Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

It's very, very long

I remember being very excited to see this in our catalog, where I could put a hold on it before it hit the shelves. But then I got it.

Before you prepare to start this three volume autobiography, you should know two things. First, the first volume is over 700 pages. In other words, how interested are you in Mark Twain?

Second, the index in the back of the book is bad. I use indexes. I was hoping to use this index to pinpoint parts of the autobiography that I would enjoy; especially areas of Mark Twain's thought that might be interesting, or controversial, or insightful. But the index seems to have no subjects--only places, people, and events. There is no entry, for example, on "religion," or "God," or related juicy topics. I brought my copy back. Perhaps I should have given it more time and effort? Please comment if you had a better experience!


Autobiography of Mark Twain. Volume 1

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

The Scent of Rain and Lightning was my first introduction to author Nancy Pickard. I originally read a review that places this in the “mystery” category. It is that, but it’s also more, and was very hard to put down since it keeps you guessing to the very end.

Jody Linder has grown up in the small plains town of Rose, Kansas, and one hot summer afternoon is puzzled and alarmed to look out her window and see three of her uncles approaching the house. They definitely have a purpose, and that is to tell Jody that Billy Crosby, the man who was convicted of murdering her father 23 years earlier is being released from prison. Not only that, Crosby will be returning to town, since his wife and son Collin, now a lawyer, live in Rose. At the same time that Jody’s father was murdered, her mother disappeared, but was never found, and was presumed dead.

Jody has always been surrounded by the love and prestige of the Lindner family in the community, especially since her parents were gone. So when questions begin to surface about the reliability of the information she has always been given about the terrible events 23 years earlier, she begins to investigate on her own. She also becomes reacquainted with the convicted man’s son, with whom she has always felt, even unwillingly, an invisible bond.

Characters in this story are strong and well defined. Another strength is the portrayal of the town and the community- it’s so well drawn that you feel as if you could go there and would recognize and know many of the residents and the places mentioned. The author lives in Kansas, so maybe that’s partly why. I’ll be searching out more titles by Nancy Pickard!


The Scent of Rain and Lightning

The Village Garage

All year long, the workers at The Village Garage use a variety of vehicles to take care of the snow, the sticks, the leaves, and the potholes in the Village. The illustrations show the winding streets and roadside stands, the business and celebrations of a small town, and the people who work at the Village Garage.

Full of busyness but also the comfort of knowing that everything is being taken care of, this story will satisfy the serious truck enthusiasts as well as those who appreciate seeing how a friendly community works.


The Village Garage

A DCI Monika Paniatowsky

Sally Spencer’s latest mystery The Ring of Death blew me away! I had no idea who the suspect was until he was revealed. Nor, had I guessed what the ring of death was until D.C.I. Monika Panaitowski walked into it. Sally Spencer did a fantastic job of attaching readers to her British character, DCI Charlie Woodend and now, Monika is following in her beloved boss’s footsteps. In The Ring of Death Monika often asked herself “what would Charlie do?” But, in spite of the twist and turns, oppositions and supporters Monika proved herself to be a topnotch investigator.

I can't wait for Sally Spencer's next DCI Monika Paniatowsky Mystery! The Echoes of the Dead is due out this spring!


The Ring of Death

Wish it was only imagination...

I was slightly reluctant to blog about this, because it is not uplifting stuff, but this is a part of life that doesn't get talked about a lot and the silence can be excruciating to those that are affected, so I decided to just go for it anyway. An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination isn’t the kind of book you check out for fun, unfortunately -- you check it out because something terrible has happened to you or someone you know. The terrible thing I’m talking about is stillbirth. Recently some close relatives of mine lost their precious baby boy 5 weeks before he was due, and I desperately turned to KPL’s catalog for anything to try to understand what they were going through. There aren’t a ton of books out there on stillbirth, but since it affected my family, I’ve found out that this book is kind of the go-to memoir about the topic…It turned out that these relatives as well as several of their friends had also stumbled upon this book, and they could relate very strongly to what the author, Elizabeth McCracken, went through. Many people I’ve talked to in the past few months know someone that has experienced this type of loss…I wish this wasn’t the case, but if you are in the situation and need something to read while coping with your loss, I recommend this book. KPL also has it in audiobook format, read by the author, which makes it extremely personal and moving.   


