Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

Obsidian: A Lux Novel
By Jennifer Armentrout 

Alright Twilight fans, Obsidian is for you! Like Bella, Katy hails from Florida and moves to a small town, much like that of Forks. This town is in West Virginia and it is so small, it only contains one stop sign—not even a red light! 

When Katy arrives, she hopes to gain some insight from her neighbor Daemon Black about the town’s stores and such, only to find him to be ...not very friendly. He is rude, arrogant, and a flat-out jerk, but his sister Dee is a veritable ray of sunshine. She is bright, bubbly, always happy, and is beyond absolutely stunning (borderline perfect). All Katy wants is to be friends with Dee, but the problem is her brother Daemon (who, by the way, is also to good-looking to be true). He wants his sister to have nothing to do with Katy and “her kind.” Confused and angry, Katy refuses to give up; she continues to be friends with Dee, despite Daemon’s less than hospitable personality. Eventually, certain events fall into place and Katy and Daemon are forced to work together toward a common goal and the truth behind Daemon’s aggressive and, at times, verbally hostile demeanor is revealed, leaving Katy little to no choice in what happens next. 

Discover more connections between the bestselling novel Twilight and this first novel in the Lux series novel by bestselling author Jennifer Armentrout today! 


But What If We’re Wrong?
By Chuck Klosterman

What if all of the assumptions that we take for granted will be looked at by future generations as completely mistaken or irrelevant? This is the main question tackled by Chuck Klosterman in his new book But What if We’re Wrong: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past. Klosterman, a well-known essayist whose last book I Wear the Black Hat covered the nature of evil, this time turns his attention to our tendency to try to predict what will happen in the future. From debating whether football will still be a dominant sport in the coming decades, to whether we will still view gravity the same way we do now, Klosterman brings his unique wit and insights to a variety of topics large and small.

Among other things, Klosterman explores whether or not cultural works that are today looked at as being the most significant, will continue to be viewed as equally important in the future. One of Klosterman’s most interesting arguments deals with the idea that it is incredibly hard to determine what books and authors will be viewed as the most historically significant and for what reason. Klosterman cites the example of Moby Dick, noting that the book was commercially and critically unsuccessful for decades until a critical reappraisal happened in the wake of the horrors of World War I for unclear reasons. As Klosterman writes “it’s not like Moby Dick was the only book that could have served this role.”

Klosterman is always a great read, because even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, his arguments are always delivered engagingly and thought-provokingly. To be fair, there is a fair amount of rambling in Klosterman’s chapters, and a few of them could perhaps use a bit more editing. Depending on your tolerance for philosophical topics like this, you might find But What If We’re Wrong? to be profoundly annoying. I enjoyed it though, and would recommend it


The Wright Brothers
By David McCullough

Through the use of primary source material housed at the Library of Congress, David McCullough pens the exciting story of the Wright brothers’ climb from small boys awed and inspired by a French toy helicopter, to bicycle shop owners,and finally, to the inventors of the “the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard.” Many of us are familiar with the basic story of Wilbur and Orville’s first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, but McCullough reveals a deeper, more comprehensive view of the lives of the Wright brothers and those who were part of their epic invention. 

McCullough introduces us to the Wright family following the death of their mother due to tuberculosis in 1889. Wilbur, Orville, and Katharine are the three out of seven siblings living at 7 Hawthorne Street in Dayton, Ohio with their father, the Bishop Milton Wright. McCullough makes great use of the family correspondence, diaries, and papers to bring to life the personalities, relationships, and accomplishments of this close-knit family. Wilbur, the tall and quiet thinker, Orville, the well-dressed, hands-on extrovert, and Katharine, the social, outgoing sister, and the only Wright sibling with a college degree, come to life through McCullough's detailed biography. 

Subject File: Chanute, Octave--Photographs, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Originals, 1901, Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whether you read the book or listen to the e-audio version, you will become wrapped inside the life of the Wright brothers. McCullough’s ability as a storyteller does not falter with this book. Critics point out McCullough’s lack of focus on the patent wars instigated by the Wrights which caused a lapse in aviation invention in America for a period of time. Regardless, the most amazing parts of their lives and of American innovation in the early 20th century shine through and make us wish we were there to comfort Orville and bring him back to health after his fatal flight at Fort Myer, Virginia; or, we were there snapping a photo of their glider at Kitty Hawk; or, we were there witnessing Wilbur’s spectacular flight at LeMans, France. Thanks to McCullough, you can get pretty close. 


Battleborn : Stories
By Claire Vaye Watkins

A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage.

I don’t know, I’ve had love affairs with novels in the past, but maybe Ms. Moore was speaking from the writer’s point of view.  Anyway, now that I’ve got your attention, if you’re a fan of the short story genre and don’t mind gritty themes, Battleborn : Stories by Claire Vaye Watkins is not to be overlooked. 

The debut publication for this writer, these ten stories manage to be heartbreaking without being maudlin, thoughtful but not depressing, and serious while still entertaining.  The geographical setting is the American West--the Nevadan desert, the lower half of California. Throughout, the landscape acts as an additional character, non-judgmental but omniscient, nonetheless. Scenes take place in casinos, ghost town bars, trailers, and a bordello, and plots run toward the harsh and dark: A desert hermit takes in a teenage runaway and tender feelings long dormant are awakened in “Man-o-War”; In “Wish You Were Here,” a young couple can no longer recognize each other after miraculously creating a child together.  But, like good art, Watkins clean writing and unsparing eye make every story worth any discomfort its truth reveals.

Typical of any promising young writer, Watkins has been widely compared to well-known veterans; in this case, Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, Annie Proulx, and Joan Didion.  She also reminds me of another newcomer, Karen Russell, author of Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Swamplandia! Interesting side note: The author is the daughter of Charles Manson’s right-hand man and “procurer of young girls” Paul Watkins, and the first story in the collection, “Ghosts, Cowboys,” explores the reality of being so closely related to such an extraordinarily notorious historical phenom.

Not for the faint of heart.


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