Bookshelf

September Books

FICTION

Matrix, by Lauren Groff

A woman’s power is often judged by her beauty, wealth and situation in life. Marie — awkward, too tall, illegitimate, without means, and orphaned — has none of these. Sent to the most wretched abbey England has to offer in 1158, Marie comes to understand that a woman’s power comes from cleverness, ingenuity, fortitude and the bond of sisterhood. In this first novel since the brilliant Fates and Furies, Groff delivers a story that shakes the walls of the age-old patriarchy.

The Magician, by Colm Tóibín

In a provincial German city at the turn of the 20th century, Thomas Mann grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. As a boy, Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter, Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He becomes the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. In a stunning marriage of research and imagination, Tóibín explores the heart and mind of a writer whose gift is unparalleled, and whose life is driven by a need to belong and the anguish of illicit desire. The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife, Katia, and the times in which they lived — World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile.

Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr

Like the characters of Marie-Laure and Werner in Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, Zeno and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of the gravest danger. Their lives are gloriously intertwined as Doerr’s dazzling imagination transports us to worlds so dramatic and immersive that we forget, for a time, our own. Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship — of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

The Santa Suit, by Mary Kay Andrews

When newly divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is looking for a change in her life. The farmhouse, The Four Roses, is a labor of love, but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, it’s a full-time job sorting through it. At the top of a closet, Ivy finds a Santa suit, beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket is a note written in a childish hand from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war. The discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold? Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible: a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.

NONFICTION

Cuba: An American History, by Ada Ferrer

Cuba’s history is full of violent conquest, invasions and military occupations; conspiracies against slavery, colonialism and dictators; revolutions attempted, victorious and undone. Ferrer, a celebrated New York University professor and the daughter of Cuban immigrants, brings her personal perspective to this sweeping history of Cuba, and its complex and intimate ties to the United States, utilizing stories from both well-known and little-known characters from Cuban history. She documents the enormous influence the U.S. has had on Cuba and the many ways in which Cuba is a recurring presence in U.S. history, beginning with its key role in the American Revolution.

Travels with George: In Search of Washington and his Legacy, by Nathaniel Philbrick

When George Washington became president in 1798, the United States of America was still a loose and quarrelsome confederation and a tentative political experiment. Washington undertook a tour of the ex- Colonies to talk to ordinary citizens about their lives and their feelings about the new government, and to imbue in them the idea of being one thing — Americans. Philbrick embarked on his own journey into what Washington called “the infant woody country” to see for himself what it has become in the nearly 225 years since. Writing in a thought- ful first person about his own adventures with his travel companions (his wife and puppy), Philbrick follows Washington’s tour of America — an almost 2,000-mile journey. The narrative moves smoothly back and forth from the 18th to 21st centuries, seeing the country through Washington’s eyes as well as Philbrick’s. Written at a moment when America’s foundational ideals are under scrutiny, Travels with George grapples bluntly and honestly with Washington’s legacy as a man of the people, a mythical figure of the early republic, a reluctant president, and a plantation owner who held people in slavery. Philbrick paints a picture of 18th century America as divided and fraught as modern America, and comes to understand how Washington, through belief, vision and sheer will, created a sense of national solidarity that had never existed before.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Isobel Adds Up,
by Kristy Everington

Isobel loves to solve problems. Multiplication, subtraction, addition, bring them on! But she begins to have some trouble when a new loud neighbor moves into the apartment next door. Of course, clever Isabel has a solution and maybe also a new friend. Math-loving young readers will delight in this fun new problem-solving story that is sure to bring on some giggles. (Ages 5-7.)

Negative Cat, by Sophie Blackall

When a boy finally gets his long-awaited cat, things don’t go quite as expected, but sometimes it takes a bit to discover the joy that comes from being just a little outside the box. Fun for anyone who loves an animal that’s just a little unusual, and a perfect read-aloud by the Caldecott-winning illustrator Sophie Blackall. (Ages 3-6.)

Dozens of Dachshunds, by Stephanie Calmenson

Dozens of dachshunds waltz, woof and wag their way across the page and into the hearts of readers in this adorable read-aloud. Long-haired, smooth-haired and wire-haired dachshunds alike are all dressed in costume (of course there’s a hot dog!) for the Dachshund Day parade. With a seek-and-find game and back matter on real Dachshund Day celebrations, this one’s sure to have everyone barking for more. (Ages 3-6.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.

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