Readers Guide


By Julie Forkner

August 29, 2016
August 22, 2016
August 15, 2016
August 8, 2016

August 29, 2016 

Railroad now available at your public library. 

Pulitzer Prize winner and Guggenheim Fellow, Colson Whitehead’s new novel, The Underground Railroad (F), was released earlier than anticipated after a resounding endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. Whitehead’s story takes place in a reimagined south, where the Underground Railroad is an actual train taking the main character, Cora, an escaped slave, through newly re-imagined states. A journey through the atrocities committed against enslaved people, The Underground Railroad is not the “novel of Southern Black Misery,” as Whitehead himself states, but it does not flinch away from topics such as forced sterilization and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. Whitehead’s inimitable story telling skills are at the forefront in this new novel that has already been described as an instant American classic.

Taking on a similar topic from a non-fiction point of view, Laurence Leamer’s The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan (364.134) is a legal thriller that tells the story of two separate court cases. The first case is the trial in which Henry Hays and James Knowles are found guilty of the brutal murder of nineteen year old Michael Donald. The second is the case in which Morris Dees, cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, wins against the United Klans of America for conspiracy. This landmark trial, as late as 1981, is the decision that not only broke the Klan but also helped Dees become the civil rights leader he is known for today.

For those who love stories of Arctic survival, Eowyn Ivey’s new novel, To the Bright Edge of the World (F), is loosely based on the real life journey of Lieutenant Henry T. Allen, an Alaskan explorer who led an expedition up the Copper River in 1885. In Ivey’s reimagining, Allen has been assigned to lead an expedition most thought impossible: to travel up the Wolverine River into the Alaskan wilderness. His newly pregnant wife, Sophie, is left, unhappily, behind. Although Ivey is adept at the creating the stark, magnificient realities of the natural world, she also just as adeptly weaves magical realism into her novel, creating a new layer of connection, plot, and possibility. Like her contemporary Louise Erdrich, Ivey brings every element of the culture and landscape to bear in this adventure story of love, loss, and survival in the Alaskan wilderness.

Also in 1885 across the globe from Alaska, thirteen year old Robert Combes stabbed his mother to death while she slept in their home in the East End of London. Much like today’s video games, penny dreadfuls, weekly publications full of adventure and violence intended for teenaged boys, bore part of the blame for Robert’s behavior. Robert himself was sent to the Broadmoor Institute for the Criminally Insane, where he learned to tailor clothing, played on the prison cricket team, and contributed to the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Combes was eventually released and emigrated to Australia. Kate Summerscales’s telling of Combes’ history in The Wicked Boy (364.152) is a thoroughly researched and a fascinating look into Victorian England’s treatment of the criminally insane.

With the Rio Olympics and the surrounding drama still fresh in our minds, it is the perfect time to read Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid (F). Translated from the Italian, Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella is the fictionalized story of real life runner, Samia Yusef Omar. Despite living under the extremist group Al-Shabaab in Somalia, where she is forbidden from competing, Samia trains to be a world class athlete. Qualifying for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, she finishes last in her heat. Determined to succeed, Omar qualifies once again, against great odds, for the London Olympics in 2012. Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid is an inspiring look at one woman’s journey but it is also a terrifying glimpse into what many migrants face every day.

Have you ever wondered how future generations will judge present day culture? Have you ever considered that the things we take for granted as true might one day be found false? Chuck Klosterman’s new book, But What if We’re Wrong (303.490), starts with those very questions and a few more. Are we overlooking current literary geniuses? Which current musical superstars will future generations hold up as the icon of our time? Klosterman attempts to look at the present as though it were the far distant past. How does our current understanding of science influence the way we look at Sir Isaac Newton, for instance?  Klosterman takes that question and then projects it into the future, in an attempt to make better decisions and fewer mistakes. The benefit, as Klosterman has pointed out, is that if he’s wrong, he’ll never know it because by the time the judgement is in we’ll all be long gone. A former ethicist for the New York Times, Klosterman will keep you entertained if not thoroughly bewildered.


Also at the library:
     Bullseye (F)  by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
     Dark Carousel (F) by Christine Feehan
     Dragonmark (F)  by Sherrilyn Kenyon
     Sting (F)  by Sandra Brown
     Damaged (F)  by Lisa Scottoline
     Smooth Operator (F) by Stuart Woods

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August 22, 2016 

The Games: A Global History of the Olympics
mow at your public library 

Pulitzer Prize winner and Guggenheim Fellow, Colson Whitehead’s new novel, The Underground Railroad (F), was released earlier than anticipated after a resounding endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. Whitehead’s story takes place in a reimagined south, where the Underground Railroad is an actual train taking the main character, Cora, an escaped slave, through newly re-imagined states. A journey through the atrocities committed against enslaved people, The Underground Railroad is not the “novel of Southern Black Misery,” as Whitehead himself states, but it does not flinch away from topics such as forced sterilization and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. Whitehead’s inimitable story telling skills are at the forefront in this new novel that has already been described as an instant American classic.

