Geobiologist Hope Jahren invites us to visit her version of Oz, a shining city of miracles and magic, in her memoir LAB GIRL. Behind the curtain, the wizard is no balding, bespectacled fraud but a real, disheveled, and wickedly funny scientist whose joy of discovery makes us want to dye our hair green and dig in. From her Minnesota roots to her world-renowned research lab in Hawaii, Jahren reveals the passions that drive her work and sustain her in a competitive and often hostile scientific community. Her descriptions of trees and the soils they inhabit are so gorgeous, they will change how you view the world and the hope that we may yet save it from ourselves.
THE WAR CAME HOME WITH HIM, a new memoir by Catherine Madison, reveals the intimate and heartbreaking legacy of cruelty on the human spirit. Her father, a brilliant and promising young surgeon in the U.S. Army Medical Corp, was swept into the Korean War when she was a baby. After three brutal years as a POW in North Korea, he comes home damaged and haunted, bringing with him the indelible stain of cruelty.
Doc Boysen's story, told in alternating chapters with Madison's own coming-of-age tale, unfolds in horrifying detail. Like Alexandra Fuller's excellent "Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight", THE WAR CAME HOME WITH HIM relates this complex and harrowing memoir without judgement. Only after her father's death did Madison discover the secret cache of information that allowed her to piece together the truth of this complicated Colonel Surgeon Father God who ruled her life with his memories. Beautifully written and carefully researched, this memoir brings the war home for all of us.
Beryl Markham rarely did what she was told. A child of Africa born of British stock, Markham defied what conventions were possible in the heady days of colonial Kenya in the 1920's. Passionate, wild, and willful, Markham's life is the stuff of legend: the first female horse trainer licensed in Kenya, one of its first bush pilots, the first woman to solo an east west transatlantic flight, and the subject of several scandalous love affairs. In Paula McClain's capable hands, Markham's fascinating life fills the pages of CIRCLING THE SUN. A story of adventure and glamour, defiance and determination, CIRCLING THE SUN entertains and inspires. A great read.
In THE NIGHT GUEST, dementia has begun to work its magic in Ruth. She knows the tiger she hears snuffling in her living room isn’t real. But it is thrilling. So is the unexpected appearance of a “carer” sent by the government to Ruth’s isolated beach house. Frida brings warmth and encouragement to Ruth’s unkempt life, even helping Ruth connect with an old love from her youth. But can she protect Ruth from the predator that circles the house every night? Suspenseful and packed with insight about the vulnerability of being old. A knockout debut novel from a young Australian.
Whether you’re planning a garden or just planning to shop your local farmers’ market, Deborah Madison’s beautiful new VEGETABLE LITERACY will soon be your favorite reference book. Long admired as a leader in the vegetarian cooking and slow food movement, Madison brings her considerable skills and knowledge to hundreds of exquisitely simple recipes. Each family -- from Carrots to Mint to The Sensual Squashes, Melons, and Gourds – is illustrated with remarkable photographs and Madison describes the features that make its members interchangeable. Botany has never been so fascinating. Or delicious. The garden is “a lively universe that stitches us firmly to the world at large.” In the kitchen, it becomes a part of us.
THE GOLDFINCH is small and mysterious painting, the centerpiece of Donna Tartt’s dense and brilliant novel. Theo Decker miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. The event catapults us through this intricately crafted tale of intrigue and art, a tale of survival and longing. Tartt captures Theo’s complex inner life with a verve that makes it impossible to abandon him in the dark heart of this novel. His fellow travelers on this odyssey become whole people, as flawed and fascinating as Theo himself. The masterful plot and exquisite detail of characters and settings require constant attention. The reward of the last 50 pages is so satisfying, I read them a second time. You’ve never read a coming-of-age story like this one.
Alice McDermott’s new novel, SOMEONE, has just over two hundred pages. That means we can linger over its beautifully crafted words. In them, this National Book Award winner packs the truth of life. Marie, a child in pre-Depression Brooklyn, guides us through the treacheries of growing up poor and hopeful. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” fans will savor the clear-eyed details of friends and neighbors, rendered with wit and affection. The street teems with incidents – stick ball games with a blind umpire, sudden death, disgrace. McDermott trusts readers grasp the story as it unfolds, creating a mosaic of scenes that connect for us in unexpected and satisfying ways. SOMEONE is a finely tuned book to savor over a winter weekend.
Lovers of dogs and a well-turned phrase: prepare to be charmed. A collection of essays and letters, E.B. White on Dogs will put a smile on your face. Steeped in the privileged and literary world of a young New Yorker magazine, E.B. White’s essays reveal an unpretentious, kind-hearted, and insightful man. With keen and occasionally biting humor, White’s observations on society and the natural world are delivered through the lens of his admiration for the dogs in his life. One dachshund (his wife’s preferred breed) named Fred accompanies White through the heartbreaking “Death of a Pig.” If you’ve never cried reading Charlotte’s Web,” you will now. Buy two. This is a lovely gift book.
Between a fortress of housing projects and the newly christened berth of the Queen Mary, New York’s Red Hook borough shapes itself around VISITATION STREET. Ivy Pochoda captures the despair of lives yanked off course as suddenly and swiftly as a swimmer caught in the dangerous currents of the East River. Tenderness infuses this gritty story, laced with hope and remorse. Pochoda’s loving eye takes in the exact moment of a fall from grace – the precise point at which innocence and guilt intersect.
I’ll sell Pochoda’s literary chops to readers looking for an intelligent, intense fiction. A great read.
Give your favorite three to seven year-old a stack of paper, a fresh box of crayons, and Drew Daywalt’s wildly funny The Day the Crayons Quit. At school, Duncan discovers a stack of letters from his crayons. They’ve had enough. Illustrator Oliver Jeffers captures the problems and personalities of each color, from Red’s “you make me work harder than any of your other crayons” to orange and yellow’s feud over who is the real color of the sun. Only green wants to say “that I like my workloads of crocodiles, trees, dinosaurs, and frogs.” A pleasure to read aloud and children will appreciate Duncan’s brilliant solution.
Toss and turn? Count sheep? Desperate to escape your honey’s snoring? In Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, Journalist David K. Randall offers fascinating insights into the mystery of human slumber. Though “ingrained in our cultural ethos as something that can be put off, dosed with coffee, or ignored,” every moment of our lives depends on the quality of our sleep. Unlike our ancestors, modern sleepers expect uninterrupted blocks of this vital and elusive state. But few would give up the single greatest impediment to healthy sleep: artificial light. Lack of sleep creates dangers on battlefields and football fields, roadways and school hallways, bedrooms and boardrooms. Randall’s research will change how you think about the time spent behind closed eyes.
Compact and epic, Transatlantic is a near perfect blend of fact and fancy. Ireland connects three stories spanning three continents in this complex, beautifully written and satisfying novel by National Book Award winner (Let the Great World Spin) Colum McCann.
"Find a dozen eggs or die." A mismatched pair of prisoners. A story so real you'll swear you've met these guys. Now just try to forget them.
"When her American father and Japanese mother divorce, Michelle LaBeau tries to find a place as the only mixed-race person in a small Wisconsin town. Just after Vietnam and the struggles for civil rights, the community is ripped apart by a series of revelations that pit loyalty against justice. A terrific choice for book clubs!"
"An urban dweller with roots in northern Minnesota, Stonich sets out to find a piece of land where she and her son can belong. Newly divorced and strapped for cash, she buys a parcel that she sees for the first time from the air. Shelter contains stunning passages about the natural world, great stories about the life and times of true Northerners, and wry commentary about settling the wild."
"Pitch perfect dialogue."