Suggested Reading June 8, 2020

Hi everyone, here are our recommended titles for the week, consisting entirely of eBooks & downloadable audiobooks available through the Digital Catalog.

Suggested Reading of the Week:

The Beetle by Richard Marsh (Format: eBook)

Originally published the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in 1897, Marsh’s chilling story was more popular than the classic vampire novel during its time. This reissue includes broader historical context, lists of further reading, and discussion questions. Drawing on a Victorian fascination with the dark powers of the Egyptian scarab, the tale begins with Holt, a homeless man, who enters a deserted building. He sees an insect transform into a deformed man. The man then commands Holt to break into the home of a member of Parliament, setting the stage for a tale of intrigue, love, and revenge told through four narrators, each describing their personal encounters with the mysterious, shape-shifting Beetle, all while a visceral threat to the whole of England emerges. The plot itself, while bordering on silly at times, nevertheless manages to tackle some serious issues of class, gender, sexual, and ethnic identity while still providing plenty of satisfying chills. VERDICT Like many Victorian-era gothic tales, this will appeal to a wide range of readers. The universal ick factor of creepy crawlies additionally ensures that this crowdpleaser from the past will continue to strike fear in the hearts and minds of 21st-century readers. — Library Journal

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art written and read by James Nestor (Format: Downloadable Audiobook)

A science journalist takes a measured look at the way we breathe and finds it out of whack.

“No matter what we eat, how much we exercise, how resilient our genes are, how skinny or young or wise we are—none of it will matter unless we are breathing correctly.” So writes Nestor, who, having suffered breathing problems, followed a doctor’s suggestion to take a breathing class. What he found set him on a long chain of discovery into the realms of the most modern science and the most ancient wisdom, leading to this readable treatise on improving the way we breathe. A great many of us could stand to improve. By Nestor’s measure, about half of us are “habitual mouthbreathers,” which leads to all sorts of structural, physical, and medical consequences. Things should be happening in the nose instead, even if “for the past century, the prevailing belief in Western medicine was that the nose was more or less an ancillary organ.” The nose is key, for using it properly can clear up breathing obstructions and militate against the “dysevolution” caused over countless millennia by the lowering of the larynx to permit speech. Instead, notes the author, nose breathing widens the airways and makes breathing easier, with success building on success to clear up breathing problems such as the ones he’d been laboring under. In the way of an ancient master of prana—or chi, pneuma, atma, and many another spiritually resonant term—Nestor offers the lessons he learned from pulmonologists and “pulmonauts” alike. These include what he calls “the perfect breath”: breathing in deeply through the nose for 5.5 seconds and out for 5.5 seconds, which yields 5.5 breaths a minute. It’s free, he counsels happily, “and you can do it wherever you are, whenever you need.”A welcome, invigorating user’s manual for the respiratory system. — Kirkus Reviews

Catherine House: A Novel by Elisabeth Thomas (Format: eBook)

Thomas’s spellbinding debut opens in 1996 on Ines Murillo’s first night at a small, highly selective college in the Pennsylvania woods. Drunk after a party, Ines reflects on her relief that behind Catherine House’s locked gates, no one knows about her past. Renowned for controversial research regarding a mysterious elemental substance called plasm, the school holds classes year-round, and students remain confined to Catherine’s rural estate. Eager to disassociate from a past trauma, Ines falls behind on her work while seeking solace in a string of sexual encounters before finding a group of friends who feel closer to family than anything she’s ever known. Still, Ines can’t ignore her growing suspicions about the school’s plasm experimentation in “psychosexual healing,” in which students are subjected to mass hypnosis. Ines’s academic probation leads her to forced isolation in the “Restoration Center,” where a professor places plasm pins in her head and tells her she’ll never think of her past life again. Surreal imagery, spare characterization, and artful, hypnotic prose lend Thomas’s tale a delirious air, but at the book’s core lies a profound portrait of depression and adolescent turmoil. Fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History will devour this philosophical fever dream. — Publishers Weekly Review

The Guest List written by Susan Foley and read by Jot Davies (Format: Downloadable Audiobook)

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.

The bride? The plus one? The best man? The wedding planner? The bridesmaid The body?

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Hush: Detective Harriet Blue Series, Book 4 written by James Patterson & Candice Fox (Format: eBook)

Top cop. Devoted sister. Now Inmate 3329. But prison bars won’t stop Harriet Blue from seeking justice for the murder of her brother.

