Suggested Reading May 31, 2022

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, June 7, 2022.

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Cherry Robbers

The delightfully eerie latest from Walker follows a woman who reinvents herself after a painful childhood. The story begins with Sylvia Wren, a famous artist in her 80s, living in present-day Abiquiu, N.Mex., while her partner, Lola, is away in Brazil. Sylvia receives a letter from a journalist with questions about her past that threaten to reveal her true identity as Iris Chapel. Walker then flashes back to 1950s Connecticut, where Iris grows up with her five older sisters and a mother who has a habit of staring off into the woods and dropping her china before declaring she feels “something terrible” will happen. Their father, who isn’t around much, runs Chapel Firearms, and the women believe their house is haunted by those who were killed by the guns manufactured by the company. Walker does a great job weaving this thread of gothic mystery with revelations about the woman Iris becomes, a “haunted mother, haunted daughter.” A mix of bildungsroman and ghost story, the narrative gains strength as it illuminates its characters’ power of intuition, especially when they’re not afraid to use it. This uncanny tale of dark origins shines brightly. – Publishers Weekly Review

The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened by Bill McKibben

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Flag The Cross And the Station Wagon

In 1970, when long-time climate activist and rock-steady writer McKibben was 10, his family moved to Lexington, Massachusetts, a town key to the American Revolution and a bastion of white suburban security, prosperity, and conformity. As a teen, McKibben worked as a guide to Lexington’s historical sites; now he investigates the contrast between what he was taught then and the long-obfuscated truth about enslaved people in New England and the “genocidal destruction” of the continent’s Indigenous nations. This leads to a clarifying discussion of why racism is systemic in American society and what remedies can be pursued. McKibben also tracks the decline of the authority of mainstream Christianity and the intensification of deleterious “hyper-individualism” and materialism which spurred the carbon-burning supersizing of suburban homes and vehicles and the reduction of support for urgently needed public urban institutions. A wild tale about President Carter’s White House solar panels leads to an examination of the unholy influence of corporations on Congress and the overt politicization of the courts. Adept at factual storytelling and connecting the dots, earnest, caring, and funny, McKibben dovetails personal reckonings with an astute elucidation of our social justice and environmental crises, arguing wisely that facing the truth about our past is the only way forward to a more just and sustainable future. – Booklist Review

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Ghost Walkers

In this entrancing alternate history, Kowal (the Glamourist Histories series) introduces the Spirit Corps, a group that communicates with recently killed soldiers to gather important wartime information. It’s the summer of 1916, and American medium Ginger Stuyvesant works with the British Army at Le Havre to coordinate and lead spirit circles. When her intelligence officer fiancé, Capt. Benjamin Harford, uncovers a German plot to target the Spirit Corps and is sent to the front soon after, Ginger must use every power at her disposal to track down a traitor and protect the corps. Kowal’s depiction of spiritualism is richly imagined, and its complications and consequences are thoughtfully considered. Her depiction of the Western Front includes diverse characters often neglected in wartime stories: the many people who help Ginger include women young and old, people of color, and disabled veterans, all of whom are dismissed by the British men in charge. The well-drawn characters and the story’s gripping action and deep emotion will captivate readers. – Starred Publishers Weekly Review

The Road To Unfreedom: Europe, Russia and America by Timothy Snyder

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Road To Unfreedom

Yale history professor Snyder (On Tyranny) buttresses his denunciation of Donald Trump as a nascent authoritarian with a fascinating, detailed exploration of how recent events in Russia presaged Trump’s administration. Beginning by discussing the obscure early-20th-century Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin, who regarded “fascism as the politics of the world to come,” Snyder traces Ilyin’s influence on Vladimir Putin’s aggressive efforts to return his country to superpower status. Those included the 2014 invasion of Ukraine, which Snyder considers “the warning that went unheeded” of Russia’s willingness to interfere with other countries’ political systems, as later seen during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He relates Ilyin’s belief that strong rulers favor self-serving myths over empirical evidence to numerous examples of the Putin regime’s propaganda. In perhaps its most audacious PR coup, Russia’s downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine was spun so successfully that well over 80% of Russians believed their country wasn’t to blame. This instance of “alternative facts” will resonate with many Trump opponents, as will Snyder’s dissection of the leadership style of oligarchs, both Russian and American. His work achieves its stated goal of conveying the relationship among “interconnected events in our own contemporary world history” and will be a must-read for those concerned about democracy’s safety in the 21st century.

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Stardust Thief

DEBUT American Kuwaiti Abdullah unfolds a tale built from the threads of One Thousand and One Nights, an adventure quest, focused on four travelers. The Midnight Merchant, with the aid of her jinn bodyguard, sells relics filled with magic. Prince Mazen bin Malik is trapped in a life he does not want. Aisha bint Louas is one of the fabled Forty Thieves. They seek the jinn in the lamp. To find them, they must step into the endless, ever-shifting sands of the desert, a shimming substance that hides wonder and terror–ghouls and bandits, gardens born of silver blood, and deadly traps made by man and jinn alike. Abdullah transports readers into this rich world and literary heritage by crafting characters with deep backstories; maintaining an engrossing pace; and, most impressively, layering details into the story so deftly that the veil between magic and reality slips and bends delightfully.

