Credits

Staff Reads — November 2018

Book Projector Treble Clef

Laura:

  • Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar: This fast paced book about the life of the slaves of the United States’ first First Family, is riveting and presents a whole picture about slavery in the early years of this country. I’ve always admired the bravery of slaves who dared to run away from their owners, but this book gave me a new appreciation for what goes into that decision and the consequences. I also saw the Washingtons (especially Martha and her grandchildren) in a new (and not positive) light.
  • Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta, downloadable audiobook narrated (mainly) by Carrie Coon and Finn Wittrock, and featuring six “guest star” narrators: This character driven novel is the story of Eve Fletcher, experiencing empty nest syndrome after her son, Brendan, goes to college. This book easily could have relied on so many tropes, but it manages to send a lot of them on their head, and gives a lot of character development to minor and secondary characters. I appreciated, for example, that Eve’s ex-husband, while not the best husband to her, was actually portrayed as a decent and complex person. I usually don’t like the use of multiple narrators in audiobooks to portray different points of view, but it works well here.
  • Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, downloadable audiobook narrated by Mariska Hargitay, with supplemental material narrated by Miranda and McCarter: This behind the scenes of the hit stage show is the perfect companion for fans of Hamilton: The Musical or musicals, in general. I read, quickly, through the print version of this several months ago as we planned for Watch Read Listen but I was able to listen to it with a new appreciation after having the pleasure of seeing the show. Since Hargitay is the narrator, I was a little disappointed that the Law and Order dun dun didn’t sound at the start of each chapter.
  • Yiddish Civilization: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation by Paul Kriwaczek: When I was a child, my grandmother often liked to tell bawdy jokes or relay family secrets by spelling everything. I made the fatal mistake of admitting that I could spell and knew what she was saying and that’s when she switched to speaking Yiddish when telling these secrets. Though born in this country and a native English speaker, the Yiddish language and culture was such an important part of my grandmother’s life and she passed on the love to me. Though sadly, I never became fluent enough to understand the jokes or family gossip. This book is a detailed and fascinating history of both the language and those who spoke it. If you’re interested in learning more, I also recommend visiting the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst.
  • Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin: These collected food essays by a late writer for The New Yorker and other magazines are humorous and very relatable. I love to cook and read food writing, but some food memoirists take themselves very seriously and it was nice to read one that had a good sense of humor. I would suggest this for any foodie who watched Julia Child, mainly for her entertaining personality and who wanted solace after any cooking disaster.
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: This plot driven novel, full of descriptive detail about rural Alaska in the 1970’s, is perfect for anyone who reads for a sense of place and who doesn’t mind characters suffering until the last few pages. When Leni is 13 years old, her Vietnam vet father, Ernt, moves the family to Alaska. He becomes more of a survivalist, and the entire family must deal with the consequences of his PTSD. The details of their new life and surroundings are exquisite and the book is very fast paced, despite its length. However, if readers are looking to read about a teenager living with a parent with PTSD, due to the war, I recommend The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson as an alternate title.

Pat O.

Ashley:

Dana:

  • My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan: I really loved the first part of this book – the author’s descriptions of Oxford made me feel like I was actually there. My interest in the story shrunk as I read, though it held me long enough to finish.
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: I just could not get into this one and gave up after 50 pages. I think I was in the mood for a book with a little more going on, and a more likable protagonist than this one has.
  • How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn: I spotted this one while checking in books and the title made me laugh. It’s mostly a parenting book with a touch of memoir thrown in, and it pretty much boils down to: communication is important.
  • The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke: This book was the latest title for Overdrive’s Big Library Read. The premise caught my eye – a sixteen-year-old girl accidentally time travels to East Berlin in 1988 – especially because I was in Berlin while I was reading it! It’s got magic, romance, history, and even a few German curse words for good measure. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
  • Achtung Baby by U2: I couldn’t stop listening to this one before and after my recent trip to Berlin. The first track (“Zoo Station”) was in my head the whole time I was at the Berlin Zoo with my toddler. It’s such a good album.
  • The Great British Baking Show: A bit late to the party, I started watching Season 5 on Netflix this month. I love Noel Fielding! I always end up craving cake while I watch, though.
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: What a fantastic documentary about Mr. Rogers. I didn’t think it was possible, but I love him even more after watching this.

