May 2021 - Staff Reading Suggestions
by Tamika D. Mallory
Drawn from a lifetime of frontline culture-shifting advocacy, organizing, and fighting for equal justice, State of Emergency makes Mallory’s demand for change and shares the keys to effective activism both for those new to and long-committed to the defense of Black lives.
By Eileen Garvin
I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel about three strangers in Hood River, Oregon that are all lonely and damaged in different ways but come together to form their own kind of family and heal together. Alice, suffering her own tragic loss, owns the land and is trying to grow her honey business; she meets Jake, a young man recently paralyzed and Harry, who is recently out of jail and wants desperately to fit in and find purpose. These two young men come to live and work with Alice and in helping her, learn much about themselves. Beekeeping provides the backdrop for this story, as Alice, Jake and Harry navigate the changes and challenges that life has dealt them. An ultimately uplifting story!
by Ben H. Winters
Lisa's pick:

In 2008, a cheerful ambulance-chasing lawyer named Jay Shenk persuades the grieving Keener family to sue a private LA hospital. Their son Wesley has been transformed by a routine surgery into a kind of golem, absent all normal functioning or personality, walking in endless empty circles around his hospital room. In 2019, Shenk—still in practice but a shell of his former self—is hired to defend Wesley Keener’s father when he is charged with murder . . . the murder, as it turns out, of the expert witness from the 2008 hospital case. Shenk’s adopted son, a fragile teenager in 2008, is a wayward adult, though he may find his purpose when he investigates what really happened to the murdered witness.

The Quiet Boy is a book full of mysteries, not only about the death of a brilliant scientist, not only about the outcome of the medical malpractice suit, but about the relationship between children and their parents, between the past and the present, between truth and lies. At the center of it all is Wesley Keener, endlessly walking, staring empty-eyed, in whose quiet, hollow body may lie the fate of humankind.
By Patrick Radden Keefe
A devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin. A masterpiece of narrative reporting, Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company and the scorched-earth legal tactics the family used to evade accountability.
-Kathy P
by Paulina Bren
Beth's pick:

The Roaring Twenties meant new freedoms for women, and they found a beautiful place to live independently at The Barbizon Residential Club in NYC. Molly Brown (the unsinkable), Marlene Dietrich and Sylvia Plath, who wrote The Bell Jar based on her time at the Barbizon, were a few of the famous women who lived there. Very engaging story of the pre-feminist movement, history and the fate of the women of the Barbizon from the 1920’s to the 1980’s.
by Mary Dixie Carter
(Releases May 25, 2021)
Eleanor and Laura C's pick:

Delta Dawn comes from humble beginnings, but in her work as a photographer for the children’s parties of New York’s elite she is used to moving, unnoticed, through their luxurious homes. When Delta is hired to take pictures of Natalie Straub’s 11th birthday, she finds herself wishing she wasn’t behind the lens. She would fit so well in the pictures with the Straub family, wouldn’t she, in their gorgeous home, their elegant life? This time editing the pictures isn’t enough. Delta begins by babysitting for Natalie, befriending her mother Amelia, finding chances to listen to her father Fritz; soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished—and currently occupied—garden apartment in their townhouse. It seems like she can never get close enough. Until Delta discovers the one thing Amelia Straub wants most is also the perfect way for Delta to become permanently a part of the picture.
by Sanjena Sathian
An original, humorous and deeply wise coming of age story about the seductive powers--and dangers--of borrowed ambition. Sathian captures what it is to grow up as a member of a family, a diaspora and the American meritocracy.
by Maggie Shipstead
You know that feeling when a book has sucked you in so totally that you lose track of time, and when you finally look up you momentarily forget where you are? Great Circle is one of those novels. Marion Graves and her twin Jamie were born in 1914. Due to tragic circumstances, they are raised by their uncle in Missoula, Montana. Young Marion crosses paths with a female pilot and her lifelong yearning to fly begins. Marion's story spans Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, wartime London, and culminates in her ill-fated voyage to circumnavigate the globe, pole to pole. Juxtaposed to this storyline, Shipstead jumps forward decades and introduces Hadley, an intelligent, irreverent young movie star attempting to save her career by playing the role of Marion in a new movie. This novel is big--overflowing with unforgettable characters. It is ambitious--Shipstead has created two women who lived decades apart, yet share a desire to chart their own course in life. Bottom line--it is completely entertaining.
-Laura S
by Linda Rui Feng
Kathy P's pick:

In the summer of 1986 in a small Chinese village, ten-year-old Junie receives a momentous letter from her parents, who had left for America years ago: her father promises to return home and collect her by her twelfth birthday. But Junie’s growing determination to stay put in the idyllic countryside with her beloved grandparents threatens to derail her family’s shared future.

What Junie doesn’t know is that her parents, Momo and Cassia, are newly estranged from one another in their adopted country, each holding close private tragedies and histories from the tumultuous years of their youth during China’s Cultural Revolution. While Momo grapples anew with his deferred musical ambitions and dreams for Junie’s future in America, Cassia finally begins to wrestle with a shocking act of brutality from years ago. In order for Momo to fulfill his promise, he must make one last desperate attempt to reunite all three members of the family before Junie’s birthday—even if it means bringing painful family secrets to light.
by Eva Meijer
(Direct to Paperback)
Len Howard was forty years old when she decided to leave her London home and professional violin playing behind and move to Sussex in the English countryside to devote the rest of her life to birds.

