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2015 Staff Picks by Genre

 

Fiction

Book Cover for Mr. Bridge Connell, Evan
Mr. Bridge

Fiction
Mr. Bridge is a hard-working Kansas lawyer in the mid-1900s. His success allows his wife and children to enjoy a large house, cook, laundress, luxury cars, country club membership, and all of the other extravagances of an upper middle class life. This beautifully written novel, told from Mr. Bridge’s perspective, comprise more than one hundred vignettes of happenings in his life and how he reacts to each. By learning about him through his relationships with others, the reader soon adopts a solid understanding of his character. The novel, published in 1969, is the companion piece to Mrs. Bridge, published a decade earlier. Fans of this book may enjoy moving on to the earlier book, to better understand the wife’s perspective on all of the same circumstances.
Recommended by Karen G., January 2015

 
Book Cover for All the Light We Cannot See Doerr, Anthony
All the Light We Cannot See

Fiction
Lives that seem worlds apart intersect in various ways and culminate during the WWII bombing of Saint-Malo, France. Marie-Laure and her father live near the Museum of Natural History in Paris, where her father works as a locksmith. Marie-Laure has been blind since age 6 but learns to navigate through sound, smell, touch, and memory. When the Nazis arrive in Paris, Marie-Laure and her father go to live with his uncle in Saint-Malo, a walled city in Brittany. Her uncle, a recluse, has a special interest in a room in his house full of radios and transmitters, something that becomes outlawed once the Nazis occupy France. Werner is a young German boy living in an orphan’s home with his sister Jutta. Werner and Jutta are fascinated with an old radio they find, and Werner sees his way out of the grueling work in the coal mines that killed his father. He has a special aptitude for fixing radios, a talent soon discovered and groomed by the Nazis at a Hitler Youth academy. Werner becomes part of a team tracking resistance efforts in the war and eventually in Saint Milo. Throughout the story, we meet characters both young and old who are touched by war, but, more importantly, also by kindness. There is, of course, some violence, but it is not the overriding tone. Through the book, we catch a glimpse of how people live through war and what they do to help each other out. I really liked Doerr’s vivid descriptions of places and things, particularly when he’s describing how Marie-Laure experiences the world. I tend to like WWII books, but this one, in particular, is a wonderful story.
Recommended by Joanne, January 2015

 
Book Cover for The Bluest Eye Morrison, Toni
The Bluest Eye

Fiction
In this classic novel of African American culture, women's history, and family, Pecola desperately wants to have blue eyes. It takes the destruction of her mind and soul for her wish to come "true". You can't be sure who to root for in this novel of family devastation, but you can sympathize with everyone, in one way or another. This is a novel for thoughtful reflection; don't expect to be uplifted, though you just might come out the other end enlightened.
This novel is available to check out from the library in print or a book on CD and online through Overdrive as an eBook or audiobook.
Recommended by Melissa, February 2015

 
Book Cover for Nairobi Heat Mukoma, Wa Ngugi
Nairobi Heat

Fiction
In this unconventionally conventional police procedural, a cop chases down the clues to a murder in Wisconsin by flying to Kenya. The writer is the son of the (absolutely wonderful) Kenyan writer, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, but, significantly, Mukoma was born in Illinois. This hybrid African/American perspective seems to offer Mukoma unique perspectives on racism in both the United States and Africa, the dynamics of the relationship between power and community, and the ambiguous ties between African-Americans and the African continent, making the read a worthy experience.
Recommended by Miguel, February 2015

 
Book Cover for Landline Rowell, Rainbow
Landline

Fiction
Georgie McCool has always wanted to be a comic screenwriter, and she is now this close to landing her own television show with her long-time writing partner, Seth. Georgie's husband, Neal, landed in southern California by default and has never adored their Los Angeles lifestyle, but he is the heart and soul of their family and the primary caretaker of their two young daughters. When Georgie backs out of a Christmas trip to Omaha, their marriage may be irrevocably strained. Georgie finds refuge at her mom's place where she finds her old plug-in princess phone and slowly begins to realize that present-day Georgie is able to call fifteen-years-ago Neal. Georgie has the crucial opportunity to relive the significance and aspirations of their early love, and to reevaluate the distance that has come between them. The dialogue is quick-witted and flowing and the relationships between the characters are enviably quirky. Landline set the ball rolling for me, and I just finished Rowell's YA novel, Eleanor and Park (two thumbs up). I am not a fast reader, but I happily FLEW through Landline and reveled in the accessible language that belied a tangible poignancy.
Recommended by Sheila, January 2015

 

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Nonfiction

Book Cover for On the High Line La Farge, Annik
On the High Line: Exploring America's Most Original Urban Park

Nonfiction
Around the turn of the last century, a group of dedicated Chelsea neighbors gathered to try to rescue and reimagine the elevated rail line that runs through more than 20 blocks of west Manhattan. Derelict and unused except by the occasional graffiti artist, the High Line nevertheless provided unique perspectives and unparalleled vistas of the city. After CSX donated the structure to the city, landscape architects and residents transformed the space into a public park, with the first section opening to the public in 2009. Today an additional portion is open, and visitors will soon be able to explore the final section on the rail yards. Pedestrians enjoy the High Line all day long, lounging on the lawn at 23rd Street, observing traffic and passersby below, or savoring the ever-evolving public art displays, billowing grasses, and seasonal blooms. La Farge provides the perfect guide to the High Line by melding local history with botany and illustrating it via maps and photos. As you follow the guide block by block, you learn about the West Side Cowboys, the area's meatpacking and cold storage legacies, and surrounding landmarks such as the Chelsea Market and Whitney Museum. Recommended for both the armchair and in-person traveler. For more photographic panoramas of unusual and (at times) abandoned Big Apple landscapes, check out Christopher Payne's North Brother Island: the Last Unknown Place in New York City.
Recommended by Rita, January 2015

 
Book Cover for Men We Reaped Ward, Jesmyn
Men We Reaped

Nonfiction
Jesmyn Ward won the 2011 National Book Award for her fiction title Salvage the Bones, and she approaches this memoir in a novel way, telling her own life story through the deaths of 5 young men. The title is from Harriet Tubman: "We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped." If this sounds dark, know that it is. Growing up in Mississippi, there were many dangers in Jesmyn’s community: poverty, drugs, resignation. The young men in Jesmyn's life all died in different ways, and each grief shared is as agonizing as the next. The book does not read in chronological order, but the story works and comes full circle in the end, with the detailing of the closest death, that of her brother. You’ll find moments that are tender, funny, angsty and also terrifying – sometimes in the same paragraph. The sense of hopelessness in this rural community is defined deftly by Jesmyn: "We tried to outpace the thing that chased us, that said: You are nothing. We tried to ignore it, but sometimes we caught ourselves repeating what history said, mumbling along, brainwashed: I am nothing." Ward, with brutal honesty and beautiful prose, tells a story that needed to be told. Coming to the Drue Heinz Lecture Series Monday, February 9, 2015.
This novel is available to check out from the library in print or a book on CD and online through Overdrive as an eBook.
Recommended by Holly, February 2015

 

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Mysteries

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Poetry

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Science Fiction

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Graphic Novels

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Short Stories

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Horror

 

DVDS

 

Music

 

Zines