An exact replica of a figment of my imagination

The Tulip Anthology

When I checked the catalog and saw that the KPL selectors had ordered this book, the ethnicity within me told me to put a hold on it. I'm glad I answered the call. This weighty volume, as appealing on the outside as on the inside, is a collection of all things tulip. I wish that my words here could convey the impact this book has, but I find that they cannot. It is photography at its best. It is art. It is literature. It is science. It is history. It is beauty. All rolled into one. Come take a look.


The tulip anthology
David D.

The Night Fairy

I don't know if 2008 Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz's new book  is an answer to the popularity of the Daisy Meadows books, but The Night Fairy is a really entertaining and well written fairy story. Lots of kids really like stories about fairies. Fairies are fascinating fantastic creatures. And good writing is good writing - valuable to children as well as adults. Flory is a night fairy no taller than an acorn yet rises to the challenge of life without wings after hers are lost. How she solves this crisis is only part of the wonder of the book. Schlitz's naturalistic prose will pull you right into the garden where the story is largely set. A fairy story set within the animal world, the motivations of the characters are entirely believable within that world and fascinating for young and old alike. If you like thrilling flights of the imagination with some not-too-scary-for-bedtime elements, you'll like The Night Fairy. It was a compelling read aloud for my five-year-old daughter and me and is a great choice for fans of fairy stories from later preschool to middle elementary and beyond.


The Night Fairy

The Imperfectionists

The setting for The Imperfectionists is an English language newspaper in Rome; the story focuses on those who keep it running: the obituary writer, corrections editor, editor-in-chief, the stringer in Cairo, the copy editor, etc.

Although labeled a novel, the chapters read like short stories – each chapter focuses on one character with interspersed brief chapters about the newspaper itself and its hands-off owner publisher.

Many reviewers are giving high praise to this first novel by Tom Rachman. Some of the chapters / stories are a bit inconclusive for my taste, but it led to a spirited discussion with my book group. Most of us liked it, some more than others, of course, but that’s what makes for a good discussion.


The Imperfectionists

The Double Bind

NoveList, a database of fiction authors, titles, book group discussion ideas, and read-alikes, gave me the suggestion to read Chris Bohjalian's novel The Double Bind.  I had just completed Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse and wanted to find something similar in psychological thrill and storyline.  The description sounded intriguing enough:  Working at a homeless shelter, student Laurel Estabrook encounters Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of secret photos, but when Bobbie dies suddenly, Laurel embarks on an obsessive search for the truth behind the photos.  Then, when I found the story was an extension of the tragedy of Jay Gatsy, Myrtle and George Wilson, Daisy and Tom Buchanan and their lives, I was unsure.  I love The Great Gatsby so much that I thought any iteration or abandonment of the original dreams and disasters in the story would be an abhoration.

And, often as I read, I kept feeling this way.  It seemed like the author was just trying too hard to force a story of a child of Daisy's who becomes homeless leaving behind a legacy of incriminating photos.  Then, I would read a section which gave insight into the psyche of the homeless or schizophrenic.  Somehow, I kept reading, and by the last three or four pages, I was ready to skim over parts of the book again looking for the clues I might have missed in my earlier distraction.


The Double Bind


The Householder's Guide to the Universe

I’m utterly fascinated by anything that has to do with urban farming or homesteading, so it was with great pleasure that I stumbled upon The Householder’s Guide to the Universe recently.  In the introduction, author Harriet Fasenfest describes her book as “a how-to book, a cookbook, a getting-back-to-basics-in-the-city book.” It is all this, but it’s also a call to thriftiness, an appeal for sensible food production, and a champion of hard work and self-reliance.  The book is divided into twelve chapters (one for each month), which are further divided into sections entitled “The Home,” “The Kitchen,” and “The Garden.”  It was a joy to read as the seasons unfolded in Fasenfest’s garden; I loved to see the quiet contemplation she experienced in January, then the excitement of spring planting in May and June, and the overwhelming work of harvesting and preserving in August.  The Householder’s Guide to the Universe is the perfect book for anyone interested in gardeningpreserving, or a life more in touch with the earth.


Householder's Guide to the Universe
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