Suggested Reading March 30, 2021

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

Format Note: Under each book title you’ll find a list of all the different formats that specific title is available in; including: Print Books, Large Print Books, CD Audiobooks, eBooks & Downloadable Audiobooks from the Digital Catalog (OverDrive & Libby apps) and Hoopla eBooks & Hoopla 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. The next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

America Is Immigrants by Sara Novic

(Available Formats: eBook)

America Is Immigrants

As the title suggests, this book shows how profound and pervasive the immigrant influence has been on American life.

Scratch beneath the surface of nearly any facet of what is considered American culture, and you’ll likely find the imprint of someone who came to the country from somewhere else. Such is the lesson of this collaboration between novelist Nović (Girl at War, 2015), who was born and raised in America within an immigrant family, and illustrator Kolesar, who emigrated from Scotland. Here, they celebrate more than 200 individuals, with capsule biographies of no more than a page and full-color portraits that attest to the cultural diversity and vitality of the immigrant influence. “There are 193 member states in the United Nations; this book contains at least one person from each of them,” states the introduction. One two-page spread on “Classic American Products” pays tribute to those responsible for Levi’s, hamburgers, Nathan’s hot dogs, Carvel ice cream, and Chevrolet, all-American iconography that owes its genesis to Germany, Denmark, Poland, Greece, and Switzerland, respectively. The all-American Chef Boyardee was known in his native Italy as Ettore Boiardi. After the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, when he “famously quipped to his doctors, ‘Please tell me you’re Republicans,’ ” three members of his medical team were from Malaysia, “Nicaragua/Mexico,” and “a refugee of Nazi Germany…raised in an American orphanage.” Lest anyone think this is a work of partisan ideology, among those celebrated is “the only naturalized citizen ever to become First Lady, Melania Trump,” balanced a couple of pages later by Hungarian refugee and billionaire human rights activist George Soros. As the narrative clearly shows, from music to fine arts, from the stage to the big screen, from scientific discoveries to athletic records, the history of American culture is impossible to record without significant immigrant representation.

A book that makes its point over and over again without belaboring it.
–Kirkus Reviews

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson

(Available Formats: Print Book & Downloadable Audiobook)

Code Breaker

A magisterial biography of the co-discoverer of what has been called the greatest advance in biology since the discovery of DNA.A magisterial biography of the co-discoverer of what has been called the greatest advance in biology since the discovery of DNA.

For the first third of Isaacson’s latest winner, the author focuses on the life and career of Jennifer Doudna (b. 1964). Raised by academic parents who encouraged her fascination with science, she flourished in college and went on to earn a doctorate in biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology from Harvard. After fellowships and postdoc programs at the University of Colorado and Yale, she joined the faculty at the University of California in 2002. In 2006, she learned about CRISPR, a system of identical repeated DNA sequences in bacteria copied from certain viruses. Others had discovered that this was a defense mechanism—CRISPR DNA generates enzymes that chop up the DNA of the infecting virus. With collaborators, she discovered how CRISPR operates and invented a much simpler technique for cutting DNA and editing genes. Although known since the 1970s, “genetic engineering” was a complex, tedious process. CRISPR made it much simpler. Formally accepted by the editors of Science in 2012, the co-authored paper galvanized the scientific establishment and led to a torrent of awards, culminating in the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry. At this point, Isaacson steps back, keeping Doudna as the central character but describing the rush to apply gene editing to altering life and curing diseases, the intense debate over its morality, and the often shameful quarrels over credit and patents. A diligent historian and researcher, Isaacson lucidly explains CRISPR and refuses to pass it off as a far-fetched magic show. Some scientific concepts (nuclear fission, evolution) are easy to grasp but not CRISPR. Using charts, analogies, and repeated warnings for readers to pay attention, the author describes a massively complicated operation in which humans can program heredity. Those familiar with college-level biology will have a better time, but nobody will regret the reading experience.

A vital book about the next big thing in science—and yet another top-notch biography from Isaacson.–Kirkus Review

The Day the Music Died by Ed Gorman

(Available Formats: eBook & Hoopla instant checkout eBook)

Day The Music Died

In 1950s Iowa, a murder-suicide forces a lawyer to put aside his rock-and-roll grief.

Sam McCain loves Buddy Holly because he’s the only rock-and-roll star who still seems like a dweeb, and Sam knows how that feels. With the unrequited love of his life at his side, Sam drives more than three hours through the snow to watch his idol play the Surf Ballroom. That night, Buddy Holly dies in the most famous plane crash in music history, but Sam has no time to grieve. Because there are too many lawyers in this small town, Sam makes a living as a PI, doing odd jobs for an eccentric judge—whose nephew, it seems, has a problem only a detective could solve. His trophy wife has been murdered, and as soon as Sam arrives, the nephew kills himself, too.

