Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 13, 2023

We've got lots of great summer reads to recommend this week. Snag one or two (or five, whatever!) of these books, find a spot in the sun (or at least a spot out of today's drizzle), and enjoy.

Daniel Goldin kicks us off with Rocky Mountain High: A Tale of Boom and Bust in the New Wild West by Finn Murphy. Daniel says: "Anyone who has read Finn Murphy’s The Long Haul probably noticed that there are some missing years in his story, in between his two stints as a trucker. What exactly happened? The revelation: after moving to Boulder, Colorado, he jumped feet first into the hemp cultivation business. If you’re thinking this is a rags-to-riches story, think again – just about anything that can go wrong does. I was reminded of Tim Clissord’s classic business memoir, Mr. China, another tale of near delusional can-do spirit. So many setbacks, but along the way are some good stories and lots of fascinating insights and tips for entrepreneurs."

Remaining in the nonfiction lane, it's Tim McCarthy with his write-up for What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World's Most Enigmatic Birds by Jennifer Ackerman. Tim says: "I’m not an active birder, but they fascinate me and comfort me and somehow make me believe that surviving our maddening times is possible. I've read several books about birds lately, especially owls, because seven-year-old Landon and I shared the experience of Great Horned Owls nesting and hunting in our neighborhood. The Merlin Bird ID app also has me identifying bird species by photos and sound recordings from my phone. Landon intuitively questions me about disrupting their lives while gathering information. Smart boy! Together we watched the Boswell virtual event with Miriam Darlington and Schlitz Audubon Raptor Director Lindsay Obermeier for Darlington's lovely owl memoir The Wise Hours. (Ed note: click here to watch that program.) Lindsay brought out all of the center’s owls, and the conversation was magical - check it out on our virtual event archive. Now Ackerman details the latest owl science and the stories behind the science. She explains our growing understanding of owl species diversity and the dedicated worldwide fight for their preservation. Her writing is energetic and thorough, a missing piece of my developing owl puzzle, and I kept hoping the book and the birds would continue forever."

We'll once again partner with the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for a virtual event - Jennifer Ackerman joins us in conversation with the aforementioned Lindsay Obermeier on Wednesday, September 6, 2 pm. Click here to register for this event.

Now let's go to Kay Wosewick, who has four (four!) recommendations to share. Yowza. The first Kay rec keeps us in the animal kingdom, specifically the science books about animals realm. It's Many Things Under a Rock: The Mysteries of Octopuses by David Scheel, illustrated by Laurel "Yoyo" Scheel, and Kay says: "This intimate portrayal of octopuses’ daily life is based on 25 years of diving in coastal Alaskan waters. Octopuses spend much of their time privately observing the neighborhood from a safe, hidden home, often under a rock. Hunting and eating habits, mating, predator avoidance, and interactions with other octopuses are described. While most books about octopuses focus on their intelligence, this is the first book I’ve found that paints a full picture of how octopuses live - and die - in the wild."

Kay also recommends The Book of Pet Love and Loss: Words of Comfort and Wisdom from Remarkable People by Sara Bader. Of this book, Kay says: "Tears rolled down my face as I read dozens of heartfelt, heartwarming, and heartbreaking quotes and short stories by people reckoning with the last stages of life with - and the first stage of life without - a precious animal friend. Bader has composed a perfect book for anyone facing the loss of a dear pet. Keep a copy handy for a friend in need."

Kay turns to fiction with her next recommendation, a paperback original short story collection entitled Beijing Sprawl, written by Zechen Xu and translated into English by Eric Abrahamsen and Jeremy Tiang. Kay says: "The young men in these related short stories leave their small village with plans to build exciting new lives in the big city of Beijing. Without college degrees, the jobs they find are meaningless, dead-end, and poorly paid. Zechen’s vibrant writing made me feel their boredom, stress, listless fun, and their shock when an occasional event or situation sends someone back home while the others double-down to stay. A couple stories feel unique to China, but most have universal themes that could take place nearly anywhere."

And Kay's final rec is for The Puzzle Master, the latest novel from horror and thriller author Danielle Trussoni. Kay says: "The Puzzle Master is a mashup of puzzle addicts - a man with extraordinary intellectual powers (the puzzle master), a young woman in a psychiatric ward who tracks all of the master’s output, and mysterious adversaries intent on disrupting the master's work. A couple other curious individuals add more depth and twists. The result is a first-rate thriller."

