Monday, October 9, 2023

Three Weeks of Recs! Staff Recommendations for Sept 26, Oct 3, and Oct 10, 2023

Apparently every single person I know in the world is getting married this fall, which means I'm out of town a bunch! So here's to them and sorry for the recommendation delays. This week, I'll post a roundup of the last three weeks of staff recs - so many great books it'll be hard to chose. Why not try to read them all? Hopefully, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled recommending next week.

Sept 26th releases (and yes, this is a BUNCHA books!):

 by Nathan Hill, picked by Daniel Goldin: "Jack Baker and Elizabeth Augustine are two people who meet in college in 1990s Wicker Park and fall in love. Thirty years later they are hoping to move with their son to a condo in a wealthy Chicago suburb. That’s a good story in and of itself. But Hill’s second novel, following The Nix, is also about parenting, religion, sex, real estate, Minecraft, placebos, art, controlled Prairie burns, bats, psychology, cleanses, coyotes, conspiracies, and class. Wellness asks the question: do our stories reflect our reality, or do they create said reality? And with all that to cover, 600 pages actually seems a little too short. I loved this novel."

The Golem of Brooklyn by Adam Mansbach, picked by Chris: "Not quite blasphemous. Righteously funny. A breakneck, whacked-out road trip from Brooklyn deep into MAGA country that takes a whole lot of side trips through Jewish history. And all with a cranky, 9-foot tall, many-millennia-old Golem in tow. This book’s a marvel; from page one, Mansbach embarks on a serious, compassionate consideration of collective, intergenerational trauma and the search for the right answer to racist violence, all the while lacing each page with acidic wit. You’ll love it, or the The Golem might just smash your head like a walnut."

Time to Shine by Rachel Ried, picked by Rachel Copeland: "Backup goalie Landon Stackhouse knows that his temporary job with the Calgary team is to shut up and warm the bench, and as a quiet loner, he relishes the opportunity to fade into the background. But his teammate Casey Hicks keeps talking to him, even offering him a place to stay, and Landon can't help but be drawn in by his sweet and friendly nature. Even their teammates are shipping it! But as Landon's time on the team draws to an end, can these two make it work? Wow, okay, somehow, within a few chapters, this book took me from "ugh, hockey" to "these are my sons, and I will go to all of their hockey games." Since I can't do that, I'll just have to hand sell the heck out of this wonderful book. I can't wait for more from Rachel Reid!"

California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline
by Rosanna Xia, picked by Kay Wosewick: "The California coastline will experience more frequent and more powerful storms and rising sea levels as climate change accelerates. Some cities and towns have started preparing by moving buildings further inland, installing public storm-warning systems, and limiting property owners’ manipulation of beaches, such as building stone or concrete walls to retain or rebuild beach property. Beach construction is a temporary fix and merely moves erosion to other properties. Public beach erosion may threaten long-term viability of some vacation-dependent economies. California clearly has a great deal of work left to do. While climate change is already harming ocean coastlines, lake coastlines will eventually face similar issues. Any volunteers?"

 by Carl Hiaasen, picked by Tim McCarthy: "It never takes Carl Hiaasen long to drop us head first into a mystery. By the end of a single chapter, Wrecker (a nickname he got from a line of paternal ancestors who salvaged shipwrecks) has two mysteries on his hands. One involves a group of men who give him a lot of money just to forget they foolishly grounded their fancy purple speedboat. The other has to do with a girl weeping in the Key West cemetery at night. It’s a place where Wrecker earns big money keeping iguana scat cleaned off a grave that has a mind-bending epitaph. We’re already in deep, and it just keeps getting deeper. Hiaasen uses real environmental issues and disturbing history to create grand and twisted characters, awkward relationships, odd settings, belly laughs, and strong kids who see the world more clearly than most so called grown-ups. He writes with a confidence that translates into my pure enjoyment, whether I’m reading one of his books about fifteen-year-old kids like Wrecker or one that’s meant for warped adults like me."

An Impossible Thing to Say by Ayra Shahi, also picked by Tim: "Omid was born in Tucson, Arizona, after his parents left Iran just before the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini and American hostages. The revolution devastated his parents’ families. Now, two decades later, his grandparents have finally come to live near them in Tucson, and his American relatives are gathering to celebrate. His world is becoming more whole but also more complex, with English and Farsi mixing in endless variations, ancient Persian traditions finding new life, and memories of his past taking on new meaning. As if being a high school sophomore wasn’t awkward enough! And being Iranian can make someone an instant target of angry racist suspicion. Omid is a smart, promising kid with good friends and family, but he’s never quite able to fully express exactly what he feels about the difficulties of growing up. We hear him, though. His warm, perceptive, creative voice comes through beautifully, and it drew me into his story, a place I wanted to stay. I like how Shahi plays with the form of written ideas, and I love how the result is concrete, brilliant, universal human truth."

