Jim Gocha

About Jim: 

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

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Home Now: How 6000 Refugees Transformed an American Town Cover Image
ISBN: 9781541767911
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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 Cover Image
By Andrew Blauner (Editor)
ISBN: 9781598536164
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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) 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) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545106092
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scholastic Press - October 1st, 2019

Jim'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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501141522
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - September 5th, 2017

Jim'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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062313805
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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) 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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9781400069996
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - April 2nd, 2019

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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9781541788268
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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 Cover Image
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.

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The Nickel Boys: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385537070
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - July 16th, 2019

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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385538800
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Nan A. Talese - March 5th, 2019

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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062684301
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ecco - March 26th, 2019

  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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385353427
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - October 16th, 2018

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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780670012107
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - March 12th, 2019

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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9781538729830
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - January 8th, 2019

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 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316420235
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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.

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Friday Black Cover Image
ISBN: 9781328911247
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - October 23rd, 2018

Jim's December 2018 pick, 1 of 2

  The last time I was gut-punched this thoroughly by a book, I was reading J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. There was so much heat in those pages, I almost had to wear gloves. With Friday Black, I think my fingerprints burned off completely.     Adjei-Brenyah's collection of stories brims with anger and frustration aimed at a society refusing to admit its own destructive attitudes toward race and immune to their consequences. The stories range from heartbreaking to horrific. At the end of each, I wondered what nightmarish landscape was he taking me to next. I was not disappointed. Neither will you. Grab it now.

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Someone Like Me Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316477420
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Orbit - November 6th, 2018

Jim's December 2018 pick, 2 of 2

I was all set to not like this book once I started it. I was expecting something along the lines of Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts and the sequel, The Boy on the Bridge. This was soooo different. Dual personalities inhabiting one body? Not split personalities like Sybil, but two distinct people living in one person. Liz, trying to survive her abusive husband, Marc, and Beth, simply trying to survive total obliteration from existence after having been killed by her abusive husband, also named Marc. The two women can't live as one, so who wins? Complicating this, as if it could get more complex, is Fran, a teenage girl who has the ability to sense both Liz and Beth.     It comes across as a bit ridiculous, but, as I read on, I found myself completely engrossed in the serpentine plot. Carey had me on the edge of my seat, so that all the twists and turns were like tiny treasures to be savored. By the time I got to the end. I was pleasantly exhausted. Whew!

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Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062388780
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - August 7th, 2018

Jim's November 2018 pick, 1 of 2

At first, I took this book as an exercise in preaching to the choir. A book about getting non-readers to read? The irony was too much. It would have made more sense to present the information as part of a video game. After having read it, Reader, Come Home is for anyone who cares about the future: teachers, parents, politicians, or any type of policymaker.

     The basic premise here is that reading predominantly from screens has deleterious effects on a person's brain, and, by extension, affects thoughts and actions. Since technology today evolves exponentially seemingly every second and just about everything is digital, it is hard not to read from one type of computer or another. It is the way of the world. I am even writing this on a computer and you may be reading it on one. It's inescapable and we are apparently doomed.

     Or are we? Although Wolfe clearly points out the dangers of us quickly becoming a nation of shallow idiots and the likelihood that that will happen, she also leaves a path open to allow for a course correction before it's too late. The big question is whether we shall see it and take action in time. Startling and disturbing.

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This Land: America, Lost and Found Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316415514
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Black Dog & Leventhal - September 11th, 2018

Jim's November 2018 pick, 2 of 2

In these times of political extremes. with just about everyone choosing sides, red or blue, Dan Barry has done a remarkable thing; he captured snapshots of America that show our shared humanity.

This collection of stories about Americans at their worst and best is culled from Barry's New York Times column of the same name.

     What came to mind repeatedly as I read is that, above all, no matter how shiny or rusty our lives may be, here in the land of the free and the home of quiet desperation, we persevere.

     If you want to see what America is like, the people, not so much the scenery, pick up This Land and dive in. Without a doubt, you will find a piece of yourself among its pages.

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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984822581
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown Archetype - October 2nd, 2018

Jim's October 2018 review, 1 of 4

    When simmered on the stove, thick and leathery collard greens can take upwards of an hour to turn silky and lush, The pressure cooker...Wait, that's from a recipe for dinner. Sorry about that.

