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Staff Picks

American republics

 

Recommended by Jeff

American Republics: A continental history of the United States, 1783-1850 by Alan Taylor

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, the powerful story of a fragile nation as it expands across a contested continent. In this beautifully written history of America's formative period, a preeminent historian upends the traditional story of a young nation confidently marching to its continent-spanning destiny. The newly constituted United States actually emerged as a fragile, internally divided union of states contending still with European empires and other independent republics on the North American continent. Native peoples sought to defend their homelands from the flood of American settlers through strategic alliances with the other continental powers. The system of American slavery grew increasingly powerful and expansive, its vigorous internal trade in Black Americans separating parents and children, husbands and wives. Bitter party divisions pitted elites favoring strong government against those, like Andrew Jackson, espousing a democratic populism for white men. Violence was both routine and organized: the United States invaded Canada, Florida, Texas, and much of Mexico, and forcibly removed most of the Native peoples living east of the Mississippi. At the end of the period the United States, its conquered territory reaching the Pacific, remained internally divided, with sectional animosities over slavery growing more intense. Taylor's elegant history of this tumultuous period offers indelible miniatures of key characters from Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Margaret Fuller. It captures the high-stakes political drama as Jackson and Adams, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster contend over slavery, the economy, Indian removal, and national expansion. A ground-level account of American industrialization conveys the everyday lives of factory workers and immigrant families.

beloved beasts

 

Recommended by Kathryn

Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction by Michelle Nijhuis

A vibrant history of the modern conservation movement-told through the lives and ideas of the people who built it. In the late nineteenth century, as humans came to realize that our rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction, a movement to protect and conserve them was born. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the movement's history: from early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today's global effort to defend life on a larger scale. She describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson as well as lesser-known figures in conservation history; she reveals the origins of vital organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund; she explores current efforts to protect species such as the whooping crane and the black rhinoceros; and she confronts the darker side of conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism. As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change escalate, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species-including our own

sumac

 

Recommended by Lillian

Sumac: Recipes and Stories from Syria by Anas Atassi and Ajda Mehmet

The Syrian kitchen, shaped by influences from neighboring countries, has deep historical roots and evolved to perfection over thousands of years. Sumac is filled with traditional and contemporary Syrian recipes that were inspired by personal stories. The gorgeous photography illustrates how beautiful this country was and still is, and family photographs add depth to the author's history. Each chapter is filled with the author's memories of family celebrations and the country that inspired the book. He tells stories of traditional weekend breakfasts in his grandmother's garden and of the mezze his mother cooked for family gatherings. There are memories of the rich aromatic flavors of the Syrian kitchen where fragrant spices like the lemony and deep red sumac are prized ingredients. In the author's words: "With this book, I hope to build a bridge between Syrian culture and the rest of the world, with food the common denominator. But even more, I hope that Sumac will present a positive image of my country, in spite of all the unfortunate events now taking place in Syria." Over eighty recipes, inspired by the author's family recipes and his travels. Beautifully photographed by Rania Kataf, who shot Humans of Damascus For anybody curious about a country so often in the news headlines but so difficult to visit as a tourist

book of v

 

Recommended by Linda

The Book of V by Anna Soloman

Lily is a mother and a daughter. And a second wife. And a writer, maybe? Or she was going to be, before she had children. Now, in her rented Brooklyn apartment, she's grappling with her sexual and intellectual desires while also trying to manage her roles as a mother and a wife. Vivian Barr seems to be the perfect political wife, dedicated to helping her charismatic and ambitious husband find success in Watergate-era Washington D.C. But one night he demands a humiliating favor, and her refusal to obey changes the course of her life - along with the lives of others. Esther is a fiercely independent young woman in ancient Persia, where she and her uncle's tribe live a tenuous existence outside the palace walls. When an innocent mistake results in devastating consequences for her people, she is offered up as a sacrifice to please the king, in the hopes that she will save them all..

just like you

 

Recommended by Kit

Just Like You by Nick Hornby

Lucy used to handle her adult romantic life according to the script she'd been handed. She met a guy just like herself: same age, same background, same hopes and dreams; they got married and started a family. Too bad he made her miserable. Now, two decades later, she's a nearly-divorced, forty-one-year-old schoolteacher with two school-aged sons, and there is no script anymore. So when she meets Joseph, she isn't exactly looking for love--she's more in the market for a babysitter. Joseph is twenty-two, living at home with his mother, and working several jobs, including the butcher counter where he and Lucy meet. It's not a match anyone one could have predicted. He's of a different class, a different culture, and a different generation. But sometimes it turns out that the person who can make you happiest is the one you least expect, though it can take some maneuvering to see it through.

