Staff Book Picks: September 2020

Abbott, Karen, 1973- author.

"A narrative history of George Remus, who the press called "king of the bootleggers," and a Jazz-Age murder trial"-- Provided by publisher.

Abdurraqib, Hanif, 1983- author.

In his much-anticipated follow-up to The Crown Ain't Worth Much, poet, essayist, biographer, and music critic Abdurraqib has written a book of poems about how one rebuilds oneself after a heartbreak, the kind that renders them a different version of themselves than the one they knew.

Biss, Eula, author.

"Having just purchased her first home, the author embarks on a self-audit of the value system she has bought into. The essays in this volume offer an interrogation of work, leisure, and the lived experience of capitalism"-- Provided by publisher.

Carty-Williams, Candice, 1989- author.

"Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she's constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places--including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth"-- Provided by publisher.

Chiaverini, Jennifer, author.

John Wilkes Booth's misguided quest to avenge the vanquished Confederacy led him to commit one of the most notorious acts in the annals of America. Four women were integral in his life: Mary Ann, the mother he revered above all but country; his sister and confidante, Asia; Lucy Lambert Hale, the senator's daughter who loved him; and the Confederate widow Mary Surratt, to whom he entrusted the secrets of his vengeful wrath. As their stories intertwine we witness a soul in turmoil-- and a country at the precipice of immense change.

France, Tan, author.
French, Tana.

"The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls' boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin's Murder Squad--and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. "The Secret Place," a board where the girls at St. Kilda's School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why. But everything they discover leads them back to Holly's close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique--and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen's links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda's will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly's father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined." -- ǂc from publisher's web site.

Giddings, Megan, author.

"A ... debut novel that delves ... into the taboo subject of modern-day medical experimentation on African Americans"-- Provided by publisher.

Giordano, Mario, 1963- author.

"On her sixtieth birthday, Auntie Poldi retires to Sicily, intending to while away the rest of her days with good wine, a view of the sea, and few visitors. But Sicily isn't quite the tranquil island she thought it would be, and something always seems to get in the way of her relaxation. When her handsome young handyman goes missing--and is discovered murdered--she can't help but ask questions. Soon there's an investigation, a smoldering police inspector, a romantic entanglement, one false lead after another, a rooftop showdown, and finally, of course, Poldi herself, slightly tousled but still perfectly poised."-- Provided by publisher.

Goodman, Makenna, author.

"The Shame is a novel about technology, capitalism, motherhood, and the search for meaningful art"-- Provided by publisher.

Greene, Kate, 1979- author.

When it comes to Mars, the focus is often on how to get there: the rockets, the engines, the fuel. But upon arrival, what will it actually be like? In 2013, Kate Greene moved to Mars. That is, along with five fellow crew members, she embarked on NASA's first HI-SEAS mission, a simulated Martian environment located on the slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawai'i. For four months she lived, worked, and slept in an isolated geodesic dome, conducting a sleep study on her crew mates and gaining incredible insight into human behavior in tight quarters, as well as the nature of boredom, dreams, and isolation that arise amidst the promise of scientific progress and glory. In Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars, Greene draws on her experience to contemplate humanity's broader impulse to explore. The result is a twined story of space and life, of the standard, able-bodied astronaut and Greene's brother's disability, of the lag time of interplanetary correspondences and the challenges of a long-distance marriage, of freeze-dried egg powder and fresh pineapple, of departure and return. By asking what kind of wisdom humanity might take to Mars and elsewhere in the Universe, Greene has written a remarkable, wide-ranging examination of our time in space right now, as a pre-Mars species, poised on the edge, readying for launch.

Halls, Stacey, author.

"Two women, bound by a child, and a secret that will change everything. London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate newborn at the Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the daughter she has never known. Dreading the worst, that she has died in care, she is astonished to discover someone pretending to be Bess has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl--and why. Less than a mile from Bess's poor lodgings, in a quiet Georgian townhouse, lives Alexandra, a reclusive young widow. When her close friend--an ambitious doctor at the orphanage--persuades her to hire a nursemaid to help care for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart. From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Familiars comes this captivating story of mothers and daughters, class and power, and love against the greatest of odds."--Publisher's description.

Holmes, Linda (Radio talk show host), author.