     If I have to tell you why you should read this book, walk away now and never look back. If, however, you know fully why this is an indispensable addition to your personal library, well, say no more-say no more. Know what I mean, eh? Know what I mean? Nudge-nudge. Wink-wink. Say! No! More!

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062797155
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Paperbacks - September 4th, 2018

Jim's October 2018 pick, 2 of 4

    This is story of numbers: the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis, the registration numbers tattooed on the arms of those victims, two hearts that meet in Auschwitz to care for each other in the darkest of places, and one man who vowed to live despite the odds against him. Lale Sokolov by sheer happenstance becomes the tattooist of Auschwitz and uses his position to help as many as he can to survive the unspeakable. And when he least expects it, Lale meets Gita, a fellow victim who becomes the love of his life, and promises that she, too, will walk out alive.

    As explained in the "Author's Note," Morris based this novel on the life story of the actual Lale. Rather than a straight up biography, Morris chose to fictionalize Lale's tale and, in so doing, drew me in more emotionally than if Lale were to tell his own story. There is something that occurs in fiction that touches the heart more than biography can, that makes the evils of the time even more horrific. I was heartbroken at what happened to Lale and Gita rather than simply disgusted. Considering the setting, I expected disaster with every page turn and yet was pleasantly surprised many times.

    There are many books based on the events of WW2, yet this feels fresh as if it were recently discovered in someone's attic. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a testament to the human capacity to love even in a place where it seems that love had been reduced to ashes long ago.

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The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374113346
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 2nd, 2018

Jim's October 2018 pick, 3 of 4

I was immediately drawn to this book because of my anglophilic tendencies. I thought that I would learn a little bit about the Tower of London and the ravens that keep the country sound. I did find out some about the Tower, a lot about the ravens, but a fair amount about the author. 

    Skaife is natural storyteller and drew me in right from the start. From his days in the military, starting at age sixteen, no less, to his current stint as the Yeoman Warder and Ravenmaster at the Tower. he'll keep you enthralled. The raven lore is fascinating but Skaife's yarn-weaving makes it all the more enjoyable.

    This is a fun book to read for a bit of escape from the sturm und drang of politics.

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Monday's Not Coming Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062422675
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - May 22nd, 2018

Jim's October 2018 pick, 4 of 4

It's not often that I come upon a teen mystery, but this most surely is, and a doozy at that. 

    Claudia Coleman returns from summer camp and cannot find her best friend, Monday Charles. She is given differing stories, Monday's living with her aunt, no, she's with her dad, no, she's home but doesn't want to see you. For Claudia, none of it rings true. It's up to her to find out what's really going on.

    Jackson does a masterful job of capturing the love of friendship and the self-doubt of adolescence. At the climax, she delivers a gut punch that will leave you reeling. 

    Highly recommended for teens and adults.

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The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in America Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501159107
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - September 18th, 2018

Jim's September 2018 pick, 1 of 2

I have long understood that it is hard living in America, unless you are one of the lucky "one percent." Imagine how difficult it is for a refugee who does not know how to speak English or navigate the complexities of the social jungle that exists in American society. Helen Thorpe in The Newcomers tries to show the reader just that. Her focus is a "new Americans" classroom in South High School in Denver, Colorado but extends to the families of the students of the class. By going beyond the school to show the home lives of the students, Thorpe reveals the hurdles that the adult refugees have to overcome, too.
    This book reveals to the reader how easy most Americans have it and how hard and unfair it is for people who have come to our shores to seek safety and prosperity. Putting aside the monumental tasks of managing a household and getting a job, we accept that kids may have difficulty learning the language but expect adults to speak English from the moment they step foot in America. I wonder if we would succeed if we were their shoes? An eye-opener.

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All American Boys Cover Image
ISBN: 9781481463348
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books - August 29th, 2017

Jim's September 2018 pick, 2 of 2

And it happens as simply as that - someone trips over you as you are trying to retrieve your phone from your gym bag, and the next you know, you are being handcuffed and slammed to the ground by a cop who thinks that you're up to no good.

    And just like that, you round a corner to find your best friend's brother beating a black kid, hands cuffed behind his back, who doesn't seem to be resisting arrest yet is punched and kicked nevertheless.

    This is the story of two boys, one black and one white, who must decide whether or not to stand up for what is right. all american boys superbly captures the tensions of our times when police brutality against unarmed black men seems to be an everyday occurrence. A captivating novel that could easily be memoir.

