Staff Picks

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

March 10, 2014

The Illumination

The Illumination
by Brockmeier, Kevin
FIC BRO

What if pain and injury were expressed as light? What if you could walk down any street and see the illumination of scars and disease? That is the premise of this fascinating book. It starts at 8:17 on a Friday. Carol Page has an accident and ends up at the emergency room. After her hand becomes infected, she returns to the hospital and her injury begins to glow.

While Carol is in the hospital, she comes into contact with a journal written by a husband to his deceased wife who dies in a fatal accident and her light burns out. From there, the journal passes through the hands of unsuspecting patients and changes their lives forever.

You could hardly step out in public without noticing the white blaze of someone’s impacted heel showing through her slingbacks; and over there, hailing a taxi, a woman with shimmering pressure marks where her pants cut into her gut; and behind her, beneath the awning of the flower shop, a man lit all over in a glory of leukemia.

This is a book you will enjoy!

                         --Recommended by Gregory Hill, Decatur Library

 

March 3, 2014

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
by Semple, Maria
FIC SEM

The first thing I do when I finish a book that I really liked is check to see who bought the movie rights. With Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, I was sorely disappointed to discover it wasn’t Wes Anderson. The movie would need someone who can match the author’s ability to get you emotionally invested in a story that manages to take itself seriously, in spite of the fantastical absurdity of its plot and the suspension of disbelief required to relate to characters whose genius and neurosis are both larger than life. This is at once a heartwarming mother-daughter story, and a cutting satire of Seattle’s One-Percenters: the earth-conscious Subaru-driving helicopter parents who send their children to private Montessori schools with the kind of money that only a top-ranking Microsoft visionary and world-renowned pop-architect could bring in.

The book is rich with the self-aware comedy of suburbia taken to its extreme, exemplified by two wealthy and culturally ignorant mothers fighting a vicious proxy-war over each other’s lawns through a hapless landscaper, a remote virtual administrative assistant from India, and a volley of passive-aggressive letters to the PTA. There’s also a hearty helping of tech-industry humor, as the book exposes the secret life of TED Talk socialites, and the high intrigue involved in choosing the right seat at the lecture.

The story is told through a collection of documents put together by Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, as she scrambles to track down her eccentric agoraphobic mother who has mysteriously disappeared. They range from cheeky school news bulletins, e-mails from Bernadette to her remote assistant (and impromptu therapist) Manjula, back-and-forth letters from the local henhouse of “concerned mothers”, and as the story starts to really pick up, police investigation reports and Antarctic ship captain’s logs. This allows for the narrative to bounce through perspectives at a manically hilarious pace.

The satire angle starts to get thinner towards the last quarter of the book, but hopefully by then, you’ll be too curious about Bernadette’s fate to do anything but rip through the rest of the story with desperate hope that things will turn out all right for her and Bee. It’s hard not to spoil the ending, because I’m the kind of person who bails out of a book when I sense it’s going to leave me in pieces at the tragic end. All I can say is that the journey was worth it.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is also available as a downloadable audiobook, an audiobook on CD, a downloadable e-book, and in large print

— Recommended by Daniel Perez, East 38th Street Library

 

February 24, 2014

A Perfect Proposal

A Perfect Proposal
by Fforde, Katie
FIC FFO

A Perfect Proposal is an excellent, fun, fast read. Quirky, resourceful, kind-hearted Sophie is unappreciated by her academic family. This family, in an effort to get into wealthy, evil Uncle Eric's will, sends Sophie to  to be his housekeeper for 2 weeks. Uncle Eric turns out to be charming, and he considers helping Sophie fund her plan to take a tailoring course and then start her own business.

Sophie has an opportunity to leave England and visit a friend and be a nanny for 3 weeks in New York. The job falls through, leaving Sophie with a lot of free time and not much cash. While attending an art opening, Sophie keeps Matilda, a society matron, from fainting. Matilda is a war bride whose fondest childhood memories took place in a house somewhere on the Cornish coast; and she is charmed by Sophie, who reminds her of home. She asks Sophie to find that house in Cornwall.

Luke, Matilda's grandson, is wary of Sophie and does his best to keep the two separated. Matilda sends Luke over to England on business, because she thinks Sophie and Luke are made for each other. Naturally, they are resistant, and it’s fun watching them come around to Matilda’s way of thinking.

                                  --Recommended by Debbie Overshiner, Eagle Library

 

February 17, 2014

Miles, the Autobiography

Miles, the Autobiography
by Davis, Miles
780.91 Davis, Miles DAV

Miles Davis's autobiography is more than a who's who of music. It’s a detailed history of a talented St. Louis dentist's son, the powerful influence of a teacher, and his phenomenal drive and talent at a young age that led him to attend but choose to leave Juillard. Davis in later life was a friend of Jean Paul Sartre. Cicely Tyson fans may want to skim some parts, but overall, other than his frequent use of profanity, I was even more amazed after reading this at Davis' talent and continual quest for growth. After reading this, it’s time to go check out more of his CDs again... it’s a good thing he finished this before his 1991 death.

                                                                                            --Recommended by Diane Palguta, College Avenue Library

 

February 10, 2014

Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black
by Setterfield, Diane
FIC SET

A long-awaited second novel by the author of The Thirteenth Tale, Bellman & Black is that very rare article: a second book that’s better than the first.

Will Bellman is ten years old when, out playing with his friends, he boasts that he can hit a rook with his slingshot. None of the boys seriously believe he’ll accomplish this feat - but they all watch the stone as it arcs through the sky, then falls and kills the bird. Will is extremely disturbed by his deed, but the incident soon fades from memory. The first half of the book follows his life: through childhood and then working his uncle's mill, through marriage and fatherhood. William Bellman is an ambitious man and it seems all he touches turns to gold. He lives an apparently charmed life - a successful business, loving marriage and four healthy and happy children. Yet, there is a price to be paid for this success. A dark shadow hangs over this seemingly ideal existence in the form of a sinister, mysterious man in black who appears whenever William attends the funeral of a loved one (in Victorian England, funerals occur with alarming frequency). When the funerals become more personal for William, he is forced to strike a bargain with the man in black to save the only precious thing left in his life. A new business venture is born: Bellman & Black.

This is a dark, atmospheric and strange Victorian tale depicting a man's glorious rise and tragic fall. Though it’s billed as a ghost story, it’s more accurately described as the story of a haunted man. Atmospheric, lyrical, and brilliantly written, it will haunt the reader for a long time.

— Recommended by Emily Talbott, Nora Library