"In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth "Evvie" Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn't correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy's childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the "yips": he can't throw straight anymore, and he can't figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button. When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie's house, the two make a deal: Dean won't ask about Evvie's late husband, and Evvie won't ask about Dean's baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken--and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they'll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they've broken, the plans they've changed, and the secrets they've kept. They'll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there's always a chance--right up until the last out"-- Provided by publisher.

Johnson, Alaya Dawn, 1982-

In a Brazil of the distant future, June Costa falls in love with Enki, a fellow artist and rebel against the strict limits of the legendary pyramid city of Palmares Três' matriarchal government, knowing that, like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Leaman, Louisa, author.

"Francesca Delaney's wedding gown shop has two necessary rules to guarantee success: 1. Never covet a dress 2. Never sell a dress that led to a doomed marriage. These two rules have helped Francesca build her reputation as a woman with a knack for matching a bride-to-be with the perfect gown. At Fran's shop every gown has its history, and the dresses seem to whisper their secrets to Fran, telling her the perfect match. But Francesca breaks both these rules the day she finds a beautiful 1950s couture floor-length gown"-- Provided by publisher.

Ma, Ling, 1983- author.
Makkai, Rebecca, author.

Lucy Hull, a young children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy's help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan. Desperate to save him from Pastor Bob and the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path. But is it just Ian who is running away? Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?

Mbue, Imbolo.

"Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice."--Jacket.

McKinney, L. L. (Leatrice L.), author.

Continues the dark adventures of Alice, whose efforts to save her Wonderland friends are complicated by a Nightmare-summoning poet's schemes to raise the dead.

McMillan, Terry, author.

"After a sudden change of plans, a remarkable woman and her loyal group of friends try to figure out what she's going to do with the rest of her life. Loretha Curry's life is full. A little crowded sometimes, but full indeed. On the eve of her sixty-eighth birthday, she has a booming beauty supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband who's still got moves that surprise. True, she's carrying a few more pounds than she should be, but she's not one of those women who thinks her best days are behind her, and she's determined to prove her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else with that outdated view of aging wrong--it's not all downhill from here. But when an unexpected loss turns her world upside down, Loretha will have to summon all her strength, resourcefulness, and determination to keep on thriving, pursue joy, heal old wounds, and chart new paths. With a little help from her friends, of course"-- Provided by publisher.

Millet, Lydia, 1968- author.

"Named for a picture Bible given to Eve's little brother Jack, [this book] is loosely structured around events and characters that often appear in collections of Bible stories intended for young readers. These narrative touchstones are imbedded in a backdrop of environmental and psychological distress as ... children reject ... parents for their emotional and moral failures--in part as normal teenagers must, and in part for their generation's passivity and denial in the face of cataclysmic change"-- Provided by publisher.

Moezzi, Melody, 1979- author.

"A powerful personal journey to find meaning and life lessons in the words of a wildly popular 13th century poet. Rumi's inspiring and deceptively simple poems have been called ecstatic, mystical, and devotional. To writer and activist Melody Moezzi, they became a lifeline. In The Rumi Prescription, we follow her path of discovery as she translates Rumi's works for herself - to gain wisdom and insight in the face of a creative and spiritual roadblock. With the help of her father, who is a lifelong fan of Rumi's poetry, she immerses herself in this rich body of work, and discovers a 13th-century prescription for modern life"-- Provided by publisher.

Morton, Kate, 1976-

"From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets. Living on her family's idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure. One midsummer's eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined. Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo's case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather's house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone yet more present than ever. A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read"-- Provided by publisher.

Nguyễn, Phan Quế Mai, 1973- author.

"The multigenerational tale of the Trà̂n family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trà̂n Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart"-- Provided by publisher.

Onyebuchi, Tochi, author.

"Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative and an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience. Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella - through visits both mundane and supernatural - tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down"-- Provided by publisher.

Palmer, Dexter Clarence, 1974- author.

"In 1726 in the small town of Godalming, England, a young woman confounds the medical community by giving birth to dead rabbits. Surgeon John Howard is a rational man. His apprentice Zachary knows John is reluctant to believe anything that purports to exist outside the realm of logic. But even John cannot explain how or why Mary Toft, the wife of a local farmer, manages to give birth to a dead rabbit. When this singular event becomes a regular occurrence, John realizes that nothing in his experience as a village physician has prepared him to deal with a situation as disturbing as this. He writes to several preeminent surgeons in London, three of whom quickly arrive in the small town of Godalming ready to observe and opine. When Mary's plight reaches the attention of King George, Mary and her doctors are summoned to London, where Zachary experiences for the first time a world apart from his small-town existence, and is exposed to some of the darkest corners of the human soul. All the while, Mary lies in bed, waiting for another birth, as doubts begin to blossom among the surgeons and a growing group of onlookers grow impatient for another miracle..."--Publisher description.

