Jim Gocha

About Jim: 

Jim has worked in bookstores since 1983 and at Gibson's, off and on, since 1987. He enjoys a good story more than anything else but is drawn to Young Adult fiction because of his day job as a middle school teacher. "Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book." --Author Unknown. Needless to say, I have lived many lives and there are countless more to come.

Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America Cover Image
ISBN: 9781419723865
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Abrams Press - April 18th, 2017

Jim's July 2017 pick, 1 of 3

Grocery, the Buying and Selling of Food in America, by Michael Ruhlman

    I have always been fascinated by grocery stores. As a kid, I loved to go shopping with my mom (such spectacle in every aisle), and even now, I am the person who buys most of the groceries in my household (a trip down memory lane each time). Lately, I have looked upon grocery stores as a bit grotesque: all those items, so much choice. Do we really need half an aisle devoted to breakfast cereal? In Grocery, Ruhlman delves into why there is so much excess and how it got that way. To put it bluntly, we are all to blame.

    Ruhlman's style is conversational. I felt like I was sitting down having a cuppa with a good friend as he spun this incredible yarn about how we are killing ourselves with the stuff that we put in our mouths. Sounds foreboding, right? Well, the author makes it seem so matter of fact that he does not come across as scolding but rather encouraging: he lays out information for the reader to absorb and put to use during the next visit to the supermarket. Caveat emptor is one way to sum up his advice, suggesting that a shopper should know what is being bought and the effects each item has on the body.

     Throughout the book are interesting stories of such familiar names such as Kullen, Birdseye, Hellman, Kroger, and Kellogg and how each played a part in creating the modern supermarket, these palaces of plenty right in our neighborhoods. It's quite a history lesson. Yet, Ruhlman warns that within such cornucopias lurk food deserts hidden in plain sight. But, how can that be, you may ask? To learn the details, you are going to have to read this book. Cover to cover, it is valuable food for thought. Bon appetit!   

Chomp Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375868276
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ember - March 12th, 2013

Jim's July 2017 pick, 2 of 3

Chomp, by Carl Hiaasen

     The summer is still in full swing, so there is still time to get lost in a good book.

     Carl Hiaasen’s series for young readers is a great place to start. Each book is set in Florida and centers on an ecological theme: Hoot – the unnecessary destruction of habitat, Flush – the wanton pollution of coastal waters, Scat the hunting of endangered species, and Chomp, the abuse of nature in the name of entertainment.

     The latter focuses on Wahoo, the son of an animal wrangler hired to help a reality TV star, Derek Badger, film his Everglades adventure episode. It quickly comes to light that very little is real about Mr. Beaver – oops, I mean Badger. Much mayhem follows.

     If you like animals, nature, and adventure, pick up this series and dive into the world of Carl Hiaasen.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501139888
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Gallery Books - August 16th, 2016

Jim's July 2017 pick, 3 of 3

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer

I have found that the funniest people in the world are also very serious when not onstage. This is true for Amy Schumer.

     No one can deny that her stand-up is hilariously funny; however, that humor is born of some pretty  dark stuff. Throughout the book, Schumer covers such topics as sex, her Long Island upbringing, sex, the influence of parents, sex, weight loss, sex, gun violence, sex, and body image. There is also a lot about sex, some of which can be a bit raw at times, no pun intended. Or perhaps it was intended. Needless to say this is not a book to leave out for kids to read. Especially the part about the hockey player and his “stick.”
     Schumer’s style is conversational and stream-of-conscious, and like her comedy routines, she has no trouble telling the reader what she really thinks. No punches are held.
     The big take away in the book is empowerment. Schumer frequently brings up that women need to stand up for themselves because if they don’t, no one else will. Some might find that grating, but probably those who do would never read this book in the first place. More power to you, Schumer!          

Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399590801
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - April 4th, 2017

Jim's June 2017 pick, 1 of 2
Letters to a Young Writer, by Colum McCann

     This book is meant for the new writer, which McCann admits could be anyone aged seven to seventy. I approached it with an eye toward gleaning nuggets of wisdom I could impart to my students. I was not disappointed. There are many.

     McCann's starts each chapter with a quote from a well-known writer, which he uses to dive deeply into a point of consideration. One of the wisest bits he professes here is that it is okay to fail, that failing is a new beginning, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The quote that begins that chapter is from Samuel Beckett: "No matter. Try again. Fail. Fail better." Most people think of failure as a negative thing rather than as the challenge to think differently. McCann also advises that a writer should listen to editors but that it is okay to disagree with them. A writer has to go with his/her intuition.