Prison is a dangerous place for a former cop – as Harriet Blue is learning on a daily basis.

So, following a fight for her life and a prison-wide lockdown, the last person she wants to see is Deputy Police Commissioner Joe Woods. The man who put her inside.

But Woods is not there to gloat. His daughter Tonya and her two-year-old child have gone missing.
He’s ready to offer Harriet a deal: find his family to buy her freedom…

Iron Lake: Cork O’Connor Series, Book 1 written by William Kent Krueger and read by David Chandler (Format: Downloadable Audiobook)

Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Cork is having difficulty dealing with the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, getting by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago’s South Side, there’s not much that can shock him. But when the town’s judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on this complicated and perplexing case of conspiracy, corruption, and a small-town secret that hits painfully close to home.

Editorial Reviews

“Iron Lake is where it all began, when Cork O’Connor walked off the page, tough, vulnerable, hardened and shattered, and into our lives. His creation is a brilliant achievement, and one every crime reader and writer needs to celebrate. With this novel, Kent Krueger elevated the crime fiction genre into something very special.” — Louise Penny

“Among thoughtful readers, William Kent Krueger holds a very special place in the pantheon. Upon introducing Cork O’Connor in IRON LAKE twenty years ago, Kent showed the mystery reading world that a protagonist need not be a chain-smoking loner with lots of emotional baggage but he could be an honest and admirable family man doing his best for all the right reasons.” — C.J. Box

“There’s a feel that you get from a master craftsman, a saddle that sits right, a fly rod that casts with its own agility, or a series of books written with a grace and precision so stunning that you’d swear the stories were your own—Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Conner novels fit that bill.”– Craig Johnson

Little Eyes: A Novel by Samanta Schweblin (Format: eBook)


They’ve infiltrated homes in Hong Kong, shops in Vancouver, the streets of in Sierra Leone, town squares in Oaxaca, schools in Tel Aviv, bedrooms in Indiana. They’re everywhere. They’re here. They’re us. They’re not pets, or ghosts, or robots. They’re real people, but how can a person living in Berlin walk freely through the living room of someone in Sydney? How can someone in Bangkok have breakfast with your children in Buenos Aires, without your knowing? Especially when these people are completely anonymous, unknown, unfindable.

The characters in Samanta Schweblin’s brilliant new novel, Little Eyes, reveal the beauty of connection between far-flung souls—but yet they also expose the ugly side of our increasingly linked world. Trusting strangers can lead to unexpected love, playful encounters, and marvelous adventure, butbut what happens when it can also pave the way for unimaginable terror? This is a story that is already happening; it’s familiar and unsettling because it’s our present and we’re living it, we just don’t know it yet. In this prophecy of a story, Schweblin creates a dark and complex world that’s somehow so sensible, so recognizable, that once it’s entered, no one can ever leave.

Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters: A Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini (Format: eBook)

The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker returns to her most famous heroine, Mary

Todd Lincoln, in this compelling story of love, loss, and sisterhood rich with history and suspense.

In May 1875, Elizabeth Todd Edwards reels from news that her younger sister Mary, former First Lady and widow of President Abraham Lincoln, has attempted suicide.

Mary’s shocking act followed legal proceedings arranged by her eldest and only surviving son that declared her legally insane. Although they have long been estranged, Elizabeth knows Mary’s tenuous mental health has deteriorated through decades of trauma and loss. Yet is her suicide attempt truly the impulse of a deranged mind, or the desperate act of a sane woman terrified to be committed to an asylum? And—if her sisters can put past grievances aside—is their love powerful enough to save her?

Maternal Elizabeth, peacemaker Frances, envious Ann, and much adored Emilie had always turned to one another in times of joy and heartache, first as children, and later as young wives and mothers. But when Civil War erupted, the conflict that divided a nation shattered their family. The Todd sisters’s fates were bound to their husbands’ choices as some joined the Lincoln administration, others the Confederate Army.

Now, though discord and tragedy have strained their bonds, Elizabeth knows they must come together as sisters to help Mary in her most desperate hour.

Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America written and read by Stacey Abrams (Format: Downloadable Audiobook)

A detailed exposé of how our democracy has been eroded—and a plan to fix it—from an up-and-coming national leader.

