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All the Sinners Bleed: A Novel By S. A. Cosby Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250831910
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Flatiron Books - June 6th, 2023

Jim's July 2023 pick (1 of 3)

And there are a lot of sinners, which means that there will be blood, buckets of it.

Any fan of S.A. Cosby knows that few characters get off unscathed and that there will be closets stuffed with secrets. Here, multiple skeletons of Black children are discovered and prominent people of Charon County, VA are murdered. Needless to say, Titus Crown, the local sheriff, has his hands full. Add to this, heightened racial tensions and things really start to sizzle.

Cosby writes with muscle. The action is tough and brutal. The characters are flawed and fragile, living lives of just getting by. No one is without sin.

At times, when I read All the Sinners Bleed, I felt the need to take a break. The writing left me exhausted, like I was a boxer in the ring with a more skillful opponent. Yet, after a while, I headed back in because I had to find out what happened next, even though I knew my senses would get pummeled again and again. And isn’t that the mark of a good book? It puts you through the wringer, yet you come back asking for more.

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11/22/63: A Novel By Stephen King Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451627299
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Gallery Books - July 24th, 2012

Jim's July 2023 pick (2 of 3)

Admit it: you've always wanted to read this book but were put off by its length - 850 pages. Maybe you're not a King fan but always wanted to give him a try. The whole horror thing is not your cup of tea, but this book looked interesting because of the historical aspect. After all, the what if scenario of saving JFK from assassination makes you curious. Right? And how much horror could there be. Right? Still that volume of pages stops you. Well, my friend, I have good news. This book is so good that the pages will fly by. Wait no longer.

A teaser, if you need it: Jake Epping finds a conduit to the past (1958, to be exact) and is persuaded to use it to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK on the titular day in Dallas. That is just a wisp of a hint of the things to come. But, there is more, so much more, deliciously, grip-the-book-so-hard-your-fingers-ache so. King is in top form here, even to the point that he brought me to tears - twice! I'm either a proper sap or he is one heck of a storyteller. And, to be honest, I think it's a little of both.

It's time, gentle reader. to visit the past. No fluxcapacitor needed.

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The Talk By Darrin Bell Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250805140
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - June 6th, 2023

Jim's July 2023 pick (3 of 3)

Parents have a tough job. I know – I have three kids. Preparing them for the future is a difficult thing. Bell’s parents taught him to be a good person and do the right thing; however, his dad never gave him “the talk,” which plagued Bell for most of his life. Finally, after his mom did the honors, Bell refused to believe any of it until the day that a police officer ordered Bell to put down his weapon, a bright green plastic water pistol.

In chronicling his life in The Talk, Bell shows the reader that “the talk” is a necessary part of growing up black in America. That what it intends to teach young black children will actually be visited upon them throughout their lives no matter how nice a person they are. It happened to Bell so many times in so many ways. This book reminded me of Brendan Kiely’s The Other Talk, an exploration of the talk white parents should give their kids about white privilege. Bell discovers as a teen that sometimes white privilege extends to anyone who is not black like he is.

The Talk is an artful representation of what society needs to understand: that inequality exists, wrongfully so, and that it’s time for that to change. Let’s hope that, sooner rather than later, neither talk will never  need to be given again. 

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Swamp Story: A Novel By Dave Barry Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982191337
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - May 2nd, 2023

Jim's June 2023 pick (1 of 2)

Everybody’s out to make a buck in Barry’s latest, everyone, that is, except Jesse, a beautiful single-mom stuck in a going-nowhere relationship with her boyfriend who keeps taking off his shirt trying to be the next Crocodile Dundee. If that sounds bonkers, add a couple of cutthroat baddies looking for lost gold and a local politician aiming for national office if he can just get the right do-good campaign to take off. Yeah, it’s out there and then some.

Swamp Story is funny from start to finish. If there is any message to be had, it seems to be “don’t be stupid or mean.” Wisdom for the ages brought to you with glee.

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The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece: A novel By Tom Hanks, R. Sikoryak (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Tom Hanks, R. Sikoryak (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780525655596
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - May 9th, 2023

Jim's June 2023 pick (2 of 2)

Tom Hanks knows movies, so it is only natural that the topic of his latest book is the making of a film. We all know that he is a great actor. After all, he’s won Oscars. He can tell a story through an onscreen character, but  can he do so on the page? The answer is pleasantly yes.

Throughout the book, I repeatedly wondered if he modeled any of the characters after people with whom he worked: a beautiful ingénue, a pompous leading man, a director who has seen it all, spunky assistants who solve problems before they even become such. Is the author himself represented by a character? In the end, I realized that it doesn’t matter. Hanks has written an interesting tale of how a movie is made and in doing so entertains and educates readers about how all movies reach the screen. The process ain’t easy, but it’s fascinating!

As with all good stories, I want more! A sequel? Sure, but there is no need for one. A film adaptation? Now wouldn’t that be something! Until then, we have this book, which, excuse me, I’m going to go read again. It’s that good.      

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Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story By Bono Cover Image
By Bono
ISBN: 9780525521044
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - November 1st, 2022

Jim's May 2023 pick (1 of 2)

NOTE: This review is based on the audiobook version, which you can get from our friends at Libro.fm!

“All of this can be yours. Just give me what I want, and no one gets hurt.”
What Bono has always wanted is to make music. He has been doing so for close to fifty years as the front man for his band, U2. Surrender tells the story of those four mates from the north side of Dublin who joined talents to form one of the most influential forces in rock.
Philosopher, musician, storyteller, Bono covers all three as he takes the reader from his childhood on Cedarwood Road to stadium tours of the present day. In an age when religion seems to be waning, I was surprised to read that Bono's faith is as strong as ever, which is probably why he is such a driven humanitarian.
The audiobook features Bono’s resonant narration, which is great, especially when he impersonates various people whose paths he crossed (Frank Sinatra, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Nelson Mandela, to name a few).  Since he is a musician, it’s only natural that each chapter begins with snippets of songs. There are also sounds effects throughout to accent particular moments.
If you are a fan of U2, Surrender is a must; however, if you are new to the band, you, too, should read this book (see what I did there?).

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Goodbye to Clocks Ticking: How We Live While Dying By Joseph Monninger Cover Image
ISBN: 9781586423605
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Steerforth - March 14th, 2023

Jim's May 2023 review (2 of 2)

Joe Monninger, local author and recently retired college professor,  finds out that he is dying of cancer, and like it would for most of us, the news stops his life on a dime. A battery of tests conforms the grim diagnosis and leaves him with a question: Now what?

In this slim but powerful volume, the author works through the process of accepting and planning for his untimely and unexpected death. Yet, ultimately, like Tuesdays With Morrie, this is actually a book about life. In observations that are at times poetic, Monninger comes to terms with the end that awaits us all and. along the way, realizes that each day until his demise, he still has to live.

An uplifting book that made my soul smile.

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The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir By Paul Newman, David Rosenthal (Editor), Melissa Newman (Foreword by), Clea Newman Soderlund (Afterword by) Cover Image
By Paul Newman, David Rosenthal (Editor), Melissa Newman (Foreword by), Clea Newman Soderlund (Afterword by)
ISBN: 9780593534502
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - October 18th, 2022

Jim's February 2023 review

As a performer, I was very excited when I knew that this was going to be published. Newman has always been one of my favorite actors. This book left me craving more.

Newman was, as the titles indicates, "an ordinary man." He stumbled into acting yet never saw himself as special or above others, more lucky than anything else, which he points out several times. It would be easy for the average reader to see that as posturing (a celebrity trying to be humble), yet he almost seems apologetic, as if he did not ask for the fame and all of its trappings. He was an actor; that was his job. His life was own, and he avoided intrusions, just like most people would. Because of this, stories were made up. This book was his chance to set things straight.

The format of the book is a little odd. Rather than a typical biography. many other voices from Newman's life pop in, offering context. Since the content derived from a series of taped conversations, the text does have an ease to it, as if I were talking to him over the phone or at a cafe. The result is a book that invited me into it, every time I picked it up. A simple treasure that I was sad to leave.

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My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings By Zosia Mamet (Editor) Cover Image
By Zosia Mamet (Editor)
ISBN: 9780143137290
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - November 1st, 2022

Jim's January 2023 pick (1 of 2)

There are very few things in life that people feel so strongly about as food. It ties us to our past, to places and people we love and long for. It marks the high-tide moments of our lives. In My First Popsicle, Zosia Mamet has collected reminiscences from a variety of friends each highlighting a chapter of their lives that somehow or other involves food. 

I look back fondly at my childhood and easily see connections to food at various stages: oatmeal and hot chocolate as a kid, an introduction to pizza, my desert island food, and my favorites, pierogies and kielbasa, Polish soul food that fuels me to this day.

That is the beauty of this book. Even though I did not care for every essay here, (some I found much too "precious"), each author invited me to search through my memories to savor the crumbs of my life, both good and bad, just as they did theirs. Whether it was Patti LuPone writing about Long Island seafood, Andrew Rannells baking a Jell-o Cake (I do remember making a few of these myself), or David Sedaris espousing the deliciousness of the ordinary street hotdog, I could not help but walk down memory lane each time. I guarantee that you will do the same. Just don't forget your favorite snacks.

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The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book By Jerry Seinfeld Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982112769
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - November 22nd, 2022

Jim's January 2023 pick (2 of 2)

It is obvious from the title that Jerry Seinfeld likes three things: comedians, cars, and coffee. Each of them is in abundance within the pages of this book.

Much like his famed sitcom SeinfeldThe Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book is also largely about nothing, as is the Netflix show it is based on. It’s Jerry driving around in different cars – some fabulous, some rust buckets, all old – with famous funny people always in pursuit of coffee and good food. How simple can you get?

It helps if you are a fan of Jerry Seinfeld. I was and am even more so now. His style of comedy is observational and subtle. It’s in bucketsful here. In his conversations with his friends, it’s easy to see that Mr. Seinfeld enjoys sharing his wit as well as that of his company. Prepare to laugh - a lot! These are comedians, after all.

The beginning of the book is about creating the show, which, although interesting, is not the reason you should read this. It’s the interaction between the comedians that will keep you turning pages, as well as finding out about the cars, which are pretty awesome.

Oh, and when you do sit down to spend some time with Jerry and friends, have a cup of coffee by your side.      

