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Staff Picks

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Spring 2021

A collection of library staff recommendations. See what we're reading, and maybe find a new favorite book!

Want to recommend a book? Submissions can be made by filling out the form here.

Kindred

Recommended by Steve R.

This 1979 Octavia Butler classic is hard-to-put-down thriller. It’s 1976, and on Dana Franklin’s birthday, she’s moving in with her new husband in LA. Why is she suddenly transported to antebellum Maryland? And why does she land back in her apartment again? She doesn’t know. We don’t, either. The action and the stakes escalate quickly, shrouded in jarring mysteries and uncertainty, as she and her (white) husband grapple with the horrifying realities of chattel slavery.

Nixonland

Recommended by Paul B.

Part two in a four volume work tracing the history of the GOP from Goldwater's insurgent candidacy for President in 1964, through the Nixon years and into the Reagan administration. Well written, detailed and fast paced. If you have an interest in understanding how the Republican Party ended up where it is today, this is a great place to start.

Punching the Air

Recommended by Tiffeni F.

Co-written by one of the Central Park Five exonerated members, this Young Adult novel, told in verse, is so beautifully written. Amal, a young, Black, Muslim artistic teen, faces jail time for punching a white teen lying unconscious in a hospital. The writing mirrors the protagonist’s creative mind, engaging the reader in his struggle as he contemplates his decisions and his future.

The Interstellar Age

Recommended by Nancy C.

Travel to the outer edge of our solar system from the comfort of your home on Earth. Bell focuses on the people behind the success of the two remarkable Voyager space missions in this warm and uplifting story of perseverance, improvisation, and teamwork.

Orange Sunshine

Recommended by Paul B.

CIA mind control experiments, communal living, high-jinks in Afghanistan and surfing in Hawaii. The book captures a unique episode in American history as a cast of bikers, intellectuals, chemists and government employees test the boundaries of personal freedom.

Beowulf: a New Translation

Recommended by Nicole K.

Definitely not the Beowulf translation you read in school, and that's in a good way! Headley's translation boldly mixes the ancient and modern (exhibit A: translating the famous opening exclamation "Hwæt!" as "Bro!"), and re-contextualizes the epic as a tense, nuanced exploration of legacies, masculinity, and the uncertain boundaries between humanity and monstrosity.

A Manual for Cleaning Women

Recommended by Rodrigo C.

These semi-autobiographical stories -some of them loosely connected- touch upon the joys and tribulations of everyday life. Almost all the narrators are women; some grappling with poverty, addiction, and illness; others struggling with loneliness, failed relationships, and motherhood. Berlin’s prose is compelling, compassionate, and brutally honest. A Manual for Cleaning Women is by all accounts a wonderful book.

The Vanished Birds

Recommended by Cat R-C.

Excellent writing and a beautiful bittersweet story.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain

Recommended by Steve R.

George Saunders has created an instant classic instructional book about writing fiction. Every other chapter is a Russian short story by Turgenev, Tolstoy, Gogol, or Chekhov, each selected for a point of craft he then unpacks in the subsequent chapter. This isn’t literary criticism; analysis focuses on how a writer might learn from the Russian writers’ craft. Even if you’re not a writer, his illuminating writing will deepen your appreciation of each story. Reading it, I felt like a student in the class of a kind but demanding master writer. And now I need to go write.

Grandpa Grumps

Recommended by Catherine G.

This book is the recipe for instant warm fuzzies! An intergenerational and intercultural story with beautiful illustrations, it was an instant favorite at the ERC.

Conflicting Missions

Recommended by Toni C.

This recounts history not often spoken about, linking African liberation movements with Cuban intervention and placed in the context of the Cold War. Very interesting, easy to understand and vivid.

Blood of the Dawn

Recommended by Gabriela M.

La sangre de la aurora is a short novel set during the civil war in Peru between the military and the terrorist group The Shining Path. Claudia Salazar gives a voice to the women affected by this violence through the heartbreaking experiences of three women and their different roles in the conflict. It is a very difficult read, but also real and necessary.