Readers Guide


By Susie Stooksbury
October 1, 2015
September 24, 2015
September 17, 2015
September 10, 2015

October 1, 2015 

How hard can it be to write a memoir?  Everyone who tries is certainly an expert on their subject – namely themselves.  Easy-peasy, right?  Well, it turns out that there is a lot more to producing a good memoir than just writing about your life.  Mary Karr should know – she has written three that have garnered her a number of awards.  Now she turns her attention to the craftsmanship she has learned in The Art of Memoir (809.935). 

One day in 1912, the Kopp sisters – Constance, Norma, and Fleurette – set out from their farm in rural New Jersey to shop in nearby Paterson.  On the way, a motor car driven by drunken Henry Kaufman, a local factory owner, collides with their buggy.  When the forthright Constance demands he pay for the damages, he refuses and begins a campaign of threats and intimidation.  But he underestimates Constance who calls in the local sheriff and prepares to fight back.  Amy Stewart presents a highly entertaining novel based on the real story of one of the country’s first female deputy sheriffs in Girl Waits With Gun. 

Following World War I, New York socialites Sara and Gerald Murphy had the desire and wherewithal to live a life “entirely of our own creation”.  They moved to the Antibes in the south of France and built a palatial home which soon became a hangout for F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and many other members of the dissolute Lost Generation.  Liza Klaussmann builds her latest richly fashioned novel, Villa America, around the couple who inspired Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. 

We have all heard stories about the working poor in this country – people who still live in poverty despite working long hours for low pay.  But what about the nearly 1.5 million households that don’t even meet that criteria?  How do you go about feeding yourself and your family when you have no income?  Two professors of sociology, Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, thoroughly researched that question and reveal their disturbing findings in $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America (339.460). 

How does anyone deal with a monumental tragedy?  June Reid must figure that out for herself when her house literally explodes on the eve of her daughter’s wedding, killing her daughter Lolly, Lolly’s fiancé, June’s ex-husband and her younger lover Luke.  With her emotional touchstones gone, along with all she owns, June gets in her car and heads west.  Meanwhile, Luke’s mother tends to her own grief while fending off the small town gossips, and the young pot-smoking kid who worked at June’s house the day of the explosion begins to piece together what really happened.  Literary agent Bill Clegg makes his fine fiction debut with Did You Ever Have a Family.                 

Meet the Zeroes – five hackers, each with special skills, all rounded up by National Security Council agent Hollis Cooper who gives them a choice: either work on a secret project for the NSA or go to prison.  They are transported to the Lodge, which is a complex full of other hackers who are all working on infiltrating high-security networks.  It doesn’t take them long, though, to figure out that they are merely pawns in a high-stakes conflict within the government they thought they were helping.  Gamer and novelist Chuck Wendig is the author. 

Other new titles

Fiction –
     Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian, by E. L. James;
Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal;
The Photograph, by Beverly Lewis;
Margaret Truman’s Internship in Murder: a Capital Crimes Novel (M), by Donald Bain;
Make Me: a Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child.

Non-fiction –
     Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking (641.595), by Maangchi.

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September 24, 2015 

In light of his recent cancer diagnosis, former President Jimmy Carter’s new biography seems to have a special resonance.  Much of what he includes has already been covered in his other books, but new here are details of his career in the Navy – one he would of pursued if his father had not died – and the ramifications of his decision to resign his commission.  After a life well lived, Carter opens up about A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety (973.926). 

Heidi Wood has always had a soft spot for the destitute, but the stray cats of this world and the hard-luck cases she encounters in her non-profit work can’t hold a candle to teenage Willow and four-month-old Ruby.  When Heidi sees them in the rain at a Chicago transit station she can’t help herself.  She brings them home, much to the dismay of her husband Chris and pre-teen daughter Zoe.  In Pretty Baby, Mary Kubica slowly reveals Willow’s story and the havoc it brings to Heidi and her family. 

Happily one of America’s most popular authors is one of its most prolific.  Joyce Carol Oates has won many awards for her fine fiction and short stories. She is currently the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University.  The Lost Landscape: a Writer’s Coming of Age (921.000) is her memoir of her childhood, arranged in a series of vignettes, which reveals how her vivid imagination, fostered by her love of reading, struggled to co-exist with the harsh realities of farm life. 

