Category Archives: Booklist

September means

We’re all back from our summer vacations, with the exception of Dea, who up and moved to Santa Barbara, where she is enjoying things like avocado blossom honey and working with data and its integrity somewhere in a building made of terra cotta and surrounded by palm trees. We miss her already!

You’re probably not ready for books about full-fledged autumn yet, though I did seriously consider a reading list of books on how to cook pumpkins. Instead, I thought I’d go with a more transitional booklist, and give you some suggestions of books that reinvent something old, with a twist. (I promise, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t on this list, though, I’m pretty sure I’m obligated to talk about New Moon: The Movie eventually.)

The Penelopiad by Margaret AtwoodThe Odyssey, told from Penelope’s point of view, in Atwood’s trademark, pithy style.
Specimen Days by Michael CunninghamWalt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is the leitmotif for this novel about past, present, and future New York City, with a bonus ghostly Whitman appearance.

Drood by Dan Simmons

This novel explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author’s last years and may provide the key to Dickens’s final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Blindspot: by a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore

“Tis a small canvas, this Boston,” muses Stewart Jameson, a Scottish portrait painter who, having fled his debtors in Edinburgh, has washed up on America’s far shores. Eager to begin anew in this new world, he advertises for an apprentice, but the lad who comes knocking is no lad at all. Fanny Easton is a lady in disguise, a young, fallen woman from Boston’s most prominent family. “I must make this Jameson see my artist’s touch, but not my woman’s form,” Fanny writes, in a letter to her best friend. “I would turn my talent into capital, and that capital into liberty.” Liberty is what everyone’s seeking in boisterous, rebellious Boston on the eve of the American Revolution.

Blindspot kept me up reading late last night. Jameson and Fanny are fabulously written characters, and getting lost in the world of pre-Revolution Boston is a great reason to sacrifice sleep.

New Items: Boys & Girls

There were more than the usual number of new books this month, so selecting just a few books for this post was tough. Next time you come in to the library, make sure you take a look at the new books section, or check out the lists of new materials online!

Boys

Brothers by Yu Hua

From PW: “…two boys weather the changes of the Cultural Revolution, reform and globalization, and Yu’s unflinching narrative, by turns tragic and hilarious, shows ordinary lives being broken down and built up again.”

Lowboy by John Wray

From PW: “The story centers on Will Heller, a 16-year-old New Yorker who has stopped taking his antipsychotic medication and wandered away from the mental hospital into the subway tunnels believing that the world will end within a few hours and that only he can save it.”

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

From PW: “Policing in Chief Bruno CourrEges’s sun-dappled patch of Perigord involves protecting local fromages from E.U. hygiene inspectors, orchestrating village parades and enjoying the obligatory leisurely lunch-that is, until the brutal murder of an elderly Algerian immigrant…”

Girls

Supergirls Speak Out by Liz Funk

From PW:First-time author Funk defines the term “supergirl” as an over-achieving young woman with a compulsive need to be the best in all areas: school, extra-curricular activities, social networking and, of course, physical appearance.”

A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine di Rollo

From PW: “…set in 1850s England and colonial India, tells the story of twin sisters Alice and Lilian Talbot, who were born into an aristocratic but eccentric English family and raised by their widowed father among his collected curiosities and creepy acquaintances.”

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

From PW: “Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing “about what disturbs you.” The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies–and mistrusts–enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who’s raised 17 children, and Aibileen’s best friend Minny, who’s found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers.”

Boys & Girls

Mr. and Miss Anonymous by Fern Michaels

From PW: “Peter Kelly and Lily Madison regret choices they made in 1986 as impoverished college students when they first met outside a sperm bank and its adjacent fertility clinic. Years later, Pete’s a software mogul and Lily’s a successful clothing designer, and they happen across one another at an airport, where they see a news broadcast about a massacre at the California Academy of Higher Learning. Featured on the report is Josh, a survivor and dead ringer for Pete.”

Why Him? Why Her? by Helen Fisher

Helen Fisher, conducting research through Chemistry.com, and take into account philosophies from Jung, Keirsey and more, has written a book that aims to deconstruct who you like (or love), and why, based on your personality type.

-Dea

Zombies

While I’m still waiting for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I decided to make a list of some other recent books about the rapidly disintegrating undead…

Generation Dead by Dan Waters

The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair

Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The Boy Who Couldn’t Die by William Sleator

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Death of a Darklord by Laurell K. Hamilton

Patient Zero by John Maberry

Zombie Blondes by Brian James

Monster Planet by David Wellington

Mind you, I generally prefer my zombies in video games like Oblivion or Resident Evil … or even Fall Out Boy Trail s0 that I can shoot at them, so for hardcore zombie fans, your mileage with these books may vary.

-Dea

New Items This Month: Everything Old is New Again

There are a lot of exciting new items this month, but when I was going through them, I started to notice a trend. A feeling of nostalgia, reinvention, adaptation – updates, if you will, of materials, information and people. Nothing makes me happier then when something I know gets a new coat of polish…

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth  Grahame-Smith

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” Or, more likely, it’s a universal truth that to make something fresh and cool these days, it doesn’t hurt to add some zombies. Not that I think P&P needed the help, but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to reading it. So, whoever took out our copy, pls bring it back soon. Thx.

Nevermore by Dan Whitehead

This book has collected Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous short stories and transformed them into a graphic novel anthology. You can re-experience classic horror tales like The Raven or The Tell-Tale Heart with fresh, modern settings and sensibilities and edgy illustrations.

boaBoA

This eponymously titled CD introduces popular Korean singer BoA to a U.S. audience, with new, all English, tracks. Her sound has been reinvented a little, sped up and synthesized into dance music, even though her Korean and Japanese albums have been mostly pop. Still, BoA’s main strength as an artist is her voice, and it definitely shines through.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Actress and novelist Carrie Fisher shows us a new side of herself in this memoir. To most people, Carrie Fisher begins and ends with Princess Leia, and her famous bun hairdo, but in this book, Carrie Fisher gives us the woman behind the image, with a series of hilarious and sometimes painful (and painfully honest) anecdotes about her life .