The police see this as a clear-cut murder-suicide, but Sam wants to know more, diving into a mystery by Ellery Queen Award–winning author Ed Gorman that will get dangerous faster than you can say “bye-bye, Miss American Pie.”

The first book in the classic rock themed Sam McCain mystery series. – Publisher Overview

Foregone: A Novel by Russell Banks

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Foregone

Banks, a conduit for the confounded and the unlucky, a writer acutely attuned to place and ambiance, is at his most magnetic and provocative in this portrait of a celebrated documentary filmmaker on the brink of death. Leonard Fife found love and renown in Canada, after arriving in 1968 as one of many young Americans fleeing the draft to protest the Vietnam War. It’s now 2018 and Fife is succumbing to cancer under the care of an implacable nurse from Haiti as a film crew headed by a former protege sets up to interview him about his influential life’s work. Instead Fife launches into a grand and bewildering confession, insisting that he’s finally telling his beloved wife the full truth about his past. He recounts intensely detailed, engrossing, and disquieting tales about a gloomy Massachusetts childhood, heady sojourn in Greenwich Village, and precarious marriage to a wealthy Virginian, presenting himself as a liar and a thief who betrays his loved ones. But under the bright lights, mere moments have elapsed and everyone listening is confused and concerned, leaving the reader wondering if these perhaps dubious stories are only playing in Fife’s mind. In this masterful depiction of a psyche under siege by disease, age, and guilt, Banks considers with profound intent the verity of memory, the mercurial nature of the self, and how little we actually know about ourselves and others. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Banks’ first novel since the Carnegie Medal shortlisted Lost Memory of Skin (2011) will catalyze his fans and all lovers of richly psychological and ethical fiction.–Booklist Review

Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight by Julia Sweig

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Lady Bird Johnson Hiding In Plain Sight

Claudia Alta Johnson (1912-2007), also known as Lady Bird, was the wife of the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson. Sweig (LBJ School of Public Affairs, Univ. of Texas at Austin) describes Lady Bird not as the deferential wife of a boisterous politician, but as the key adviser to the leader of the Senate, vice president, and, ultimately, president of the United States. Lyndon Johnson presided over tumultuous years in the mid-1960s with the aftershock of the Kennedy assassination, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. Sweig successfully illustrates how Lady Bird strongly influenced her husband on topics ranging from the environment to civil rights, all the while remaking the position of First Lady, shaping how we view it today. This portrait of Lady Bird focuses primarily on her time as First Lady, making ample use of her own recorded diaries along with other primary sources to show how she was both essential to Lyndon Johnson’s triumphs and deeply supportive in his failures. Insight is also given to relationships with other First Ladies, such as Jackie Kennedy and Pat Nixon. VERDICT A perceptive consideration of an often-understudied First Lady and her lasting legacy. For public and academic libraries everywhere.–Keith Klang, Port Washington P.L., NY–Library Journal Review

Later by Stephen King

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Later

Teenager Jamie Conklin warns the reader at the outset that “this is a horror story.” He’s right–we learn in the opening chapter that Jamie can see dead people, sometimes with innards on display–but King’s beguiling short novel is really more of a genre-bender, combining the horror with a sensitive coming-of-age tale and an old-school crime thriller. There’s also a nifty publishing subplot involving Jamie’s literary-agent mother, Tia, whose struggling business (she lost her savings when a Ponzi scheme imploded) depends on the continued output of a best-selling author of historical romances. Jamie would prefer to keep his eyes closed to dead people, but when his mother and her lover, police detective Liz, both in serious jams, are forced to admit the teenager is telling the truth about his special ability, Jamie is inveigled into doing some paranormal sleuthing. Cue more innards. But there are also relationship issues between Tia and Liz, leading to an even bigger jam (with demons) for Jamie. In his signature style, King keeps the narrative cantering along, mixing lots of pop culture into the flow and building Jamie into a witty and thoroughly empathetic lead (recalling the teens in King’s It and his novella “The Body” (on which the movie Stand by Me was based). This may be the most ingratiating mix of sweet and sour since Daniel Kraus’ genre-bender Blood Sugar (2019). –Booklist