Passmore, Ben, author.
Pochoda, Ivy, author.

"A serial killer story ... [and] literary thriller of female empowerment and social change"-- Provided by publisher.

Rich, Nathaniel, 1980- author.

"By 1979, we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change--including how to stop it. Over the next decade, a handful of scientists, politicians, and strategists, led by two unlikely heroes, risked their careers in a desperate, escalating campaign to convince the world to act before it was too late. [This] is their story"-- Publisher marketing.

Roanhorse, Rebecca, author.

"While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine"-- Provided by publisher.

Russell, Kate Elizabeth, author.

"2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher. 2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager--and who professed to worship only her--may be far different from what she has always believed? Alternating between Vanessa's present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself."--Amazon.

Sager, Riley, author.
Shabazz, Jamel, 1960-
Solomon, Rivers, author.

"Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world. Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot--if she's willing to sow the seeds of civil war" --Publisher description.

Stout, David, 1942- author.

"The Great Depression was a time of incomparable financial desperation in America. Thugs with submachine guns and square-jawed G-men have long dominated the vernacular images of fear, lawlessness, and corruption set against the decimating poverty of that decade. But little known-until now-are the many serial dramas that played out in homes and hideouts, courtrooms and cold cases across the country. In a time of panic, legal lethargy, corruption, and incompetence, there was one sure-fire means to make money, one that was seized upon by both criminals and resourceful civilians. Best of all, one likely to go unpunished: kidnapping. Gritty, visceral, and thoughtfully reported, The Kidnap Years chronicles a forgotten time in America's history when the economic hardships of the Great Depression and the low legal risk of kidnapping led to a sweep of abductions that afflicted all corners of the country"-- Provided by publisher.

Thompson, Clifford, author.

"An African-American writer's concise, heartfelt take on the state of his nation, exploring the war between the values he has always held and the reality with which he is confronted in twenty-first-century America. In the tradition of James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time and Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me comes Clifford Thompson's What It Is. Thompson was raised to believe in treating every person of every color as an individual, and he decided as a young man that America, despite its history of racial oppression, was his home as much as anyone else's. As a middle-aged, happily married father of biracial children, Thompson finds himself questioning his most deeply held convictions when the race-baiting Donald Trump ascends to the presidency -- elected by whites, whom Thompson had refused to judge as a group, and who make up the majority in this country Thompson had called his own. In the grip of contradictory emotions, Thompson turns for guidance to the wisdom of writers he admires while knowing that the answers to his questions about America ultimately lie in America itself. Through interviews with a small but varied group of Americans he hears sharply divergent opinions about what is happening in the country while trying to find his own answers -- conclusions based not on conventional wisdom or on what he would like to believe, but on what he sees"-- Provided by publisher.

Tough, Paul, author.

"Does college still work? Is the system designed just to protect the privileged and leave everyone else behind? Or can a college education today provide real opportunity to young Americans seeking to improve their station in life? The Years That Matter Most tells the stories of students trying to find their way, with hope, joy, and frustration, through the application process and into college. Drawing on new research, the book reveals how the landscape of higher education has shifted in recent decades and exposes the hidden truths of how the system works and whom it works for. And it introduces us to the people who really make higher education go: admissions directors trying to balance the class and balance the budget, College Board officials scrambling to defend the SAT in the face of mounting evidence that it favors the wealthy, researchers working to unlock the mysteries of the college-student brain, and educators trying to transform potential dropouts into successful graduates. With insight, humor, and passion, Paul Tough takes readers on a journey from Ivy League seminar rooms to community college welding shops, from giant public flagship universities to tiny experimental storefront colleges. Whether you are facing your own decision about college or simply care about the American promise of social mobility, The Years That Matter Most will change the way you think--not just about higher education, but about the nation itself. "--Provided by publisher.

Wilson, Kai Ashante, author.

"Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors' artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight. The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive. The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive"-- Provided by publisher.