Staff Book Picks: January 2020

Cassidy, Sara, author.

"For as long as Saanvi can remember, she has been friends with her elderly neighbor Helen. They play cards and garden together and, especially, care for the wild birds that visit Helen's yard. When Helen dies suddenly, a "For Sale" sign goes up, and movers arrive, emptying the house of its furniture and stripping the yard of its birdfeeders. The sparrows and hummingbirds disappear. Soon a bulldozer tears down Helen's house. All winter, Saanvi walks numbly past the property as developers begin to build condos. Then one spring day, amid the dust and turmoil of construction, she finds a weathered playing card wedged between two rocks. She holds it to her chest, and finally sobs. After a tearful night, Saanvi wakes inspired. She slathers peanut butter on pinecones to hang from tree branches, hammers together a birdhouse from scrap wood and drags a kitchen stool outside to hold a bowl of water. Finally, she retrieves a nest that has been unraveling on Helen's old property and places it in a tree in her own yard. Saanvi's yard soon fills with Helen's birds. They have a home again. This beautifully illustrated, wordless graphic novel shows Saanvi's journey through close friendship, then hollowing loss and change, until she finally finds hope."-- Provided by publisher.

Coyote, Ivan, 1969- author.

"Ivan Coyote is one of North America's preeminent storytellers and performers, and the author, co-author, or co-editor of eleven previous books, all but one of which have been published by Arsenal Pulp Press. Their most recent book, Tomboy Survival Guide, was shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, named an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book, and longlisted for Canada Reads. In their latest, Ivan takes on the patriarchy and the political, as well as the intimate and the personal in these beguiling and revealing stories of what it means to be trans and non-binary today, at a time in their life when they must carry the burden of heartbreaking history with them, while combating those who would misgender them or deny their very existence. These stories span thirty years of tackling TERFs, legislators, and bathroom police, sure, but there is joy and pleasure and triumph to be found here too, as Ivan pays homage to personal heroes like the late Leslie Feinberg while gently guiding younger trans folk to prove to themselves that there is a way out of the darkness. Rebent Sinner is the work of an accomplished artist whose plain truths about their experience will astound readers with their utter, breathtaking humanity. "-- Provided by publisher.

Curtis, Rye, author.

The sole survivor of a plane crash, seventy-two-year-old Cloris Waldrip finds herself lost and alone in the unforgiving wilderness of Montana's rugged Bitterroot Range, exposed to the elements with no tools beyond her wits and ingenuity. Intertwined with her story is Debra Lewis, a park ranger struggling with addiction, a recent divorce, and a new mission: to find and rescue Cloris. As Cloris wanders mountain forests and valleys, subsisting on whatever she can find as her hold on life grows more precarious, Ranger Lewis and her motley group of oddball rescuers follow the trail of clues she's left behind. Days stretch into weeks, and hope begins to fade. But with nearly everyone else giving up, Ranger Lewis stays true until the end.

DeForge, Michael, 1987- author, illustrator.

"Sticks Angelica is, in her own words, "49 years old. Former: Olympian, poet, scholar, sculptor, minister, activist, Governor General, entrepreneur, line cook, headmistress, Mountie, columnist, libertarian, cellist." After a high-profile family scandal, Sticks escapes to the woods to live in what would be relative isolation were it not for the many animals that surround and inevitably annoy her. Sticks is an arrogant self-obsessed force who wills herself on the flora and fauna. There is a rabbit named Oatmeal who harbors an unrequited love for her, a pair of kissing geese, a cross-dressing moose absurdly named Lisa Hanawalt. When a reporter named, ahem, Michael DeForge shows up to interview Sticks for his biography on her, she quickly slugs him and buries him up to his neck, immobilizing him. Instead, Sticks narrates her way through the forest, recalling formative incidents from her storied past in what becomes a strange sort of autobiography. Deforge's witty dialogue and deadpan narration create a bizarre yet eerily familiar world. Sticks Angelica plays with autobiography, biography, and hagiography to look at how we build our own sense of self and how others carry on the roles we create for them in our own personal dramas."-- Provided by publisher.

Heinerth, Jill, author.

