Suggested Reading March 3, 2020

Hi everyone, here are our recommended titles for the week, five digital titles, eBooks & downloadable audiobooks, available through OverDrive and five print titles available through StarCat.

DIGITAL CATALOG RECOMMENDATIONS:

Clock Dance: A novel by Anne Tyler

A charming new novel of self-discovery and second chances from the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Spool of Blue Thread.

Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life. In 1967, she is a schoolgirl coping with her mother’s sudden disappearance. In 1977, she is a college coed considering a marriage proposal. In 1997, she is a young widow trying to piece her life back together. And in 2017, she yearns to be a grandmother but isn’t sure she ever will be. Then, one day, Willa receives a startling phone call from a stranger. Without fully understanding why, she flies across the country to Baltimore to look after a young woman she’s never met, her nine-year-old daughter, and their dog, Airplane. This impulsive decision will lead Willa into uncharted territory—surrounded by eccentric neighbors who treat each other like family, she finds solace and fulfillment in unexpected places. A bewitching novel of hope and transformation, Clock Dance gives us Anne Tyler at the height of her powers.

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel (Format: eBook):

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel, the “inspiring” (People), little-known true story of women’s landmark contributions to astronomy

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017

Named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Economist, Smithsonian, Nature, and NPR’s Science Friday

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges—Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates.

The “glass universe” of half a million plates that Harvard amassed over the ensuing decades—through the generous support of Mrs. Anna Palmer Draper, the widow of a pioneer in stellar photography—enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight. Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars; Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use; and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard—and Harvard’s first female department chair.

Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of the women whose contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe.

A House Among The Trees by Julia Glass (Format: eBook):

In Julia Glass’s fifth book since her acclaimed novel Three Junes won the National Book Award, she gives us the story of an unusual bond between a world-famous writer and his assistant—a richly plotted novel of friendship and love, artistic ambition, the perils of celebrity, and the power of an unexpected legacy.

When the revered children’s book author Mort Lear dies accidentally at his Connecticut home, he leaves his property and all its contents to his trusted assistant, Tomasina Daulair, who is moved by his generosity but dismayed by the complicated and defiant directives in his will. Tommy knew Morty for more than four decades, since meeting him in a Manhattan playground when she was twelve and he was working on sketches for the book that would make him a star. By the end of his increasingly reclusive life, she found herself living in his house as confidante and helpmeet, witness not just to his daily routines but to the emotional fallout of his strange boyhood and his volatile relationship with a lover who died of AIDS. Now Tommy must try to honor Morty’s last wishes while grappling with their effects on several people, including Dani Daulair, her estranged brother; Meredith Galarza, the lonely, outraged museum curator to whom Lear once promised his artistic estate; and Nicholas Greene, the beguiling British actor cast to play Mort Lear in a movie.

When the actor arrives for the visit he had previously arranged with the man he is to portray, he and Tommy are compelled to look more closely at Morty’s past and the consequences of the choices they now face, both separately and together. Morty, as it turns out, made a confession to Greene that undermines much of what Tommy believed she knew about her boss—and about herself. As she contemplates a future without him, her unlikely alliance with Greene—and the loyalty they share toward the man whose legacy they hold in their hands—will lead to surprising upheavals in their wider relationships, their careers, and even their search for love.

Peace Like a River: A Novel by Leif Enger (Format: eBook):

Hailed as one of the year’s top five novels by Time, and selected as one of the best books of the year by nearly all major newspapers, national bestseller Peace Like a River captured the hearts of a nation in need of comfort. “A rich mixture of adventure, tragedy, and healing,” Peace Like a River is “a collage of legends from sources sacred and profane — from the Old Testament to the Old West, from the Gospels to police dramas” (Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor). In “lyrical, openhearted prose” (Michael Glitz, The New York Post), Enger tells the story of eleven-year-old Reuben Land, an asthmatic boy who has reason to believe in miracles. Along with his sister and father, Reuben finds himself on a cross-country search for his outlaw older brother who has been controversially charged with murder. Their journey is touched by serendipity and the kindness of strangers, and its remarkable conclusion shows how family, love, and faith can stand up to the most terrifying of enemies, the most tragic of fates. Leif Enger’s “miraculous” (Valerie Ryan, The Seattle Times) novel is a “perfect book for an anxious time … of great literary merit that nonetheless restores readers’ faith in the kindness of stories” (Marta Salij, Detroit Free Press).

Prepared For Rage written by Dana Stabenow and read by Lorelei King (Format: Downloadable Audiobook):

A renegade terrorist with a bottomless personal grudge against all things American targets the most visible symbol of American prestige and power one clear morning in Florida as NASA prepares to launch the Space Shuttle. This time the shuttle carries a high-profile payload and a high-paying visitor on board as a guest, and astronaut Kenai Munro, the FBI special agent Patrick Chisolm and U.S. Coast Guard Captain Cal Schyler are doing everything they can to help the launch go off without a hitch. Can one terrorist with a gift for mass murder subvert all the forces arrayed against him in a bid for recognition and revenge? Once again Dana Stabenow delivers an action-driven thriller with an ingenious, frightening, straight-from-the-headlines plot, certain to be her next bestseller.

PRINT RECOMMENDATIONS:

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda:

On a stormy summer day the Aosawas, owners of a prominent local hospital, host a large birthday party. The occasion turns into tragedy when 17 people die from cyanide in their drinks. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only person spared injury. But the youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery. The police are convinced that Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident, who was herself a childhood friend of Hisako’ and witness to the discovery of the murders. The truth is revealed through a skilful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbours, police investigators and of course the mesmerizing Hisako herself.

