Suggested Reading November 24, 2020

Hi everyone, here are our recommended reads for the week.

After each title is a list of all the different formats that title available in; including: Print Books, Large Print Books, Audiobooks on CD, eBooks & Downloadable Audiobooks from the Digital Catalog (OverDrive & Libby apps) and Hoopla eBooks & Downloadable Audiobooks (Hoopla App).

*More information on the three catalogs is found at the end of the list of recommended reads*

Weekly Suggested Reading postings are published on Tuesdays.

Barack Before Obama: Life Before The Presidency by David Katz

(Available Format: Print Book)

An appealing pictorial biography of the pre-presidential Barack Obama. In early 2004, Katz joined Obama’s senatorial campaign as a volunteer driver and then photographer and aide. In this well-rendered photographic celebration, he shows the trajectory of Obama from state politician to leader of the free world. The photos are all high quality and cover a vast range of moments, from Obama getting his haircut by his longtime barber near Hyde Park to the presidential hopeful in tears when he learned, two days before the 2008 election, that the grandmother who raised him had just died.

Throughout, Katz emphasizes his theme of the “many small moments in Obama’s life when his political career was just gaining traction.” It all began when the budding photographer decided that the unknown Obama needed “more compelling” pictures on his website. The campaign had only 10 staffers and couldn’t pay Katz, but they offered him a volunteer position. So he spent 10 months driving the candidate around the state before becoming his personal aide.

Alongside the photos, the author offers illuminating commentary–on the role of the Secret Service, Michelle’s take, the Al Smith dinner, a rally with Bruce Springsteen–and it’s interesting to consider how Katz designed the layout. He made the wise choice to group together many shots, so we have a set with Stevie Wonder and Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey, George Soros, Nelson Mandela, the Bidens, and Leonardo DiCaprio, among many others. Along the way, readers will learn how politicians rise as they connect with celebrities and funders, and the narrative is packed with entertaining vignettes. For example, Oprah didn’t think the Obamas’ Chicago apartment was the right setting for O, The Oprah Magazine, so she took the shoot outdoors. The book also features a foreword by Obama himself. A brilliantly photographed tribute to the rise of the 44th president. – Starred Kirkus Review

Big Girl, Small Town: A Novel by Michelle Gallen

(Available Format: Print Book)

DEBUT Majella O’Neill keeps a running list in her head of top 10 things she likes and dislikes. The dislikes list actually runs to a full 97 items, with subcategories, but she sometimes thinks it could be distilled to one item: other people. She lives in Aghybogey, a small village in Northern Ireland still feeling the effects of the Troubles. Working at the local chip shop, she regularly cleans up after her needy, alcoholic mother. Years have passed since the unexplained disappearance of Majella’s father, and her grandmother’s murder has just rattled the village. Majella finds comfort in her routines–wearing the same clothes, spending Sunday evenings at the pub, eating microwaved dinners from the chip shop while tucked into bed watching DVDs of Dallas, the greatest show ever–but is deeply shaken by the death of her grandmother. Majella is a compelling character caught in a fascinating slice of time, and her journey is exquisitely rendered.

VERDICT With echoes of Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine crossed with the 1990s-set British sitcom Derry Girls, this debut is recommended for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh, Emma Donoghue, and Sally Rooney.–Julie Kane, Washington & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA – Starred Library Journal Review

Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill

(Available Formats: Print Book, Hoopla Downloadable Audiobook)

Jason Tanner, protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been by his mentor’s side in New York to spread the message of passive resistance. In Harlem, the epicenter of black culture, poet Anita Hopkins tries to capture the message of Malcolm X, which she believes with all her heart: the time is now; enough is enough.

When Jason goes to the iconic B Flat lounge and sees Anita perform, he’s transfixed. Her passion for what she believes runs as deep as his. And Anita has never met anyone who can match her wit for wit like this. Their scorching desire for each other clashes with their fundamentally opposed beliefs… until, in a cruel twist of fate, Jason is drafted for Vietnam.

With the country at a breaking point and their romance caught in the center, both Anita and Jason are going to have to redefine heart, home, and what they truly desire.

Daylight by David Baldacci

(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print & eBook)

FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s search for her sister Mercy clashes with military investigator John Puller’s high-stakes case, leading them both deep into a global conspiracy — from which neither of them will escape unscathed.

