Sunday, October 15, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of October 17, 2023

Back in the staff rec saddle once again with another week's worth of wonderful books.

First, Daniel Goldin recommends the new memoir from Curtis Chin entitled Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant. Daniel says: "When Detroit’s historic Chinatown was displaced by an urban renewal freeway project, the community was moved to the Cass Corridor, one of Detroit’s most dangerous neighborhoods. But folks moved, including restaurants, residents, and community organizations. But eventually, all that was left was Chung’s, a family-owned restaurant that was a Motor City mainstay - Mayor Coleman Young was a regular. While the restaurant held on, the family moved, first to Southfield, then to Troy, where as one of the only Asian families in the community, the Chins found the prejudices against Asian Americans more apparent. And for Curtis, coming to terms with being gay was an additional challenge. Filled with anecdotes, history, humor, and lots of Detroity-ness, the only thing missing was that recipe for almond boneless chicken!"

Chin appears at Boswell for a conversation about this very book on Sunday, November 5, 2 pm. Click this sentence to register and to find out more about the event.

Next it's Tim McCarthy with two recommendations this week. His first is The Globemakers: The Curious Story of an Ancient Craft by Peter Bellerby. Tim says: "It started as a quest to buy his father a high quality globe for his 80th birthday. Bellerby searched around the world to find one and failed. It took years after that to be financially ready and get the right help to actually make them himself. It's a process of stunning complexity, building spheres covered with updated cartography for a planet that’s not quite round and then making them beautiful. Today these hand-painted and individually built globes are sold through the company’s website. It's a remarkable story, and this attractive book is nicely organized with inserted information. We learn about geography (with border disputes), astronomy, and exploration, beginning with the first philosophers and mathematicians who understood the Earth was round and estimated its size. We're taught about the first globes and maps and why they were made, and we’re given truly amazing details about the planet Earth itself. It’s fascinating. I’m a bit short of the money needed to buy one of Bellerby’s treasures, but just knowing that they are still being created today is a thrill for a retired teacher. I’ve watched children become entranced by spinning globes for most of my life."

Tim also recommends Distant Sons, the new novel by Tim Johnston. Of this, Tim says: "I won’t call Tim Johnston an outstanding writer of thrillers. He’s an outstanding writer. No qualifications are needed, and thriller fans reap the rewards. I've heard that Descent is great, I know that The Current is exceptional, and now Distant Sons joins the list. The dialogue feels true, the settings are finely developed, and the immersive story is intense without trying to be spectacular. Perfect for me. The characters bring their world to us fully and show the humanity we see in ourselves. Three young boys disappeared with barely a clue in the middle 1970s from a single Wisconsin town near the Mississippi River, and the suspicion about one young man back then lives on now into his old age. Forty years after the boys went missing, Sean Courtland and Dan Young are two skilled tradesmen on the road finding work and getting away from their own past lives. In this small river town, they’re about to find more than work… and that more is resolved but still haunting me."

Kay Wosewick likes this one, too! She adds: "Sean and Dan are wandering carpenters, taking jobs where and when they want. They meet in a small Wisconsin town that's still haunted by the disappearance of three 10-year-old boys over consecutive summers in the 1970s. Sean takes a job with an unfriendly recluse. The job is bigger than he expected so he hires Dan to help. The two learn about the long-ago murders and the suspected, but never proven, serial killer: Devereaux — the very man they are working for. The story slips easily between the past and present and slams into full thriller mode after a dramatic turn of events. You’ll be speed reading to the end."

We will also host an event with Tim Johnston this fall! He visits Boswell on Wednesday, October 25, 6:30 pm. So click on this sentence now to register for this event and to find out more.

Now over to Rachel Copeland, who recommends These Burning Stars, the first book in a new series by Bethany Jacobs. Rachel says: "A single coin holds a memory that could uncover the truth behind a genocide that nearly tore the galaxy-spanning empire apart decades ago. Three women pursue the memory: Jun, a hacker and thief; Esek, unpredictable heir to the powerful Nightfoot family; and Chono, a stoic holy woman trained by Esek. Like a puppeteer playing with all three is a mysterious figure known only as Six, a ghost of Esek and Chono’s past, whose machinations will have unexpected consequences for all involved. What a debut! Esek is one of the most compelling and repulsive characters I’ve had the dubious pleasure of reading – one of those charming psychopaths whose every action made me cringe along with everyone with whom she interacted. Jacobs plays these characters like an arpeggio, bouncing back and forth in time, adding layers upon layers until the shocking denouement. It’s a masterfully constructed story, with a twist so cleverly hidden that a second read is a necessity."

Our last new adult book recommendation comes from Kay Wosewick, who wants you to read The Last Language by Jennifer duBois. Kay says: "duBois’s writing is seductive, haunting and whip-smart. Angela and Sam spend many months of long days engaged in an experiment where Angela teaches Sam how to use a typewriter-like machine to communicate. Sam is 28 years old, doesn’t speak, and has poor arm and hand coordination. Sam lives with his mother, so he and Angela work in his bedroom. As soon as Sam is trained on the device, he reveals a sophisticated mastery of English and broad-based knowledge. Several times, his mother closely watched as Sam as typed personal notes to her. After she finds Sam and Angela in bed together, she comes to doubt everything she saw Sam accomplish. The book gives strong hints of trouble early on, but the devastating effects are released slowly, in fine detail - much like a psychological thriller."

Jen Steele jumps in with here recommendation of Lawrence & Sophia, written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Brian Cronin. Jen says: "Lawrence & Sophia is a tender picture book about overcoming your fears and the power of friendship. A beautiful and touching picture book by Doreen Cronin and wonderfully illustrated by Brian Cronin. A must read!"

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

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