Staff Picks

Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work

Summary: 
This remarkable book-- about air traffic controllers and oil rig and sanitation workers and truckers too --taps into a layer of this country that has surged to the fore recently, and lets their voices be heard loud and clear. The dedication to do the best job possible with the job they have makes these speakers admirable above all. No socio-economic analyses, just thought-provoking portraiture.

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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Summary: 
This is John le Carre's third novel and probably his most famous. Drawing on his vast experience in the British Intelligence service, he creates a world that is unknown to the vast majority of us. He transports the reader to the shadowy, underground world of Alex Leamas, who has been recalled to London, after the last agent under his control is killed. He wants to come in from the cold permanently, but his spymaster, Control, has other plans. He sends Leamas, back to the cold to bring down the head of East German Intelligence. Leamas goes back as a discredited and dishonored spy to lure his enemy to his death. John le Carre's writing is wonderful. His ability to weave a plot of such complexity with such ease is amazing. So many twists and turns, and so fast-paced, one is never sure who is the perpetrator and who is the victim and which side either is working for. Absolutely brilliant!!!

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An Officer and a Spy

Summary: 
This is undoubtedly the most compelling book I have read in many years. It tells the shocking tale of Alfred Dreyfus, an Alsatian (German) of Jewish descent, who is convicted of treason 1894, for selling French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on a far-off island, and publicly stripped of his rank. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, an ambitious military officer who, like everyone else believes in Dreyfus's guilt. However, when he is promoted to head of the French counter-espionage agency, Picquart finds evidence that a spy still remains at large in the military, indicating that Dreyfus is innocent. High-ranking military officials suppress the new evidence by deceit, an attempted cover up, and falsifying evidence in the uppermost levels of government. Picquart is begins to question, not only the case against Dreyfus but beliefs about his country, and himself. I could not put this book down! An unbelievable tale of miscarriage of justice and antisemitism, that was all the more shocking to me, in that it is fact!!!!

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A Rising Man

Summary: 
A police procedural series launch-- Sam Wyndham is recruited from Scotland Yard and a desolate personal life to 1919 Calcutta and the racial/political roil of the Raj. In the course of 6 days, he must solve a murder, uncover corruption, save an innocent, prevent civil insurrection, and battle his personal demons. Fascinating characters and a complex setting well-drawn, with #2 A Necessary Evil already available.

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The Monk of Mokha

Summary: 
Inspiring story of one man's desire to not only change his life, but the lives of coffee growers in Yemen.

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City of Spies

Summary: 
In 1970s Pakistan, Aliya and her American best friend Lizzy ponder the class and racial complexities of their international middle school, the mysteries of adulthood, the difference between servants and family and the roiling political environment that surrounds them. Loyalty and identity are as troubled as truth and lies as they are thrust into the turmoil.

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Confessional

Summary: 
The third book in the Liam Devlin series, sees a KGB-trained IRA assassin planted so deep under cover as a Catholic priest, some 20 years in the past. Following his discovery by the British Secret Service, he has gone rogue and is hellbent on killing the Pope. The IRA, KGB and British Secret Service are all after him, but will Liam Devlin's insights get him there first? Cuchulain, one of his many names, has been operating in Ireland to keep the cycle of violence between the IRA and British Intelligence at a fever pitch. Cuchulain targets the pope as his ultimate victim. Who can stop him! A great Jack Higgins suspense novel, full of fast-paced action, twists and turns. Thoroughly enjoyable!!

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Magna Carta: the Birth of Liberty

Summary: 
Dan Jones has written one of the most engaging and eminently readable history books, I have ever read. How did this strange document that dwells on tax relief and greater fishing rights gain legendary status? The Magna Carta is lauded around the world as the founding document of Western liberty. Its principles are found in the U.S. Bill of Rights and in the Constitution. Jones takes us back to 1215, the turbulent year when the Magna Carta was just a peace treaty between England’s King John and a group of self-interested, violent barons who were tired of his high taxes and endless foreign wars; the treaty would fail within two months of its confirmation, but became the document which marked the first time a king was forced to obey his own laws.This book covers all aspects of its birth and subsequent modifications over the following centuries. A marvelous achievement. A history book for everyone!

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Fools and Mortals

Summary: 
In this standalone novel, Bernard Cornwell makes a major departure from his usual genre with a story of the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream—as related by William Shakespeare’s younger brother, Richard. Set in Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty. A priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime. Bernard Cornwell also brings to the fore the perilous nature, of the nascent theatre industry facing the hatred and scorn of the religious puritans, who controlled London at that time. It was almost entirely due to the patronage of the Queen, that the players and theatre survived. A fascinating story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Obama: An Intimate Portrait

Summary: 
This awesome New York Times bestseller is a collection of photographs and stories which document the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency. This beautiful book contains over 300 images which cover such events as President Obama and his advisers in the Situation Room during the bin Laden mission, to interactions with world leaders, as well as moments dancing with his wife Michelle and playing in the snow with his daughters Malia and Sasha. These images "reveal the spirit of the extraordinary man who became our president" and is a treasured record of contemporary American history.

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