Readers Guide


By Julie Forkner

June 6, 2016
June 13, 2016
June 20, 2016

June 20, 2016 

The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution (973.350) by Sam Willis explains how the 13 original, rag tag colonies were able to defeat the greatest naval force of the time. Although this part of the American Revolution is often overlooked, Willis, known for his work on the popular Hornblower TV series, traces the naval battles of the Revolutionary War and their long-lasting impact on the economies, politics, and societies of the forming United States, Britain, and most of Europe.  

A brilliant woman, a secret government project, and the 1940s of New Mexico form the structure of Elizabeth Church’s first novel, The Atomic Weight of Love (F). Meridian Wallace begins her career 1941 when she enters the University of Chicago to study ornithology. There she meets and marries Alden Whetstone, a physicist and professor, who is soon hired away to work on the war effort in Los Alamos. Leaving her own career path to follow him, Meridian starts her own campaign of self-awareness that carries her through the social awakenings of the 60s and 70s.  

Sophie Egan is a food writer and program director for the Culinary Institute of America. We’ve all rolled our eyes at the adage “you are what you eat,” but Sophie Egan has taken that sentiment a step further by asking exactly how what we eat defines who we are. In Devoured (394.120), Egan connects the data of what we eat – 1.25 billion chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday, for instance – to our national identity of a diverse and globally influenced culture. 

Director Pierre Salvadori’s most recent work, In the Courtyard (Foreign IN), has been called a masterpiece. Deftly combining his trademark quirky sense of humor with the drama and gravity of life at middle-aged, In the Courtyard is both bittersweet and hilariously surreal. When Antoine becomes too depressed to continue with his musical career, he is hired as a caretaker at a crumbling apartment complex where he meets Mathilde, a generous but panic-stricken resident. In French with English subtitles, In the Courtyard can be found in the foreign films section of your public library. 

Long time NPR correspondent Anne Garrels explores Middle Russia in her new book Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia (947.430). Although the news is full of Russian politics, it doesn’t show what life is like for ordinary Russians. Garrels shows us daily life in a country both celebrating and struggling with its new freedoms and opportunities. Corruption and institutionalized negligence are here but there is also a lively underground gay community as well as unwavering evangelicals. In Garrels’ sympathetic style, we see a belligerent nationalism combined with an entrenched uncertainty about the country’s future. 

Jane Weiss is a dedicated researcher at MIT determined to find the genetic marker for Valentine’s disease in Eileen Pollack’s novel A Perfect Life (F). Having lost her mother to the disease, Jane, knowing that she and her sister each have a 50 percent chance of developing the disease, hopes to uncover the genetics behind Valentine’s while they are both still healthy. Her fear of the disease is so strong that she avoids all romantic entanglements, until she meets someone she can’t ignore. Pollack’s story shows us a woman trapped between her head and her heart but learning to embrace life, despite what may come. 

Also at the library:

Prayers the Devil Answers (F) by Sharyn McCrumb

Beyond the Ice Limit (F) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

A Hero of France (F) by Alan Furst

Blonde Faith (M) by Walter Mosely

I Almost Forgot About You (F) by Terry McMillan  

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June 13, 2016 

East Tennessee’s role in World War II was great. From Oak Ridge to Alcoa to Rohm and Haas Chemical Company, the contributions and sacrifices of East Tennessee’s people and companies are detailed in Dewaine A. Speaks and Ray Clift’s new book, East Tennessee in World War II (670.976). If you missed your chance to buy a copy at the Secret City Festival, you can find it at your public library. 

Booker Award winning author Graham Swift’s new book Mothering Sunday (F) follows the story Jane Fairchild, a house maid in an English country home who is having an affair with the heir to the neighboring estate. Although the story opens with this tryst in 1924, what follows is the miraculous unfolding of a woman’s life and emotional growth. Fans of Downton Abbey will be pleased, but Swifts’ prose and storytelling ability is astounding in and of itself.

Rick Bragg has turned his considerable story telling skill and distinct Southern voice to telling the story of Jerry Lee Lewis. The musician, famous for “Whole Lotta Shaking Goin’ On,” spent two years with Bragg, telling the story of his monumental and troubled music career. Jerry Lee Lewis: His own story (781.660) covers Lewis’ life from barnstorming tours with Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly to his marriage to his cousin, Myra Gold Brown, when she was thirteen. 

Fans of international suspense will enjoy Matthew Palmer’s newest, The Wolf of Sarajevo (F). Twenty-years after the massacre at Srebrenica, the Balkans are once again threatened by war. Corrupt politicians, blackmail, the Mafia, and the CIA make for an action-packed story with little down time. With 25 years’ experience in international diplomacy, Palmer’s novel is taught, realistic, and bone chilling.