     Since all writing is a reflection of life, some of his best counsel can be applied to all people, not just scribes: "Be daring. Be original. Nothing good is ever achieved through predictability." and "In the end, the only things worth doing are the things that might possibly break your heart. Rage on." Any more would just be words. Rage on, indeed.

The Boy on the Bridge Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316300339
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - May 2nd, 2017

Jim's June 2017 pick, 2 of 2

It will not matter if you had read The Girl with All the Gifts before opening Carey's latest; I had not and was hooked from page one.

   A mysterious plague has swept the world changing the infected into "hungries," zombie-like creatures who feed on human flesh and can track people by their body heat and odor. A group of soldiers and scientists roam the English countryside in a kind of super tank looking for anything they can that will lead to a cure. They come upon something totally unexpected, and that's when all hell breaks loose.

    Carey sets the tension high right from the start, partly by using an omniscient narrator. After a few rounds of getting to know the players, it's clear that these characters are after different objectives. As with most "zombie" stories, the real monsters are the ones out to save mankind. A rather bleak outlook, but one I had a hard time pulling myself away from.

    Needless to say, I am going back for the Girl.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250077028
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Flatiron Books - February 7th, 2017

Jim's May 2017 pick, 1 of 3

Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson

    Okay,  the cover alone made me want to read this book. Seriously, look at it. You have to admit that is one eye-grabbing image. And the kicker is that that stuffed racoon is in her possession (Lawson's father is a taxidermist).

    Throughout this book, Lawson explains that she suffers from mental illness. The further I got into it, the less I thought that she had issues and the more I thought that she was normal. Either that or we all suffer a mental illness. As Robin Williams once said, or maybe this is a paraphrasation, we are all born with a certain amount of insanity, don't waste it. Maybe Jenny Lawson just has a wee bit more than the rest of us. And she definitely is not wasting it.

    Lawson is one funny observer of life's quirkiness. I laughed my way through each chapter and found her arguments with spellcheck to be especially hilarious. She has a tendency to invent words that spellcheck objects to. By the way, spellcheck didn't like my word in the last paragraph paraphrasation, either. To which I say, as Ms. Lawson did in her book, "Forget you, Spellcheck. I am going to be furiously happy, no matter what you think." You should, too.

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of the Snowy Day Cover Image
By Andrea Davis Pinkney, Steve Johnson (Illustrator), Lou Fancher (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780425287682
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - November 1st, 2016

Jim's May 2017 pick, 2 of 3

A Poem for Peter, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

    Anyone who has grown up in the last fifty years or had kids during that time will surely remember the children's book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. In that book, and a few others by the author, we follow Peter, a little boy with a lot of curiosity and imagination. In her book, Pinkney pays homage to Keats, telling his story of how he became a writer and brought Peter to life.

    To be honest, I am not sure if this is a book meant for kids only. I read it because of my fondness for the Peter books and can easily see how it would appeal to other adults who grew up with them; however, the presentation is very much for children. Let's say that it is for the child in all of us.

    Pinkney does an excellent job of writing in the style of Keats, and the illustrators have captured the look of his work. Keats's story is interesting and complex and will definitely elicit questions from young readers about such things as the need to change one's name and why people treat others as they do.

     A Poem for Peter is a good book for those of us who are old enough to remember and those who are young and still learning of the magic of books.

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History Cover Image
ISBN: 9781599951508
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Center Street - September 17th, 2010

Jim's May 2017 pick, 3 of 3

The Monuments Men, by Robert M. Edsel

   As I have mentioned in a review of The Nightingale, WW2 is such a ripe topic that I think people will never grow tired of it as a source for stories. This book is a good example of that dense complexity of interest.


    While other soldiers were fighting on the front lines to keep Democracy safe, a small group of men scattered throughout Europe were working toward keeping Western culture from being stolen and lost forever. They were dubbed the Monuments Men and their job was to retrieve from the Nazis thousands of works of art that were plundered to be a part of Der Fuhrermuseum, planned by Hitler himself to be the greatest museum in the world.


     A few years ago, George Clooney made a movie of this story. His version is a romanticized take on what really happened. Edsel's book lays out the events much more straightforwardly, allowing the real-life drama to carry its own weight. The author had me turning pages furiously throughout.

     One thing Edsel does in the book is detail Hitler's final days and his deteriorating mental state, which frighteningly resembles that of the current President.