VERDICT An impressive first in an expected trilogy, one that hits high notes of several popular themes and trends (found families, classics retold), but offers fresh perspectives as well. It will delight readers who appreciate highly atmospheric books. Share widely, not just with fantasy readers. Starred Library Journal Review

Strange Highways by Dean Koontz

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Strange Highways

An extraordinary collection of short fiction, including the title novel, nine novellas, and six stories, explores the intriguing, vast variety of human experiences–failures, triumphs, adventures, terrors, joys, and more–that occur along the path from birth to death.

Here is a description of the fascinating title story: Joey Shannon, an alcoholic whose life has been going nowhere for 20 years, returns to his hometown for the funeral of his father. As he leaves town, he gets a mysterious second chance to relive the night in 1975 when his life began its downward spiral: to both literally and figuratively take the road that he didn’t originally take. On this road he is supremely tested by conflict with his successful and charismatic older brother P.J., by conflict between his cynicism and his lost faith, and by conflict between the ultimate good and evil.

Tall Men, Short Shorts: The 1969 NBA Finals: Wilt, Russ, Lakers, Celtics, and a Very Young Sports Reporter by Leigh Montville

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Tall Men Short Shorts

Sportswriter Montville (Sting Like a Bee) masterfully combines memoir and sports history in this thrilling deep dive into a legendary NBA championship battle. As a 24-year-old novice reporter for the Boston Globe in 1969, he had a first-row seat to an epic duel that went the full seven games and pitted Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics against Wilt Chamberlain’s Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics, Montville writes, were “at the end of their dominance”—they’d finished fourth in their division, and their leader, Russell, was playing his final year. The Lakers, meanwhile, had just brought on Chamberlain, who many considered the “most stupendous” player in the league. Historically, the Lakers had routinely been bested by the Celtics, but the L.A. team’s two games to none lead at the outset of the Finals gave them the upper hand. Instead, Boston won by two points in the seventh game, with Chamberlain injured on the bench in the final, crucial minutes. Montville recounts his race against “the tightest of deadlines” to file game reports—including the first game’s “53 beautiful backcourt points” scored by Jerry West—that he hoped would catapult his career. In vividly evoking the ups and downs that led to this monumental match-up, Montville paints a humanizing portrait of the game. This is another success for a gifted writer. – Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

(Available Formats: Print Book, CD audiobook & eBook)


Is it ever possible to transcend the choices of the past? In this superb new novel from Atkinson it’s 1940 when Juliet Armstrong is recruited into the British intelligence service, MI5. She supports an operation by transcribing recorded meetings between a British agent, posing as a member of the Gestapo, and British Nazi sympathizers. At 19 and somewhat naive but with considerable wit and intelligence, she is soon entangled in espionage, undertaking an active role in the operation and bringing several traitors to justice. When the war ends, Juliet leaves MI5 for the BBC, first in Manchester, and then in London, where she produces programs for the emerging schools educational service in 1950. As Juliet’s life tantalizingly unfolds, it becomes apparent that she has made some very provocative choices during the war, and that absolutely nothing is as it seems.

VERDICT With a fascinating cast of characters, careful plotting, and lyrical language in turns comical and tragic, Atkinson’s complex story carefully unveils the outer demands and inner conflicts that war inflicts on people. A delight for fans of A.S. Byatt and Ian McEwan – Starred Library Journal Review

Treeborne by Caleb Johnson

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


Using language rich as mulch, debut author Johnson tells the superb saga of three generations of Treebornes, who live near the town of Elberta in the southern reaches of Georgia. Janie Treeborne narrates much of the story, tripping through time beginning with the days of her grandaddy Hugh, forced by circumstance to join the Authority, behemoth builder of a modern dam. So as not to forget how things once were, Hugh becomes a maker of a strange art he calls “assemblies,” figures made of mud, spiders’ webs, and gears. His wife is Janie’s beloved MawMaw, the postmaster Maybelle; she is in love with Lee Malone, the “man with the blue arms” who sings like an angel and tends orchards as old as the conquistador Hernando DeSoto.

When Janie’s aunt and uncle threaten to sell off and clear the ancient forest once home to her beloved grandparents, Janie and her friends kidnap her aunt to try to stop them, and she goes on the lam in the company of a magical doll made of dirt. Johnson’s pervasive use of the colloquial, even when narrating, never gets irritating. Metaphors abound, and it isn’t a coincidence the Treebornes’ town shares a person’s name; the whole place is as alive as if it walked on two feet. Sentence by loamy sentence, this gifted author digs up corpses and upends trees to create a place laden with magic and memory. Starred Publishers Weekly Review

When She Dreams by Amanda Quick

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

When She Dreams

When it comes to hiring a private investigator in Adelina Beach, Maggie Lodge is not exactly awash in choices. Still, while Sam Sage might be a divorced, disgraced ex-cop, at least he isn’t drunk at nine o’clock in the morning. After hiring Sam to find out who is blackmailing her current employer, syndicated advice columnist Aunt Cornelia, Maggie insists on taking an active role in the investigation. The blackmailer’s trail soon takes the new “partners” to the Guilfoyle Institute of Dream Analysis in Burning Cove, California, where they discover a charismatic con man, his cool-as-a-cucumber wife-manager, a mad scientist obsessed with lucid dreaming, and a dead body.

Quick (one of Jayne Ann Krentz’s literary alter egos) deftly tips her fedora to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in the latest superbly entertaining addition to her 1930s-set Burning Cove books. With its perfectly executed plot, snappy dialogue, and generous dash of dry wit, this is proof positive of why Quick’s novels continue to be the platinum standard for stylish American historical romance kissed with a hint of sophisticated suspense and a dash of the supernatural. – Booklist Review

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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