Reader Picks
Can’t find a good book? Check out these 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

This 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.