    The Monuments Men is an exciting look at one aspect of WW2 that often gets ignored.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062294432
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Paperbacks - October 25th, 2016

Jim's April 2017 pick, 1 of 2

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom

    I unabashedly like Mitch Albom's books. They can be corny at times (some might even say preachy), but even so, he writes about the positive effects of human interaction. Our lives are complicated in so many ways, yet, under the surface, when we take the time to look, there is a  gentle beauty and simplicity holding us together. Often we are too caught up in the day-to-day demands for our attention that we miss what really matters.

    This is true for Frankie Presto, an orphan, who is haunted by identity issues and never seems to be whole, always looking for that missing piece from his life. Since childhood, Frankie demonstrates an affinity for playing the guitar. As a gift, he is given a set of strings which, at key moments in his life, turn a bright blue, one at a time, hence the title. Yet, Frankie finds that talent cannot replace contentment, no matter how much of the former one has.

    Frankie's talent takes him far, and throughout his life, he rubs elbows with real life famous musicians. A fun part of the book is when these celebrities, Tony Bennett, Lyle Lovett, Wynton Marsalis, and Burt Bacharach, to name a few, relate their stories of friendship with Frankie. There is even a stop at Woodstock. Far out!

    If you are looking for an uplifting story about the mysteries of life and music, pick up a copy of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062403179
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Teen - September 27th, 2016

Jim's April 2017 pick, 2 of 2

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

    It's a pretty sure bet that each of us has gone through a period of time wherein we feel like we just don't measure up, that we are expendable, and that at any moment, a giant hook will appear to sweep us offstage to deposit us on life's trash heap, where we think we belong. Mike Mitchell, the protagonist of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, is fully immersed in this phase of life: a totally unspectacular high school senior year, uncontrollable OCD manifestations, a politically ambitious mom and an alcoholic dad, an infatuation with the most beautiful girl who has him stuck in the friend zone, and an incredible group of friends, all of whom far outshine him. What other conclusion can one make when your best friend is a half-god - of cats, nonetheless? Yet, that's Mike's place in life, until mysterious blue lights start appearing and outsider teens begin dying.

     At first I thought the title of each chapter was symbolic. The characters mentioned in the description of a chapter never seemed to fit the action within. By the end of the book, however, it became clear that everything is related and fit seamlessly into the story. So don't get put off by it; the wait is worth it.

     This seems to be the author's point: even if you do feel odd and a bit of a misfit, wait. Today is but a blip, and in the end, each of us has the potential to be the hero of our own story.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399588174
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spiegel & Grau - November 15th, 2016

Jim's March 2017 pick, 1 of 2

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

    When Mr. Noah was named as new host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, I was totally unfamiliar with his name and his work. I have since watched a comedy special of his stand-up routine as well many episodes of his show and now I have read this book. The long and the short is that this guy is very funny.

     Noah makes many observations about growing up in South Africa at the tail end of apartheid. His humor stems from not only living with the repercussions of the now defunct political system but also being a child and trying to make sense of the chaos around him. This guy has a sharp wit.

     When we are children, we all learn to game the situations we find ourselves in; growing up poor, Noah took advantage as much as he could to hilarious effect.

     Brimming with commentary on people and politics, Born a Crime is an entertaining look at a life and time few of us here in America know about. Noah shows that the adage is true: truth really is stranger than fiction.

All the Light We Cannot See Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476746586
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - May 6th, 2014

Jim's March 2017 pick, 2 of 2

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

     There is grace and wonder all around us. To be aware of them takes a special kind of seeing.


     Marie-Laurie and Werner are two teenagers growing up in difficult times in different parts of Europe; she is literally blind and he is blind to the harshness of people in wartime. Both are swept up in the horrors of World War II and lose their childhood innocence through terrible ordeals. Ultimately, they find redemption after a brief encounter.


     Lyrical and moving in so many ways, All The Light We Cannot See is a must-read.

Career of Evil Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316349895
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mulholland Books - April 19th, 2016

Jim's December 2016 pick, 1 of 2

Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (aka - J.K. Rowling)

    If you are a fan of J.K. Rowling, you probably already know about the series she has written under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. If, perchance this bit of news has evaded you, get ready for a treat.

    Career of Evil is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series, about a one-legged British private detective, facing crime and villainy with his gal-Friday, Robin Ellacott. In this installment, Robin takes on a larger role than in the previous two volumes, as she prepares to wed and becomes the obsession of a serial killer seeking vengeance against Strike.

     Galbraith-Rowling writes in a style that is just as captivating as her Harry Potter series.  Like those books, these are engaging and full of twists and memorable characters. If you are looking for a gift for a friend or yourself, the Cormoran Strike novels are a sure bet.

Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers Cover Image
By Bob Eckstein, Garrison Keillor (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780553459272
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Clarkson Potter Publishers - October 4th, 2016

Jim's December 2016 pick, 2 of 2

Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores, by Bob Eckstein

In addition to working in a bookstore, I am a big fan of bookstores. Everywhere I travel, I make it a point to check out the local booksellers. This book captures the best of the best in illustration and prose. A good book to peruse and plan for future excursions. I love it.

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101904657
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown Archetype - September 13th, 2016

Jim's November 2016 pick

In Such Good Company, by Carol Burnett

    Growing up, I fondly remember watching the Carol Burnett Show. It was such a zany program that I never knew what was going to happen next, except that it was going to be funny I loved watching the skits, especially when the actors tried not to break up when someone, usually Tim Conway, did something unexpected. It was a show I looked forward to viewing each week.  Naturally, when I saw this book, I just had to take a stroll down memory lane.

    In Such Good Company is Ms. Burnett's memoir of the years she spent working on her show. She reminisces about her favorite moments and guest stars. At times, reading about a particularly memorable skit, I could almost see it all play out again in my mind. I found very interesting the segments she related about her early years in show business, recalling when she had to juggle appearing on the Garry Moore Show and performing on Broadway, and later how she enticed some of the best writers, choreographers, and the inimitable Bob Mackie to make her weekly hour one of the best on television.

    You'll be glad you had this time together with Ms. Bennett and the gang.

Hamilton: The Revolution Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455539741
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grand Central Publishing - April 12th, 2016

Jim's October 2016 pick

Hamilton the Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
If you need to ask why you should buy this book, you have not experienced this musical theater masterpiece and should probably start by listening to the cast recording before diving into Hamilton the Revolution. This book gives the history of the show, the libretto, and a treasure trove of photos. If the Hamilton fan in your household has not purchased this yet, keep it mind for the upcoming holidays. It will undoubtedly bring a lot of good cheer. Oh, and don't miss the PBS special on Hamilton later this month.

Another Brooklyn Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062359988
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Amistad Press - August 9th, 2016

Jim's September 2016 pick, 1 of 3

Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson

    Reading Woodson's latest, her first novel for adults, I thought back to my childhood and the friendships I had forged with the neighborhood kids. Friendships so strong that my buddies and I knew that they would last forever. Nothing was going to tear us apart. Yet, forever is a long time. And life has a way of sneaking up and changing things on you. Before I knew it, my friends and I were grown ups and different people than we knew when we were so young. We were lost to experiences we never saw coming and were never quite able to find our way back again.
    Another Brooklyn brought me back to those times, as I discovered the world of August, the protagonist, being raised by her father in Brooklyn, after having left her mother back in Sweet Grove, Tennessee. The whys and the hows are for you to discover between the covers of this brisk yet deeply thoughtful exploration of the transition between innocence and the hard realities of life.
    I dare you to read this and not be moved.

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812993349
Availability: Special Order
Published: Random House - July 5th, 2016

Jim's September 2016 pick, 2 of 3

Bobby Kennedy, The Making of a Liberal Icon, by Larry Tye

     In Taylor Branch's book Parting the Waters, he paints a very negative picture of the Kennedys as they deal with the civil rights events taking place in America during the early 1960s. The brothers K come across as opportunists and out of touch with the hardships suffered by the darker skinned citizens of our country. I was eager to read Tye's book to see if the impression of Bobby and his brother Jack would hold up. Yes, it does that and more.

    The subtitle gets at the author's angle in telling Bobby's story, explaining how this privileged man went from being an ally of Joe McCarthy to his brother's pitbull of a campaign manager dead set on winning at any cost to his own person, not dependent on people's associations with his assassinated brother. Bobby never lost the drive to win, but he gained an understanding of the  suffering experienced by those less fortunate than he and, through that, his soul.

    In Branch's book, I was shocked at RFK's callousness. In Bobby Kennedy, Tye had me rooting for the younger Kennedy throughout. By the end, I was sure that America would have become a much finer place had Bobby been elected instead of gunned down in the kitchen of the Ambassador hotel. All that is speculation now, but I urge you to read the book and decide for yourself. For me, Bobby Kennedy has my vote. 

