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American Heart Cover Image
Posted on Monday, January 22, 2018

My spirits are still aloft three hours after finishing Laura Moriarty's book American Heart. You may have heard about all the flak she has taken for the book and about the censored review—a review written by a Muslim woman of color—pulled after pressure from people who feared the book represented another white savior narrative because its admittedly flawed white teenage protagonist commits to seeing a woman to safety in an America—not very unlike our own—that has put all Muslims like this woman in an internment camp in Nevada. This is a Muslim woman, I might add, who has stayed in America even after her husband and son fled to Canada because she had hoped to outlast the virus of fear spreading the country, had hoped to stay in a teaching job at a university where she could help students learn not only about engineering but also about how to conquer their own fears of difference, had hoped to stay in a country that had become her home. The book is as much about her as it is about its white protagonist. American Heart ultimately heralds two good people doing the right thing at great personal risk. Recommended by Kelly

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The Alice Network: A Novel Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is a stunning book that brings to life the dangerous world of female espionage agents in World War I. The "present day" of the novel is two years post-World War II, and American Charlie St. Clair sets off to find her cousin, missing since the last days of the fall of France. She enlists the help of the mysterious Eve Gardiner, whose story as a spy in the Alice Network in France is interwoven through the novel in flashback. As Eve comes to terms with the great tragedy of her own past, Charlie learns to accept herself and her own choices in a powerful story of personal redemption. Based on the author's research into this little-known slice of Great War history, this is fantastic historical fiction. I could not put the book down. Recommended by Sarah

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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2018

Matthew Sullivan's Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a clever and compelling bibliophile mystery, sure to appeal to those whose second home is a bookstore. Lydia Smith, employee at the titular bookstore (a barely-masked clone of Denver's Tattered Cover) caters to the down and out customers lurking in the stacks, until she finds one of her favorites has killed himself in the history section with a childhood photo of Lydia in his pocket. The investigation will lead to secrets about Lydia's past she's not ready to reckon with. A good debut mystery for those who love books. Recommended by Danny

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American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2018

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee reads like a novel but it's nonfiction--well-reported, in-depth nonfiction that presents an intimate portrait of a beautiful creature. The book is ostensibly a biography of Oh-Six, a female wolf who leads a fearsome Yellowstone pack. But the story it tells is much bigger: politics, livelihood, regionalism, class, survival, and landscape all figure into this tragic and compelling tale. The book is part legal thriller, part biography, part nature book, and part rural cultural analysis, but it's 100% unforgettable. Recommended by Danny

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The Alice Network: A Novel Cover Image
Posted on Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is a stunning book that brings to life the dangerous world of female espionage agents in World War I. The "present day" of the novel is two years post-World War II, and American Charlie St. Clair sets off to find her cousin, missing since the last days of the fall of France. She enlists the help of the mysterious Eve Gardiner, whose story as a spy in the Alice Network in France is interwoven through the novel in flashback. As Eve comes to terms with the great tragedy of her own past, Charlie learns to accept herself and her own choices in a powerful story of personal redemption. Based on the author's research into this little-known slice of Great War history, this is fantastic historical fiction. I could not put the book down. Recommended by Sarah.

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Leonardo da Vinci Cover Image
Posted on Wednesday, January 3, 2018

STAFF REVIEW: Deep winter is the time to stretch your reading muscles. (It worked for me several years ago with Nicholas Nickleby, trust me, a marathon that made all other books feel like strolls.) Have I got the perfect tome for you: Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson. It's true; I do love a long biography. Having read Isaacson's previous biography of Steve Jobs, I knew I could trust his exhaustive research, a sign of any good biography. But Isaacson does something else rarer to find: He writes with the assumption that you know nothing about his subject without sounding pedantic and patronizing. His specialty as a biographer is finding individuals who have lived their lives right at the intersection of art and science--people who often blur the distinction between the two. Thus his choice of Leonardo comes as no surprise. This beguiling new look at Leonardo's personal and public life, complete with many color images, will not disappoint. Recommended by Kelly

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Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, November 2, 2017

Code Girls by Liz Mundy. The passage of time allows us to know more about the cadre of intelligent women code breakers for the United States during WWII. Long shrouded in secrecy, their vital work for the war effort at “Arlington Hall” is revealed by Mundy’s top-notch research with declassified documents, personal records, and interviews with surviving women. Mundy’s compelling prose is filled with specific details about code systems and presents dimensional portraits of real women now no longer forgotten. Recommended by Sarah

Emily, Alone: A Novel Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 28, 2017

Each in the pair of novels Wish You Were Here and Emily Alone by Stuart O'Nan is perfect on its own, and together they are magic. In Wish, Emily Maxwell spends a strained week with her adult children, grandchildren, sister-in-law, and her arthritic dog, Rufus, in a summer lake cabin while it pours rain. The foundations of the intricate relationships established in this first novel are built upon in Emily Alone, a perfect novel to read this time of year with its autumnal beginning. When Emily's sister-in-law and default chauffeur has a strange neurological episode at the Eat 'n Park in downtown Pittsburgh, Emily realizes it's time to conquer her fear and take her car and her life out of mothballs. She re-hones her driving skills, expands her social life, and pushes aside the narrowing confines of her life. The result is an often hilarious and beautiful portrait of an older woman. Highly recommended by Kelly.

In Good Faith: Secular Parenting in a Religious World Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, October 28, 2017

In Good Faith: Secular Parenting in a Religious World isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for every parent: That's its beauty. By following the same freethinking instincts that have landed them safely ashore of a religious-free life, readers can use author Maria Polonchek's brave and revelatory descriptions of her own experience and her cogent suggestions to raise thoughtful, compassionate, and engaged children without religion. And with her good help, parents can help their children integrate into a world full of religious tradition while neither accepting its ideas nor condemning or ridiculing them. Recommended by Kelly.

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This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, October 19, 2017

Farming is a gamble. The new book, This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm, makes this abundantly clear. Author Ted Genoways alternates between discussions of the common challenges facing small family farms with chapters focusing on two Nebraska families struggling to make ends meet while sorting out the vagaries of climate, consumer demand, and government subsidies and regulations. A moving, painful, and important read about a topic that should be a far larger part of the national dialogue. Recommended by Kelly

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