Readers Guide


By Susie Stooksbury
July 23, 2015
July 16, 2015
July 9, 2015
July 2, 2015

July 23, 2015 

Every spring, colleges and universities across the country seek out high profile people to give the graduation commencement speech.  Harvard scoured a major coup in 2008 when J. K. Rowling agreed to be their speaker.  Not only is she a super star, but she also spoke brilliantly on the “fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination” citing her own life as an example.  Her speech is reprinted now in Very Good Lives (158.000). 

While the fear of failure can be daunting, many of us don’t even take our hopes and dreams that far because our fear of rejection gets in the way.  That’s a fear aspiring entrepreneur Jia Jiang knew well.  He decided to conquer it by repeatedly setting himself up to fail. He shares his many experiences, some bad and some good, in his delightful book Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection (158.000). 

A certified genius with an eidetic memory that allows him to instantly recall everything he has ever seen or heard, Mike Erikson teaches high school English in a quiet town in Maine.  He is quite content to live a low-key life even though his best friend Reggie Magnus asks him repeatedly to help him with his work at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.  When Reggie asks him to investigate a newly developed teleportation device, Mike is intrigued.  He is supposed to determine if it really works as claimed.  And seemingly it does work, but the results are alarming – and there are more dangers to follow.  Exercise your imagination with Peter Clines’ clever tale The Fold. 

Zoologist Rachel Caine has been studying gray wolves in Nez Perce, Idaho, for a number of years.  A native of Cumbria in England, she has created a solitary, satisfying life for herself far away from her troubled family back home.  But a message that her mother’s health is failing arrives at the same time as an offer from Thomas Pennington, Earl of Annerdale, to help him reintroduce a breeding pair of wolves on his vast estate in Cumbria.  Reluctantly Rachel agrees, forcing her to face her past – and an unexpected pregnancy.  The Wolf Border is by Man Booker prize finalist Sarah Hall. 

Five years ago, American journalist Elizabeth Bard wrote about falling in love with a handsome Frenchman, as well as French cuisine, in her first book, Lunch in Paris.  Now pregnant with their first child, Elizabeth and Gwendal decide to take a last vacation together before the baby comes, so they set out to visit a little village called Cereste where their favorite poet once lived.  As luck would have it, they fell in love with the place, found a lovely cottage that was coincidentally for sale – and experienced a new cuisine.  Bard continues their story in her new book, Picnic in Provence: a Memoir with Recipes (944.900). 


Newly translated, German best seller The Little Paris Bookshop is a sweet novel by Nina George of love lost, love found, good food, and wonderful books. Monsieur Jean Perdu has mourned the loss of his lover Manon for 21 years while maintaining his unique bookshop in a barge on the Seine.  He has a rare gift in that he can correctly diagnose what is troubling a person and supply them with the perfect book to cure them.  When he finally reads the letter Manon left for him years ago, he sets out to make things right touching off some marvelous adventures as he slowly takes the bookshop to Avignon.

New DVDs:

Feature – 
     American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper;
Still Alice, with Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin;
Mr. Turner, featuring Timothy Spall and Paul Jesson;
Focus, with Will Smith and Margot Robbie;
Jupiter Ascending, featuring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis.

Television –
     Call the Midwife, Season Four, starring Jenny Agutter and Pam Ferris;
The Bletchley Circle, Seasons 1 and 2, with Anna Maxwell and Rachel Stirling.

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July 16, 2015

Several weeks ago, NPR Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep was in Knoxville discussing his new book, Jacksonland (973.560).  In it, he takes us back to the early Nineteenth Century when President Andrew Jackson and Cherokee Chief John Ross went head-to-head over the prime Southern land owned by the Five Civilized Tribes.  Inskeep gives a well-researched and fascinating account of both men and their controversial struggle.  Despite Ross’ best efforts, though, this “great American land grab” ended in the Trail of Tears. 