The Underground Railroad Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385542364
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday Books - August 2nd, 2016

Jim's September pick, 3 of 3

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
     In the book The Underground Railroad, Cora, a slave yearning for freedom and the main character of the story, states, "But nobody wanted to speak on the true disposition of the world."  The author lays bare exactly that and it is not pretty.
    Whitehead plays with history here, imagining a real railroad that was built underground to aid runaway slaves. Cora is astonished when she sees it and asks, "Who built it?" The received reply, "Who builds anything in this country?," is echoed throughout the novel, revealing an insidious truth about America that haunts Cora: slaves, though reviled by white society, are the driving force behind the expansion of this country, a necessary evil.
    Whitehead seems to explore the evolution of our current racial strife when a slave catcher talks about Manifest Destiny, "I prefer the American spirit, the one that called us from the Old World to the New, to conquer and build and civilize. And destroy what needs to be destroyed. To lift up the lesser races, If not lift up, subjugate. And if not to subjugate. exterminate. Our destiny by divine prescription-the American imperative." Years after Cora has reached the north and is free after so much hardship, she weighs the horrors of World War I to her experiences, "The Great War had always been between the white and the black. It always would be."

    In delving into our country's past, Whitehead uncovers a bitter truth about our present, that we have yet to fully deal with the consequences of our hubris and oppression, the Black Lives Matter movement being one unpleasant reminder of America's dark history. The Underground Railroad is not be missed.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345350688
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ballantine Books - October 12th, 1987

Jim's July 2016 pick, 1 of 2

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, As Told to Alex Haley
      Malcolm X has always been one of my heroes; he is even more so since I finished this book.

      It always seemed logical that Malcolm X, and other civil rights leaders, are on par with our nation's founding fathers. They all fought for the same thing: freedom from the tyrannies they saw governing their lives. Malcolm X had to overcome the straight-jacket limitations placed on all non-whites by society that defined him as less than human. As a result, in his early life, he lived like an animal as a hustler and drug addict. Like a phoenix, he rose from the ashes of those years to become a religious firebrand, promoting the Nation of Islam, an organization that not only saved him, but in the end, brought about his demise.

     Even though the book came out over fifty years ago, the life lessons taught in Autobiography apply to our lives today. Toward the end of the book, once he had learned to overcome his hatred for all whites, he states "that the white man's not inherently evil, but America's racist society influences him to act evilly. The society has produced and nourishes a psychology which brings out the lowest, most base part of human beings." If that is not a summation of where America is today, nothing is. It explains so much in so few words.

    I highly recommend this book not only as a study of a life but also of a society that has not learned from its mistakes.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455566389
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Twelve - May 24th, 2016

Jim's July 2016 pick, 2 of 2

Tribe, On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger
     Disclosure: My older son just graduated from basic training. I read this book as a precursor to his eventual leaving the army. I got quite an education.

     Junger's premise here is that soldiers who come home from the military are not psychologically messed up (think PTSD); instead, they return to a society that is itself damaged. This makes a soldier's transition back into that society more difficult, especially since the society cannot or refuses to see its own shortcomings. Junger gives many examples to support his claims, ranging from frontier to contemporary life. What stuck with me the most is the idea that America is essentially at war with itself. Considering our current political stalemate, I cannot help but agree, which is sad for all of us, especially us common folks who cannot afford to be beyond caring.

     Like Coates's Between the World and Me, this is required reading for every American citizen.

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The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385539289
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday Books - January 19th, 2016

Jim's April 2016 pick, 1 of 2

The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson

    I am an Anglophile and a Bryson fan, so this book is a win-win for me. As a companion piece to his Notes from a Small Island, Bryson offers a travelog of his walking trip along the longest straight line through Britain.
    The impetus for this journey is his newly-earned status as a British citizen. He explains in great detail that to become a citizen of the realm one has to memorize a lot of minutiae, including the longest geographical line through Britain, something, Bryson points out, the study guide for the citizenship test gets wrong.
     And that is the joy of The Road to Little Dribbling, Bryson, turning up his inner crank to eleven as he walks his way north, pointing out to anyone and everyone in his way, whether they like it or not, how stupid they really are. Occasionally, he finds something he likes, but mostly he complains in funny, biting detail. Enjoy.

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Brooklyn Cover Image
ISBN: 9781439148952
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner Book Company - March 2nd, 2010

Jim's April 2016 pick, 2 of 2

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

    I did something with Brooklyn that I have rarely ever done before - read the book after seeing the movie. The movie, I am thankful to see, captures the sweetness of the story perfectly despite slight changes to the narrative.
     As I read Brooklyn, I came to understand that what Toibin has done is create a love story about more than typical romance. In telling the story of Eilis Lacey's emigration from Ireland to America, and her transformation from an innocent girl to a mature woman, Toibin reveals an affection for life: the subtleties of everyday existence, the choices we make, the people we meet, picking out our clothes, even deciding what to say. Eilis's observation about Tony, a male suitor, that "He was delighted by things, as he was delighted by her, and he had done nothing else ever but make that clear," can be applied to this book and especially to the author's outlook. He seems delighted in the drama of simply living life and has done nothing else but make that clear in Brooklyn. Enjoy.

