Readers Guide


By Susie Stooksbury
February 13, 2015
February 6, 2015
January 30, 2015
January 23, 2015

February 13, 2015 

Science and culture writer Philip Ball looks at the German scientific community and its response to Hitler and the Third Reich.  How did scientists – such as Planck, Debye, and Heisenberg – react as their Jewish colleagues were dismissed?  How much influence did the Reich have over the work these men did during the war?  Ball answers these questions and more in Serving the Reich: the Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler (530.094). 

Award-winning author Ha Jin examines the emotional conflicts in the life and mind of a spy in his latest novel.  Middle age scholar Lilian Shang knew her father Gary had been tried and convicted of feeding information to the Chinese over the course of his 30 years working for the CIA.  But she didn’t know about the family Gary was forced to leave behind in China or the things he liked about his life in America until his mistress bequeathed his diaries to her.  Using these volumes as her guide, Lilian follows A Map of Betrayal. 

Best noted for biographies of C. S. Lewis, Hitler, and Tolstoy, A. N. Wilson now takes on the monumental life of Great Britain’s longest ruling monarch Victoria (921.000).  She was only 18 when she became queen and was happy to be free of her mother’s strict upbringing.  Untutored in the way of governing, she relied heavily on her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, and British statesman Lord Melbourne for guidance.  She remained on the throne almost 64 years, was eventually related to almost all the royal houses in Europe through her children’s marriages, and guided her country through reform and prosperity into the modern era. 

American criminal mastermind Clarence Devereux is on his way to London to join forces with Professor John Moriarty, England’s “Napoleon of Crime”, when he learns that the professor and his nemesis, Sherlock Holmes, plunged to their deaths at Reichenbach Falls.  Hot on his trail is Pinkerton detective Frederick Chase who soon discovers that the American has received a secret message to meet the professor, who, it seems, is very much alive.  With the assistance of Scotland Yard’s Athelney Jones, Chase begins working to stop the two criminals from teaming up.  Anthony Horowitz imagines what happened after the plunge into the waters at Meiringen in Moriarty (M). 

Two women form an improbable friendship.  Emma, the harried mother of a 3-year-old, is pregnant with her second child when she meets Nina, the stylish and accomplished mother of two daughters who she raised successfully with her adoring second husband.  Emma doesn’t know that Nina engineered their meeting.  She doesn’t remember Nina from their teen years – but Nina remembers Emma and the reason why she hates her.  Harriet Lane deftly builds the suspense as Nina worms her way into Emma’s life in Her. 

Ten years ago, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales and journalist James Andrew Miller co-wrote Live From New York: the Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live (791.457) to commemorate the show’s 30th anniversary.  Shales and Miller have updated their entertaining guide for the show’s 40th year, again filling it with commentaries from the stars, writers, and guests that have made SNL one of the longest running and most original shows on TV. 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The Gift of Rain, Tan Twen Eng;
Private Vegas, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro;
Coming Home: an Alex Benedict Novel (SF), by Jack McDevitt;
The Sacrifice, by Joyce Carol Oates.

Non-fiction –
     The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: a Brilliant Young Man who Left Newark for the Ivy League
, by Jeff Hobbs;
Stalin. Vol. 1: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 (921.000), by Stephen Kotkin.

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February 6, 2015

Louis Zamperini’s incredible life story was the subject of Lauren Hillenbrand’s sensational best seller Unbroken, which Angelina Jolie turned into a recently released movie.  Before his death this past July, Zamperini worked with writer David Rensin to record the things he learned which helped him survive the challenges he had to face.  Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In (940.547) offers valuable “lessons from an extraordinary life”. 

Frog is the first work by controversial Chinese author Mo Yan to be published since he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012.  In it he introduces his narrator, a fellow called Tadpole, who relates the story of his aunt, Wan Xin, a midwife in Gaomi Township.  Gugu, as she is called, is fanatically dedicated to enforcing the government’s one-child policy.  As the years go by and the populace begins to question the government’s power, Gugu never waivers – even when she inflicts unimaginable pain and suffering on the women and families she treats. 

