Readers Guide


By Julie Forkner

January 16, 2017
January 9, 2017
January 2, 2017
December 23, 2016

January 16, 2017 

The Gustav Sonata (F)
is Rose Tremain’s, winner of the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, latest novel. Taking place in Switzerland over the course of the lifetimes of best friends Gustav and Anton, this lyrical tale tells the story of families surviving the difficult decisions made during war time and the way success and jealousy often exist together. When Gustav’s father dies as a result of his defending Jewish refugees, Gustav is left alone with his anti-Semitic mother. His friend Anton, the child of Jewish war refugees, grows to become a famous pianist. The story of their parallel lives is told with great clarity for the human condition. 

Vivian Howard, co-creator of the PBS hit series A Chef’s Life, has put her stories of growing up in North Carolina and her culinary skill together in a new cookbook, Deep Run Roots (641.597.)  Founder of Chef and the Farmer, the restaurant that made Kinston, NC famous, Howard left her childhood home in North Carolina to learn in the world class kitchens of New York City. When her family offered her the chance to open her own restaurant in Kinston, Howard seized the opportunity. Deep Run Roots (641.597) is the mouth-watering product of both her schooling and alongside stories of her North Carolina upbringing. 

The Washington Post called Bernice McFadden’s new novel The Book of Harlan (F) “simply miraculous.” Beginning at the peak of the Jazz Era, The Book of Harlan begins in Macon, GA where Harlan’s parents meet. After a stroke of good luck, the family moves to Harlem, New York, where Harlan discovers his talent and passion for music. From Harlem, Harlan goes to Paris, where World War II begins. McFadden’s thorough research and passion for her subject creates a brilliant novel. 

Local author Richard Cook saw a grave injustice in the fact that Rosie the Riveter is a celebrated icon but the women who worked for the Manhattan Project were largely ignored. Ignored Heroes of World War II (976.983) is his attempt to correct that imbalance and his contribution to the legacy of the Manhattan Project. This oral history celebrates the contributions of Wendy the Welder and the accomplishments achieved in Oak Ridge during the war. 

In 1961 Philadelphia, Joe Knight is born and quickly orphaned. Raised by an aunt, Joe grows to be a star basketball player and to form a multi-million dollar company. When he sells his ad firm in a lucrative deal, the Justice Department begins looking into the sale, and Joe’s life begins to unravel. Told with force and muscle, Morris’ All Joe Knight (F) creates an anti-hero to rival John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom. 

Ray Kroc was just beginning to sell franchises of his hamburger chain when he met Joan, his soon-to-be wife. As the McDonald’s fortune steadily grew, their marriage grew more turbulent. Often compared to Elizabeth Taylor’s and Richard Burton’s relationship, Ray and Joan survived many years of marriage but their problems led Joan to become one of the greatest philanthropists of our time. Ray and Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave it All Away (361.740) by Lisa Napoli tells their story.

Also at the Library:
     Curtain of Death (F) by W. E. B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
     The Spartan Dagger (F) by Nicholas Guild
     2 Timers (F) by Amaleka McCall
     Spiders from Mars: My Life with Bowie (781.660) by Woody Woodmansey
     Facebook for Seniors (006.754) by Carrie, Chris, and Cheryl Ewin
     The 30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse (641.563) by Maria Emmerich

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January 9, 2017 

Leave it to T. C. Boyle, master of cultural satire and dedicated environmentalist, to take on the failed 1991 project, Biosphere 2. Reinventing the experiment that aimed to seclude four men and four women in a sealed atmosphere to simulate starting a new colony on Mars, Boyle’s The Terranauts (F) recreates the Biosphere as E2, a scientific project but also a publicity stunt for a self-important ecovisionary self-dubbed God the Creator. Deftly navigating the allegory of the Garden of Eden, Boyle’s tale of human fallibility is not predictable but it is funny and bitingly insightful. 

