-night phone call, his call is cut off mid-sentence as a woman screams in the background. Compelled to travel to Miami to try to locate her brother, Barney meets NASCAR guy, Sam Hooker, who tells her that her brother has stolen his boat. Together, they try to unravel the mystery surrounding Wild Bill's disappearance. A light thriller with snappy dialogue, this is just a fun read from beginning to end.

Recommended by Rebecca Berkowitz, Reference Librarian
In honor of their one hundredth anniversary Booklist Magazine published a list of books; one from each of the last hundred years, considered to be the title from that year with the most enduring influence. Here are some of my favorites from the list. 

1928: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
War requires us to demonize our enemies. Remarque puts a human face on German soldiers in World War I.

1939: Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The odyssey of an Oklahoma farm family fleeing the dust bowl during the Great Depression.

1949: 1984 by George Orwell
Some say we have come to realize aspects of Orwell's nightmarish futuristic vision. In any event it is a haunting tale.

1952: Invisible Man
by Ralph Ellison
Ellison shocked the nation with his painful account of a black man's search for identity in a white world.

1961: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Laugh out loud funny satire on the insanity of war.

1978: The World According to Garp by John Irving
Wild characters and weird events are packed into this compelling story.

1989: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Immigrant Chinese mothers and American new world daughters people this universal story about the persistent strains and binding ties between generations and cultures.

A copy of the The Booklist Century is available at the Information Desk at the Main Library and the Reference Desk at the McAuliffe Branch.

Recommended by Deborah Kelsey, Reference Librarian
These are some of my most favorite books for all ages.

Knots on a Counting Rope J PIC MARTIN
By Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault; illustrated by Ted Rand.
Exquisitely illustrated picture book with a meaningful, affirming, heart-warming story.

Bud, Not Buddy J FIC NEWBERY Curtis
By Christopher Paul Curtis.
A very talented young adult author tells, with artfulness and humor, the story of a motherless boy who escapes a bad foster home and sets out in search of the man he believes to be his father. Newbery winner.

Rats Saw God Y PB THOMAS
By Rob Thomas.
This vivid first-person narrative of the events that changed the protagonist from a promising student to a troubled teen gives the reader insights into what it's like to come of age in contemporary society.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Y GRAPHIC NOV Satrapi
By Marjane Satrapi
Creative, autobiographical account, in graphic novel format, of a young girl growing up as a member of the middleclass during the revolution in Iran during the 1970's. Alex Award winner.

American Pastoral FICTION Roth
By Philip Roth
This is the first book of the author's American Trilogy. It sets "the desire for an American pastoral--a respectable life of space, calm, order, optimism, and achievement--against the indigenous American berserk"- "a propensity to violence, conspiracy, and irrationality." Pulitzer Prize winner.

Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty B HEILBRUN, C., Heilbrun
By Carolyn G. Heilbrun
Written with wry humor and clarity of vision about the emotional and intellectual insights that brought the author to choose life as she savored the "combination of serenity and activity that had hardly been publicly attributed...to women in their seventh decade." 

Spoon River Anthology 811 Masters
By Edgar Lee Masters
Thought-provoking collection of epitaphs in poetic form by a Midwestern attorney in the early 1900s, later edited for theatrical performance. A great piece of Americana.

Recommended by Carol Ames, Circulation Department
Burned Alive: A Victim of the Law of Men
by Souad. 362.8292 Souad.
Under the protection of a pseudonym, the author offers a testimony of her experience at the hands of a brutal tradition which empowers men while abusing and punishing by death any woman who brings dishonor upon her family. In a family with several girls and one boy, Souad and her sisters serve their father and brother like slaves. She witnesses her mother smother more than one newborn girl, and sees her own sister strangled in their home for disobeying. "Honor killings" claim the lives of thousands of women in many countries worldwide. Specifically, the title refers to Souad's brother-in-law's attempt to burn her alive when she was only 17, for becoming pregnant outside of marriage. Her narrative is simple; her story incredible, but riveting.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. 362.82 Walls.
This memoir pulls no punches. Jeannette Walls and her siblings grew up as nomads, with barely a roof over their heads and hardly clean clothes. Their father, a vagabond drunk, often had the Walls family "doing the skedaddle" out of town, to avoid what Rex believed were those unnamed "federal authorities" who would steal his brilliant ideas for their own. The "Glass Castle" was one such pipedream. Jeannette and her brother once dug a foundation for it, only to have it filled with the garbage the Walls were too poor to have taken away. 