The Fragile Threads of Power
 by VE Schwab, picked by Jenny Chou: "Fans of VE Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy will be thrilled to learn this new series-starter brings more adventures with Kell, Lila, Alucard, and Rhy! I found the latest book to be layered with one richly-drawn, intertwined plotline after another. Seven years have passed since the events of A Conjuring of Light, and in Red London, Rhy sits precariously on the throne ruling a magical land without magic of his own. A dark shadow looms, a league called the Hand, whose members are bent on overthrowing the monarchy, which puts not only Rhy in danger, but also his child. Still captain of her own ship, Lila Bard is charged with tracking down a stolen magical artifact capable of creating doors to other lands without the use of Antari magic. As for Kell, the traveler who launched the original series in A Darker Shade of Magic? It’s heartbreaking to watch my favorite character struggle to live with his Antari magic broken, but his swordsmanship rivals Lila’s now. In the midst of all this, Schwab has created a stunning new character to love. Tes is a repair-shop assistant, a tinkerer, and a girl who can literally see strands of magic. She becomes the missing piece we didn’t know we needed in the sparkling fantasy world of the four Londons. If you are already a fan, you’ll want to read this on pub date, and if you haven’t read the original three books? Hey, you’ve got the whole summer!"

The Thieves' Gambit
by Kayvion Lewis, picked by Jen Steele: "The Thieves' Gambit is a thrilling, action-packed adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat! Ross Quest has spent her whole life training with her mother to be the best thief there is. The family motto is to trust only a Quest. But what if you want to have a normal life as a teenager? Perhaps go to a gymnastics summer camp and not steal priceless jewels? Ross plans to leave her mother and the life of a thief after one last job. Unfortunately, it goes horribly wrong and Ross is forced to stay in the game a little longer. In order to save her mom, Ross Quest must win the Gambit, a cut throat international competition that will grant the winner one wish. To win, Ross may have to trust someone other than a Quest. You'll definitely want to read this before the movie comes out!"

Something, Someday by Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Christian Robinson, another pick from Jen: "Something, Someday is an all-around beautiful book. Amanda Gorman's latest picture book shows the power one person can do to make a change with charming illustrations by the wonderful Christian Robinson. A special picture book for the whole family."

That's a lot of books! Here come a whole bunch more!

Oct 3rd releases:

The MANIAC by Benjamin Labatut, picked by Jason Kennedy: "Labatut’s The MANIAC offers up an in depth exploration of the causes and effects of math and science’s transition from theory to practical applications (ie, the nuclear bomb) and the influence of individual madness. Labatut tells the story of Jon von Neumann, from his beginnings to his immigration to the US as he fled Nazism to the Manhattan project to his ultimate death. He also follows a British boy-genius, bored with being a chess master, who, upon reading von Neuman's thesis, goes on to help create Deepmind and the beginnings of AI. Benjamin Labatut explains the complex evolution of AI through the 20th Century, from exceptional math breakthroughs to mayhem, and he makes it compulsively readable to boot!"

Standing Heavy
by Gauz', translated by Frank Wynne, picked by Kay Wosewick: "When not fearing eviction or avoiding relatives’ demands to send money, three illegal immigrants from Côte d’Ivoire work as impeccable security guards in upscale women’s stores on Paris’s Champs-Élysées. The diversity of shoppers supplies nearly endless entertainment for the large, black, acutely visible guards. They share hilarious, absurd, and stupid stories that keep them awake, amused, and standing tall for very long shifts."

Mister, Mister by Guy Gunaratne, picked by Chris Lee: "Rotting away in an immigration detention center, Yahya Bas cuts out his own tongue – never again will he be misheard, misconstrued – and sets pen to paper to write his own story so it might finally be understood by his captors, by his god, and, ultimately, by himself. In a very loose riff on David Copperfield, Gunaratne follows Yahya from his childhood of poverty and abandonment in East London to his years as a poet capable of inciting violence, a fatherless jihadist, an exile, and a political prisoner. Yahya becomes a cipher for the world's broken logic at the onset of the West's forever war. The writing is vivid, visceral, and bracing; totally unputdownable. Yet at the same time, the book is tender and deeply humane. Gunaratne understands that violence, at its core, is never really political. His willingness to follow that understanding to very uncomfortable places makes this book so necessary. And so, Yahya tells his own story – one that’s not about finding his voice but rather about cutting out all the voices of others that have come to inhabit (to invade, colonize, and occupy) his mouth."

A Stone Is a Story
by Leslie Barnard Booth, illustrated by Marc Martin, also picked by Kay: "As a life-long rock-hound, this book would have been pure magic to me as a child: I would have learned just enough to make up a story about different experiences my rock may have gone through to become the exact rock that was in my hand. This book may have also spurred me to learn more about the science of rocks, which would have helped me tell more detailed, and perhaps more real-life, stories. Rock loving kids will love this book!"

Treasure Island: Runaway Gold by Jewel Parker Rhodes, picked by Tim McCarthy: "Zane feels free on his skateboard, sailing through Queens with his dog named Hip-Hop at his side. He’s got his friends from the skatepark, his mom, and his house, but it’s hard because his dad died and now his mom takes in elderly boarders to make ends meet. One of them insists that she’s Captain Maddie, and she’s either got a world of past experience on the seven seas, or she’s just whacked-out crazy. She talks about a treasure that needs protection. Still, she likes Zane, and somehow, he trusts her. So maybe it’s true that pirates are coming for them. Rhodes imagined updating Treasure Island in today’s New York City, wrapping in Manhattan’s stunning maritime history and the brutal side of its checkered past. It worked! She’s a natural storyteller. It’s a very intense, suspenseful story with great characters. Zane is told to “set sail” on a dangerous journey through a bustling city. His crew of friends and his loyal dog help him search for treasure to save his home, with his board as his ship and the city as his sea!"

