Monday, October 25, 2021

Staff Recs, Week of October 26, 2021

Just a few recs for you this week - don't worry, lots more are coming before the year is out!

All three of the recommendations this week come from the one and only Daniel Goldin. His first is for a brand new middle grade novel that's come out this month: Playing the Cards You're Dealt, by Varian Johnson. Daniel says: "Anthony Johnson has a lot on his plate. The big Spades tournament is coming up at the city park, but his partner Jamal might not be able to play because one of their classmates goaded him into a fight. His new classmate Shirley is pretty good at cards, but how’s Jamal going to feel about Shirley taking his place? I really enjoyed this book – it has a lot to say about making assumptions and the fine line between teasing and bullying. I really appreciated the community Johnson built for the book, where connections run strong (his mom seems to know everybody), or should I say in spades?"

Daniel also offers two recommendations of books getting their paperback releases this week.

The first is Memorial, the debut novel from Bryan Washington. Daniel says: "Benson is a Black, gay, part-time day care instructor alienated from his parents, who are also alienated from each other. Mike is a Japanese cook whose parents are also no longer together. Mike invites his mother Mitsuko to Houston, only to leave for Osaka when he learns his estranged father has cancer. Not only does Ben not know what to do with Mitsuko except eat her food, he’s not even sure what he’s doing with Mike, who’s looking to open up the relationship. And while Ben’s mom has drifted away and can do fine on her own, his dad isn’t exactly healthy. The story moves from Benson to Mike and back again as each navigates the push/pull of family, responsibility, and commitment. Memorial is a sex positive, HIV positive, sort of comedy-love story with a magnetic emotional resonance that exerts its pull just when you least expect it."

He also recommends Elizabeth Berg's memoir I'll Be Seeing You. Daniel says: "As a bookseller, I see a lot of memoirs about caregiving, from established authors to folks who have chosen contract publishing. And why not? Caregiving is an almost universal experience and one that generates a lot of memories and moments. It is hard not to see ourselves in the folks we care for, leading to more than one bout of philosophical musing. But not every writer can get at those small moments like Elizabeth Berg. Her father was a military man, while her mother seemed to accept her role to serve him, as long as she got time for little pleasures, like shopping with her sisters at Herberger’s. But with Art in decline, Jeanne chafes at his constant presence and rebels at leaving her longtime house in St. Paul for assisted living. The story has a diary structure, offering immediacy to the story, and showing Berg’s skill at quickly bringing to life family, friends, and even incidental characters. But most importantly, I’ll Be Seeing You succeeds at what it set out to do, sharing that story that so many of us must face, with all the drama and insight of one of her novels."

Extra! Extra! Late addition! Tim just sent me this rec after I'd gotten the blog edited, but we haven't hit our usual number of reads on this post yet, so for those just tuning in, how about a late addition bonus rec? Okay!

Tim McCarthy is all about Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution, by Fall of Rome and Revolutions podcaster and now author Mike Duncan. Tim says: "I’ve read a lot of history, but rarely have I seen a story as dramatic as Lafayette’s. I knew a little about him from other books - the Frenchman who helped George Washington finally win the American Revolution. I also assumed that Lafayette Hill in Milwaukee is one of the many tributes to him across the United States. But the twists and turns of this man’s life took me by surprise. Raised at the highest levels of aristocracy, he left as a young man to fight for glory and American liberty. Returning to France as a hero, he went from a pivotal role in Paris as the Bastille was stormed to a man hated by both extremes during the French Revolution. He spent years in European prisons, and later returned for a grand parade of love on a tour of every US state. Along the way he saw the hypocrisy of freedom fighters who continued to own slaves and worked to end it. He even tried to convince his father figure Washington to do the right thing. Duncan tells the story with suspense, riveting details, and bold conclusions. This is history at its entertaining finest!"

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