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STAFF PICKS

Staff-recommended reading for January 2020. 

Check back each month for a new list.  Also check out our Goodreads Group for reviews, online bookclubs, and more!

 

 In 1946, as London emerges from the shadow of World War II, author Juliet Ashton is having a terrible time finding inspiration for her next book. Then she receives a letter from Guernsey Island, and learns of a unique book club formed on the spur of the moment as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the occupying Germans during the war. Captivated, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her life forever.

 As Layla embarks on this grand adventure to establish historical moments in print, her first friend, the town librarian Ms. Betts wisely cautions: "There is a problem with history. All of us see a story according to our own lights. None of us is capable of objectivity."  Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and told through the incredible voices of three narrators you quickly come to love.

After the death of her parents, Angel has a lot to get used to: a new home, a new family, a new school. The last thing she's interested in is making new friends. Until she meets Bavar--a strange boy who slips through the shadows, a boy who might understand her nightmares.  Inspired by the story "Beauty and the Beast".

Fifteen years ago, Kathryn Scanlan found a stranger's five-year diary at an estate auction in a small town in Illinois. The owner of the diary was eighty-six years old when she began recording the details of her life in the small book, a gift from her daughter and son-in-law.  After reading and rereading the diary, studying and dissecting it, for the next fifteen years she played with the sentences that caught her attention, cutting, editing, arranging, and rearranging them into the composition that became Aug 9--Fog

In Denmark, Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife and his hopes for the future. On an isolated English farm, Tina Hopgood is trapped in a life she doesn't remember choosing. Both believe their love stories are over.

Brought together by a shared fascination with the Tollund Man, subject of Seamus Heaney's famous poem, they begin writing letters to one another.  How far are they willing to go to write a new story for themselves? 


The setting is a small village in southwestern Anatolia in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Everyone there speaks Turkish, though they write it in Greek letters. It's a place that has room for a professional blasphemer; where a brokenhearted aga finds solace in the arms of a Circassian courtesan who isn't Circassian at all; where a beautiful Christian girl named Philothei is engaged to a Muslim boy named Ibrahim. But all of this will change when Turkey enters the modern world. Epic in sweep, intoxicating in its sensual detail, Birds Without Wings is an enchantment.

In a career that paralleled the emergence of the United States as an international power, Marshall was a participant in every significant event contributing to the nation's status as a superpower. From his first combat duty in the Philippines at the turn of the century, through both World Wars, into the cold war and the Korea conflict, Marshall was a key figure in devising and implementing U.S. military strategies and foreign policies. Stoler emphasizes the years 1939-1951, while Marshall served as World War II army chief of staff, special presidential representative to China, secretary of state at the beginning of the cold war, and Korean War secretary of defense. 

In 1916, a young Quaker schoolteacher and poetry scholar named Elizebeth Smith was hired by an eccentric tycoon to find the secret messages he believed were embedded in Shakespeare's plays. But the rich man's close ties to the U.S. government, and the urgencies of war, quickly transformed Elizebeth's mission. She soon learned to apply her skills to an exciting new venture: codebreaking--the solving of secret messages without knowledge of the key. Working alongside her on the estate was William Friedman, a Jewish scientist who would become her husband and lifelong codebreaking partner. Elizebeth and William were in many ways the Adam and Eve of the National Security Agency, the U.S. institution that monitors and intercepts foreign communications to glean intelligence.


Raised in a powerful Chinese family, the beautiful, brilliant, and captivating Soong Mayling married Nationalist leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and went on to become his chief adviser, interpreter, and propagandist. When the Communists broke with Chiang's Nationalist Party, Mayling and her sister, the widow of Sun Yat-Sen, found themselves on opposing sides of a civil war. A relentless crusader speaking out against Communism well into her nineties, she sparred with international leaders and impressed Westerners and Chinese alike with her acumen, charm, and glamour.  But she was also decried as a manipulative "Dragon Lady" and was despised for living in Western-style splendor while Chinese citizens suffered under her husband's brutal oppression. 

PREVIOUS STAFF PICKS

  • December 2019
    • Gingerbread
    • Connecticut
    • Holidays
    • Shrill
    • Love Story
    • American Summer
    • Truffle
    • Flight Girls
    • Broken
  • November 2019
    • Durrells
    • Blowout
    • Dry
    • Paper Meagerie
    • Wool
    • Black Elk
    • Yoga
    • Democracy
    • Texts
  • October 2019
    • A goomba's guide to life
    • Patron saints of nothing
    • Super Chill
    • Evicted
    • We are never
    • Witches
    • Candy Corn
    • How to Be
    • Someone
  • September 2019
    • Definitely Hispanic
    • The house of broken angels
    • El Norte
    • I am not your perfect Mexican daughter
    • Esperanza rising
    • Cuba on the verge
    • September songs
    • Red, white & royal blue
    • Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe
  • August 2019
    • Palaces for the people
    • The virgin suicides
    • Georgia Peaches and other forbidden fruit
    • Highly illogical behavior
    • Kindergarten : it isn't what it used to be
    • The new Jim Crow : mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness
    • Eloquent rage : a black feminist discovers her superpower
    • This is how it always is
    • Immunization : how vaccines became controversial
  • July 2019
    • The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
    • Amelia Earhart
    • Harry Potter
    • July 1914
    • The First of July
    • American moonshot
    • The Apollo 11 moon landing, July 20, 1969
    • Apollo 8 : the thrilling story of the first mission to the Moon
  • June 2019
    • The stranger diaries
    • This must be the place
    • Check, please!. Book 1, #Hockey!
    • If I was your girl
    • The boy crisis : why our boys are struggling and what we can do about it
    • The rough guide to men's health
    • Aquarium
    • Zoo story : life in the garden of captives
    • Raising America's zoo
  • May 2019
    • Darius the Great
    • The best we could do : an illustrated memoir
    • A different pond
    • Water in May
    • Memorial Day
  • April 2019
    • Family Tree
    • Happy Family
    • Logical Family
    • Game Book
    • Mean to Be
    • Dim Sum
    • Ordinary Light
    • Life on Mars
    • Jabberwalking
  • March 2019
    • March. Book one
    • March 1917
    • March 1939
    • Spring
    • Norse mythology
    • Paris reborn
    • Organic gardening techniques
    • The Martha manual
    • Grow something different to eat
  • February 2019
    • First 15 Lives
    • Life After Life
    • The 7 1/2 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
    • The President's kitchen cabinet
    • Ultimate insiders
    • Jefferson's daughters
    • The runaway wok
    • Young China
    • The 12 Chinese animals
  • January 2019
    • 100 yr man
    • 121 First Dates
    • Thousand Beginnings
    • First in Line
    • First Things First
    • Never Too Late
    • January Window
    • Two Faces
    • Three Days