Suggested Reading January 4, 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 (Libby app) 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.

And the next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Tuesday, January 11, 2021.

All About Love: Love Song To The Nation by Bell Hooks

(Available Formats: Hoopla instant checkout eBook)

All About Love

Taking on yet another popular topic in her role as cultural critic, hooks blends the personal and the psychological with the philosophical in her latest book–a thoughtful but frequently familiar examination of love American style. A distinguished professor of English at City College in New York City, she explains her sense of urgency about confronting a subject that countless writers have analyzed: “I feel our nation’s turning away from love as intensely as I felt love’s abandonment in my girlhood. Turning away, we risk moving in a wilderness of spirit so intense we may never find our way home again.” With an engaging narrative style, hooks presents a series of possible ways to reverse what she sees as the emotional and cultural fallout caused by flawed visions of love largely defined by men who have been socialized to distrust its value and power. She proposes a transformative love based on affection, respect, recognition, commitment, trust and care, rather than the customary forms stemming from gender stereotypes, domination, control, ego and aggression. However, many of her insights about self-love, forgiveness, compassion and openness have been explored in greater depth by the legion of writers hooks quotes liberally throughout the book, such as John Bradshaw, Lucia Hodgson, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton and M. Scott Peck, among others. Still, every page offers useful nuggets of wisdom to aid the reader in overcoming the fears of total intimacy and of loss. Although the chapter on angels comes across as filler, hooks’s view of amour is ultimately a pleasing, upbeat alternative to the slew of books that proclaim the demise of love in our cynical time. Publishers Weekly Review, January 3, 2000

Cosmic Hotel: A Novel by Russ Franklin

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Cosmic Hotel

At the heart of Franklin’s surreal and genre-defying debut novel lie existential questions about life and what we hold dear. He effectively delivers these moral dilemmas through a quirky set of characters who might as well pass for the Pritchetts on television’s Modern Family. Life could hardly get any more bizarre for Sandeep Sanghavithe biracial son of an Indian hotelier businesswoman, Elizabeth, and a self-centered astronomer, Van, as he watches his family’s illustrious hotel business decay while battling mysterious health concerns and nurturing a crush on his distant cousin, Ursula. To make matters worse, an alien, Randolph, wants to go home to his mother planet and keeps texting Sandeep because he needs Van, who has discovered this planet, to help. Franklin renders many scenes of suspended animation achingly well: the closing of many of their hotels, waiting at airport lounges trapped in limbo between time zones, the desperate search for an elusive planet. This is what being is: an existence, a created crater. We all just simply go away and our gravity disappears, Sandeep realizes. Franklin’s fresh and reflective tale movingly shows that what we make of that created crater, and how, just might be the point of it all. Starred Booklist Review

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

(Available Formats: Print Book, Libby audiobook & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)

Daughter of the Deep

In this contemporary reimagining of Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island, Riordan (the Percy Jackson series) merges foundational science fiction adventures with a modern sensibility and a variously inclusive cast from across the globe, injecting the adventure with action and generation-spanning intrigue. Ana Dakkar, 14 and of Bundeli Indian ancestry, is excited to undergo the freshman end-of-year trials that will determine her future at the prestigious Harding-Pencroft Academy, which provides a world-class education in all things marine and aquatic. No sooner has her class departed for the event, though, when the academy is attacked and destroyed by the rivaling Land Institute, forcing Ana and her classmates, the only survivors, to seek refuge in a hidden island outpost. Along the way, Ana discovers that she is descended from the infamous Captain Nemo as well as heir to his trove of futuristic technology and legendary submarine, the Nautilus. When the Land Institute seeks to usurp the technology for its own selfish ends, Ana and her classmates must harness Nemo’s legacy to defend themselves. But her parents died years ago while unlocking the Nautilus’s secrets—how can she succeed where they failed? Simultaneously retro and futuristic, this entertaining standalone starts with a bang and doesn’t let up.

