This is my third page of staff picks since I started working at Literati in December 2019. I read ALOT and am known to be an obsessive reader . . . two books a week! I don't read only read literary fiction, which is a wonderful genre in and of itself, but I find fascinating reads all over the place: nature and gardening, poetry, art, history, travel writing and memoir . . . and children's pictures books! I hope my list inspires you to find new books to bring home with you.
Finally there is a novel about the Vietnam War not only from a veterans perspective, but that of a female vet and her horrific and life-changing perspective while on the front-line as a U.S. Army field hospital nurse. In the 60s, women were not drafted. If they were there, they chose to be there, to help the "boys" fighting and suffering in the War. When those Army nurses returned home to the States, they were not acknowledged as Vietnam Vets and were turned away at the VA when they sought help for the PTSD they came home with. Kristin Hannah does an outstanding job of portraying the experience, the hardships — the hell — in which those nurses lived, saving lives and limbs along with holding the hands of dying American vets and innocent Vietnamese people. "Women can be heroes, too" is the message, loud and clear, yet in those pre-Roe v. Wade and women's rights times, women were kept on the back-burner and not recognized for the sacrifices they made to their country.
A handbook for plant and garden lovers that is as beautifully illustrated and presented as it is a fascinating insight into 60 flowers that bloom in gardens worldwide. Garden and social historian Advolly Richmond gives a unique look at each plant that not only explains the derivation of their names and existence, but dives deep into the discovery, cultivation, and background stories that are as intriguing as the plants themselves. A perfect gift for yourself if you love to live in and take care of your garden — and for the gardeners in your life.
An homage to 60s & 70s folk singer/songwriters as well as to a sense of home, place, and family. Though there aren't actual dates, the novel reads like it's the central character's lifetime journal, as it follows the ficitionalized story of a musician, Jodie Rattler. Jodie's destiny was partly determined at the start of her story as she recounts her totally random big win, at age six, at the racetrack with her uncle — the win being the luck that made her view her life as lucky. Her story and the songwriting included in the book, and Jodie's tales of being on the road as a musician make me wonder if Jane Smiley was a musician, as she has a exhibits a vast knowledge of folkies and singer/songwriters and life is on the road as a member of a band.
'"My contribution to the world is my ability to draw. 'I will draw as much as I can for as many people as I can for as long as I can." — Keith Haring
And draw is what he did — beautifully, brilliantly, prolifically, politically and with a childlike's sense of humor and vision — with utter love in his heart. From his small-town Pennsylvania childhood to his studios and homes in NYC and nearly every corner wall, street, and subway of the world, Keith Haring woke the world up to an emblematic contemporary artform, first with his NY subway bombings of his iconic drawings and then with his highly-sought after paintings and sculptures that brought world politics and the AIDS crisis front and center. Gooch's biography is a nearly day-by-day account of Haring's life from his very beginning to his very end, recounted through interviews, found quotes, Haring's journal entries and media sources, taking the reader into Haring's mind as well as into the 1980s NY art and music scene. "Radiant" is an accurate title for this impeccably written account of a truly radiant human being whose art touched all ages, from rich to poor, all around the world as he used his art as a wake-up call to raise awareness and demand political and social change at the beginning of the AIDs crisis. Brad Gooch did a fine job taking us into the magical world of artist Keith Haring.
Wondering how to attract birds to your backyard and garden? This four-season guide will open your eyes to the plants that birds find enticing, while also teaching you what each plant is good for and it's merit in your garden. Also included are tips on nesting spots, boxes and birdhouses, so you can keep those birds close to home as they create a home . . . and hopefully a family . . . in your garden. This is a great addition to your collection of bird books, adding a great deal of information on the birds you see year-round and why they choose to make your garden their home. Think like a bird and will be rewarded with their company!
This exquisite book about culinary herbs is a detailed reference guide for cooking with and for understanding the benefits of over 500 herbs and spices. It's laid out with two indexes: one that searches by common herb and spice names; the other by their meaning. Each listing includes the botanical and common name, the symbolic meaning of the plant, the possible powers the herb can provide, and detailed folklore and facts that provide background into the mythology and medieval legends of the herbs and spices included. I love the look, the feel, and the function of the book and refer to it as a useful encyclopedia in the kitchen and home.
The pain of loss and the powerful pull of survival is at the heart of Caroline Leavitt's 13th novel. We agonize along with Ella Fitchburg, who we meet as a teenager desperately in love - so in love, she'll do anything for her boyfriend Jude. Ella and Jude's story unveils as she is released, at age 22, from a 25-year prison sentence, the reason for her conviction I will not divulge in this review! It's a page-turner of a story, a pull at heartstrings and reason — and a really good read!
A painfully true, fictionalized, story about the effects of climate change on a rural Northern California grape farming community, following one family and their friends and neighbors whose vineyards and homes become victim to devastating fire and drought. Gumbiner's writing style is reminiscent to that of Kent Haruf and William Kent Krueger, creating a quiet sense of place and character in his somber storytelling. Though not a "happy" story, the book speaks to the power of family, resilience, hope, and hard work, as the reader learns nearly everything there is to know about the California small family grape industry and the sobering new climate normal.
The letters, journal writings, secret communiques, plantation and slave records, and political records kept before Lincoln's election and inauguration and the months leading up to the Confederacy's attack on Fort Sumter, by members of the mainly American Southern states' pro-slavery Democratic Party, are the basis of Erik Larson's book about the Civil War. It is an essential read for gaining an appalling image of the insidiously blatant racism much of this country has held on to for far too many generations. I highly recommend for people whose knowledge of the Civil War, especially what led to it, is what was briefly taught in middle school civics class.
