Staff Picks

Don't forget to check out our staff picks for kids!

August 27, 2012

Hard Country

Hard Country
by McGarrity, Michael

Hard Country traces the years between 1875 and 1918 through the eyes of one family, the Kerneys, and their friends, enemies, and neighbors, both fictional and historical. The book opens brutally; John Kerney, within one day, acquires a son and loses his wife, brother, and nephew on the lonesome plains of West Texas. Leaving his son, Patrick, in the care of his bereaved sister-in-law, he ends up working his way into New Mexico Territory as a trail hand, finally establishing a ranch in the Tularosa Basin. Written with care, compassion, and an astute eye for beauty, the novel not only portrays a family (the good, the bad, and the ugly) through parts of three generations, but the politics and history--both human and natural--of the state they call home. Readers please note that this book is closer to the works of Larry McMurtry and Ivan Doig than those of Zane Grey. Followers of McGarrity’s Kevin Kerney police procedurals will find immediately that this is part of the back story of McGarrity’s modern day detective.

— Recommended by Miriam Guidero, Glendale Library.


August 20, 2012

Lincoln: A Novel

Lincoln: A Novel
by Vidal, Gore

Gore Vidal’s death on July 31st made me think of his 1984 novel about Abraham Lincoln, which I read shortly after it was published. The story is told from different points of view. As always with Vidal, nothing is sacred, no tradition goes unchallenged. One character remarks that Lincoln may have split a few rails in his time, but he was always a lawyer and a politician. Yet I have to say that despite all the debunking in the book, despite the revisionist view of Lincoln, I had a greater admiration than ever when I finished the book. All these years after reading the book, I remember the astonishment of one character when he realizes how fiercely focused Lincoln is on maintaining the union. And I remember the difficulty with which Lincoln speaks about his wife's developing mental illness. When you look at a collection of Vidal quotations that was thrown together on the web at his death(, he might come across as a snide guy. And okay, he could be that. But Keith Burris wrote an interesting essay about Vidal and William Buckley (; and this novel is a winner.

— Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology


August 13, 2012

Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West

Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West
by Wickenden, Dorothy
923.7 WIC

What could have propelled two young Society women from New York to leave their privileged lives and travel west to teach homesteaders’ children in early twentieth century Colorado? These women, Dorothy Woodruff (the author’s grandmother) and her close friend Rosamond Underwood, were both wealthy and well-educated but seemingly drifting through life, spending time in Europe, doing charity work, meeting suitable men. But in the summer of 1916 they learned of two teaching jobs in the remotest area of the Colorado Rockies. Thus began nine months that would change their lives. Their experiences there were both physically and intellectually challenging but both women seemed undaunted by it all. The novice school teachers learned much from the tough homesteaders whose lives were hard and laborious. Their year in Colorado transformed their lives as well as the lives of their students and their families. Nothing Daunted is a glimpse into two separate ways of life at the turn of the last century when eastern gentility met the wild west.

— Recommended by Kim Vanderwilt, Lawrence Library


August 6, 2012

No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a 60th Year

No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a 60th Year
by Ironside, Virginia

Just as Helen Fielding’s character Bridget Jones struck a chord for the thirty-somethings, baby boomers will be able to identify with Ironside’s Marie Sharp. As she turns 60 years of age, Marie renounces all the simplistic advice offered by today’s books and talk show hosts about ageing. She doesn’t want to take Italian lessons, go to boring dinner parties, live with a Masai tribe in Africa for three months, and, no – she doesn’t want to join a book club to “keep her mind lively”. “Either you’ve got a lively brain or you haven’t” states our out-spoken but kindly heroine. The great thing about being old is you no longer have to, or can’t, do so many things! Ironside, a British “agony aunt”, or advice columnist, has crafted an amusing and poignant look at women of a certain age… or as Marie would say, “women between 40 and death”.

— Recommended by Susan Wever, Irvington Library


July 30, 2012

Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother
by Chua, Amy
306.8743 CHU

Western mothers are so afraid of damaging their little ones’ psyches, that they let them off too easy, have low expectations, and limit their children’s ability to achieve great things. Or so says Ms. Chua, a self-described Chinese, or “tiger” mother who has great success with driving her older daughter to excel in everything she does. But when her younger daughter rebels, growing more and more extreme in her refusals to obey her mother, it becomes a matter of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Ms. Chua is horrified that her daughter is so disrespectful, and yet, eventually, she comes to believe that Lulu’s stubbornness and determination to find her own way will lead to its own kind of greatness. What begins as a didactic treatise on the superiority of Chinese parenting, segues into a gradual understanding that this way may not be for everyone and maybe that’s not altogether a bad thing.

— Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library