the man who ate too much

 

Recommended by Kathryn

The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens--and Ourselves by Arik Kershenbaum

From a noted Cambridge zoologist, a wildly fun and scientifically sound exploration of what alien life must be like, using universal laws that govern life on Earth and in space. Scientists are confident that life exists elsewhere in the universe. Yet rather than taking a realistic approach to what aliens might be like, we imagine that life on other planets is the stuff of science fiction. The time has come to abandon our fantasies of space invaders and movie monsters and place our expectations on solid scientific footing. But short of alien's landing in New York City, how do we know what they are like? Using his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin's theory of evolution--which applies throughout the universe--Cambridge zoologist Dr. Arik Kershenbaum explains what alien life must be like: how these creatures will move, socialize, and communicate. For example, by observing fish whose electrical pulses indicate social status, we can see that other planets might allow for communication by electricity. As there was evolutionary pressure to wriggle along a sea floor, Earthling animals tend to have left/right symmetry; on planets where creatures evolved mid-air or in soupy tar they might be lacking any symmetry at all. Might there be an alien planet with supersonic animals? A moon where creatures have a language composed of smells? Will aliens scream with fear, act honestly, or have technology? The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy answers these questions using the latest science to tell the story of how life really works, on Earth and in space

just like you

 

Recommended by Lillian

Amoralman by Derek DelGaudio

A thought-provoking and brilliantly entertaining work of nonfiction, from one of the most acclaimed conjurors and gifted sleight-of-hand artists in a generation, the creator and star of the astonishing one-man show, In and of Itself. Conscious of his own rather mind-boggling ability to deceive others professionally, Derek DelGaudio believed that the artifice in his life was always reserved exclusively for the stage. But when irrefutable evidence to the contrary is found in an old journal, Derek is forced to question his ability to see through an illusion, something he trained his whole life to do. Using his youthful notebook entries as a roadmap, DelGaudio embarks on a soulful, often funny, sometimes dark journey through his own past, stopping at the significant signposts that led him into the heart of a world populated by swindlers, con artists and card cheats. As stories are peeled away and deceptions are revealed, Derek discovers the meaning of the mystery behind his father's vanishing act; the deep need, i nherited from his mother, to keep secrets; the urge to create stories that could keep cruel schoolmates and a judgmental church at bay; the obsession he developed with illusions and sleight-of-hand that shaped his future; and the attraction he felt for the charismatic criminal who taught him how to use his talents to deceive, cheat and steal. It all leads to a period in his life where he becomes the crooked dealer in a big money Hollywood card game, where he begins to question his own sense of morality, reexamine his relationship with truths and lies, and uncovers a secret he has managed to keep even from himself. Amoralman is alternatingly tender, thrilling, and hilarious; a wildly engaging exploration of the nature of fact versus fiction, a book about t he lies we tell ourselves and the truths we manufacture in others, and shows how even a master of deception can find himself trapped inside of an illusion

the man who ate too much

 

Recommended by Kit

The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard by John Birdsall

The definitive biography of America's best-known and least understood food personality, and the modern culinary landscape he shaped. After World War II, a newly affluent United States reached for its own gourmet culture, one at ease with the French international style of Escoffier, but also distinctly American. Enter James Beard, authority on cooking and eating, his larger-than-life presence and collection of whimsical bow ties synonymous with the nation's food for decades, even after his death in 1985. In the first biography of Beard in twenty-five years, acclaimed writer John Birdsall argues that Beard's struggles as a closeted gay man directly influenced his creation of an American cuisine. Starting in the 1920s, Beard escaped loneliness and banishment by traveling abroad to places where people ate for pleasure, not utility, and found acceptance at home by crafting an American ethos of food likewise built on passion and delight. Informed by never-before-tapped correspondence and lush with details of a golden age of home cooking, The Man Who Ate Too Much is a commanding portrait of a towering figure who still represents the best in food

the invisible life of addie larue

 

Recommended by Cheryl

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

France, 1714. In a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-- and cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Addie LaRue's life will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art. After nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore. He remembers her name-- and everything changes. How far will she go to leave her mark on the world?

Half a Yellow Sun

 

Recommended by Sandra

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi

With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene.

