It’s March! Spring is just around the corner. In the meantime, enjoy the recommended titles below.
Sue – Circulation
Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan, New Fiction Sullivan
This sweeping novel opens in 1900 and tells the life story of Nell Stillman and her family and friends living in the small town of Harvester, Minnesota. Nell is left reeling when her husband dies suddenly, leaving her with an infant son. Through the kindness of the Lundeen family, wealthy locals who own several businesses, Nell gets hired as a schoolteacher and so is able to support her son Hilly and hire a cousin, Elvira, to care for him while she teaches. Nell becomes great friends with the Lundeens and their son and daughter-in-law and becomes a mother figure to Elvira. Over the course of several decades (the novel closes in 1961), we see small town life through Nell’s eyes. Nell is a kind-hearted and resilient heroine who faces life’s ups and downs with grace. She suffers the loss of friends and her one great love, suffers slights due to malicious gossip, and sees her son return from WWI with a broken mind, but throughout her life, her friends are there for her and make her life whole and rewarding. The book is really a celebration of friendship, specifically life-long friendships and how they enrich our lives. It also celebrates the power of reading and how books can help us through rough times, take us to places we’d otherwise never know, and broaden our minds and hearts. In the book, Nell falls in love with the works of P.G. Wodehouse and turns to him to lift her spirits. As a huge fan of P.G. Wodehouse myself, it tickles me that Faith Sullivan has found a way to honor one of her favorite authors through her fiction.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, New Fiction Bivald
Amy and Sara are pen pals, bonded by their love of books. Amy lives in a small town in Iowa and Sara lives in Sweden. Sara comes for a planned two-month visit to find that Amy has passed away. So what is Sara to do? The rest of the townspeople insist that Sara remain and stay in Amy’s house. The town is very small and it was hit hard by the economic recession, so people are struggling, but everyone is welcoming to Sara, not letting her pay for anything and making her feel like she belongs. Sara decides to take Amy’s books (she had thousands of them) and use her closed shop to open a bookstore as a way to give back to the community by sharing Amy’s books with them. (Though Amy has already passed when the novel opens, we get to know her through her letters to Sara, interspersed throughout the book). Sara turns out to be a fabulous book seller – she can find just the right book for any person. The town and its residents slowly start to come back to life as they get involved with Sara and the bookstore. But what will happen when her visa expires? Ultimately, this is a book about community and belonging. Filled with memorable, quirky characters, a sweet love story, and numerous book references, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a warm and satisfying read. All the books mentioned in the novel are listed at the end, so it is also a great resource for finding books to read that you may have missed.
Endeavour starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam, New DVD Endeavour, Series 1 and 2
Endeavour is a British detective series based on the Inspector Morse series that ran from 1987 to 2000 and starred the late John Thaw as Morse, a detective with the Oxford police. This series explores Morse as a young man just getting started in his detective career. Morse was famous for his curmudgeonly ways, his short temper, his love of beer, opera, and crossword puzzles, and his great skills as a detective. It is fun for fans of Inspector Morse to see the origins of the John Thaw Morse two decades earlier. Among other things, we see how his love of beer developed and get a glimpse of his famous red sports car. The show is set in Oxford in the mid-1960’s when Morse, played by Shaun Evans, joins the Oxford police as a detective constable after being promoted from a uniformed constable. The young Morse is solitary and reflective with a great mind, but not great social skills. Roger Allam co-stars as Morse’s boss, DI Fred Thursday, and his character is wonderful – a good and kind-hearted family man who sees Morse’s brilliance, supports his growth, and backs him against others in the force who resent Morse for his quick rise and superior brain. The two have a strong relationship and Allam’s performance is outstanding. Each episode solves a new case – the cases are normally quite complex and involved. The series has aired for three seasons and a fourth season has been ordered.