Although cell phone videos are becoming increasingly more common in reporting news stories and in the courtroom, the first home movie to capture a significant cultural moment brought its creator a lifetime of unprecedented dilemmas.  On November 22, 1963, Abraham Zapruder, a Russian-Jewish immigrant working in an office near Dealey Plaza, hoping to create a home movie of a presidential visit, filmed the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Unwittingly capturing a moment that is now an icon of American culture and identity and owning the footage, Zapruder and his family had to answer questions like how best to help the government but still stave off the swarming reporters. How would they ensure the film was safeguarded and not exploited? Zapruder’s granddaughter, Alexandra explores the film’s creation as a cultural icon and its impact on American history and her family with the help of previously sealed archival sources, personal records, and interviews in the new book Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film (973.922). 

Perhaps one of the best writers of his generation, Edward Hoagland has been part of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, is a graduate of Harvard University, served two years in the army and is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships. The author of over twenty books and collections of non-fiction essays, Hoagland has a new book out at the age of 83. In the Country of the Blind (F) takes place in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and centers on Press, a stockbroker steadily losing his sight and, therefore, his job and his wife. Isolated in rural Vermont, surrounded by drug traffickers, back-to-the-earth commune dwellers, failed farmers, and vicious auctioneers, Press has to find his way through his newly dark world.

For fans of the Netflix series The Crown and other followers of the British Royal House, renowned Royal biographer Christopher Andersen’s newest book centers on the three current Her Majesties – Elizabeth, Camilla, and Kate. With his typical thirst for inside information, Andersen explores the differences and rivalries among the three women, including their relationship with Princess Diana. For those interested in royal lifestyles rather than a thorough history, Game of Crowns (941.085) will not disappoint.

Despite the tradition of the movie following the book, Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries (F) was published after the movie hit the box office. For those that either missed the movie or enjoy the series enough to relive it, the book will not differ much from what happened on screen. Nonetheless, Fielding’s depiction of Bridget’s love life is still as funny and irreverent as ever. 

Jennifer Weiner is one of the library’s most popular authors. In Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Writing (814.000), Weiner explains how she found her calling as a writer and all the various roles she played along the way. From rowing to writing columns for the New York Times to being a mother and wife, Weiner depicts modern life with side-splitting humor and heartfelt emotion. 

Also at the library:
     The Edge of Violence (W) by William Johnstone
     Sinner Man (M) by Lawrence Block
     Brazen (M) by Loren Estleman
     The Truth about Cancer: What you need to know about cancer’s history, treatment and prevention (616.994) by
        Ty Bolinger
     Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer (616.994) by Marilu Henner
     Isis: A History (363.325) by Fawaz A. Gerges

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January 2, 2017

Shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing (F) is an epic novel spanning several generations of a Chinese family under Mao’s Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. Beautifully written with humor and sophistication, Thien explores how and why artists and arts survive under brutal oppression while also telling the story of how a family survives, or doesn’t. Set against the backdrops of the Cultural Revolution, the protests in Tiananmen Square, and modern-day Vancouver, Do Not Say We Have Nothing is grandly intimate novel.

The ever-popular Thomas Friedman has turned his unique analytical eye to the question of our rapidly accelerated pace of living. According to Friedman, the three factors causing our lives to speed up are Moore’s Law (technology), the globalized market, and climate change and the loss of biodiversity. As each of the factors accelerates, they have a significant impact on our workplaces, politics, geopolitics, ethics and communities. Friedman explains how this happens and offers some strategies for working and living in this strange, speedy world.

Wally Lamb, best-selling author of I Know This Much is True (F) and She’s Come Undone (F), is known for his deft storytelling skills and bittersweet insight. His new novel, I’ll Take You There (F), promises to be just as funny, complicated, and real as his previous novels. Felix Funicello from Lamb’s previous novel Wishin’ and Hopin’ (F) is back as a film scholar reflecting on his baby boomer existence. Examining the lives of the three women closest to him, Felix, along with the ghost of a pioneering movie director, tries to make sense of his past with the help of classic Hollywood.

When Pat Conroy passed away on March of 2016, he left behind a treasure trove of letters, speeches, essays and the assorted works that come from a lifetime of writing. Now collected in one place, A Lowcountry Life (921.000) is an eloquent tribute to this prolific writer. Although Conroy was working on a new novel when he died of pancreatic cancer, it was not developed enough for anyone to see it through to completion. A Lowcountry Life is Conroy’s last word, and even the most circumspect fans will not want to miss it. 