Nutshell

 

Recommended by Kit

Nutshell: a Novel by Ian McEwan

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home--a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse--but John's not here. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy's womb. Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world's master storytellers

The authenticity project

 

Recommended by Cheryl

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

A story about a solitary green notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to unexpected friendship, and even love--think Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine meets Love, Actually "Everybody lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth?" This is the question that Julian Jessop, an eccentric, seventy-nine-year-old artist, poses within a pale green exercise book that he labels The Authenticity Project, before leaving it behind in Monica's Café. When Monica discovers Julian's abandoned notebook, not only does she add her own story to the book, she is determined to find a way to help Julian feel less lonely. And so it goes with the others who find the green notebook that will soon contain their deepest selves. It will also knit the group together In Real Life at Monica's Cafe, where they'll discover the thrill and sometime-risk of being completely honest--and, for some, find unexpected love. With a cast of characters who are by turns quirky and funny, heartbreakingly sad and painfully true-to-life, The Authenticity Project is a novel readers will take to their hearts and read with unabashed pleasure

Year One Trilogy

 

Recommended by Vanessa

Year One by Nora Roberts

It began on New Year's Eve. The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed--and more than half of the world's population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river--or in the ones you know and love the most...

Stuff You Should Know

 

Recommended by Kathryn

Stuff You Should Know: An incomplete compendium of mostly interesting things by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant with Nils Parker

The duo behind the massively successful podcast, "Stuff You Should Know", offers an unexpected look at weird, fascinating, delightful, or unexpected elements of a wide variety of topics, featuring new subjects that they've long wondered about and wanted to explore.

 

the echo wife

 

Recommended by Lillian

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

When they said all happy families are alike, I don't think this is what they meant...' Evelyn Caldwell's husband Nathan has been having an affair - with Evelyn Caldwell. Or, to be exact, with a genetically cloned replica. After a morning that begins with a confrontation and ends with Nathan's body bleeding out on the kitchen floor, the two Caldwell wives will have to think fast-before sharing everything includes sharing a jail cell. The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride of lies, betrayal, and identity, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and Killing Eve

 

Sisters

 

Recommended by Lillian

Sisters by Daisy Johnson

a haunting story about two sisters caught in a powerful emotional web and wrestling to understand where one ends and the other begins. Born just ten months apart, July and September are thick as thieves, never needing anyone but each other. Now, following a case of school bullying, the teens have moved away with their single mother to a long-abandoned family home near the shore. In their new, isolated life, July finds that the deep bond she has always shared with September is shifting in ways she cannot entirely understand.

 

Fiber Fuel

 

Recommended by Stacy

Fiber Fueled : The Plant-based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome by Will Bulsiewicz

A bold new plant-based plan that challenges popular keto and paleo diets, from an award-winning gastroenterologist. The benefits of restrictive diets like paleo and keto have been touted for more than a decade, but as renowned gastroenterologist Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, or "Dr. B," illuminates in this groundbreaking book, the explosion of studies on the microbiome makes it abundantly clear that eliminations are in fact hazardous to our health.

 

Silver in the Wood

 

Recommended by Kathryn

Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes

Neanderthal expert Rebecca Wragg Sykes shoves aside the cliché of the shivering ragged figure in an icy wasteland, and reveals the Neanderthal you don’t know, our ancestor who lived across vast and diverse tracts of Eurasia and survived through hundreds of thousands of years of massive climate change. This book sheds new light on where they lived, what they ate, and the increasingly complex Neanderthal culture that researchers have discovered.

 

King of the World

 

Recommended by Jeff

King of the World : The Life of Louis XIV by Philip Mansel

Philip Mansel's book is poised to become the new standard English-language biography of Louis XIV, one that takes into account the revolution in the last fifty years in knowledge about every aspect of the king's reign: the army; Catholicism; diplomacy; the arts; music; medicine; homosexuality at his court; the role of women and the publication of the entire correspondence of his second wife, Madame de Maintenon. This is a global biography of a global king.

 

ballad of songbirds and snakes

 

Recommended by Vanessa

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute. The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined, every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute, and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

 

Whisper Man

 

Recommended by Stacy

The Whisper Man by Alex North

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank. But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night. Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man. And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window.

 

plain bad heroines

 

Recommended by Lillian

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

A century after the macabre deaths of several students at a New England girls' boarding school, the release of a sensational book on the school's history inspires a horror film adaptation that renews suspicions of a curse when the cast and crew arrive at the long-abandoned building. 1902, the Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara are obsessed with each other and with Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. The girls establish their own private club and call it the Plain Bad Heroine Society. Their bodies are discovered in a nearby apple orchard, with a copy of Mary's book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. within five years three more people die on the property-- and the Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever. The now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when writer Merritt Emmons publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the "haunted and cursed" Gilded Age institution.