Circling the Sun Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345534187
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - July 28th, 2015

Jim's October 2015 pick, 1 of 3

Circling the Sun, by Paula McClain
 Circling the Sun begins and ends with Markham's daring flight across the Atlantic, something that few, if any, could possibly accomplish, and especially not a woman. But, she did, and as the book highlights, Markham was a woman who defied many people's expectations. In early to mid-1900s Colonial Africa, Markham would have nothing to do with propriety if it interfered with her interests and goals.
    McClain shows the reader that her protagonist was very much a woman ahead of her time. Markham wanted more than the flimsy role that woman were assigned and suffered greatly for it. No matter the circumstances, Markham always seemed to rise above societal limitations and won the respect of many, although they could not express it openly.
    Circling the Sun is a novel of romance and adventure. It is also a call to everyone not to accept others' opinions of you are supposed to be; to, in the words of Dylan Thomas, "rage against the dying of the light."

Our Souls at Night Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101875896
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - May 26th, 2015

Jim's October 2015 pick, 2 of 3

Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
    Man is a social creature. Haruf points that out right from page one when widow Addie Moore makes a proposal to widower Louis Waters to spend time together to ease each other's loneliness. Our Souls at Night is a testament to the power of togetherness; however, there is more at work here. As the bond between these new friends becomes closer, there are those who question it and want to break it apart. It seems that Haruf wants to make clear that while sharing time with a kindred spirit can elicit happiness, those who do not possess it themselves will try to dash yours to pieces.
    I found myself immediately drawn in to Addie and Louis's story. Haruf uses sparse but effective prose to spin this tale of  not disappearing into old age in quiet desperation. Addie sets things in motion but Louis is her equal, and it is not long before it becomes obvious that they were meant for each other, despite the fact that they are not married and have been neighbors for decades.
    There were moments when I was pleasantly reminded of my own marriage, which is a sign of a good book, to make me reflect on my own life as I read of the lives of others.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393245448
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 7th, 2016

Jim's July 2013 pick, 3 of 3

Grunt, The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach

     Grunt is my first Mary Roach book, but it certainly will not be my last. Her voice alone is enough to get me back between the covers with her (nudge-nudge, wink-wink).
     As the title suggests, Roach's subject here is the military. She explains, often hilariously, the science at work to keep our soldiers safe and effective. Her topics range from clothing to sweat to sleep, to name a few. Always, Roach's approach is dead serious but she readily sees the humor apparent at any moment.

     I read this book partly because my son had just graduated basic training. I can't help look at or think of him as a soldier the same way after having read this book. There is a belief that the US Army is the best trained in the world. Grunt points out the research and development that goes into making that so.

      A insightful summer read.

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501115639
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Simon & Schuster - July 7th, 2015

Jim's October 2015 pick, 3 of 3

A Full Life, by Jimmy Carter
    I have often believed that if every person were to write a memoir, there would be no need for fiction. Our lives are much more interesting than anything we could cook up. Jimmy Carter proves this point extremely well in his latest book. A Full Life. He has written about his experiences before. Here he gives the reader a sort of Cliff's Notes summary of the moments that most stand out as he reflects back on ninety years of living.
    Carter surprised me often throughout the book. I enjoyed particularly the episodes wherein Carter was in the Navy as an officer on the submarines the USS Pomfret and K-1; the idea that this peanut farmer was stuck in a tin can underwater voluntarily seemed just plain odd..  At times,he also was very funny, especially when relating his encounters with Admiral Rickover.  When recounting his days as a politician, Carter explained that most incoming Presidents rely on the advice of outgoing and former Presidents but that two in particular wanted nothing to do with him. The fact that one was a Democrat threw me for a loop.
    A Full Life is a fast but insightful read by one of my favorite Commanders-in-Chief.

Alexander Hamilton Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143034759
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - March 29th, 2005

Jim's September 2015 picks, 1 of 2

I read this book to find out how Lin-Manuel Miranda could take such an ominously thick biography of a founding father and turn it into a hip-hop Broadway sensation. What about Hamilton struck Miranda as worthy enough to turn into song? After wading through it, the answer is a lot.

Chernow unveils both the good and bad about Hamilton, a man who fiercely loved his wife, Eliza, yet fooled around behind her back. He was stubborn and rash at times, but he was also passionate about his beliefs. Above all, he was a family man, something I can identify with.