Freedom: Stories Celebrating The Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a forward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

(Available Formats: Print Book)


Thirty-six authors ranging widely in nationality have contributed to this tribute to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With an introduction by Archbishop Desmond Tutu discussing literature as an expression of humanity and a moving epilog by Henning Mankell, this compilation includes stories inspired by each of the declaration’s 30 articles. The writers, who include Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, David Mitchell, Ariel Dorfman, Banana Yoshimoto, Yann Martel, Paulo Coehlo, Nadine Gordimer, and Rohinton Mistry, among many others, interpret the articles as they consider culture, government, religion, law, gender, race, and media in relation to human rights. For instance, in “The Kind of Neighbor You Used To Have,” James Meek writes effectively of a man detained without habeas corpus and confronted by a neighbor who himself has been taken in to custody to persuade the detainee to confess to his crime. Kate Atkinson’s satirical and frightening “The War on Woman” focuses on an apolitical woman whose mundane existence is altered by an increasingly aggressive enforcement of a law against women. VERDICT The stories here are impressive in scope and show that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights can apply to many aspects of the human experience. Valuable reading. Library Journal Review

Future Media edited by Rich Wilber

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Future Media

This startling exploration of the mass media age uniquely combines complex nonfiction and prescient fiction from the best and brightest visionaries of the future. With an Introduction by Paul Levinson, essay contributors include Marshall McLuhan, who posited that the medium is the message; Cory Doctorow and his re-visioning of intellectual property in the digital age; and Nicolas Carr, whose cautionary warnings include that Google is making us stupid. The thought-provoking short stories are authored by science fiction luminaries including James Tiptree Jr., whose pseudonymous cyperpunk preceded all of her peers; Joe Haldeman and his wars where humans fight through cloning and time travel; and Norman Spinrad, who has pitted the media against an immortality conspiracy. Offering a blend of predictions for the course of communications, Future Media entertains while it informs and challenges readers to consider the implications for a society dealing with networks that are alternately personal, public, pervasive, and powerful.

Night Soldiers by Alan Furst

(Available Formats: Print Book & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)

Night Soldiers

Bulgaria, 1934. A young man is murdered by the local fascists. His brother, Khristo Stoianev, is recruited into the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and sent to Spain to serve in its civil war. Warned that he is about to become a victim of Stalin’s purges, Khristo flees to Paris. Night Soldiers masterfully re-creates the European world of 1934–45: the struggle between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia for Eastern Europe, the last desperate gaiety of the beau monde in 1937 Paris, and guerrilla operations with the French underground in 1944. Night Soldiers is a scrupulously researched panoramic novel, a work on a grand scale.

Readers’ Note: Night Soldiers is the first book in the fifteen book Night Soldiers series.

Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander

(Available Formats: Print Book & CD Audiobook)

Ministry of Special Cases

Young writers are often told to write about what they know. In his 1999 collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander spun the material of his orthodox Jewish background into marvelous fiction. But the real trick to writing about what you know is to make sure you know more as you mature. Englander’s first novel, The Ministry of Special Cases, conjures a world far removed from “The Gilgul of Second Avenue.” The novel is set in 1976 in Buenos Aires during Argentina’s “dirty war.” Kaddish Poznan, hijo de puta, son of a whore, earns a meager living defacing gravestones of Jewish whores and pimps whose more respectable children want to erase their immigrant parents’ names and forget their shameful activities. Kaddish labors in the Jewish cemetery at night. His hardworking wife, Lillian, toils in an insurance agency by day, and their idealistic son, Pato, attends college, goes to concerts and smokes pot with his friends. When Pato is taken from home, Kaddish learns what it really means to erase identity, because no one in authority will admit Pato has been arrested. No one will even acknowledge that Pato existed. As Lillian and Kaddish attempt to penetrate the Ministry of Special Cases, Englander’s novel takes on an epic quality in which Jewish parents descend into the underworld and journey through circles of hell.

