Staff Book Suggestions Winter 2017
A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley by Jane Kamensky
(Library of Congress Classification, in Acquisitions)
This is a thoroughly researched book about the life and works of painter John Singleton Copley. With the American Revolution as the backdrop, the reader follows Copley as he struggles to assimilate to London’s elite society while never giving up his Boston roots. Read the book before Kamensky’s talk on February 27th!
Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett
(Children Picture Book + BRETT)
Trouble with Trolls may be a children’s picture book, but I revisit it once every winter on a snowy day, much like the one when young Treva decides to take her skis up a nearby mountain with her dog in tow. There, tricky trolls accost her, trying to steal her dog, and Treva must use all her wits to outsmart them! A sweet, short adventure story by noted illustrator Jan Brett, author of The Mitten, Trouble with Trolls includes an ongoing story in the margins of a little hedgehog family. See if you or your little ones can tell what they are up to as you turn the pages!
“Titanic” Disaster: Hearings before the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, 1912
(Library of Congress VK1255 .T6 1912b)
There’s a reason why traffic slows after a car crash; it is human nature to indulge in a calamity, to be fascinated by events so horrific that they seem to exist in a universe separate from our own. James Cameron’s (misleading but captivating) 1997 film Titanic resuscitated our interest in the ill-fated ship; unbeknownst to most, there exists an even more gratifying record of the disaster.
“Titanic” Disaster: Hearings is the US government’s official investigation into the causes leading to the wreck of the RMS Titanic. Its inconspicuous raw umber binding holds the testimonies of nearly 90 survivors and “witnesses,” recorded verbatim and within a week of the sinking. Read through the torturous hearing of the infamous J. Bruce Ismay, and the vivid accounts from passengers of every class. Not to be missed: one particularly illuminating testimony from historian Archibald Gracie, and the heart-wrenching affidavits made by the widows of some of the world’s most eminent men. “Titanic” will not offer you any warmth this winter, but its chilling record of one of the most enigmatic disasters in world history will certainly add some devilish excitement to this otherwise bleak time of year.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
(Library of Congress NEW PZ4.G9982 Ho 2016)
Homegoing traces the journey of a family over several generations, beginning with two sisters fated to two very different destinies. Beginning in the eighteenth century of what is now Ghana, the novel opens with Effia, who marries a white Englishman, and Essia, who is sold into slavery. The consequences of these events are felt deeply by the sisters’ descendants over the next 200 years in the form of colonialism and warfare, slavery and Jim Crow. Every character must overcome the struggles of their forebears in addition to their own. In Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi paints a personable portrait of family, race, legacy, and destiny. I was astounded by both the emotional and intellectual impact this book had on me. More than anything, it has reminded me that it is essential to revisit and understand our past in order to comprehend and engage with the present. Highly recommended reading for all, and School Library Journal predicts Homegoing will one day be required reading for teens.
A Girl in Winter by Philip Larkin
(Library of Congress PZ4.L328 Gi)
A Girl in Winter (1947), the second of two novels by English poet Philip Larkin, takes place in an unnamed English city during World War II and portrays a day in the life of Katherine Lind, a European refugee. A flashback in the middle of the novel recounts a summer that Katherine spent in Oxfordshire before the war.
The opening chapter, describing a bleak winter morning, perfectly sets the mood. Katherine lives alone and works, unhappily, as a library assistant. From a series of mundane events in her day—the toothache of a co-worker, a missing pocketbook, the arrival of a letter, awkward conversations—Larkin writes movingly of exile, isolation, and loneliness. His calling as a poet is clear in the great care he takes in detailing ordinary, everyday scenes, whether city streets, drab flats and offices, or a countryside village on a quiet summer day.
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
(Library of Congress PZ4.P4275 Bu 2010)
A perfect winter read, this sixth book in the wonderful Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny takes place in old Quebec City during Winter Carnival. Gamache is on leave from an investigation that has gone awry and is spending his time reading at the library of the Literary and Historical Society. While in Quebec City, Gamache becomes involved with an historical mystery involving Samuel de Champlain. A fascinating tale along with a wonderful sense of place. After reading this you’ll want to visit Quebec City in the middle of winter and stay at the Chateau Frontenac! For an additional treat, listen to Ralph Cosham’s reading of the book.
The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
(Cutter Classification VFG .D89 .bl)
I like to get through the winter by thinking of spring. And what says spring like tulips, right? This historical novel by Dumas (the elder) takes place in the Netherlands in the 1670s against a backdrop of real-life political unrest and cut-throat gardening. At the height of the Dutch tulip mania, the price of tulip bulbs soared, and wealthy gentlemen poured fortunes into the cultivation of these delicate flowers in ever more fantastic colors and varieties. The Black Tulip follows young Cornelius van Baerle as he sets out to win a contest that will award 100,000 gold florins to the man who can produce the perfect black tulip. His jealous neighbor’s machinations and his own unhappy political connections land Cornelius in prison, but he is undeterred. Not even the prison guard’s lovely daughter Rosa who comes to his aid can distract Cornelius from his passion for the elusive black bloom. Classic swashbuckling romance paired with unlikely dark humor, a perfect winter distraction.
(Library of Congress PZ4.S735 Me)
“Remember you must die” is what the title translates to and what a mysterious caller continually reminds the characters throughout Spark’s slyly satirical masterpiece. Really, you can’t go wrong with any Spark in any season, but Mori feels especially appropriate now, what with winter signifying death and decay and everything. Pleasant dreams!
(Library of Congress PZ4.H3157 Di 2015)
Those of you reading Harris’s excellent series on ancient Rome seen through the eyes of Cicero in an imagined biography by his long-term secretary/slave/companion Tiro may have missed the appearance of the last in the trilogy, long delayed. It was worth the ten year wait between Imperium and Dictator. I had feared that the final segment had been deemed unworthy by author or publisher and therefore held back. Every time another book appeared by him, I felt frustration. When one book got movie treatment, I cursed Hollywood for distracting a favorite author. I can’t be too critical; I waited a few months after the book’s appearance to read it and then a couple more months before recommending. The silver lining: it is no longer a 14-day book. You have two months to savor Harris’s immersion in the final years of both Cicero and the Roman Republic.