Don't forget to check out our staff picks for kids!
November 16, 2015
A Man Called Ove
by Backman, Fredrik, Read by George Newbern
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Written by Swedish blogger Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove (pronounced Oovah), compels the reader to reconsider the superficial impressions and rigid beliefs that keep neighbors and families apart. Ove is a traditional man who adheres to strict principles and routines. He doesn't think highly of those who don't follow the neighborhood rules, fend for themselves, or drive any other vehicle besides a Saab. Greatly influenced by the frugal and prudent ways of his honorable father, Ove was orphaned and left school to work at the age of 16. Now 59, he comes across as an older, overreactive scold. Yet Ove is grief-stricken over recent major losses in his life and seeks to be left alone. The story of his difficult past and great love unfolds between episodes of unrelenting intrusions (often hilarious) into his current life, particularly by his hapless new neighbors and a stray, straggly cat. Narrator George Newbern effectively portrays Ove's outrage and grief, as well as his wry observations and episodes of reluctant heroism and neighborly assistance. Also notable is Newbern's characterization of Parvaneh, the Iranian-born pregnant wife next door who sees past Ove's prickly demeanor.
--Recommended by Renee Pobuda, Irvington Library
November 9, 2015
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
by Sides, Hampton
As the subtitle suggests, this book is about an Arctic sea voyage gone awry. In the Kingdom of Ice narrates the true tale of the USS Jeannette and her doomed expedition to the North Pole. During the latter half of the 19th century there was worldwide interest in reaching the 83rd parallel and beyond…to explore and map out the so-called Open Polar Sea. Enter New York Herald editor James Gordon Bennett, Jr., who footed an enormous bill that allowed the Jeannette to set sail for the North Pole . . . as a newly-registered US Navy ship, no longer a mere civilian yacht. Captain George Washington De Long assumed command of the reappointed vessel, and the explorers set sail from San Francisco amid great fanfare on July 8, 1879. But De Long and his 32 men (and 40 sled dogs) were beset by harsh weather conditions almost from the outset. Upon freezing to an enormous ice slab, the ship floated for almost two years, adrift at the mercy of the floe’s caprice. At last the Jeannette broke free of her frozen shackle . . . only to sink in the brutal Arctic waters. And this was only the beginning of the crew’s desperate fight for survival, nearly a thousand misery-filled miles from even the northernmost fringes of Siberia.
--Recommended by Angie Lewis, Wayne Library
November 2, 2015
The Mysterious Mr. Quin: Twelve Complete Mysteries
by Christie, Agatha
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When I was much younger, Agatha Christie was my favorite British mystery author, and Miss Marple was my favorite of her two best-known sleuths. But one of her books which I have read multiple times over the years features neither Miss Marple nor Hercule Poirot.
Recently, I listened to this one, The Mysterious Mr. Quin, on Cd. That the narrator was Hugh Fraser, the actor who played Captain Hastings to David Suchet’s Hercule Poirot, added greatly to my pleasure in the “reading.” Fraser’s voice and accent are perfect for Christie’s prose.
This book is not a novel but a collection of twelve stories, many published in the 1920s and 1930s in British and American magazines. The main character is fussy little Mr. Satterthwaite, who at the age of 62, is described as bent and elfish. He says of himself that he has always been an observer of life’s dramas rather than a participant, but after he meets Mr. Harley Quin one dark and stormy night, some life-changing things begin to happen to those around him. Long-held misunderstandings are clarified, those falsely accused of crimes are exonerated, and relationships and even lives are saved.
Under the influence of his shadowy “friend”, a man who “comes and goes” and can be found in places like the Bells and Motley pub, Mr. Satterthwaite becomes an actor in these dramas, but he knows that it is Mr. Quin who is the catalyst. He describes him as someone who knows everything and as a puppet master who stages the dramas.
--Recommended by Georgia Silvers, Warren Library
October 26, 2015
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth
by Castor, Helen
You might be under the impression that prior to the modern era women were totally powerless and spent their lives being victimized. If so, you would be mistaken. “She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth” offers an account of five royal women who not only demonstrated that women can rule effectively, they can exercise power even when they face greater odds than their male counterparts. This nonfiction book written by Helen Castor, a historian of medieval England and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, is as fascinating as it is detailed and well-documented. The book explores the lives of Empress Maud/Matilda; her daughter-in-law Eleanor of Aquitaine; Isabella of France; Margaret of Anjou—the wives of Edward II and Henry VI respectively and both descended from Matilda and Eleanor. The book culminates in Elizabeth I, who at last was both queen and king in one. Every one of these queens overcame staggering odds against her to survive and successfully to exercise the right to rule.
Born to royalty but not to power, all of these ladies shrewdly utilized whatever means were available to them to protect their lives, their rights, their property—and in the case of the first four women, their offspring. The book begins by introducing us to the reign of Elizabeth I and also ends with her, the ruler of England who at last was both queen and king in one—although unlike her predecessors or a male ruler, she had to forgo marriage and children in order to attain that power. Elizabeth also lived during the Renaissance, while these previous queens lived during the medieval period, the time of warrior kings. The author intriguingly suggests that this may have been a factor in the development of the idea that a woman was incapable of ruling in her own right. Medieval women were not normally trained in the arts of battle and war; noble women were expected to provide heirs, not be a soldier. This book is as spellbinding as the fictional “Game of Thrones,” and being historical fact, far more instructive.
She-Wolves is also available as a downloadable e-book.
--Recommended by Patricia Fogleman, Southport Library
October 12, 2015
Preparation for the Next Life
by Lish, Atticus
If you are looking for a captivating novel beyond the tidy suburban tale where characters are immersed in white privilege, Preparation for the Next Life is a chance to safely enter the dark American underworld of the invisible ones. This novel is a compassionate love story which involves two social outcasts living in New York City--a Uighur Chinese illegal alien named Zou Lai and Skinner, a suffering Iraqi war veteran. It exposes the forbidden, tough world of illegal immigration, human trafficking and undocumented labor. Without apology or solution, Atticus Lish presents the problems encountered by the couple concerning basic human needs of lodging, food, wages, and pain management. This novel sharpens the readers view of contemporary struggles of so many members of our culture, softening our hearts by exposing the most necessary of social issues: human companionship. The couple's relationship initially blossoms in admiration of each other's military backgrounds and their mutual love of rigorous outdoor physical fitness regimes.
Atticus Lish took five years to write this debut novel (in longhand!) which brings us up close to unseen masses who hold our culture together, reducing the barriers between 'us' and 'them'.
Recommended by Sharon McKittrick, Lawrence Library