Reader Picks
Can’t find a good book? Check out these continually updated recommendations by the Library’s patrons, staff and volunteers.
Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence

This delightful book tells the true story of conservationist, Lawrence Anthony, and his efforts to save a herd of “troubled” elephants on his game preserve in Zululand, South Africa. Not only is the tale of the elephants absolutely riveting, but Mr. Anthony’s desciption of his work with the local population to expand the game preserve and bring much needed income opportunities beyond cattle herding to this depressed area is instructive. Although the subject is serious, Mr. Anthony’s storytelling is understated and often very funny, indeed. I warmly recommend this book to any reader of any age with an interest in Africa and animals.

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Gabrielle Zevin: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

This is a fabulous read for anyone vacationing on Nantucket or Martha’s Vinyard! Set on a fictional island off the coast of Massachusetts, the novel focuses on A.J. Fikry, a curmudgeonly owner of a small bookstore. A.J.’s predictable routine is completely upended and miraculously changed when he finds a small child abandoned in the store and decides to keep and bring up the little girl. Brimming with appealing characters and pithy observations on life and literature, this novel is a perfect beach read!

Peter Heller: The Dog Stars

This unforgettable novel tells the story of Hig and his dog, Jasper, and their quest for survival in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by environmental disaster and a deadly flu pandemic. One day Hig hears what sounds like a static message on the radio of his old Cessna and he decides to venture out to discover if there might be a viable community beyond the relatively safe confines of his small camp. The grim reality of this new normal is described in spare prose with haunting imagery filled with small details that feel absolutely true. In spite of the novel’s grim premise, the reader is left with a sense of glimmering grace.

John Green: The Fault in Our Stars

Fault in Our StarsThis much hyped novel for young adults really is everything it’s cracked up to be. The Fault in Our Stars is the story about two young cancer patients falling in love. Hazel’s deadpan wit and Gus’s unwavering optimism save the novel from being maudlin and the great cast of supporting characters, especially in the cancer support group, feels just right. One of the things I love most about the novel is that John Green never dumbs down his prose for a younger audience — on the contrary, the dialogue is witty, descriptions keenly observed, and relationships ruthlessly realistic. Do, however, make sure to have a box of Kleenex before starting the book!

Jojo Moyes: The One Plus One

Jojo Moyes’ smash hit “Me Before You” explored the uneasy relationship between Britain’s working and upper classes while at the same time exposing their similar family dysfunctionalities. In The One Plus One, Ms. Moyes returns to the British working class to tell the story of Jesse, a single mother trying to hold together her small family while seeking to give her children the chances she never had herself. During one particularly disastrous attempt to take her gifted daughter to a math competition, Jesse meets Ed, a former IT executive suspected of illegal insider trading. The story is classic Moyes: The quirky characters, the supposedly incompatible couple, and lots of beautifully observed scenes that might have sprung straight from real life.

Graeme Simsion: The Rosie Project

If you read and enjoyed Peter Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, you’ll love this debut novel by Australian author, Graeme Simsion. Don Tillman, a brilliant professor of Genetics, has more than just a touch of Asperger’s and exhibits all the traits of an obsessive compulsive personality. Realizing his social ineptness, Don decides to go about finding a wife by posting a 16 page long online questionnaire which he has developed to find the perfect candidate. When Don meets Rosie Jarman, he realizes at once that she is the complete opposite of his ideal. However, that doesn’t prevent the two from developing an unlikely friendship which soon deepens into something more. I loved this book. The story is engaging and moves briskly along with believable characters. The author is particularly convincing in capturing Don’s quirkiness and the way his mind works in an affectionate, funny way without a traces of condescension. The Rosie Project is the selected title for the October 29 meeting of the Evening Book Group. The author has kindly agreed to be skyped in all the way from Adelaide, Australia, for the occasion.