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Post Script Murders

When 90-year-old Peggy Smith dies in Shoreham, England, it’s considered a natural death. Her Ukrainian caretaker, Natalka, believes it was too sudden, and she takes her suspicions to Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur. Natalka finds all kinds of mystery novels dedicated to Peggy, aka “PS,” along with a business card that says “Mrs. M. Smith, Murder Consultant.” DS Kaur thinks there might be something to it when Natalka and one of Peggy’s neighbors, Edwin, encounter a gunman who steals a book from Peggy’s collection. Next, Edwin finds a postcard: “We are coming for you.” When the trio, now joined by former monk Benedict, realize other authors have received the postcard, it’s time to investigate. Then another author, the most famous writer to thank Peggy, is murdered. Harbinder likes the small group of amateurs, but she’s appalled when they head to Scotland, chasing authors to a literary festival. VERDICT Readers of Griffiths’s Edgar Award-winning The Stranger Diaries, or her “Ruth Galloway” mysteries, will welcome this book with a diverse cast of well-developed characters. However, the story drags at times. Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club is a stronger pick for those looking for unusual amateur sleuths.–Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN – Booklist Review

Raft of Stars: A Novel by Andrew J. Graff

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Raft of Stars

Even in the early nineties, kids in the sprawling, rundown small town of Claypot, Wisconsin, tended to run amok. Ten-year-olds Fischer and Dale, nicknamed Fish and Bread, could have traveled back in time a few decades and found themselves in a familiar setting. The two became fast friends when Fish moved to Claypot, and they bonded over learning to shoot, riding their bikes all over town, and planning elaborate adventures. When a tragedy forces the boys to embark on a real adventure in the deep Wisconsin forest, the world outside Claypot feels undeniably cruel and unthinkably large. Meanwhile, the residents of Claypot form a search party, forging unexpected relationships along the way. Reminiscent of stories like Stand By Me and Have You Seen Luis Velez?, Graff’s debut novel will enchant fans of Chris Cleave and Melissa Bank. Graff’s narrative voice is lyrical, with a Southern Gothic edge that fits surprisingly well with the Wisconsin Northwoods setting. Exploring the necessity of the stories we tell ourselves to survive, Raft of Stars is a clever, compelling coming-of-age tale. –Booklist Review

The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Soul of a Woman

From the vantage of her 70-plus years, Allende (A Long Petal of the Sea, 2020) uses the lens of feminism to reflect on her life. Feminist was a role she was destined to fulfill, in spite of the misogyny rampant in her native Chile. It was also a role she was cautioned against by her mother, stepfather, and beloved grandfather, yet the empirical logic behind becoming and being her own woman was one that she could not shake. Independence of spirit fueled Allende’s ambition, the desire to witness as strong as that to write. Allende’s transformative approach to feminism is visceral and, not surprisingly, lyrical. It is “like the ocean,” she writes, moving “in waves, currents, tides, and sometimes in storms.” In a narrative that is part memoir and part manifesto, Allende both rails against and embraces aging, making peace with the adjustments she’s made and celebrating life’s joys and accomplishments as measured against a life well lived. A crisp and buoyant unburdening, Allende’s philosophical treatise on women’s issues is unabashedly passionate and personal, as befits one of the world’s most beloved authors and journalists. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Allende is a beacon, weaving feminism into her novels, and her first nonfiction book in years will garner media coverage and reader curiosity. Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020. –Booklist Review

Stop at Nothing by Michael Ledwidge

(Available Formats: eBook)

Stop At Nothing

Diving instructor Michael Gannon, the hero of this contrived thriller from bestseller Ledwidge (the Michael Bennett series with James Patterson), is fishing off an island in the Bahamas when he sees a corporate jet crash into the water. Gannon discovers a fortune in uncut diamonds and American dollars in the downed plane, along with the bodies of six men. Unable to report the tragedy because of a broken antenna, Gannon decides to hold onto the loot, which he guesses is related to a drug deal. Eventually, it becomes clear that among the victims were some highly important people and a cover-up is involved. Gannon ends up partnering with an attractive U.S. Navy lieutenant, Ruby Everett, who investigates the crash, and a journalist, Eric Wheldon, who lost his State Department job after exposing government corruption. Gannon and his allies must dodge multiple perils en route to a predictable conclusion. Action sequences, rather than characterizations, are Ledwidge’s strength. Fans of unsophisticated page-turners will be entertained.—Publishers Weekly Review

The first book in the Michael Gannon Series.

Bonus Recommendation:

In celebration of Eric Clapton’s 76th birthday today, March 20, 2021, here is a bonus recommendation!

The double-live album Just One Night from 1980.

Just One Night

The album features the songs Tulsa Time, Lay Down Sally, Wonderful Tonight, After Midnight, Blues Power and many more.

The album is available on-demand (AKA for instant checkout) through Hoopla – give it a listen!

Have a great week!

Linda Reimer

*Information on the Three Catalogs*

Digital Catalog: https://stls.overdrive.com/

The Digital Catalog, a catalog containing eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, Digital Magazines and a handful of streaming videos, 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: https://www.hoopladigital.com/

The Hoopla Catalog features instant checkouts of eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, comic books, albums, movies and TV series. Patron check out limit is 6 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: https://starcat.stls.org

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.

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

Have questions or want to request a book?

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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