Friday, May 27, 2022

Staff Recommendation Catch-Up (Week of May 24, 2022 Post)

This week's recommendation post is something of a catch-up blog - a good thing for it to be, I suppose, since it's also a bit late this week. But hey, plenty of great stuff for a long weekend of reading. We have one brand new book, a couple of picture book recommendations for great books that came out in May, and a romance paperback original that Rachel just discovered. Read on!

Jason Kennedy starts us off with his recommendation for Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon, just released today. Jason says: "Bill Bear lives in a future that has gone through several Covids and Ukraine War-like instances. The US is a bit of a disaster, and Bill makes a living as a courier. He mostly moves people and objects and does the odd cleanup and assassinations if called upon. He is a master of living on the fringes, outside the system, a ghost with no real identity. So, when he is in the middle of a contract job and one of his burner phones goes off, it freaks him out. Nobody should have any of the numbers of his phone at this point, but that's when more of them go off, with a very insistent person on the other end about to change Bill's outlook on life and royally piss off Bill’s employer. Dan Chaon provides a road novel, a rundown, and a harsh future world. While I don't want to live there, I loved reading this bleak future of ours."

Jason also just finished River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile, the latest history from Candice Millard. Jason says: "Candace Millard delves into the history of the expeditions of Burton and Speke as they try to discover the source of the White Nile. The logistics were mind-boggling, and the amount of supplies and the number of people it took to make the trek seemed like overkill - until it wasn't. And then the food began to run out. The amount of illness and its severity visited upon everyone made me wonder what form of insanity these explorers had to have suffered. The individual personalities and vistas are fascinating. Candace Millard follows the fortunes of these two British fellows along with Sidi Mubarak Bombay, who was brought in to handle working with local African groups. Bombay is the real reason this expedition didn't fail spectacularly as the two Europeans worked against each other. Another great historical adventure that opens our eyes to an era that I just don't understand anymore but found amazing."

Rachel Copeland recommends Set on You, by Amy Lea. Rachel says: "Fitness influencer Crystal Chen made a name for herself by ignoring the haters - she's curvy and her followers love her body positivity message. When an offensively hot new gym patron steals her squat rack, she takes it upon herself to teach him a few things about gym etiquette. The last person she expects to see at her grandmother's engagement party is Squat Rack Thief - but of course he's the fiancé's grandson. Look, I'm completely allergic to the concept of exercise, but I loved Set on You anyway. Amy Lea captures the stress of being a one-woman social media force and the difficulty of balancing a private life with a public persona. I also enjoyed how, once Crystal and Scott called a truce, the two became best friends in a way that felt so organic. I'm 100% on board to hear more from Amy Lea."

And now, new kids book recommendations from Tim McCarthy. First, The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson. Tim says: "This just became my definitive summer picture book! School empties and the children are "free as the sun." Just imagine everything a group of kids could do to live their joy on a Brooklyn city street, on a day that lasts forever. Yes, of course there's an open fire hydrant, and a stickball game, an ice-cream truck, and a big kid helping with scraped knees, and... I think they even snuck in an image of Woodson herself writing Another Brooklyn. I have vivid memories of the sun finally going down against my own exhausted body on summer days that almost didn't end, and I'll never get enough of Woodson's gorgeous storytelling or enough images of childhood summer joy!"

Tim also recommends Lizzy and the Cloud by The Fan Brothers. Tim says: "The Fan Brothers have amazed me again! Several of their picture books are among my favorite combinations of story and illustration. Lizzy is the latest gem, about a girl who walks to the park with her parents and runs straight to the cloud seller. His clouds are in the shapes of many animals, but Lizzy wants an ordinary one. She learns to follow the Caring for Your Cloud instructions exactly, and the result is a lesson in love beyond anything she had imagined. The beautiful pictures enhance the unique and tender-hearted storytelling in a way that must be seen to be understood."

And then Tim takes us for a walk with Hot Dog by Doug Salati. Tim says: "Salati's picture book is an instant summer classic. The baking-hot, crazy-complicated city sidewalk is no place for a little dog who just wants a curious sniff. It's all 'too close! too loud! too much!' When the frustrated pup finally refuses to budge, the person at the other end of the leash takes them both on a fabulous journey to the beach. Being a hound lover, my first reaction was that this dog is such a... dog. And there's so much more here to admire. Facial expressions throughout are beautifully telling and fun. The illustrations are unique and dramatic, with details offering sweet surprises big and small. The poetic story is told with subtle strength, and this gift to the heart is wrapped in a perfect ending. Come and get one for the children you love, and perhaps another for your own life-tested soul."

And do we have any paperback picks this week?

Jason also suggest Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin, just now out in paperback. Jason says: "Morningside Heights chronicles a family’s attempt to make their life work through an unexpected curveball. There is real love between the parents, Spence and Pru, and their child Sarah, and even for Arlo, Spence’s child from a previous, short-lived marriage. When Spence is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, everyone’s life is turned upside down. While this story centers around Spence’s decline, it really is Pru who shines. She loves her husband, though she never conceived of becoming a caregiver and slowly dissolves into his disease. It’s heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. A great testament that life continues to evolve and rebuild in the face of adversity."

Daniel Goldin recommends Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else, by UW-Madison's Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Mathematics Jordan Ellenberg. Daniel says: "Shape is the perfect title for this book, which shows that geometry is about more than proving whether two of the angles of an isosceles triangle are congruent. (They are!) Geometry is mapping and game theory and cryptography and artificial intelligence and predicting epidemics. I love Ellenberg's voice. He's such a good storyteller, and no lie, I have already laughed out loud many more times than I have in many a so-called comic novel. Did I sometimes get a little lost reading the book? I did! But it's kind of like falling into a body of water with a life preserver - even if you're only an okay swimmer, you don't have to worry about drowning."

Thanks for checking in with us this week. Happy reading.

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