Philippa Gregory: The Lady of the Rivers

Philippa Gregory writes about British history, and especially women in British history. This is the story of Jacquetta who has the gift of “second sight.” As a child she saw her power reflected in Joan of Arc before Joan was taken to a horrific death, which teaches Jacquetta the danger of being a woman who dares to dream. She becomes the Duchess of Bedford, then a wealthy widow, then marries again for love. She became a close and loyal friend to the new wife of Henry VI, witnesses the War of the Roses, and senses an extraordinary future for her daughter Elizabeth, who becomes the White Queen (Gregory’s next book). Wonderful insight into the role of women in the 1400’s; books like this make me glad I live now.

Ken Follett: Fall of Giants and Winter of the World

Problematic in any recounting of modern Western history is the struggle with the sheer scope of the events involved. History can be viewed as a web of interrelated issues and events, mores and evolving beliefs. Ken Follett solves this historical fiction dilemma by weaving the story of five different families – American, German, Russian, English and Welsh – using his initial foundation story of each family to contrast the differences in class, education, and beliefs while creating mostly believable, fallible characters, situations and dialogue. While Follett’s use of coincidence as a plot device will sometimes stretch the suspension of disbelief for a reader, and the characters themselves need more depth for verisimilitude, I found myself involved with the characters enough to keep reading. Fall of Giants begins in June of 1911 and ends in January of 1924; Downton Abbey fans will find some of the class tensions in the first book’s plot familiar historical ground. Winter of the World begins in 1933 and ends in 1949, conveying the story of the subsequent generations of Follett’s original families. Historically, I appreciated learning more about different political ideologies, but I felt that Follett ignored the importance of the air war in World War I. Readers of accurate historical fiction will immerse themselves in the first two books of this trilogy with satisfaction.

Tatiana de Rosnay: Sarah’s Key

An easily-read novel about a serious subject: the treatment of Jews by the French during World War II through the eyes of a young girl and through the reporter tracing her story. While some of the novel’s “surprises” are patently obvious and the main character’s lack of reporting skills less than believable, the story is worth exploring. The novel brings to light once again the struggle of humanity versus evil that was the Holocaust.

Steve Martini: The Rule of Nine

San Diego defense attorney Paul Mandriani is fresh from his last encounter with the world of terrorists when intrigue involving the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States pulls him into its vortex. This is Martini at his best – a multifaceted who-done-it centering on contemporary concerns with riveting twists and turns along the way.

Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus

This fantastical romance set in the magical world of a mysterious nocturnal circus, is at once a beautiful love story and a tangled mystery featuring two scheming magicians. For everyone who loves a satisfying fantasy, good writing and a cast of unforgettable characters.

Lisa See: Shanghai Girls

This book was great because it highlighted the unbreakable and powerful bond between sisters. Throughout many struggles and hardships, they still remained supportive of each others hopes and dreams.

Oliver Sacks: The Mind’s Eye

I saw this man interviewed and I was intrigued by this book, which is all about how the mind works. Not everyone likes nonfiction, but I felt it was simple to understand and so, so interesting. How they can figure out and isolate the way the brain works is just amazing!

Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

What a charming read! Through correspondence, writer Julia Ashton learns of the impact the German occupation had on the island of Guernsey following the Second World War. The islanders formed a book club during the war as a protective measure. Julia is touched by the islanders as they slowly reveal themselves to her in their letters. This touching story deepens when Julia visits the island and falls in love with the people and their way of life.

Eliza Griswold: The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam

Sharing a latitude 700 miles north of the equator, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines also share an increasingly violent struggle between Christianity and Islam. The tenth parallel spans two continents and nineteen nationalities, but these six countries reflect the strife in significant ways. Award-winning investigative reporter Griswold’s front line research has resulted in a book that will transform our dialogue about globalization – its looming threats as well as its prospects for peace. I found this book challenging with difficult names and unfamiliar geography, be well worth the struggle to gain insight into conflicts that often evade the headlines.

Susan Vreeland: Girl in Hyacinth Blue

A frame narrative following the provenance of an undiscovered Vermeer painting, this beautifully sculpted novel expresses the impact of art both in the characters’ everyday lives and in life-altering moments. A fascinating foray into the humanities examining history, art and the decisions that define us, Girl in Hyacinth Blue is well worth your time.

