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, April 5, 2022.
The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe by Matthew Gabriele & David M. Perry
(Available Formats: Print Book)
Historians Gabriele (An Empire of Memory) and Perry (Sacred Plunder) argue in this accessible revisionist history that the so-called Dark Ages was actually a period of innovation that helped pave the way for the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Highlighting architectural, artistic, literary, and theological breakthroughs, the authors analyze Dante’s Divine Comedy and shed light on the creation of Empress Galla Placida’s mausoleum in Italy, the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (now Istanbul), and the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, among other achievements. Occasional references to 21st-century pop culture, including the musical Hamilton, keep the tone light as Gabriele and Perry chronicle the devastating toll plagues took on the Middle Ages; analyze Emperor Charlemagne’s uniting of Roman, Christian, and Israelite traditions; and counter the misconceptions about the Crusades that have been propagated by modern-day white supremacists and Islamic fundamentalists. Though the authors somewhat understate the brutality and religious persecution of the era, they add nuance and complexity to popular conceptions of the Dark Ages and make clear that beauty and achievement existed among the horrors. This is a worthy introduction to an oft-misunderstood period in world history. – Publishers Weekly Review
Caul Baby: A Novel by Morgan Jenkins
(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print & eBook)
The Melacons are a three-generation family of women living in a brownstone in gentrifying Harlem. They are beautiful, wealthy, and famously known for their caul, an invisible layer of skin that gives them the power to heal others. Laila, newly pregnant after suffering multiple miscarriages, visits the Melacons for help to ensure she has a successful pregnancy. After a series of unexpected events, Laila’s niece, Hallow, is born with caul and raised by the Melacons. As she matures, Hallow struggles with her moral compass, wondering whether she should continue the Melacon tradition of selling their caul only to wealthy white families, or use it to help their fellow native Harlemites. Jerkins’ debut novel is a multilayered reflection of contemporary dilemmas with a touch of magic realism. With themes such as motherhood, acceptance, and a duty to be of service, the novel is well paced, with alluring anticipation. The writing is sharp with an empathetic undertone, encouraging readers to understand characters’ choices even if they don’t agree. Readers are taken through a spectrum of emotions with a satisfying payoff. On the heels of her excellent memoir Wandering in Strange Lands (2020), Jerkins solidifies herself as one of our guiding literary lights, no matter the genre. Booklist Review
The Children Return by Martin Walker
(Available Formats: Print Book & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)
French police face down jihadis in Dordogne. Ever since his retirement from maintaining world order as a U.N. peacekeeper in Sarajevo, Benoit “Bruno” Courreges has served as chief of police in the sleepy rural village where he divides his time between solving routine crimes and making soup from the zucchini, peppers and cucumbers he grows in his garden. But the mutilated corpse found outside St. Denis shocks even a seasoned soldier like Bruno (The Crowded Grave, 2012, etc.). And the murder of Rafiq, an undercover cop, is only the tip of the iceberg. The terrorists who killed him were looking for information that would lead them to Sami Belloumi, an autistic savant who disappeared from a school for special needs students in Toulouse. Sami’s on his way back from Afghanistan, where Taliban forces have been capitalizing on his preternatural mechanical skills. But his emaciated frame and the scars on his back suggest that his work building improvised explosive devices may not have been voluntary. With the French, British and American press howling for Sami’s hide, Bruno wants to shield the gentle, confused youth and thinks he may have an ally in Pascal Deutz, the psychiatrist sent to debrief him. The U.S. State Department sends its own debriefer: Nancy Sutton, who both charms and terrifies Bruno. Into this heady mix comes Maya Halevy, a rich Israeli widow looking for the Perigord farm that sheltered her and her brother, David, during the war, for a recipe as volatile as Bruno’s pot-au-feu. Former journalist Walker’s seventh Bruno entry is as prescient as it is terrifying. – Kirkus Review
The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century by Olga Ravn & Martin Aitken
(Available Format: Print Book)