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Out of Nowhere Cover Image
ISBN: 9780375865626
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ember - February 10th, 2015

Jim's August 2018 pick, 1 of 2

Tom Bouchard has a lot on his plate: tons of college apps to complete, a clingy girlfriend to keep happy, and an influx of refugee students to make sense of. Complicating it all is the fact that a few of those refugee kids have turned his soccer team into real contenders, but how can he make it work if he can't even talk to them?

    Padian has done a terrific job of incorporating the many aspects of a teenager's life into an engaging narrative. She has created a sympathetic main character while simultaneously revealing the complexities of refugee life here in America.

    In Out of Nowhere, Padian gives the reader a clear depiction of a town dealing with refugee resettlement and all the complications that that entails. Despite the current political climate, this issue is one that we shall have to manage forever. Padian's book is a good way to understand things that might not easily be seen. Pick it up today.


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Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062661395
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Dey Street Books - August 7th, 2018

Jim's August 2018 pick, 2 of 2

This is the story of a people, their history and lifestyle,  and the place they call home. The place is Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay, and the people are the islanders who spend just about every day on the water crabbing or oystering year round. It's a harsh life, one that has been passed down for generations and is endangered by the effects of climate change and youth migration to the mainland.

    Swift spent a year on Tangier Island getting to know the islanders, and his use of the term "requiem" in the title is very appropriate; as he writes about them, he does so as if they are already gone, which, in a way, they are.

    Chesapeake Requiem is an affectionate look at a way of life unimaginable to the people who enjoy its fruits and a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring what's staring you in the face. Swift tries not to judge the citizens of Tangier Island, but it is very clear that he feels their days are numbered. Illuminating and precautionary.

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In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525559443
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Viking - March 20th, 2018

Jim's July 2018 pick, 1 of 2

A few years ago, there was a big ruckus down in New Orleans about the dismantling of four statues that celebrated the Confederacy. For the mayor of the city, Mitch Landrieu, it was a bold move, one that elicited both praise and death threats. This book is his attempt to explain why the statues had to come down.

    In the Shadow of Statues is actually about a lot more. Landrieu tells his life story, of his childhood as the son of a politician and of his own rise in Louisiana politics. He recounts, rather startlingly, David Dukes' various political campaigns and parallels the Neo-Nazi's tactics with those of Donald Trump - absolutely scary how similar the two men are.

    In the Shadow of Statues is clear example of how we are a product of our upbringing. Mr. Landrieu is a born storyteller, and I was quickly drawn in to his tale. Repeatedly, as I read, I couldn't help but think that this man needs a much grander stage than just New Orleans, the White House, say. My fingers are crossed.

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Bearskin: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062742797
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco - June 12th, 2018

Jim's July 2018 pick, 2 of 2

I was looking for a book in the style of Nevada Barr and found it in Bearskin. Barr's Anna Pigeon has met her match in Ric Morten, the caretaker of a forest preserve in the backwoods of Virginia. There is more to this man than just an interest to be out in the fresh air and pine trees. Morten has his hands full with a mystery to solve and a past to hide. Skinned bear carcasses, redneck biker gangs, and a shady Mexican come together to keep the action tight and fast paced. McLaughlin writes vividly of the flora and fauna of this corner of Appalachia and of the toughness of the people who live there. Fascinating to read about but not something I wish to experience firsthand.

I did not want this book to end. You won't either.

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Atticus Finch: The Biography Cover Image
ISBN: 9781541644946
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Basic Books - May 8th, 2018

Jim's June 2018 pick, 1 of 3

Here is a book for the myriad fans of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird who had ever wondered how she had written her classic novel. Crespino presents a history of the development of the character of Atticus by offering a biography of Harper Lee's father. The father-daughter relationship of the Finches is shown to mirror, for the most part, that of the Lee family, as the author draws parallels between real life and fiction. We also find out about Nell's career as a writer, first trying unsuccessfully to publish Go Set a Watchman and then the subsequent publication of her masterpiece. By far, my favorite part is "Atticus in the World," a look at how the book and characters have influenced everything from Hollywood to world leaders. Atticus Finch is an interesting peek at how life and craft intersect.