Moving back to New York after years in England, divorced father Jeremy O’keefe glides through his quiet life giving no more thought to national secrets than he does to anything else. When boxes containing records of his online activity show up on his doorstep and he notices that he is being followed, however, he starts to reassess his time and activities. Has he somehow unwittingly trespassed against national security? Patrick Flanery’s new novel I am No One (F) is a tense and thrilling novel about what happens when privacy no longer exists and the past catches up with us.

Information technology certainly has implications for privacy, but what about international politics? What would happen if the online search engines we rely on so much were able to change the political world stage from one of warring nation-states to a global micro-democracy? Malka Older, a Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Center, is uniquely positioned to ponder the question of information technology and politics. Her new novel Infomocracy (F) has been described as as a mix of The West Wing with Snow Crash.  For those with a curious mind and a wicked sense of humor, Malka Older’s Infomocracy is a fresh, new tale about the ever-increasing role of technology in our lives.

The justification for informational technology and its intrusiveness into our lives is, of course, security. The trade-off for having your personal data harvested is that it keeps us as a nation, in theory at least, a little safer. Although it’s a fictional take on anti-terrorism, Ghost Sniper (F) by Scott McEwen is the fourth installment in the Sniper Elite series. Once the information is gathered, someone has to act on it.  In this newest book of the series, an American politician is assassinated in Mexico City by an American ex-gunman now employed by the most ruthless drug cartel in Mexico. Author Scott McEwen spins another action tale of hyper-realistic warfare.

With the Olympics in full swing comes David Goldblatt’s new book, The Games A Global History of the Olympics (796.480). Goldblatt tells the story of the Olympics from the games’ reinvention in Athens in 1896 to its current home in Rio. With immense research, Goldblatt explains how the Olympics have been a stage for some of the most strident political statements as well as some of the world’s finest athletes. This comprehensive history of the modern Olympics games is not only an engaging read but also an insightful look into the economics of the games and the lives that have been shaped by the event. 

In an altogether different challenge is Charles Foster’s Being A Beast (591.500). What is it like to be a badger? Or an otter, a fox, a deer? Charles Foster has written extensively on travel, philosophy, law and biology. He also holds a doctorate in medical law and is qualified veterinarian. In his latest endeavor to understand life on this planet, he attempts to understand animals from their own point of view, living in turns as a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer, and finally a swift. As a badger, he digs a burrow in the woods and lives on worms, drinking water from the same puddles and springs the badgers do. He forages in suburban trash cans to understand life as a fox, and follows the swifts through their migration over the Strait of Gibraltar. The lessons he learns are complex, and he conveys them with a passionate and graceful humor rarely found in the contemporary literature.

Bee hunting used to be a popular and widely practiced pastime. In his book, Following the Wild Bees (595.799), Thomas Seeley, a bee biologist and hunter, explains how to find a patch of flowers humming with bees, how to capture and feed them, and then how to follow them back to their hive. If you’ve followed the decline of the honey bee or if you enjoy the outdoors either in person or from your armchair, Seeley’s narrative, his historical anecdotes, and colorful photos will expand your understanding of this crucial insect that pollinates our world.

Also at the library:
      Liars (320.510)  by Glenn Beck
     Liberty’s Last Stand (F) by Stephen Coonts
     The Angel’s Share (F) by J. R. Ward
     White Bone (F) by Ridley Pearson
     Sweet Tomorrows (F) by Debbie Macomber

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August 15, 2016 

Man Booker Award nominees now available at your public library.

The longlist for the Man Booker Prize, a leading literary prize in the English-speaking word, was released at the end of July, and Deborah Levy, author of Hot Milk (F) is on it once again. Levy made the short list for her novel Swimming Home (F) in 2012. Sometimes compared to Virginia Woolf, Levy writes inher new novel with stark candidness about the interior life of Sofia, an anthropologist who has been trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s illness for over 30 years. When Sofia and her mother, Rose, travel to Spain to visit a last-chance doctor, Sofia gets drawn into a labyrinth of desire and surreal logic. Like John Fowles’ The Magus (F), Hot Milk will draw you in and keep you. 

Ian Mcguire’s new novel The North Water (F) is also on the longlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize. Many writers have tried to portray pure evil, and McGuire keeps pace with this story of a Yorkshire whaling ship bound for the Arctic. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, who, in the opening of the book, rapes and murders a young boy. Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon who thought he had experienced the depths of man’s depravity during the Siege of Dehli, is also on board the Volunteer. Sumner and Drax are thrown together when the true purpose of the expedition comes to light in the cold arctic winter. Other Man Booker Award nominees available at the library include The Sellout (F) by Paul Beatty and My Name is Lucy Barton (F) by Elizabeth Strout. 

