Great Reads

African Fiction

With a new novel out by author Ishmael Beah, whose memoir Long Time Gone was a bestseller and Oprah pick, interest in African fiction will be running high. While you're waiting for your hold on Beah's Radiance of Tomorrow, try one of these other interesting titles!

 

Achebe, Chinua.     Things Fall Apart

Adichie, Chimamanda.    Americanah

Akpan, Uwem.     Say You're One of Them

Benaron, Naomi.    Running the Rift

Bulawayo, NoViolet.     We Need New Names

Mengestu, Dinaw.     All Our Names

Ndibe, Okey.     Foreign Gods, Inc.

Oyeyemi, Helen.     The Icarus Girl

 

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2014 Audie Award Finalists Announced!

If you are an audiobook fan, The Audies are an exciting time. Sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association, they are the audiobook equivalent of the Academy Awards. The finalists in 29 categories have been announced and now is a great time to listen to one you may have missed or, if you have never picked up an audiobook, try a title that has been recognized as one of the year's best narrations.

Three of our favorites from the full list of finalists:

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, narrated by the author.
  • Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, narrated by the author.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra.

 

Keane, Mary Beth. Fever

Set in early-twentieth-century New York, this novel is about the first person in America identified as a healthy carrier of Typhoid Fever.  We know her as “Typhoid Mary.”  Her real name is Mary Mallon.  Mary emigrated from Ireland as a teenager and worked her way up the domestic ladder, through toil and talent, to cook for many wealthy New York families.  Mary was initially unaware that she caused her employers and their children to become ill and die.   However, when she is told that she is a carrier and sent to North Brother Island to be kept in isolation, she can no longer deny this fact.  Or can she?  This novel reads like a medical mystery, and it is fascinating both in terms of medical advances as well as medical ethics.  It is also a psychological study of one woman who was unwilling to change her life, even if it meant saving others.  I highly recommend this story.

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Stedman, ML. The Light Between Oceans

After returning from the frontlines of World War I, Tom Sherbourne looks forward to his new career as a lighthouse keeper on the isolated western shores of Australia: isolated, regimented and alone.  But when he meets the beautiful Isabel and is surprised how she is able to draw him out of his hard shell, Tom begins to imagine a fuller life for himself.  While at first the couple enjoys having their own personal piece of paradise out on Janus Rock, Isabel becomes more and more depressed after she is unable to have children.  Hours after burying her latest stillborn baby, a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby girl, perfectly healthy.  Isabel quickly latches on to the idea of raising her as their own, as a replacement for the son they had just lost.  In order to satisfy his wife’s wild need, Tom agrees, despite his strong doubts and occupational duty.

Three years pass and as Lucy grows, Tom begins to allow the little girl into his heart and his family is content living their simple life at the lighthouse.  However, on a visit to the mainland, the couple learns a disturbing story, one of a sad  young widow who lost her husband and baby girl at sea over three years ago. Both Tom and Isabel instantly know that the baby is their own Lucy.  What follows is an engrossing and gripping tale of a couple torn between doing the right thing and holding on to their desperate dream of a family.  Stedman explores the delicate emotions of his characters against the backdrop of a harsh physical environment, creating a truly beautiful novel.  A unique story not to be missed.

Holmes, Hannah. Suburban Safari

 

Science and travel writer Holmes turns her attention to her own backyard in this exploration of the ecosystems all around us everyday. She spends a year investigating every aspect of her own personal suburban ecosystem, from turning over stones to spot the ants all the way to naming and half-way taming a chipmunk. Along the way, she brings in soil scientists, entomologists, and other experts to join her in examining the life under her feet.  Her scientific musings often shade into more philosophical ones as she examines humanity’s place in the ecosystem and the many ways our presence changes—or does not change—the existence of the species living among us.  She also examines the historical and cultural history of the lawn as a feature of the modern landscape and launches some well-aimed environmental-activism volleys. In the end, readers will be left with a whole new appreciation of the great depth and richness of the life that surrounds us every day, but of which most people are barely aware.

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