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The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735217713
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - February 6th, 2018

Jim's June 2018 pic, 2 of 3

    This book cannot be more timely, as we each struggle with our country's current immigration laws and policies. Cantu becomes a border guard and finds almost immediately that the job is more difficult than he expected. There is the physical harshness of the land but more overwhelming is the emotional toll of having to arrest people risking death to improve their lives any way they can. Cantu refers to his work as "the thing that crushes," and it's clear, that for him, his soul is what lies broken on the desert floor. A vital book for our times.

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If You Come Softly: Twentieth Anniversary Edition Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525515487
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Nancy Paulsen Books - March 6th, 2018

Jim's June 2018 pick, 3 of 3

This is the twentieth anniversary edition of a book that Woodson admits is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Instead of coming from bickering families, the couple at the center of the story are from different races, living in a time when interracial dating was not as accepted as it is today.

    Ellie and Miah meet accidentally and cannot stop thinking about each other. Their relationship unfolds tenderly and I felt connected to them, so that, when the inevitable came at the end, I was unexpectedly struck. I knew what was coming yet was devastated anyway - a sign of a good writer.
    This is a quick read but an emotional one. Keep the tissues handy.

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The Poet X Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062662804
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: HarperTeen - March 6th, 2018

Jim's April 2018 pick

Acevedo brilliantly captures the heart and mind of Xiomara Batista, a teenage girl longing to find her voice. She has a lot to say as she juggles the demands of school and her controlling mother, a perfect twin brother, and her developing body and interest in the opposite sex. Try as she might, Xiomara cannot quite find the right words until she joins the poetry club at school.

The Poet X is a touching story of growing up and becoming your own person. Don't be put off by the format. It reads like normal prose regardless of how it looks. A wonderful book. Highly recommended.

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Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812997316
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Random House - July 11th, 2017

Jim's March 2018 picks, 1 of 2

Reading with Patrick, by Michelle Kuo

    Initially, I though that this book was going to be another Freedom Writers, wherein a young, optimistic teacher instructs a group of toughened students not to give up on life as they learn of the redeeming power of writing. There is a little bit of that here, but for the most part Reading with Patrick focuses on the redemption of two souls, those of the author, who struggles with pleasing her parents while also appeasing her conscience, and Patrick Browning. a pleasant but unmotivated student who lands in jail while attempting to protect his sister.

    Kuo keeps her narrative humming along, digressing here and there to address topics like the northern migration of African Americans and the racially lopsidedness of the penal system, but overall, as she deals with deciding on which future she wants for herself, practicing law or teaching, and helping Patrick come to terms with his own life choices, the author reveals just how little many people know about the lives of those living in the margins of society. The best part, though, is her insistence in the power of a good book to anchor a person in a world that seems completely out of control.

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When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250171085
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - January 16th, 2018

Jim's March 2018 pick, 2 of 2

When They Call You a Terrorist, by Patrice Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

    I want to give this book to anyone who cries, "All lives matter," when they hear someone say that black lives matter. The author is one of the creators of the movement, and in telling her story, she clearly demonstrates the need for more awareness and the nurturing of our black communities. There is personal narrative mixed with historical perspective and social commentary. This book made me angry at the actions of some factions of our society and cry at the damage those actions inflict. Cullors shows the reader that we are a nation at war with itself. People often speculate about the possibility of a second civil war; Cullors's book is a good argument that the fighting has already begun. A vital text for our times.

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Mr. Dickens and His Carol: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250154040
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Flatiron Books - October 31st, 2017

Jim's December 2017 pick, 1 of 5

Mr. Dickens and His Carol, by Samantha Silva

    Charles Dickens is my favorite dead author and his A Christmas Carol is my favorite book. Naturally, anything to do with either the man or his work draws my attention.

     Silva does here what the film Finding Neverland did for J. M. Barrie, connect various events from the author's life to different aspects of the work that we know so well.

     I was a little worried that the premise of the book would be too contrived, but Silva does a nice job of making the plot plausible and realistic. She also writes in the style of Dickens, which brings a danger in itself; however, Silva deftly handles the task.

     Whether or not you are a fan of Dickens, you will find this tale engaging and an enjoyable holiday treat.