As unlikely as it seems, serial killer Dexter Morgan has won a bevy of fans through Jeff Lindsay’s seven novels and eight seasons of a very popular TV show.  Lindsay puts an end to our hero’s gore-filled adventures in Dexter is Dead, the eighth and final book in the series.  Dexter is now in jail, charged with the murders of his wife, Rita, and actor Robert Chase, with another charge of pedophilia thrown in.  Problem is: he didn’t do it.  While his lawyer Frank Kraunauer works the legal system, Dexter’s equally psychotic brother Brian sets out to prove his innocence. 

Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner celebrate the 10th anniversary of their wildly popular Freakonomics, with their fourth book – one just as world-view rocking as their first.  When to Rob a Bank…and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants (330.000) is a compilation of the best entries from their 10-year-old blog  Besides the intriguing offering of the title, they include pieces on the price of oil, the time it takes to improve a golf swing, and why KFC always seems to run out of fried chicken. 

A successful London architect, Adrian believes that he has worked diligently to ensure that his two ex-wives, his five children, and his current wife, Maya, get along splendidly and truly care for each other.  They even go so far as to vacation together.  But when Maya steps in front of a bus leaving him a grieving widower, he is forced to face the repercussions of his seemingly perfect life.  Lisa Jewell finely weaves together the many voices of Adrian’s family and their unique perspectives to reveal the real story of The Third Wife. 

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden published a book called “The Art of Baking” which quickly became a classic in England where her husband owned a stable of prosperous grocery stores. She quickly became the face of the Eaden Company.  It is now a year after her death, and the company feels it is time to find a new face to represent them, and so a competition is arranged.  Four women and one man are chosen to compete.  Each is a talented baker – and each is desperately searching for something more in their lives.  The Art of Baking marks the promising fiction debut of British journalist Sarah Vaughan. 

For centuries explorers, scientists, and adventurers have been fascinated with the mysterious lost city of Atlantis.  Surprisingly, as journalist Mark Adams reveals, everything we know about it came from some cryptic passages Plato included in two of his works.  Yet despite the nebulousness of its existence, people continue to dedicate their lives to finding it.  Adams follows those many trails in his new book, Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City (398.234). 

For centuries explorers, scientists, and adventurers have been fascinated with the mysterious lost city of Atlantis.  Surprisingly, as journalist Mark Adams reveals, everything we know about it came from some cryptic passages Plato included in two of his works.  Yet despite the nebulousness of its existence, people continue to dedicate their lives to finding it.  Adams follows those many trails in his new book, Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City (398.234).

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July 9, 2015 

Historian David McCullough returns to print with a wonderfully informative biography of The Wright Brothers (629.130).  By now, the story of the Dayton, Ohio, bicycle shop owners who built and flew the first plane at Kitty Hawk, NC, in 1903 is a familiar one.  McCullough fleshes out the known facts about the two men with details from their diaries and vast correspondence, and he takes us deep into the lives of the brothers who both had a lifelong fascination with the concept of flying. 

With his house repossessed and his restaurant losing business, Miami native Ruban Betancourt is determined not to lose his share of the American dream.  He enlists his cokehead brother-in-law Jeffrey, and Jeffrey’ petty criminal uncle, Pinkey Perez, to help take almost $9 million that belongs to the Federal Reserve as it is transferred to armored cars at the Miami International Airport.  The heist goes perfectly – but the rest of the caper definitely does not.  Cash Landing is the latest from popular James Grippando. 

Historians and publishers in recent years have turned their attention to that period of time just following the Revolutionary War when each of the states had to be convinced to give up the idea of separate sovereignty in order to unite the country.  It took a lot of hard work and determination – all of it devised and conducted, believes Joseph Ellis, by four unique men – George Washington, James, Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.  He shines the light of history on The Quartet (342.029) as they began “orchestrating the second American Revolution, 1783-1789” in his lively new book. 

Two of the greatest personalities to emerge from the Civil War were Robert E. Lee, the Southern aristocrat, and Ulysses S. Grant, the Northern businessman.  Historian William C. Davis has fashioned a dual biography of the two men that gives a pleasingly fresh perspective on their personalities, military careers, and their personal lives in Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee – the War They Fought, the Peace They Forged (973.709). 

