This is for an in-depth review of a book, this is not to be confused with the staff recommendations page.

1913: The Year Before the Storm (Florian Illies)

Staff Pick Badge
1913: The Year Before the Storm Cover Image
By Florian Illies, Shaun Whiteside (Translated by), Jamie Lee Searle (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781612193915
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Melville House - October 7th, 2014

An international bestseller just translated into English for the first time, 1913: THE YEAR BEFORE THE STORM is like no other history book I’ve ever read. As Illies charts the eponymous year month by month, he evokes a rich cultural panorama of a world full of possibility and blissfully ignorant of the impending nightmare of war. Instead of focusing on the actions of governments, Illies creates intimate, evocative snapshots of famous events. Proust’s creation of In Search of Lost Time, Freud’s development of psychoanalysis, the Armory Show, and even Kafka’s love life take center stage one by one. 1913 is one of the most interesting and compulsively readable history books you are likely to discover this year. Another great offering from our friends at Melville House!

Five Days at Memorial (Sheri Fink)

Staff Pick Badge
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307718969
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Crown - September 10th, 2013

Pulitzer Prize-winner Sheri Fink’s latest is a dark journey through an imperiled New Orleans hospital in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. For five days after the storm, doctors, nurses and patients were marooned at inundated Memorial Hospital and forced to survive as best they could without water, power and adequate medical supplies. When rescue services finally arrived, almost two dozen patients were dead, and it soon became apparent that many had been euthanized by their caregivers. But was it murder or mercy? And who, ultimately, is to blame? A haunting examination of bureaucratic breakdown and how fragile our ethics and values can become in the face of disaster, FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL portrays humanity at its worst and asks how we can be better--and more prepared--next time.

The Good Lord Bird (James McBride)

Staff Pick Badge
The Good Lord Bird: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594632785
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - August 5th, 2014

With THE GOOD LORD BIRD, James McBride has given us the rare novel that manages to be hilarious while simultaneously addressing important historical and social questions. The book is narrated by Henry “The Onion” Shackleford--a young slave boy swept up in John Brown’s ill-fated crusade against slavery and forced by circumstance to masquerade as a girl for a number of years. McBride portrays Brown as a clueless, if dedicated, zealot bumbling toward infamy. His prayers put his followers to sleep and his battles, while bloody, often become slapstick affairs. But for every gut-busting scene of frightened slaves running away from Brown as he tries to liberate them and for every genderbending antic undertaken by Onion as he tries to keep up his charade while living in a brothel, McBride attacks a dizzying array of difficult questions about identity, belief and morality. Not since Twain’s THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN has an author been able to so effectively balance the ludicrous and the serious. This is a marvelous book, a page-turner you’ll want to savor. And like McBride’s memoir THE COLOR OF WATER, THE GOOD LORD BIRD is destined to become a contemporary classic.

Shot All to Hell (Mark Lee Gardner)

Staff Pick Badge
Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061989483
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - May 6th, 2014

Born of meticulous research and a lifelong obsession with the James-Younger Gang, SHOT ALL TO HELL is Mark Lee Gardner's rip-roaring ride through one of the most dramatic episodes in Old West outlaw history. The 1876 Northfield Raid, the last ill-fated heist undertaken by Jesse James and his cohorts, erupted into a town-wide firefight as citizens took up arms to repel the outlaws, culminating in one of the largest manhunts in US history. In gripping prose supported by copious primary sources (including many eyewitness testimonies), Gardner recounts the botched robbery hour by hour. Moreover, he provides essential background information on all members of the gang, humanizing the legends while also illustrating how they were all but destined to become outlaws. Historically accurate and written with all the page-turning immediacy of a novel, SHOT ALL TO HELL will engross you. A great choice for summer reading!

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (George Packer)

Staff Pick Badge
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374102418
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - May 21st, 2013

George Packer's newest is a masterpiece of sociopolitical nonfiction. Weaving together biographical sketches of everyday citizens, profiles of cultural icons, and segments of famous headlines, song lyrics and speeches in the fashion of John Dos Passos' USA trilogy, he creates a vivid panoramic view of modern America. While at times making for a dire read, THE UNWINDING is an insightful and necessary book that perfectly captures our contemporary zeitgeist. A must-read for anyone seeking to better understand the times in which we live.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)

Staff Pick Badge
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062255662
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - June 3rd, 2014

In his first novel for adults in six years, the inimitable Neil Gaiman plumbs dark psychological depths with a tale that is part childhood memory, part nightmare and full of magic. After years away, the unnamed narrator returns to his hometown to attend a funeral and immediately begins recalling strange happenings from his childhood---things that could not possibly be true. But remember he does. He remembers the family that lived on the old farm at the end of the lane, and the girl who showed him a pond she called an ocean. And he remembers his family’s mysterious and frightening housekeeper, Ursula Monkton. As his memories continue to resurface, we are taken deeper and deeper into a realm of myth and legend so very close, yet so very different from our own world.

The Son (Philipp Meyer)

Staff Pick Badge
The Son Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062120403
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Ecco - January 28th, 2014

Philipp Meyer’s second novel is no less an undertaking than a multigenerational Texas epic. Five years in the making, THE SON drips with authenticity (Meyer went so far as to drink buffalo blood during his protracted research) and is sure to find its place among seminal texts of Texas literature, including LONESOME DOVE and GIANT. Narrated by three members of the McCullough family---the violent, Comanche-raised founding patriarch Eli, his haunted and rebellious son Peter, and oil magnate great-granddaughter Jeanne Anne, THE SON spans more than 150 years. Along the way, it paints a vivid portrait of the power and ambition of one family that ultimately mirrors the brutal history of the Lone Star State itself. One of our most anticipated titles this year, you don’t want to miss THE SON!

The Blood of Heaven (Kent Wascom)

Staff Pick Badge
The Blood of Heaven Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802121196
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Grove Press - June 10th, 2014

No other book coming out this year excites me more than Kent Wascom’s debut, THE BLOOD OF HEAVEN. You will be astounded at this young author's level of narrative skill. Set in the early 1800s around the time of the Louisiana Purchase, THE BLOOD OF HEAVEN charts the life of preacher, slaver, robber, murderer, and would-be revolutionary Angel Woolsack as he falls in with Aaron Burr in hopes of wresting West Florida away from the Spanish in order to establish a new nation. Wascom’s style echoes Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry, vividly recreatings the harsh, morally ambiguous world of the early nineteenth century territories. But even in the darkest moments, Wascom finds the kernel of humanity. A stunning, remarkable debut from a talent I expect great things from in the years to come!

Sympathy for Outsiders: Leslie Parry’s CHURCH OF MARVELS

by Liz Wright

I cried tears of joy halfway through Leslie Parry’s CHURCH OF MARVELS. To tell you why, though, I’d have to spoil the best reveal in the book. And trust me when I say that this is a book full of wonderful, tangled reveals. And the greatest thing about it? Everything, absolutely everything, is connected.

Church of Marvels: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062367556
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Ecco - May 5th, 2015

On Being Blue: Maria Dahvana Headley’s MAGONIA

Magonia Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062320520
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: HarperCollins - April 28th, 2015