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Refugee Cover Image
ISBN: 9780545880831
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scholastic Press - July 25th, 2017

Jim's December 2017 pick, 2 of 5

Refugee, by Alan Gratz

Refugee tells the stories of three different young people, each fleeing a desperate situation, looking for peace and safety. Josef flees the menace of 1930s Nazi Germany, Isabel leaves Cuba in 1994 for the freedom of the United States, and Mahmoud escapes Syria in 2015 before the bombs take away everything he holds dear.

     Gratz reveals the trials and tribulations that each of these characters experience. Although they are fictional, the uncertain terrors that each faces are very real and provide insight into the refugee experience in a way that is much more personal than one would find in a newspaper.

     Gratz will have you looking at the world differently after you reach the stunning conclusion. It took my totally by surprise and left me breathless.

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Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC Cover Image
ISBN: 9780306825460
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Da Capo Press - October 3rd, 2017

Jim's December 2017 pick, 3 of 5

Slugfest, Inside the Epic 50-Year Battle Between Marvel and DC, by Reed Tucker

     Holy gym socks, Batman! If you are a fan of comics, you know that they are not just for kids. From Tucker's account of the Marvel-DC rivalry, you will find out that behind closed doors, comics are an outright battlefield. The constant tit-for-tat gamesmanship between these two comics giants has involved multiple media,  including television, movies, and, of course, comics. Then there is the peripheral merchandise, the action figures, mugs, posters, etc. It goes on and on.

     Tucker writes of these anything-but-comic antics in a clear, brisk style, leading the reader from the origins of Superman, through the creation of  Marvel to the ensuing war for the number one spot in the hearts and minds of fanboys around the world. There are a few tines when the author seems to repeat himself, but it isn't due to weak writing but rather the juvenile behavior of Marvel and DC company employees. They really did act like ten-year-olds on a school playground. "Take that, DC!" "Oh, yeah? You take that, Marvel!" It's pathetic that grown men act that way, but it is as enjoyable as a Superman-Spiderman match-up.

      This is a fun read and a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look at the comics world.

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Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062684387
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow - October 31st, 2017

Jim's December 2017 pick, 4 out of 5

Hiddensee, by Gregory Maguire

     Hidden kingdoms, talking mice, and, of course, nutcrackers. In his latest fantasy-fiction expansion of a well-known tale, Maguire brings us the story of Dirk Drosselmeier, the grandfather in The Nutcracker. The author tells us of Drosselmeier's mysterious youth and how he came to be associated with that wooden shell buster. We even find out how Drosselmeier lost an eye to receive his roguish eye patch.

     In addition to a good story, practically an adult fairy tale, what I enjoyed the most about Hiddensee was the inclusion of historical figures, such as Franz Mesmer and Charles Dickens. It kept me turning the pages to see who was going to pop up next.

     Although Hiddensee is related to the perennial holiday favorite, this is not a book for all ages, as Maguire throws in occasional scenes of sex.

    Other than that, Hiddensee is a good read for a cold winter night.

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Dear World: A Syrian Girl's Story of War and Plea for Peace Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501178443
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 3rd, 2017

Jim's December 2017 pick, 5 of 5

Dear World: A Syrian Girl's Story of War and Plea for Peace, by Bana Alabed

    I read somewhere that a refugee longs to return to his or her home country. That they are happy to be in a safe place for the time being but, under the right conditions, would jump at the chance to go home. This is true for seven-year-old Bana Alabed, who must flee Syria with her family when her country goes to war with itself. She tells the world her story here in Dear World.

    Alabed became a social media star when she began tweeting about her experiences of living a place that literally was being torn to pieces around her. In her book, Alabed describes, sometimes in horrific detail, the terror of living in a war zone. Despite the danger that surrounds her, she faces each day with surprising optimism, much like a Syrian Anne Frank. Alabed writes eloquently about what she wants, which is what we all want: to feel safe. The fact that she was only seven when she wrote this book is astounding. I can only hope that people heed her call for peace so that she, and all refugees, can return to that feeling of safety and home.

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Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062419095
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow - July 25th, 2017

Jim's November 2017 pick, 1 of 3

Sons and Soldiers, by Bruce Henderson

I have mentioned in previous reviews that World War 2 is so deep and complex that people will write about it for centuries. Bruce Henderson proves that in his book Sons and Soldiers. Here, he uncovers the tales of six young Jewish men who escaped Nazi Germany only to return to fight for the Allies.