For many long years, Atlee Pine was tormented by uncertainty after her twin sister, Mercy, was abducted at the age of six and never seen again. Now, just as Atlee is pressured to end her investigation into Mercy’s disappearance, she finally gets her most promising breakthrough yet: the identity of her sister’s kidnapper, Ito Vincenzo.

With time running out, Atlee and her assistant Carol Blum race to Vincenzo’s last known location in Trenton, New Jersey — and unknowingly stumble straight into John Puller’s case, blowing his arrest during a drug ring investigation involving a military installation.

Stunningly, Pine and Puller’s joint investigation uncovers a connection between Vincenzo’s family and a breathtaking scheme that strikes at the very heart of global democracy. Peeling back the layers of deceit, lies and cover-ups, Atlee finally discovers the truth about what happened to Mercy. And that truth will shock Pine to her very core.

Deadly Cross by James Patterson

(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print Book & eBook)

A scandalous double homicide in the nation’s capital opens the psychological case files on Detective Alex Cross. Until Kay Willingham’s shocking murder inside a luxury limousine, the Georgetown socialite, philanthropist, and ex-wife of the sitting vice-president led a public life. Yet few, including her onetime psychologist, had any inkling of Kay’s troubled past in the Deep South. Murdered alongside her is Randall Christopher, a respected educator whose political ambitions may have endangered both their lives. While John Sampson of DC Metro Police tracks Randall’s final movements, Alex Cross and FBI Special Agent Ned Mahoney travel to Alabama to investigate Kay’s early years. They discover that although Kay had many enemies, all of them needed her alive. Alex is left without a viable suspect, even as he faces a desperate choice between breaking a trust and losing his way, as a detective, and as the protector of his family.

Last American Aristocrat: The Brilliant Life and Improbable Education of Henry Adams by David S. Brown

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Historian Brown (Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald) delivers a splendid biography of Harvard professor and memoirist Henry Adams (1838–1918). The direct descendant of two presidents and a diplomat, Adams, who is best known for his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, sardonically referred to himself as a “failure.” Yet he managed to emerge from his prominent family’s shadow and make a worthy and memorable life for himself, Brown reveals. He vividly describes Adams’s milieu during a period of sweeping social change in America, detailing his marriage to socialite and photographer Marian “Clover” Hooper, who committed suicide in 1885; his friendships with Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Henry Cabot Lodge; and his travels in Cuba, Japan, Russia, and the South Pacific. Brown also tracks how Adams’s views on the Civil War shifted during his tenure as his father’s personal secretary in London, and notes his stances against the spoils system, the gold standard, and imperialism, as well as his ethnic and racial prejudices. The fully fleshed-out Adams that emerges in these pages is irascible, self-contradictory, and always fascinating. Readers will be thrilled by this standout portrait of the man and his era.

Marauder: A Novel of the Oregon Files by Clive Cussler

(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print Book, CD Audiobook & eBook)

In 2019’s The Final Option, Juan Cabrillo, the captain of the Oregon, was forced to sink his beloved ship in a dire emergency. Now, in the late Cussler’s suspenseful 15th Oregon Files novel, also coauthored with Morrison, Cabrillo, the chairman of the organization known as the Corporation, is taking the rebuilt Oregon on a sea trial in the Strait of Malacca when he gets a report of a tanker under terrorist attack. Cabrillo and crew rush to the rescue. Meanwhile, April Jin and her husband, Angus Polk, who each recently spent time in an Australian prison for treason, receive a posthumous message from their one-time employer, Chinese industrialist Lu Yang, asking them to continue a mission he was involved in shortly before his death. Jin and Polk, operating from a trimaran that’s armed with an experimental plasma weapon and a new paralyzing gas, set out to achieve Lu’s goal of taking over Australia. Only Cabrillo and the fabulous new Oregon with its cutting-edge weaponry stand in their way. Readers will race through the pages to see what happens next. Fans will hope this isn’t the last adventure from Cussler (1931–2020).- Publishers Weekly Review

Nights When Nothing Happened by Simon Han

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Chengs live in Plano, Texas, where nothing much seems to happen. At 11, Jack sees himself as his sister Annabel’s protector, and wakes up every time she sleepwalks to follow her and bring her back to bed without alerting his parents. Annabel, an affectionate five-year-old, doesn’t seem disturbed by anything until she goes to sleep. Their mother, Patty, works long hours at her tech job near Dallas, while father Liang watches over the kids. From the outside, they seem like the model immigrant family. But when Child Protective Services shows up, all four of them are suddenly forced to unveil the secret fears they have of one another, and forge a new understanding of familial intimacy and trust. In this exemplary debut, Han explores childhood trauma and the impact words and silence can have on both building and harming relationships. He writes with sensitivity and tenderness, allowing his fully fleshed-out characters to take on lives of their own and tell their heartbreaking perspectives directly to readers. Readers will be gripped by this beautiful debut.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.) – Booklist Review

That Time of Year: A Minnesota Life by Garrison Keillor

(Available Format: Print Book)

With the warmth and humor we’ve come to know, the creator and host of A Prairie Home Companion shares his own remarkable story.

