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Once in the West

ISBN: 
9780374227012

Several best poetry lists of the year include this seventh title by Christian Wiman, former editor of the well-renowned Poetry Magazine, who now teaches at Yale Divinity School.

His interest in theology and his experience as a person with a terminal disease bring a unique focus to his writing as these lines attest: “A soul / extrapolated // from the body’s / need // needs a body / of loss.”  In another poem “The Preacher Addresses the Seminarians” he shows the power of the right words to hone in, “I tell you some Sundays even the children’s sermon / --maybe especially this—sharks your gut // like a bite of tin some beer-guzzling goat / either drunkenly or mistakenly decides to sample.”  

As he did in his memoir My Bright Abyss about life after a bone marrow transplant, Wiman dives deep. There is no surface skimming for him.  Several poems celebrate his Read more »

I Was Here

ImageI Was Here is the newest book from Gayle Forman, the author of If I Stay. This story follows Cody, a recent high school graduate who is stuck in her small town, cleaning houses, and attending community college. Her life has always revolved around her best friend, Meg. Meg, who's family is Cody's family. Meg, who has moved far away for school. Meg, who has just committed suicide.

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Things I Should Have Told...Memoirs and Biographies in Honor of Black History Month

Pearl CleageThings I Should Have Told My Daughter by Pearl Cleage

After rediscovering boxes full of old journals, Pearl Cleage’s daughter suggests burning them.  Instead, the poet, author and civil rights activist chose diary excerpts from 1970-1988 and combined with little context them to form Things I Should Have Told My Daughter.  This candid memoir addresses Cleage’s struggle against racism and sexism, as well as her problematic relationship with her husband Georgia politician Michael Lomax, and her role as speech writer of Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson.

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Deep Down Dark

ISBN: 
9780374280604

Even though I knew the ending before I opened this book, this in-depth, emotionally and factually rich story of 33 miners trapped under the earth for sixty-nine days was a real thriller.

The book opens with a photograph of the 33 men who survived two months deep underground. Thirty-two were from Chile, and there was one young miner from Bolivia who had the amazingly bad luck to be stuck in a mine collapse on his very first day of work.

In his fourth book, journalist Tobar presents not only the San Jose mine but an overview of modern Chilean life. He begins with a rich description of many of the miners and their families, some of whom travelled almost the whole length of Chile for their jobs. Read more »

2015 Alex Award Winners

On Monday, the American Library Association announced the winners for their Youth Media Awards categories.   One of the awards, the Alex Awards, highlights ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year's publishing. We’ve highlighted four of the titles, but you can see the full list of award winners and nominees here.

 

Bingo's RunBingo’s Run by James A. Levine.

Bingo is the fastest runner in all of Nairobi-drug runner, this is.  For several years Bingo has gotten away with trafficking illegal substances in and around a luxury resort, mostly because he looks far younger than his 15 years and he can fly under the radar.  Until he witnesses a murder and is sent to live at an orphanage and subsequently adopted by an American Woman who challenges his sense of morality. Darkly humorous, this compelling novel draws on African Folklore.

 

 

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

While part of a mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Whatney gets separated from his team by a dust storm on the red planet and is assumed dead.  The team begins their return to Earth, but Whatney is alive and alone on Mars-with little supplies and no communication devices.  Think Gravity meets Survivor.  Read it before the movie comes out in November.

 

 

 

Terrorist's SonThe Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice,” by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles

When Zak Ebrahim was 12 years old when his father was sent to prison for shooting and killing the leader of the Jewish Defense League.  During that prison sentence Ebrahim’s father helped plan the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center.  This memoir is an important piece in the terrorism discussion and demonstrates that hate is always a choice-and so is tolerance.

 

 

Those Who Wish Me DeadThose Who Wish Me Dead,” by Michael Koryta

After 13 year old Jace witnesses a murder and narrowly escapes from the murderers himself.  The authorities send him to wilderness/survival training camp/witness protection program under an assumed identity to keep him safe until the murderers are caught.  What the authorities didn’t count on was the murderers infiltrating the program looking for Jace! Written by Bloomington’s Michael Koryta.

 

 

Claire of the Sea Light

ISBN: 
9780307271792

This Sunday at 2 p.m. in Room 2B, join our Booksplus discussion about Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light.  In honor of Black History month, we will discuss this luminous book set in Haiti just before the cataclysmic earthquake of 2009.

Danticat, who emigrated from Haiti as a child, has won many awards including the MacArthur Award (nicknamed the genius award).

If you like folklore and learning about other cultures, Claire of the Sea Light is the book for you. It tells the tale of a young girl whose mother died just after her daughter’s birth. According to Haitian folklore, this makes Claire a revenan, a child who battled with her mother’s spirit and won.

On each of her birthdays, Nozias, Claire’s father, takes her to visit her mother’s grave. In the cemetery they meet Madam Gaelle, a fabric store owner and wealthy widow in town, who lost her own daughter on the same date as Claire’s birthday. Read more »

Everything I Never Told You

ISBN: 
9781594205712

The story opens with the death of 16-year-old Lydia. Her family has gathered for breakfast on a busy May morning. It’s the usual chaos, two kids running in and out of the kitchen gathering homework and school bags and eating on the run.

It’s the 1970s and the father, James, is a history professor in a small town in Ohio; the mother, Marilyn, an unwilling homemaker.

Celeste Ng’s luminous first novel deals with issues of race, sex discrimination, and a parent who places burdensome academic expectations on a child. Read more »

I'll Be There

ImageI'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan is the story of Sam and Emily. Sam and his younger brother, Riddle, have been raised on the run by their paranoid father and have never had much of a connection to the world. Sam has never felt close to anyone, other than his brother, and has no friends at all - until he meets Emily.

Emily is a normal teenage girl from a nice, normal family. In fact, her life is so normal that it might drive her crazy! She could spend time with her best friend and the boy she wants to set Emily up with. The perfect boy; popular, cute, and, of course, best friends with Emily's bestie's boyfriend. Instead, Emily finds herself drawn to the mysterious, devestatingly handsome Sam, with whom she has an instant connection.

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Best Short Stories of the Year

ISBN: 
9780345807311

I love anthologies, particularly of short stories. But I must confess I never follow the editor’s carefully thought-out arrangement.

Certainly, I hit pay dirt with this year’s O. Henry prize collection.  The very first story I dove into “Good faith” by Colleen Morrissey wowed me on first reading and ended up being my favorite.

What made it so good? Snake handlers, religion, a summer road-trip, girls coming of age, family conflict, romance, and camping out under the stars. It tells the story of a religious family travelling the south who meet two rich young men on the road.

That night the leading character Rachel does snake handling, not for entertainment, as she tells the more serious young man, Mr. Pattinson, but as part of her faith and religious practice. Read more »

Grasshopper Jungle

ImageGrasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is the weirdest book I've ever read, and that's awesome. It's the story of Austin Szerba - a teenage boy trapped in the smallest, most boring town in Iowa. He's struggling with his identity and how he fits into the world, while also being trapped between his feelings for his girlfriend, Shannon, and his best friend, Robby.

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