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Staff Picks

October 2020

Sara C. recommends:

Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch

She paints a wonderful picture. An interesting story about a Native American's struggle. From amazon.com:

When Lissa Yellow Bird was released from prison in 2009, she found her home, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, transformed by the Bakken oil boom. In her absence, the landscape had been altered beyond recognition, her tribal government swayed by corporate interests, and her community burdened by a surge in violence and addiction. Three years later, when Lissa learned that a young white oil worker, Kristopher “KC” Clarke, had disappeared from his reservation worksite, she became particularly concerned. No one knew where Clarke had gone, and few people were actively looking for him.

Yellow Bird traces Lissa’s steps as she obsessively hunts for clues to Clarke’s disappearance. She navigates two worlds—that of her own tribe, changed by its newfound wealth, and that of the non-Native oilmen, down on their luck, who have come to find work on the heels of the economic recession. Her pursuit of Clarke is also a pursuit of redemption, as Lissa atones for her own crimes and reckons with generations of trauma. Yellow Bird is an exquisitely written, masterfully reported story about a search for justice and a remarkable portrait of a complex woman who is smart, funny, eloquent, compassionate, and—when it serves her cause—manipulative. Drawing on eight years of immersive investigation, Sierra Crane Murdoch has produced a profound examination of the legacy of systematic violence inflicted on a tribal nation and a tale of extraordinary healing.

True crime

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Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

For more than thirty years, Claude Ballard has been living at the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. A French pioneer of silent films who started out as a concession agent for the Lumière brothers, the inventors of cinema, Claude now spends his days foraging for mushrooms in the hills of Los Angeles and taking photographs of runaways and the striplings along Sunset Boulevard. But when a film history student comes to interview Claude about The Electric Hotel―the lost masterpiece that bankrupted him and ended the career of his muse, Sabine Montrose―the past comes surging back. In his run-down hotel suite, the ravages of the past are waiting to be excavated: celluloid fragments in desperate need of restoration, as well as Claude’s memories of the woman who inspired and beguiled him.

Historical fiction

 

Keara B. recommends:

The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I really liked how interactive it was, and also that it is described as a Space Opera. I want to point out that even though the books look HUGE, there are a lot of pictures in the books, so really they are not that intimidating of a read. From goodreads.com:

Illuminae: The year is 2575 and two mega-corporations are at war over a planet that's little more than an ice covered speck. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them Ezra and Kady have to make their escape on the evacuating fleet. But their troubles are just beginning. A deadly plague has broken out on one of the space ships and it is mutating with terrifying results. Their ships protection is seriously flawed. No one will say what is going on.

Gemina: Hanna Donnelly is the station captain's pampered daughter and Nik Malikov is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. Together they struggle with the realities of life aboard the galaxy's most boring space station, blissfully unaware that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall with news of the Kerenza invasion. Picking up about five minutes after Illuminae ends, Gemina is the electrifying sequel to the hottest YA novel of 2015.

Obsidio: Asha Grant came to Kerenza to escape her past. Too bad he just caught up with her. Asha survived BeiTech's initial assault and has been working undercover with the hopelessly outmatched resistance ever since. The last thing she expected to worry about was her ex-boyfriend, Rhys Lindstrom who just landed planetside. Is he her way out - or guarantee she never gets off this frozen rock alive?

Young adult science fiction

 

Cassie S. recommends:

Normal People by Sally Rooney

From amazon.com: Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation—awkward but electrifying—something life changing begins.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Fiction

 

Hannah B. recommends:

In the Heights (2008-2010 Broadway musical and 2021 film)

Before Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived and wrote the music for In the Heights. The musical ran on Broadway from 2008 till 2010 and won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

From barnesandnoble.com : In the Heights is the quintessential New York musical, about a vibrant and tight-knit community at the top of the island of Manhattan. The Latin, Salsa and Hip-Hop-infused music pulses with the hopes and dreams of three generations as they struggle to forge an identity in a neighborhood on the brink of transition. 

Musical

 

Stacy C. recommends:

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

From amazon.com: “I believe we can change the world. But first, we’ve got to stop living in fear of being judged for who we are.”

Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough.

In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people—whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee—instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.

Self-improvement

 

Amanda S. recommends:

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

From goodreads.com: 1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck - in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert's past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.

Fiction

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Sababa: Fresh, sunny flavors from my Israeli kitchen by Adeena Sussman

From goodreads.com: In Hebrew (derived from the original Arabic), sababa means "everything is awesome," and it's this sunny spirit with which the American food writer and expat Adeena Sussman cooks and dreams up meals in her Tel Aviv kitchen. Every morning, Sussman makes her way through the bustling stalls of Shuk Hacarmel, her local market, which sells irresistibly fresh ingredients and tempting snacks--juicy ripe figs and cherries, locally made halvah, addictive street food, and delectable cheeses and olives. In Sababa, Sussman presents 125 recipes for dishes inspired by this culinary wonderland and by the wide-varying influences surrounding her in Israel.

