Archive for October, 2012

Bestselling Nonfiction

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Moving up the bestseller lists is How Children Succeed: grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character by Paul Tough (Find in our catalog).

This is what it says about this fascinating book in our catalog:  “Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in this book the author argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. The book introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories, and the stories of the children they are trying to help, the author traces the links between childhood stress and life success. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do, and do not, prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to help children growing up in poverty. Early adversity, scientists have come to understand, can not only affect the conditions of children’s lives, it can alter the physical development of their brains as well. But now educators and doctors around the country are using that knowledge to develop innovative interventions that allow children to overcome the constraints of poverty. And with the help of these new strategies, as the author’s reporting makes clear, children who grow up in the most painful circumstances can go on to achieve amazing things. This book has the potential to change how we raise our children, how we run our schools, how we construct our social safety net and also to change our understanding of childhood itself.”


Book to Movie – Midnight’s Children

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

The trailer has been released for Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel (Find the novel in our catalog). The film opens November 2.

We also have available the eBook, the eAudiobook and the talking book on CD.  This is the summary of the talking book in our catalog: “In India, one thousand and one children are born in the hour following the midnight commemorating the country’s independence from British rule. And of those children, none is more entwined with the destiny of that land than Saleem Sinai, he of dubious birth and a nose of astounding proportion. Discovering a psychic connection with midnight’s other thousand, Saleem recounts a life both reflecting and recreating the modern history of his oft-troubled homeland.”




And Even More Great Group Reads

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The Right-Hand Shore by Christopher Tilghman. “Fifteen years after the publication of his acclaimed novel “Mason’s Retreat,” Tilghman returns to the Chesapeake Bay estate. This richly textured novel proceeds through 19th-century industry and centers on two families attempting to save a son and daughter.”

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron. “Winner of the Bellwether Prize, “Running the Rift” follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a 10-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions.”

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. “Winner of the 2011 National Book Award A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn’t show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting. As the twelve days that make up the novel’s framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family-motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce-pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.”

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. “Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.”

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. “What would happen if you were visited by your younger self, and got a chance for a do-over? Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, madly in love with her husband, and pregnant with their first child. So imagine her surprise when, after a fall, she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she HATES the gym!) and discovers that she’s actually thirty-nine, has three children, and is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. A knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn’t sure she likes who she’s become. It turns out, though, that forgetting might be the most memorable thing that has ever happened to Alice.”

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. “Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit , the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It’s a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the Universe as Cosmic Dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she’d written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging-for love, identity, home, and a mother.”


Still More Great Group Reads

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck. “Throughout Lily Tuck’s career, she’s been praised by critics for her crisp, lean language and sensuous explorations of exotic locales and complex psychologies. From Siam to Paraguay and beyond, Tuck inspires readers to travel into unfamiliar realms, and her newest novel is no exception. Slender, potent, and utterly engaging, I Married You For Happiness combines marriage, mathematics, and the probability of an afterlife to create Tuck’s most affecting and riveting book yet. “His hand is growing cold, still she holds it” is how this novel that tells the story of a marriage begins. The tale unfolds over a single night as Nina sits at the bedside of her husband, Philip, whose sudden and unexpected death is the reason for her lonely vigil. Still too shocked to grieve, she lets herself remember the defining moments of their long union, beginning with their meeting in Paris. She is an artist, he a highly accomplished mathematician-a collision of two different worlds that merged to form an intricate and passionate love. As we move through select memories-real and imagined-Tuck reveals the most private intimacies, dark secrets, and overwhelming joys that defined Nina and Philip’s life together.”

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. “Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this searing first novel–based on the author’s personal story–is one of survival, endurance, and forced exodus.”

The O’Briens by Peter Behrens. “An unforgettable saga of love, loss, and exhilarating change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless family, from the author of the acclaimed novel The Law of Dreams. The O’Briens is a family story unlike any told before, a tale that pours straight from the heart of a splendid, tragic, ambitious clan. In Joe O’Brien–grandson of a potato-famine emigrant, and a backwoods boy, railroad magnate, patriarch, brooding soul–Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling riches and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century. When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice, California, the story of their courtship–told in Behrens’s gorgeous, honed style–becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. Husband and wife, brothers, sisters-in-law, children and grandchildren, the O’Briens engage unselfconsciously with their century, and we experience their times not as historical tableaux but as lives passionately lived. At the heart of this clan–at the heart of the novel–is mystery and madness grounded in the history of Irish sorrow. The O’Briens is the story of a man, a marriage, and a family, told with epic precision and wondrous imagination.”

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. “At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he’s found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit from the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge’s land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past. Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Amanda Coplin weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune. She writes with breathtaking precision and empathy, and in The Orchardist she crafts an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in.”


One Maryland, One Book – Related Music Program in Towson

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I’m passing on this press release about a music program that ties into reading The Cellist of Sarajevo.  Editor

The International Cello Festival at Towson University



Event Date: Tuesday, October 30th

Time: 7-8pm

Location: Center for the Arts Recital Hall

In times of hardship and war, music can truly uplift the spirit. For example, the sorrowful Adagio by Tomaso Albinoni has been forever linked with the courageous cellist of Sarajevo. Join us for a selection of inspiring music for cello and cello ensemble featuring Cecylia Barczyk, Professor of Music at Towson University.

The performance will be followed by a reading and discussion of The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway, a poignant novel about the power of music in the face of the atrocities of war. The Cellist of Sarajevo is also the book selected for the 2012 One Maryland One Book statewide reading initiative.

Directions: The Center for the Arts is located at the intersection of Osler Dr. and Cross Campus Dr.

Parking: Metered parking is available along Cross Campus Dr. Visitor parking is also available in the lower level next to the Union Garage (pay at the Parking Kiosk – $2/hr until 8pm).

