Staff Picks

Plotted: A literary atlas

Summary: 
Plotted: a literary atlas provides artistic visuals of numerous western classics. Maps include "TheVoyage of Odysseus," "Huckleberry Finn's Mississippi River Journey," and "The wrinkled time continuum" of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle inTime. My favorite maps in this book display Frederick Douglass's journey from slavery to abolitionist and statesman.Avid readers of literature will enjoy this work. Visual learners studying any of the classics depicted in this book may find Plotted a useful companion.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Summary: 
Once again, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat Pray Love", has delivered a winner. This time she addresses the topic of creativity, which she calls big magic. She is referring to the mysterious, magical process of inspiration which is the essence of the creative process. With down-to-earth humor, Gilbert shares her wisdom and experience for anyone who is interested in leading a full, rich, and creative existence. She encourages us to uncover the "strange jewels" which each of us has within.

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I Am Pilgrim

Summary: 
Will America escape the most horrific act of terrorism it faces? A thriller so gripping, I wanted to retire as a mom (of very young and dependent children, by the way) and just finish this nail biter of a story.

Charles and Emma: the Darwins' leap of faith

Summary: 
I read this some time ago, but just spotted it again as the kids are looking for biographies. This one intrigued me and although much of the information that is woven into this story is not what I would have grabbed by subject, it was so well told that I was fascinated. The Bio reads like a novel and pulls you right into the time period, the thinking behind both viewpoints of Evolution and the Darwin's marriage and life, often very difficult. Though in the Children's Dept. it's one to read!

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The Winter King: a novel of Arthur

Summary: 
In Dark Ages Britain, Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared; a child-king sits unprotected on the throne and magic vies with religion for the souls of the people. Going far beyond the usual tales of romance and chivalry, Cornwell's Arthur is fierce, dedicated and complex, a man with many problems, most of his own making. His impulsive decisions sometimes have tragic ramifications, as when he takes Guinevere instead of the intended Ceinwyn, alienating his friends and allies and inspiring a bloody battle. The secondary characters are equally great, and are filled with the magic and superstition of the times. Merlin is a crafty schemer, fond of deceit and disguise. Lancelot is portrayed as a warrior-pretender, a dishonest charmer with dark plans of his own; Galahad as the noble soldier of purpose and dedication. Guinevere, is however, no gentle creature waiting patiently in the moonlight, she has designs and plots of her own. The story of these characters and others is narrated by Derfel Cadarn, a character we follow from his earliest year, first one of Arthur's warriors, later a monk. This novel could change the way the story of Arthur is told. I loved this book and it opened up a whole new perspective and to my mind, possibly a more realistic view of the Arthurian Legends.

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My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life

Summary: 
When Gourmet magazine folded in 2009, editor in chief, Ruth Reichl was left unemployed and without a plan for the first time in her adult life. While others from the magazine found new work quickly, at 61, Reichl wasn't sure what came next. My Kitchen Year tells the story of the time immediately following Gourmet's demise. It's part memoir and part cookbook. I often read cookbooks for pleasure, but had never listened to one. Reichl is an excellent narrator. Her story is interesting and hearing her read the recipes is supremely enjoyable!

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Dear Committee Members

Summary: 
Think the epistolary novel is dead? Embattled English and creative writing professor Jason Fitger is known only through his emails and letters of recommendation. He is a self-defeating, self-absorbed, vindictive champion of correct grammar and the liberal arts who is absolutely hilarious. Anyone who's hung around the halls of academe will recognize him instantly and chuckle throughout.

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The Saint John's Fern

Summary: 
This is yet another entertaining medieval tale from Kate Sedley. It's 1477 and Roger the Chapman, still on his 'honeymoon' with his new bride in Bristol, England, finds his restlessness returning. Driven by some instinct that his skills as a sleuth are needed, he sets off through Dartmoor to Plymouth on the southwest coast of England. Roger's instinct is soon proven well founded when he hears of a brutal murder, the victim a Master Capstick, a well respected and wealthy businessman. The chief suspect is Capstick's great-nephew, Beric. He is seen leaving the scene by many witnesses, but when the constables arrive at his manor, Beric had somehow managed to vanish completely. The locals believe the witchcraft of their ancestors, and blame the Saint John's fern, which if eaten can make a man invisible. Roger, not convinced,begins his own inquiries, and when an attempt is made on his life, he knows he must be close to a truth. A most enjoyable read that provides the reader with an excellent sense of life in those harsh times of medieval England. As a murder mystery, the plot was an interesting one, but I have to admit that I solved it a couple of chapters before the end.

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The Marriage of Opposites

Summary: 
This historical novel by the acclaimed author Alice Hoffman is set on the island of St. Thomas in what was then the Danish West Indies. The tale begins with a young Jewish girl named Rachel who grows into a strong, unconventional woman who marries a much younger Jewish man from France. They go on to have numerous children, the youngest of whom becomes the prolific French Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro. A beautifully written story with vivid descriptions of the island, complex characters, and intricate relationships: this book is an enjoyable read for those interested in history, religious controversies, and art.

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My Brilliant Friend

Summary: 
In this first of four novels, one brilliant friend remembers the turbulent lower class neighborhood of her childhood. Here poverty, corruption, ignorance, and brutality threaten to extinguish all light, and only the courage of the other brilliant friend illuminates a way out. The magnetic power and perils of friendship shine against the oppressive atmosphere of 1950s Naples.

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