The crew of a spaceship far from Earth struggle with conflicting emotions in this slippery and deeply resonant International Booker shortlisted novel from Ravn (Celestine). The inhabitants of the Six Thousand Ship, some human and others humanoid robots, become oddly attached to a collection of perplexing alien objects found on the planet New Discovery. In a series of disconnected, one-sided internal reports to an unnamed authority, the mostly unnamed crew members relay their intense, confused reactions to the objects. Humans express a longing for Earth—one employee’s job is to “make sure the human section of the crew don’t buckle under to nostalgia and become catatonic”—sometimes alleviated by being near the objects, while humanoids begin showing emotions well beyond their programming. (One, worrying about being the best employee, would “like to request some material concerning which actions require forgiveness.”) When the humanoids’ behavior takes a troubling turn, the company intervenes in a shocking manner. While initially disorienting, the fragmented style builds into an achingly beautiful mosaic of fragile characters managing their longing, pain, and alienation. This gorgeous, evocative novel is well worth the effort. – Publishers Weekly Review
Farewell, My Orange by Iwaki Kei
(Available Formats: Print Book & Hoopla instant checkout eBook)
Kei’s intense and impressive debut is the story of two women who bond in their adopted country of Australia, discovering the power of language, friendship, and family. Anchoring the narrative is the heartbreaking struggle of Nigerian refugee Salimah, who is abandoned in a small town by her husband and, unable to speak English, enrolls in a language class and finds a job as a meat packager at a supermarket. In alternating chapters, Japanese-born Echidna, who also attends the English class, writes letters to a favorite teacher, unveiling her disappointment as a writer, new mom, and wife of an often absent husband. The women help one another through their darkest moment: the loss of a child. “When I came here, I learned to do things I couldn’t do before… Even though I’m alone, I’m happy,” Salimah reveals in a presentation that Echidna has helped her with. And Salimah is the mentor for Echidna who, after her baby’s death, takes a job alongside Salimah. “I’ve had enough, of university, of study, maybe even of my family,” she laments. “The only thing that I can hang onto in this country now is money.” Kei adroitly intertwines these remarkable characters’ dreams and determination, making for an immigrant tale that readers won’t forget. Starred Publishers Weekly Review
Fight: How Gen Z Is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America by John Della Volpe & David Hogg
(Available Formats: Print Book)
Early on in this sociopolitical profile of Zoomers, aka Generation Z, individuals born since the mid-1990s, Della Volpe, the director of polling at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, reminds readers that unlike clubs or political parties, no one gets to choose their generation. Della Volpe cites studies that show these young adults, whose shared circumstances define their realities, anticipate bleak futures mired in gun violence, a dying environment, overt racism, and crippling debt. Della Volpe also expresses his certainty that this generation will bring change. He revisits pivotal events (the Parkland School shooting, George Floyd’s murder) and analyzes how Gen-Z actions affected social activism and reform movements. His main argument is that Zoomers (and to a large extent Millennials, unlike previous generations) are influenced by and committed to personal engagement. He holds up the 2020 presidential election results as further proof, maintaining that Joe Biden’s message about hearing the voices of young voters was key to his victory. Scrupulously documented, Della Volpe’s assertions will seem controversial to some, but only the future will tell. – Booklist Review
The Great War and the Birth of Modern Medicine by Thomas Helling
(Available Formats: Print Book & Hoopla instant checkout eBook)
A startling narrative revealing the impressive medical and surgical advances that quickly developed as solutions to the horrors unleashed by World War I.
The Great War of 1914-1918 burst on the European scene with a brutality to mankind not yet witnessed by the civilized world. Modern warfare was no longer the stuff of chivalry and honor; it was a mutilative, deadly, and humbling exercise to wipe out the very presence of humanity. Suddenly, thousands upon thousands of maimed, beaten, and bleeding men surged into aid stations and hospitals with injuries unimaginable in their scope and destruction. Doctors scrambled to find some way to salvage not only life but limb.
The Great War and the Birth of Modern Medicine provides a startling and graphic account of the efforts of teams of doctors and researchers to quickly develop medical and surgical solutions. Those problems of gas gangrene, hemorrhagic shock, gas poisoning, brain trauma, facial disfigurement, broken bones, and broken spirits flooded hospital beds, stressing caregivers and prompting medical innovations that would last far beyond the Armistice of 1918 and would eventually provide the backbone of modern medical therapy.