For more information, contact Patty MacDonald (410-704-2445).

More Great Group Reads for National Reading Group Month

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. “Over five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel. In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets–about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece.”

Faith by Jennifer Haigh. “It is the spring of 2002 and a perfect storm has hit Boston. Across the city’s archdiocese, trusted priests have been accused of the worst possible betrayal of the souls in their care. In Faith, Jennifer Haigh explores the fallout for one devout family, the McGanns. Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at the center of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. What she discovers is more complicated than she imagined. Her strict, lace-curtain-Irish mother is living in a state of angry denial. Sheila’s younger brother Mike, to her horror, has already convicted his brother in his heart. But most disturbing of all is Art himself, who persistently dodges Sheila’s questions and refuses to defend himself. As the scandal forces long-buried secrets to surface, Faith explores the corrosive consequences of one family’s history of silence – and the resilience its members ultimately find in forgiveness. Throughout, Haigh demonstrates how the truth can shatter our deepest beliefs – and restore them. A gripping, suspenseful tale of one woman’s quest for the truth, Faith is a haunting meditation on loyalty and family, doubt and belief. Elegantly crafted, sharply observed, this is Jennifer Haigh’s most ambitious novel to date.”


A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

(Find this book in our catalog) Big (Ginny) decides to cut down the willow tree in her back yard so that she can build a swimming pool for her daughter’s water exercise therapy. Liza has had a stroke & Big is determined to do all she can to help her recovery. When the remains of a baby are unearthed among the tree’s roots, family secrets also begin to rise to the surface, secrets that could destroy the relationship between Big, her daughter, Liza, & her granddaughter, Mosey. Each of the three characters gives voice to the enfolding events, Big, who must stay strong throughout, Liza who is imprisoned between a dreamworld & reality, & Mosey, a strong-willed young girl who is determined to discover the secrets her mother is unable to reveal. Ms. Jackson takes a look at family relationships in this absorbing & humorous tale, as she  explores themes of marriage & divorce, friendships & betrayal, cheating spouses &  the strength of love. This was the Abingdon Book Group read for October. Everyone enjoyed the story & there was a lot of material for discussion. It is meaningful & the humor makes it very entertaining reading.

Some of Ms. Jackson’s other titles are The Girl Who Stopped Swimming & Gods in Alabama. Other titles can be found on the author’s website

“A mesmerizing tale of a family coping with the revelation of a secret that will change their lives. . . Jackson’s most absorbing book yet, a lush, rich read with three very different but equally compelling characters at its core.” – Kristine Huntley, Booklist (Starred Review)

Posted by Julia

National Reading Group Month: Great Group Reads

Monday, October 15th, 2012

October is designated as National Reading Group Month.  In connection with National Reading Group Month, which is sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association, the Great Group Reads Selection Committee has chosen 19 novels and one memoir as this year’s Great Group Reads.  A complete list of the titles, recommended for reading groups at libraries and elsewhere, can be found here.

Here are a few from the list.  I will try to feature others as the month progresses.  Click on a highlighted title to go straight to our catalog.

The Absolutist by John Boyne.  “”A novel of immeasurable sadness, in a league with Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair . John Boyne is very, very good at portraying the destructive power of a painfully kept secret.” — John Irving A masterfully told tale of passion, jealousy, heroism and betrayal set in the gruesome trenches of World War I. It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War. But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will–from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain. The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they’ve turned the last page.”

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.  “At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended. Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life. As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment–to oneself and to others.”

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  “A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present. When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.”

Blue Asylum : a novel  by Kathy Hepinstall.  “Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property.On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents— some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable. Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris?The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded “water treatment.” She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home? Blue Asylum is a vibrant, beautifully-imagined, absorbing story of the lines we all cross between sanity and madness. It is also the tale of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the undeniable call of freedom.”



Scottish Crime Book of the Year

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Charles Cumming won the inaugural Scottish Crime Book of the Year award for his novel A Foreign Country (Find in our catalog)

Summary in our catalog: “Amelia Levene is about to become the first woman to run the British intelligence agency MI6 when she mysteriously disappears. Disgraced former officer Thomas Kell is recruited to find her. He quickly learns that she has not been kidnapped; she’s hiding on purpose. What would motivate someone at the height of their career to give it all up? What he uncovers, with Levene’s help, unveils a dark conspiracy that goes back years.”



Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Find in our catalog)

I heard a review of this book on MPR this morning and was reminded of how much I liked it when I read an Advance Reader’s Copy that I was given.  I found it absolutely charming and extremely well-written.  It is told in the voice of Clay, an out-of-work web designer in San Francisco who obtains a job on the night shift in an extremely unusual used bookshop.  Very rarely does anyone buy a book, but a group of unusual regulars patronizes the collection in the way back that is housed on shelves that reach up high into the dim recesses seemingly several stories up.  Clay decides to solve the mystery of these customers, who do not buy but exchange their ancient books. What secret can these eccentric customers be researching?

Clay decides that the mystery could be solved very quickly if the forces of modern computing power were just brought to bear.  He involves his friends, including his girlfriend, an up-and-coming computer genius at Google and his roommate, another kind of genius in movie special effects.  I was nervous that I would not be able to relate to characters like this, given my age and experience which has been so different from theirs, but Sloan’s consummate writing skills and his understanding of human nature helped me understand and empathize with the characters.  I was rooting for the success of their quest, which involves both the complex process of digital book scanning and the simple burglary of the library of a secret society in New York.  I don’t feel that I am giving anything away, because the author said something similar on the radio today, when I say that in the end we discover that the devotees of both high technology and low are at base very similar.  What they share is their common humanity; and in the end what is important is friendship.

This is what it says in our catalog: “A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life–mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone–and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore. With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.”

Oh, and the cover glows in the dark!