Jacqueline Winspear: The Mapping of Love and Death: A Maisie Dobbs Novel

Winspear’s series featuring Maisie Dobbs all are satisfying reads. They offer well developed characters, interesting plots, and a background that faithfully evokes England after World War I. Maisie is one of those individuals who is swept along in a tide of changes that unhinge the underpinnings of English society. As a new woman, she is educated and determined to establish herself as a detective in London. In this book, Maisie needs to return to France to uncover the mystery surrounding the death of a young man and the letters he wrote to an unknown lover. An excellent read.

Larry McDonald: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense

What happened at Lehman Brothers and why was it allowed to fail, with aftershocks that rocked the global economy? This book provides an inside view of financial crisis, as told by a former Vice President of Lehman Brothers. Reads like a novel and you won’t put it down.

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson: Peter and the Starcatchers

Humorous and fast-paced, this action-adventure novel is one of my favorites to share with children fifth grade and up. Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson write the prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and populate their story with a strong and smart female protagonist, Molly, the young Peter before he could fly, the Lost Boys, funny pirates, intelligent islanders and mysterious magic. Beautifully illustrated by Greg Call, the adventure and danger will keep your child captivated; the terrific writing will expand your child’s vocabulary as well. This novel is a wonderful on to read together and contains a significant anti-racism message.

Sherry Reads, Winter 2015
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a memorable book. The writing is fine and the story is engaging, but the questions it poses and the insights it provides leave a lasting impression. It is one of those books that linger long after the last page has been turned.
The story, which takes place in France and Germany during the period between the first and second world wars, centers on two children, Marie-Laure and Werner. Each suffers. Marie-Laure develops a rare condition that leaves her blind at the age of six. Werner lives in an orphanage in Germany since both of his parents died when he was small. .
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Despite their difficult circumstances, each child is possessed with unusual talent. Both are curious beyond their years, always questioning, not their circumstances but the world around them. Marie-Laure’s quest for knowledge is fulfilled by her father and his friends, great minds who work at the museum of natural history in Paris. Marie’s father is an expert locksmith in charge of the museum’s security. Werner is driven by his love of electronics. He finds used parts discarded by others and creates radios and other devices. Soon Werner becomes known for his ability to repair electronic equipment, a master in his little town.
The second gift each youngster is given is the presence of a strong moral guide; for Marie it is her father, for Werner it is his sister. Marie lost her mother when she was young, so she relies on her father for support in every way. Her father helps her “see” by creating a minature replica of their neighborhood and the paths to the museum and other places important in their lives. He also teaches her about his craft by presenting birthday gifts in puzzle form to encourage her manipulative skills. But he always stresses the importance of “doing the right thing”. Marie becomes confident and courageous.
Werner’s sister is his partner in adventure. She accompanies him in his efforts to retrieve radio parts and share his secret endeavors. She is also the voice questioning those around her: “Is it right to do something only because everyone else is doing it?” (p. 133) This question begins to haunt Werner after he wins a place in a prestigious school for young leaders of the Third Reich, the National Political institutes of Education. He wins special treatment when his talent for creating radio devices surfaces, but he cannot escape the coldness and apathy toward human suffering that is one of the school’s goals. He suffers when his friend Frederick, an expert ornithologist, is beaten viciously because he is physically small and weak, but he is unable and unwilling to protect his friend.
As the war erupts, Marie escapes Paris for St. Malo where she makes decisions to help reisist the Nazis. Werner is dismissed from his elite school for an age discrepancy and sent on missions to discover and seize enemy radios. Eventually he is forced to make a difficult choice when he learns that a childhood broadcast hero is found to be working for the enemy. That hero is the reclusive uncle of Marie.
When Miep Gies, the woman who helped Anne Frank and her family during the Occupation of the Netherlands, died, an editorial wrote about the meaning of Miep Gies’s life. “Mrs. Gies was the last surviving member of Anne Frank’s protectors. Their collective story is an enduring reminder that human beings always have a choice, even when millions were acceding to unspeakable evil.” All The Light We Cannot See reminds all of us of the choices life offers. May we all see the light and display the courage to opt for the goodness in life..
HAPPY READING!
Sherry Reads, Fall 2014
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton was a birthday gift in early September. The intriguing cover promised the re-creation of a bygone era with all its glitter and darkness. The novel did not disappoint.
Burton paints an exquisite picture of seventeenth century Amsterdam, the bustling city open to the world of trade around the world but closed to the different and the unusual. Into this world Nella Oortman, a young, provincial girl is transported as the wife of one of the city’s most prosperous merchants. Nella’s new home is strange, filled with secrets and whispered noises.
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Nella’s efforts to understand her role as wife and mistress of her home are compromised by the strength and domination of her sister in law whose bitter retorts frighten Nella. To add to this murky atmosphere are two servants Toot, a man from Dahomey once bound for the slave market, and Cornelia, a woman who seems to possess a keen understanding of all the secrets of the household.
To compound this secret life is the introduction of another character, unseen but uncanningly vocal. Johannes, Nella’s husband, presents her with a beautiful minature replica of their home. In an effort to furnish this home, Nella orders furniture and characters from a shop. The deliveries show characters in their future guises. On occasion figures appear before Nella has requested them; the miniaturist seems to forecast events in their lives. Nella works to investigate the identity of this crafts person but is unable to discover any information.
The mystery of Nella’s life, her strength, and the many secrets hidden in her new home are fascinating. The first part of the novel provides the backdrop to the page turning mystery of the second part. The conclusion is startling and thought provoking. The mores and ethos of seventeenth century Amsterdam were more restrictive than American history suggests, despite their wilingness to provide a home for Puritan refugees from England.
If you are a fan of mysteries, you will love The Ice Princess of Camilla Lackberg. I have just discovered this author who is widely popular in Scandanavia. Her portrayals of characters and place are unrivalled in this genre; the plot is well developed and not difficult to comprehend. Especially noteworthy is the intricate layering of the plot, from the vague suspicion to the precise. In this tome there is also a warm romance that blossoms as the plot develops. Am reading more of this author.
HAPPY READING!
Sherry Reads Summer 2014
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Dante reserved the worst places in the Inferno for those who did not take a stand during times of moral crisis. Slavery, that peculiar institution, was not a momentary crisis but a long standing, enduring aspect of life, particularly in the agricultural south. Opposition to slavery was rare, an act of treason among the slave owning masters. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is the story of one of those unusual individuals Sarah Grimke who acted against a system that challenged her ideas of right and wrong and her faith.

