Note: The Oshtemo Branch Library is CLOSED Monday due to a power outage. We expect to open at our normal time Tuesday.

RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Books

These Girls Pack a Punch!

 Do you need more dinosaurs, time travelers, and girl power in your life? If so, I have two fantastic graphic novels for you.  First up, is Paper Girls, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, the writer named by Wired Magazine as " the greatest comic book visionary of the last five years." This suspenseful mystery starts with a slow burn as four paper delivery girls head out to cover their route the morning after Halloween in 1988.  After the girls accidentally set off a strange machine, the story kicks off at break-neck speed, and soon the girls are facing off against dinosaurs, laser-blasting knights, and sub-human creatures that might just be from the future. It’s intense, fast-paced, wicked fun, and the series is only just beginning. 

 

Also, make sure to check out the Lumberjanes series by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson. Lumberjanes follows five “hardcore lady types” spending the summer at a crazy camp surrounded by bizarre supernatural mysteries. The girls fight werewolves, solve riddles, and avoid the ever-watchful eye of their group counselor in this manic, off-beat, fantastic read. This series has been out for a while, but you can catch up on Hoopla digital.

Both of these series are a great mash-up of sci-fi, fantasy, action, and mystery with fabulous artwork. So what are you waiting for? 


The Summer Before the War

My book group’s choice for April is The Summer Before the War, the new book from Helen Simonson, author of the popular Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Although we haven’t yet met to discuss it, I’m confident my reading friends will have enjoyed it and we’ll have a good conversation.

The story is set in a small town in England just before World War I. It begins with the arrival of a new teacher – Beatrice Nash – younger and prettier than expected. The war first touches the town when some Belgian refugees arrive, then as the town’s young men go off to war with a sense of adventure.

This novel evolves – it begins as a pleasant small town, with the English class snobbery, and becomes an account of war and its aftermath. Some of the reviewers call it a “novel to cure your Downton Abbey withdrawal.”


National Book Critics Circle Award Winners 2015

Last month the National Book Critics Circle Award winners for 2015 were announced. "The NBCC annually bestows its awards in six categories, honoring the best books published in the past year in the United States."

Here are the 2015 winners in each category:

Poetry
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

Criticism
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Autobiography
Negroland by Margo Jefferson

Biography
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

Nonfiction
Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

Fiction
The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The John Leonard Prize
Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade

The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing
Carlos Lozada

The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
Wendell Berry

You can see a recording of the ceremony here.


Learn How to Fold All That Joy

Marie Kondo started a throw-everything-away organizing trend with her bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a book that advocates for getting rid of anything in your home that doesn’t spark joy. Some people seem to think her method, called KonMari, is extreme or even a little saccharine, but I think it makes perfect sense: who wouldn’t want their home to be filled with things they love and devoid of things that annoy them? That’s why I’m reading her follow-up book, aptly titled Spark Joy. Spark Joy goes into more detail regarding the storing of items; how to fold clothes, display beloved items, and organize other accoutrements. It also addresses a number of questions Marie Kondo has received since publishing her first book, such as getting through the untidy stages of tidying and keeping things that don’t spark joy but are necessary (she gives a screwdriver as an example). I recommend starting with the first book, but if you need more information or inspiration than that, or you just like cute illustrations, I definitely recommend following up with Spark Joy.


The Walking Dead Comics on Hoopla

I have a history of being a latecomer to particular pop culture moments. Though I tend to love low and high brow culture fairly equally, I have snobbish moments and tend to assume if millions of people like something I probably won't. The best example of this is Harry Potter. I was about 13 years old when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published and I had absolutely no interest in joining that craze. I was in Moscow when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published ten years later, and refused to even tag along with friends for the midnight release at an English-language bookstore. But after I started library school I decided I should probably see what all the fuss was about. And of course I loved the books.

That is all to say I am fully aware The Walking Dead is presently one of the most popular series on television, you are probably watching the current season, and you may have already devised ways to cope with waiting a week to see a new episode (or even waiting months between seasons!). I know, I am really late to this party. Since I binge-watched nearly 80 episodes in less than one month, and only four episodes remain of the current season, I'm looking for ways to feed my obsession between new episodes/seasons.

It appears Hoopla, a library service perhaps best known for streaming movies and music, will fill that void. Hoopla now offers access to comics, including all 24 volumes of the collected The Walking Dead. Comics check out for three weeks, and the great thing about Hoopla is that everything is always available – no holds, no waiting.


Tricky Twenty Two

I just finished Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich. If you like an easy read with comedy infused, this series is a good one. Stephanie Plum is a Bounty Hunter, a rather incompetent one, who finds her skip more by luck than skill. She hangs with Lula a retired hooker, who you do not want to call fat (she hates that and will sit on you). Stephanie has two men in her life, Joe Morelli, who she grew up with, and Ranger. Morelli was a “bad boy” growing up and is now a police man. Ranger is Cuban-American and runs a very successful security service. Ranger is mysterious, drop dead gorgeous, can open any lock, and has a fleet of black vehicles. This is especially helpful for Stephanie, as in each and every book her car somehow gets destroyed, usually in a huge fireball.