Her mother--free spirited, artistic and decidedly damaged--never sells a painting but always has her supplies at the ready. She fills their various ramshackle homes with paintings hung three-deep over the walls and ceiling. One by one each sibling migrates to New York City and finds some measure of success. But Walls' narrative has no trace of bitterness or regret. She simply shares her memories of her family's "adventures" with straightforward honesty and remarkable humility.

Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld. Fiction/Sittenfeld.
Sittenfeld's debut novel is a coming-of-age story set in a preparatory high school. Money is something omnipresent yet never discussed. Ault School is a prestigious East Coast institution that is populated with the usual suspects: the perfect, popular girl, the suave, popular (yet secretly Jewish) basketball star, the closeted gay student, and the over-sympathetic first-year English teacher. Our narrator, Lee Fiora, is none of these characters. She's the scholarship student from South Bend, Indiana, who holds herself an outsider to it all, while admittedly, if secretly, yearning to fit in, even just a little. 

Recommended by Jane Peck, Branch Librarian, McAuliffe Library
by Malcolm Gladwell. 153.44.
This is a thought provoking, fascinating, and delightful book to read. The author gathers together numerous studies that look at how we make decisions in the apparent blink of an eye. He looks at the pros and cons this behavior and describes the art of "thin-slicing" as Gladwell calls it or filtering of the relevant factors that truly matter when making good and bad decisions. The examples range from marriage counselors to tennis coaches, from war game generals to police action on the street. 

Gladwell does not vilify any one group; he simply describes the studies and the results and lets the reader draw their own conclusions. Great for stirring discussions at your next dinner party and for soul- searching about our own reactions to people and situations.

Animals in Translation: Using the Mystery of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin. 591.5.
Temple Grandin has her Ph.D in animal science and is an Associate Professor at Colorado State University. She is also a person with autism who has a tremendous ability to describe the way autistic people interpret the world. She extends this ability to translate "animal talk." She explains animal pain, fear, aggression and love, even animal genius in a way that is interesting and her examples are wonderful. Wait until you read about the parrot who gets so fed up waiting for his nut, he does something extraordinary that stuns everyone with his cleverness. The author doesn't use an excess of emotion or personification of the animals she writes about, (after all, she does design more humane slaughterhouses). But if you are interested in animals and how to improve your understanding of the animals in your life, try this book. 

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Fiction.
A true American classic. The tragic story of Miss Lily Bart, raised to be a decorative ornament on a wealthy husband's arm, Miss Lily could never quite bring herself to capitulate her whole self to any one man. Her love for Lawrence Selden is thwarted by lack of money and when she is duped into taking money from another, her carefully constructed life begins to slip away into poverty and obscurity. She is betrayed her friends and by the horrible Bertha Dorset (read Paris Hilton in this century) as they cut her out of their lives in order to save their own positions in society. Miss Lily's plight illuminated the shallowness of the ultra-wealthy of that period, but reads as if it could have happened last month but in better clothes. 

Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, for The Age of Innocence, and she was a keen and satiric observer of the New York society life she knew so well. 

Recommended by Kristine McElman, Periodicals Supervisor
A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray (YA Fiction)
Gemma, a 16-year-old girl living in India in the year 1895, discovers she has magical powers when she witnesses the death of her mother in a vision. After the death of her mother, she is sent to an exclusive all-girls boarding school outside of London where she meets Felicity, Pippa and Ann. Together the four of them discover just how dangerous and thrilling Gemma's powers can be.

Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunne (942.055)
This fascinating comparison of two of history's most illustrious queens, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, reads like a novel. Both were powerful queens in a world ruled by men and though the pair never met in person, their lives were very much connected. The rivalry between these remarkable women was legendary and their mutual struggle for power changed the world forever.

Probable Future by Alice Hoffman (Fiction)
The women in the Sparrow family possess powerful gifts. Elderly Elinor can tell when someone is lying, her estranged daughter Jenny can see people's dreams, and 13-year-old granddaughter Stella can see when and how people are going to die. Stella asks her charming but unreliable father to prevent a murder and he quickly becomes a suspect when this murder occurs. To avoid the scandal, Jenny and Stella return home to Unity, Massachusetts, and are re-united with Elinor and her old and wondrous home, Cake House.

Recommended by Robin Frank, Children's Librarian, McAuliffe Branch 
These novels, by three popular authors, share common themes of women's struggles during times of turmoil. Choose from a nineteenth-century historical novel from China, a story set in New England at the start of the Great Depression, and a modern-day drama arising from a Pennsylvania Amish dairy farm.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
Tzu His is a beautiful 17-year-old concubine who becomes the Last Empress of China. Min vividly describes the beauty and richness of the Palace and gardens, as well as life inside China's Forbidden City during the Ching Dynasty. From concubines and eunichs, to the Emperor and political rulers, characters and court life come together as Empress Orchid gives birth to the Emperor's only son and rises to power against strong opposition. 

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve
Following the stock market crash of 1929, a young newlywed collects sea glass along the beach of her New Hampshire coastline home (the same house featured in The Pilot's Wife and Fortune's Rock) and brings brightness and beauty into her otherwise troubled world. Honora's life is lonely, while her traveling salesman husband is away all week, until her home becomes the focal point for mill workers and other workers as the labor movement takes hold in America. The story unfolds with the economic crisis of the times and personal dilemmas of several characters into a compelling narrative that is another winner for this author.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
Ellie is a 39-year-old Philadelphia attorney who is ready to leave the stress and demands of her work, but instead finds herself back in the courtroom defending an 18-year-old Amish teenager accused of murdering her newborn. Ellie must live with Katie, her family, and their strict Amish rules of existence while preparing her case. Coping without electricity is the least of her difficulties as she tries to untangle the events leading up to the murder. While Ellie focuses on the psychological and physical aspects of her case, she is also trying to make important decisions about her own love life and career. If you have not read any of Picoult's novels, Plain Truth will get you hooked.

Recommended by Joanne Hansen, McAuliffe Branch, Assistant Children's Librarian
The Family Tree by Carole Cadwalladr. Fiction.
In this humorous page-turner, narrator Rebecca Munroe tells the story of three generations of her family. She has grown up in the seventies, in England, surrounded by rumors about decades of family secrets. Rebecca endeavors to find the truth while sometimes jumping to the wrong conclusion. Her husband Alistair is a cold behavioral geneticist who at times treats Rebecca more like one of his experiments than his wife. Alistair is hesitant to have children because of Rebecca's unstable family history. 

A satire of English popular culture frames each generation's experience, while the author raises lingering questions of nature vs. nurture and how our identity is ultimately defined.

All Is Vanity by Christina Schwarz. Fiction. 
When Margaret quits her day job to write "the Great American Novel," she encounters a serious case of writer's block. With pressure mounting from her husband and colleagues, Margaret becomes desperate for writing material. Captivating daily e-mails from her best friend Letty give her an idea -- why not name her main character Lexi and write her novel based on Letty's downward spiraling family life? 

This is a humorous and suspenseful account of two childhood friends who get caught up in proving their own self-worth only to find in the end that the cost has been too high. The author of Drowning Ruth, Schwarz draws us in with farce, then changes course and gives us a bittersweet indictment of personal ambition.

Recommended by Janet Drake, circulation substitute, both branches
Anatomy of Hope by Jerome Groopman. 616 Groopman.
Brimming with new knowledge from medical school, the author, a hematologist-oncologist, thought he was ready to care for patients. But, mistaking information for insight, he later said "While I was well prepared for the science, I was pitifully unprepared for the soul. We join him as he begins his quest to understand how hope might effect recovery after he completes a rehabilitation program that leads him to his own hope and recovery from a 20 year struggle with life-restricting pain. 

