Staff Picks for the Holidays!

Longbourn Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385351232
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - October 8th, 2013

Novels touted as This meets That rarely live up to my expectations, but this book of Jane Austen meets Downton Abbey is terrific, nuanced, and beautifully written! We get the below-stairs and behind-the-scenes story of Pride and Prejudice, following the hardworking lives of Sarah (the housemaid), Mr. & Mrs. Hill (butler and cook) as they cater to and coddle the Bennet family, but their inner lives are rich with wonder and hidden secrets that could cause a scandal in their own right, should they be exposed.  I was at first skeptical of this novel but was quickly won over—you don’t have to love Pride & Prejudice to appreciate what fine piece of historical fiction this is!


Dirty Love Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393064650
Availability: Special Order
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - October 7th, 2013

Dubus’ collection of three novellas, Dirty Love, combines gorgeous prose with compelling inter-connected storytelling. In the novellas we meet charactres in different stages of life and their relationships, put upon by varieties of circumstances. All are trying desperately to figure out why love is so hard. Dirty Love embodies the murkiest aspects of the kinds of love people yearn for, and the sadness of not receiving it in the ways they want. ~Julie

The Valley of Amazement Cover Image
By Amy Tan
ISBN: 9780062107312
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Published: Ecco Press - November 5th, 2013

It’s been four years since Amy Tan’s last novel, but The Valley of Amazement  was worth the wait. Ms. Tan’s themes – rifts between mothers and daughters, loss, abandonment and finally, understanding and acceptance – play out against a sweeping canvas of Shanghai history and culture in the first half of the 20th century. Gorgeously written, and beautifully produced, it’s the perfect gift for fiction lovers on your list. ~Chrysler

Critical Mass Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399160561
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Putnam Adult - October 22nd, 2013

Fans of Paretsky’s hard-nosed feminist Private Investigator V.I. Warshawski will be thrilled with her newest mystery. Set, as usual, in the streets of Chicago and the surrounding Illinois landscape, Paretsky nonetheless takes us back to Nazi Germany and Austria with the character of Martina Saginor, a brilliant atomic physicist who suffered from a “gender handicap”. Paretsky seamlessly takes the reader back to WWII Europe and the development of the atomic bomb, while integrating her great-grandson who has gone missing in today’s Chicago. As usual, Paretsky’s mysteries are page-turners fueled by feminist social issues, and this new book manages to educate about the physics of the nuclear arms race along the way. A great read! ~Mitch

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250037756
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Published: Picador USA - September 24th, 2013

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan took me completely by surprise. Imagine The Name of the Rose in a 21st-century setting. Now, combine it with an international secret society for bibliophiles and a sassy Google maven who believes that the key to immortality lies in the unlocking of old knowledge.  Top it off with a hapless bookstore clerk who gets swept up into the middle of all of this and you’ve this fast-paced and fun tale. And oh, yeah: the book actually glows in the dark.  Full-package awesomeness! ~Emily

The Dinner Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385346856
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Published: Hogarth Press - October 29th, 2013

What starts as a rather Bourgeois novel quickly takes a darker turn and descends into the realm of menace, both underhanded and overt.  Clearly there is more to our unnamed, mild-mannered narrator than first meets the eye, and as he learns more about his son’s new and disturbing hobby, the reader learns more about him.  The further this insidious father-son story unfolded, the faster I was compelled to turn the pages.  This book is a bestseller in Europe and recently translated for English-speaking audiences. ~Emily

Eleanor & Park Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250012579
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Published: St. Martin's Griffin - February 26th, 2013

It all starts when she sits next to him on the bus. Eleanor is the new girl at school. She dresses strangely and doesn’t fit into any high school standard of cool. Park is just trying to keep his head down and avoid any negative attention. Their love starts as a trickling steam that grows larger and larger but it heading toward a waterfall. This story took me straight back to my school bus days, which only made me realize how wonderful and rare their love is. Written from the point of view of both Eleanor and Park we can see the dynamic stages of falling in love for there first time. An absolute must read! – Hannah

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek Cover Image
By Michelle Tea, Jason Polan (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781938073366
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Published: McSweeney's - May 14th, 2013

Dirty, poor, run-down Chelsea, Massachusetts, is not exactly an exciting place to be 13. That is, not until Sophie Swankowski meets a mermaid when she’s hanging out down by the creek with her best friend. Syrena isn’t your typical mermaid—she’s a trash-talking, ancient creature, and she’s come to tell Sophie about her destiny: Sophie will bring magic and hope back to the world. Now, she has to learn to harness and use her power, aided by poetic talking pigeons (yes, pigeons!) and the handsome Angel, who makes art from broken glass—all while avoiding the forces of evil which bring despair to the world. It’s heart-stoppingly exciting, and combines just the right amount of magic with the story of a completely relatable girl and her totally real, complicated life. In other words, it puts the “real” in “magical realism.” Adults (especially if you’re familiar with Michelle Tea’s fantastic memoirs) will enjoy this just as much as younger readers. This is a book for anyone ages 12 and up who could use a little magic in their life. ~Caitlin