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Your Table Is Ready: Tales of a New York City Maître D' By Michael Cecchi-Azzolina Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250281982
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: St. Martin's Press - December 6th, 2022

Jim's December 2022 pick (1 of 2)

Cecchi (pronounced "checky") is a natural storyteller. Some of the tales he spins here are so terrifying that even Stephen King at his most gruesome would pale by comparison. Others are edge-of-your-seat nail-biters. What is the milieu for all of these yarns? High end restaurants and the life of a maître  d'.

Cecchi has seen it all: sex and drugs and rock-and-roll, both on and off the clock. He writes of restaurants that most people could not possibly afford to frequent regularly, if at all, and the clientele of such establishments at their finest and their worst. In the middle of observations about patrons slipping hundred dollar bills into his palm to secure a seat on a sold-out night and the familial treatment of the local regulars, I had an urge to be one of them. To go. To see. To taste. Then it hit me - a night of fine dining is like an evening at the theater. It may cost a bit more, but the histrionics are the same. The author gives the reader a front row seat.

Your Table Is Waiting is a fun book and definitely worth the price of admission. Secure your reservation and get a copy today.

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Bad Actors (Slough House #8) By Mick Herron Cover Image
ISBN: 9781641294584
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Soho Crime - April 4th, 2023

Jim's December 2022 Pick (2 of 2)

Once again, trouble is brewing in Joe Country. Important people go missing. As if her cocaine addiction is not bad enough, someone is after Shirley Dander. And, before you know it, Diana Taverner's seat as First Desk is in jeopardy. What's a slow horse to do? Well, if you work at Slough House, you do what you can get away with and try not to get killed.

Herron mixes menace with glee as he weaves the mysteries and machinations of MI5. Based on the world he presents, it a wonder that any country has security system worth mentioning at all. What is worth noting is Herron's handling of the slow horses of Slough House. He writes them so well and lovingly, despite the fact that they are each a total mess, especially Jackson Lamb, who uses the F-bomb like breath mints. They are such complete disasters; I love them. You will, too.

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The Last Chairlift By John Irving Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501189272
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 18th, 2022

Jim's October 2022 pick (1 of 2)

If you are looking for a quick, breezy beach read, this is not it (the sheer mass of the book should be a warning there); however, if you are an Irving fan, or into complex storytelling, this is comfortable territory.

The Last Chairlift is the story of Adam Brewster and his quirky family. It is hard to describe what happens to Adam without alluding to Irving's other books. Adam's world is rife with typical Irving staples, such as, Philip's Exeter Academy (obviously, NH. too), Maine, wrestling, absent fathers, ghosts, self-identity, Austria, death, and sex - a lot of about sex, which could put off some readers who are new to Irving, but it all serves to illuminate Adam's unusual upbringing. It would easily be so today, so for a kid growing up in the 1950s, unusual is an understatement.

I had once written to the author to express my appreciation for his writing. In my letter, I compared him to Stephen King in that while King makes the ordinary terrifying, Irving makes the extraordinary seem commonplace. I am uncertain what Irving thought of my assessment (he never wrote back), but in The Last Chairlift, he demonstrates this ability yet again.

Adam's story is, in turns, hilarious and tragic, much like life. Throughout, he learns that there is more than one definition of family and more than one way to love someone. Be sure to catch The Last Chairlift.

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The Church of Baseball: The Making of Bull Durham By Ron Shelton Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593313961
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - June 20th, 2023

Jim's October 2022 pick (2 of 2)    

Bull Durham is considered by many to be the best baseball movie ever. And why not? It was written and directed by Ron Shelton, who spent several years playing in the minors. He knows the territory well.  One would think that the making of such a classic, created and cared for by one of baseball’s own, would be a no-brainer. Let’s just say that it was a difficult birth. Shelton knows baseball; Hollywood executives do not. And therein lies the rub.

The Church of Baseball is filled with stories of the idiosyncrasies of minor league baseball and its players and the idiocies of Hollywood executives. It’s a wonder the film actually made it to theaters at all.

If you are fan of Bull Durham or of baseball movies in general or of film-making, pull up a chair and read chapter and verse from the book of Shelton. Amen.

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The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle: An Uplifting and Unforgettable Story of Love and Second Chances By Matt Cain Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496737755
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: A John Scognamiglio Book - May 31st, 2022

Jim's August 2022 pick

How long can you keep a secret? Albert Entwistle has been keeping one for over fifty years.

About to retire from his job as a "postie," he realizes that he has no one. His parents have died, more recently, his mum whom he cared for despite her regular declarations that he is "a waste of space." Could she be right? After all, Albert doesn't even have work friends, only his cat. Gracie. Just when he is about to settle for this assessment of himself, Albert remembers his one true love and wonders if it is too late for anything other than a life of loneliness. But, who is that true love? Ah, that's the secret and once it's revealed, Albert's life is turned upside down.

In short, this is a romance of self-discovery. Cain has created a character who initially I found pathetic but soon came to love. In Albert's story, Cain shows the damage that keeping a secret does to a life but also how simply talking to others can restore that life to full force. Cain also sheds light on the historical necessity for keeping certain secrets. What harm we used to and still do to each other. It's unforgivably ridiculous!

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle is a testament to how far we have come.

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This Time Tomorrow: A Novel By Emma Straub Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525539018
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - May 16th, 2023

Jim's June 2022 pick

 I have a thing for books and movies about time: the concept of time, the time we have, the time we waste, the pursuit of a perfect life by going back in time. This Time Tomorrow hits most of those buttons.

     Alice Stern lives a life that is on hold. She works at the same private school she attended as a teen and is in a perfunctory relationship that has “dead end” written all over it. Her famous-author dad lies comatose in a hospital. Alice feels pretty helpless, until she wakes up the morning after her fortieth birthday to find that she is sixteen again and that maybe she can change things for the better.

     If this seems like familiar territory, it is, but Straub creates characters who are interesting and relatable, making me want to keep turning pages to find out if and how Alice would get back to her own time and if her actions in the past would produce any meaningful change. After all, isn’t that why we read books like This Time Tomorrow, to find out if that change can be realized? It’s not that we actually want to alter our lives, we just want to know that it’s possible. We all play “what if?” at one point in our lives. Reflecting on the chance of a different past for ourselves, we actually gain a greater appreciation for our present.

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All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business By Mel Brooks Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593159132
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ballantine Books - November 1st, 2022

Jim's May 2022 pick

I have been a Mel Brooks fan for a long time, ever since Young Frankenstein ("That's Frahnkensteen!"). Mr. Brooks has been a fan of his work from birth and goes into tremendous detail explaining his successes both big and small. Anyone aware of his work will know that that is quite a feat, not only because he has pumped out so many hits over the years but also because the man is almost 100 and has been working forever.

     The great pleasure of this book is finding out the behind-the-scenes details about his biggest hits. I would spill the beans here but won't because I want you to read the book. A hint, though, won't spoil the fun: One of the biggest names in Hollywood was approached to play the role that eventually went to Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles. Got you thinking, now, haven't I?

     I would not recommend All About Me to the casual Mel Brooks fan, but if you cannot help but laugh at little blue blankets or horse whinnies("Frau Blücher"), then walk this way ("This way!"). You will not be disappointed.

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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America By Ibram X. Kendi Cover Image
ISBN: 9781568585987
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Bold Type Books - August 15th, 2017

Jim's April 2022 pick

I had read the Remix version of this book, Stamped, co-authored by Jason Reynolds. It was stunning in its breadth, explaining the origins and consequences of racist thought, even going back to the first racist. Amazing! After tackling The 1619 Project, I had an itch to dive into Kendi's original Stamped From the Beginning to find out more about our country's perplexing handling of and attitudes concerning race. To quote Jerry Garcia, "What a long, strange trip it's been."

     Kendi explains that there is nothing natural about race; it's a man-made concept created and perpetuated for business reasons. The idea was established by Gomes Eanes de Zurara to justify enslaving Black people. Once that train left the station and the profits started rolling in, there was no stopping it. Hundreds of years later, despite The Emancipation Proclamation, the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, and the enactment of many laws meant to actualize the foundational American belief that all men are created equal, racist thoughts still drive a lot of our society's understanding of who's right and who's not. It's hard to divest an entire country of a four hundred year habit.

     Kendi concludes on a positive note, that racist thinking will someday come to end and perhaps sooner rather than later. Like Aaron Sorkin, in his stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, Kendi indicates that the power is in our hands and hearts. "All Rise!"

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Call Us What We Carry: Poems By Amanda Gorman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593465066
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking Books - December 7th, 2021

Jim's March 2022 pick, 1 of 3

Ever since her national debut at Joe Biden's Inauguration, Amanda Gorman's book has been one of the most anticipated of the year. I am happy to say that the wait was worth it.

     Gorman covers many topics, the Black experience, in particular, and various poetic forms, free verse and concrete poems, among them. I particularly enjoyed a series of found poems that she crafted from the diary entries of a World War I soldier. When considering his prospects of returning to the states after the war, the soldier, Roy Underwood Plummer, muses, "We might stay a while/Cuz they don' kill us here bad/As they do back home." His sentiments are easily understandable considering the time.

     The playfulness of her wordplay is also worth noting, whether using the homophones "raised" and "razed" in close proximity or the frequent use of alliteration, assonance, and consonance, as in the line, "To be kept to the edges of existence is the inheritance of the marginalized." The sound devices make her words flow and carry the reader along, as if on a breeze. Sometimes it's warm and caressing; others it's as alienating as an arctic blast, mirroring the experiences of everyday life. A poet for our times.

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The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story By Nikole Hannah-Jones (Created by), The New York Times Magazine (Created by), Caitlin Roper (Editor), Ilena Silverman (Editor), Jake Silverstein (Editor) Cover Image
By Nikole Hannah-Jones (Created by), The New York Times Magazine (Created by), Caitlin Roper (Editor), Ilena Silverman (Editor), Jake Silverstein (Editor)
ISBN: 9780593230572
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - November 16th, 2021

Jim's March 2022 pick, 2 of 3

There are people who will love this book for the powerful writing and crystal clear argument the authors make that people of color have been treated brutally for the past 400 years and continue to be today. Conversely there will be those who hate this book for the "one-sided" presentation of history it paints. On whichever side you may fall, it cannot be denied that The 1619 Project will get people talking, as it should.

     In a series of essays, poems, and photographs, the authors create an indictment on  American political, economic, and social systems that strips away any chance of hiding behind such foolish excuses as "That's the way it was back then" and "We're beyond that now." Repeated promises of forty acres and mule were repudiated as was access to the voting booth. Equal treatment under the law has also been a blind spot in America's founding vision of the endowment of unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The inescapable questions have always been Whose life? Whose liberty? and Whose happiness? The answers even today are uncertain. Just ask George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (Say their names!).

