Thursday, June 3, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 1, 2021

A new month, and a new batch of many recommendations. Here they are!

Let's start with recommendations from Kay Wosewick - this is good week for her, as she has three books coming out that'll hit her recommendation shelf!

First from Kay is Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy. Kay says: "Five years after a huge meteor shower leaves large deposits of a mysterious metal scattered around Northfall, this once-tiny but now-bulging town near the Boundary Waters feels right out of the gold rush days. The town’s established mining company is battling upstart Black Dog Energy for control of a large, private interest of this highly valuable (and did I mention addictive?) metal. Chockfull of characters with competing interests, a couple individuals with special powers, crooked police, murders, and much too much testosterone, Ninth Metal is guaranteed to give you a wildly intense ride. And there’s more to come!"

Kay's second recommendation is for a book a bit more earth-bound: We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto by Alice Waters. Kay says: "Americans' typical diet today emerged largely from trends that started taking root in the 1950s: consumer demand for convenience, product uniformity, constant availability, getting a deal, having variety, and getting immediate satisfaction; advertising helped form these 'needs.' The trends have only strengthened over time. A typical meal today consists of fast foods or highly processed convenience foods thrown together at home. Not healthy for us, not healthy for the planet. Waters proposes moving toward radically more biodiversity of fresh foods sourced seasonally from a growing base of local farmers, accompanied by simple food preparation at home. Roughly 7,000 programs worldwide are engaging in a version of this process today. Waters suggests that getting local farmers and schools to collaborate would be an effective kick-start for the movement. A boost for local commerce and consumers, environmentally regenerative, healthy, and yummy: what's not to like?"

Kay recommendation #3 is The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, of which Kay says: "St. Christopher’s is described as one of University of Cambridge’s smallest colleges, yet it feels filled with beautiful gardens, sunny open spaces, shady nooks, and numerous notable architectural features. At the same time, this small campus curiously holds the surprise of frighteningly dark corners. Some long-time employees here abuse privileges to merely gain private delight, while others win more substantial reward. In the midst of a liberal-leaning town, social disparities are in inverse proportion to the size of St. Christopher’s seemingly cozy setting. Perhaps this feeds the madness that is afoot? That is, the grizzly murders of young maidens. Filled with a cast of iron-strong wills and some perfectly placed, much-appreciated distractions, The Maidens will keep you on the edge of your seat to the end."

Onto our next multi-recommendation-bearing-bookseller, Chris Lee. His first is for Catch the Rabbit, the debut novel by the Yugoslavia-born writer Lana Bastašić, who translated her own book for its English edition. Chris says: "Amazing, heart-wrenching, wondrous. A years-spanning story of an intense friendship and how history (you know, wars and stuff) weighs on people's bonds. More than a decade ago, Sara left Bosnia, never to return. Now, drawn back by a long-lost childhood friend, she’s on a road trip through the Western Balkans, her own past, and a landscape scarred by social and political violence. Bastašić wrestles questions of obligation and understanding into one woman’s deeply personal reckoning. What do we owe the people who’ve shaped us, who taught us how to feel alive? What we know (and un-know) of our friends, our histories, and ourselves? It’s a story of how a person can misunderstand her friend and herself and then be completely wrecked and rebuilt as she grows to a new understanding of her world. Prepare to be split in two. WOW!"

Andrew Shaffer (author of the Obama-Biden mysteries Hope Never Dies and Hope Rides Again) has a new collection of poetry out this week called Look Mom I’m A Poet (And So Is My Cat), and Chris offers up his recommendation-in-verse:

Well, these are certainly
some poems you can read
if you want to have a laugh,
and maybe a chuckle,
or even a moment, now and then, of thoughtful pondering:

If you want me
to categorize:
call these joke poems, or
The Steak-umms of words.

I’d recommend
you keep this book handy,
like on the coffee table
or near the toilet
and enjoy it
at your leisure
and so people who stop by
know how cool you are.

If you'd like, a hardcover edition is also available to order right here. Do note the hardcover edition is nonreturnable. 

Margaret Kennedy suggests One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston. Margaret says, "For all the romance fans that fell head over heels for Red White and Royal Blue, get ready - Casey McQuiston's latest will have you in love all over again. One Last Stop follows August, a practical college student new to NYC with no patience for the 'magic' the city has to offer. That all changes when she meets the mysterious Jane on the subway. Jane is an outgoing, music loving, gay lib punk that acts like she walked straight out of the 1970s - which is not far from the truth. August's subway crush turns out to be trapped in time on the Q train, unable to step off and removed from her original decade. With a menagerie of new friends, including a frog bone sculptor, a hipster psychic, and an army of Brooklyn's finest drag queens, August finds herself breaking out of her shell as she works to get Jane home - but how can she say goodbye to the girl that has her heart? Filled with witty dialogue, beautifully detailed scenes, and music that will have you dancing on the table, Casey McQuiston once again gives us a couple to root for and a book to read again and again."