Few people have the scientific background, the clarity of mind, and the diagnosis to write as eloquently as does Oliver Sacks about illness and a gratitude for life. Written during the last few months of his life, Sacks’ last book, Gratitude (306.900), is a collection of four short, infinitely readable, essays reflecting on the uniqueness of human life and his immense gratitude for the gift of this life. 

Ann Leary, New York Times Best Selling author, writes about eccentric and wealthy New Englanders and family secrets in her new book The Children (F). The children and step-children of deceased, banjo-loving Whit Whitman are grown now, with lives and relationships of their own. When an outgoing and curious fiancée from Idaho arrives in this secluded world, she exposes an unfortunate truth and an hilariously uncomfortable ending. 

Also new at the library:

The Summer Before the War (F) by Helen Simonson

Blood Flag (F) by Steve Martini

The Fireman (F) by Joe Hill

Foreign Agent (F) by Brad Thor

Tall Tail: a Mrs. Murphy Mystery (M) by Rita Mae Brown 

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June 6, 2016 

“We never saw a tourist, and nobody we knew hiked for fun.”  Lee Smith introduces us to life in Grundy, Virginia in her new memoir, “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life.” Smith’s gift for story telling shows us, in a way only she can, life in an isolated Virginia coal town and the cultural riches it offers the world. Fans of Ralph Stanley, Barbara Kingsolver, Dolly Parton, NASCAR and anyone susceptible to a good story will immediately be drawn into Smith’s memories of her father’s general store, which stood for two decades on Grundy’s main street. Roughly four hours from Oak Ridge, Grundy, Virginia was cut off from the world when Smith was growing up, and Smith was “raised to leave,” as the author puts it. As small as Grundy may be, it nevertheless provided the rich and abundant material that makes Smith the much-loved author she is today.

Although some may describe Sofie Sarenbrant in terms of “the next great Scandinavian crime writer,” that easy categorization misses the mark.  Although the Swedish novelist sets her newest book, “Killer Deal,” in Stockholm, her main character is not the tragic and haggard aging male detective of most crime novels. Emma Skold is young, smart, and career-oriented. She’s entered the police force without her father’s consent, and the misogyny of the force is a constant threat. When a man is killed after an open house and his body discovered by his six-year old daughter, Skold’s intelligence for crime and relationships might prove problematic as she pushes boundaries others wish she wouldn’t push. Killer Deal is the sixth novel in the Emma Skold series but the first to be translated into English.  

It should be no surprise that a family as famous as the Vanderbilts is once again taking a place in the national spotlight. What is surprising about Gloria Vanderbilt’s and Anderson Cooper’s new memoir is the intimacy found in such a public setting. On her 91st birthday, Gloria Vanderbilt fell ill with pneumonia. That illness triggered a dialogue between the Vanderbilt and her son Anderson that opened up a new relationship neither had dreamed possible. Delving into memories as personal as the suicide of Cooper’s older brother and the death of his father, romantic betrayals, and successes and failures of all sorts, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes” is a tender and engrossing correspondence between mother and son who have lived both very public and intensely private lives. 

Zach Anner says he botched his own birth. Arriving months premature, Anner lives with Cerebral Palsy. That hasn’t stopped him, however, from becoming an internet sensation, hosting a fitness program, becoming an Oprah star, or a host of other remarkable feats. Anner’s first occupation is humor, and he brings his raucous sense of humor to bear on the ups and downs of his life. “If At Birth You Don’t Succeed” (791.430) is an hysterical account of Anner’s journey to success.  

Best-selling author John Elder Robison’s new book, “Switched On” (616.858), has been endorsed by neurodiversity advocates such as Temple Grandin as “a mind-blowing book.” In his previous book, “Look Me in the Eye”, Robison describes his life with Asperger’s syndrome and the challenges of navigating the world constantly misreading emotional cues. In “Switched On”, Robison participates in a pioneering study at Bethel Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston that uses Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to increase the subject’s emotional awareness. Robison’s unique insight into life with Asperger’s and life, albeit temporarily, outside of Asperger’s asks some challenging questions. Are nuerotypical people happy? Does having an increased emotional awareness actually make it easier to navigate life? “Switched On” is a riveting read about our emotional state and the strengths of neurodiversity. 

Hobby tinkerers, fans of DIY, musicians, and anyone interested in making things will love David Erik Nelsons “Junkyard Jam Band” (784.192). With step-by-step instructions that include the kinds of helpful hints most authors leave to be discovered by chance, Nelson shows how to make everything from a Slinkiphone and Plasti-Pickup, which explain how pick-ups and amps work, to the Twin-T Phaser and the Bleepbox 8-step Analog Sequencer. Every project can be completed with everyday objects or readily found supplies. Nelson includes tips for how to involve children in the process and many projects can be modified for scout-style projects. Nelson’s sense of humor and his original project ideas conclude with a crash course in music theory, instructions on basic skills such as soldering, and explanations of basic musical electrical components. 

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