Maria’s Staff Pick – “American Heiress”

American HeiressThe Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin

Coming of age in the mid 1970’s, I of course knew all about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the subsequent bank robbers she participated in as “Tanya”… or so I thought! Toobin’s very readable and extremely captivating book is a must read for anyone interested in true crime or american cultural history. A thoroughly wild ride!

Susan’s Staff Pick – “Darktown”

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Thomas Mullen has written a historical fiction crime story that is relevant to today’s headlines.

The story is set in Atlanta in 1948; the Atlanta police department has just hired the first black police officers and the problems began.

I was dismayed, though not shocked, to read some of the details – the new police officers were not welcome in the city’s police station. They had their own mini-station in the basement of the local YMCA. They were actively threatened, belittled and almost killed at various times by their fellow officers – the white ones.

However, there are glimpses of cooperation between some officers as they try to solve the crimes against black residents of the city.

Currently, many of the issues between black and white officers still seem to be problematic as do the relationships between people and police officers in general.

This is a thought-provoking, interesting book. Worth reading!

Julie’s Staff Pick – “The Last Days of Night”

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

A historical novel about the first days of electric light. Doesn’t sound all that riveting? You’ll be surprised. The story of the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse – told from the perspective of Westinghouse’s young, ambitious lawyer – is truly fascinating. Other characters include the strange inventor Nikola Tesla and the mysterious actress Agnes Huntington. Graham Moore kept me turning pages with multi-layered characters, lively dialogue, and unexpected twists and turns.

Marianne’s Staff Pick – “The Vegetarian”

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The Vegetarian by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

This book is deeply affecting. The summary and reviews on the back say it all. I enjoy reading books well-translated from their original language. They offer a peek into another culture, albeit through the author’s perspective and style. Han Kang’s style is elegant and artistic and almost cold. Yet, passion bleeds through his words the same way passion rears up in her characters – unbeckoned but undeniable – creating a stark contrast to the status quo of self-containment. Told in three voices of characters close to the main character, we only know the vegetarian, Yeong-hye, through the eyes of others. This multiple perspective simultaneously creates increased knowledge and confusion, exposes intimacy and isolation, and reveals love and self-interest. Ultimately, it is the line between wellness and illness that is most brought into question.

Carol’s Staff Pick – “Lust and Wonder”

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Lust and Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

Fans of Running with Scissors and Dry will adore this latest memoir from Burroughs. After a lapse of a few years, he’s back with his sweet, hilarious, and at times heartbreaking story.

This is the story of his love life – love gone bad – and ultimately finding the perfect partner where he least expects its.

Read, relish, and thoroughly enjoy!

Susan’s Staff Pick – “Homegoing”

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This is an amazing book by an exceptional author!

The range and beauty of this book is difficult to fathom and almost impossible to explain in words. On the surface it is the story of two young black girls in 18th century Ghana. They are half-sisters, grew up in different tribes in different villages, each not knowing about the other. One marries the British officer who directs the operations at the “Gold Coast Castle” which is the embarkation point for ships leaving the African coast with their cargo of slaves. The other is one of those slaves, sent to America. Succeeding chapters tell the story of a descendant in each succeeding generation from the African family line and the American family line. Through their beautifully told details we actually learn about 300 years of history through the personal stories of these descendants.

Amazing and well worth reading!

Marianne’s Staff Pick – “Lazaretto”

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Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone

I hadn’t heard of the quarantine hospital in the port of Philadelphia nor the author Diane McKinney-Whetstone. I am delighted to discover both. Whetstone brings the post-Civil War era alive right in nearby Philadelphia. Her characters are vibrant and strong and she weaves a moving tale centered on the lives of Philadelphia’s black community; their struggles and triumphs in the face of continued oppression from whites and class divisions within their own culture. Beautiful imagery and universal themes of family, friendship, love, independence, courage, and perseverance makes this an enjoyable and meaningful read. I look forward to discovering more books by Whetstone!

Bill’s Staff Pick – “LaRose”

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LaRose by Louise Erdrich

This novel begins with a horrible hunting accident in which Landreaux Iron kills his neighbor’s — and best friend’s — youngest son. Following an old Native American tradition, he and his wife give their son, LaRose, to the grieving parents as retribution. Thus these two already close families are joined in a variety of new ways. The working out of this tragedy and the attempt to set it right is full of consequences no one, including the reader, can and will be able to foresee. This beautifully written, often tense, sometimes funny, always riveting novel explores loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart and is another in a long line of Erdrich novels that reveals so much of what it means to be human. I loved this book and you will, too!

Kathy’s Staff Pick – “The Girls”

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The Girls by Emma Cline

This book grabbed me right from the start.

It is the fictional story of 14-year-old Evie and how she was lured into a cult resembling Charles Manson’s cult.

It is raw and emotional and at the same time mesmerizing.

The author does a great job of bringing the reader along for the ride and showing the reader how joining this cult was so easy for Evie – the need to belong outweighed other choices.

This is Emma Cline’s first novel, and she can write!!

Go ahead – read this, it will make an impression!