Americans have begun to instinctively crave the spicy, bright flavors of Israeli cuisine, and in this timely cookbook, Sussman shows readers how to use border-crossing kitchen staples-- tahini, sumac, silan (date syrup), harissa, za'atar---to delicious effect, while also introducing more exotic spices and ingredients. From Freekeh and Roasted Grape Salad and Crudo with Cherries and Squeezed Tomatoes, to Schug Marinated Lamb Chops and Tahini Caramel Tart, Sussman's recipes make a riot of fresh tastes accessible and effortless for the home cook. Filled with transporting storytelling, Sababa is the ultimate, everyday guide to the Israeli kitchen. 

Cookbook

 

Meagan L. recommends:

The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan

From amazon.com: Cassidy Holmes isn't just a celebrity.

She is “Sassy Gloss,” the fourth member of the hottest pop group America has ever seen. Hotter than Britney dancing with a snake, hotter than Christina getting dirrty, Gloss was the pop act that everyone idolized. Fans couldn't get enough of them, their music, and the drama that followed them like moths to a flame—until the group’s sudden implosion in 2002. And at the center of it all was Sassy Cassy, the Texan with a signature smirk that had everyone falling for her. 

But now she's dead. Suicide.

The world is reeling from this unexpected news, but no one is more shocked than the three remaining Glossies. Fifteen years ago, Rose, Merry, and Yumi had been the closest to Cassidy, and this loss is hitting them hard. Before the group split, they each had a special bond with Cassidy—truths they told, secrets they shared. But after years apart, each of them is wondering: what could they have done?

Told in multiple perspectives—including Cassidy herself—and different timelines, this is a behind-the-scenes look into the rise and fall of a pop icon, and a penetrating examination of the dark side of celebrity and the industry that profits from it. 

Fiction

 

Betsey M. recommends:

Pulp Fiction (1994 film)

From rottentomatoes.com: One of the most influential films of the 1990s, Pulp Fiction is a delirious post-modern mix of neo-noir thrills, pitch-black humor, and pop-culture touchstones.

Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) are hitmen with a penchant for philosophical discussions. In this ultra-hip, multi-strand crime movie, their storyline is interwoven with those of their boss, gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames); his actress wife, Mia (Uma Thurman); struggling boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis); master fixer Winston Wolfe (Harvey Keitel) and a nervous pair of armed robbers, "Pumpkin" (Tim Roth) and "Honey Bunny" (Amanda Plummer).

Drama

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

From amazon.com: Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations―a search for the truth that threatens to consume him...

Thriller

 

Colleen W. recommends:

This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack

From goodreads.com: BuzzFeed senior writer Erin Chack provides a collection of personal essays for the Snapchat generation.

Erin recounts everything from meeting her soulmate at age 14 to her first chemotherapy session at age 19 to what really goes on behind the scenes at a major Internet media company. She authentically captures the agony and the ecstasy of the millennial experience, whether it's her first kiss ("Sean's tongue! In my mouth! Slippery and wet like a slug in the rain.") or her struggles with anxiety ("When people throw caution to the wind, I am stuck imagining the poor soul who has to break his back sweeping caution into a dustpan").

Yet Erin also offers a fresh perspective on universal themes of resilience and love as she writes about surviving cancer, including learning of her mother's own cancer diagnosis within the same year, and her attempts to hide the diagnosis from friends to avoid "un-normaling" everything.

Essays

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

From goodreads.com: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

Science fiction

 

Sandra K. recommends:

Elm & North by Ben Kostival

The only novel I’ve come across where someone is suffering from FOP, an incredibly rare genetic disease where the body replaces injured soft tissue with bone. A surprisingly funny read! From goodreads.com:

Elm and North explores the life of Morris Proot, a school bus driver who is slowly turning to bone. With his girlfriend gone and his best friend dead, Proot sinks into isolation after a fight on his school bus forces him into a mind-numbing job as a crossing guard. Seeking comfort, he reaches out to an enigmatic University of Pennsylvania genetics professor, the foremost researcher of his disease. But when Proot's attempts at communication go unanswered, he downspirals into frustration and wretchedness. In an act of final despair, he travels to Philadelphia for a face-to-face confrontation with the one man he feels owes him answers, solace, and maybe even a little hope. The story of a lonely man's battle against a horrific disease, Elm and North is of course a comedy.

The disease at the heart of Elm and North--fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP)--results from a rare genetic mutation that causes the body to replace injured soft tissue with bone. As time and excess bone accumulate, victims of FOP can transform into living statues, rigid to the point of complete immobility yet with fully functioning minds. Robbed of his ability to speak coherently, the only authentic voice left to Proot is a written one. Elm and North transpires before smartphones and tablet computers existed. Consequently, in face-to-face interactions, Proot must communicate by scribbling short notes on a portable whiteboard. Only at home, seated before his typewriter, can he "speak" at length and in depth, revealing his character along the way. His predicament mines a rich vein of irony. Morris Proot: inwardly so fluent, outwardly all but voiceless.

Fiction