This is a work of historical fiction. Sarah was a real person who devoted her life to the eradication of slavery and to the empowerment of women. She shunned the traditional path of a southern girl of her aristocratic background to pursue a lonely road of hard work and rejection. In the end she became one of the leading abolitionists of her day, respected by many but reviled and despised by her family and the society in which she was raised.

As a youngster Sarah was traumatized by the brutal whipping of a slave. Then, on her eleventh birthday, the gift from her parents of a slave her age further upset her. Sarah tried to return “the gift” but was unable to do so. Her inability to offend her soul in this nefarious gift led Sarah to fight the system in another way. She taught Hetty, her slave, to read. The consequences for Sarah pale with the punishment incurred by Hetty.

Ultimately, Sarah is forced to reject marriage and a conventional path to undertake a life of service to the cause of eradicating slavery and securing the rights of women. With her youngest sister, Sarah contributed to the promise of equality in the Declaration of Independence.

Kidd is a wonderful writer. The book is well researched and provides a fast moving insight into the life of a person who opposed the accepted mores of her society to improve the lives of all. I loved the book.

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure is also a story of transformation. During the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II, a young architect is unable to find work. He is approached by a wealthy industrialist to perform some work. Thrilled to be engaged in his profession again, he is horrified by the actual job: building a Gestap proof hiding place for a Jewish friend of the industrialist.

Louis rejects the job immediately. The danger is unspeakable, and he has no particular feeling about the cruel treatment of Jews. He was, in fact, raised in an anti-Semitic household.

Ultimately, he takes the work for the promise of future employment. The work changes him in unforeseen ways. He too must make choices, choices that redeem him in his own mind.

This is a perfect book for the beach or a long airplane ride. It is a book difficult to put down but a book that inspires us to believe that change for the good is a realistic possibility for all.

HAPPY READING!