Whether by design or by accident, elderly Edith has rented the apartments in her brownstone to an odd assortment of individuals – each of them needy in his or her own way.  There’s Paulie, whose mind seems to be stuck in childhood, tended to by his anxious sister; agoraphobic Adelaide; artistic Thomas who has had a stroke; and Edward, a stand-up comic who hates people.  Edith nurtures them all – until it becomes painfully evident that she is slipping into dementia.  In Infinite Home, Kathleen Alcott sensitively reveals what happens when the residents band together to save their homes, their landlady – and, ultimately, themselves. 

Imagine a country where the difference between the Haves and the Have-Nots is their credit score, where the wealthy few enjoy life in the Hamptons while all the rest, called The Subprimes, live out of their SUVs, barely managing to stay out of reach of their creditors.  This is the setting for Karl Taro Greenfeld’s latest social parody.  As a motorcycle-riding young woman named Sargan establishes a utopian community for the subprimes in rural Nevada, trouble begins to brew after the wealthy discover valuable shale oil under the makeshift town. 

Even though Ronald Reagan did not die from the wounds he suffered in John Hinckley’s assassination attempt, Bill O’Reilly and his co-writer Martin Dugard have included him in their popular The Killing of Historical Figures series.  They contend that the shooting, which occurred two months into his first term, deeply affected Reagan and the U.S. in a variety of ways – all revealed in Killing Reagan: the Violent Assault that Changed a Presidency (973.927). 

New DVDs

Feature –
     Serena, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence;
Get Hard, with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart;
Chappie, with Dev Patel and Sigourney Weaver;
Virtuosity, featuring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe;
McFarland USA, starring Kevin Costner and Maria Bello;
Match, with Patrick Stewart and Carla Gugino.

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September 17, 2015 

Hailed as the first major publishing event of the fall season, Purity is Jonathan Franzen’s fifth novel, and it’s as sprawling and thought-provoking as his first.  Two years out of college with a dead-end job and massive student debt, Purity “Pip” Tyler is stuck in Oakland with an emotionally messed-up mother who refuses to tell her who her father is.  Relief of sorts comes about when German visitor Annagret introduces Pip to Andreas Wolf, a charismatic Julian Asange-like character.  Before long, our girl finds herself in Bolivia where Wolf heads the Sunlight Project – a strange cult made up of young, naïve computer hackers. 

Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide at Surete du Quebec, has retired to his beloved, bucolic Three Pines, an artists’ enclave near the Canadian border.  Yet here once again, as it has in times past, crime stalks the denizens – even the children are not safe.  Laurent Lepage, an imaginative 9-year-old, seems to have an odd tale to tell every day, each one wilder than the last.  When he is found murdered in the woods, Gamache realizes there was more to his stories than anyone could imagine.  Louise Penny continues her award-winning series in The Nature of the Beast (M). 

Great Britain was more than a casual observer of America in the years leading up to the Civil War.  With a government violently opposed to slavery yet an economy that depended on cotton, the British had to walk a fine line.  In 1853, they sent British consul Robert Bunch into this diplomatic nightmare.  In Our Man in Charleston (973.786), Christopher Dickey creates a fascinating portrait of Bunch who became “Britain’s secret agent in the Civil War South”. 

A number of recently released films and books have focused on the Nazi’s confiscation during World War II of valuable art and other treasures owned by European Jews.  Add to that growing list The Orpheus Clock (940.531) by British music executive Simon Goodman.  It was only after his father died that Goodman learned the true story of the Guttman family who had been prominent bankers for decades in pre-war Germany.  He tells of the nearly 20 difficult and frustrating years he and his brother Nick have spent tracking down their family’s art collection – and they are still not done. 

Georgia firefighter Brian Panowich makes his impressive fiction debut with the story of a powerful Appalachian crime family.  The Burroughs live outside the law, moving effortlessly over the years from selling moonshine to growing marijuana and, finally now, cooking meth.  Halford Burroughs now heads the family enterprise.  His brother Clayton, however, is a law-abiding man, embarrassed by his family’s history, who takes his job as sheriff seriously.  He and Hal have an uneasy yet workable truce, but all that is threatened when an ATF agent asks Clayton to find out the name of Hal’s drug connection in Florida .  It all takes place on Bull Mountain. 