Casey:

Janet Z.

  • A Girl’s Guide to Missiles: Growing up in America’s Secret Desert by Karen Piper: Karen Piper’s account of growing up on a U.S. missile development compound in the Mojave Desert is a great read. Piper draws upon her childhood memories, interviews with family members, and extensive archival research to explore aspects of U.S. military history that are uncomfortable, disconcerting, and fascinating all at once. I could have done with fewer details about Piper’s druggie post-college days in Oregon and other adult exploits but she apparently needed to make it crystal clear that that she did not follow in the footsteps of her evangelical, missile-designing, politically conservative parents, however much she loved them.
  • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple: Ugh. This book was really hard to follow and none of the main characters were likeable. Need I say more?
  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler, audiobook read by Jenna Lamia: I loved learning about this fascinating woman. Dare I say she may have been F. Scott’s “better half?” You be the judge. The talented narrator glides effortlessly between male and female characters of varying ages, with convincing Southern, Midwestern, French, and Italian accents to boot.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, audiobook read by Barbara Rosenblat: Gorgeously written, beautifully narrated. Made my many hours in the car over the past month fly by.
  • The Greatest Ears in Town: The Arif Mardin Story: When I found out that Arif Mardin produced records for both Aretha Franklin and Scritti Polliti I had to learn more. Turns out he also produced for Dusty Springfield, Norah Jones, Barbra Streisand, and many other artists. I particularly enjoyed watching a wide variety of musicians express their respect and love for Mardin, who was arranging music up until the day he died.

Debora H.

  • The Lost Family by Jenna Blum: I read this because we hosted the author in September. It’s a story about both a man’s family actually lost in WWII and his second family, lost in his grief, silence, and trauma. I didn’t love all the characters, but I did love the writing.
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan: WWII as a genre is my go to and this book did not disappoint. Set in Italy during the Nazi occupation, this is the story of Pino Lella, a young man who ends up as a driver for a Nazi official, gathering intelligence and feeding it to the resistance. It’s also a love story, beautifully told.

Kelly:

Mary V.:

  • Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh: I like this author because her stories are suspenseful with unpredictable twists. This is the story of Anna who is a new mother. Both of her parents died within the last year. The police determined that both deaths were suicides. Anna believes it was murder and is determined to find out exactly what happened.
  • Instructions For a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell: This book was in the book drop during one of our heat waves and it just caught my attention. Although the story takes place during a heat wave, the heat has little to do with anything. It takes place in Ireland. A man leaves his house to buy a newspaper and never returns. His wife of fifty years doesn’t know what happened to him. She gathers her children and together they discover what happened. I enjoyed reading it.
  • Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry: This is the newest William Monk novel. A man wants Monk’s help in paying a ransom to kidnappers who have abducted his wife. Monk and five of his trusted staff plan to meet the kidnappers, pay the ransom and rescue the man’s wife. However, they are attacked and are unsuccessful. Monk believes that one of his men must have alerted the kidnappers. He pursues the kidnappers while trying to determine which of his men betrayed him.
  • The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd: This is the latest Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery which takes place in 1920. Ian is not on police business when he comes across a man who has just been murdered. As he investigates the murder, he discovers two more murders that are similar. He races against the clock to determine the connection among the three murders before someone else is murdered.
  • Diana’s White House Garden by Elisa Carbone: This is a children’s book from the book drop. Since it was about Eleanor Roosevelt and the White House, I borrowed it. It is based on Diana Hopkins who lived in the White House with her father, Harry Hopkins, Franklin Roosevelt’s chief advisor. She is ten years old and wants to help with the war effort. She plants one of the first Victory Gardens. It’s American history and a cute story. It is nicely illustrated by Jen Hill.