Thomas Helling’s description of events that shaped refinements of medical care is a riveting account of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of men and women to deter the total destruction of the human body and human mind. His tales of surgical daring, industrial collaboration, scientific discovery, and utter compassion provide an understanding of the horror that laid a foundation for the medical wonders of today. The marvels of resuscitation, blood transfusion, brain surgery, X-rays, and bone setting all had their beginnings on the battlefields of France. The influenza contagion in 1918 was an ominous forerunner of the frightening pandemic of 2020-2021.
For anyone curious about the true terrors of war and the miracles of modern medicine, this is a must read.
A Singing Army: Zilphia Horton and the Highlander Folk School by Kim Ruehl
(Available Formats: Print Book)
Zilphia Horton was a pioneer of cultural organizing, an activist and musician who taught people how to use the arts as a tool for social change, and a catalyst for anthems of empowerment such as “We Shall Overcome” and “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Her contributions to the Highlander Folk School, a pivotal center of the labor and civil rights movements in the mid-twentieth century, and her work creating the songbook of the labor movement influenced countless figures, from Woody Guthrie to Eleanor Roosevelt to Rosa Parks. Despite her outsized impact, Horton’s story has seldom been told. A Singing Army introduces this overlooked figure to the world. Drawing on extensive archival, oral history research, and numerous interviews with Horton’s family and friends, Kim Ruehl chronicles her life from childhood in Arkansas coal country, through her formative travels and friendship with radical Presbyterian minister Claude C. Williams, and into her instrumental work in desegregation and fostering the music of the civil rights era. Revealing these experiences–as well as her unconventional marriage and controversial death by poisoning–A Singing Army tells the story of an all-but-forgotten woman who inspired thousands of working-class people to stand up and sing for freedom and equality. – From The Publisher
A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear
(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print, CD audiobook, eBook & downloadable audiobook)
There’s a lot going on in the seventeenth Maisie Dobbs mystery starring the intrepid investigator. In summer 1942, Air Transport Authority ferry pilots, many of them women, are being shot at by a pistol-wielding assailant in Kent, England; a Black American soldier, found by one of the ferry pilots bound and seriously injured, is being held in the disappearance of another soldier; Eleanor Roosevelt, in England to observe Blitz-torn conditions in the UK, may be in danger; and Maisie’s adopted daughter, of Maltese descent, is being bullied at her new school. Along with husband Mark, an American political attaché, Maisie lands in the middle of all these plot strains. Winspear manages the multifarious narratives with aplomb, excelling both in her portraits of the female ferry pilots, whose courage and daring in flying the sleek, speedy Spitfires (“”an aeroplane surely made for a woman, lifting her high into the sunlit skies””) and in dramatizing the bond Maisie feels for the Black American soldiers, victims of racism, who share with the British women the strength to “”remain standing tall when the world was bearing down. –Booklist Review
Welcome to the School by the Sea by Jenny Colgan
(Available Formats: Print Book)
The first book of Jenny Colgan’s delightful new four-part series, set at a charming English boarding school on the sea.
Maggie went to the window and opened it wide, inhaling the lovely salt air off the sea. Why had she never lived by the sea before? Why had she always looked out on housing estates and not the little white hulls of trawlers bobbing off in the distance?
It’s gloriously sunny in Cornwall as the school year starts at the little boarding school by the sea. Maggie, the newest teacher at Downey House, is determined to make her mark. She’s delighted by her new teaching job, but will it come at the expense of her relationship with her safe, dependable boyfriend Stan?
Simone is excited and nervous: she’s won a scholarship to the prestigious boarding school and wants to make her parents proud. Forced to share a room with the glossy, posh girls of Downey House, she needs to find a friend, fast.
Fliss is furious. She’s never wanted to go to boarding school and hates being sent away from her home. As Simone tries desperately to fit in, Fliss tries desperately to get out.
Over the course of one year, friendships will bloom and lives will be changed forever. Life at the Little School by the Sea is never dull…
Have a great week!
*Information on the Three Catalogs*
Digital Catalog: https://stls.overdrive.com/
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: 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.