Can Ringo Starr really be 75?  For those of us who survived Beatlemania it seems like only yesterday when the pop music game-changers debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show.  New York Post TV writer Michael Seth Starr relied on in-depth research and interviews to present his detailed look at the drummer’s life and career in Ringo: With a Little Help (782.421). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     Wind/Pinball, two short novels by Haruki Murakami;
Badlands (M), by C. J. Box;
We Never Asked for Wings, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh;
The Murderer’s Daughter, by Jonathan Kellerman;
A Pattern of Lies: a Bess Crawford Mystery (M), by Charles Todd.

Non-fiction –
     I Regret Nothing: a Memoir (817.000), by Jen Lancaster.

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September 10, 2015 

X (M) marks the third from the last episode in Sue Grafton’s classy series featuring California private investigator Kinsey Millhone.  She’s got two cases that turn out to be trickier than they seemed at first.  Hallie Bettancourt hires Kinsey to locate the son she gave up for adoption when she was 15.  The fact that he was just released from jail makes it easier – but then it seems that nothing Hallie told her is true.  The second revolves around her old partner, the late Pete Wolinsky, as Kinsey tries to help his widow Ruthie settle his affairs.  Unfortunately one of them involves blackmail. 

Timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Japan, Nagasaki (940.548) finely details what life was like in that city after it was decimated.  Susan Southard calls on the memories of five survivors who were all teenagers in 1945 to drive home the realities of the event and its aftermath.  Most disturbing is the fact that both the Japanese and the U.S. governments censored much of the information that surrounded the short and long term ramifications of the bombing. 

The question “who created the loveable Moses Pickwick?” sends a young researcher nicknamed Scripty headfirst into the vast collection of letters, diaries, sketches and more that might hold the key to the answer.  Novelist Stephen Jarvis places his money on Robert Seymour whose delightful drawings accompanied Charles Dickens’ text.  He takes us along as he colorfully follows Scripty’s foray into 19th Century London in Death and Mr. Pickwick. 

A contributing writer for The Nation, Scott Sherman reveals that even large, iconic libraries are not safe from economic forces.  Before the financial downturn in 2008, a powerful faction in New York City government conceived a plan to sell off some of the branches of the New York City Library, gut the historic main building in Midtown, and send millions of books to Princeton, New Jersey.  Once those plans were revealed, though, the public backlash was overwhelming.  Sherman tells the story in Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library (027.474). 

Quiet, unassuming Roberta works at the Old and New Bookshop where she takes great delight in discovering the bits of paper and ephemera once used to mark a reader’s place.  When her father drops off a suitcase full of her grandmother’s old books, Roberta is puzzled by a letter she finds written by her grandfather a year after he supposedly was killed in World War II.  Louise Walters pairs Roberta’s story, whose unrequited love for her boss takes a dramatic turn, with that of her grandmother, the headstrong Dorothea, in her fine fiction debut, Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase. 

In one of the ironies of literature and life, F. Scott Fitzgerald died broke and alcoholic, believing himself a failure; yet, his novel The Great Gatsby, would go on to be considered by many The Great American Novel.  An NPR book critic and literature professor at Georgetown University, Maureen Corrigan has spent a lifetime with Gatsby exploring its nuances and impact.  She reveals “how The Great Gatsby came to be and why it endures” in her new book, So We Read On (813.000). 

Other new titles:

Fiction –
     The Sunken Cathedral, by Kate Walbert;
Silver Linings: a Rose Harbor Novel, by Debbie Macomber;
The Novel Habits of Happiness: an Isabel Dalhousie Novel, by Alexander McCall Smith;
Last Bus to Wisdom, by Ivan Doig;
Demelza, by Winston Graham.

Non-fiction –
     Too Close to Me: the Middle-Aged Consequences of Revealing ‘A Child Called It’ (362.760), by Dave Pelzer.

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