     The most vital question that The 1619 Project asks and answers is Would there even be an America without Black people? The authors say it plain: No. American history is Black history. Read it here for your self, piece by piece. The evidence is too overwhelming no matter how you feel about it. And, as the saying goes, "if you don't know, now you know."

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Raise a Fist, Take a Knee: Race and the Illusion of Progress in Modern Sports By John Feinstein, Doug Williams (Foreword by) Cover Image
By John Feinstein, Doug Williams (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780316540933
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - November 16th, 2021

Jim's March 2022 pick, 3 of 3

     There is a scene in Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing in which Mookie, a Black pizza deliverer for Sal's Pizzeria, argues with his boss's sons about the fact that their favorite athletes are Black, yet the sons do not necessarily like Black people. The scene is fraught with irony. John Feinstein's Raise a Fist, Take a Knee is chock-a-block full of such WTF moments.

     Feinstein points out repeatedly how the national sports machine, as much as it's followed blindly by the masses, is flawed in so many ways, particularly when it comes to race. African Americans make up a large percentage of players of three major sports (football, basketball, baseball), yet few leadership roles within those sports are filled with people of color. When it comes to more niche sports, like swimming and tennis, the numbers are worse. Golf is especially heinous in its treatment of BIPOC. But, "what about Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters?" some may cry. A few superstars, even those as dominant as Woods and the Williams siblings, do not eliminate decades of ills, just like one Black President does not herald a post-racial era.

     Feinstein skillfully unravels the gauzy bandages wrapped around the wounds caused by society's one-sided beliefs held over from the nineteenth century to show the damages of our national  "skin-deep" thinking. He also chronicles attempts by some to do the right thing by making the playing field more equal or seemingly so. Ben Franklin once said, "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."  In interviews with many of sports' greatest players and coaches, Feinstein shows that we still have a long way to go.  Perhaps we should all raise a fist and take a knee until then.

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Taste: My Life Through Food By Stanley Tucci Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982168018
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Gallery Books - October 5th, 2021

Jim's November 2021 pick

Challenge: I dare anyone to read this book and not walk away hungry. Stanley Tucci's infectious love for food pours forth on every page.

I had admired Tucci for his acting and more recently for his work on his CNN television show, but his writing shines throughout Taste. It is, like the food he describes, delicious.

There are references to his movie and television lives but always connected to food. It's hard to imagine that he eats as much as he describes, but I wanted to belly-up to the table right beside him, nonetheless. I told my wife that I plan to make his recipe for timpano for the holidays. I drool thinking about it. Speaking of which, make sure that you keep a tissue or two handy to catch any saliva escaping your mouth as you read. I swear I could eat this book up! Mangiare!

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Slough House By Mick Herron Cover Image
ISBN: 9781641293099
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Soho Crime - August 31st, 2021

Jim's October 2021 pick, 1 of 2

Spy craft. MI6. James Bond. Well, not exactly James Bond. In fact, very much not James Bond. Not a shaken martini in sight. This is Slough House, where loser spies go after screwing up. The trouble is, someone has targeted these “slow horses” and is taking them out one by one.

     Mick Herron has created a soft-boiled world of secret agents who are anything but tough guys. They seem more like a bunch of nerds, but nerds who have been trained to kill, besides being computer specialists and information hounds.

     The cast of characters is loopy and engaging. They seem like real people, more apt to show up in a sweatshirt than a fitted suit. The dialog is a treat, full of humor and verbal jabs.

    Don’t be misled; there is danger at hand. Lives are at stake.  It’s just that any time these “joes” are at work, they can’t help acting like siblings rather than spies.

    If you are looking for Le Carre, move on. If you want your intrigue with a twist, settle in. Slough House is a good time.

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Falling: A Novel By T. J. Newman Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982177898
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster - May 17th, 2022

Jim's October 2021 pick, 2 of 2

Pop quiz, Hot Shot: You're the pilot of a jumbo jet heading to New York from Los Angeles. You receive a text directing you to crash the plane into a chosen target or your family will be killed. What do you do?

     Putting Speed references aside, Falling is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will leave you in need of oxygen. Newman's style reminded me of Dan Brown at his DaVinci Code- best, leaving me hanging at the end of every chapter. I could not turn the pages fast enough. There is no way you make it through this book with your fingernails intact.

     Not everything makes sense here, but I readily looked past any loose connections to enjoy the rest of the tense action. It's a safe bet that I shall be thinking of Falling every time I board a plane.

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Black Nerd Problems: Essays By William Evans, Omar Holmon Cover Image
Likely available, but must be ordered by email/phone
ISBN: 9781982150235
Published: Gallery Books - September 14th, 2021

Jim's September 2021 pick, 1 of 2

I am not Black, but I am a nerd. And as such, I felt like I have just enough cred to read this book without feeling like I was overstepping. The nerdiness is strong with this one, friends, so, in a way, this was comfort reading.

     As a parent who watched episodes of Naruto and Dragonball Z with my sons, I easily enjoyed the references to those and other Anime shows. Holmon, especially, digs deeply into a variety of anime television that I have never heard of before but seem fascinating (Food Wars, in particular). There are also nods to more adult fare, too, like Game of Thrones and The Wire. A strong focus, though, are comics, which, I have to admit, is not my strong suit, but these guys quote chapter and verse.

    Race issues are aplenty in each medium. One essay stood out to me, though, in which Evans goes to a Comic Con. There, he appreciates replicas of swords displayed for purchase. As much as he would love to buy one to add to his collection of memorabilia, he realizes that, as a Black man, he probably would not make it home alive,  if he were to take public transportation. A perfect example of White privilege, if ever there were one.

     Whether you are White, Black, polka-dotted, nerd or not, Black Nerd Problems offers a lot of food for thought.

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This Will All Be Over Soon: A Memoir By Cecily Strong Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982168353
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - August 9th, 2022

Jim's September 2021 pick, 2 of 2

Everyone knows Cecily Strong from her many years on Saturday Night Live and, more recently, Schmigadoon. She is a funny person. Her humor is evident in This Will All Be Over Soon, too, but it is bruised by grief. Not only did 2020 interrupt her career by shutting down much of the entertainment world, but her much loved cousin Owen died from glioblastoma, as well. For someone who relies on comedy to make a living, there wasn't much to laugh at last year. Yet, like the rest of us, she found a way to grind through the tumult and tears. One way that she survived is through writing; This book is the result.

     I listened to the audio version of This Will All Be Over Soon.  The benefit of that was that Strong's emotions came through more clearly. There were times when it seemed that she would break down at any moment. Yet, never fear, even in book form, her snark is in place  and shifts easily to joy then sadness; the translation between media is done well.

    Strong admits that she is not a very public person, despite her chosen career. Writing this book was not only a stretch for her but a bit of cleansing and processing of all that has happened since "the Great Shutdown." Sometimes we can learn about ourselves by observing others. From Cecily Strong, I learned that the pandemic has pretty much traumatized everyone in one way or another, and that, global catastrophe or not, life continues for the living. We just must be sure never to forget those we lost along the way.

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How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America By Clint Smith Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316492928
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown and Company - December 27th, 2022

Jim's August 2021 pick, 1 of 2

This is a book for our times. With the debate about Critical Race Theory being argued throughout the land, How the Word Is Passed shows how important it is to teach the whole history of our country, not just cherry-picked details.

     Clint Smith travels to seven places in the world associated with the American Holocaust and explores the approach taken toward slavery at each destination. In some, his fears are validated and in others, Smith is surprised by the starkness of the presentations he experiences.

     Smith’s prose is captivating and vivid. How the Word Is Passed will stay with you long after you finish the last page. Haunting.

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The Midnight Library: A Novel By Matt Haig Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525559498
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - May 9th, 2023

Jim's August 2021 pick, 2 of 2

Are you living your best life? Is it the one that you were meant to live? If your regrets could be captured in a book, how thick would that volume be? And if you had the chance to start again, would you take it? These are questions posed in Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library.

     Haig tells the story of Nora Seed, who finds that her life has no purpose and that she is unneeded by anyone. Her answer is to end it all, which leads her, rather unexpectedly, to a visit to The Midnight Library, a room filled with all her life’s possibilities and the chance to get answers to the question “What if?” What if she had done this or what if she had done that? Would the outcome be any more satisfying than the way her life turned out? And, why exactly did her life turn out the way it did?

     Haig takes the reader on a journey that addresses those questions for both Nora and those of us in this life.  I highly recommend that you check out The Midnight Library. It will leave you thinking about life and asking questions of your own.

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Sunny Days: The Children's Television Revolution That Changed America By David Kamp Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501137815
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - May 18th, 2021

Jim's June 2021 pick, 1 of 3

Do not be thrown off by the cover photo of Big Bird and the title; Sunny Days is not just about Sesame Street, although it does have a prominent place in Kemp's book. This romp through the golden age of children's television from the late 1960s to the early 1980s is a delight from cover to cover. And sunny days they were.

     As I read about the evolution of Sesame StreetThe Electric Company, and my all-time favorite, Schoolhouse Rock, my mental record player was pumping out those groovy tunes that have become a staple to people of a certain age like me: "Conjunction Junction," "I'm Just a Bill," and, of course, "Three is a Magic Number." As with everything, the behind the scenes evolution of how these shows and songs became a reality is as entertaining as the shows themselves, with a little intrigue and a lot of good vibes. Jim Henson as a hippy wunderkind is a particularly curious image.

     Chase some clouds away and head to Sunny Days for a trip down memory lane and a peek into how television can really change the world for the better.

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Freedom By Sebastian Junger Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982153427
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - July 4th, 2023

Jim's June 2021 pick, 2 of 3

Junger's books are never long but are always packed with ideas that get the reader thinking. War and Tribe are two previous volumes that are worth spending time with. Freedom is an apt follow up. This time out, Junger tackles what it means to live freely. We Americans are proud to live in the "land of the free" yet rarely ponder on the extent of our freedom as we rely so much on gadgets to make sense of day-to-day existence. Mortgages and car payments further tie us down. It seems that our freedom is theoretical, at best.

      Walking the rails through Pennsylvania and Ohio with a bunch of buddies, Junger ruminates on the history of different peoples throughout time who lived truly free lives  compared to our modern understanding of that vital concept. It is a bit ironic that even the simple act of traveling by foot via rail "highways" is illegal, and Junger and company are vigilant not to be seen so as to avoid entanglement with the law. 