Henderson does an excellent job of capturing, with tension and an evolving self-awareness, the early lives of these six future Ritchie Boys, building up to their exodus from Europe, leaving family and friends behind for an unknown future. Once the war begins, these men realize that, as much as they dread the possibilities of what could happen to them, they must return to fight against their former tormentors. The last part of the book, wherein the men are sent to liberate concentration camps, contains scenes of heartbreak and horror.

Sons and Soldiers is solid storytelling.

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Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery Cover Image
ISBN: 9781524731595
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - October 17th, 2017

Jim's November 2017 pick, 2 of 3

Endurance, by Scott Kelly

If you want to know what it's like to live in space, you have to read this book, which documents Kelly's year long experiences on the International Space Station. He covers a lot more than just his time on the ISS, such as his years growing up and how he became an astronaut. Surprising to me was his absolute dislike for school and reading, and how it took just the right book, The Right Stuff,  to open a connection to the wider world.

Kelly can be a bit pedantic at times, ticking off details as if from a list, but I think that is because of his training.  Everything has to done just so or the results can be devastating. This is made clear when he goes on a spacewalk. One small mistake and he is lost forever. The attention to detail is understandable.

If you have a space junkie in your family, Endurance is a must read.

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Turtles All the Way Down (Signed Edition) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525555384
Availability: Special Order
Published: Dutton Books for Young Readers - October 10th, 2017

Jim's November pick, 3 of 3

Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green

I have only read one other John Green book - The Fault in Our Stars - which was meh. I think that it was a victim of its own hype. Turtles All the Way Down carries with it high expectations, too, since it is Green's first book after the worldwide success of tFioS. Thankfully, this book rises to the occasion.

     In some ways Turtles reminds me of Jack Gantos's Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, which showed the reader what it's like to be someone with ADD. Green expertly lets us into the mind of Aza Holmes. a sixteen-year-old teen with OCD. Green, who also suffers from OCD, used his own history to fill out Aza'a story. If he goes through half of what his heroine does, his life must be torture.

     Besides Aza's personal struggles and the affect they have on her friendships and a burgeoning relationship with a neighborhood boy, Turtles also has a mystery that Aza and her gal pal Daisy try to solve.  The sleuthing is, at best, a distraction. Green's story is strongest when he explores Aza's OCD demons, which are truly hellish.

     Strap yourself in for one bumpy yet satisfying ride.

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Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America Cover Image
ISBN: 9781419723865
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Abrams Press - May 16th, 2017

Jim's July 2017 pick, 1 of 3

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

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

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

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

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

Jim's July 2017 pick, 2 of 3

Chomp, by Carl Hiaasen

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

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

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

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

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The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501139888
Availability: Backordered
Published: Gallery Books - August 16th, 2016

Jim's July 2017 pick, 3 of 3

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer

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

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

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Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399590801
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - April 4th, 2017

Jim's June 2017 pick, 1 of 5
Letters to a Young Writer, by Colum McCann

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

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

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

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The Boy on the Bridge Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316300339
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Orbit - May 2nd, 2017

Jim's June 2017 pick, 2 of 5

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

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

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

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

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All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455570911
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Center Street - April 18th, 2017

Jim's June 2017 pick, 3 of 5

Initially, this book reminded me of The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell, about a young optimistic woman who took a job in a high school in a rough section of Los Angeles and used writing as a means of helping her students to discover that they had a lot more going for them than they were led to believe by their circumstances.

    Peterson, a poet and actress, treads similar territory, but, instead a public high school, Peterson's students are incarcerated young men on Riker's Island with little to lose. Teaching can be tough enough, but Peterson's task seems especially difficult. Her approach is to rely on her strengths, respect, poetry, and performing.

    It is obvious that Peterson is a poet. Her words vividly describe the world of jailhouse education and have a rhythm that draws the reader in. At the same time, Peterson holds nothing back and laces her language with street talk that might offend some readers. The real offense to the author is how so many people have written off these kids as being beyond spending time and attention on, resulting in misplaced fear and fury. She has much to say on the topic, and we all should listen.

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Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition Cover Image
By Joseph Heller, Christopher Buckley (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781451626650
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 5th, 2011

Jim's June 2017 pick, 4 of 5

War is hell, as the old saying goes. In Heller's hands, war is hellishly funny, absurd, and tragic, too.