Kim:

  • Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza: A great look at what it takes to be a woman running for office. Our country still seems to have concerns about working mothers, arguably with women generally, and especially those with political ambitions and this book really gets it right. Please tell me if you locate any other novel about a woman running for national office! I can’t think of any…
  • Goop Clean Beauty: Easy to read information about what we put on our skin and into our bodies. I’ve been trying to phase out anything that isn’t cruelty free (did you know that if a company sells in China they are required by law to test on animals to sell there?) and vegan, and focus on ingredients that aren’t questionable in their long-term effects both for skincare and cosmetics.
  • Feminasty: the Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson: The title says it all, right? Erin is whip-smart, caustic, and sometimes vulgar…not to mention well informed. Her essay topics run the gamut from Mike Pence to living with herpes to a list of women-owned cosmetic companies you can feel good about giving money to. Her honest, tell-it-like-it-is style is endearing and empowering. Erin also hosts a podcast, Throwing Shade, with Brian Safi and they delve into women’s issues and gay rights. I cannot recommend this book enough for everyone.
  • The Haunting of Hill House: It got rave reviews, but I felt very mixed feelings about it. Something about the script or the acting annoyed me, I can’t tell which was the problem. The first batch of episodes focuses on one sibling, and I didn’t enjoy that much. It really slowed down the progression of the story. Your mileage may vary.
  • Making a Murderer (season 2): Again, mixed feelings. Could’ve used more aggressive editing to cut down on the length overall. If you liked the first season, great. Just be aware that this is much more of a legal drama. It mostly follows his new, high-profile attorney in her efforts to break down the forensic evidence presented in the case against Steven Avery. It also covers Brendan Dassey’s attempts to convince courts that his confession was coerced. It’s very upsetting to imagine the kind of conspiracy that they appear to upturn.
  • Blackkklansman: Everyone should know the story of Detective Ron Stallworth’s successful infiltration of the KKK as a black man. I love John David Washington (of Ballers fame, and also Denzel’s son) and Adam Driver (aka Klyo Ren and former Girls castmember) so seeing this in theaters was a no-brainer. The film is somewhat heavy-handed in its digs at politics today, but it offers great screenwriting, superb performances and overall it’s a very Spike Lee film. If you have a heart you will leave the theater with tears in your eyes thanks to Lee’s content before the credits.
  • Halloween (2018): Not bad. I found it to be just slightly too short to really care or feel terror, but I think overall it was a good watch if you want a scary movie.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris: I always prefer to hear Sedaris read his own stories. His voice just soothes me. He’s one of my favorite authors and Calypso doesn’t disappoint. This book covers a lot of dark topics (suicide of his sister, the death of his mother) with loads of typical glass-half-empty kinds of light (feeding your tumor to a turtle for instance). You might cry, but you will also laugh and wrinkle your nose in disgust, but you’ll also feel warmed by all of it..that’s Sedaris’ gift. The Sedaris family simply fascinates me and I always enjoy getting a peek into David’s head.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment


Warning: Declaration of sk2_referrer_check_plugin::output_plugin_UI() should be compatible with sk2_plugin::output_plugin_UI($output_dls = true) in /home/waltham/public_html/blog/main/wp-content/plugins/SK2/sk2_plugins/sk2_referrer_check_plugin.php on line 0

Warning: Declaration of sk2_captcha_plugin::output_plugin_UI() should be compatible with sk2_plugin::output_plugin_UI($output_dls = true) in /home/waltham/public_html/blog/main/wp-content/plugins/SK2/sk2_plugins/sk2_captcha_plugin.php on line 0

Warning: Declaration of sk2_rbl_plugin::treat_this($cmt_object) should be compatible with sk2_plugin::treat_this(&$cmt_object) in /home/waltham/public_html/blog/main/wp-content/plugins/SK2/sk2_plugins/sk2_rbl_plugin.php on line 0

Warning: Declaration of sk2_pjw_simpledigest::output_plugin_UI() should be compatible with sk2_plugin::output_plugin_UI($output_dls = true) in /home/waltham/public_html/blog/main/wp-content/plugins/SK2/sk2_plugins/sk2_pjw_daily_digest_plugin.php on line 0