Dagmar – Circulation
I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson, Nonfiction 973.92 Bry
An Anglo-American author, Bill Bryson, who is known for his humorous books on travel (A Walk in the Woods, etc.) has a new book out, called The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, which is, of course, about his travels in England. The book is now available in our library. I have not read his new book yet, but I read and liked many others he has written. My personal favorite Bryson book is I Am a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away. Bryson once joked that there are three things in life which you can’t do: you can’t beat the phone company, you can’t make a waiter see you unless he is ready to see you, and you can’t go home again. Yet, after living in Britain for two decades, he moved back to the States in 1995 with his English wife and four children. He had left as a youth and was returning in his middle age. He settled in Hanover, New Hampshire, and found himself in charge of an old house in New England. There he started to discover that, at times, he was being mildly foolish and out of touch. He puzzled over ATM machines, automated gas pumps, and phones. Many good things about America for him were a bit of a novelty, such as the conveniences of daily life, the abundance of absolutely everything, the friendliness of waitresses, the wondrous, unfillable vastness of an American basement, the notion that ice is not a luxury item, and the notion that rooms can have more than one electrical outlet. He marveled at the fact that a letter from England addressed to “Mr. Bill Bryson, Author of A Walk in the Woods, Lives Somewhere in New Hampshire, America” was delivered to him just five days after it was mailed. He congratulated the U.S. Postal Service for this unassailable triumph. Bryson discovered that you indeed can go home again. The result is this extended, if often bemused, love letter to his homeland.
Learning to Drive starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley, New DVD Learning
Learning to Drive is a delightful film about an unlikely friendship that develops between two people in New York from very different walks of life. Wendy is a successful book editor and critic who is in a lot of emotional turmoil because her husband has just left her. She has to make a lot of adjustments to her new life and one of them is that she has to learn how to drive if she wants to (among other things) visit her daughter in Vermont. She hires Darwan, a gentle Indian driving instructor, and a former college professor on the brink of an arranged marriage, to teach her how to drive. That, as it turns out, is not always an easy task. In the process, they learn valuable lessons about life, friendship, and relationships.
Theresa – Youth Services
Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England by James Ruddick, Nonfiction 364.152 Rud
When Florence Ricardo, a beautiful widow, married successful attorney Charles Bravo, she quickly found out what an awful man he really was. After taking ill one evening, Bravo died an agonizing death later determined to be caused by poisoning. Florence, of course, became a suspect, along with a cast of characters including her lover and her companion and housekeeper, as well as a disgruntled former employee. This case was the talk of the day. Being a true story, the author pieced together newspaper articles and court testimony. The case was never solved due to lack of evidence, but the author leads the reader to conclude that there is only one person who could have committed the crime. This book gives a true depiction of how women in this era had few rights, even when it came to matters over their own bodies. They had to secretly take it upon themselves to deal with their personal miseries in whatever ways possible.
This is a must-read if you enjoyed Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson and/or Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott.
Michelle – Administration
NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football by Johnny Anonymous, New Nonfiction 796.332 Ano
I was attracted to this book by its promise to show the reader what the NFL is really like behind the scenes. It doesn’t quite deliver on its promise – most of the “confidential” parts are pretty well-known. However, Johnny Anonymous provides an interesting look at a season in his career as a third-string player. The writing is quick, witty, and fun to read – just don’t expect any earth-shattering revelations!
Hubbell – Circulation
Mr. Robot starring Rami Malek, New DVD Mr. Robot, Season 1
Starring Rami Malek, Christian Slater, and others, Mr. Robot was one of the best shows of 2015. It tells the story of Elliot, who is a cyber-security analyst by day and an anonymous activist hacker by night. But he is troubled by inner demons, hallucinations, and social pressures. Mr. Robot is a gripping social commentary on greed and economic inequality.
Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid, Nonfiction 363.25 McD
Author Val McDermid is an experienced crime fiction writer; this is her second non-fiction work. It takes a detailed look at the history of forensic science, including arson and insect and pathological forensics. The history is explained through real-life crime synopses, making for a thrilling and informative read.
1776 by David McCullough, Nonfiction 973.3 McC
1776 is an incredibly well-researched history of the most formative year in the country’s history. The first year of combat in the War for Independence was a rough one for Washington and the Continental Army. McCullough’s work, which stands out from other Revolutionary War histories, concentrates on the military personalities and events during 1776. It is as inspiring as it is interesting.