In Tricky Twenty-Two Morelli tells Stephanie that he is breaking up with her, that he wants to find a different line of work, one that is less stressful. This is odd because being a cop defines Morelli, so what is really going on. Of course Morelli, like so many men, keeps it all to himself and does not communicate with Stephanie. Ranger is a man of few words but he packs in so much meaning. He can say “Babe” and it can mean so many different things. Both men have deep feelings for Stephanie. Ranger is not the marrying type so we all know that eventually Stephanie and Morelli will get hitched. In Tricky Twenty-two we are aghast that Morelli breaks it off with Stephanie and we know that they will get back together and it will probably take the whole book to do it and it does. During a marriage ceremony, there is the lighting of the candle. The soon to be wed each have a candle and they symbolically light a single candle together, signifying that they are now one. Having personally been married 36 years, communication is paramount. If Morelli would have just shared his thoughts and fears with Stephanie as he should then this the book would be a lot shorter.

You should start with book one “One for the Money” although you could read them in any order. I prefer to read them in order and grow with them. It’s kind of a formula read, Grandma Mazur will always be attending funerals, possibly trying to pry open a closed casket to peek inside. These are humorous books, even the funerals are fun events. Grandma and Lula both will be carrying huge caliber guns that they freely fire off and hit everything except what they are aiming for. Lula’s outfits are usually 2 sizes two small and the coloring is blinding at best. Stephanie has a pet named Rex, but you are going to have to read the books to find out what type of pet he is, and when you read the books you will find out where Stephanie hides her gun. Stephanie is described as cute, perky, adorable, short etc. If you turn the book over and look at the picture of Janet Evanovich on the jacket, I think Janet Evanovich is describing herself. Check it out at KPL.


Recent literary award announcements

The literary awards season is now in full swing, with the recent announcements of the Man Booker Prize shortlist, the National Book Awards longlist, and the longlist for the Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Non-fiction.

The Man Booker Prize is awarded for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom. The 2015 shortlist:

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

The winner will be announced on October 13.

The National Book Awards honor the best American writing in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people’s literature.

Fiction 2015 longlist:
A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball
Refund: Stories by Karen E. Bender
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fortune Smiles: Stories by Adam Johnson
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
Honeydew by Edith Pearlman
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Mislaid by Nell Zink

Non-fiction 2015 longlist:
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Mourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes
Hold Still by Sally Mann
The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii by Susanna Moore
Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essays by Michael Paterniti
If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran by Carla Power
Ordinary Light: A Memoir by Tracy K. Smith
Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir by Michael White

Poetry 2015 longlist:
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
Scattered at Sea by Amy Gerstler
A Stranger's Mirror by Marilyn Hacker
How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes
The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield
Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis
Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón
Elegy for a Broken Machine by Patrick Phillips
Heaven by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts by Lawrence Raab

Young People’s Literature 2015 longlist:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs by Gary Paulsen
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz, with Kekla Magoon
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson


The finalists will be announced on October 14, and the winners will be announced on November 18.

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the United States during the previous year.

Fiction 2016 longlist:
The Distant Marvels by Chantel Acevedo
The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle
Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
Outline by Rachel Cusk
The Green Road by Anne Enright
Purity by Jonathan Franzen
Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
Marvel and a Wonder by Joe Meno
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Honeydew by Edith Pearlman
The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
Prudence by David Treuer
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
The Dying Grass by William T. Vollmann
The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Non-fiction 2016 longlist:
American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity by Christian G. Appy
Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman
Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power by Steve Fraser
Something Must Be Done about Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by Kristen Green
Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America by Wil Haygood
Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi by Hayden Herrera
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann
Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
How the World Moves: The Odyssey of an American Indian Family by Peter Nabokov
Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini
On the Move by Oliver Sacks
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
M Train by Patti Smith
To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science by Steven Weinberg
Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers by Simon Winchester
Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

The shortlist will be announced on October 19, and the winners will be announced on January 10.

We are fortunate to have two of these authors visiting Kalamazoo in the coming months, as well as one visiting Ann Arbor.

Bonnie Jo Campbell will visit Central Library on October 15.

Ta-Nehisi Coates will be the keynote speaker for the Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s Community Meeting on November 3.

Marlon James will give a reading at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor on November 2.


Rising Strong

Self-described researcher-storyteller Brené Brown is well known for her research and writing on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the most viewed. Several of her books, including The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead are bestsellers. Her fourth book, Rising Strong, published earlier this week, deals with what happens when we exercise courage and fail. Resilience is a hot topic right now, and Brown's new book is definitely worth checking out.

 


The Nightingale

The World War II time period with a European setting is a particularly popular fiction genre within the past two to three years. I have read many of them, but my favorite to date is Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

The story focuses on two sisters set in a French village beginning in 1939. Both are overcome by the death of their mother and the abandonment of their father. One remains in the village which is ultimately taken over by the Germans, the other joins the French underground.

One of the sisters narrates the story from the present, but the reader doesn’t know until the end which sister is telling their shared story.

As expected from a novel of this time and setting, Hannah examines life, love, the ravages of war, and the different ways people react to unthinkable situations. It is well-written and a good read.


Between the World and Me

The talk of the book world today will surely be Harper Lee's greatly anticipated Go Set a Watchman, a sequel to her beloved 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird. But another book released today, one that will certainly inspire a lot of conversation, also deserves your attention. Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog for the Atlantic magazine is where the best writing on American life today is happening and his new book, Between the World and Me, continues with that subject in a personal way. Written as a letter to his teenage son Samori, Between the World and Me lyrically describes Coates' experience living in a black, male body within the context of American history.

Coates will visit Kalamazoo in November to speak at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation's community meeting. The event is free and open to the public; find more information at the Community Foundation's website.