Monday, August 7, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of August 8, 2023

The summer's flying by. Make sure to slow down and read the books, okay? This week's crop of recommendations is an eclectic mix. 

First, from Tim McCarthy, we have Prophet by Helen MacDonald and Sin Blaché. Tim says: "How did these writers make a science fiction thriller with a military bent so much fun? I think it’s the freaky X-Files-style mystery that immediately jumps into play, combined with super-smart, snarky dialogue between convincing, entertaining characters. One operative is British (by way of India), and the other is American. They’re reminiscent of Odd Couple roommates with a complicated past who both love and hate each other in equal measure. They have very unusual, essential skills, and the top dogs need their contrasting personalities side by side again. This time they’re confronting a powerful network of forces while looking for answers to what seems out of this world. Indeed! What in the world is Prophet? The authors say they hope we’ll “have a blast” with their book. Done deal! It’s a blast, and it’s also a deep relationship study with beautiful, tender humanity. After reading a bit of Helen Macdonald’s earlier writing, I’m surprised that she’s doing something so different. What doesn’t surprise me is the high level of intelligence. I’ve seen that before from her, and this bright collaboration with Blaché is every bit as impressive!"

Next, from Gao Her, it's Tomb Sweeping by Alexandra Change. Gao says: "A beautiful collection of short stories that express the various emotional experiences between human beings. I found myself doing everything from reevaluating my own relationships ('A Visit') to silently weeping in my car ('Li Fang'). It was as if all of my most inner thoughts were captured in this book, and while reading, those same thoughts were regurgitated onto the forefront of my mind. A little tip: when you finish reading the story 'Li Fang,' go back and reread it, but this time, read it from the end to the beginning."

Now, from Oli Schmitz, a recommendation for the latest installment in the manga adaptation of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Gabi Nam, Fangirl, the Manga: Vol 3. Oli writes: "Fangirl is so true to the experience of being a fan - to having a story you hold so close to your heart, it's sacred. The story follows Cath, a college freshman who writes a popular fanfic (she's a fan with fans of her own!) and is still devoted to the books she and her twin sister grew up loving. Cath faces roommate strangeness, new and familiar anxieties, family issues, and potential romance, all while trying to hold on to the characters who've become sacred to her, the stories she writes, and the sister she used to share these things with. Rowell's story has been expertly captured in this graphic novelization of a story I've loved since 2013!"

And from Jen Steele, a middle grade book recommendation for Dear Brother, written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tuan Nini. Jen says: "Being a little sister is tough, especially when you feel your big brother gets his way all the time. McGhee’s Dear Brother is a tender and funny epistolary middle grade novel told from the little sister’s point of view. Fast paced with great illustrations!"

In new paperback releases (our paperback picks, if you will), Daniel Goldin recommends A Map for the Missing by Belinda Huijuan Tang. Daniel writes: "Belinda Huijuan Tang’s excellent debut, inspired by her father’s upbringing in Anhui province, opens in early 1990s California. Yitian is called back to his hometown when his mother reports his father missing. While Yitian has hardly adapted to America, the return stirs up its own haunted memories, a tortured life with his father, a lost bond with his brother Yishou, and an unfinished longing for his onetime-girlfriend Hanwen. Though framed as a missing person mystery, Yitian’s journey helps him unlock deeper questions of his family and perhaps one day understand his father. The Cultural Revolution is one of repression and loss that affected generations. In making the political personal, Tang brings this period to vibrant life."

And it's back to Oli Schmitz for their take on Megan Gidding's novel The Women Could Fly. Oli writes: "In this strange, lovely, and beautifully told novel, a bi and biracial woman confronts difficult choices and a complicated family history. Giddings seamlessly weaves social commentary into the narrative as she contends with the history of persecution for witchcraft - with power and otherness - and brings it into a contemporary speculative-fictional world. The Upper Midwest setting is part of an America that mirrors our own in its patterns of oppression. The existence of witches and the fictional state's regulation of women for fear of witchcraft offer a fascinating way to examine how fear drives marginalization in our reality. A novel of learning to exist in (and apart from) the world in which you find yourself."

And those are the recs! See you next week with more staff recommendations. Until then, read on.

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