     Freedom will definitely give the reader something to ponder in this time of struggling with national identity.

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Brat: An '80s Story By Andrew McCarthy Cover Image
ISBN: 9781538754290
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grand Central Publishing - May 10th, 2022

Jim's May 2021 pick, 1 of 2

If you went to the movies regularly in the 1980s, you know Andrew McCarthy. He stole Molly Ringwald's heart in Pretty in Pink, was Jacquelyn Bisset's boy-toy in Class and a fresh Georgetown graduate in St. Elmo's Fire. See, you know Andrew McCarthy. His success on screen demonstrates his talent as an actor. What you may not know is that he is a pretty good writer, too, as is evident here in this memoir.

McCarthy writes of his childhood in New Jersey and his almost accidental entrance to the stage. He finds that stardom offers a lot of perks but also a lot of headaches. It's fun to read about the woes of fame, when, for most of us, it seems so enticing, and that stars who seem like nice people actually are, while others who come across as jerks aren't fooling anyone. McCarthy likes to name drop. One of his favorites is Robert Redford, although there are many more, some quite surprising. It even turns out that one of Gibson's Bookstore's employees met him during an audition. The world is such a small place.

Brat is an obvious reference to McCarthy's membership in the Brat Pack, a group that he has mixed thoughts about being a part of. What is undeniable, even for McCarthy, is that without his having been a part of that cadre of young actors, the doors that were opened for him would have probably remained shut. Celebrity is such an odd concept, as McCarthy knows all too well.

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Broken (in the best possible way) By Jenny Lawson Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250812483
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Holt Paperbacks - May 3rd, 2022

Jim's May 2021 pick 2 of 2

This is, by far, the most aptly titled book that I have ever come across. Jenny Lawson writes frequently about her many illnesses and debilities, both mental and physical, yet, as she explains how they impact her daily life, she is nothing short of a badass and the wisest person in the room, as if her frailties allow her to see what are the most important things in life more clearly. Certainly her husband, Victor, doesn't think so, but perhaps that is her super power: to see things like few others do. The rest of us either join in agreement or just shake our heads like Victor.

     Her observations are both profound and off-the-wall. Lawson is still as funny as she has ever been, but there is a slight mellowness, at times, to her musings. Be warned: her obsession with male and female genitalia has not waned one bit and may offend some readers, not those of us who are true Lawsonites (Lawsoners? Whatever, I just made that up, in either case). One of the elements of Broken that I love the most is Lawson's ability to pick pet names. Whether it's her dog (Dorothy Barker), her cat (Hunter S. Tomcat), or a stray owl (Owlexander Hamilton), her choices are spot on and further evidence of her innate wisdom.

     Pick up Broken because you need a good laugh or because you are a longtime fan or because you heard about Jenny Lawson and are curious or maybe because you, too, are broken in the best way possible. Let's face it, we are all broken in some way. Lawson let's us know that that is okay.

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The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, Volume 2) By Philip Pullman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553510706
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers - November 3rd, 2020

Jim's April 2021 pick

Philip Pullman continues to amaze me with his ever-evolving story of Lyra Silvertongue (nee Belaqua), the heroine of His Dark Materials and now The Book of Dust. In the former, she was an adolescent battling the forces of the evil Magisterium as she discovered her true identity. In the latter, Pullman added a time shift, starting the new trilogy with Lyra as an infant and follows her here as a twenty-year-old student. At the heart of both series is "dust," a mysterious particle feared by some, especially religious authorities, for its powers in human development.

    It is hard to sum up what these books are about since they cover so many complex themes, everything from sexual awareness to oppressive government authority. Pullman's books are considered YA titles, but the subject matter is much more adult than any children's book I have ever read before. The Secret Commonwealth is no exception. Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, a sort of physical conscience, have a falling out and separate, which is not something a person and daemon should be able to do. Pan heads off to find Lyra's imagination, which he worries has been lost, thus putting their bond at risk forever. Lyra joins in with some Oakley Street friends, a secret government agency, to continue the fight against the oppressive Magisterium, even while it hunts Lyra down, for reasons no one, not even us readers, know.

    Can you see why this is so hard to summarize? Even so, I know that once you open The Secret Commonwealth, you will be swept up into Pullman's world immediately. The storytelling is captivating, and the language is rich. The book is that good. Truly, Pullman is one of those author's whose every word I would track down to read. He is a master.

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Nala's World: One Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride around the Globe By Dean Nicholson, Garry Jenkins (With) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781538718797
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grand Central Publishing - September 28th, 2021

Jim's March 2021 pick, 1 of 2

 I am a dog person but could not resist this story of man and cat united during a round the world cycling trip. The very idea of a global bicycle tour is interesting enough. The romantic adventurer in me would have picked up the book simply for that, but the sight of Nala on the cover sealed the deal. I had to read this book.

     The rhythm of riding the mountain roads is replicated in each chapter with Dean riding easy then finding himself in some unforeseen dilemma. And what could be more unplanned than finding a stray kitten in the middle-of-nowhere Bosnia? The story that unfolds from that accidental introduction is captivating and fun, especially in these days of limited travel. 

     Dean and Nala's journey is a welcome diversion from worrying about scheduling vaccinations and social distancing, although the nascent pandemic does make an appearance. When you finish the book, you can always follow them on social media. They are quite an infectious pair.

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The Windsor Knot: A Novel (Her Majesty the Queen Investigates #1) By SJ Bennett Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063050013
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - February 8th, 2022

Jim's March 2021 pick, 2 of 2

A new sleuth is on the London scene. As if her royal duties weren't enough, Queen Elizabeth II has taken to solving crimes. Her advanced age has not dulled her wits one iota, and when a visiting Russian pianist "hangs" himself at the Palace, "Lilibet" smells  something foul. The Queens's new assistant, Rosie Oshodi, ably acts as the monarch's Watson, helping to track down the killer when all signs point to a self-inflicted demise.

     If you are an anglophile or just looking for a good mystery to sink into, this is a fun read. The Queen is definitely not someone to be trifled with or underestimated, which people tend to do, much to their dismay. Considering the scandals that rock the royal family presently, The Windsor Knot is a pleasant diversion. Let's hope Bennett has a sequel in mind. This queen is just getting started.

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D (a Tale of Two Worlds) By Michel Faber Cover Image
ISBN: 9781335916747
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Hanover Square Press - December 8th, 2020

Jim's February 2021 pick

Think about how much we rely on the letter "d." Quite a lot actually. Imagine your trusty "og" curling up by your "sie." Or a breakfast of ""buttere brea" and tea, while you "rea" the "aily newspaper. For the main character Dhikilo and her favorite teacher, Professor Dodderfield, life without the letter "d" is unthinkable. Yet, the unthinkable becomes real, and the professor sends Dhikilo, along with his pet Labrador/sphinx, Nelly Robinson, on a mission to keep the alphabet intact.

     Michel Faber has created a wonderfully playful concept here. Books that re-imagine our language are always worth a look, and D is definitely a book to set aside an afternoon or two for. I was reminded of the worlds created by L. Frank Baum and Roald Dahl as Dhikilo made her way through the land of Liminus to discover why the Ds were "isappearing." Along the way, she and Nelly cross paths with a variety of creatures: the dreadful Magwitches, the simple-minded Quilps, and the solemn Droods, all under the tyrannical control of the Gamp. Now, I must say that, for me, when I read "Gamp," I could not help but think of a recent President bent of eliminating a different "D" from our lives - democracy, but I digress.

     If you are looking for a diversion dripping with speculative delight, draw up the divan and dive into D without delay. Indubitably.

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The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X By Les Payne, Tamara Payne Cover Image
ISBN: 9781324091059
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Liveright - October 19th, 2021

Jim's January 2020 pick

 It's difficult when a hero is shown to be less than previously thought, but that is what the father-daughter team does here, reveal Malcolm X for he was, warts and all. Initially, this bothered me, but ultimately, I embraced that approach. After all, our heroes are human, and we humans have faults. In the end, I came to appreciate Malcolm X more than ever.

    In The Dead Are Arising, the authors strip away any artifice about Malcolm X, calling out the errors in The Autobiography of Malcolm X and identifying the omissions that were glossed over or outright forgotten.  The portrait of Malcolm drawn here from extensive interviews conducted over decades is a man who took on an anger against white people early on in his life and wielded it without remorse. The sections on the Nation of Islam are especially startling as it seemed, almost from his entrance into that organization, Malcolm X's intentions were questioned by Elijah Muhammad's advisors.

     We all want to think of ourselves as good people, omitting our less savory aspects to be discovered later or not at all. Malcolm X must have thought so when he and Alex Haley sat down to record The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In The Dead Are Arising, Les and Tamara Payne have discovered Malcolm the man, flesh and blood, angel and devil, and given the reader this gift.

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Shit, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema By Lindy West Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316449823
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hachette Books - October 20th, 2020

Jim's December 2020 pick

This is a book for our political times. Specifically, reading it is an exercise in facing an opposing viewpoint and not going berserk, much like what is needed in our country right now, a meeting of minds, a "reaching across the aisle." In this case, the aisle of a movie theater. Oh, that we could go to one.

     Lindy West has decisive feelings about what makes a great movie. I cannot say that I agree, especially when she holds as the acme of cinema The Fugitive, a good movie, yes, but not the best by far. I can say that her observations are rip-roaring funny, even when she sets her chainsaw humor on movies that I love. 

     I laughed my way through this book, which is the main reason why you should buy it. It is funny. At a time, when the public cannot go out to see a comedy, on a stage or on a screen, it is blessed relief to have a handful of gut busting chapters presented between the covers of a book to read from the comfort of home with no fear of contracting a deadly disease, which is what I wanted to happen to the author after she dissected one of my favorite movies, Love, Actually. She was wrong, misguided, and idiotic but funny. So damn funny. 

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The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War By John "Chick" Donohue, J. T. Molloy Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062995476
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - September 28th, 2021

Jim's November 2020 pick, 3 of 3

Think about what you would do for your good friends. Your neighborhood buds. The people you grew up with. If you are Chick Donohue, you'd hop on a merchant ship and head to Vietnam at the height of the war to bring them a beer and let them know that, despite the protests at home, there were still people who had your back. Seems like a perfect pitch for a movie, except it actually happened.

