Librarian's Pick

Here's what our librarians are reading lately.

Librarian’s Pick: Black is the Body – Emily Bernard

Black Is the Body jacket “For author, professor and acclaimed academic Emily Bernard, facing adversities as a black woman in America has spawned the invaluable and hard-won ability to take control of her own narrative. Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine consists of 12 personal essays brimming with equal parts hope and fury, joy and pain. Whether exploring the delicate dynamics of her interracial marriage, the haunting memory of being stabbed by a white man while she was a graduate student at Yale or the process of adopting her twin daughters from Ethiopia, Bernard’s writing is intimate, honest and unafraid of diving into gray areas. Although society at large may deem the black body—and by extension, blackness—as synonymous with suffering, Bernard’s collection doesn’t shy away from the fact that sometimes scars are proof of life beyond the state of survival.”

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Librarian’s Pick: The Far Field – Madhuri Vijay

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay book jacket “An unexpected friendship between a traveling Muslim garment seller from a remote Himalayan village and the aloof wife of a wealthy Hindu businessman from the southern Indian city of Bangalore forms the basis of The Far Field, the dazzling debut novel from Madhuri Vijay.

The salesman, Bashir Ahmed, is warm and charismatic, and his unlikely friend is the volatile mother of Shalini, a privileged young woman and the first-person narrator of the novel. After her mother’s death, Shalini, listless and troubled, goes off in search of Ahmed to find closure. At first it seems like an odd, reckless decision, to travel to the troubled northern end of the country—to Jammu and then Kashmir—in search of someone whom she only barely remembers from childhood and about whom she has only scant information.

In Jammu, Shalini lodges with a Muslim family that has been shattered by the loss of a son at the hands of the Indian Army. She then tracks down Ahmed’s family, who take her to their remote Indian village and treat her as one of their own. However, Shalini is in the midst of a fractured landscape, and nothing is what it seems. Hindus and Muslims are at loggerheads, and the army appears responsible for a series of disappearances. Foreign militants have been infiltrating the area, increasing tensions. Shalini’s longing for connection and love within this tumultuous setting only exacerbates her problems.”

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Librarian’s Pick: The Au Pair – Emma Rous

The Au Pair by Emma Rous book jacket ” Seraphine is staying at Summerbourne, her family’s manor on the Norfolk coast, mourning the death of her father and reminiscing about her childhood. While rifling through old family photo albums, she is shocked to stumble across a chilling image. In it, her mother holds a baby, and Seraphine’s older brother and father stand smiling in the picture. The photograph is picture-perfect: a family posing proudly with their newborn. But Seraphine is a twin, and hours after she and her twin brother, Danny, were born, her mother tragically threw herself from the cliffs behind their luxurious home.

The mourning daughter begins a hunt for clues as to what happened on that dreadful day and why only one baby is in the photograph. Her search leads her to Laura, the family’s former au pair, who mysteriously left Summerbourne the same day Seraphine and Danny were born and their mother died. Then messages—at first subtle and then explicit—are sent to stop Seraphine from digging any deeper. Her brothers begin to worry for her sanity and then her safety, as odd events start to unfold throughout her search for the truth.”

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Librarian’s Pick: Inheritance – Dani Shapiro

Inheritance jacket “When Shapiro was 23, her father died from injuries he suffered in a devastating car crash, a tragedy she chronicled in her 1998 memoir, Slow Motion Years later, when Shapiro’s husband decided to order a DNA kit, he asked her if she wanted one as well. She gamely agreed, and gave it little thought until several months later, when the kit’s shocking results showed that she was only half Jewish. Furthermore, she wasn’t biologically related to her half-sister, her father’s child from a previous marriage. An offhand remark made decades earlier by Shapiro’s now-deceased mother provided a clue to the puzzle: She told Shapiro that she had been conceived in Philadelphia.

With astonishing speed, Shapiro and her husband unraveled the mystery. Her parents had traveled to Philadelphia for artificial insemination; an anonymous sperm donor was Shapiro’s biological father. The DNA results and some internet sleuthing allowed Shapiro and her husband to track down the identity of her father, a now-retired physician who specialized in, of all things, medical ethics.

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Librarian’s Pick : The Paragon Hotel – Lyndsay Faye

The Paragon Hotel jacket ” The year is 1921, the start of Prohibition. Mafia runaway Alice “Nobody” James has escaped trouble in Harlem by traveling cross-country by train while bleeding from a bullet wound. Max, a black porter, intervenes and checks the white Alice into the Paragon Hotel in Portland, Oregon. The hotel is an exclusively African-American sanctuary in a segregated city under siege by the Ku Klux Klan. There, Alice meets a host of compatriots who soon become like family as they bond together to search for one of their own, a biracial boy they fear may have fallen into the hands of the Klan.”



