Readers Guide


By Julie Forkner

March 3
March 2
March 1 
February #3 2018

March 3 

East Tennessee native Janet Beard earned her MFA from The New School in New York. Her first novel, Atomic City Girls (F), takes place during the war years as Oak Ridge was still the Secret City. June Walker comes to Oak Ridge from her family’s farm and falls in love with Jewish scientist Sam Cantor. Sam, well aware of what the Manhattan Project is working towards, is a brilliant scientist but also a struggling alcoholic. Thrown into the mix is Joe Brewer, an African-American construction worker and Cici, June’s beautiful, husband-hunting roommate. When a security breach puts everyone’s lives on intersecting paths, June has to struggle with the purpose behind the Manhattan Project.

After studying International Relations, Francisco Cantu, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, joined the border patrol at 23 to see how theory played out in real life. For several years, Cantu did his best to track humans through the desert and deterred illegal activity. However, when a friend of Cantu disappears after returning to Mexico to spend time with his ailing mother, the conflict over the border takes on a very different reality for Cantu. His memoir, The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches from the Border (363.285), is a unique look at life along the border from both sides. 

Flavia de Luce, everyone’s favorite underage chemist and sleuth, is back in Alan Bradley’s lastest novel, The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place (M). Doing the best to recover from a devastating family tragedy, Flavia and her family take a boating trip past the site where a local vicar recently poisoned the communion wine in order to rid himself of several parishioners. Discovering a corpse in the river, Flavia stumbles into an entirely new mystery that puts herself and her sisters in grave danger. 

Violence, neglect, and abuse can cause physical illness, and when they happen to children, the physical illnesses that result are profound and life-long. Pediatrician Dr. Nadine Harris brings twenty years of treating patients and researching the effects of childhood adversity to her new book The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity (618.928). A must-read for anyone concerned with the health of children and the adults they grow up to be, ‘The Deepest Well’ explains how adverse childhood experiences change our physical health and how the more adverse the experience the more profound the health consequences. 

Rhys Bowen is known for her cozy mystery series ‘Her Royal Spyness’ and ‘Molly Murphy.’ Her new stand-alone novel, The Tuscan Child (F), is no less cozy nor less intriguing for its singularity. British bomber pilot, Hugo Langley, was shot down over Tuscany in 1944. Surviving his parachute jump, Langley finds refuge in a Tuscan monastery and a woman trying to survive the war in her own way, Sofia Bartoli. Fast forward thirty years and Joanna, Hugo’s estranged daughter, returns to Tuscany to arrange her father’s funeral when she finds an unopened letter from him to Sofia. The mystery she discovers is the heart of Bowen’s very warm novel. 

Until recent history, the horse was as central to any country’s economy as the automobile is today. Horses, however, unlike automobiles have a history, art, and culture all of their own and their impact on and companionship with humans is vast. Ulrich Raulff’s book Farewell to the Horse: A Cultural History (636.100) is a tribute to the ways horses have influenced art, culture, and civilization. From the role horses have played in wars to the lucrative gambling economy built around horse racing, Raulff’s book is a massive undertaking that is simultaneously funny, heartbreaking, and enlightening. 

Also at the Library:
     Sisters Like Us (F) by Susan Mallery
     Still Me (F) by Jojo Moyes
     All That Glitters (F) by Diana Palmer
     Feel Free (824.000) by Zadie Smith
     Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (303.440)  by Steven Pinker
     Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America (973.460) by Catherine Kerrison

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March 2 

For some, truths are truer than for others. You can’t go home again takes on a completely different weight when your family, friends, and village are all displaced by the Six-Day War of 1967. This is the case for Alia and her family living in Nablus, Palestine. Hala Alyan’s debut novel, Salt Houses (F), follows Alia’s family from their flight from Palestine to the 1990 invasion of Iraq and through all their attempts to assimilate into countries far from home.

Scott Kelly, along with his Russian colleague, Mikhail Kornienko, spent an entire year in space, orbiting the earth, dodging space trash, and finding out what happens when you live in a metal box high above the earth. Before he got to be an astronaut, however, he was a rough and wild New Jersey teenager who took school and responsibility less than seriously. When he came across Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff, he changed his course and determinedly set out to become an astronaut. His book, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery (629.442) reveals what life is like in place that is inhospitable to life as we know it. From the pre-flight rituals to the need to see growing, living things, Kelly’s straightforward style shows us a life very few people have experienced. 

Few people could make a car race as exhilarating as Peter Carey. In 1950s Australia, the Redex Trial is a brutal race requiring drivers to cover 10,000 miles in 17 days across dangerous territory riddled with dry creek beds, rockslides and cliffs, and interfering wildlife all while maintaining a their speed. Irene Bobs, along with her husband, the best car salesman in southeastern Australia, and navigator Willie Bachhuber, sets out to win the race and jumpstart a dull and failing life. Peter Carey turns their adventure into a hilarious but eye-opening race through a country already inhabited by a rich culture in A Long Way from Home (F). 

Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition took place from 1914-1917, and although the expedition failed, became famous for its heroic attempt at exploration. What is less well-known, however, is that a team of six people known as the Mount Hope party also crossed the Antarctic from the opposite side as Shackleton, dropping food and supplies for Shackleton’s team. The Mount Hope party did not know that Shackleton’s expedition had failed and persevered through deadly conditions. With the help of previously unpublished diaries, Wilson McOrist tells their story in Shackleton’s Heroes: The Epic Story of the Men Who Kept the ENDURANCE Expedition Alive (919.890). 

Surviving being a prisoner of war in Vietnam was only the first challenge for Ernt Allbright. Facing failure upon failure after returning home, Allbright makes the snap decision to move his family -- his wife, and his 13-year old daughter, Leni -- to Alaska. Alone in Alaska’s eighteen hour nights, Leni and Cora learn that the only way to survive is through their own inner strength. In The Great Alone (F) by Kristin Hannah, we discover what the spirit of an American pioneer truly is. 

Brene Brown first came into the mainstream with her excellent TED talk The Power of Vulnerability in December, 2010. Since then, the University of Houston professor and practicing social worker has published several influential books based on her lifelong study of human interactions. Her newest book, Braving the Wilderness (158.200), published in the fall of last year, helps us understand how to meet our basic need to belong when our society is polarized and polemicized more than ever. Brown argues that our current state of disconnection from each other has reached a crisis level, and explains how having the courage to be authentically yourself could be the solution the whole planet needs. 

Also at the Library:
     In this Moment (F) by Karen Kingsbury
     Rich People Problems (F) by Kevin Kwan
     Into the Black Nowhere (F) by Meg Gardiner
     Medical Medium Thyroid Healing (616.440) by Anthony William
     Start Your Own Etsy Business (658.872) by Entrepreneur Media and Jason R. Rich
     Love What Matters (152.410 Love)

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March 1  

James Whitehouse is the proverbial golden boy, educated in Britain’s elite schools, wealthy, and powerful. His wife, Sophie, is determinedly loyal, even after he admits to an affair. The tension in Sarah Vaughan’s marital thriller, Anatomy of a Scandal (F) doesn’t start, however, until Kate, an ambitious, sharp, and experienced prosecutor goes after James, unearthing allegations of something sinister from his college days. Each woman must decide how far she is willing to go – Kate to win her case and put a dangerous man behind bars and Sophie, to protect her husband and save her family.

Winter (839.820), the second in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Seasons Quartet, is a letter of introduction for his unborn daughter to the world. With his characteristic sensitivity and curiousity, Knausgaard introduces his daughter to the world describing everything from sugar and the moon to messiness and particle physics. Introducing a child to the world is an opportunity to take stock and consider things anew, an opportunity Knausgaard takes to a sublime level. 

A. J. Finn’s debut novel, The Woman in the Window (F), is receiving well-deserved but unique praise for a first time novel published so early in the year. Anna Fox lives alone in her upscale New York house, spending her days drinking wine, watching classic movies, and watching the world outside her window. Agoraphobic, Anna hasn’t left her house in over a year. When a new family moves in next door, Anna takes to observing them and witnesses a horrible act of violence. How does Anna, so unreliable and easily thrown off kilter, convince anyone she’s telling the truth? And just what is the truth, anyway? 

Facing old age is life’s most daunting challenges. When John Leland, reporter for the New York Times, took an assignment to get to know the fastest growing segment of America’s population, he did not expect the experience to be so uplifting. Instead of hearing solely about isolation, depression, and the struggle of dealing with declining health, Leland discovered a group of people from disparate backgrounds and circumstances all living with joy and a sense of lightheartedness. Drawing on the lessons he learned from the “oldest old,” Leland’s book, Happiness is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a year among the oldest old (305.260) reveals the lessons needed to make old age rich, wise, and enjoyable. 

Like Anatomy of a Scandal, Alafair Burke’s novel The Wife (F) puts a wife in the position of having to decide if her husband is trustworthy. This time, Angela Powell is hiding her own past when she was help captive for a year as a teenager until she and her baby were finally released. Engineering a quiet life away from any chance of a media frenzy, Angela marries an economics professor. When a college intern accuses Angela’s husband of inappropriate behavior, Angela sides with Jason, until a second woman also accuses Jason, and then disappears. Alafair Burke, a Stanford Law educated lawyer and daughter of author James Lee Burke of the Robicheaux series, has both the experience and the talent to spin a gripping domestic thriller. 

