Monday, August 9, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of August 10, 2021

How about we tell you about the books coming out this week that we've read and loved? Okay? Okay!

Let's start things off with the big reading week from our proprietor Daniel Goldin who has six (count 'em, 6!) staff recommendations to share this week. First up is the second novel from AJ Pearce, a sequel to her beloved Dear Mrs. Bird - Yours Cheerfully. Daniel says: "With the departure of Henrietta Bird from Woman’s Friend, intrepid would-be reporter Emmeline Lake (of Dear Mrs. Bird) has the opportunity to work with Mrs. Mahoney to make the advice column truly helpful to readers. But with the war raging on, the magazine is given a mission beyond ration-friendly meals and new looks for old clothes. With men being called to battle, the service magazines are asked to encourage women to take the jobs the men had to leave behind. A chance encounter on a train gives Emmy an in, but how should she act when what’s right for the war conflicts with what’s right for the women? Don’t worry, Emmy’s boyfriend Charles and her best friend Bunty have a role to play too. I’m not usually one for sequels, but Pearce’s combination of wartime drama with lots of historical detail, a dose of wry humor, and most of all, Emmy’s plucky spirit, works for me."

We've got an event with Pearce coming up next week - Wednesday, 8/18, at 7 pm. Click here for more details.

Daniel's next recommendation is Refugee High: Coming of Age in America, by Elly Fishman. Daniel says: "Chronicling a year in the life of Sullivan High, which has aimed to become the go-to public high school for refugees in the Chicago area, journalist Elly Fishman looks at the highs and lows of teaching kids from 35 different countries who speak 38 different languages. As she follows students from Myanmar, Iraq, Syria, Guatemala, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as their school principal and several teachers and administrative staff, Fishman does a great job bringing the players to life and documenting the pressures from families to marry early, gangs to affiliate, and jobs that provide financial security but eat up study time. Some students will succeed while others will struggle, mirroring the program itself, which is under pressure from a reduction of refugees allowed into the country as part of a former president’s policies. Refugee High is an enlightening and valuable reading experience."

Fishman is visiting the store for an in person event on August 31. More details about that here.

Daniel recommendation #3 is The State Must Provide: Why America’s Colleges Have Always Been Unequal – And How to Set Them Right, by Adam Harris. Of this he says: "Harris, a staff writer at The Atlantic, looks at how colleges and universities have (or in many cases have not) educated Black Americans. Many Historically Black Colleges and Universities were founded because of the lack of opportunity at traditional institutions. Others were set up by states to avoid integrating existing land grant schools, particularly after the separate-but-equal doctrine became standard. And with the rise of the abolitionist educators, schools like Oberlin and Berea made concerted efforts to education both Black and White students, only to find their missions subverted, either by school leadership or the law itself. As to how to address these wrongs, that’s still being worked out, with one concept, quotas, struck down by courts. But if the solutions aren’t quite there, The State Must Provide sheds light on a long-time problem and highlights the continuing importance of HBCUs."

Finally, #4, Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP by Mirin Fader. Daniel's words: "Journalist Mirin Fader documents the rise of an unlikely superstar, the child of Nigerian migrants who lived a hardscrabble life in Sepolia, Greece, until eventually being discovered. And he didn’t even want to play basketball – he originally wanted to follow his father into soccer. Fader does a great job of not only tell Antetokounmpo’s story, but also trying to get to the heart of what makes Giannis tick and why he is so beloved, particularly in Milwaukee. So much research and so many interviews enhance the narrative. Several are person-on-the-street variety – that could have been you, Bucks fan! While I hope nobody would take advice from me about sports books – I read them occasionally but any time the author starts getting into the nuts and bolts of actual play, I zone out – I can vouch that our buyer, a sometime Bucks season ticket holder, also loves the book."

Not only are we hosting Fader's launch event for this book on Tuesday, August 10 - details right here, click click clickaroo! - but we've got a second recommendation for this book from Jason Kennedy.

