Readers Guide


By Julie Forkner

July 11, 2016
June 27, 2016
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016

July 11, 2016 

We are lucky to be living in an age of eloquent and prolific scientific writers -- Oliver Sacks,
Stephen Jay Gould, and Neil Degrasse Tyson, to name a few. We can now add Hope Jahren to that list of writers who can clearly elucidate what is invisible to most others. Lab Girl (570.920) is Jahren’s revealing look into plant life but it also tells her story of discovering what she truly loved while still a child in her father’s lab to her ability to work with manic depression as she faces motherhood and everything in between. A professor of geobiology at the University of Hawaii, Dr. Jahren’s first novel is as much scientific revelation as it is personal memoir.

“At the Edge of the Wood,” a painting by 17th century Dutch painter Sarah de Vos, has been in the De Groot family for 300 years, and no one has lived past age 60. When the picture is stolen from the De Groot’s bedroom one evening while the family hosts a fund raising party, the family’s misfortunes seem to ease. As the true story of the painting is discovered, parallel lives appear between the de Groots in contemporary New York and the painter in Amsterdam in 1637. Although the title character is fictional, The Last Painting of Sarah de Vos (F) is a well-researched mystery touching three continents and many lives.

Not many people can claim “science reporter covering plagues and pestilence” as their job title, but Donald McNeil, a reporter for The New York Times can. His new book, Zika: The Emerging Epidemic (614.588) traces the rise of the virus from a contained area of the world where it was once considered a mild disease to the global concern it is now. It is estimated that 298 million people in the Americas now live in areas where the Asian Tiger mosquito, a carrier of the virus, are present. 

The Girl in the Red Coat (F) is not a standard thriller. Much like Emma Donoghue’s Room (F), Kate Hamer’s debut novel uses a horrific event to look at human resilience. When eight-year-old Carmel is abducted at a festival, what follows is both her and her mother’s struggle to remember each other in the ensuing years. Told from alternating viewpoints, The Girl in the Red Coat is a gripping read and a story you won’t soon forget.

The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass is required reading for many students of American history and literature. University of Maryland professor, Robert Levine, argues that the autobiography so many of us are familiar with leaves out significant portions of Douglass’ own work. Including a wide range of writings from the 1840s to the 1890s, The Lives of Frederick Douglass (921.000) expands our understanding of Douglass’ life to include new insights on his relationships with John Brown, Abraham, Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, and William Auld, Douglass’ former slave master. 

Iain Reed’s first novel¸ I’m Thinking of Ending Things (F), was described by fellow novelist, Sjon, as “a road trip to the heart of creepiness.” It has also been described as engaging, addictive, ferocious, bizarre, and twisted. A man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm when they take a wrong turn. It’s the beginning of almost every horror movie ever, but the true horror in this tale lies in what is in the character’s heads. 

Also at the Library:
     The Games (F) by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
     Magic (F) by Danielle Steel
     Chance Developments (SS) by Alexander McCall Smith
     A Lowcountry Wedding (F) by Mary Alice Monroe
     All Summer Long (F) by Dorothea Benton Frank

New Movies and TV series:
     How to be Single (FEAT HOW)
     Dirty Grandpa (FEAT DIRTY)
     Orange is the New Black Season 3 (TELE ORANGE)
     Grey’s Anatomy Season 1 (TELE GREY)

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June 27, 2016 

Prolific author and National Book Award Winner, Louise Erdrich has a new novel, LaRose (F).  While hunting deer in the late summer in North Dakota, Landreaux Iron kills not a deer, but his neighbors’ and good friends’,  five-year-old son. Searching for a way to atone for his mistake, Landreaux follows Ojibwe custom and convinces his wife to give their own son, LaRose, to their friends in place of the child he killed. As the two families finally begin to heal years later, someone with a longstanding grudge against Landreaux arrives looking for vengeance. Erdrich is a master storyteller, and LaRose is no disappointment.  

In 1942, the Nazi’s were hoping to be the first to build what Oak Ridge would eventually become famous for. Hitler had physicists and uranium, but he didn’t have heavy water. The Winter Fortress (940.548) is an epic adventure, but nonetheless true, story of a great act of sabotage.  Produced at Norway’s Vemork, heavy water became Hitler’s obsession and he pushed engineers there under threat of death to increase production. When Leif Tronstad, a Norwegian scientist who escaped the German invasion, brings word of Hitler’s plans to The Allies, one of the most daring missions of World War II gets underway. Author Neal Bascomb’s research into Hitler’s attempt to make an atomic bomb unearthed top-secret documents, hidden diaries, and saboteur’s letters, shedding new insight on the assault on the infamous Winter Fortress.

In his first novel, Lily and the Octopus (F), Steven Rowley introduces us to Ted Flask in an infinitely readable and engaging voice. Lily, Ted’s dachshund and constant companion, has a tumor. At the prospect of losing his best friend, Ted falls into a heartfelt yet hilarious discovery of what it means to love any creature at all and to live with uncertainty.  

In 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of eugenics, allowing a Virginia woman, Carrie Buck, to be sterilized on grounds of ‘feeblemindedness.’ As a result of that ruling, more than sixty thousand Americans were sterilized by court order. In Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck (344.048), Adam Cohen describes how the lawyers on each side of Buck vs Bell, the justices, and the lawmakers colluded to perpetuate horrible civil rights violation.  

Call it the Downton Abbey effect, but love stories set in England before, in between, and immediately after the World Wars are the current trend in the publishing world. All their popularity, however, does not detract from the power of Chris Cleave’s new novel, Everyone Brave is Forgiven (F). Based on the love letters written between his parents, Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a sweeping epic, complete with undeniable insights, complex characters, and a gripping love triangle. 

Better known for his skill at elucidating social movement, Bruce Watson has turned his considerable talent to arts and science. In his new book, Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age (535.000), Watson traces the history of our understanding of light beginning with a solstice sunrise at Stonehenge into the age of lasers and fiber optics. Those with eternal curiosity for the world’s wonders will find this to be an enlightening and engaging natural history. 

Also at the library:
     The House of Daniel (F)  by Harry Turtledove
     Everybody’s Fool (F)  by Richard Russo
     Here’s to Us (F)  by Elin Hildebrand
     The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals Can Help Spectrum Kids become Successful Adults (616.858)
         by Temple Grandin

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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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