Bookshelf

February Books

FICTION

A Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabel Allende

In the late 1930s, civil war has gripped Spain. When Gen. Francisco Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life irreversibly intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an Army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. As the two refugees flee to France, eventually landing in Chile, where they build a life together, they find no place is immune from political strife. A story about making a home wherever you are.

Apeirogon, by Colum McCann

Named for a polygon with an infinite number of sides, Bassam Aramin (Palestinian) and Rami Elhanan (Israeli) inhabit a world of conflict that colors every aspect of their daily lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on to the schools their daughters, Abir and Smadar, each attend, to the checkpoints both physical and emotional that they must negotiate. Their worlds shift irreparably after 10-year-old Abir is killed by a rubber bullet, and 13-year-old Smadar becomes the victim of suicide bombers. When Bassam and Rami learn of one another’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them, and they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace.

The Cactus League, by Emily Nemens

Jason Goodyear is the star outfielder for the Los Angeles Lions, stationed with the rest of his team in the punishingly hot Arizona desert for their annual spring training. Handsome, famous and talented, Goodyear is nonetheless coming apart at the seams. Everyone is eager to find out why, even as they hide secrets of their own. Narrated by a sportscaster, Goodyear’s story is interspersed with tales of Michael Taylor, a batting coach trying to stay relevant; Tamara Rowland, a resourceful spring training paramour, looking for one last catch; Herb Allison, a legendary sports agent grappling with his decline; and a plethora of other richly drawn characters, all striving to be seen as the season approaches. A tight debut novel by the editor of Paris Review.

Amnesty, by Aravind Adiga

Danny, formerly Dhananjaya Rajaratnam, is an illegal immigrant in Sydney, Australia, denied refugee status after he fled Sri Lanka. Working as a cleaner, living out of a grocery storeroom, for three years he’s been trying to create a new identity for himself. With his beloved girlfriend, Sonja, his hidden accent and highlights in his hair, he is as close as he has ever come to living a normal life. But then one morning, Danny learns a female client of his has been murdered. The deed was done with a knife, at a creek he’d been to with her before; and a jacket was left at the scene, which he believes belongs to another of his clients — a doctor Danny knows the woman was having an affair with. He’s confronted with a choice: come forward with his knowledge about the crime and risk being deported; or say nothing, and let justice go undone. Evaluating the weight of his past, his dreams for the future, and the unpredictable, often absurd reality of living invisibly and undocumented, he must wrestle with his conscience and decide if a person without rights still has responsibilities.

Salt River, by Randy Wayne White

A local author returns with a thrilling tale of marine biologist and former government agent Doc Ford and his friend, avowed bachelor and beach-bum pal Tomlinson, who is confronted by rash past decisions that escalate to deadly present-day dangers. As a young man, Tomlinson fathered multiple children via for-profit sperm bank donations, and his now-grown offspring have tracked him down, seeking answers about their roots. Doc quickly grows suspicious that one of them might be planning something more nefarious than a family reunion. In addition to watching Tomlinson’s back, Doc encounters a number of unsavory individuals, including a disgraced IRS investigator and a corrupt Bahamian customs agent, after their cut of a cache of precious Spanish coins he quietly “liberated” from a felonious treasure hunter. Doc has no choice but to get creative.

NONFICTION

Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era,
by Jerry Mitchell

Mitchell takes readers on the twisting, pulse-racing road that led to the reopening of the investigations into four of the most infamous killings from the days of the civil rights movement. As an investigative journalist with a mission, his work played a central role in bringing killers to justice for the assassination of Medgar Evers, the firebombing of Vernon Dahmer, the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham, and the Mississippi Burning case. Mitchell reveals how he unearthed secret documents, found long-lost suspects and witnesses, and built evidence strong enough to take on the Klan. He takes us into every harrowing scene along the way, meeting one-on-one with the very murderers he is seeking to catch. His efforts put four leading Klansmen behind bars, years after they thought they had gotten away with murder. Race Against Time is an astonishing, courageous story as the past is uncovered, clue-by-clue, and long-ignored evils are brought into the light.

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson

Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley; and, of course, 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents and once-secret intelligence reports — some released only recently — Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experiences of Churchill and his wife, Clementine, their youngest daughter, Mary (who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness), and their son, Randolph, with his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela, and her lover, a dashing American emissary. All comprised Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turned in the hardest moments.

Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote, by Craig Fehrman

Fehrman opens a rich new window into presidential biography. From volumes lost to history like Calvin Coolidge’s Autobiography, which was one of the most widely discussed titles of 1929, to ones we know and love like Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father (very nearly never published), and gems like Abraham Lincoln’s collection of speeches, titled Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, Fehrman delivers countless insights about the presidents through their literary works.

The Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross, by Jon Meacham 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author explores the seven last sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, combining rich historical and theological insights. For each saying, Meacham composes a meditation on the origins of Christianity and how Jesus’ final words created a foundation for oral and written traditions that upended the very order of the world. In a tone more intimate than many of his previous award-winning works, Jon Meacham returns us to the moment that transformed Jesus from a historical figure into the proclaimed Son of God.

Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe, by Brian Greene 

From the world-renowned physicist and best-selling author of The Elegant Universe comes this captivating exploration of deep time and humanity’s search for purpose. Through a series of nested stories that explain distinct but interwoven layers of reality — from quantum mechanics to consciousness to black holes — Greene provides us with a clearer sense of how we came to be, a finer picture of where we are now, and a firmer understanding of where we are headed. With this grand tour of the universe, Greene allows us all to grasp and appreciate our fleeting but utterly exquisite moment in the cosmos.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Lola Dutch, I Love You So Much, by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright

Lola, Gator, Crane and Pig are back, and we love them so much! In this fun follow-up to Lola Dutch When I Grow Up, Lola finds ways to show her friends just how special they all are. Perfect for fans of Ladybug Girl or Pinkalicious. Young listeners can never have too much Lola Dutch. (Ages 3-6.)

In a Jar, by Deborah Marcero

Together, in jars big and small, Llewellyen and Evelyn collected buttercups, feathers and heart-shaped stones. They collected rainbows, the sound of the ocean and the wind just before snow falls. And when a move separates the collectors, they share friendship in a jar across the miles. (Ages 3-6.)

Just Like Mama, by Alice Faye Duncan

Mama Rose makes sure Olivia learns to ride a bike, has her hair braided just so, and that she plays outside every day. Mama Rose tells Olivia one day she will grow her own wings and fly, just like Mama. And Mama Rose tells Olivia she is loved. Just Like Mama is the perfect way to honor everyone who fills the gap when Mama cannot always be there. (Ages 3-6.)

Ashlords, by Scott Reintgen

Ashlords, Davidians, Longhands — three clashing cultures whose names will soon be household names after Reintgen’s brilliant new novel, Ashlords, sets the YA world on fire in January 2020. With Phoenix horse races, powerful young adversaries and a world teetering on the brink of war, fans of Marie Lu’s Legend series or and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games will devour Ashlords. (Ages 12 and up.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally

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