Not everything about this book held my attention. There are long passages about the establishment of the first banks(yawn). But, and that's a big "but," there is the story of a man who came from virtually nothing and made something of himself, befriending the likes of George Washington and ticking-off just about everybody else. And, of course, there is that little affair with Aaron Burr.

This book may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for an interesting look at early America, and perhaps why some people are adamant about keeping Alexander Hamilton's portrait affixed to the ten dollar bill, this is a good place to start. And be sure to catch the Broadway musical, if you can.

The Martian Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553418026
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Broadway Books - October 28th, 2014

Jim's September 2015 picks, 2 of 2

I am always skeptical when a person says of a book that they could not put it down. People, I had to put this down but I really didn't want to.

Right from the first page, wherein the main character, Mark Watney, declares his situation, I was hooked. I am a space junkie, and will pretty much buy into anything that has to do with outer space, as long as it's realistic. Andrew Weir makes this very real and, as a consequence, the tension is high. His main character, Watney, is on a mission to Mars with five crewmates when a sudden, violent wind storm forces the team to abandon their tasks and evacuate early. In the chaos of leaving, Watney is truck by debris and presumed dead. What happens next is for you to find out, but I can tell you that it will have you on the edge of our seat.

The writing is crisp, funny, and, at times, technical without being indecipherable. Weir breaks down the science for us laymen. NASA has given the book a thumbs-up, as well.

Do not miss this wild ride of a book.

Endangered Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545165778
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scholastic Paperbacks - January 7th, 2014

 Jim's August 2015 pick

Endangered, by Eliot Schrefer

    I know that we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but one look at the cover of Endangered was enough to get me to read it. A somewhat-realistic illustration of the face of a bonobo ape, the eyes looking for answers. Ooh, I was hooked, and luckily, I was not disappointed.
    Endangered is about Sophie, a teenaged girl whose parents are split: Dad lives in Chicago, Mom lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo and runs a bonobo ape sanctuary. A political coup occurs while Sophie is visiting her mother. Soon, it is not just the ape species that is endangered, as Sophie struggles to survive amid the death and bloodshed that so suddenly shakes up her world.
    The story of Endangered is engaging. The action is exciting. I knew virtually nothing about bonobos nor the DRC before reading this book. Schrefer got me so interested that I want to know more. There is an "Author's Note" at the back of the book filled with information about writing the book, which I found enlightening. This may be considered a "young adult" book, but I highly recommend it to everyone, especially since our "global village" becomes smaller and smaller and the need to understand each other becomes greater and greater.

Revival Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476770390
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Gallery Books - May 5th, 2015

Jim's July 2015 pick
Revival, by Stephen King
    The most terrifying works of King's are not gory but psychologically thrilling, exploring the lengths that a person will go to in order to achieve a goal. To that end, King has scored big-time with Revival.

    On the surface, King offers the reader the story of the relationship between Jamie Morton, a young boy, and the Reverend Charles Jacobs, the new minister in town. Under the hood, however, darker shapes take form as the two, at first friends, become combatants as years roll by and life takes unexpected turns. Inner demons drive each man to extremes, which is where the real horror of the book lies.
    I shall go no further except to say that you should read this book on the beach or your deck, definitely during the day in bright sunshine. By all means, avoid reading Revival during a storm. You have been warned.

Brown Girl Dreaming Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399252518
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Nancy Paulsen Books - August 28th, 2014

Jim's June 2015 pick, 1 of 2
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
     Woodson's book is a memoir of her early life, the years that led her to become a writer. In poetic word pictures, she has captured the joys, fears and confusion of her childhood. Her education, both in and out of school, is one particular point of frustration, as she and her siblings receive trainings about where they can and cannot go, and her teacher insists that Jacqueline read faster and less babyish. But for young Jacqueline, a burgeoning lover of words, she cannot understand why must rush through a text. A girl after my own heart. I am glad she savored each word she encountered; it shows in the novels that became her life's work.
     Woodson is roughly my age, which made many of her pop culture and historical references resonate for me more profoundly than they might for others. It is interesting to read of her admiration of Angela Davis ("She is beautiful and powerful and has/my same gap-toothed smile."), when White authority saw Ms. Davis as a criminal. Throughout Brown Girl Dreaming, Ms. Woodson shows that, even in her youth, she was not afraid to stand up for what she believed in. If you like her young adult novels or even if you are new to this author, you will thoroughly enjoy Brown Girl Dreaming.

