Monday, July 18, 2016

"Top Picks" from Book Page

Looking for a new book to read at the Peter White Public Library?  I always pick up the current monthly issue of Book Page: America’s Book Review available free, compliments of the Friends of the Peter White Public Library whose Book Sales and new Book Store help raise funds for the library.  You can find Book Page on the desk across from the Library’s Circulation Desk.  It’s chock-full of reviews of books in categories from Audio, Library  Reads, Whodunits, Book Clubs, Cooking, Lifestyles, Romance, Teen and Children’s, author interviews, columns and  “Top Picks”.  Some recent “Top Picks” include:
            For Book Clubs: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.  The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and compared by critics to the works of Graham Greene, Denis Johnson, and George Orwell, The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity, politics, and America. The narrator, a Vietnamese army captain, is a man of divided loyalties, a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist sleeper agent in America after the end of the Vietnam War. A gripping espionage novel that examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.
            Nonfiction:  The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing.  What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we're not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? Does technology draw us closer together or trap us behind screens? When Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving between works and lives--from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules and from Henry Darger's hoarding to the depredations of the AIDS crisis, Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.
            Memoir:  Dinner with Edward: a Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent.  At a difficult time in her life--her marriage crumbling, and challenged by her reporting job at the New York Post and the aggressive brand of journalism it demanded—Vincent was asked by a friend to look in on her ninety something father, whose wife had recently died. Vincent agrees, but she certainly didn't expect that her dinners with the grieving man would act as a salve during this tough time. Edward, a devoted host and self-taught chef with a penchant for dispensing advice and a poet at heart, insists on preparing his multicourse feasts for the two of them without assistance. And what feasts they are! Vincent's descriptions of food, written with the sumptuous detail of a restaurant review, are something to savor, as are her recollections of Edward and the way he dedicated himself to living after having lost the love of his life.
            Audio:  Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon. Simon's memoir reveals her remarkable life, beginning with her storied childhood as the third daughter of Richard L. Simon, the co-founder of publishing giant Simon & Schuster, her musical debut as half of The Simon Sisters, performing folk songs with her sister Lucy in Greenwich Village, to a meteoric solo career that would result in thirteen top 40 hits, including the number one song 'You're So Vain.' She was the first artist in history to win a Grammy Award, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award, for her song 'Let the River Run' from the movie Working Girl. The memoir recalls a childhood enriched by music and culture, but also one shrouded in secrets that would eventually tear her family apart. Includes original music composed especially for the program by Carly Simon and Teese Gold, plus a previously unreleased bonus song from Carly Simon.
            Romance: Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas. Devon Ravenel has never been anyone's hero, nor does he wish to become one. Unfortunately, after his cousin, Theo, unexpectedly dies, Devon inherits the family title and all the responsibility that comes with it, including the ramshackle estate, Eversby Priory. Devon's initial plan is to dismantle the manor, but this strategy hits an unexpected snag in the person of Theo's lovely young widow, Kathleen who isn’t about to see it wiped off the face of the earth by one irresponsible, self-serving rake. However, convincing Devon to accept his responsibilities as the new Earl of Trenear is definitely going to take all of Kathleen's wits and more than a few of her womanly wiles.
            History:  Valiant Ambition:  George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick.  In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.
            Teen:  Unbecoming by Jenny Downham.  Life has just become very complicated for seventeen-year-old Katie-- her father walked out a year ago, her mother is stressed out, her brother is a "special needs" teenager, and she is caring for the maternal grandmother she has never met, who is suffering from Alzheimer's--and Katie has a secret of her own that she cannot reveal. As Katie struggles with her identity and Mary struggles with her memories, long-buried family secrets are revealed about all three generations of women. A book teens—and adults--won’t want to miss.
             Library Reads (recommended by librarians across the country): Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman.  Britt-Marie is 63, a socially awkward, fussy busybody who is used to being organized. When she walks out on her cheating husband and gets a job as caretaker of the dilapidated recreation center in Borg, Sweden she is woefully unprepared for the changes. But as she takes on the task of leading the supremely untalented children's soccer team to victory, she just might find a place where she belongs.

--Caroline Jordan, retired librarian

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