How the Light Gets in Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312655471
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Published: Minotaur Books - August 27th, 2013

Finally we have a French Canadian detective! I love Louise Penny’s books with Chief Inspector Gamache. Her new book is a great story, fast paced and with numerous twists and turns. Gamache is under attack by his enemies in the higher ranks at the Surete du Quebec. However, he still has devoted friends within the force, and combined with the loyal and lovely people of Three Pines, they struggle to stop the corrupt officers and their wicked ways. ~Joan

Tell the Wolves I'm Home Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812982855
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Published: Dial Press - June 4th, 2013

In a narrative voice that invokes that peculiar mix of innocent worldliness of Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird, we get 14-year-old June Elbus’s story. She’s trying to make sense of a world terrified of AIDS, a world in which her family refers to her late uncle’s lover as his “murderer” and her sister is in danger of spiraling into a dark place that nobody can reach. When her uncle’s lover reaches out to her in friendship, June must choose between her family’s wishes and what feels right. This is a very fine coming of age tale that captures, without condescension or angst, a sensitive young woman on the cusp of an adult’s understanding of the world. ~Emily

Telegraph Avenue Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061493355
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Published: Harper Perennial - September 10th, 2013

The best fiction reflects not only how the world is, but also what its reality could be. Chabon’s latest (and greatest) novel, while ostensibly about race in the 21st century, is really a cross-section of America itself and a peek into the real American Dream. Chock full of pop cultural references that will keep the curious reader Googling, and imbued with the creole rhythms of music from the world over, it shows that our differences don’t always have to divide us and that the “apartheid of consciousness” that pervades our nation can, in fact, be overcome. ~Emily

Staff Pick Logo
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316213103
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Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - September 3rd, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black pays homage to the seminal vampire books of the 20th century while simultaneously sending up those lesser, “bandwagon” vampire series and standing readers’ expectations on their heads.  Tana is a richly developed heroine we can all root for, whose good intentions but complicated motivations provide a series of surprises and twists to keep readers guessing. The more deeply she ventures into the heart of Coldtown, the more we shiver in anticipation of the dénouement: Will it end in revenge, romance, reunion, or possibly revolution? ~Emily

The 5th Wave Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399162411
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Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - May 7th, 2013

When the “Others” arrived everyone reacted differently. Some panicked and went into survivalist mode, some went crazy and partied, some felt saved and welcomed the newcomers. No one had any answers. There was no communication, no reaction, till 10 days after their arrival. The 1st Wave didn't kill too many people but the 2nd and the 3rd wiped out 97% of the world's population, the 4th sent remaining survivors into hiding. Cassie, a 16-year-old girl alone in this devastated world, lives day to day in fear, moving and hiding. She has lost everything and everyone, ready to give up on life until she meets Evan Walker, another survivor in their wrecked world. Together they must learn to trust each other and remember the one thing that might save them all, their humanity. An action packed, thrilling read set in a post-apocalyptic world. Yancey has created strong characters in this epic tale that challenges what we expect from a sci-fi alien story. Great for fans of Ender's Game or Stephen King. A must read! I couldn't put it down! ~ Hannah

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307718969
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Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - September 10th, 2013

In this outstanding piece of journalism, Fink exposes the miasma located at the intersection of national disaster and gross bureaucratic incompetence: the failed evacuation of a hospital during Hurricane Katrina. Prepare to be dumbfounded as things fall apart even before the storm hits, but that is almost nothing compared to the media storm that follows, when someone leaks to the press the rumor that medical professionals may have been euthanizing patients before they could be evacuated. If this book isn’t on the shortlist for every major nonfiction prize when the time comes, I will stage a one-reader protest. ~Emily

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism Cover Image
By Naoki Higashida, KA Yoshida (Translator), David Mitchell (Translator)
ISBN: 9780812994865
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Published: Random House - August 27th, 2013

In this astonishing memoir done in a Q&A format, a 13-year-old Japanese boy may be the first person in our time who has understood and explained the world of autism from an insider’s perspective.  Narrated a little haltingly but quite clearly, he shares insights in the difference between his own mind and how he perceives others: his family, his teachers, and the general public.  This is a must-read for any reader who values new perspectives, but in particular for anybody whose life is touched, even tangentially, by autism. ~Emily

Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist Cover Image
ISBN: 9780805092844
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Times Books - September 17th, 2013

Bill McKibben’s books and speeches have inspired and informed me for many years. His writing is imaginative yet straightforward in describing the impact of climate change on our world. But how do we organize for change on such a complex and worldwide issue? How does a writer become an activist? How does someone new to activism work on both a local and global level?  How are raising beehives in Vermont connected to stopping the Keystone XL pipeline and the extraction of tar sands oil in Canada?  The answers are found in this book.  Please read and get involved! ~Joan

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316097758
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Little Brown and Company - September 24th, 2013

