Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris

Theft by Finding book coverDavid Sedaris has become well known for his wit and humor. After keeping a diary for 40 years, Sedaris has written his first of two books taken from his notes. His notes are really just a few words about what he’s doing, thinking, or experiencing.

During this period of time he is involved quite heavily with drugs and unable to hold down a steady job. In between jobs he helps his parents with their rental properties to make spending money.

Each entry is brief but thought provoking making it a quick page turner to see what situation he’ll get into next.  Request a copy.

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow coverThe main character, Count Alexander Rostov, has been sentenced to house arrest by Russia’s new Soviet masters in one of Moscow’s finest hotel Metropol. The story follows the Count’s decades confined in very small quarters within a hotel for the elite.

Rostov survives as well as he does because of of his strong belief that “If one did not master one’s circumstances, one was bound to be mastered by them”. Just when you might become a little weary of the tale, the story takes a turn that will re-awaken your interest.  Request a copy.

Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Our Short History coverWhat would you do if you were told you had a terminal disease and were a mom of small children? How would you prepare them? What would you leave to them? Would you write them a memoir to remember you? Our Short History tells how Karen Neulander, a single mom, deals with this issue after she is diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and is not expected to live much longer. This is a sensitively written fictional memoir to her six year old son. It’s sad, but also funny. I would very much recommend it. Request a copy.

(This review was originally submitted by JoAnn on May 23, 2017)

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Wonder Woman book jacketAfter you take in this summer’s new Wonder Woman movie, read the crazier-than-fiction backstory on the creation of America’s favorite female superhero.  Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman traces Wonder Woman’s creation by William Moulton Marston, who also invented the lie detector test (lasso of truth, anyone?). Marston’s unusual family arrangement is a story unto itself, and following the ups and downs of his personal life and career makes for a fascinating summer read.

In exploring the pre- and post-WWII American cultural landscape and examining Marston’s connection to major feminists of the period, including Margaret Sanger, Lepore nicely frames Wonder Woman’s rise and examines the various parties who competed over—sometimes for control, sometimes to censor—this rising icon. Request a copy.

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

I hadn’t before read a graphic novel (or in this case, a graphic memoir), so Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This was new territory for me.  I was drawn to this book because of its topic, rather than its format.  In it, Radtke explores her fascination with architectural ruins, relating them to her own sense of the impermanence of life and her grief over losing a close relative.  Never feeling rooted or settled, she travels the world visiting abandoned towns and structures as they are slowly reclaimed by nature.

Radtke tells her story in direct, unfussy language and compelling black and white drawings.  In some pages, she conforms to the traditional three to nine frame comic format, and in others her drawings overlap the frame or incorporate collage or drawn-over photographic elements, giving the book a lot of life, and the reader plenty of incentive to keep turning the pages.  Radtke’s story is poignant, her illustrations lovely.  This book quickly hooked me and I read it in one sitting.  I now consider it a favorite.  This is a great entry point into the graphic book format, and I recommend it to new graphic book readers (and experienced graphic readers won’t want to miss it).  Request a copy.

This is How It Always Is by Laurel Frankel

Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin.  From a young age it is clear that their youngest son, Claude, is different from the other boys.  At three years old, he tells his parents he wants to be a girl when he grows up and wants to wear dresses and bows in his hair.
Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings.  He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy.  Conflicts and hostilities   from their community cause them to move.  When they relocate, they decide to keep Claude’s gender a secret, which eventually causes stress and grief to the entire family.

Although the story is about a transgender child, the bigger story is how parents will always move heaven and earth for their children.  Being a parent, I could totally relate.  Both my children have such different personalities, but I love them both so much equally in their uniqueness and struggles. That’s what being a parent is all about, navigating the unpredictable territory of raising children.  It is a strong reminder that we should judge less and embrace the differences in people.  A powerful read, especially in this time period.  Request a copy.

I’ve got sand in all the wrong places by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

I listened to the audiobook on a trip up and back to Massachusetts. I’ve read a bunch of Lisa Scottoline’s books (she’s a lawyer who writes really cool mystery books), so I thought I’d try this.  She’s written a series of books with her daughter and I wanted to check it out. They take turns with the chapters and they talk about their lives alone and together and all kinds of stuff that happens in between. I enjoyed this, as a lot of it reminded me of my daughter and me. Now I may look for their other books, since I enjoyed this one.  Request a copy.

Victoria: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin and Victoria: Season 1

I knew very little about Queen Victoria.  The various Queens Elizabeth are much better known to me, but I am very glad I watched the Masterpiece show on PBS.  Daisy Goodwin wrote the TV show and also the book.  Having seen and read both, I would recommend you do the same.