Jason says: "Mirin Fader lays out the unlikely, hollywood-esque story of the rise of Giannis, from living in poverty in Greece to the top of the NBA as a two-time MVP of the league. This is a look at how Giannis is Giannis. How Milwaukee was the perfect city to fit his blue collar work ethic and humbleness. It's about how family is the most important thing to him, and where you come from doesn't define you but can be a spring board to fight for a better life. Mirin Fader did hundreds of interviews, far and wide, to cast the largest possible net. Reading some sections of the games Giannis played, I remember being there, sitting in my seat, cheering and watching it unfold. Now, though, I have more perspective. I am even more in awe of Giannis and his family. At the end of it all, one major takeaway for me from this book is that nothing else matters if your family is not there supporting you and you lifting them up, too."

Sticking with J names, we've got Jen Steele with her recommendation for Maiden Voyages: Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them, by Sian Evans. Jen says: "What marvelous book! An exquisite blend of history and biography, Maiden Voyages takes you on a cruise to a part of women's history that is not often discussed. Sian Evans highlights the unsung sheroes of the day as well as giving the reader a truly informative book."

Finally, to wrap up our new-in-hardcover recommendations, it's Kay Wosewick for The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees Above Us, by Meg Lowman. Kay says: "Meg Lowman is a scientific powerhouse and innovator. She is a pioneer in researching the top of forests where there is a great diversity of life that has barely begun to be recognized. Many natural areas around the world have followed Lowman’s lead and have built systems to convey visitors to treetops to observe entirely new habitats. Lowman’s leadership and creativity have led to significant leaps in understanding this previously overlooked habitat, which she calls the Eighth Continent. Lowman’s introduction to this overlooked habitat is fascinating."

Next up? You know it - Paperback Picks!

You counted above and said, "wait, that's only four Daniel picks, I know these are book people but surely they can count to six." We can! Usually. Daniel's recommending continues in the paperbacks, first with - This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn. Daniel says: "Poet and memoirist Flynn (you may remember Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City) returns to a seminal moment in his life – when he was a child growing up in Scituate, Massachusetts, his sometimes-married mother tried to burn the house down, with him in it. After years of multiple jobs and a hardscrabble life, this could have been her big break, what with the insurance money. But, and I hope I’m not giving anything away here, it wasn’t. Now years later, Flynn’s daughter is the age he was when this happened, and he tries to give her a handle on what he went through, while at the same time dealing with his own marriage crisis. The short one-to-two-page chapters form a prose poem, returning to incidents again and again, from different angles, dancing with imagery, and shooting off iridescent sparks of beauty and sadness."

You'll note much of Daniel's reading is event-driven. And often our events are Daniel's-reading-driven, too! And so, our event with Nick Flynn (featuring him in conversation with former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, wow!) is on Monday, 8/16, at 5 pm - more details when you click here.

Next it's Chris Lee for If I Had Two Wings, the final story collection from the late author Randall Kenan. Chris says: "This book is truly something special. Kenan so well captures the atmosphere of Down East North Carolina that you’ll feel the thick inland air close on your skin as you read. Each story is a masterclass in subtle surprise, full of the gentlest delight and horror, and each life – those being lived and those long past being resurrected – is rendered so fully that once you close the pages you’ll feel you’ve also spent a lifetime in Tims Creek. You won’t want to leave."

Guess what? Daniel recommends this one, too! Yes, that's number six. He says: "Kenan’s stories are both classic and modern, folk-infused and of the moment, exploring race, gender, and identity. It’s been almost thirty years since Let the Dead Bury the Dead, which I still own in hardcover; Kenan’s been busy teaching and focusing on his nonfiction writing, including several books on James Baldwin. The wait was worth it!"

We were lucky enough to host a virtual event with Kenan in the summer when this book came out, before he passed. Here's the recording of that wonderful conversation with Wisconsin author Kim Suhr.

Lastly, to end our day of recommending - he's not a Boswellian anymore, but there's nothing wrong with a legacy recommendation now and then. Former Boswellian Ogi Ubiparipovi for Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis: "I don't think I've ever given the science fiction genre its due. I've always leaned more towards fantasy. I guess it made more sense to me in a way, you know? Swords are swords, magic is magic; what the heck is an “Alderson disk” or “Clarke's Three Laws?” My point is, a lot of the science fiction I've tried reading is more “sci” than “fi,” too obsessed with its own mechanics to get me into the actual story. Axiom's End is an easy sci-fi read because it's approachable. It's a story that revolves around communication and miscommunication, all pushed forward by interesting and eccentric characters. If you're looking for an easy introduction into Sci-Fi, this book is a good place to start!"

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