Best pals since ninth grade, Portland firefighter Leo McGeary and Boston professor Garrett Reese get drunk together one night and draw up a pact: if anything happens to Leo, Garrett will marry his widow Audrey and help raise the three McGeary boys.  Twelve years later, Leo is killed in a freak accident.  Putting his career and single life on hold, Garrett flies to Portland to bring much needed support to Leo’s grieving family.  Much to their surprise, Garrett and Audrey fall in love and begin to plan a future together – until Audrey learns about that long-ago pact.  The Sweetheart Deal is a charming novel by Polly Dugan. 

As science as a discipline began to take hold in the 17th Century, two men from Delft introduced a new way of seeing the world around them.  Artist Johannes Vermeer and merchant/philosopher Antoni van Leeuwenhoek were both born in 1632 and lived much of their lives within a block of each other.  Laura J. Snyder illustrates how these men – Vermeer through his creative studies of light and Leeuwenhoek with his development of the microscope – fostered “the reinvention of seeing” in her new book, Eye of the Beholder (701.000). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The Santangelos, by Jackie Collins;
Normal, by Graeme Cameron;
Cuba Straits, by Randy Wayne White;
Dry Bones: a Longmire Mystery (M), by Craig Johnson;
Truth or Die, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan.

Non-fiction –
     The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation (722.700), by Melissa Rivers;
Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own (306.815), by Kate Bolick.

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July 2, 2015 

It isn’t surprising that Tom Brokaw, a man whose life and career have revolved around the spoken and written word, began to keep a journal after he was told he had multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable cancer.  That journal became the basis for A Lucky Life Interrupted: a Memoir of Hope (070.920), his new book, in which he looks back on his event-filled career as he travels through the medical world of serious illness. 

As Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins what will likely be many years on Death Row, we still find ourselves as a nation puzzled about why these two bright young men chose to bomb the Boston Marathon in 2013.  Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen attempts to make some sense out of this disturbing act of terrorism in her finely researched new book, The Brothers: the Road to an American Tragedy (363.325). 

So what does an author do whose fictional protagonist takes over his or her life? Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, and Pandy Wallis, author of a wildly popular series of books and movies featuring the beautiful, sexy, and wealthy Monica, decides to do her in as well.  The thing is, though, Pandy’s giddy, successful life is in free-fall – her straying husband has gone through most of her money and is demanding more from the divorce settlement; her lavish home has just gone up in flames; and the historical novel she poured her heart into won’t sell.  Candace Bushnell has fun revealing how Pandy goes about Killing Monica. 

The Social Security operating manual has 2,728 core rules.  And, if you’re not familiar with them, you could be throwing away important benefits that you have earned and are yours for the asking.  Let economics professor Laurence Kotlikiff, business author and reporter Philip Moeller, and economics correspondent for the PBS Newshour Paul Solman guide you through the maze of government detail in Get What’s Yours: the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security (368.400). 

When he isn’t creating comic books or decoding history for the History Channel, Brad Meltzer writes popular political thrillers featuring the Culper Ring – a secret group charged by George Washington to always protect America’s Chief Executive.  Even though that was 200 years ago, archivist Beecher White is proud to carry on the tradition.  He is called into action when First Lady Shona Wallace discovers a severed arm buried in the Rose Garden.  As every effort is made to keep the story away from the media, Beecher begins to investigate – starting with the coin found in the arm’s clenched fist.  The President’s Shadow is Meltzer’s latest treat. 

Having sold off most of his parents’ farmland just to keep afloat, Swivel, Wisconsin, bachelor Harley Jackson is left with 15 acres and eight head of cattle.  When one of the herd – a cow named Tina Turner – gives birth on Christmas Eve to a calf with the image of Jesus’ face on its side, Harley knows he’s got trouble – and possibly the answer to all his money woes.  Humorist Michael Perry tells the story of what happens when the secret in Harley’s barn goes viral in The Jesus Cow. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Beach Town, by Mary Kay Andrews;
The Rumor, by Elin Hilderbrand;
All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank;
Taken, by Dee Henderson.

Non-fiction –
     It’s a Long Story: My Life (781.642), by Willie Nelson;
While the World Watched: a Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights
        Movement (323.119)
, by Carolyn Maull McKinstry.

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