Jen Steele closes out the recommendations of this week's newest books with her words for Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which are as follows: "Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit are the children of the world-famous crooner Mick Riva. However, they may know him best through celebrity magazines. Raised by their mother June, the siblings grow up in Malibu and bond over surfing. Told in two parts, we learn the family's history from the mid-fifties to late seventies and then of the day of the Riva's annual end-of-summer party in 1983. Each chapter reveals a new heartbreak, all leading up to the most explosive party the siblings have ever hosted. Taylor Jenkins Reid sets the scene for family drama and manages to transport you to Malibu's past effortlessly. I was mesmerized by the Rivas, my heart breaking with them at one turn, and laughing out loud at the next, especially at Kit's astute observations. Make an 80's surfing playlist and add this to your summer read pile!"

It's the beginning of summer, and you want to take an easily-totable paperback book with you to read in the great out doors (or as outdoors adjacent as you feel like getting) and perhaps you wonder, do we have some paperback picks? DO WE EVER!

Daniel Goldin suggests The Book of V by Anna Solomon. He says: "Story #1: a retelling of The Book of Esther – Vashti, the first wife is banished, and the king orders a pageant to choose wife #2. Story #2: Vivian, the wife of a Watergate-era Senator, is the subject of sexual assault by her husband, and when one incident becomes semi-public, goes into hiding with her childhood friend in Massachusetts. Story #3: Contemporary Brooklynite Lily has given up her career for her husband and children. She’s promised to provide dresses for the Purim celebration, but her attention lapses when her mother is diagnosed with cancer. The three alternately told stories link together, through the connections between women, the plight of women in a male-dominated world, and the connection between truth and storytelling, notably how stories are affected by who is telling the story. The Book of V is a potent novel for mind and spirit and will likely be the subject of much discussion."

Chris has two paperback picks for you. The first is Broken People by Sam Lanksy, one of his favorite novels of the last few years. He says: "Is loving yourself just a matter of hating yourself less? What’s more important - finding the truth of the past, some sort of personal inciting incident, or learning to live without the need for it? Lansky’s novel is rangy, searching, and razor-sharply self-critical autofiction about Sam, a (self-described) broken young writer desperate to be healed via a weekend ayahuasca trip led by a bougie middle-aged white guy shaman who promises (then spends the whole book infuriatingly, hilariously hedging) to fix everything that’s wrong in three days or less. Lansky’s sickness is a symptom and a symbol; a cultural signifier, a self-manifested punishment, and simple bad luck. Sam relives layers of memory (particularly his relationships and sexual history, his sobriety and identify as an addict) rediscovering and recontextualizing the stories he tells as an act of self-definition. And so what if, at the end of three days, Sam isn’t fixed? Lansky makes this question feel breathtakingly, viscerally life-or-death until, beautifully, it isn’t, and the real question emerges: can a broken person accept that he doesn’t need to be fixed?" Kay is a fan of this one, too!

Chris also recommends Wisconsin-born humorist Alexandra Petri's book of essays, Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why. He says: "Alexandra Petri glares into maw of the American abyss, and the abyss stares back, but then Petri smirks, and the abyss kinda chuckles, and everybody says, aw, jeez, and gets to have a laugh at our horrible, horrible mess. If good comics punch up, then Petri is firing a bazooka at the sky, blowing up the bad faith charlatans in charge with a direct and deviously brilliant trick: asking you realize just how baldly, absurdly evil the president and his sycophants are if you take them and their lies at face value. Petri doesn’t flinch in the only book about politics this year worth the time it takes to read. Standing ovation."

Does Kay Wosewick have a couple paperback picks for you, too? You know she does! The first one is Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth. Kay says: "Two men and three women meet the odd criteria set for the ‘Chosen Ones.’ They will save the world from the ‘Dark One’ - whether they want to or not. Years after successfully completing their assignment, three of them are hijacked to a parallel universe to repeat their performance. They are not very happy. Roth’s world building is exquisite, as is her construction of parallel universe mechanics. And did I mention the maddening, flawed, and entertaining characters? Roth’s first adult sci-fi is a resounding triumph! I'm ready for more."

Kay also has a paperback nonfiction pick - Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl by Jonathan C. Slaght. Of this, she says: "Tag along with a doctoral student undertaking the first significant study of largest owl in the world. The fish owl, with a wingspan of 2 meters, lives in a narrow habitat in Japan and far eastern Russia. Slaght spends four intense winters in a remote, sparsely populated area of Russia, accompanied by two to three characters with knowledge of the habitat and/or simply a willingness to endure extreme, often dangerous conditions. Obviously a dedicated researcher, Slaght is also a gifted writer, giving the reader vivid experiences of the vast wilderness, of barely avoided disasters, of the exhaustion brought by unexpected setbacks, and of the delights of learning firsthand about fish owls."

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