If I Was a Horse
by Sophie Blackall, picked by Jen Steele: "If I Was a Horse is about a child who imagines all the things they would do as a horse. This playful picture book with beautiful illustrations makes for a great story-time. What would you do if you were a horse? A wonderful picture book from Sophie Blackall that you’ll be glad you read."

Mole Is Not Alone by Maya Tatsukawa, also picked by Jen: "A charming picture book about anxiety. Mole has been invited to Rabbit's party, but Mole is unsure if they should go. In fact, Mole has a lot of what ifs about the whole thing. As Mole navigates how to handle going to Rabbit's party, Mole meets a new friend along the way. A delightful, read-out-loud family picture book."

All We Need Is Love and a Really Soft Pillow! by Peter H Reynolds and Henry Rocket Reynolds, also picked by Tim: "The Little One is a small creature who asks if Poppy needs anything. Little One learns that each other and love are everything they need... but perhaps a few additions would be nice, even useful. A soft pillow is essential, and a roof, with walls, surely water, and a bathtub. A garden would be lovely, and how about books? A toilet! Let's not forget chocolate. But when all of those extras are lost in a storm, love remains... and a really soft pillow can take many forms. This collaboration with his son Henry has added another marvelously clever and wise picture book to Peter Reynolds' magnificent body of work."

And now, part three - Oct 10th releases:

The Hive and the Honey
by Paul Yoon, picked by Chris Lee: "Paul Yoon’s gorgeous, satisfying new story collection offers peeks into the lives of those among the Korean diaspora across centuries and the globe. In remarkably precise prose, Yoon carves out the essence of his characters’ lives. An ex-con in upstate New York, an abandoned boy in Russia’s Far East, a shopkeeping couple in London’s Koreatown, and a 17th century samurai – in each of them and others, Yoon captures the yearning for an unnamable something that exists in between the history they carry with them and the worlds they’ve left behind. Wonderful."

Hitchcock's Blondes: The Unforgettable Women Behind the Legendary Director's Dark Obsession by Laurence Leamer, picked by Daniel Goldin: "Leamer uses a format on his latest entertaining work that is similar to the previously published Capote’s Women: looking at the legendary director through the lens of various lead actresses (such as Grace Kelly, Ingrid Berman, Tippi Hendren) of a select number of his films. On first glance, they may be of a type (blonde, beautiful), but their stories were varied, as were their experiences working with the obsessive director. What with Hitchock’s prodigious output, an analysis of eight leading women over 14 films doesn’t even cover all the blondes (Doris Day, for example). If you want to get exhaustive, go back and read the 900-page biography from Milwaukeean Patrick McGilligan (thanked in the acknowledgements), but for amateurs like myself, Hitchcock’s Blondes will do just fine.

The Prince & the Coyote by David Bowles, illustrated Amanda Mijangos, and picked by Jen Steele: "You usually hear about books that are crossovers for YA – well, I think this book should be considered a crossover for adults! A stunning, historical epic set in pre-Columbian Mexico based on the life of Nezahualcoyotl. Not only are there beautiful illustrations from Amanda Mijangos, but David Bowles incorporates Nezahualcoyotl's surviving poetry into the novel as well. The Prince and the Coyote is a rich and layered story about one of the Americas’ greatest heroes. I was mesmerized from beginning to end!"

Zilot & Other Important Rhymes by Bob Odenkirk, illustrated by Erin Odenkirk, and recommended by Jen: "Zilot & Other Important Rhymes is such a fun read! It took me back to a time when I was reading Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic as a kid and couldn’t put it down. A delightful book of poems with wonderful illustrations, this father-daughter duo has delivered something special that I’m sure will be read often by kids who love silly, whimsical, heartfelt rhymes."

The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Julie Morstad, and picked by Tim McCarthy: "Each time I read one of Kate DiCamillo's books, the same thought comes to me: She’s wise, and she has the power to convey her wisdom in so few words. It's astonishing, really, how often she stops my eyes in their tracks with only a few lines that hold universal understandings. As two Newbery Awards will attest, many people agree with me. This is the tale of five puppets on a fantastic journey to become their real selves and create a story - a king, a wolf, a girl, a boy, and an owl. It’s a simple story with immense depth and dramatic illustrations by Julie Morstad. It’s a tribute to imagination, the possibility of magic, the impact of stories, and the necessity of love. Trust me. Kate’s wisdom and power will make this a magical adventure for young and old readers alike."

PHEW! That is a lot of recommending. If you made it all the way through this post, you may feel as if you've nearly read an entire book. But we hope you find some fantastic further reading in the pages of these recommended books. Until next week (or the next time I get back from a wedding and realize I've unforgivably neglected the blog) - read on.

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