     TGBRE is one wild ride!  The audacity of the author left me in awe. Most soldiers were doing everything they could to get home, yet Donohue, urged on by the Colonel, the owner and bartender of a local watering hole, threw caution to wind to share a moment of brotherhood with his pals. Now that's friendship and something that I do not think could be repeated today! 

     There is a lot military jargon tossed around, but Donohue explains it easily to keep the reader from getting lost. At times, I was reminded of M*A*S*H* and at others Catch-22, with a bit of Apocalypse Now thrown in for good measure. An absolutely captivating yarn that had me shaking my head and laughing in disbelief at the same time.

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Squeeze Me: A novel By Carl Hiaasen Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525435280
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard - May 11th, 2021

Jim's November 2020 pick, 2 of 3

Hiaasen is at it again: telling tales about the ridiculousness and folly of life in Florida. This time, snakes, very large snakes, have invaded Palm Beach, the playground of the wealthy and home to the Winter White House. What could possibly go wrong? A lot and most of it is funny as hell.

     If you are a fan of Hiaasen's twisted tales, you know that there will be virtuous good guys and totally inept bad guys who get their due, but the highlight here are characters clearly modeled after the current POTUS and his First Lady (referred to in the book by their Secret Service code names,  Mastodon and Mockingbird, respectively). It is no secret what the author thinks of the First Couple, which is what makes Squeeze Me gleeful reading. 

     In addition to shredding any dignity afforded the Commander-in-Chief, Hiaasen holds the moneyed elite accountable for their unabashed greed. All this in a doozy of a story.  Every time I thought I knew where the author was taking me, he veered in a different direction, which was refreshing. 

     If you lean politically right, this may not be the book for you, but if all that matters is a riveting tale, squeeze some time in your day for Squeeze Me.

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Me: Elton John Official Autobiography By Elton John Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250770288
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - October 27th, 2020

Jim's November 2020 pick, 3 of 3

Considering how flamboyant Elton John's onstage persona is, one would think that this memoir would be over the top, but the former Reg Dwight does not flaunt his rock star status here. He is remarkably restrained and spins the multi-colored yarns that make up his life with an ease that belies someone who is comfortable in his own skin. This was not always the case, as Elton (sorry, Mr. John just seems too stuffy) chronicles being a late bloomer in more ways than one. Good, bad or indifferent, Elton holds nothing back.

     The fact that he became a rock star seemed almost inevitable yet even when stardom hit, Elton was more surprised than anyone. His natural musicianship found him rubbing elbows with the celebrities of the day, who recognized a musical giant even when he was just starting out.
     Anyone who has ever heard his music knows that Elton John's talent is inimitable and infectious, kind of like this memoir. And wait until you meet Sharon (you will have to read the book to find out more). Nudge-nudge, wink-wink!

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Punching the Air By Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062996497
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer + Bray - December 7th, 2021

Jim's October 2020 pick, 2 of 2

A fight has taken place among a group of young men about turf rights. Who belongs and who are the intruders? After the last punch is thrown, one person is in a coma and another is facing time in juvenile detention. It's seems pretty clear cut, except no one knows for sure who actually threw that final blow. Amal swears that he didn't do it, yet his hot temper incriminates him and the only one who can clear his name is unconscious.

     Zoboi and Salaam do a terrific job of capturing Amal's thoughts. Calm and self-aware one moment and all fiery fists the next. Amal knows that his belligerent attitude doesn't help his cause but, like most teens, he can't catch himself until it's too late. The poetry format the author's chose to right Amal's story moves the plot along at a brisk pace.  Salaam's own backstory as one of the Exonerated Five who spent years in prison for a crime they didn't commit gives this book an immediacy and verisimilitude. "Scared straight" is putting it mildly.

     While reading Punching the Air, I was reminded of The Hate U Give in that in both books the protagonist has to decide to take a path that may lead to hardship, while at the same time indecision holds its own torture. In the end, each character has got to be true to him/herself. This book made me wonder hard about whether or not our society does any good if we only focus on the punishment for the wrongs committed and not on the redemption of the person who committed them. 

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And in the End: The Last Days of The Beatles By Ken McNab Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250803733
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - February 22nd, 2022

Jim's October 2020 pick, 1 of 2

 I believe that the Beatles are the best rock band ever, so I was naturally drawn to this book. So much is written about how they came to together and then spent a half dozen years making sweet music that'll last forever. But what about the end and what tore them apart? There are rumors aplenty, and Ken McNab deals with them deftly in this book. There are good guys and bad guys in the drama of who exactly brought about the death of the Fab Four. As McNab tells it, the two good guys are Ringo and George, while the evildoers include Allen Klein, the biggie, but also Paul and John, themselves.

     It is quite clear that all four of them were musical brothers. Like most families, there comes a time when you just need to separate and learn to stand on your own. They were not good at the former and desperately needed the latter. The only way to discover their individual identities was to break the family up, which is sad. They were so close to finding a path that could would lead away from the group but also bring them back together. Unfortunately, "so close" was not good enough.

    And in the End is an engaging story of what happens when four lads were forced to grow up. As with most of us, it ain't entirely pretty, but it is fascinating nonetheless.

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Show Them You're Good: Four Boys and the Quest for College By Jeff Hobbs Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982116347
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - August 17th, 2021

Jim's September 2020 pick, 1 of 3

I do not know what drew me to this book, but drew me in it did and I am so glad. Hobbs chronicles the senior year of high school for two groups of teen boys, one from Beverly Hills High School and the other from Animo Pat Brown, a charter school in Compton, CA. The former live relatively comfortable lives in a city known for celebrity and privilege while the latter work hard and worry about ICE raids and their DACA status. For each senior, the intricacies of the college application process and the ensuing anticipation of acceptance weighs heavily.

     The tension of whether one will make it into his dream school or have to settle for a safety school at times makes Show Them You're Good an edge-of-your-seat mystery. So much rides on where they will go to college. The strength of the book is how Hobbs tells the stories of Tio, Carlos, Byron, Owen, Jon, and the rest. The book's plot, as it were, unfolds in a Dickensian manner, with richly drawn characters and situations. I kept forgetting that this is a work on non-fiction.

     Reading  Show Them You're Good took me back to my senior year of high school and that sense of being on the cusp of adulthood, of wanting to breach the gap into post-graduation and whatever was to follow, knowing that I was was marching into greatness, no matter which road I eventually took. That feeling was followed by the realization that, despite my cockiness and assured success, I knew nothing and life had a few more lessons up its sleeve. Hobbs captures that here for these boys, whom I now consider friends after having shared in their experiences. I miss them already.

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The City We Became: A Novel (The Great Cities #1) By N. K. Jemisin Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316509886
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - July 27th, 2021

Jim's September 2020 pick 2 of 3

New York has never been an easy city to deal with. It's expensive and crowded. There are language barriers and transportation woes. In The City We Became, NYC is still a headache, but that is because, in addition to everything else, aliens have invaded and are trying to take it over. Instead of being just a slab of geography, the city is embodied by five people, one for each borough, who need to find a sixth person representing the city as a whole. Only when they join together can the alien force be defeated. Considering how different each borough is, it will not be easy to pull off.

     This is not the type of book that I normally read, but because of its setting, I gave it a shot. I found it very interesting, especially because of the diversity of the characters and how Jemisin captured the essence of each borough so well. Staten Island, in particular, the overlooked borough, is drawn so well as a character exuding an attitude of hurt pride and smug superiority.

     The City We Became is a cool sci-fi read that had me turning the pages, hungry to find out what was going to happen next. And as I made my way through the book, kind of like traveling through the city itself, I was blown away at every turn. I will never be able to look at NYC the same way again

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How to Stop Time: A Novel By Matt Haig Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525522898
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - June 11th, 2019

Jim's September 2020 pick, 3 of 3

Tom Hazard is old. Very old. As old as dirt, as the saying goes. Over four hundred years old although he doesn't look more than in his early forties. That's a lot of living for anyone. Imagine not seeing the wrinkles and gray hair or balding set in. Tom can't help but notice the lack of change. Neither can those around him, and that's a problem. So, he is forced to move every eight years. The trouble is Tom is tired of moving and wants to settle down. Things go downhill from there.

     How to Stop Time is filled with intrigue. romance and history as Tom tells his story and breaks the one rule he has come to live by - don't fall in love. Haig keeps the reader involved with cameos of people like Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There is even the Albatross Society, a secret group of people like Tom who go to extreme lengths (even murder) to protect their identities from the Mayflies (regular humans), who may want to exploit their superhuman qualities.

     In the end, the message that Haig conveys is that if we spend our lives fearing the aging process, we'll miss out on a lot of what life has to offer. On offer here for the reader is a mighty fine tale for those who enjoy "what ifs " (What if a person didn't age?). I think that you will enjoy spending the time finding out. Cheers.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel By Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385341004
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - May 5th, 2009

Jim's July 2020 pick

Dear Reader,

     I am extremely happy to recommend to you The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The title alone was enough to whet my curiosity, and I hope that it draws you in, too. Then I saw the film adaptation on Netflix. Usually, I read then watch, as that is the natural order; however, I impulsively started the film one day and was hooked. I knew before it was over that I must read the book. The adage about a book being better than the film remains true - the movie is good; the book is magical.

     The story takes place in England the year after WWII ended and focuses on Juliet Ashton, a relatively new writer looking for a topic for her next book. An unexpected letter from a man on the Isle of Guernsey seeking a biography of Charles Lamb gets the action rolling. What follows is charming, funny, tragic, and joyful, to put it mildly. Juliet soon finds herself on a journey to the eponymous Channel Island where her life changes forever.

     As I read, the cast of characters swept me up and took me away from all COVID woes. As is a mark of a good book, I now consider these people my friends, Dawsey Adams, Mrs. Maugery, Isola Pribby, Eben Ramsey, and the other members of the Society. It is a literary group, mind you, so as well as being a fantastic tale of recovery from war and German occupation (yes, the Germans actually occupied the island for five years - amazing!), it is also about the power of books and reading. As soon as you put this review down, grab a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. You will not regret it.

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Kent State By Deborah Wiles Cover Image
ISBN: 9781338356281
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scholastic Press - April 21st, 2020

im's June 2020 pick, 1 of 3

Wiles has previously tackled the 1960s in her books CountdownRevolution, and Anthem, all of which are fantastic and worth your time. I wondered what her follow-up would be and did not have to wait long.

Kent State is about the four days that led to the murder of four college students and the wounding of nine others during an antiwar protest on the campus of Kent State University. Rather than unravel the complexities of those days in a straight prose story like her other books, Wiles lets the people who were there speak for themselves in stark dialog, almost like free verse poetry. There are the student protestors, both black and white, there are the townies, and the National Guard. Each has a turn to tell their side of the events. Each has a separate font and placement on the page.

