Staff Picks

Don't forget to check out our staff picks for kids!

March 31, 2014

The Days of Abandonment

The Days of Abandonment
by Ferrante, Elena

Elena Ferrante is a very private, illusive writer--one of Italy's finest. One of her finest novels is The Days of Abandonment which was translated into English by Ann Goldstein. Some say that Elena Ferrante is a pen name for Domenico Starnone, a male novelist. No matter the gender of the writer--in this novel the translator fluidly transports the reader into a realm of a woman's mind....the mind of Olga. Olga tells about her deep emotional responses and experiences during the days following abandonment by her husband. Olga has two children and and a dog to care for in a small Italian village while she tries to find her footing following the initial shock. It is a visceral description of the initial several days with her discomfort at times unbearable, at times comical.

"The hardest day of the ordeal of my abandonment was about to begin, but I didn't know it yet." Hint: insecticide poisoning, child with burning fever, day spent in nightgown, August heat, lock on door not working properly.....think "The Metamorphosis" by Kafka! Don't let the impending anxiety overwhelm you --you, too, at times have felt the uncomfortable heat of these human emotions. Elena Ferrante gently guides us through the stages of the abyss, she (he?) explores how to consciously cope with an ordeal. The story has a solid, stable conclusion. Olga and her children survive. She has changed, having a more realistic world view of love and parenting, and much stronger having faced the abandonment.

                                          Recommended by Sharon McKittrick, Lawrence Library


March 24, 2014

A Flowershop in Baghdad

A Flowershop in Baghdad
by Banzet, Michael
956.704434 BAN

This book is the story of the greatest force for good the world has ever known: the extraordinary, ordinary men and women of the United States military.

U.S. Air Force pilot Michael Banzet tells the funny, tragic, deeply moving story of the year he was grounded in Baghdad working with British and Iraqi forces to build a modern Iraqi air force. Banzet gives eloquent, irreverent voice to one of the “invisible stories” – those never investigated or reported by the media because they are true, because they are profoundly inspiring, and because they undermine the narrative of the “ugly American” so in vogue with the sophisticated set.

In 2007 – 2008, two very different cultures were working together, learning from each other, and quite literally risking their lives to build the foundation for a modern Iraq: dedicated, desperately courageous, ordinary Iraqis, Brits, and Americans – unsung heroes all. It turned out to be the most important year of Banzet’s professional life: “I’ve never seen the might and thunder, along with the tenderness and patience, of a military organization focused on a people before. And I got to see it from their perspective. I was truly blessed to be among those that have been at the epicenter of history in the making.”

Banzet continues “… the ones who have chosen this type of service are the best this society has to offer. They may not be the smartest, best looking, richest, or best connected, but you’d be surprised by the silent quality of these people … The lowest-ranking deployed E-1 has a greater impact than all the ambassadors at all the swell parties with all the swell people.”

“This book was written to share with you how I came to the startling conclusion that I am indeed a superhero … The truly amazing thing about me is that, as a product of this amazing country, I am completely ordinary. However, once I leave the borders of these United States, I start to grow in power and influence until I become someone who can do anything …”

Which he did. Which our servicemen and women do every day. This book will make you proud to be an American.

                                     Recommended by Deborah Jones, Franklin Road Library


March 17, 2014

Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time

Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time
by Miller, Adrian
641.59296073 MIL

Have you ever wondered “What is soul food?” Adrian Miller, a culinary historian, takes readers along with him as he researches the history of soul food. Miller “follows the people” by looking at the migration patterns of Africans and the types of food that were eaten after they became acclimated to North America. Miller investigates why at one time soul food brought families together once a week but is now getting a bad rap as a negative representation of artery clogging, high blood pressure food. He also looks at the socio-economic reasons why certain soul food exists. Each soul food dish has a chapter that tells the story of how its’ existence came into being. With chapters on chicken, catfish, cornbread, hot sauce, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and yams this book will reach into your soul with its’ mouthwatering history. 22 soul food recipes are included for your cooking pleasure. Bon appetite!

                     --Recommended by Kim Jones, Central Library


March 10, 2014

The Illumination

The Illumination
by Brockmeier, Kevin

What if pain and injury were expressed as light? What if you could walk down any street and see the illumination of scars and disease? That is the premise of this fascinating book. It starts at 8:17 on a Friday. Carol Page has an accident and ends up at the emergency room. After her hand becomes infected, she returns to the hospital and her injury begins to glow.

While Carol is in the hospital, she comes into contact with a journal written by a husband to his deceased wife who dies in a fatal accident and her light burns out. From there, the journal passes through the hands of unsuspecting patients and changes their lives forever.

You could hardly step out in public without noticing the white blaze of someone’s impacted heel showing through her slingbacks; and over there, hailing a taxi, a woman with shimmering pressure marks where her pants cut into her gut; and behind her, beneath the awning of the flower shop, a man lit all over in a glory of leukemia.

This is a book you will enjoy!

                         --Recommended by Gregory Hill, Decatur Library


March 3, 2014

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
by Semple, Maria

The first thing I do when I finish a book that I really liked is check to see who bought the movie rights. With Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, I was sorely disappointed to discover it wasn’t Wes Anderson. The movie would need someone who can match the author’s ability to get you emotionally invested in a story that manages to take itself seriously, in spite of the fantastical absurdity of its plot and the suspension of disbelief required to relate to characters whose genius and neurosis are both larger than life. This is at once a heartwarming mother-daughter story, and a cutting satire of Seattle’s One-Percenters: the earth-conscious Subaru-driving helicopter parents who send their children to private Montessori schools with the kind of money that only a top-ranking Microsoft visionary and world-renowned pop-architect could bring in.

The book is rich with the self-aware comedy of suburbia taken to its extreme, exemplified by two wealthy and culturally ignorant mothers fighting a vicious proxy-war over each other’s lawns through a hapless landscaper, a remote virtual administrative assistant from India, and a volley of passive-aggressive letters to the PTA. There’s also a hearty helping of tech-industry humor, as the book exposes the secret life of TED Talk socialites, and the high intrigue involved in choosing the right seat at the lecture.

The story is told through a collection of documents put together by Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, as she scrambles to track down her eccentric agoraphobic mother who has mysteriously disappeared. They range from cheeky school news bulletins, e-mails from Bernadette to her remote assistant (and impromptu therapist) Manjula, back-and-forth letters from the local henhouse of “concerned mothers”, and as the story starts to really pick up, police investigation reports and Antarctic ship captain’s logs. This allows for the narrative to bounce through perspectives at a manically hilarious pace.

The satire angle starts to get thinner towards the last quarter of the book, but hopefully by then, you’ll be too curious about Bernadette’s fate to do anything but rip through the rest of the story with desperate hope that things will turn out all right for her and Bee. It’s hard not to spoil the ending, because I’m the kind of person who bails out of a book when I sense it’s going to leave me in pieces at the tragic end. All I can say is that the journey was worth it.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is also available as a downloadable audiobook, an audiobook on CD, a downloadable e-book, and in large print

— Recommended by Daniel Perez, East 38th Street Library