“My parents raised the six of us in Mississippi, my mother an underpaid librarian and my father a dyslexic shipyard worker,” writes Abrams, whose earliest memory of the voting process involved accompanying her parents to the polls. Her more recent memories are more bitter: In 2018, she lost the Georgia gubernatorial race to Brian Kemp in what she believes was an unfairly conducted election. “For a New American Majority—that coalition of people of color, young people, and moderate to progressive whites—to be successful, we have to stop letting them tell us who we are and how to succeed,” she writes. In succinct but thorough chapters, she lays out the grim history of voting rights, both in policy and practice, from the crafting of the Constitution to the present day. The devious creativity of the techniques used to suppress votes is jaw-dropping, and Abrams provides detailed examples from around the country. Among them are obstacles to registration, voter ID “exact match” policies and other restrictions, unexpected poll closings, restriction of early and absentee voting, ballot rejection, miscounting, manipulation of provisional ballots, gerrymandering, and a broken infrastructure, including malfunctioning machines and interminable lines. The author’s plan to solve the problem “short-circuits” debate about identity politics, and she clearly explains how to enact change at the federal level. The census, for example, can be “an organizing tool we can use to salvage democracy.” Abrams informs readers how “democracies rarely fail today because of military coups or foreign invasion. Instead their death is gradual, coming slowly and over time with an erosion of rights and an accumulation of attacks on the institutions that form their backbone.” An afterword on COVID-19 emphasizes the urgency of the 2020 election.

If you are feeling hopeless about politics, this well-informed blueprint for change may begin to restore your faith. — Kirkus Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Stacey Abrams’s powerful, deeply moving book shines a bright light on the ongoing attacks on the sacred, constitutional right to the ballot. Stacey provides everyday Americans and political leaders alike with the tools that are urgently needed to confront and defeat the forces that seek to deny Americans their voice in our democracy. The right to vote is the foundation of our freedom and a key pillar of our democracy, and we must all fight to ensure that all Americans have a say in their nation’s future.” —Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

“Stacey Abrams’s Our Time Is Now outlines a dynamic blueprint for how each of us can reshape the future of our democracy. Her ability to rise above her own political struggles and transform her learned experience into a saving grace for marginalized communities is breathtaking. With each page, she inspires and empowers us to create systems that reflect a world in which all voices are heard and all people believe and feel that they matter.” —Kerry Washington

“Stacey Abrams is not only a passionate advocate of democracy, but also an inspiring example of how to practice it. In Our Time Is Now, she exposes systematic voter suppression efforts across America, and tells us what we need to do to fight back. This book is an essential toolkit for citizens of all backgrounds who believe, as I do, that democracy is not a spectator sport.” —Madeleine K. Albright, former United States Secretary of State
“Following her historic run for Governor of Georgia in 2018, Stacey Abrams led a nationwide effort to empower and enfranchise voters to participate in our democratic process. With Our Time is Now, she’s now set out a comprehensive roadmap for engaging those voters, tearing down barriers to participation, and making our democracy live up to its highest ideals.” —Julian Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Prophetic City: Houston on the Cusp of a Changing America written by Stephen L. Klineberg and read by Danny Campbell (Format: Downloadable Audiobook)

Sociologist Klineberg (founding director, Kinder Inst. for Urban Research, Rice Univ.) gives a fascinating portrait of Houston in this debut. He begins with the misconceptions of Houston—an ugly, boring city that is too big for its own good. Klineberg offers a different message about the city as a purveyor of America’s future, using a four-decade study to analyze how the demographics have shifted over the years, along with the varied opportunities and challenges that have occurred as a result. According to Klineberg, the city’s large wealth gap is one of the significant threats to society, as it determines who lives in an environment that is more likely to succeed, or who is more likely to experience hardship. This disparity is evident from the gaps between West Houston and East Houston. Education levels are exasperated by this wealth gap, which also leads to perception of governmental benefits. The author believes that diversity is Houston’s biggest asset because it offers new perspectives and allows the city a chance to become an inclusive community and metropolitan area. In his words, these are lessons that the rest of the country can learn from. VERDICT A must-read, highly recommended sociological perspective of America’s future.—Jacob Sherman, John Peace Lib., Univ. of Texas at San Antonio for Library Journal

Be well and happy reading!

Linda Reimer, SSCL

Note: Book summaries are from the respective publishers unless otherwise specified.


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