A particularly effective bit here is that Wiles invites the reader into the book as a participant. As the characters reveal why they are gathered, the reader is welcomed to listen and decide for himself what actually took place.

All of this creates a very theatrical presentation. I can easily see this being performed as a play.

In the end, Wiles connects the actions from fifty years ago to the events of today. A masterful stroke. Kent State is a quick read, partly due to its brevity but also because the details of those four days in May 1970 draw you in so completely. I could not put this down. You won't either.

Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking By Bill Buford Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307455802
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - March 30th, 2021

Jim's June 2020 pick, 2 of 3

This is a great book to read now, during the summer, when farm stands are teeming with fresh veggies recently plucked from the ground. Why, you might ask? In time, my friend. Some things cannot be rushed.

Buford is a writer who likes food and likes to write about it (see his previously published book Heat). This leads him to Lyon, France where he wants to learn how to cook like a French chef. Acclimating to his new home, with his wife and twin three-year-old sons, is not easy. A new language to learn and new pace and cultural norms to adapt to - not to mention finding a chef who would take him seriously and allow Buford into his kitchen. In France, especially, every aspect of food is taken seriously. There is a process to adhere to, a rigeur, and here comes this big, older American trying to push his way around traditions honed over centuries. Sacre bleu!

Needless to say, Buford does find a place to learn and realizes very quickly that everything he thought he knew about cooking is hardly adequate for his new situation.

Buford does a terrific job of expressing his confusion and, at times, frustration dealing with his new surroundings. Over time he comes to appreciate the fussiness of his fellow townspeople and coworkers. He finds that here is a method to their apparent madness. Or is he the madman?

Ultimately, Buford learns that a place is defined by its food and its food is defined by the literal land that it comes from, which leads me back to my opening statement. Read the book now, in the summer, then go out to your local farm stand to pick up some fruits de la terre du New Hampshire. You will not be disappointed.

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The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby By Charles Dickens, Mark Ford (Introduction by), Mark Ford (Notes by) Cover Image
By Charles Dickens, Mark Ford (Introduction by), Mark Ford (Notes by)
ISBN: 9780140435122
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Classics - November 1st, 1999

Jim's June 2020 pick, 3 of 3

I have long considered Charles Dickens to be my favorite dead author. Since entering COVID-19 lockdown, and finding that I had plenty of time on my hands, I decided to read one of Dickens' novels that I have been intending to tackle for quite some time. Hence, this review.

In short, I loved this book and was very sorry that it did not go on longer. The story of Nicholas, his sister, Kate, and their mother is full of twists and turns, as they make their way from the English countryside to bustling London after the death of Mr. Nickleby, the patriarch of the family. Dickens regularly used his books to shed a light on the social issues of the times. He does so powerfully here. The book deals with, among other things, the wretched conditions of Yorkshire schools and the societal expectations of young women, the helplessness of younger women versus the power older women have because of years of worldly knowledge and influence over men. That aspect of the novel is fascinating considering that the book was published in 1838.

If you have a little time on your hands, this is a wonderful story to take you to a different time and place, written in a language that is rich in detail, so much like our own yet so different.

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope By Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525564171
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - September 1st, 2020

Jim's March 2020 pick, 1 of 3

Many people will want to write this book off as left-wing hyperbole, but this is nothing short of an indictment of the American way of life.

    I was awakened to the sham that is America when I read the book American Dialogue by Joseph Ellis, a noted scholar of the founding fathers. He pointed out that our early leaders knew that capitalism would never tolerate equality among its citizens. Kristof and WuDunn further illuminate the inequities faced by the average American. They do this initially by revisiting their hometown of Yamhill, Oregon and exploring the lives of childhood friends, all from the same family, many of whom are now dead.

    This book tore at my heart repeatedly with stories of how too many lives are cut short due to the inadequacies of our health and justice systems. The research is extensive. The implications are daunting. The consequences are crippling. If I could, I would send a copy of it to every person running for public office, so that they could have a better idea of what most Americans are up against. Give yourself some time to read this as you will not want to put it down.

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Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning By Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316453691
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - March 10th, 2020

Jim's March 2020 pick, 2 of 3

The authors contend that this is not a history book, but this "not a history book" sure as heckfire contains a lot of history. In fact, this is a history book with attitude. The authors look at where racism came from in our country of  all-men-being-created-equal fame. In case you have missed the headlines, that's a lie and always has been. Reynolds and Kendi point it out in detail.

    I would categorize Stamped as a hip-hop history book, with regular reflections offered by the authors about the facts they lay down. I was often reminded of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as I read. Reynolds and Kendi explain racism from a Black person's perspective, much like Wounded Knee is American history from a Native American viewpoint. The victors don't get to write this version of how it went down.

     This is a highly engaging history/not history book, and although it is written for young adults, older folks will like it as well. A fast, fascinating look at how America came to be comfortable with its racism while at the same time professing to be post-racist. I mean, we've had a Black President, haven't we? Yeah, right!

Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker By Barry Sonnenfeld Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316415620
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hachette Books - September 14th, 2021

Jim's March 2020 pick, 3 of 3

I have been reading a lot of heavy duty social history lately, so I needed something to cleanse the palette; Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother hit the spot just right. Candid, engrossing, and at times, just plain gross, Sonnenfeld offers the reader an honest look at his life, from his childhood in Washington Heights to his days as a cinematographer then director in Hollywood to his life in tony Easthampton. Throughout, he is hilarious, especially when writing about his parents. They are a hoot and deserve a book of their own.

    If you are looking for something completely different (no, not those guys), look no further than Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother. You will walk away tired (from laughing so much) and a bit queasy (from the pornography section - I told you that there are gross parts). But, you will also learn a lot about movie-making.

    Sit back and enjoy the weirdness that is Barry Sonnenfeld.

The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power By Desmond Cole Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385686365
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor Canada - August 2nd, 2022

im's February 2020 pick

We are used to thinking of our neighbor to the north as friendly and courteous. Canada is known for its hospitality to the point that some Americans get a little resentful about it. Rest at ease, my fellow Americans, the Canucks are just as nasty and racist as we are.

    Desmond Cole, a noted Canadian journalist, chronicles a year's worth of injustices perpetrated by those red-coated Mounties against people of color, both of African and native descent. Arrest, or at least, harassment is assured if you are north of the border and LWB (living while Black).

    The Skin We're In is an alarming look into the dark heart of the Canadian justice system. Cole writes with urgency about the horrific events happening around him. As a person of color, he has often been swept up in the turmoil that he writes about, adding more of a personal perspective to the atrocities. This is recommended reading for anyone upset by social injustice. A worthy addition to the growing BLM library.

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Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle (The Country Nurse Series, Book One) By Mary J. MacLeod, Claire Macdonald (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Mary J. MacLeod, Claire Macdonald (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781628725124
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Arcade - May 5th, 2015

Jim's January 2020 pick, 1 of 2

This is, by far, one of the best books I have read in a long time. My praise comes from its simplicity. A woman and her family move to an island in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland, where she takes a position as a nurse. Nothing complicated there, right? Yes, and no. After all, the nurse is dealing with people, and the human race is anything but predicable, except in its unpredictability. She found that out in buckets.

     Macleod spins yarns of her daily comings-and-goings. Her tales are episodic, with island locals popping up here and there, as well as the odd off-islander. The mundane is mixed with the extraordinary, and in some cases, the horrific, things that I never expected in such a bucolic setting. Neither did MacLeod, which amplifies the gruesome nature of the deeds.

    Take a step into a world much unlike our own. A slower pace, fewer distractions, a simpler life. The only thing that I was happy about when I finished Call the Nurse is that there is a sequel. Bon voyage, to you, my friends, on your journey to the faraway island of Papavray (made-up name to protect the locals, so don't look for it on a map). You will be charmed.

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Disney's Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World By Richard Snow Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501190810
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - December 1st, 2020

Jim's January 2020 pick, 2 of 2

If you have ever been to a Disney property, you will undoubtedly have noticed how meticulously detailed everything is. The artwork, the foliage, every last detail ornate and specific, nothing left to chance. That is not mere happenstance. Disney's Land chronicles the creation of the OG Disney park and how all that precision came about.

     Disneyland opened in 1955 but its origins, the light bulb moments that led to its creation, go back to the early decades of the 20th century and the days of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The slow evolution of Disney's land is mirrored in Stone's careful construction of the book. No quick or short cuts, the author puts each piece together with a craftsman's sense of perfection. Prominent to the park is the train that circles the property. Disney's lifelong interest in trains helped to make that a reality. Disneyland is actually Disney's land in one real sense, as it is the only park, of all the global Disney properties, that the man himself had a boots-on-the-ground hand in creating.

     Disney's Land is the history of a piece of American pop culture that is unequaled. Just ask anyone who has ever been there. Or anyone who has ever won a World Series or Super Bowl. They may say that they are going to Disney World, but that would not be possible without the original, Disneyland, an American treasure, lovingly chronicled in these pages.

Marley: A Novel By Jon Clinch Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982129712
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Washington Square Press - November 3rd, 2020

Jim's January 2020 pick, 1 of 2

"Marley was dead, to begin with." So begins the novel that introduced Jacob Marley to the world, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Rest assured, Marley is alive and well in this novel. Clinch's book is an expansion of Dickens' story and reveals how Marley met and became the Ebenezer Scrooge's partner. Marley appears in A Christmas Carol wrapped in chains, and the cover of this novel also shows chains, but they are not the same ones. There are nefarious reasons why Marley suffers his fate, all of them quite alarming.

     Clinch does a wonderful job of recreating early nineteenth century England. He comes close to mirroring Dickens' writing style, too, which is no easy feat.

     If you are a fan of Dickens and A Christmas Carol, you will definitely enjoy Marley. It is not a Christmas story, so do not be put off by the association with that holiday classic. This one stands on its own. Enjoy.

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North Korea Journal By Michael Palin Cover Image
Likely available, but must be ordered by email/phone
ISBN: 9780735279827
Published: Random House Canada - November 5th, 2019

Jim's January 2020 pick, 2 of 2

If you were lucky enough to have seen and/or read any of Palin's other travelogs, you will know what to expect here. From the trip's inception through to its end, the author spoons out observations about his tour of the country. Known for his cheekiness, Palin is nonetheless serious about his task of conveying the sights and sounds of this mostly forbidden place. He cannot help but make humorous asides, though, since North Korean society seems to be trapped in a time warp; the differences between North and South, Communist and free states, are so jarring that they elicit bemusement.