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Librarian’s Pick: The Martha Manual – Martha Stewart

The Martha Manual: How to Do Almost Everything   ” Lifestyle maven Stewart (Martha’s Flowers) offers an easy-to-navigate and attractive guidebook covering a wide array of topics, from organizing the entrance to one’s home to traveling with pets. The book addresses common and several not-so-common how-to questions (“ ‘how-to’ could be my middle name,” she writes) and is—not surprisingly—exceedingly well-organized. The dozen major sections address how to “Organize,” “Fix and Maintain,” “Refresh and Embellish” (e.g., by re-covering a chair), “Clean,” “Launder,” “Craft and Create” (embroidering a pillow), “Garden and Grow,” “Host and Entertain,” “Enjoy” (hanging a hammock or practicing sun salutations), “Cook,” “Celebrate” (birthdays, etc.) and “Care for Pets.” Accompanying visuals further clarify the instructions: for example, readers will find diagrams on how to fold “oddball fitted sheets” for neat placement in a linen closet; the utilitarian “how to fix toilets” section includes a rudimentary “anatomy of a toilet” diagram—as well as the warning, “don’t panic.” “Martha Must” comments throughout amplify Stewart’s personal touch, evoking a cozy yet pragmatic mind-set (keep a basket of nonskid socks by the entrance for visitors as part of a no-shoe policy). Visually appealing and packed with inspiring ideas and lucid instructions.”

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Librarian’s Pick: Watching You – Lisa Jewell

Watching You by Lisa Jewell book jacket“Tom Fitzwilliam is the new headmaster of the Melville Academy in Bristol, England, and he’s called Superhead by the local newspaper due to his many postings to failing schools and his reputation for quickly turning them around. Tom lives with his wife, Nicola, in an upscale neighborhood. Nicola is an enigmatic, unhappy woman with a troubled past. Their only child, 14-year-old Freddie, believes he has Asperger’s. He hopes to work for MI5 one day and spends all his free time spying on the neighbors from his upstairs window, documenting what he sees with his camera and keeping a logbook of the neighborhood comings and goings.

One of Freddie’s voyeuristic targets is Joey Mullen, a young woman who lives two doors down from the Fitzwilliams. Joey is newly married and drifting from job to job. She and her husband live with Joey’s older brother, Jack, a physician, and his wife, Rebecca, a “strait-laced systems analyst.” Rebecca is pregnant, but she’s apparently not overjoyed about becoming a mother. Joey is completely smitten with Tom Fitzwilliam and begins planning how to meet him “accidentally,” which is all documented by Freddie’s watchful eyes.

Sixteen-year-old Jenna, a student at the Academy, and her mother live nearby, and they’re also subjects of Freddie’s surveillance. Jenna’s mother, who increasingly shows signs of paranoia, seems to believe she saw the Fitzwilliam family on holiday years ago, and that they were involved in an unpleasant incident that she can’t quite remember.

From the novel’s early pages, Jewell includes excerpts from police interviews conducted at the Bristol police station. The reader knows someone has been murdered but not their identity. Little by little, Jewell sprinkles clues about the pasts of each of her characters, and these hidden connections to the victim may turn out to be motives to commit murder. But only near the end does one suspect emerge as the killer—and a shocking final revelation completely takes the reader by surprise.”

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Librarian’s Pick: The Dakota Winters – Tom Barbash

” Anton has just returned home from the Peace Corps to heal from a case of malaria. Inadvertently joining his father’s attempt to re-enter the late-night game, Anton serves as Buddy’s “second brain” as he begins to prepare new material for an upcoming show. This role validates Anton professionally and troubles him personally, fueling a line of questions that will lead him to step into adulthood outside his father’s exuberant shadow.”


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Librarian’s Pick: One Day in December – Josie Silver

“While waiting to depart for holiday travel, 22-year-old Laurie stares through the window from her seat on a London bus and glimpses the face of a stranger standing outside in the crowd. Their eyes meet, but the doors swing shut and the bus pulls away. Over the next year, perhaps lured into that age-old trap of wanting the impossible, Laurie, aided and abetted by best friend Sarah, searches everywhere to try and locate her elusive “bus boy,” but to no avail.

Fast-forward to the next holiday season, when in an ironic turn of fate, Sarah introduces Laurie to her new boyfriend. This is how Jack, the bus boy, reappears in Laurie’s life, though neither Laurie nor Jack thinks the other remembers the bus encounter, and both pretend this is their first meeting. Time passes, and there’s a marriage or two, along with deceptions and revelations that alter all of their lives.

What sounds like a garden-variety romance takes shape as an impeccably written novel. The charm’s in the telling as Laurie and Jack struggle with their private thoughts and yearnings . . . and there’s that accidental late-night kiss. Each will have to decide how—or if—they’ll be able to square their dreams with reality.”

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