Alan Alda, actor, comedian, and writer, is a big fan of science. He recognizes, though, that scientists rarely feel they’ve succeeded in convincing anyone of what they are trying to say.  Alda is also a big fan of communication. During his time as host of PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, Alda spent hundreds of hours with scientists, interviewing them for the show, but also helping them communicate complex ideas without alienating their audience. Combining his time on Scientfic American Frontiers  and his experience as an acting coach and astute observer of people, Aldo delved into the world of communication and came up with his book, If I understood You, Would I Have this Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating (153.600). Released last summer, Alda’s book can be used by anyone hoping to better understand their doctor, their patients, their family and their friends. 

Also at the Library:
     The Bomb Maker (F) by Thomas Perry
     The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories (F) by Charlaine Harris
     Glad Tidings (F) by Debbie Macomber
     2017 Southern Living Annual Recipes (641.500) by the editors of Southern Living
     Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships (910.202) by Douglas Ward
     The Carolinas and Georgia (917.500) by Fodor’s Travel

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February #3 2018 

Philip Pullman’s long anticipated series La Belle Sauvage is finally here with the first novel, The Book of Dust (YPF). Set in Pullman’s intricately imagined world, which resembles but isn’t exactly like London and Oxford, The Book of Dust is the story of baby Lyra, the heroine of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Malcolm Polstead’s father runs The Trout, an inn on the banks of the Thames. From his vantage point at the Inn, Malcolm is well-suited for spying, and soon secrets concerning a new baby and a strange substance called Dust fall into his lap. When the spy those secrets were actually intended for finds Malcolm, he is drawn into a challenge to save baby Lyra despite the sacrifices it will cost him.  

In thirty years, the earth’s population will reach 10 billion. The conundrum of how to feed, house, and accommodate that many people has been the source of constant back-and-forth between scientists for many decades. One camp supports the idea that humans must cut back their consumption and use the remaining resources wisely before we cause widespread destruction. Author Charles C. Mann calls this camp the Prophets. The opposite side claims that innovation, not a reduction in consumption, will create the solutions to our problems. This camp is known as the Wizards. In The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Vision to Shape Tomorrow’s World (363.700), Mann brings to life the two largest personalities in this dichotomy – ecologist William Vogt and plant breeder Norman Borlaug. Giving equal weight to both sides of the conversation, Mann explores the pressing issue of human’s impact on our environment and which road is the safest path to our continued existence. 

Janet Fitch, author of novel-turned-movie White Oleander, has taken up the Russian Revolution as the subject of her new book, The Revolution of Marina M. (F). Marina Makarova is the daughter of an intellectual and minor aristocrat living in Moscow in the years leading up to the First World War. Pampered and spoiled, Marina is bored with her life and is fascinated by the revolutionary zeal creating turmoil throughout Russia. In a rush of youthful idealism, Marina is caught up in the political momentum not understanding the consequences it could have for people of her station. Rich in period detail, The Revolution of Marina M. is a lavish and sometimes surreal adventure through the Russia of the early 1900s.  

Writing from a very different perspective, historian Mark Mazower traced his own family’s history through letters photographs, interviews and archives that took him into the siege of Stalingrad, the Vilna Ghetto, occupied France, and ultimately London. Mazower’s real life grandfather, Max, could easily have been a character in Janet Fitch’s novel, as a member of the revolutionaries that fought against the tsarist armies. Mazower’s grandmother, Frouma, had an equally eventful upbringing, but it took years of research to find it out. Heavily researched and eloquently told, Mazower’s exploration of his family’s flight from tsarist Russia to finally settling in London reveals a kind of political socialism that has been erased from our daily discourse. The socialism that brought Mazower’s Jewish family out of Russia encompassed the broad spectrum of humanity. Mazower brings that humanism to light along with the unexpected happiness of the defeated in his book What You Did Not Tell: A Russian Past and the Journey Home (940.500). 

In 1982 in upstate New York, two teenaged boys tied a thirteen-year-old girl to a tree and shot her with a BB gun until one eye was a bloody mess. That’s the opening for Christopher Yates’ new novel Grist Mill Road (F).  By 2008, all three teens, now grown, are living in New York City and two of them are married. In an absorbing thriller, Yates spins a terrifying tale of childhood treachery and adult consequences.  

Evolutionary biology is an endless source of fascination. From symbiotic relationships to extreme predation, the ways living creatures have grown to live with, or spite of, each other range from the sublime to the grotesque to the truly bizarre. Matt Simon, science writer for Wired magazine, delves into the world of evolutionary biology in his book The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar(578.540) bringing us into the world of creatures that can choke sharks to death with snot and caterpillars with mind control abilities.          

Also at the Library:
     Hidden Depths (M) by Ann Cleeves
     Shroud of Eternity (F) by Terry Goodkind
     Oathbringer (F) by Brandon Sanderson
     Remodelista: The Organized Home (648.800) by Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick
     The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss (613.250) by Jason Fung, MD

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