Staff Picks

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

October 26, 2015

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth
by Castor, Helen
923.1 CAS

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

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


October 5, 2015

The Death of Superman

The Death of Superman
by Jurgens, Dan and Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson & Roger Stern

At Haughville Branch, we just recently had literary classics on display. This got me thinking about classics in other areas – for example, some of the classic graphic novels.

The Death of Superman was a great graphic novel. The story is the titanic battle between Superman and one of his most powerful foes: Doomsday. This compilation of several comics depicts the unleashing of Doomsday, his battle with the Justice League, and his encounter with the Man of Steel. The action does not stop.

If you like the graphic novel, the novel – The Death and Life of Superman – is also good.

         --Recommended by Keith Dinnage, Haughville Library


September 28, 2015

Every Day I Fight

Every Day I Fight
by Scott, Stuart
B Scott, Stuart SCO

Every Day I Fight is a resounding biography regarding the Sports Center Anchor Stuart Scott. Scott was initially diagnosed with cancer in 2007 while undergoing an appendectomy and learned that his appendix was cancerous. After going into remission for several years, he was again diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and 2013. The book is an emotional journey through his life with cancer, which took his life a few months before publication. Scott talks about growing up in North Carolina, his early years at ESPN and his battle to fight cancer. Personal setbacks aside, Scott went on to become one of the favorite voices of ESPN with catchphrases such as "Call him butter, 'cause he's on a roll!" "He's as cool as the other side of the pillow!" And so on. Every Day I Fight is a quick read and I highly recommend it.

         — Recommended by Gregory Hill, previously Manager of the Decatur Library, now Manager of the Lawrence Library


September 21, 2015

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir
by Yang, Kao Kalia
B Yang, K.K. YAN

What is Hmong?
Where is your country?
What are you doing here, in America? Are you ever going home again?

These were questions that were asked of the author, Kao Kalia Yang, since she came to the United States when she was six. Have you in your mind at least the curiosity about this people?

This book uniquely tells the story of Hmong people through the journey of the author’s family from escaping genocide in the Lao’s jungle to refugee camp in Thailand to coming to United States and their survivorship in a whole new set of hardships in this new country.

The story comes alive through different angles approached from the author’s experience to her mother’s to her paternal grandmother’s. It is a moving account of a family, a people, their resiliency and triumph. The interwoven Hmong folk tales and customs told through grandma’s story added texture to the Hmong culture.

It also reveals some facts about the Vietnam War unknown to many people, for example, the so-called “Secret War” where CIA recruited the Hmong to fight the communists and attack North Vietnamese supply lines. One third of Hmong men died during the war, another third were killed in the aftermath by the Lao Communist government in collaboration with the Vietnam People's Army during the ensuing Hmong insurgency.

This book gives a new understanding of the Hmong people at the least. It could also provoke thoughts and discussions on wars, politics, ethnic identity, survivorship and pertinent subjects. Reading groups might also find this a good candidate for discussions.

The Latehomecomer is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and an audiobook on CD.

          --Recommended by Sailan Liang, Glendale Library