What does a poker player do when he loses his poker face? Alexander Bruno has to figure it out when a tumor inside his skull requires reconstructive surgery. Although his game is backgammon and not poker, after his surgery Bruno has to relearn how to live, a daunting task made more so by his return to Berkeley, the scene of his original crimes. Jonathan Lethem’s A Gambler’s Anatomy (F) is full of the quirky characters and existential questions Lethem is known for. 

In 2010, Seiji Ozawa, the dynamic Japanese conductor who worked with the Boston Symphony Orchestra among many others in his long career, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Fighting the illness required him to slow down. Noticing that the dynamic man was struggling with having nothing to do, his friend and Nobel Prize-nominated author Haruki Murakami, decided to talk to him about music. Over the course of the next two years, these two creative geniuses explored music from every angle and the resulting conversation is the book Absolutely on Music (784.209). Through a series of questions and answers, the two explore music in a unique way that is sure to intrigue music lovers of all sorts.

Also at the Library
     The Whole Town’s Talking (F) by Fannie Flagg
     Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis (F) by Anne Rice
     The 7th Canon (F) by Robert Dugoni
     Befriending the Wolf: the Guide to Living and Thriving with Lupus (616.772) by Milly Diericx
     Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays (817.000) by Mike Macdonald and Jilly Gagnon
     Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation (576.820) by Michael Keller

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December 23, 2016 

Francine Prose is one of the most astute authors writing today. Mister Monkey (F), her newest novel, features an off-off-off Broadway production of a tired but somehow enduring children’s musical. Although the production itself is terrible, the lives of both the characters on stage and those in the audience are all subject to Prose’s satire and deft sympathies. As always, Prose is enlightening, worldly, and funny.

Scientists have studied animal intelligence for a long time. In the new book, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (591.593) Dutch-American primatologist Frans de Waal shows how each characteristic previously thought to be uniquely human is, in fact, not. Offering first hand observations, de Waal explains how science is disproving traditional behaviorism and illuminating just how much we’ve underestimated animals. This is a must-read for anyone interested in what it means to be human and what it is like to be non-human. 

Fans of Ann Cleeve’s Vera Stanhope mysteries will celebrate the release of The Moth Catcher (M), the eighth in the series. The owners of a country house employ an ecologist to house-sit while they are away. When his body is found by the side of the road, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope arrives on the scene to find not one body, but two. Cleeves is the winner of the prestigious Dagger Award for her first novel, Raven Black (M). Readers will enjoy returning to northeast England in this atmospheric mystery.

Ever since the Six-Million-Dollar Man aired on TV in 1973, the line between medical treatment and life enhancement has been a field ripe for fantasy. With emerging technology, however, that line is becoming less fantasy and more a subject for serious ethical discussion. In Beyond Human: How Cutting Edge Science is Extending Our Life (174.200) investigates the collaborative world of doctors, scientists and engineers to examine new technologies such as nano-robots that can cure disease and reverse aging, artificial organs that extend life, and neural implants that enhance the brain. Some people believe these technologies will allow us to control human evolution, an idea many others find uncomfortable. Herold, past director for the Public Policy Research and Education for the Genetics Policy Institute, is in a unique position to balance the exciting possibilities science can offer with the very real social impacts it will have.

Flavia de Luce, the heroine of Alan Bradley’s mystery series, is, for one, glad when life isn’t extended. In fact, the scrappy twelve-year-old rejoices in the chance to solve yet another mystery when she inadvertently finds a man hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door guarded by a curiously striped cat. Having returned from Canada disgraced and expelled from her boarding school, Flavia takes the chance to prove her worth in Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d (M).


Brandon McMillan, host of the Emmy award winning show Lucky Dog, believes that every dog is trainable, from the most hyper purebred to the most shell-shocked shelter pet. His new book, Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in Seven Days (636.700), explains his dog-training methods and shows you how to teach your dog his Seven Common Commands. Along with his practical advice and lessons, McMillan shares his favorite success stories of rescuing and training the most difficult dogs. 

Also at the library:
      Island of Glass (F) by Nora Roberts
     Turbo Twenty-Two (M) by Janet Evanovich
     Devonshire Scream (M) by Laura Childs
     How to Bake Everything (641.815) by Mark Bittman
     North Carolina Waterfalls (917.560) by Kevin Adams
     Victoria: The Queen (941.081) by Julia Baird

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