Nov. 27-28  - All libraries will be closed for Thanksgiving.

Books we love

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Ros, Evergreen Library

My Ideal Bookshelf, edited by Thessaly La Force, art by Jane Mount

My Ideal Bookshelf is a wonderful book to browse for reading ideas. Over one hundred “leading cultural figures”—writers, artists, musicians and such—talk about what they consider the books that matter to them most. Each one page essay is accompanied by an artist’s rendition of their bookshelf. Here we can see that writer David Sedaris is a big fan of Tobias Wolff books because “every story is a manual on how to be a good person.” Tony Hawke, the athlete, loves stories about overcoming adversity. A Child Called “It” by David Pelzer and Endurance by Alfred Lansing offer lessons Tony identifies with. James Patterson gives top billing to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, saying it “drove me into writing thrillers…I realized I couldn’t do anything at his level.”  Other contributors include Robert Crais, James Franco, Michael Chabon, Jennifer Egan, William Wegman, Malcolm Gladwell, Nancy Pearl. In telling us their favorites, we get insights into their lives—plus intriguing lists of titles, both popular and obscure, for our own reading pleasure. The book leaves us finally, with the question, what would be on our own Ideal Bookshelf?

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Katie, Arvada Library

HHhH by Laurent Binet 

A New York Times notable book for 2012, HHhH is a fast paced, thrilling and historically accurate novelization of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.  Known as "The Butcher of Prague," Heydrich was feared for his cruelty (he helped mastermind the final solution) which, combined with his Aryan features made him a rising star in Hitler's cabinet.  Many historians believe he would have eventually succeeded Hitler as Führer.  HHhH also tells the story of the Czech and Slovak fighters who trained for and successfully completed the mission in May 1942.  These two stories take turns amongst the author's personal musings about the art of writing historical fiction.  The short but meaty chapters keep the reader entertained and eager for each successive page.

 

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Marie, Columbine Library

The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy

I’m sad that Maeve Binchy passed away in 2012.  She has so many wonderful books and The Glass Lake is now one of my favorites.  Set in 1950’s Ireland and London, The Glass Lake is classic Binchy.  Kit McMahon’s mother, Helen, didn’t belong in the small Irish hamlet of Lough Glass. The troubled woman walked night after night along the shores of the serene lake. Then, when Kit was only 12, her mother disappeared one night. The mystery surrounding what happened to Helen will haunt the girl for years.

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Veronica, Columbine Library

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

A teen girl rescues a young orphaned bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saving him from a cruel future.  When her world explodes because of a rebel attack on her compound, Sophie saves herself by living and traveling with the bonobos.  This endangered species is related to chimpanzees and shares 99% of humans’ DNA!  The story is gripping, moving, poignant, and one you’ll hate to put down.

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Bonnie, Lakewood Library

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eugenides explores the dynamics of three Brown students as they transition from college to post-college life. The characters form a triangle: Madeleine, who usually avoids fellow students with ‘problems,’ falls in love with brilliant but troubled Leonard Bankhead. In the meantime, she maintains a sometimes flirtatious friendship with Mitchell Grammaticus, a student who heads to India seeking self-discovery on a spiritual path. Set in the Reagan era - 1982 - Eugenides crafts an entertaining, thoughtful, and intelligent novel which analyzes the most complicated of human emotions: love. 

by: 
Ros, Evergreen Library

Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Lou Arrendale, an autistic man, is the narrator. He lives in a near future where there are very few people with autism left. Cures exist for anyone diagnosed in childhood, but Lou was too old to be helped when the solution came along. He has created a life for himself with friends and a job and a car, but always there is the struggle to be normal. It is a quiet, constrained existence that we come to know well through Lou’s description of his days and routines. It has its advantages too—Lou has special abilities to recognize patterns, and these he applies to his job in a pharmaceutical firm. He enjoys listening to classical music in ways not open to most people. All in all, he has mostly come to terms with autism and his life.

Into this situation an experimental treatment presents itself. Lou’s supervisor wants him, and all the other autistics in his work unit, to undergo a surgery that may “fix” their brains—or leave them mentally worse off than before. Their jobs are threatened. But even if the treatment works, how would it affect Lou and the life he has built? What would it do to his personality, his essence? Would it change his unique abilities? Would it alter his feelings for a woman who he has only recently come to love?

Elizabeth Moon has created a moving, thoughtful, complex tale. Speed of Dark draws us completely into the world of Lou Arrendale, a unique and fascinating hero. As the mother of an autistic child, she brings street cred to her portrayal of the man, and makes us care.

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Marie, Columbine Library

Money, Power and Wall Street is a FRONTLINE special originally shown on PBS about a year ago. In a special four-hour investigation, this documentary tells the inside story of the origins of the financial meltdown and the battle to save the global economy. It explores key decisions, missed opportunities, and the bailouts of financial institutions that citizens of the United States may not know about. These unprecedented moves by government officials and banking leaders have affected the fortunes and futures of millions of people worldwide in fascinating ways. The documentary ends with an exploration of the news rules and regulations that are currently under consideration. Will they be enough to fend off the next financial crisis?

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Rene, Evergreen Library

If you need a good book to read with your upper elementary or middle school child, Wonder by R. J. Palacio may be the one for you! August has been homeschooled for many years because of surgeries to correct the deformity of his face. He finds himself going to school for the first time in middle school, which is a hard age for most kids, let alone one who is so noticeably different in physical appearance. The story is told from the points of view of various characters, which really helps the reader understand the complexity of August’s life. This book may generate important discussions with your child about acceptance of others and bullying. It is a great read!

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Kathy, Evergreen Library

In Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye, Timothy Wilde reluctantly assumes his duties in New York City's newly-formed police department in 1845.  In the middle of the night he hears a little girl's claim that dozens of bodies have been buried in a local forest. This happens at a time when the potato famine in Ireland has sent thousands of immigrants into the city, creating great anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiments. Timothy and his brother Valentine have risen from a dreadful upbringing only to be forced to become players in the politics and corruption of the city. Compelling characters and fast-paced plot make this a hard book to put down. Faye's ample research helps situate this dark mystery novel in a gritty, compelling period of American history.

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Chris, Belmar Library

A novel based on characterization is only as successful as the figures that populate it. Teju Cole takes this corollary a step further by presenting us with a book whose focus is squarely on a single character, rather than divided among an ensemble cast. Set in New York, Open City centers on the everyday life of its protagonist, Julius, a young psychiatrist who interns at an area hospital. While other characters are introduced, Cole’s narrator seems to have no deep connections to any of them. In this sense, Cole gives us a faithful depiction of what it is to live in a modern megatropolis; in other words, the same psychological distance necessary to live in a bustling, overstimulated and demanding environment also colors our human relationships. As a result, many of Cole’s other characters have the quality of acquaintances: Julius knows them incidentally, but shares no real intimacy with them. Fortunately, Cole is both erudite and a fine prose stylist, which gives his novel a deeply thoughtful tone, but as any philosopher worth her salt will tell you, brilliance only reaches its full potential when it is shared. A bildungsroman in the purest sense, Open City also gives us a taste of our times, when digital media and social compartmentalization ensure that we spend most of our time talking not to each other, but to ourselves.

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