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Staff Picks

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

November 4, 2013

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941
by Olson, Lynne
940.531 OLS

Ms. Olson’s richly detailed story tells us of a Democrat re-elected to the Presidency by a big margin, along with an increased Congressional majority, whose conceit leads him to alienate the Congress. When the Supreme Court continually strikes down his New Deal programs as unconstitutional, he proposes to add six more (compliant) justices, but a Congress resentful of his arrogant behavior rejects his proposal overwhelmingly. Thus humbled, he tries never again to outpace public opinion, so when he wants to support the Allies fighting the Nazis, he moves slowly and relies on surrogates to make the public arguments.

Opposing him is the American hero, Charles Lindbergh, and on both sides are many interest groups, with members often changing sides. As Roosevelt runs for an unprecedented third term, outsiders including the German Embassy which secretly provided train tickets for isolationist delegates, manipulate both party nominating conventions and help to make it one of the nastiest election campaigns of the century.

Even after his re-election, Roosevelt continued leading from behind, frustrating his supporters after each bellicose speech by weeks of dithering without action despite Gallup polls showing majority support. In the end, only the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought us to war and united the country.

                                   — Recommended by Melinda Mullican, Wayne Library


October 28, 2013

The Professionals

The Professionals
by Laukkanen, Owen

It started as a joke.  Four college grads with no job prospects decide that their choices come down to robbing a bank or serving lattes.  Bank robbery being a risky and low-return-on-investment endeavor, they decide that ransoming the bankers themselves might be a better source of money.  But not for big bucks, that gets police involvement and media attention.  Fifty or sixty thousand dollars is chump change for these guys, so they’re unlikely to raise a ruckus or demand retribution.  The first time is a lark: Can we do it?  Then it’s: Can we do it again?  Until a couple of years go by and the four friends have a long string of successes, are halfway to their retirement goal.  But one day they kidnap the wrong man, one with mob connections, and, suddenly, the police aren’t their biggest worry.  Laukkanen has not only written a terrific book—the biggest problem I had with it was turning the pages fast enough to keep up with the story—but has also given a compelling illustration of how one bad decision can set events in motion from which there is no turning back.

— Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library


October 21, 2013

The Luminaries

The Luminaries
by Catton, Eleanor

My girl has won! I gushed about The Luminaries, last month, in a Reader's Connection post; and now Eleanor Catton has won the Man Booker Prize.

She has called the novel an "astrological murder mystery," so the library may shelve it with mysteries. I think we should buy 12 copies for each branch, assign each copy to a different sign of the zodiac, and shelve them in the duodecimal sectors into which the branch has been divided.

If you don't have the stamina to click on the above link and go to my review, I'll tell you that the story is set during the New Zealand gold rush of the 1860's. One fellow has disappeared, another has died under suspicious circumstances, and twelve men have gathered to discuss what can be done about crimes that may have been committed. The novel is 800-some pages long, and as Alice Jones wrote in The Independent, "What sets it apart, and presumably dazzled the [Man Booker] judges, is its fiendishly intricate structure . . . "

At 28, Ms. Catton is the youngest author to ever win the Booker. I wish her a long and prolific life.

— Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology


October 14, 2013

Loving Frank

Loving Frank
by Horan, Nancy

Historical fiction well done. Author Nancy Horan tackles the scandalous love of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney. By writing as fiction, the author has the liberty to grace our characters with feeling and conversation, while Horan’s well-researched adherence to the very public couple’s tumultuous history makes the story seem more biography than fiction.

Frank and Mamah both fell in love and left their respective spouses and children for one another. Both knew what they wanted from life and were not to be bothered by the conventionalities of 1909 Chicago. After time in Europe, Frank designed their Wisconsin home, Taliesin. It was here, in 1914 that Mamah, her two children, and four others were murdered, as the home burned.

You can read many books about Frank Lloyd Wright, and in most, Mamah is but a footnote. The finest commendation for Loving Frank is that Mamah is given life again; and we as readers learn, she is a very modern woman, coping with the Gilded Age, and sometimes Frank.

— Recommended by Mike Hylton, Irvington Library


October 7, 2013

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation
by Letts, Elizabeth
798.25079 LET

It must have been fate that brought Henry de Leyer and the horse he later named Snowman together. Henry was looking for a horse that he could use for riding lessons and was hoping to find one at the local auction. But Henry was late and only arrived in time to see the last horses being loaded on the truck headed for the slaughterhouse. As Henry looked over the sad lot he noticed a dirty, scarred plow horse looking steadily back at him. Something clicked and Henry bought the horse for $80.00.

This docile animal, who had only ever known a plow, soon exhibited a hidden talent – he could jump. De Leyer, who had been an equestrian in his native Holland before World War II, recognized the special gift his horse had and soon had Snowman entered in jumping competitions. Snowman and Henry rose through the rarified air of show jumping, ultimately competing in national shows usually dominated by the rich and privileged of society. Their symbiotic relationship proved what man and animal can accomplish when they combine their talent, skill and determination to achieve great things.

A documentary film on Snowman and Henry de Leyer is planned for release in late 2013.

                 — Recommended by Kim Vanderwilt, Lawrence Library