Parker Jensen jumps in with their rec of Wolfpack, a new YA novel by Amelia Brunskill. Parker writes: "The Wolfpack, a group of nine young girls, have all lived at Havenwood for most of their lives. They follow the rules, they give back to their community, they don't dare leave the property, and they don't question their leader. But when one of their group disappears without a trace, and with no acknowledgment from the elders, they must begin to finally question the way things are. Amelia Brunskill delivers an engaging and beautifully crafted novel about the lengths we will go to save ourselves and the ones we love."

And Jen Steele wraps up the new release recommendations with a picture book called The Best Flower Ever!, written and illustrated by Neesha Hudson. Jen says: "Neesha Hudson's latest picture book makes for a great family story time. It's a delightful picture book with a witty message about jealousy, told through dog gardeners. I was absolutely charmed by this one!"

Paperback picks - perfectly totable books for summertime (or any other time for that matter.  You want 'em, and we've got 'em. Here are our recommendations of books getting their paperback release this week.

Rachel Copeland brings a bit of delightful, funny romance to the blog with The Bodyguard by Katherine Center. Rachel says: "Hannah looks like an ordinary young woman, which is a great advantage in her profession as a bodyguard. Dumped by her boyfriend/coworker the day after her mother's funeral, she's determined stay professional and prove herself to her boss - but then she gets assigned to Jack Stapleton. You know him, of course - twice voted sexiest man alive, blockbuster movie actor, and recently the subject of a death threat or two. With his mother's health in question, Hannah has no choice but to pretend to be Jack's girlfriend in order both keep him safe and not worry his family. Now she just has to do her job... and guard her heart. What a thoroughly charming book this is! Hannah's matter-of-fact voice is so funny that I could listen to her talk about security and guns all day, and Jack is so wonderfully quirky (always misses when throwing away trash, does tricks on horseback) that I couldn't help but fall for him along with Hannah. Center's writing style is super charming and adorably weird (there's a character named Dog House!); I was laughing the whole time."

Daniel Goldin has a write-up for Jackie & Me, the latest from Louis Bayard. Daniel says: "The mythology of the Kennedys is baked into the brains of many an American. So it’s fascinating to me when a writer like Louis Bayard switches it up. His take on a single Jacqueline Bouvier being courted by the well-connect Congressman is told through a fictionalized version of Kirk LeMoyne Billings. Lem was a prep school friend of Jack’s and known as a walker to Kennedy women. Jack assigned Lem to occupy Jackie while he ran for the Senate and who knows what else? Could he stay true to both parties, especially when they were not exactly on the same page regarding what exactly this relationship was? Jackie & Me is at once wryly entertaining and wistfully somber. Prime historical fiction!"

Bayard visited Boswell with this book when it came out last year - click here to check out his conversation with Christina Clancy, author of Shoulder Season.

Daniel also recommends Tracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrotta. Of this one, he says: "Thirty-something years after Tracy Flick’s run at student council president, Tracy is assistant principal at her high school, once again in the running to move up with the pending retirement of Principal Jack Weede. In her court is Kyle Dorfman, a graduate who’s returned to town after making a bundle in tech, with a modernist mansion-ette squeezed in among the suburban houses to show for it. What’s up with that? Tracy just has to do Kyle one little favor – serve in the committee for the new Green Meadow High School Hall of Fame and throw her weight behind former football star (and reminder of Green Meadow’s glory days) Vito Falcone, Kyle’s preferred candidate. But between all the secrets and scandals, it’s hard to imagine everything’s going to turn out alright for anybody. Told from multiple perspectives, including two students on the committee with drama of their own, it isn’t the heebie jeebie-est of Perrotta’s reads (if you read him, you’ll know what I mean), but it’s funny, smart, and provocative, and fitting of Tracy’s Election legacy."

And finally, from Jen Steele, a book that came out last week and is currently still on display on our paperback tables up front. Alas, I somehow missed including this one in last week's blog as I compiled it. So let's squeeze it in now. The book is Carrie Soto Is Back, and the author is Taylor Jenkins Reid. Jen says: "A riveting, fast-paced, and enthusiastic look at the world of tennis through the eyes of Carrie Soto, the world's finest athlete. It's been five years since Carrie Soto retired as the reigning champion of women's tennis, and it's all about to be taken away by powerhouse Nicki Chan. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Carrie decides to step back onto the court to remind everyone who the world's greatest player is. Taylor Jenkins Reid delivers a gripping comeback novel with a fierce character you will be rooting for until the very last page. A must read!"

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