Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of July 13, 2021

It's that time again - time for staff recommendations from the friendly Boswellians.

We start with a duo of Daniel Goldin's recommendations, two books by authors we're hosting this month. First up is All the Lonely People, by Mike Gayle. Daniel says, "Hubert Bird is an 84-year-old widower living in Bromley. Every week his daughter Rose calls from Australia, and he entertains her with stories of his friends. Only one problem – he’s lying. So when Rose tells him she’s coming to visit, he realizes he’s got a limited time to make some real friends, perhaps starting with the new neighbor, a single woman, and her daughter. The story jumps back and forth and time, where we learn that he once had a wife named Joyce, a best friend named Gus, and a son named David in his life. What happened to them? And what will happen to Hubert as he’s slowly roped into a town-wide anti-loneliness crusade. This story, equal parts sad, happy, and funny, also shines a light on the indignities that a Jamaican immigrant would have suffered in London. Hubert’s spirit, despite numerous incidents that would break another person, is what keeps him going, the same spirit that makes All the Lonely People compelling reading."

And find info about our July 22 Readings from Oconomowaukee event with Mike Gayle right here.

The second Daniel rec is for The Comfort of Monsters, by Willa C Richards. He says, "Peg felt so close to her sister Dee growing up in Milwaukee. When Dee goes missing, Peg is certain she had the answers, but being that her disappearance coincides with Jeffrey Dahmer’s killing spree in Milwaukee, there’s not much interest in pursuing the case. Come to think of it, there’s not much interest in the Dahmer case either among the police. The story jumps back and forth between 1991 and 2019, with Peg’s anxiety about the long-unsolved case leading to a downward spiral, making The Comfort of Monsters part of a library of Milwaukee novels (Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, A Door Behind a Door) framed as mystery/thrillers that are more existential character studies. I was impressed by how Richards captures the visceral discomfort that permeates the story, as she touches on many moments of violence, from toxic behavior to sexual assault and other horrors. A memorable story that could well cross over to true crime readers."

This event is tonight! That is, assuming you're reading this post the day I'm posting it - Wed, July 14. Click here for registration information. If you're reading at a later date, perhaps I'll come back and edit this post with the video recording of the event in the future. Who knows?! 

Next we have Jen Steele with a recommendation: A Psalm for the Wild-Built: A Monk & Robot Book, by Becky Chambers. Jen says, "An agender tea monk looking for solace as they go on a soul-searching quest and a robot who has never met a human before become unlikely travel companions as they ponder questions that humans have been asking since the beginning of time. A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a welcome change from the doom and gloom of post-apocalyptic novels. Like a warm summer breeze, Becky Chambers gently eases the reader into an optimistic sci-fi fable. Make your favorite cup of tea and settle into the beauty of this book!"

Madi Hill suggests the latest from Grady Hendrix, author of famously fun horror fiction: The Final Girl Support Group. Madi says, "Lynette just wants to be safe. That's why the only time she leaves her overly secure apartment is to meet with the five other final girls (the women who are left alive after defeating their killer. Think: Laurie Strode in Halloween) and their therapist in a church basement. But when it seems like their monsters are coming back to kill, she is forced to leave her hiding place to figure out why someone is going after final girls again. This was my first-time reading Grady Hendrix's work, and I am already hooked. Imagining classic horror films as if they were the result of tragic realities is done in an extremely original way that leaves you wondering where the story will lead, while trying to match each final girl to the correct classic horror heroine. Hendrix's style is so much fun but surprisingly tense, perfect for the horror fan who doesn't take themselves too seriously."

And last for the new releases (but certainly not least!) it's Jason Kennedy on Appleseed, by Matt Bell. Jason says, "This story was amazing. Told through three alternating timelines: 1) In the 1790’s with a pair of brothers (one is a faun) trying to make their fortune by planting apple orchards ahead the coming expansion of humanity into the Ohio Valley; 2) one of the founders of a corporation attempting to save the planet from humanity basically cooking it to death, attempting to stop said corporation from playing god; 3) and way in the future, most of North America is covered in ice, there is a lonely person keeping watch and ready to reprint the world. Have we gone too far down the climate change path that our only option is to store up the natural world in computers in hopes of one day being able to repopulate? Have we ignored all the warnings that the world has sent us? I loved the way each of the stories played off the others, thematically and directly. It was pure brilliance. This will be on my list as one of my favorite reads of the year."

We also have one write-up for a book that just made its paperback appearance. Tim McCarthy recommends Vesper Flights by nature-writing powerhouse Helen MacDonald. Tim says, "Macdonald hopes this collection of essays, both old and new, will convey her sense of wonder at the curiosities of the natural world. In a time of frightening environmental loss, she tells us that we need more than science. Science can define and help mitigate the current great extinction humans are causing, but we need literature as well, to communicate what the losses mean, the value of those things disappearing, 'so that more of us might fight to save them.' Her objective is beautifully met. These essays have me more in love with nature and more ready to fight for it than ever. She’s even convinced me to hope, and given me comfort by revealing mysteries beyond understanding. Her prose moves quickly and gracefully from the concrete science to the emotions we feel and their moral and political implications. She sees in marvelous detail the love and heartbreak of sharing the world with other creatures and their habitats. (An autistic boy dances in complete harmony with a parrot.) She examines how we attach our own personal meaning to their lives. (A massive flock of cranes reflects the movement of refugees searching for safe rest.) Her unique perspectives open worlds I never would have imagined. (A skyscraper raises her into immense airspace filled with flying and floating life.) And they close the gaps between us. (A total solar eclipse erases the differences between all watchers.) The broad range of topics, the wit alongside intellect, and the stunning depth of wisdom all left me awed, and gratefully surprised! Best of all, Macdonald openly show us herself, a complex person with an inspirational passion for life, a force of nature in her own right. Humanity needs this book."

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