Here is part of the list from Laura’s recent class she taught in Manchester. All of these books just hit the shelves in October. Stay tuned for the November list to be released soon!
TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT By Maria Semple
Maria Semple has mined her own “deep crazy” to create another comic masterpiece. Her new novel takes place in a single day: Eleanor Flood wakes up with her life in full crisis, but is determined to somehow change her bad habits. She’s an unemployed graphic-novelist who has a sketchy marriage with a hand-surgeon, a son who fakes an illness to get out of school, and a deeply compartmentalized past that threatens to derail her life. Due: 10/4/16
THE RAIN IN PORTUGAL Poems by Billy Collins
Billy Collins’s first new book in three years contains more than forty new poems that showcase the generosity, playfulness, and wisdom that have made him one of our most widely read poets. Due: 10/4/16
THE MOTHERS by Brit Bennett
In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever. Due: 10/11/16
HAG-SEED by Margaret Atwood
Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And also brewing revenge. Due: 10/11/16
MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout
Lucy Barton, a writer, married with two young children, is in the hospital in New York City due to an infection from a simple appendix operation. Her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in years, comes from Amgash, Illinois, to visit her, and sits by her bedside, reminiscing about people she and Lucy know from Lucy’s childhood, before Lucy went off to college and never returned. The power from this extraordinary book is what remains unsaid between the lines of their gentle gossip, and what Lucy fills in for the reader about her troubled family, shamed by poverty, and how Lucy came to be a writer. Paperback Due: 10/11/16
THE OTHER EINSTEIN by Marie Benedict
A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history. What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Mari, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century. Due: 10/18/16
PARIS FOR ONE AND OTHER STORIES by Jojo Moyes
From the sensational #1 New York Times bestselling author Jojo Moyes, the perfect gift hardcover, timed for Christmas—a novella and short story collection never published before in the U.S. Due: 10/18/16
A DOUBTER’S ALMANAC by Ethan Canin
A spellbinding novel about one man’s search for the truth about his mysterious, famous, genius, eccentric father—and about a father and son learning to understand each other in order to understand their own selves. Paperback Due: 10/25/16
PRETTY PAPER by Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson, country music’s quintessential musician, displays all the wit and warmth of his homespun style of storytelling in an inspiring holiday novel based on his classic Christmas song, “Pretty Paper.” Due: 10/25/16
THE TERRANAUTS by T.C. Boyle
A hilarious, incisive deep-dive into human behavior through the eyes of eight young Terranauts, four men and four women voluntarily sealed inside a glass enclosure designed to serve as a prototype for a possible off-earth colony, who become entangled in much more than the game of survival. Due: 10/25/16
COCKROACHES by Scholastique Mukasonga
Imagine being born into a world where everything about you—the shape of your nose, the look of your hair, the place of your birth—designates you as an undesirable, an inferior, a menace, no better than a cockroach, something to be driven away and ultimately exterminated. Imagine being thousands of miles away while your family and friends are brutally and methodically slaughtered. Imagine being entrusted by your parents with the mission of leaving everything you know and finding some way to survive, in the name of your family and your people. Cockroaches is the story of growing up a Tutsi in Hutu-dominated Rwanda. Due: 10/25/16
THE GUEST ROOM by Chris Bohjalian
When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. What she does not expect is the entertainment stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare. The police throw them out of their home, now a crime scene; Richard’s investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave; and Kristin is unsure if she can forgive her husband for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. Paperback Due: 10/25/16
BOLSHOI CONFIDENTIAL: SECRETS OF THE RUSSIAN BALLET FROM THE RULE OF THE TSARS TO TODAY by Simon Morrison
On a freezing night in January 2013, a hooded assailant hurled acid in the face of the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. The crime, organized by a lead soloist, dragged one of Russia’s most illustrious institutions into scandal. The Bolshoi Theater had been a crown jewel during the reign of the tsars and an emblem of Soviet power throughout the twentieth century. Under Putin in the twenty-first century, it has been called on to preserve a priceless artistic legacy and mirror Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions. The attack and its torrid aftermath underscored the importance of the Bolshoi to the art of ballet, to Russia, and to the world. Due: 10/11/16
THE AFRICAN SVELTE: INGENIOUS MISSPELLINGS THAT MAKE SURPRISING SENSE by Daniel Menaker, Roz Chast, Billy Collins
Inspired by his tenure at The New Yorker, this collection of comical, revelatory errors foraged from the wilds of everyday English comes with commentary by the author, illustrations by Roz Chast, and a foreword from Billy Collins. Due: 10/18/16
CITY OF DREAMS: THE 400-YEAR EPIC HISTORY OF IMMIGRANT NEW YORK by Tyler Anbinder