    I happened to listen to this as an audio book from Libro.fm. Palin's warm voice was inviting and welcome. North Korean Journal is a pleasant way to spend a few hours of your day.

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Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption By Bryan Stevenson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812984965
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - August 18th, 2015

Jim's December 2019 pick, 2 of 2

I have been interested in reading this book for a while, and with the release of a film version imminent, knew that I the time was right. To be honest, I am curious to see how the filmmakers will translate this to the big screen; there is a lot to take in. I don't think that it's all going to make it, which is all the more reason why you should read Just Mercy, to get the full story, not a shaved down version of it.

    Stevenson writes mostly about Walter McMillian, a man unjustly accused of a murder he could not possibly have commited. That story is woven throughout the text but among many others. There are the tales of teenagers tried as adults, others about women wrongly incarcerated, and more still about people with mental disabilities behind bars after their disorders were ignored by judges and inept lawyers. The whole notion of a citizen of the United States being entitled to a fair trial is thrown out the window here, as is the belief that among our rights are those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A snowjob, if ever there were any.

    Stevenson raises important issues and has plenty of examples of how our justice system is rigged against the common man, especially when that man is black and poor. In the course of his work helping those who cannot help themselves, Steveson realizes that "We're supposed to sentence people fairly after fully considering their life circumstances, but instead we exploit the inability of the poor to get the legal assistance they need - all so we can kill them with less resistance." This book makes me want to resist - hard. Join me.

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Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family By Mitch Albom Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062952394
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - November 5th, 2019

Jim's December 2019 pick, 1 of 2

Finding Chika is Albom's most personal book to date. It is a companion piece to, if not an outright soulmate of, Tuesdays with Morrie, if books can be such. Morrie even makes a brief appearance. Rather than five people you meet in Heaven, Morrie and Chika are two people Albom has met on Earth, both of whom have changed his life to its foundation. One, a mentor/father figure, the other a child. Part of the subtitle reads " the making of a family, " and this is exactly that, the creation of a family born from his efforts to help an orphan receive the medical care she so desperately needs. If you had ever wondered if Morrie's influence on Mitch endured, look no further than Finding Chika.

    Albom borrows the format of Morrie, too, alternating chapters between the past and the present, and as in Morrie, identifies and elaborates life lessons, this time, taught by a little girl, joyous in her approach to life despite being so close to death.

    You will laugh. You will cry - a lot. As a parent, I connected completely to this book and Albom's instinct to help a sick kid. He also opens up about his beliefs, raising the "touchy-feely" factor sky high. Many people are put off by the spirituality in his works, but I find it comforting. It is what touches me the most.  I was a big fan of the author before, but after reading Finding Chika, I am more so now than ever. This is a book that will speak to your soul.

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Home Now: How 6000 Refugees Transformed an American Town By Cynthia Anderson Cover Image
ISBN: 9781541767911
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: PublicAffairs - October 29th, 2019

Jim's November 2019 pick, 1 of 2

I knew, almost as soon as I started reading this book, that it was going to be good. My spidey-sense served me well. Anderson's book takes the reader to Lewiston, Maine and tells of the struggles by Somali refugees to create and native Mainers to maintain "home." The former take what they have and move forward, while the latter lament what they have lost and dwell on the past. That dichotomy creates a tension that sometimes erupts in protest but always is fed by misunderstanding.

     Anderson treats both sides fairly and shares the wants and dreams of all with an even hand, though it is obvious that her heart is with the new Americans. Home Now is the story of people who want to feel safe and grounded. Isn't that what we all want? Anderson shows what a true "melting pot" can be. Her words give me hope for the future.

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The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life: A Library of America Special Publication By Andrew Blauner (Editor) Cover Image
By Andrew Blauner (Editor)
Likely available, but must be ordered by email/phone
ISBN: 9781598536164
Published: Library of America - October 22nd, 2019

Jim's November 2019 pick, 2 of 2

If you remember that happiness is a warm puppy, or use a "wah-wah-wah" voice to mimic an adult speaking, or know what a kite-eating tree is, or a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, for that matter, this book is for you. I grew up with the Peanuts gang. Needless to say, I took to this book like Linus to his blanket.
     The Peanuts Papers made me realize just how much Charles Schulz's comic strip kids influenced me (optimistic Charlie Brown = me). And, I never considered just how "deep" the Peanuts strips are, but the authors demonstrate the varied intellectual characteristics of Schulz's work time and again. Some essays, however, are bit too academic for my tastes. I thought that I was reading about a bunch of little kids and a beagle - silly me. The essays here also made me sad for the children of today who know Peanuts only from advertisements or the giant Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Snoopy balloon. Perhaps that explains why our society is in its current state. I don't know, but I am sure that if you are a fan of Charles Schulz and Peanuts, you will love this book.

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The Book of Dust:  La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) By Philip Pullman Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553510744
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers - June 4th, 2019

Jim's October 2019 pick

His Dark Materials is Pullman's first trilogy about young Lyra Belacqua and her adventures in the North. La Belle Sauvage is the first book in Pullman's new trilogy, still with Lyra but, at least in the case of this book, as a vital but secondary character. Here, eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead is cast as Lyra's protector, from a devastating flood and men who want to kill her to stop a prophecy from becoming true.

    From the start, Pullman keeps the tension high. The action sequences are  thrilling to read. "Pulse-pounding" is an understatement. The abusive power of the church is still a focus of Pullman's storytelling and continues to leave me incredulous that these stories are meant for teens. This is pretty heady stuff.

    If you are a fan of Philip Pullman, be prepared to be dazzled. If you are new to Lyra and her world, you will be amazed. This is a story, a series, not be missed.

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Anthem (The Sixties Trilogy #3) By Deborah Wiles Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545106092
Availability: Backordered
Published: Scholastic Press - October 1st, 2019

im's September 2019, 2 of 2

It is 1969 and the living is not easy. The Vietnam War rages on. People are protesting in the streets. Racial strife continues to plague the country. Driving the rhythm of life is the music, music, music of the times, everything from folk to rock, from the Beatles to an up-and-coming band called the Allman Brothers. Of course, the music is all Norman cares about as he sets off cross country with his cousin Molly to find her brother, who has run away from home rather than live under the same roof as his right-wing father.

    Anthem is the final book in Wiles' Sixties trilogy. She has a keen eye for recreating the feel of the time and through Molly's eyes captures the complexities of a nation in transition. I especially loved that characters from the first two books in the series appear to play a part in the cousin's cross-country odyssey. Wiles intersperses segments of news photography throughout the story to give the reader a sense of the reality the characters were living in. It is what drew me to the series in the first place and it is firmly in place here. I enjoyed this book from page one and was sad to see it end.

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Born to Run By Bruce Springsteen Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501141522
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - September 5th, 2017

im's September 2019 pick, 1 of 2

The main reason that you should read this memoir is that it is written about the Boss by the Boss. All the interviews and research in the world cannot reveal what a person is really like on the inside. Here there is no middle man to pretty things up. Born to Run captures Springsteen raw, the good and the bad. At times he presents himself as an ordinary person simply trying to make it in the world like everybody else. Later, he's a concerned citizen commenting on the injustices around him. Then, he's a proud papa gushing about his burgeoning family.  The big reveal is that, for most of his adult life, he was haunted by depression, which led him to struggle with personal relationships. Through it all, every step of the way, Springsteen is a man driven to by music. It is his way of making sense of the world.
    Springsteen is not always a great writer; there are a few instances of leaden prose. However, there are moments when it seems like he is penning an extended lyric for a monster song. Beautiful visual references that made me stop reading and appreciate his skill as a songwriter. He is the Boss, after all. B-r-u-u-u-u-c-e is an American icon. These are his words, and they are worth your time. Saddle up, my friends.

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Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War By Linda Hervieux Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062313805
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Paperbacks - November 1st, 2016

Jim's August 2019 pick, 1 of 5

  The opening scene of the film Saving Private Ryan is one of the most powerful in cinema yet lacks one thing - anyone of color. I do not think that Steven Spielberg was making a statement that there were no soldiers of color involved on that day. Growing up, all I ever saw on the silver screen were armies of white soldiers fighting Hitler and the Nazis; however, Linda Hervieux demonstrates in Forgotten that this was pure Hollywood whitewashing of history. Soldiers of color not only stormed the beaches of Normandy, but they also had a particularly tough job to do - deploy and maintain barrage balloons.

     I had always wondered what those mini-blimps were. This books explains their use as a military weapon and gives a concise history of ballooning as well. As the subtitle indicates, Hervieux also explores the use of black troops throughout American history but focuses mainly on a handful of men who fought in the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion during WWII.

     The book as a whole is fascinating. The author can be a little redundant, especially when explaining some Jim Crow practices here in the states, but overall, her chronicles of the men of the 320th glued me to the page. Herviweux makes the exploits of these brave men, who cared more for their country than it cared for them, come alive with rich details of their lives on the battlefields both in Europe and here at home. Most surprising is the treatment the men receive in England while training for D-Day. Let's just say that the Brits had a lot to teach us back then. 

     Forgotten is a worthy look at a facet of American history that has largely been left in the dust heap of time.

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Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel #4) By Robert Galbraith Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316422772
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mulholland Books - June 11th, 2019

Jim's August 2019 pick, 2 of 5

Cormoran Strike is back! In their fourth outing Strike and his partner Robin are on the trail of crooked politicians. In the course of their investigations, they come across a rumor of a child being strangled and buried in a ditch decades ago. An hallucination of a deranged mental patient or an unfortunate memory that won't go away? Strike and Robin have their hands full.

    What has always made this series stand out is the author's attention to detail and character development. Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) has a keen eye for the minute and the writing is rich. My favorite new character, Barclay, is a Scot, and his dialog is written with his accent intact - fun! Most interesting of all is the way the main players have changed over time. Galbraith generously allows Strike's and Robin's stories to take the focus away from the mystery at hand. Of course, their relationship is one that we fans have been eager to see mature beyond their initial state (nudge-nudge, wink-wink).

    I was waiting for this book for a while and savored every page, knowing that it will be some time before the next adventure. I hope the wait won't be too long. As for you, dear reader, dive in and enjoy!