Queen Victoria was quite small, under five feet tall.  She was imperious, and while an era is named after her, she was not the fierce little old lady I was expecting.  Her ascension to the throne happened when she was young, and many in power at the time tried to control her.  She was determined to rule wisely and make her own choices.  Jenna Coleman does a remarkable job in the title roll of the show, and if you look at pictures of Victoria when she was young, there is a good resemblance.  The show closely follows the book, but it is still enjoyable to check out them both.

Lord Melbourne is the Prime Minister and the Queen’s first love.  Lehzen, Victoria’s governess, later advisor and companion and Dash, the dog, also lend support.  Of course we must mention Prince Albert, also a fascinating character with an interest in modernization and his own difficulties being married to Royalty.  With politics, romance and history, this coming of age story is most enjoyable.  So do read the book and also see the DVD of season 1.  Some scenes were deleted from the original Masterpiece TV show, so it may be preferable to watch it on DVD if you are able.  And God save the Queen!  Request a copy.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben

It isn’t often that I have read a non-fiction book in the sciences that has been so enjoyable.  This title is written in story form, as if trees are almost human.  It’s not simply technical literature about how trees survive or do not survive in their various environments.  I guarantee you will never look at another tree without thinking about what you learned from this book.  Absolutely fascinating!  Request a copy.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it ultimately took me about 2 months to finish it, and I still can’t believe Lin-Manuel Miranda took this giant book on a tropical vacation to read!  That being said – it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read.  The life that Alexander Hamilton lived and the accomplishments he was able to achieve in his relatively short life are absolutely mind boggling.  His influence is still felt today in our financial world near and far.  A life truly cut too short.  What a loss to our country, but we are to this day indebted to him and his ideas.  Listen or read this book – it will floor you!  Request a copy.

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett

Old-fashioned English professor Arthur Prescott of Barchester, England has two passions in his life — books/manuscripts and the Holy Grail.  When he is not teaching, he can usually be found in the Barchester Cathedral Library, enjoying its centuries-old collection.  His predictable life is shaken up when bubbly American Bethany Davis arrives to digitize the library’s ancient manuscripts.  Are these two diametrically opposed, or can each of them appreciate both printed books and digital versions that can be used by anyone anywhere in the world?  Oh, and Bethany is also a Holy Grail enthusiast.  And there is a mystery surrounding a missing manuscript having to do with Saint Ewolda, long associated with the Cathedral.

This is a delightful novel about two very different people who just might be falling in love as they try to uncover the Cathedral’s secrets.  A great read for book lovers, Grail enthusiasts who like a quieter approach than Indiana Jones, and Anglophiles.  Reserve a copy.

Becoming Grandma by Lesley Stahl

Even though I am not a grandparent (and not about to become one), I saw Lesley Stahl’s book about grandparents and grandchildren and thought I would take a look – or a listen to the audiobook.  Being familiar with Lesley from 60 Minutes, I found her stories from her own family life and experiences well written and researched.  There is a science to the instant affection between grandparents and their newborn grandchildren.  This is explained as an overwhelming feeling of attachment akin to love at first sight.  There is also a wealth of difference in the parental experience and the “grands” experience.  Differences in age and what grands will be called today are not what they were in the past.  Finances also affect the family experience and more children are being raised by grandparents or foster grandparents today than ever.

The book describes the birth of grand-daughters Jordan and Chloe and stories from interviews with Diane Sawyer, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Brokaw.  The grandfather experience and step-grandparents are also covered.

If you are a grandparent, a parent, or a grandchild, you will find this description of modern family relationships of interest.  There is more to family dynamics than I would have thought possible, and Lesley Stahl narrates a wonderful audiobook on “the Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting.”

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What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

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A patron at the library recommended this to me…it’s a story about a woman unable to have a biological child of her own who makes a split decision one day to kidnap a child.  She convinces everyone that she adopted the child and raises the baby girl as her own. Things start to unravel as the daughter, now in law school, discovers the truth.  Brings up lots of questions and no easy answers.

Falling : A Daughter, A Father, and A Journey Back by Elisha Cooper

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A lovingly written book by a father about his 5-year-old daughter and her unexpected diagnosis of cancer.  The author of this book is himself an author and illustrator of children’s books (that I now have to look for in my own library).  In this book he deftly straddles all of his hopes and fears for his family and really paints quite a picture of the realities of living (and not dying) from cancer.  A book of survival and what it means to try and find a new normal.