Tennessee native, Lee Clay Johnson has written a debut novel, Nitro Mountain (F), recognized by Men’s Journal as one of the eight best books published this spring. Although small towns have a reputation for quaint nostalgia, some of them have reputations for violence, crime, and country music. Such is the case for Nitro Mountain, a polluted mine town in the mountains of Virginia that is home to a band of people struggling to either embrace the violence of their hometown or escape it. For some, the decision is black and white, but others swing back and forth and it is their struggle that is most intriguing.

Have you ever noticed that people who are more successful, be it at school or at work, are not necessarily happier? University of Texas professor, Raj Raghunathan spent some time with his MBA classmates and noticed that although they had all been high achievers at school and now had well –paying careers, they were not necessarily happy. Raghunathan’s new book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? (152.420), is a fun and insightful look into the correlation of wealth and happiness and what it really takes to be happy.

Fans of the NPR show On Being will know the name Krista Tippet, the show’s host. Over the course of her career, Tippett has interviewed some of the most provocative thinkers from theologians and poets to physicists and authors. In her new book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (128.000), Tippett brings together the myriad insights she has gleaned over the years into one cohesive narrative. Well-grounded and fiercely optimistic, Tippett offers a vision for humanity in this century marked by resilience and redemption and with beauty, civility, and love at its core.

Going back to school is without a doubt a stressful time for kids and parents alike. Regardless of whether or not a child looks forward to school, new classes, new routines, and new people all act as stressors, and stressors, according to Dr. Stuart Shanker, are at the root of troublesome behavior.  In his book Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life (155.418), Shanker explains the difference between self-regulation and self-control. Explaining that the ability to recognize when you are stressed and how to calm yourself is an ability we can all possess, Shanker shows how learning these life skills is possible at an early age and shows how to avoid the disciplinary struggles most parents dread. 

Also at the library:
     Blood Defense (F) by Marcia Clark
     Unforgiven (F) by Mary Balogh
     Haunted Destiny (F) by Heather Graham
     A Time of Torment (F)  by John Connolly
     Insidious (F) by Catherine Coulter

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August 8, 2016 

The Almighty
by Dan Zak now at your public library. 


At the end of this beach-reads season comes a book that is decidedly anti-beach. Here Comes the Sun (F) by Nicole Dennis-Benn is an addictive debut novel that centers on the characters that make resort life possible. Trained by her mother at an early age to court visitors to the resort, Margot sets her considerable ambition to climbing the social structure of Jamaica in order to ensure the safety and success of her younger sister. The cost she pays is one few of us will ever know, but nonetheless, will hold you tightly in its grip. 

Described by Spectator Magazine as one of the finest writers of popular science around, John Gribbin combines science, history, and biography to bring the seemingly conflicting ideas of quantum theory and the theory of relativity into harmony in his new book 13.8: The Quest to Find the True Age of the Universe and the Theory of Everything (523.120). While quantum theory deals with the behavior of small things and the theory of relativity that of very large things, Gribbin elucidates a deep truth about the nature and age of our universe to show how these two theories share common ground. 

Hubert Mingarelli is a French writer known for his writings for Young Adults. His newest novel, however, is a tale meant for adults about the harrowing nature of genocide and the ordinary people who commit it.
A Meal in Winter (F) is a short novel that addresses the whole of human nature in a very short space. Although its subject matter, World War II and the Holocaust, is grim, to say the least, Mingarelli manages to show us how compassion can thrive at the darkest of times. 

Few in Oak Ridge are unaware of the break-in at Y-12 in the summer of 2012. Dan Zak’s newly published book, The Almighty (327.174) uses the break-in as a starting point to examine our complex relationship with nuclear weapons. Drawing heavily from the religious beliefs that motivated several of the activists, Zak makes a parallel argument about the belief that nuclear weapons will maintain peace. For anyone interested in the continuing role of the Manhattan Project, The Almighty is an important piece of that story. 

Before he was known as the author of Moby Dick, Herman Melville was known as a wildman, the man who lived with the cannibals, and an adventurer on the high seas. Nathaniel Hawthorne, on the other hand, was always known as The Puritan. When Melville, on the verge of bankruptcy and with severe writer’s block, meets his neighbor in the Berkshires, the relationship that results is nothing anyone could have imagined. The Whale: A Love Story is the improbable but slightly true story of two of American literature’s strongest personalities.

If you’re like most American, you’ve tried at least one diet fad. Nutritional advice is prolific, and almost all of it requires strict diets, expensive gym memberships, and very little scientific evidence to back it up. The Big 5 (613.200) by Dr. Sanjiv Chopra, however, is the opposite. Drawing on extensive research, tests, and trials, Chopra offers five simple and virtually free steps to living a longer, healthier life. Accessible to anyone, Chopra’s recommendations are clearly explained with data resulting from studies involving thousands of subjects. Best of all, you don’t have to wear spandex.


Also at the library:
     The Innocents (F) by Ace Atkins
     Daughters of the Bride (F) by Susan Mallery
     Smooth Operator (F) by Stuart Woods and Parnell Halll
     Bullseye (F) by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
     Sweet Tomorrows (F) by Debbie Macomber

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