"From one of the world's most renowned cave divers, a firsthand account of exploring the earth's final frontier: the hidden depths of our oceans and the sunken caves inside our planet. More people have died exploring underwater caves than climbing Mount Everest, and we know more about deep space than we do about the depths of our oceans. From one of the top cave divers working today--and one of the very few women in her field--Into the Planet blends science, adventure, and memoir to bring readers face-to-face with the terror and beauty of earth's remaining unknowns and the extremes of human capability. Jill Heinerth--the first person in history to dive deep into an Antarctic iceberg and leader of a team that discovered the ancient watery remains of Mayan civilizations--has descended farther into the inner depths of our planet than any other woman. She takes us into the harrowing split-second decisions that determine whether a diver makes it back to safety, the prejudices that prevent women from pursuing careers underwater, and her endeavor to recover a fallen friend's body from the confines of a cave. But there's beauty beyond the danger of diving, and while Heinerth swims beneath our feet in the lifeblood of our planet, she works with biologists discovering new species, physicists tracking climate change, and hydrogeologists examining our finite freshwater reserves. Written with hair-raising intensity, Into the Planet is the first book to deliver an intimate account of cave diving, transporting readers deep into inner space, where fear must be reconciled and a mission's success balances between knowing one's limits and pushing the envelope of human endurance." --Amazon.

Johnson, Kirk W., author.

"On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins--some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them--and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature."--Page [2] of cover.

Liu, Marjorie M., author.

"Set in an alternate world of art deco beauty and steampunk horror, Monstress tells the epic story of Maika Halfwolf, a teenage survivor of a cataclysmic war between humans and their hated enemies, the Arcanics. In the face of oppression and terrible danger, Maika is both hunter and hunted, searching for answers about her mysterious past as those who seek to use her remain just one step behind... and all the while, the monster within begins to awaken..."--Page [4] of cover.

Machado, Carmen Maria, author.

The author's engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.

Maum, Courtney, 1978- author.
Moshfegh, Ottessa, author.

"From one of our boldest, most celebrated new literary voices, a shocking and tender novel about a young woman's efforts to sustain a state of deep hibernation over the course of a year on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Our narrator should be happy, shouldn't she? She's young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn't just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It's the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong? My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a powerful answer to that question. Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation can be. Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers" --Publisher description.

Palmer, Suzanne (Science fiction writer), author.

Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder. His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia's Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He'll slip in, decode the ship's compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand. Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a backwater deep space colony called Cernee. But Fergus' arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger's enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly--and inconveniently--invested in the lives of the locals. It doesn't help that a dangerous alien species Fergus thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following him around. Foolhardy. Eccentric. Reckless. Whatever he's called, Fergus will need all the help he can get to take back the Sword and maybe save Cernee from destruction in the process.

Singh, Julietta, 1976- author.

"At once memoir, theory, poetic prose, and fragment, No archive will restore you is a feverish meditation on the body. Departing from Antonio Gramsci's summons to compile an inventory of the historical traces left in each of us, Singh engages with both the impossibility and urgent necessity of crafting an archive of the body. Through reveries on the enduring legacies of pain, desire, sexuality, race, and identity, she asks us to sense and feel what we have been trained to disavow, to re-member the body as more than itself."--Back cover.

Tursten, Helene, 1954- author.

Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and... no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home. Ever since her darling father's untimely death when she was only eighteen, Maud has lived in the family's spacious apartment in downtown Gothenburg rent-free, thanks to a minor clause in a hastily negotiated contract. That was how Maud learned that good things can come from tragedy. Now in her late eighties, Maud contents herself with traveling the world and surfing the net from the comfort of her father's ancient armchair. It's a solitary existence, and she likes it that way. Over the course of her adventures--or misadventures--this little bold lady will handle a crisis with a local celebrity who has her eyes on Maud's apartment, foil the engagement of her long-ago lover, and dispose of some pesky neighbors. But when the local authorities are called to investigate a dead body found in Maud's apartment, will Maud finally become a suspect?

Williams, Terry Tempest.

"A personal, lyrical, and idiosyncratic ode to our national parks"-- Provided by publisher.

Wilson, G. Willow, 1982-

"In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients--dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups--from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state's electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover's new fianceé is the 'Hand of God,' as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen"--Dust jacket flap.

Woodson, Jacqueline, author.

"Two families from different social classes are joined together by an unexpected pregnancy and the child that it produces. As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony in her grandparents' Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody's mother, for her own ceremony -- a celebration that ultimately never took place"--Adapted from jacket.