Staff Recommends 2008


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

Recommended by Paula Marsh, McAuliffe Branch Library
The Tree-sitter by Suzanne Matson. Fiction.
Julie Prince, a Wellesley college student, meets Neal, an environmental activist. They change their names to Emerald and River and travel to Oregon to join an underground activist movement protecting old growth trees slated for destruction. Tree-sitting and an increasing involvement with this anonymous group challenges their relationship as the activists turn terrorists.

Flower Children by Maxine Swann. Fiction. 
This coming of age tale of the four children of a Harvard educated, back to the land, hippie couple portrays an untraditional family in the 70s. Its beautiful and lyrical writing won the O. Henry Award for the first chapter of this book when it was published as a short story.

Dreaming Water by Gail Tsukiyama. Fiction. 
Hana suffers from Werner’s syndrome, a disease that ages people twice as fast as normal aging. Her family’s courage, strength and love are put to the test when Hana’s father dies and Laura, her childhood friend, comes to stay with her two young daughters.

Recommended by Janet Drake
Supreme Conflict: The inside story of the struggle for control in the US Supreme Court by Jan Crawford Greenburg (347.7326 Greenburg)
The author combines compelling storytelling with penetrating analysis of the political efforts to move the Supreme Judicial Court in a new direction. Greenburg describes the differences that exist and continue to cause strain between the Justices as they struggle through difficult legal questions, some of which have no clear answers.

Cape Wind: Money, celebrity, class, politics, and the battle for our energy future on Nantucket Sound by Wendy Williams & Robert Whitcomb (332.92 Williams)
The story behind the contradictions that exist in the opposition of an alternative energy project by those who support clean energy but whose property values and personal landscape are threatened by the Cape Wind project.

Recommended by Harriet Weiner, Main Library Circulation Department
Miracle Myx by Dave Diotalevi. Fiction.
This multilayered mystery keeps you fixated on every word as you try to keep up with the author's intricate plot. The main character, Myx Amens, is a fourteen-year-old boy with synesthesia, a brain trait that mingles the senses to such an extent that it enhances the memory to photographic quality. His condition causes him to grip each thought and sequence of events in a way that compels the reader to do the same. This unusual boy who roams freely through other people's lives is let loose in a small town with dark secrets to be discovered. The novel is the first by local author Dave Diotalevi.

Recommended by Jane Peck, Branch Librarian
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Fiction.
If you are looking for a modern gothic tale try The Thirteenth Tale this summer. The story follows a young woman wrapped in sadness and books as she researches the life and famous lost story of an author. There is drama, love, strange goings-on and mistaken identity. One woman loses all she has and another finds all that she lost. Great in print and absolutely superb as a book on CD.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Fiction.
Or try a Southern tale, set deep in the Mississippi delta in 1946, on a farm quickly mud-bound by nature and by the small-minded, mean-natured people inhabiting the land. The story is told in shifting narrative voices and follows the lives of numerous characters including a young mother and her two little girls learning to live off the land, two veterans (one white and one black) trying to re-assimilate after their harrowing experiences in Europe, and a number of other interesting characters trying to survive a challenging environment and a changing world.

Recommended by Rebecca Berkowitz, Main Library Reference Librarian
The Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang. B Yang, K. Yang.
Yang, who was born in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand, tells the story of her family and thousands of other Hmong who supported the United States in Laos during the Vietnam War. After the war this ethnic group without a homeland was forced to flee local reprisals. From primitive refugee camps in Thailand the American government eventually resettled their former allies in the United States. In many ways these disenfranchised people then followed the classic immigration experience, but they were also unique. They came from a non-Western rainforest culture about which most Americans knew nothing. Hmong religion, medicine, and folklore are famously ill suited to American life and yet they persisted. A beautifully written, unforgettable journey.

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson. Fiction.
The author of the beloved Crow Lake returns us to a small town in Northern Canada and a tale as old as time: two brothers in a family where each parent has a favorite son, the younger can think circles around the older, and both brothers are in love with the same girl. The story is rich in context and social history, as the community weathers the Depression, World War II and the betrayal of those ill suited to this isolated community. Those who remain do so for their own unique reasons.

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. 306.85 LeBlanc.
LeBlanc spent ten years following a large extended Latino family living in the South Bronx. The resulting book is a rare look at the world through the eyes of her subjects. The author scrupulously removes herself from the narrative, allowing her characters lives to unfold without comment or characterization. The reader comes to understand the struggle required to survive the unrelenting grind of living in deep urban poverty. Obviously the issues defy easy answers, but this work goes a long way towards explaining the problem.

Recommended by Mary Murphy, Main Library Circulation Staff
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Fiction.
I have grown to love reading first novels, and this is no exception. Mudbound is a novel set in 1946 in the cotton fields of Mississippi, a reminder of the struggles and the racial conflicts of this time in the Delta. The story is told by the six characters whose lives revolve around Laura, a college-educated woman who has grown up in the city. When Laura marries Henry, she is displaced to Mississippi, where she lives in a shack with no indoor plumbing, along with her husband's father, Pappy, a man with no redeeming qualities. Other characters include the black sharecroppers on the farm; their son, Ronsel, a returning soldier from Germany; and Henry's brother, Jamie, also a returning veteran. I don't want to give this beautifully crafted story away but I urge you to read it; I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. The author, Hillary Jordan, was awarded the Bellwether Prize for Fiction for this novel.