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Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir By Ruth Reichl Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812982381
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - May 5th, 2020

Jim's August 2019 pick, 3 of 5

I am new to Ruth Reichl. I have always known that at some point her work and I would cross paths. I just wasn't sure when. At last, the inevitable has happened, and I am so glad that it finally did.

     Save Me the Plums is her memoir of her time as the managing editor of Gourmet magazine. Her stories of wining, dining, and traveling the world held me in thrall from the start, mostly because I listened to this as an audiobook (from libro.fm-check it out, seriously, you will not be disappointed), and Reichl's narration is warm and welcoming. I felt like I was sitting down with a good friend sharing her latest exploits as we sipped cups of coffee. This book also made me want to go out and scoop up a copy of Gourmet, which, of course, I cannot since it is no longer published. Sadly, this is chronicled in the book.

     The world that Reichl writes about (limos, rubbing elbows with the hottest chefs, having a wardrobe budget) is way out of reach for most people. but when Reichl writes about food, she does so in a way that is accessible, not fussy. She has an attitude of semi-incredulity, as if she cannot believe that her job is to taste and to tell people about such delicacies, almost as if she doesn't deserve it. Her magazine may no longer be published, but her books still are, something for which we should all be thankful. Dig in, friends!

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What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?: Trump's War on Civil Rights By Juan Williams Cover Image
Likely available, but must be ordered by email/phone
ISBN: 9781541788268
Published: PublicAffairs - September 25th, 2018

Jim's August 2019 pick, 4 of 5

 It is no secret that our current Commander-in-Chief, bone spurs and all, has been called a lot of things, among them "racist." The title is a quote from candidate Trump, enlightening people of color that they should vote for him because he's just as good as any other candidate. What have they got to lose? In the book, Williams answers the question by examining the work of six people who have helped African Americans make advances in voting rights, education, housing, freedom of speech, public accommodations, and employment. By the time he is finished, Williams has spelled out clearly that African Americans, and society in general, have a lot to lose and have suffered social setbacks since Trump's inauguration.

    Williams opens and ends the book examining Trump's background in real estate, recalling Trump's father's practices of refusing to rent to blacks and "the Don's" adopting of the same illegal ways. Rather than rant, which he easily could do, Williams uses facts, a lot of them, to support his observations. The stories of struggles and social successes should be enough for anyone to see that America had a lot at stake before Trump entered the Oval Office and unfortunately are watching civil rights dissolve with each passing day. Williams has hit the nail on the head with this one.

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The Hate U Give: A Printz Honor Winner By Angie Thomas, Amandla Stenberg (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Angie Thomas, Amandla Stenberg (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780062498533
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer + Bray - February 28th, 2017

Jim's August 2019 pick, 5 of 5

This is the OG "Black Lives Matter" book. The one that practically started a whole new genre in young adult literature. The thing is that this is a book for young and not-so-young adults. It's subject is for everyone to know and understand because it is about some of the complex issues of our times. The main character, Starr Carter, watches as her close friend Khalil is killed by a police officer who had pulled them over as they were on their way home from a party. Did he have a gun in his hand or something else? That's the set up for the story, but there is so much more here about societal norms: what to do if you are black and the cops pull you over, the effects of white privilege, and the cliche that most young black males from inner cities are drug dealers (chapter 10 has got to be read more than once), among others. Then there are the issues of personal and familial identity and what is important enough for one to take a stand against.

    Thomas does an outstanding job of bringing so much together here. Particularly effective are the times when she lets Starr's thoughts carry the weight of the moment, revealing the teen's struggle between doing what is safe and doing what is true to oneself. Starr attends a private high school of which the student body is mostly white and wealthy. Her daily emotional dance between the haves at school and the have-nots of her neighborhood is raw and real. Not only is this a good story, but it could open the eyes of folks who do not fully comprehend the reality that many people of color live. I cannot recommend this book enough.

The Nickel Boys: A Novel By Colson Whitehead Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345804341
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - June 30th, 2020

Jim's July 2019 pick

 In some ways, this is a horror story. Nickel Academy is a reform school in Florida from which few, if any, ever graduate. The gruesome goings-on at Nickel are related through the story of two boys, Elwood Curtis, a naive high school senior sent away on trumped up charges of car theft, and Jack Turner, a cynical boy who has been there for awhile. Elwood believes that hope is essential to living, while Turner has seen too much to trust anyone and to expect only the worst. Their guilt or innocence is of no matter; that they are a young black men in the South in the 1960s is the only thing that does.

    Whitehead's prose is straightforward, allowing the details to speak for themselves. His matter-of-fact style makes the sinister practices of the Academy all the more striking. Whitehead modeled Nickel after a real Florida reform school, which is both shocking and no surprise at all, in our "land of the free and home of the brave," in which "all men are created equal."

     The Nickel Boys is a startling peek into the darkness lying beneath humanity's righteousness. Appearances are meant to deceive and the truth lies below the surface.

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An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago By Alex Kotlowitz Cover Image
Likely available, but must be ordered by email/phone
ISBN: 9780804170918
Published: Anchor - March 31st, 2020

Jim's June 2019 pick

America is heralded as "the land of the free and the home of the brave," yet anyone who has a pulse can easily see that that ideal is largely a sham. Alex Kotlowitz shows this time and again in An American Summer. Chicago in 2013 is a city of extremes: rich and poor, North Side and South Side. The poor are not free, especially if one is poor and black. Not only are there the shackles of economic limitations that leave one with few alternatives than to turn to petty crime, but there is also the constant fear of violence and the possibility of being shot even if one does try to rise above. Added to these is the knowledge of the citizens of the South Side that for outsiders, the victims got what they deserved, that they brought it on themselves, while those living within are aware that more than anything, they are victims of a system that counts them out before they have had a chance to prove themselves.
    Kotlowitz brings these messages home in stories of people who are truly brave for facing each day with even a grain of hope. An American Summer left me wondering if our identities are bound by the worst thing that we have ever done? If so, then we are all guilty of some maliciousness and have no right to point fingers. These stories reveal that often our most vile actions are born out of frustration and anger. It would be easy to say that one always can make the choice not to turn to crime, to drugs, to anger; I ask you simply to walk a mile in the shoes of the souls of South Side Chicago before deciding once and for all.

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What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays By Damon Young Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062684318
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - January 14th, 2020

A lot of WDKYMYB is the author telling stories about growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, hanging out with friends, maneuvering through school, and playing lots of sports. There are laugh-out-loud observations about adolescence and the awkwardness of an ever-changing body, something I could readily identify with. But underlying the relative ordinariness of life is that his life is lived in black skin, which brings a layer of complexity to every situation. Young elucidates the differences between "n**ger" and "n**ga, which should make it clear to anyone who has every wondered "But why do they call each other...?" He explains with humor and dead-eye seriousness a "down white boy" versus a "woke white boy." There is also a dissection of the effects of "white privilege."

     What I most enjoyed about WDKYMYB, is that, whatever the topic, Young sees the absurdity of it brought on by people trying to rationalize their own choices. We're all screwed-up, some of us more than others.

      WDKYMYB is an eye-opening, thought-provoking memoir that is bound to create conversations, with yourself, if with no one else.

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American Dialogue: The Founders and Us By Joseph J. Ellis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804172479
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - November 26th, 2019

Jim's March 2019 pick, 1 of 2

Let me say emphatically: this book is both enlightening and infuriating. Ellis examines several aspects of our current society and looks back at how various founding fathers first dealt with them. Topics include race, equality,  law, and leadership. What Ellis points out through the words of Adams, Jefferson, Washington, and Madison is that America was founded by normal men, full of faults and uncertainty, not quasi-shaman who knew that every decision they made was to be enshrined for posterity. Yet, most Americans view these statesman as the latter, not to be questioned.

    So, what's the big deal? Well, according to Ellis, just about everything that Americans consider to be hallmarks of what it means to be an American turns out to be a sham. The most maddening part is that not only did the founding fathers know it from the start, but that those in power have been perpetuating the deceit ever since.  Black Lives Matter origins, here. Birth of the "one percenters," here, too. Needless to say, I've been "woke."

     You will have to read the book if you want more details but will not be sorry that you did. Have a stress ball handy when you do, though.  You've been warned.

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SHOUT By Laurie Halse Anderson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780142422205
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - March 10th, 2020

Jim's March 2019 pick, 2 of 2

Ms. Anderson, Laurie,

has written a memoir

chronicling her life.

In her youth, she hated


yet, that became her strength,

capturing the thoughts and experiences

of teenage girls suffering

from life's impressions of them

as lesser than,

not good enough,

property to be handled

no permission needed.

She writes of her breakout novel


about the rape of a fourteen year old girl,

based on her own nightmare

that haunts her to this day.

Anderson's SHOUT,

and those of too many other victims

both male and female,

must be heard by everyone

if we are to save our children

and ourselves.

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The Martin Chronicles By John Fried Cover Image
Likely available, but must be ordered by email/phone
ISBN: 9781538729847
Published: Grand Central Publishing - January 7th, 2020

Jim's February 2019 pick

This is a charming book. At first, I wasn't sure if it were meant for young adults or just regular adults, although I am not sure if there is such a thing as "regular adults." My hesitancy stems from the protagonist, Martin Kelso, who is eleven at the start of the novel and a high school senior at the end. In between, Fried reels out vignettes of Martin's life, as the titular character slowly transforms from a kid to an almost-adult. A lot of what Martin experiences, I easily identified with - first kiss, hashing out life's intricacies with a small group of close friends, high school hi-jinks. In some ways, I felt like I was reading about my own past in a pleasant, reassuring way, often catching myself thinking, Oh, yeah, I remember that. I guess, then, that the martin chronicles is meant for adults looking to reminisce or for young adults searching for a little self-reflection.  In either case, Fried superbly captures the quirky journey of being a teenager in this affectionate ode to growing up.

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Dear Evan Hansen: THE NOVEL By Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316420235
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Poppy - October 9th, 2018

Jim's January 2019 pick

This book did not turn out the way I expected. I thought that this was going to be a book about discovering one's identity, as in coming out of the closet. Instead, Dear Evan Hansen is about the power of lies and the consequences of not speaking up to quell them. And, what if the lies actually lead to some good? Does that make it okay to sustain the lies and perpetuate them further?

     The answers are for both Evan and the reader to figure out and will be the deciding factor whether Evan is seen as a hero or a villain. I've made up my mind. You'll have to tell me what you think.

     The story, adapted from the Broadway musical, is captivating from the start and had me eagerly coming back to find out what Evan's fate would be and if he could finally manage to get out of his own way.