For readers of Bill McKibben or Bill Bryson, this book is the follow-up to his The World Without Us. This new release continues the thought experiment of what would happen to the Earth if it were relieved of humanity’s influences. It tackles questions related to the number of humans that the planet would be able to sustain, what other species are vital to our own existence, and what the long-term prognosis is, given a population that is expanding by the millions every month. A great gift for readers of nature and science, or anyone concerned about the environment. ~Michael

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780547615592
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Published: Mariner Books - January 22nd, 2013

The first thing I fell in love with about this fantastic graphic memoir was the cover. Then I turned it over and saw rave reviews by Alison Bechdel, Michelle Tea, Beth Ditto, and Rachel Maddow. Now, any one of these people could tell me to read something and I would do it. To have all four together meant I had no choice. And am I ever glad! Calling Dr. Laura is funny and sad, beautifully written and fantastically drawn, and Nicole’s compelling story of discovering the truth about her family resonates with anyone whose family keeps secrets. But you don’t have to take my word for it! Just read the back, read the book, and then tell everyone you know. It’s that good. ~Caitlin

Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer Cover Image
By Sanford D'Amato, Bob Spitz (Foreword by), Kevin J. Miyazaki (Photographer)
ISBN: 9781572841505
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Published: Agate Midway - November 26th, 2013

Part memoir and part cookbook, Sanford D’Amato’s Good Stock is the perfect gift for the foodie in your life! The book chronicles D’Amato’s life from childhood through culinary school, to running one of the most respected restaurants in the country. D’Amato has cooked for the Dalai Lama and was one of 12 chefs chosen by Julia Child to cook for her own 80th birthday celebration! Good Stock features 80 of D’Amato’s favorite recipes with sharp color photography to accompany each. ~Julie

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden Cover Image
ISBN: 9781609615734
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Published: Rodale Books - September 10th, 2013

I could eat the photographs in this cookbook. So it was a pleasant surprise that when I actually made some recipes, they came out not only looking like the photos, but tasting spectacular, too (a combination that is more rare than one might imagine). And many of the recipes are super easy, like the spectacular One Bowl Chocolate Almond Cake. A great dessert cookbook for dessert specialists – Yule Log, anyone? – and novices alike. ~Chrysler

The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems Cover Image
By Emily Dickinson, Jen Bervin (Editor), Marta Werner (Editor)
ISBN: 9780811221757
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Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - October 29th, 2013

I’m tempted to say it— so say it I shall— Emily’s lines could raise one’s morale;        and were she to live today,        tweet she might,   I do dare say. Her house, alive, in Amherst remains where the air holds her sweet poetry; and now we may know with this new tome that her lines’ homes include the envelope —Ryan

The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family, and War Cover Image
ISBN: 9781590515051
Availability: Special Order
Published: Other Press (NY) - September 24th, 2013

Shahan Mufti is in a unique position to write a book on Pakistan and its relationship with the United States. Mufti is a highly regarded journalist and currently is a professor of journalism at the University of Richmond. Born in the American Midwest, he can trace his Pakistani roots back fourteen hundred years. He weaves the history of his family and of Pakistan history together in a highly readable and informative manner. Pakistan is the world’s sixth largest country, the world’s first Islamic Democracy, a nuclear power, and a country that most Americans have little understanding about. This is essential reading for knowledge about a country that plays a pivotal role internationally. ~Joan

The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385530903
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Published: Nan A. Talese - October 29th, 2013

If it’s startling to read of the fear and hatred young Pat felt for his father when he was still in diapers, and utterly dismaying to read more about his father’s daily, casual abuse of this large family throughout his entire childhood, then it practically defies belief to read of the difficult path Pat took to forgiveness and reconciliation with his father once he reached middle age. Occasionally overwritten but bursting with love for a broken family, this memoir is a strong reminder, not only of the thickness of blood, but that some ties are bound so tightly that they must disintegrate completely to become undone. ~Emily

Bean by Bean: A Cookbook: More Than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans! Cover Image
ISBN: 9780761132417
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Workman Publishing - January 15th, 2012

I honestly never knew the bean was so versatile until I picked up this cookbook. Sure, I had made my share of bean salads and soups, but Dragonwagon brings the bean to a whole new level with Bean by Bean. There are appetizers and stews that utilize beans in different and exciting ways, and there’s even an extensive dessert section! This is a great cookbook, especially for the winter months when one of my favorite activities involves sitting next to a roaring fire, eating a cup of chili and watching the snow fall. ~Julie

Dog Songs: Thirty-Five Dog Songs and One Essay Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594204784
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Published: Penguin Press - October 8th, 2013

As a dog lover and a poetry lover, this book was a double whammy. Oliver’s blunt yet lyrical voice truly lends itself to the subject matter. The way she writes about the loyal companions (past and present) in her life brought tears to my eyes—tears of joy and of heartbreak. Since this is a collection of old and new poems, this book has been a long time coming. In Oliver’s poetic body of work, you see her love of dogs scattered throughout her many collections. For dog lovers, it’s wonderful to finally have them all in one place. ~ Julie