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316241311
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - April 14th, 2015

Jim's June 2015 pick, 2 of 2

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives, by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch
    Caitlin is a seventh grader in a small Pennsylvania town when she becomes a penpal with Martin, a Zimbabwean student. Instead of losing interest after a few letters, as is the case with many penpals, their relationship flourishes. Throughout the early chapters of this book, I was amused at Martin's resourcefulness and bothered by Caitlin's whining. She, after all, came from a comfortably upper middle-class family, while Martin's family struggled to make ends meet in a country suffering from increasing economic woes. One of the aspects of the book that I enjoyed the most is how Martin inadvertently illustrates how Americans put so much emphasis on having excessive amounts of stuff, more than any one individual needs. He comes from a background of barely being able to get common necessities, like writing paper and shoes. She comes from a family wherein each member gets a car when they are of driving age. When Caitlin takes Martin clothes shopping for the first time, he comments, "I had never witnessed such excess, not even at Marist Brothers" (a private school Martin attended). "Eventually I just went along with it, like I was in a dream."
    All that aside, this book is a testament to the power of letter writing and the strong bonds that can be forged between people despite the distance and circumstances that separate them. Interesting and memorable.

X: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780763669676
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Candlewick Press (MA) - January 6th, 2015

Jim's May 2015 pick, 1 of 2

X, A Novel, by Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X. With Kekla Magoon
    Malcolm X lives! Well, at least in these pages. Ms. Shabazz brings her father's story to vivid life in this retelling of his story. Told in the first person, the book has an urgency to it that makes it an exciting read.
     Shabbazz doesn't give a complete narrative of Malcolm X, focusing instead on the most formative years of his life; his father dies when Malcolm was 6 and soon after his family disintegrated, which started a bitter fire of hate deep inside him. The book ends in 1948 with Malcolm in jail for foolish and sometimes dangerous acts but enlightened to the ways of Islam. It is with his acceptance of a higher purpose, that Malcolm is able to overcome his anger at his father, whose words he saw as lies since despite his interest in becoming more, White society repeatedly offered him less.
    To help the reader understand a fuller picture of her father, she includes additional passages in the end: a timeline, family tree, and a section on historical context.
    This is a good starting point for anyone interested in one of the most provocative civil rights leaders in our country's history.

The Nightingale Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312577223
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - February 3rd, 2015

Jim's May 2015 pick, 2 of 2

The Nightingale by  Kristin Hannah
    I approached this book with a little skepticism. I am drawn to stories about WW 2, but this one is written by an author mostly known for sappy, touchy-feely novels. I wasn't sure what to expect. What I found is a stirring tale of friends and family affected by war.
    The old saw that war is hell is an understatement in light of what happens to the citizens of the French village of Carriveau  after the Nazis invade. The reader sees everything unfold through the lives of the two Mauriac sisters, Vianne and Isabelle.  Vianne's husband leaves to fight and her daughter Sophie's childhood comes to an abrupt halt as she witnesses the increasing terror that envelops Carriveau. Isabelle, young and impetuous, leaves, too, to aid in the underground resistance, unable to sit idly by as her world crumbles around her. Both women find themselves doing things never thought possible just months before the invasion, but that's what war does, strips innocence and purity to shreds in an effort to just stay alive.
    Hannah does throw an occasional maudlin line or two into the mix, but for the most part, her writing is straightforward. She tends not to dwell on violent scenes, adding just enough to give the reader the idea of the horror unfolding, like a Hitchcock film. There have been many stories written about WW2 and I am sure there will be more to come. For now, enjoy The Nightingale.

Revolution Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545106078
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scholastic Press - May 27th, 2014

Jim's March 2015 picks, 1 of 2

Revolution, by Deborah Wiles
    Oh, the times, they are a changin'. Wiles' previous documentary novel, Countdown, introduced the world to Franny Chapman, a fifth grader with a lot to deal with, including the dreamy neighborhood boy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Here, Wiles takes us two years ahead to Freedom Summer. Franny's older sister has gone down to Mississippi to help register people to vote. Jo Ellen is the only character carried over from the previous novel but the same sense of historical turbulence and urgency is on every page. The focus here is on Sunny, a teenager with a myriad of problems: a mixed family, the loss of her mother, the invasion of Northerners bent on turning the Southern way of life upside-down, increasing racial tension, and the mysterious identity of Hightop, the nickname Sunny and her stepbrother Gillette gave to a colored boy they accidentally had met in the town's swimming pool late one night. If you are a fan of history, the 1960s, Civil Rights, or a good read, you will enjoy Revolution immensely.