Family Ties

Family Ties is on DVD and at our library (or it would be if it wasn’t checked out). When I was growing up, if I missed an episode of Family Ties, I had to wait what was sometimes months for a rerun. But now it’s all in one place, and I’m guessing digitally remastered, etc. How cool is that?

Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow

While the first book on my list adds zombies to regency romance, this little novel combines WWII with… Godzilla, apparently.  The Navy has created a breed of giant, mutant, fire-breathing iguanas. But whether or not they’ll use them on the small island nation of Japan is up to a B-movie actor. If he and his rubber suit can demonstrate the potential threat and get the Japanese to surrender, there will be peace. If not? Iguana mayhem. (Note: I wouldn’t expect a lot of political or cultural sensitivity from this book, btw.)

Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman

In this book, Bart Ehrman takes a good hard look at the New Testament. He isn’t reinterpretting the text either. Rather, he’s reinventing what we’re expecting from the text. Stripping apart historical influences and philosophies, Ehrman attempts to clear a path to the truth.

Want more? Check out the complete list of new items for May on our website.

-Dea

Non-Fiction for Fiction Readers

I’m not a huge non-fiction fan, but occasionally, when I’ve tired of my escapist fun, I veer into unknown waters. Below is my list of non-fiction books that were entertaining, edifying, and read like fiction:

Longitude, by Dava Sobel

I never thought about how sailors found their way before longitude and latitude: really, they couldn’t tell east from west. This is the story of John Harrison, a clockmaker who figured it all out.

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester

If you’ve seen the OED, you know what an amazing accomplishment it is, and what an incredible amount of work went into it. Simon Winchester draws you into the story and keeps you there.

Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell

Sara Vowell, who also contributes to the This American Life radio show, is a historian who makes history fun. I love all of her books, but this one, about vacationing at all the places where presidents were killed, is my favorite.

Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in the Public Library, by Don Borchert

The life and times of just your average local public library.

Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel

A sweet and quirky tale of a girl named Zippy growing up in a small American town.

Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, by Georgina Howell

Gertrude Bell, diplomat, mapmaker, adventurer, spy (and more), was an amazing woman you don’t hear enough about.

Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, by Julie Powell

(soon to be a movie with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams)

This was funny, and a bit disgusting, and I can’t resist anyone who loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer
as much as I do.

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea, by Sebastian Junger

It’s true that I’m partial, as I went to Gloucester High School and know one of the fishermen who died, but this is a gripping tale and he even makes the science part interesting.

Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants, by Robert Sullivan

Seriously, you don’t mess with rats.

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, by Mary Roach

The author also wrote a book, even more well-received, called Boink, about just what you think it’s about.

Whatever You Do Don’t Run: True Tales of Botswana Safari Guide, by Peter Allison

Hilarious, with good pictures, and if I didn’t already want to go to Botswana after reading The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, I do now!

-Ardis

New Books About Things That are Old

Andrea has been running herself ragged trying to keep her display of historical novels full this month. Because here at Watertown, we definitely have a passion for history. And I’m guessing the history fans could do with a new book or two about their favorite old topics, so I’m posting a few historically themed selections from this month’s new item list.

Nothing to Fear by Adam Cohen

A fascinating, in depth, account of the first days of FDR’s presidency, when he set in motion the changes that would birth a new America.

The High City by Cecilia Holland

What is now Istanbul was once Constantinople, and Cecilia Holland tells a tale of this great city, one of it’s most feared emporers, his wife, and the young son of an Irish slave.

Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir

Alison Weir presents an engrossing biography of Katherine Swynford, a royal mistress who was to become one of the most crucial figures in the history of the British royal dynasties.

Twenty Four Eyes – Japanese DVD

A moving, historical chronicle of a teacher in rural Japan, spanning decades of history from 1928 through World War 2, and more.

The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan

Orphans Aidan and Maddy brave the perilous Oregon Trail in 1865, for the promise of a better life in the Washington Territory.

The Women by T.C. Boyle

T.C. Boyle creates a fictional account of brilliant architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, from the point of view of the women in his life.

Graphic Mysteries

I started reading Watchmen by Alan Moore this weekend after being convinced by several people that my graphic novel reading was sorely lacking without this classic. (There’s also a movie coming out, and there’s nothing that makes me feel like a shamed librarian more than seeing a movie without having first read – or at least glanced at – the book.) Watchmen is a little like a murder mystery in graphic novel form, and if you would like to read more mystery-graphic novel hybrids, Dea and I recommend these:

  • Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba – A budding criminal mastermind with a god complex and a notebook that allows him to murder from afar will stop at nothing to outwit the investigators assigned to his case.

  • The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar – The love story of a mummy and a maiden in the 1930s, complicated with accidental murders, kidnappings, and parents. Strange and quirky and wonderful.
  • Runaways: Escape to New York by Brian K. Vaughan – The Runaways help hide an old friend who has been framed for murder. (Or start at the beginning of the series to find out who the Runaways are and how they found out about their powers.)

  • Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman reimagines the Marvel Universe as it would have been in the Elizabethan era, and builds an intricate mystery plot with spies, magicians, witches, and winged assassins.

  • Case Closed by Gosho Aoyama – A confrontation with a powerful criminal organization leaves teen detective Kudo in the body of a first grader, but his search for a cure (or his new pint-sized body) doesn’t stop Kudo from solving any of the many myseries that he finds along the way.