The Illness Lesson: A Novel by Clare Beams:

In 1871, scholar/philosopher Samuel Hood lives in Ashwell, MA, on a farm that was previously the site of a utopian community experiment. That experiment has long since failed, and Hood’s new plan is to educate young women to be equals to their male counterparts. Hood and adult daughter Caroline, a devotee of his philosophy, will head up the faculty. The students arrive, including one connected to the farm’s previous function. But a secret lies waiting to be revealed, and the students soon begin to show signs of illness. One has a strange rash. Another has a verbal tic. A third has “fits.” Hood calls on a psychiatric physician he knows to treat the girls for what seems to be group hysteria. The psychiatrist’s sinister treatment, amounting to sexual abuse, is condoned by the men at the farm despite their misgivings and Caroline’s outright protests. VERDICT Bard Prize winner Beams (We Show What We Have Learned) successfully shapes the characters who tell the story, capturing the mores of the times and delving deeply into the psychological aspects of the situation. The underlying secret creates a tension that is resolved only in the final pages. Readers of general fiction will enjoy. Library Journal Review by Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., rovidence

The King At The Edge Of The World by Arthur Phillips:

Queen Elizabeth’s spymasters recruit an unlikely agent—the only Muslim in England—for an impossible mission in a mesmerizing novel from “one of the best writers in America” (The Washington Post)

The year is 1601. Queen Elizabeth I is dying, childless. Her nervous kingdom has no heir. It is a capital crime even to think that Elizabeth will ever die. Potential successors secretly maneuver to be in position when the inevitable occurs. The leading candidate is King James VI of Scotland, but there is a problem.

The queen’s spymasters—hardened veterans of a long war on terror and religious extremism—fear that James is not what he appears. He has every reason to claim to be a Protestant, but if he secretly shares his family’s Catholicism, then forty years of religious war will have been for nothing, and a bloodbath will ensue. With time running out, London confronts a seemingly impossible question: What does James truly believe?

It falls to Geoffrey Belloc, a secret warrior from the hottest days of England’s religious battles, to devise a test to discover the true nature of King James’s soul. Belloc enlists Mahmoud Ezzedine, a Muslim physician left behind by the last diplomatic visit from the Ottoman Empire, as his undercover agent. The perfect man for the job, Ezzedine is the ultimate outsider, stranded on this cold, wet, and primitive island. He will do almost anything to return home to his wife and son.

One Minute Out by Mark Greaney:

From Mark Greaney, the New York Times bestselling author of Mission Critical and a coauthor of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, comes another high-stakes thriller featuring the world’s most dangerous assassin: the Gray Man.

While on a mission to Croatia, Court Gentry uncovers a human trafficking operation. The trail leads from the Balkans all the way back to Hollywood.

Court is determined to shut it down, but his CIA handlers have other plans. The criminal ringleader has actionable intelligence about a potentially devastating terrorist attack on the US. The CIA won’t move until they have that intel. It’s a moral balancing act with Court at the pivot point.

The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison by Jason Hardy:

A former parole officer shines a bright light on a huge yet hidden part of our justice system through the intertwining stories of seven parolees striving to survive the chaos that awaits them after prison in this illuminating and dramatic book.

Prompted by a dead-end retail job and a vague desire to increase the amount of justice in his hometown, Jason Hardy became a parole officer in New Orleans at the worst possible moment. Louisiana’s incarceration rates were the highest in the US and his department’s caseload had just been increased to 220 “offenders” per parole officer, whereas the national average is around 100. Almost immediately, he discovered that the biggest problem with our prison system is what we do–and don’t do–when people get out of prison.

Deprived of social support and jobs, these former convicts are often worse off than when they first entered prison and Hardy dramatizes their dilemmas with empathy and grace. He’s given unique access to their lives and a growing recognition of their struggles and takes on his job with the hope that he can change people’s fates–but he quickly learns otherwise. The best Hardy and his colleagues can do is watch out for impending disaster and help clean up the mess left behind. But he finds that some of his charges can muster the miraculous power to save themselves. By following these heroes, he both stokes our hope and fuels our outrage by showing us how most offenders, even those with the best intentions, end up back in prison–or dead–because the system systematically fails them. Our focus should be, he argues, to give offenders the tools they need to re-enter society which is not only humane but also vastly cheaper for taxpayers.

As immersive and dramatic as Evicted and as revelatory as The New Jim Crow, The Second Chance Club shows us how to solve the cruelest problems prisons create for offenders and society at large.

Have a great week!

Linda Reimer, SSCL

Note: Book summaries are from the publisher unless otherwise specified.

References

Former Parole Officer Reflects On His Time Supervising ‘The Second Chance Club’, March 2, 20201:21 PM ET. Heard on Fresh Air. Hosted by Dave Davies
https://www.npr.org/2020/03/02/811187788/former-parole-officer-reflects-on-his-time-supervising-the-second-chance-club

StarCat

The catalog of physical library materials, i.e. print books, audiobooks on CD, DVDs etc.

ABOUT LIBRARY APPS:

You can access digital library content, i.e. eBooks & downloadable audiobooks, on PCs, Macs and mobile devices.

For mobile devices simply download the Libby (eBooks & downloadable audiobooks) or the RB Digital app (on-demand magazines), from your app store to get started. And if you’re using a PC or Mac simply click on the following link: https://stls.overdrive.com/

If you have questions call the library at 607-936-3713 and one of our tech coaches will be happy to assist you.

Tech Talk is a Southeast Steuben County Library blog.

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