Frances Perkins was the longest serving US Secretary of Labor under President FDRs four terms of office. She was the driving force behind the New Deal and throughout the 20th century her work impacted all Americans in a way that no one has since accomplished. The author's keen storytelling and deep research makes for an eye-opening look into American politics and the wise faith FDR put into the first woman ever chosen to be a member of the White House staff. An important historical read for U.S. histories studies as well as gender studies, gendor not being the term of the day, but as important then as it is today.
It didn't seem possible that Paulette Jiles could write a novel more beautiful than her bestselling "News of the World" about post-Civil War America and its aftermath, and the admirable and honorable Captain Jefferson Kidd. But she has done it again and "Chenneville" is even an more exquisite example of her writing expertise. This novel's honorable Civil War survivor is John Chenneville, a grief-driven man whose travels and travails through the shattered post-war country are written in a language that is thoughtful, profound, and as fluid as poetry. I highly recommend this novel, whether or not you are familiar with Paulette Jiles, though once you do read it, I guarantee you'll want more.
William Kent Krueger has a way of dropping his readers into a place that is famiiar, despite most likely never having been there. Rife with local conflict and old wounds, his novels take place in small Minnesota communities, along a river or by a Great Lake, during post WWII, in an America moving forward despite the recent battle-inflicted memories of the men who live in Krueger's stories. His stories include a conflict between hardened old-timer local Native Americans and the hardened old-timers of the community. "The River We Remember" is so tender, it's easy to forget that the story is about hatred of the other and the struggle to change that hatred into compassion. Krueger knows these people and does beautiful justice to each and every character who become part of our psyche while we are engrossed in the gentleness of his storytelling.
Are you in need of a mindset reboot? This novel, so positive, delightful and inspiring, did the trick for me, moving me to see my life in a way I tend to forget: how fortunate I am in my work and personal life and what I add to my community. A rather odd librarian in Tokyo presents life-changing choices for the visitors who come to her requesting book recommendations, but . . . the last book she adds to the list is not exactly what they're looking for. What they discover about themselves in that added book is a treasure to read about. This is a charming and poetic read that wreaks of Japanese wisdom . . . a feel-good book for anyone at an impasse in their life and looking for a book that grants a sense of calm. I am grateful for what this book gave me.
A beautiful anthology of poetry about plants and gardening and all that soothes our hearts and souls in the celebration of nature. Including recipes using pickings from the garden, each season in the garden is honored. Including the works of notable poets Mark Doty, Ross Gay, Ada Lion, Naomi Shibag Nye, and more, this is a joyous addition for both poetry and gardening collections for those who have a fondness for words spoken lovingly about the natural world.
A collection of over 200 photographs of Civil War to the present childre that depicts children through American history. This absolutely important collection of photos come from the Library of Congress, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, and the Magnum Photo Agency as well as dozens of other archives, flea markets, and antique shops and is a photo essay dedicated to the youth of our country through photographic history.
A house in the New England woods — and the apple orchard that grew on its grounds — bears witness to centuries of the lives who inhabited the house and the shocking stories it held. The house is born as a modest, humble cabin, when a couple escape a Puritan colony they don't fit in to. A mere apple seed becomes the house and land's livellhood and legacy . . . and it's story continues, next when an English soldier, decades later, discovers the lone property and fertile orchard and expands the house. Unmarried twin sisters live for and die for those apple trees during war and famine, years after the cabin was enlarged, over time, into the formidable house in which they lived. Many years later a crime reporter discovers a mass grave whose secrets are hidden beneath the ancient apple trees. I could go on with the inhabitant's tales, but it's for the reader to discover the rest and ponder over those first apple seeds and what they built . . . and the secrets they held through time. An engaging novel with a big question mark that can only be answered when the reader reaches the last page.
She's written about octopus, hawks, hummingbirds, pink river dolphins, tigers . . . and many many more animals. She is, to me, Nature Writer Supreme, and she never lets me down. Sy Montgomery's latest book is about turtles. It's an eye-opener to their existence and the population's extinctions, their brilliant minds and to the hardships they endure to stay alive, to reproduce, and to be left alone in a world that really hasn't any respect for them. The book is also about the people who have dedicated their lives to rescuing turtles and the work they do to increase the population of an animal that is sorely misunderstood and that they have each fallen in love with.
For plant, wildlife, and nature lovers this book is a loving respite from the natural world in its current state of duress. Renkl shares fifty-two chapters that touch on the creatures, plants, birds, and weather in her backyard over a year's time, moving from one season to the next. She writes, “radiant things are bursting forth in the darkest places, in the smallest nooks and deepest cracks of the hidden world.” Ann Patchett calls it "a luminous book that traces the passing of seasons, personal and natural," and I coudln't agree more. This book is a sheer delight to read.
One of the most visually captivating picture books I've come across that cleverly uses excerpted texts from children’s classics and lullabies on each page ,in what is essentially a mixed media children's book. Oliver Jeffers' illustrations are collaged with the black/white texts to create many story's for children to discover, in this treasure of a book.
This delightful book is Jeff Tweedy's love letter to 50 songs, the songs and the musicians that impacted his own life and work as a singer/songwriter. Co-founder of the band Uncle Tupelo and founding member of Wilco, Tweedy refers to these songs, and songs in general, as "our companions . . . some become friends for life." Such a lovely concept that he very lovingly shares in these pages. Tweedy's pure passion for the poetry of songs and his charming sense of humor shine like a glowing star in this treasure of a book.