She wrote two bestselling books, astonishing the world with her observations on the tits, robins, sparrows and other birds that lived nearby. The birds flew freely in and out of her windows, and even perched on her shoulder at times. Amazingly she also taught a couple of them to count by tapping their beaks, initially by imitating her finger tapping and eventually by voice command alone.

This novel mixes both fact and fiction about her life, and her decision to leave ordinary life behind to draw joy from her extraordinary relationship with the natural world.

by Andrew McCarthy
Molly and Kathy's pick:

Fans of Patti Smith's Just Kids and Rob Lowe's Stories I Only Tell My Friends will love this beautifully written, entertaining, and emotionally honest memoir by an actor, director, and author who found his start as an 80s Brat pack member.

Filled with personal revelations of innocence lost to heady days in Hollywood with John Hughes and an iconic cast of characters, Brat is a surprising and intimate story of an outsider caught up in a most unwitting success.
by S. A. Lelchuk
Jackie's pick:

Nikki Griffin, a private-investigator when she isn’t running her small bookstore, is on a case. The matriarch of one of the wealthiest San Francisco families has been defrauded by a con-man, and her furious son enlists Nikki to find the money. And find the con-man.

Nikki isn’t a fan of men who hurt women. Her secret mission, born of revenge and trauma, is to do everything she can to remove women from dangerous situations—and to punish the men responsible.

As Nikki follows the trail toward the con-man, she realizes that no one involved is telling her the whole truth. When the case overlaps with her attempt to protect a woman in trouble, and Nikki’s own life is put in danger, Nikki has to make terrible choices about who to save—and how to keep herself alive.
by Daniel James Brown
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat, the gripping World War II saga of patriotism and courage: the special Japanese American army unit that overcame brutal odds in Europe; and a young man who refused to surrender his constitutional rights, even if it meant imprisonment.

More than a war story, Brown also tells the story of these soldiers’ parents, immigrants who were forced to shutter their businesses, surrender their homes, and submit their life to concentration camps on U.S. soil.

Whether fighting on battlefields or in courtrooms, these were Americans under unprecedented strain, doing what Americans do best—striving, resisting, rising up, standing on principle, laying down their lives, and enduring.
-Kathy P
by Alexis Coe

(now out in paperback)
Leenie's pick:

Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, caused an international incident, and never backed down—even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his saddle. But after he married Martha, everything changed. Washington became the kind of man who named his dog Sweetlips and hated to leave home. He took up arms against the British only when there was no other way, though he lost more battles than he won.

After an unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War cast him as the nation’s hero, he was desperate to retire, but the founders pressured him into the presidency—twice. When he retired years later, no one talked him out of it. He left the highest office heartbroken over the partisan nightmare his backstabbing cabinet had created.

Back on his plantation, the man who fought for liberty must confront his greatest hypocrisy—what to do with the men, women, and children he owns—before he succumbs to death.

With irresistible style and warm humor, You Never Forget Your First combines rigorous research and lively storytelling that will have readers—including those who thought presidential biographies were just for dads—inhaling every page.
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Molly's pick:

A week ago Jhumpa Lahiri's newest book hit our shelves, and it has "una tranquilla eleganza"--a quiet elegance. I don't speak Italian, but that smarty pants Jhumpa sure does. In fact, the writer learned the language after penning a few books (in her spare time). She initially wrote this novel a few years ago, and THEN translated it for us back into English. The narrator in the story is unnamed as is the European city in which it's set. I think this novel is a love letter to all those who live ordinary lives and question their choices, loves, and feelings about pretty much everything. Lahiri is a poet. Her short chapters (and there is a unique aspect to those that I dare not spoil for you) allow you to read and reread each to savor the quality as well as to pocket the jewels she means for you to pick up and carry on to other chapters. The book is atmospheric more than character or plot driven, which I found a lovely departure as well.
by Natalie Standiford
Jackie's pick: 
New York, 1984: Twenty-two-year-old Phoebe Hayes is a young woman in search of excitement and adventure. But the recent death of her father has so devastated her that her mother wants her to remain home in Baltimore to recover. Phoebe wants to return to New York, not only to chase the glamorous life she so desperately craves but also to confront Ivan, the older man who painfully wronged her.

With her best friend Carmen, she escapes to the East Village, disappearing into an underworld haunted by artists, It Girls, and lost souls trying to party their pain away. Carmen juggles her junkie-poet boyfriend and a sexy painter while, as Astrid the Star Girl, Phoebe tells fortunes in a nightclub and plots her revenge on Ivan.

When the intoxicating brew of sex, drugs, and self-destruction leads Phoebe to betray her friend, Carmen disappears, and Phoebe begins an unstoppable descent into darkness. She may have a chance to save herself—and Carmen, if she can find her—but to do it she must face what’s hiding in the shadows she’s been running from—within her heart and in the dangerous midnight streets.

Children & Young Adult Selections

by Adam P. Schmitt

Molly's pick: 

I was putting away books in our kids' section recently, and I was drawn to a new paperback called Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt. Something said to me, "take this one home." So I did, and I absolutely loved it. The story is about 13-year-old Jimmy who's told he will be giving the eulogy the next day at his cousin's funeral. Gulp! Hard enough it's so short notice, but when you don't like public speaking, and your pants are 2 sizes too small, and you are hard-pressed to find anything nice to say about that cousin-panic ensues! I highly recommend this middle grade read for all the lessons it has to offer in a poignant, candid, and humorous manner. 
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