A book about the history of NYC and the history of the people who have come to call it home for 4 centuries. City of Dreams provides a vivid sense of what New York looked like, sounded like, smelled like, and felt like over the centuries of its development and maturation into the city we know today. Due: 10/18/16
LIGHTS OUT: A CYBERATTACK, A NATION UNPREPARED, SURVIVING THE AFTERMATH by Ted Koppel
The fact is, one well-placed attack on the electrical grid could lastingly cripple much of our infrastructure. Several nation states hostile to the United States could do it, and the ranks of criminal and terrorist organizations approaching the capability are growing. Ted Koppel convincingly argues that it is not a question of if such an attack occurs, but when. The hardcover has been a very good seller! Paperback Due: 10/18/16
OF ARMS AND ARTISTS: THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION THROUGH PAINTERS’ EYES by Paul Staiti
A vibrant and original perspective on the American Revolution through the stories of the five great artists whose paintings animated the new American republic. The images accompanying the founding of the United States—of honored Founders, dramatic battle scenes, and seminal moments—gave visual shape to Revolutionary events and symbolized an entirely new concept of leadership and government. Since then they have endured as indispensable icons, serving as historical documents and timeless reminders of the nation’s unprecedented beginnings. Due: 10/18/16
THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE TRIPOLI PIRATES: THE FORGOTTEN WAR THAT CHANGED AMERICAN HISTORY by Brian Kilmeade, Don Yaeger
When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, America was deeply in debt and needed its economy to grow quickly, but its merchant ships were under attack. Pirates from North Africa routinely captured American sailors and held them as slaves, demanding ransom and tribute far beyond what the new country could afford. Jefferson found it impossible to negotiate with the leaders of the Barbary states, who believed their religion justified the plunder and enslavement of non-Muslims. These rogue states would show no mercy, so President Jefferson decided to move beyond diplomacy. He sent the U.S. Navy’s new warships and a detachment of Marines to blockade Tripoli—launching the Barbary Wars and beginning America’s journey toward future superpower status. Paperback Due: 10/18/16
THE EARTH IS WEEPING: THE EPIC STORY OF THE INDIAN WARS FOR THE AMERICAN WEST by Peter Cozzens
Bringing together a pageant of fascinating characters including Custer, Sherman, Grant, and a host of other military and political figures, as well as great native leaders such as Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, and Red Cloud, The Earth is Weeping—lauded by Booklist as “a beautifully written work of understanding and compassion”—is the fullest account to date of how the West was won…and lost. Due: 10/25/16
PACIFIC: SILICON CHIPS AND SURFBOARDS, CORAL REEFS AND ATOM BOMBS, BRUTAL DICTATORS AND FADING EMPIRES by Simon Winchester
Winchester tackles this “oceanic behemoth of eye-watering complexity” by focusing on key moments since 1950 that speak to the greater trends and larger truths about the ocean’s significance to us today. Calling upon his many journeys throughout the Pacific and its surrounding areas, his formidable historical understanding, and his singular talent for storytelling, Pacific is a paean to this magnificent sea of beauty and myth that has long captured the imagination. Due: 10/25/16
CUSTER’S TRIALS: A LIFE ON THE FRONTIER OF A NEW AMERICA by T.J. Stiles
In this magisterial biography, T. J. Stiles paints a portrait of Custer both deeply personal and sweeping in scope, proving how much of Custer’s legacy has been ignored. He demolishes Custer’s historical caricature, revealing a capable yet insecure man, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (court-martialed twice in six years) and the new corporate economy, a wartime emancipator who rejected racial equality. Paperback Due: 10/25/16
APPETITES: A COOKBOOK by Anthony Bourdain
Written with the no-holds-barred, no-bullshit-allowed ethos of his beloved series, No Reservations and Parts Unknown, the celebrity chef and culinary explorer’s first cookbook in more than ten years—a collection of recipes for the home cook. Due: 10/25/16
FREEDOM FOUND: MY LIFE STORY by Warren Miller
Warren Miller is known as skiing’s greatest storyteller and as the godfather of action-sports filmmaking. Now, here at last, is the rest of his extraordinary life story—and what happened behind the camera is even more remarkable than what you saw on the big screen. Due: 9/1/16
FORTY AUTUMNS: A FAMILY’S STORY OF COURAGE AND SURVIVAL ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BERLIN WALL by Nina Willner
A powerful story of five women in one family and how they were divided by the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. It’s a tale of courage, risks, survival, defiance, strength, and above all else, family. There’s a wealth of photos. 25th anniversary of the wall coming down is next year. Due: 10/4/16
UPSTREAM: SELECTED ESSAYS by Mary Oliver
“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” So begins Upstream, a collection of essays in which beloved poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. Due: 10/11/16
NOT DEAD YET: THE MEMOIR by Phil Collins
In this memoir, Collins reveals the heart and soul of what drives him as a performer and a dynamically creative individual; from his ill-fated near-big break as a session percussionist on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass through the rise of Genesis and his emergence as the band’s leader to the height of his fame as a solo artist. Due: 10/25/16
THE ROAD TO LITTLE DRIBBLING: ADVENTURES OF AN AMERICAN IN BRITAIN by Bill Bryson