Recommended by Judith Rosenbaum, McAuliffe Library Circulation Staff
Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Fiction.
First published in 1948, Paton's loving tribute to his homeland is a story of two families trying to overcome hardship and sorrow, mirrored by the struggle of Africa under white rule. Stephen Kumalo, an aging country pastor, travels to Johannesburg to find his son Absalom. He arrives to find that Absalom has been arrested for the senseless murder of Arthur Jarvis, a white man who had devoted his life to helping black people. Arthur's heartbroken father, James, comes to Johannesburg to settle his son's affairs and finds his son's writings about the state of race relations in South Africa. The elder Jarvis is so deeply moved by his son's love of his country and concern for its people that he returns to his home a changed man.

As a loving tribute to his son, Jarvis, a wealthy farmer, decides to revive Kumalo's village and improve the land, so that the young people will be more likely to remain at home and not fall victim to the ways of the city.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. Fiction.
Through the journals of May Dodd, we learn of the "Brides for Indians" program, brought about through a secret treaty between the US government and Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne. In return for 1,000 horses, the US government would give the Cheyenne 1,000 brides to bear children who would eventually become assimilated into white culture. The brides-women from jails, debtors' prisons, and mental institutions-are offered full pardons or unconditional release for their participation in the program. May Dodd, child of a wealthy Chicago family, has been committed to a lunatic asylum by her father as punishment for marrying one of her father's employees. Jim Fergus, with great insight, imbues May with the gift of beautiful prose, humor and the will to succeed as she embarks on this great adventure, her last chance to live as a free woman.

Recommended by Lucy Loveridge, Main Library Children's Librarian
If you like your whiskey and your genres straight up, this column's not for you. But if you enjoy an occasional cocktail or story with a twist, these two tales of tough guy troubleshooters in trouble will be right up your alley.

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green. Science Fiction.
Edwin Drood, aka Shaman Bond, is the black sheep of a powerful and mysterious family that's been offering protection to humans for centuries. Protection from what? From the things that go bump in the night, the hidden world of demons, elves, fairies, werewolves and other malevolent magical creatures that exist side by side with and interact with normal humans if you know how to see them. In a clever and more adult mix of Harry Potter and James Bond, Eddie gets betrayed in true noir style and has to clear his name, find the true villains, and unravel their huge conspiracy before he's killed by the rest of his family and all his old enemies.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. Science Fiction.
Life is complicated and it only gets more so when consciousness is located in a little block of altered carbon at the back of your skull, and it can be transferred into any physical "sleeve" at any time or stored digitally for centuries. Takeshi Kovacs, former Harlan's World gang member, army grunt and Envoy for the UN Special Forces has drifted back into semi-legal activities. When one of his ventures goes wrong, he comes back from death on Earth, contracted out to solve a rich man's suicide while wearing the body of a corrupt policeman. Despite his cynicism and world-weary air, when it gets personal Kovacs shows his sentimental side and follows his personal code of ethics to bring down the truly corrupt and evil. A fine mix of Bladerunner and Chinatown.

Recommended by Mary Wasmuth, Collection Development Librarian
Home away from home: Weird and occasionally wonderful relationships among characters who hang out in places that are no one's home.

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan. Fiction.
It's December 20, a blizzard is forecast, and Manny DeLeon must find a way to shepherd through its final day the terminated New Britain, Connecticut, Red Lobster he's managed for years. Amidst accumulating snow and a bizarre assortment of customers, and with a staff riddled with hostility, alliances, love, and crime, Manny struggles fruitlessly to retain his dignity and to keep the Lobster open. Contained within these 146 pages is a portrait of an intense, richly populated world, which features, at its center, Mannyardent, bumbling, idealistic, flawed: a hero for our time.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. Fiction.
The shallow, feckless young denizens of a Chicago ad agency narrate this acclaimed first novel set during the Internet bust. As the book proceeds, individuals-amusing, back biting, lunatic, eternally gossipy-emerge from the crowd of "we's" to squabble over status, obsess about stolen chairs, fire off ill-considered emails. Just as you might be tiring of these folks, you encounter a section told in conventional third person, and the novel's perspective darkens and deepens, until-who knowsyou may even glimpse a hero, somewhere at the edge of your peripheral vision.

Later, At the Bar by Rebecca Barry. Fiction.
There's not a trace of a hero in Later, At the Bar, a collection of linked, beautifully wrought stories that illuminate the (mostly) sad lives and (mostly) fleeting loves of the hard-drinking, much-married, occasionally jailed romantics who hang out at Lucy's Tavern, in an upstate New York town so bleak it lacks even the requisite shut-down factory. If I tell you these stories are nevertheless bracing and engaging and funny, you likely won't believe mebut just open this brief book anywhere and try out a sentence or two. You won't look back.

Recommended by Sherry Baker, Assistant Branch Librarian
Some biographical and autobiographical selections from the new Non-Fiction Quick Pick display at McAuliffe Branch:

Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers by Elizabeth Edwards (B Edwards)
Whatever your politics, you'll be charmed by this inspiring memoir by the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards. Through campaigning, breast cancer, and the loss of a child, she is sustained by the support of the people around her.

River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (B Roosevelt)
Following his defeat in the 1912 presidential election, Theodore Roosevelt challenged himself with an adventurous, physically punishing journey through an unmapped tributary of the Amazon with his son and a Brazilian explorer. In this fascinating account he endures whitewater rapids, Indian attacks, disease, starvation, and near-death. 

Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion, and Romance by William S. Cohen with Janet Langhart Cohen (B Cohen)
This is the inspiring story of the unlikely union of a white man who served as Republican Senator from Maine and Secretary of Defense under President Clinton, and an African American model and television personality, who appeared on Boston television in the 1970s. 








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