In That Time of Year, Garrison Keillor looks back on his life and recounts how a Brethren boy with writerly ambitions grew up in a small town on the Mississippi in the 1950s and, seeing three good friends die young, turned to comedy and radio. Through a series of unreasonable lucky breaks, he founded A Prairie Home Companion and put himself in line for a good life, including mistakes, regrets, and a few medical adventures. PHC lasted forty years, 750 shows, and enjoyed the freedom to do as it pleased for three or four million listeners every Saturday at 5 p.m. Central. He got to sing with Emmylou Harris and Renee Fleming and once sang two songs to the U.S. Supreme Court. He played a private eye and a cowboy, gave the news from his hometown, Lake Wobegon, and met Somali cabdrivers who’d learned English from listening to the show. He wrote bestselling novels, won a Grammy and a National Humanities Medal, and made a movie with Robert Altman with an alarming amount of improvisation.

He says, “I was unemployable and managed to invent work for myself that I loved all my life, and on top of that I married well. That’s the secret, work and love. And I chose the right ancestors, impoverished Scots and Yorkshire farmers, good workers. I’m heading for eighty, and I still get up to write before dawn every day.”

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

(Available Format: Print Book)

Winter sends animals to hibernation and people to their homes to settle before a fire. But winter, according to May, can come at any season. Hers started in early autumn with her husband’s appendicitis and her own illness. Suddenly her days bring slow-cooked meals and coloring with her son rather than university lectures and frantic writing schedules. As the author draws into herself, she begins to see the healing powers of cold and quiet. Moving through the calendar year, May talks to men and women who have mastered the art of living in the cold. She interviews a Finnish woman whose childhood revolved around months of snow; she discovers a man who tracks wolves to keep them away from flocks and safe from hunters. May attends a St. Lucia festival, visits Stonehenge, swims in frigid water, and crosses the Arctic Circle in search of the northern lights and guidance. And through it all, she ponders her son’s difficulties in school and her own loss of voice. In this introspective, beautifully written mix of memoir and philosophy, May explores life’s hardest season and the lessons of acceptance. With a pandemic keeping us isolated in so many ways, May offers much-needed solace and comfort and a reminder that seasons eventually turn. – Starred Booklist Review

Plot descriptions are from the publisher unless otherwise specified.

Have a great week!

Linda Reimer

*Information on the Three Catalogs*

Digital Catalog:

The Digital Catalog has two companion apps, Libby & OverDrive. Libby is the app for newer devices and the OverDrive app should be used for older devices and Amazon tablets.

All card holders of all Southern Tier Library System member libraries can check out items from the Digital Catalog.

Hoopla Catalog:

The Hoopla Catalog features instant check outs of eBooks, downloadable audiobook, comic books, albums and streaming videos. Patron check out limit is 4 items per month.

Hoopla is a Southeast Steuben County Library service available to all Southeast Steuben County Library card holders.

The Hoopla App is available for Android or Apple devices and most smart TVs & media streaming players.

StarCat: The catalog of physical/traditional library materials:

Card holders of all Southern Tier Library System member libraries can access StarCat to search for and request materials available at libraries through out the Southern Tier Library System.

The StarCat app is called Bookmyne and is available for Apple and Android devices.

Also feel free to call the Southeast Steuben County Library and request titles via tel 607-936-3713.

Have a great week!

Linda Reimer, SSCL

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


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


You can access one-copy-one-user digital library content, i.e. eBooks & downloadable audiobooks, on PCs, Macs and mobile devices via the Digital Catalog found at or by using the companion apps Libby (for newer devices) and OverDrive (for older devices and Kindle tablets)

Have questions?

Feel free to call the library! Our telephone number is 607-936-3713.

Tech Talk is a Southeast Steuben County Library blog.

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