Science fiction and fantasy fans know Terry Pratchett for his long-running Discworld series - episode #41 is in the works.  Over his many years of writing, beginning in the late 60s, Pratchett has also produced a lot of non-fiction – essays, letters, opinion pieces – which have now been gathered and published as A Slip of the Keyboard (824.000).  Several of the more recent pieces reveal his thoughts about the early onset Alzheimer’s that has him in its grip.  

Every day, Rachel Watson takes the commuter train into her dead end job in London, passing by the home she once shared with her ex-husband Tom, and every day she sees a young couple who live a few doors down the street – they seem so pleasant and happy sharing breakfast on their patio that Rachel, alcoholic and deeply bewildered by Tom’s re-marriage, has built a fantasy life around them.  One day, though, the young woman is not there.  When the report of her disappearance hits the newspapers, Rachel feels compelled to go the police.  Paula Hawkins’ riveting debut, The Girl on the Train. Is full of psychological twists and turns.  

British author Rachel Cusk has produced a thought-provoking, wholly original work in her latest novel, Outline.  Our nameless narrator is an English instructor on her way to Greece to teach creative writing for the summer.  Determined to leave herself open to the experiences and people she encounters along the way, she strikes up a series of conversations – first with the older Greek gentleman sitting next to her on the flight, then with her students and new acquaintances – and in each she draws out the details of their lives purposefully listening rather than talking.  Yet through these exchanges, we seem to learn everything this woman doesn’t want to reveal. 

When screenwriter Philippa Langley called University of Leicester archaeologist Richard Buckley to propose a search to find the body of King Richard III, he was intrigued.  He had always wanted to dig in the part of the city Langley had pinpointed, but neither of them expected to unearth the monarch’s body the very first day.  Archaeologist and journalist Mike Pitts fills in the fascinating details of the dig, the surprising findings, and what it all means in Digging for Richard III: the Search for the Lost King (942.046). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Cold Cold Heart, by Tami Hoag;
The Empty Throne: Saxon Tales #18, by Bernard Cornwell;
A Fine Summer’s Day: an Ian Rutledge Mystery (M), by Charles Todd;
Robert B. Parker’s The Bridge (W), by Robert Knott.

Non-fiction –
     The Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year (921.000), by Tavis Smiley;
The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science (570.100), by Armand Marie Leroi.

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January 30, 2015 

Just as the editors of the Images of America series reprinted Ed Westcott’s iconic photos to document the history of Oak Ridge, they gathered together historic shots of the other towns of the Manhattan Project.  Los Alamos 1944-1947 (978.900), by Toni Michnovicz Gibson and John Michnovicz, and Richland Washington (979.700), by Elizabeth Gibson, give us striking visual images of the people and places that share our own history and experience.

It is hard to believe that the late Jose Saramago, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, ever struggled as a budding author to find acceptance for his work.  In 1953 he submitted Skylight to a publisher in his native Portugal.  The novel followed the intertwining lives of six families living in an apartment building in Lisbon.  Saramago never heard back from the publisher – the manuscript was neither accepted nor rejected, but it was discovered in 1989 when the publisher moved to new offices.  At that point, the critically acclaimed writer refused to have this first novel published in his lifetime, making his fans wait until now to enjoy this early promising work. 

Appropriately, Chris West begins A History of America in Thirty-Six Stamps (973.000) in 1765 with the Stamp Act which imposed a tax on just about everything in Britain’s colonies and contributed to the unrest leading to revolution.  West touches on each era in our past and introduces his informative essays with a commemorative stamp of the time period. 

American presidents have had a love-hate relationship with the press almost from the time of George Washington.  It seems, however, that Abraham Lincoln was a master at manipulating the media, even to the extent that he effectively censored newspapers by closing down those that proved themselves “disloyal” during the Civil War.  Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer unfolds the details in Lincoln and the Power of the Press: the War for Public Opinion (973.710). 

Bobby Hale hit on a clever way to earn his keep as a Union soldier.  He would enlist under an alias, collect the bonus, and then desert – although that routine didn’t spare him from the fighting at Fredricksburg and Chicamauga.  After the war, the enterprising Bobby fell in with a wagon train heading west and eventually hooked up with a variety of trappers, halfbreeds, and army scouts until he finally stumbled upon the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  Robert Bausch masterfully creates a colorful, original voice in Bobby in his latest fine work, As Far As the Eye Can See. 