Gogol, I.B. Singer and Orwell all come to mind, but Englander’s book is unique in its layering of Jewish tradition and totalitarian obliteration. At times Englander’s motifs seem forced. Kaddish, whose very name evokes the memory of the dead, chisels out the name of a plastic surgeon’s disreputable father, and in lieu of cash receives nose jobs for himself and his wife. Lillian’s nose job is at first unsuccessful, and her nose slides off her face. One form of defacement pays for another. Kaddish fights with his son in the cemetery and accidentally slices off the tip of Pato’s finger. Attempting to erase a letter, Kaddish blights a digit. But the fight seems staged, Pato’s presence unwarranted except for Englander’s schema. Other scenes are haunting: Lillian confronting bureaucrats; Kaddish appealing to a rabbi to learn if it is possible for a Jew to have a funeral without a body; Kaddish picking an embarrassing embroidered name off the velvet curtain in front of the ark in the synagogue. When he picks off the gold thread, the name stands out even more prominently because the velvet underneath the embroidery is unfaded, darker than the rest of the fabric. Englander writes with increasing power and authority in the second half of his book; he probes deeper and deeper, looking at what absence means, reading the shadow letters on history’s curtain. Publishers Weekly Review

Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon by Malcolm Gladwell with Paul Simon

(Available Formats: Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)

Miracle and Wonder

What happens when Paul Simon, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in music history, and Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling author, sit down together, with a tape recorder and a guitar?

Miracle and Wonder: Conversations with Paul Simon is part memoir, part investigation, and unlike any creative portrait you’ve ever heard before. Recorded over a series of 30 hours of conversation between Simon, Gladwell, and Gladwell’s oldest friend and co-writer, journalist and Broken Record podcast co-host Bruce Headlam, the conversation flows from Simon’s music, to his childhood in Queens, NY, to his frequent collaborators including Art Garfunkel and the nature of creativity itself. Gladwell and Headlam traveled from the mountains of Hawaii to Simon’s own backyard studio to record an artist they’ve idolized since childhood.

Woven throughout the audiobook is distinctive commentary about Simon’s songwriting alongside archival audio footage and never-before-heard live studio versions and original recordings of beloved hits including “The Boxer”, “The Sound of Silence”, and “Graceland”. Between conversations, Gladwell deploys his signature blend of historical research and social science in an attempt to understand how a boy from 1940s Queens conjured near-perfect songs over an incredible 65-year career. Along the way, he gathers reflections on Simon’s particular genius from the likes of Sting, Herbie Hancock, Renee Fleming, Jeff Tweedy, Aaron Lindsey, and Roseanne Cash.

The result is an intimate audio biography of one of America’s most popular songwriters. Brimming with music and conversation, Miracle and Wonder is a window into Simon’s legendary career, what it means to be alive as an artist, and how to create work that endures.

The People Next Door by Keri Beevis

(Available Formats: Hoopla instant checkout eBook)

The People Next Door

Her new house has a mysterious past—and her new life in the English countryside is about to take a dark turn . . .

When Ellie and Ash move into a beautiful old house in rural Norfolk, England, they believe they’ve found their perfect home. Intrigued by the people next door, Ellie befriends shy but sweet Benjamin, and as time goes by, becomes ever more curious about his elusive sister, Virginia.

But when she discovers that her new home has a darker past and that Ash has been keeping secrets, what she thought was a perfect life in the countryside begins to unravel. Is her best friend to be trusted, are the new neighbours all that they really seem, and why is her new puppy so obsessed with the cellar? Most worrying of all is the mystery of what happened to the former occupants of the house.

When Ash goes away on business and strange things begin to happen, Ellie’s paranoia goes into overdrive. But are these all coincidences—or is she really in danger?

Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen

(Available Formats: Print Book & Large Print)

Shadows of Swanford Abbey

Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance. When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees. The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past—including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick—magistrate, widower, and former neighbor—who long ago broke her heart. When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something…

Have a great week,

Linda Reimer

*Information on the Three Catalogs*

Digital Catalog:

The Digital Catalog, is an online catalog containing eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, digital magazines and a handful of streaming videos. The catalog, which allows one to download content to a PC, also has a companion app, Libby, which you can download to your mobile device; so you can enjoy eBooks and downloadable audiobooks on the go!

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 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:

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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