    John Yossarian, a bombardier, just wants to go home. He is haunted by the death of a fellow airman and is sure that if he continues to fly, he will die as well; however, in order to be discharged, he either has to prove that he is crazy or fly the requisite number of missions. His aversion to taking part in missions is proof that he is sane, and his commanding officer regularly raises the flight minimum. Yossarian is trapped by Catch-22, which everyone but he knows about even though it doesn't exist.

    This modern classic escaped me for many years, but I am so glad that I finally crossed paths with Yo-Yo, Milo, Major Major and the rest of the asylum of characters. It is just the right book for this time when so many tragic, funny, absurd events saturate the headlines each day.

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Bang Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316315500
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - April 18th, 2017

Jim's June 2018 pick, 5 of 5

How do you try to be normal when your actions define you as anything but? What if your whole identity is wrapped up in one moment that you would do anything to take back but cannot? Sebastian Cody did something tragically horrible when he was four years old, something that tore his family apart. A decade later, when the chance for a new beginning seems to present itself, Sebastian grabs for it with all his might only to find that you can't escape your past. He knows that the one way out of the pain he's felt for so long, one that began with a gun, is with another pull of the trigger.

   Powerful, sensitive, suspenseful, Lyga pulled this one off masterfully. Tragedy hangs from every page, yet hope sat right beside it. The author had me guessing as to what Sebastian would ultimately do. This book even made me reflect on my own actions and the legacies left behind because of them, a sign of a well-told tale. I have never read anything by this author before but will be sure to keep him on my radar.

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

Jim's May 2017 pick, 1 of 3

Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson

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

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

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

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A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day Cover Image
By Andrea Davis Pinkney, Steve Johnson (Illustrator), Lou Fancher (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780425287682
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - November 1st, 2016

Jim's May 2017 pick, 2 of 3

A Poem for Peter, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

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

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

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

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

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

Jim's May 2017 pick, 3 of 3

The Monuments Men, by Robert M. Edsel

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


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


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

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

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

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

Jim's April 2017 pick, 1 of 2

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, by Mitch Albom

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

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

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

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

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

Jim's April 2017 pick, 2 of 2

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

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

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

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

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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399588174
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Spiegel & Grau - November 15th, 2016

Jim's March 2017 pick, 1 of 2

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

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

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

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

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

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

Jim's March 2017 pick, 2 of 2

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

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


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


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

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Career of Evil (A Cormoran Strike Novel) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316349895
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mulholland Books - April 19th, 2016

Jim's December 2016 pick, 1 of 2

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

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

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

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

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

Jim's December 2016 pick, 2 of 2

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

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

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In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101904657
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Crown Archetype - September 13th, 2016

Jim's November 2016 pick

In Such Good Company, by Carol Burnett

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

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

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

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Hamilton: The Revolution Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455539741
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - April 12th, 2016

Jim's October 2016 pick

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

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

Jim's September 2016 pick, 1 of 3

Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson

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

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

Jim's September 2016 pick, 2 of 3

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

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

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

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

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The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385542364
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - August 2nd, 2016

Jim's September pick, 3 of 3

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

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

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

Jim's July 2016 pick, 1 of 2

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

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

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

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

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging Cover Image
ISBN: 9781455566389
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Twelve - May 24th, 2016

Jim's July 2016 pick, 2 of 2

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

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

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

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The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385539289
Availability: Backordered
Published: Doubleday - January 19th, 2016

Jim's April 2016 pick, 1 of 2

The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson

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

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

Jim's April 2016 pick, 2 of 2

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

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

Circling the Sun: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345534187
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Ballantine Books - July 28th, 2015

Jim's October 2015 pick, 1 of 3

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

Our Souls at Night: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101875896
Availability: Backordered
Published: Knopf - May 26th, 2015

Jim's October 2015 pick, 2 of 3

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

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393245448
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 7th, 2016

Jim's July 2013 pick, 3 of 3

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

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

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

      A insightful summer read.

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

Jim's October 2015 pick, 3 of 3

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

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

Jim's September 2015 picks, 1 of 2

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

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

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

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

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

Jim's September 2015 picks, 2 of 2

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

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

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

Do not miss this wild ride of a book.

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

 Jim's August 2015 pick

Endangered, by Eliot Schrefer

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

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

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

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

Jim's June 2015 pick, 2 of 2

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