Science fiction writing in China seems to have had as long and lively a history as it has in the West, yet it is a rarity in American publishing – until now.  The Three-Body Problem (SF) is the first in a trilogy by Cixin Liu, China’s top writer of science fiction.  Richly conceived and written, the book focuses on Ye Wenjie.  As a child she witnessed the murder of her father, a physics professor, at the hands of the Red Guard.  Forty years later, Wenjie is a key figure in a secret scientific group hoping to make contact with an alien race. 

New DVD titles:

Feature –
And So It Goes, starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton;
Dolphin Tale 2, with Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick, Jr.;
The Hundred-Foot Journey, starring Helen Mirren and Om Puri;
This is Where I Leave You, featuring Tina Fey and Jason Bateman.

Performance –
     Into the Woods, the original Broadway production with Bernadette Peters and Joanna Gleason.

Foreign –
     The Closet, starring Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil.

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January 23, 2015 

As we see frequently in the news these days, unmanned aircraft are rapidly changing the face of modern warfare.  Drones were first used during World War II as targets for training anti-aircraft gunners, but it took a number of years and several innovators to turn them into the fighting machines they are today.  Richard Whittle reveals “the secret origins of the drone revolution” in his fascinating new book, Predator (623.746) 

Half Seneca Indian Jane Whitfield has helped many people in trouble disappear, but in her eighth adventure she agrees to find someone who seems to have vanished without a trace.  Her childhood friend, Jimmy Sanders, has been accused of killing the white man he clashed with in a bar.  The clan mothers have called on Jane to find him, which turns out to be fairly easy.  The hard part is keeping him safe from the police and from the mobsters who want Jimmy to take the rap for Nick Bauermeister’s murder.  A String of Beads is the latest entry in Thomas Perry’s fine series. 

Chief Curator for Britain’s Historic Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley charts the history of our seemingly very human fascination with sensational murder cases in her entertaining new book, The Art of English Murder (364.152).  Through her lively report, Worsley shows how 18th Century newspaper accounts of sordid crimes led to the inexpensive “penny dreadfuls” and eventually to the detective novels, police procedurals, and thrillers we love so well today. 

As the mother of five grown sons and the wife of the Mormon bishop, Linda Wallheim is deeply involved with her community.  Her commitment and curiosity lead her into some dark areas, though, when she questions the mysterious and sudden disappearance of a young wife and mother as well as the alarming revelations of a terminally ill man.  Long buried secrets shake the foundations of a town in Utah in The Bishop’s Wife, by Mette Ivie Harrison. 

Long before Hollywood discovered plastic surgery, there was Thomas Dent Mutter, a Philadelphia physician who practiced in the mid-19th Century.  Considered an eccentric, Mutter performed successful surgeries on patients with cleft palates, burn scars, clubfeet, and other deformities, thus saving many from being classified as monsters.  He also used anesthesia, kept surgical areas sterile, and set up recovery rooms – all generally considered quirky practices at the time.  Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz tells “a true tale of intrigue and innovation at the dawn of modern medicine” with Dr. Mutter’s Marvels (617.092). 

Victorian England’s top private detective, Sidney Grice, has hit a low point since notoriety over his previous investigation, deliciously recorded in The Mangle Street Murders, has left him with a disturbingly light caseload.  Job security beckons, however, when Horatio Green, a member of a new formed tontine calling themselves The Last Death Club, hires Grice to investigate the demise of each member, then promptly drops dead in the detective’s drawing room.  Grice and his ward, the cigarette-smoking, gin-loving March Middleton, have a real puzzler on their hands in The Curse of the House of Foskett (M).  M .R. C. Kasasian is the author. 

Other new titles:

Fiction – 
     Grail Knight: a Novel of Robin Hood, by Angus Donald;
1636: the Viennese Waltz: Ring of Fire Series #18, by Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett, and Gorg Huff;
Insatiable Appetites: a Stone Barrington Novel, by Stuart Woods;
Saint Odd: a Odd Thomas Novel, by Dean Koontz.

Non-fiction –
     Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (201.720), by Karen Armstrong;
The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books (813.000), by Azar Nafisi.

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