Each chapter, clearly and eloquently written, keeps the reader interested as Groopman treats patients through perilous periods of their illnesses and searches for clues to their hope or despair. Explaining how neurochemicals accompany hope and move us forward to a place where healing can occur, he shows how hope also tempers pain. But when pain and fatigue reduce hope, changes occur in the neurochemistry of hope, and hope begins to diminish. Breaking that cycle is the key. Dr. Groopman shows how true hope can exist without ignoring medical realities.

Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, and Other Sex Offenders: Who They Are, How They Operate, and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children by Anna C. Salter. 364.153 Salter.
This is an informative book on a horrible subject. It focuses on how abusers - pleasant looking, respected adults within our midst - carefully plan fine intricacies of deception as they prepare to commit their crimes. During hours of interviews, they reveal to the author what motivates them, how they deceive their victims, and how they evade discovery. Their own words provoke images that can help raise our protective awareness. And, while Salter documents how difficult it is to spot abusers right before our eyes, her outrage, and her vigilant attitude is best conveyed in her own introduction: "If I do my job right, reading this book will make it harder for sex offenders to get access to you or your children."

Identity Theft by Robert Hammond. 364.163 Hammond.
Using a computer, for $100 a thief can get a SS card and driver's license to open a new account in another person's name, create $100,000 worth of purchases, move money to other accounts, drain accounts and leave the area. The victim is bombarded by collection agencies, creditors, legal action and even arrests for crimes committed by the impersonator. The nightmare of misidentity can continue for years. Here's a quote from an identity thief: "I'll be getting out in 5 years. I'll need money. Got any? Never mind, I'll help myself. You won't even know I've been there. Not for a while, anyway." This year, nearly one million Americans will experience identity fraud. But, Hammond knows his stuff, and his book is a guide. In it you'll find advice on how you can lower your risk of becoming a victim of this 21st-century crime. 

Recommended by Diane Engel
Human Interest Stories
These absorbing novels from the Middle East, drawn on ancient storytelling traditions, introduced me to the lives and legends of the people of Syria, Turkey, and Egypt while allowing me to visit their distant homes and neighborhoods. 

Damascus Nights and A Hand Full of Stars by Rafik Schami. Fiction.
When, in 1959 Damascus, Salim the coachman and famed storyteller mysteriously loses his voice, seven of his old friends gather nightly for coffee and stories in the effort to restore his speech. Author Rafik Schami, raised in Syria, brings Damascus streets and neighborhoods to life with vivid detail, and lends a touch of magic to his main character, Salim. 

The curious neighbor boy who narrates this tale reappears as the teenage diarist of A Hand Full of Stars. His more mature perspective on life in Salim's world is inspired by his first love affair and his dreams of escaping his father's bakery to become a journalist. Only when he gets to know a professional writer does he discover the challenges and dangers of dealing with the repressive censorship of his time.

Memed, My Hawk by Yasar Kemal. Fiction.
In an epic novel with the charm of a legend, a courageous young peasant rebels against the heavy hand of his village's vindictive landlord, and becomes the charismatic leader of his people. Memed's heroic adventures as a bandit intent on destroying the corrupt powers that have enslaved his people take us on horseback through the fields, marshes and hills south of Turkey's Taurus Mountains. His respect for just leadership and his commitment to friendship and love are values that bring warmth to this enthralling story. 

Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz. Fiction.
The residents of one of the hustling, teeming back alleys of Cairo form the cast for this lively drama of personalities. The Nobel-Prize winning author's skill in depicting a wide variety of characters draws us into a distant and culturally unfamiliar world, but one sharing universal human dreams and motivations. Shorter than many of his novels, Midaq Alley is distinguished by its focused, vibrant style and attention to vivid detail.

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Updated on 10/28/2013 02:40 PM
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