In 1995, beloved writer Bill Bryson got into his car and took a weeks-long motoring trip about England-Notes from a Small Island. Two decades later-The Road to Little Dribbling. In these pages, Bryson follows the longest straight line that is possible on the island-from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath-and shows us, as only he can, every pub, tiny town, castle, and foible along the way. Due: 10/25/16
Today on Books in Review I have a fun young adult read that made me laugh out loud, Louise Penny’s 12th book in the Gamache series and we’ll take a look at The Muse by Jessie Burton
The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion by Chris McCoy starts with Bennett pulling off the impossible – he has managed to ask his dream girl, Sophie, to go to the prom with him, and she actually said yes! Literally moments later, she is abducted by aliens in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Yes, it’s that kind of book! Faced with a dateless prom and the possibility of being arrested for kidnapping or worse, Bennett’s sole choice is to hop a ride into outer space with a band of extraterrestrial musicians – and so begins the attempt to bring Sophie back. I realize that you are probably shaking your head, but this book was so much fun. It’s a coming of age story with teenage angst and young love, surrounded by an extraterrestrial reality show, alien concert venues and outlandish egos. Does he get the girl? You’ll have to read The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion to find out!
A Great Reckoning, the 12th book in the Gamache series, has just come out and it is wonderful. If you haven’t read Louise Penny yet, please do. Although her books are categorized as mysteries, they are really so much more. She has developed, over the course of the 12 books, a cast of characters that are so well drawn they feel entirely real. Three Pines, once the destination for many of Chief Inspector Gamache’s investigations, is now his home. His retirement has not lasted long, though, and he takes charge of the Surete Academy, convinced that he has to stop the evil of the police department right at its source. He is not very popular there, to put it mildly. Years of corruption and violence have produced cadets more willing to take advantage of the population than to protect them. When a teacher is killed at the academy, the fingers point at four cadets, another teacher and Gamache himself. Read A Great Reckoning and then join us in waiting not-so-patiently for book 13!
The Muse by Jessie Burton starts out in 1967 England. Odelle is a Caribbean émigré trying to make her way in London. When she lands a job at the prestigious Skelton Art Gallery, things are looking up. There, she discovers a painting rumored to be the work of Isaac Robles, a young artist of immense talent whose mysterious death has confounded the art world for decades. Flashback to Spain 1936 where Olive Schloss, daughter of a Viennese Jewish art dealer and an English heiress, follows her parents to a small village on the Spanish coast. There she grows close to Isaac and Teresa, brother and sister who help on the estate. When she enlists their help to showcase her artistic talents while hiding her identity, things are put in motion that reverberate through the decades. Although only 30 years separate the two stories, it felt like a lifetime. Full of art, history and rich locations, The Muse will fill up your senses and stay with you for some time.
Our monthly feature, “White Birch Book Corner” brings shop owner Laura Cummings on set to discuss great new books, fun gift ideas & seasonal favorites, new and old.
Today on Books in Review I have to tell you about a new middle grade novel called “The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown.
This is Brown’s debut novel, after such picture books as Children Make Terrible Pets and My Teacher is a Monster (No, I am Not), and what he did for picture books, he does equally well for middle grade readers. Roz is a robot and she has washed up on the shore of a remote island with no idea how she got there, why she is alone or how she will survive. The animal inhabitants think she is a monster and run from her. But through patience, observation and a lot of trial and error, Roz learns how to survive. But it is not until she takes in an orphaned gosling that she finally becomes part of the island. I loved everything about this book – it’s about robots, it’s a survival story, and it even has battles and bear fights, but it’s also about teamwork and family.
The Wild Robot would make a great family read aloud, as there is lots to discuss. Or just read it because it is a great story.
Today on Books in Review I have a new young adult novel that is truly a must read for all ages.
“Girl in the Blue Coat” by Monica Hesse is set in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, and focuses on Hanneke – a girl whose life has been upended by the war. Forced by the war to grow up, she cares for her family by delivering black market goods to rich clients around the city. She has her ways for dealing with the Nazis, and it’s basically by avoiding them at all costs and enduring their presence. That is, until she is asked to find a missing girl – a missing Jewish girl. It is through this task that she meets members of the underground student’s organization working to save Jewish children and to help people get into hiding. Her eyes are opened to the deportations and the ill-treatment of the Jewish population. Now the horrors that she has previously ignored are all too obvious and she can no longer remain inactive in the face of obvious evil.
Well-researched and thoroughly engrossing, Girl in the Blue Coat brings us back to the Amsterdam we first met through Anne Frank.