Staff Picks

Rachel’s Picks

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I read Homegoing to learn more about Ghana where my son and his family live.  In the process , I learned more about the slave trade and the place of the black man in America. This beautifully written novel traces the lives of two half-sisters and their offspring in a 300 year period. One branch remains in Ghana, the other comes to America.  With wonderful descriptions and strong characters the book will give you some of the history you never learned in school.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

What is it like to be a black man in America?  I had no real idea until I read Coates book that is really a letter to his son. In this powerful and sometimes hard to read book, Coates tells us what it is like to feel invisible, to always be on guard. I was saddened by what I read but nothing will change until we know the truth.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

This book is an autobiography.  J.D. Vance grew up as a hillbilly and describes the traits that one learns from childhood in that society. Very readable, it helps to understand the positions this group takes and why it is so difficult to change.

Vera – DVD series

If you like English mysteries, you will love Vera.  A dowdy looking woman, dressed in house dresses and random scarves, Vera is a master detective seeing things others do not.  She is kind to some staff, unmerciful to others. You will enjoy the complexities of the mysteries, the acting and the oddness of Vera.

Jessie’s Picks

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I realize that Rachel also recommended this book, but I’m putting it again since I listened to the audiobook. I had heard really amazing things about this book, but I put off reading it for a LONG time because I knew it would be hard to read. Everyone should read this book. The author reads the book in the audiobook, and he reads the entire thing as if it’s poetry. I could not stop listening to it. It’s a short audiobook at about 4 hours, and you will hang on every word. I’ll echo Rachel’s words about feeling saddened by what I heard, but I know I’ve gained for having listened to this book.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

A multimillionaire virtual reality world creator dies, and he leaves his fortunes hidden somewhere in the virtual reality world with highly cryptic clues as the only directions on how to find the hidden treasure. This book follows a number of ‘gunters’ (those hunting for the egg) on their quests to win the challenge. I picked this up on a whim, again as an audiobook, and I found myself taking the scenic route home at about 25 mph to keep listening. After I finished this book, the next few I read were a letdown. If you love 80s pop culture trivia, you’ll really love this book, but you don’t need to get all the references to love the book My wife grew up without much pop culture, and she still loved it every bit as much as I did. A movie of this book will be coming out in 2018, and I cannot wait.

The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami by Radhanath Swami

Within this extraordinary memoir, Radhanath Swami weaves a colorful tapestry of adventure, mysticism, and love. Readers follow Richard Slavin from the suburbs of Chicago to the caves of the Himalayas as he transforms from young seeker to renowned spiritual guide. Having an interest in the philosophical side of yoga, I found this book to be very interesting. The author does a wonderful job of describing his journeys, discoveries, and struggles without sounding self-aggrandizing or arrogant. India was already on my list of places to visit, and after reading this book, the urge is even greater.

Yvonne’s Picks

Darktown by Thomas Mullin

Responding from pressure on high, the Atlanta police department is forced to hire its first black officers in 1948. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers and their authority is limited: They can’t arrest white suspects; they can’t drive a squad car; they can’t even use the police headquarters and must instead operate out of the basement of a gym. When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up fatally beaten, no one seems to care except for Boggs and Smith, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Pressured from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust the community has put in them, and even their own safety to investigate her death. Their efforts bring them up against an old-school cop, Dunlow, who has long run the neighborhood like his own, and Dunlow’s young partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines.

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities. Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.

The Jealous Kind by James Lee Burke

On its surface, life in Houston is as you would expect: drive-in restaurants, souped-up cars, jukeboxes, teenagers discovering their sexuality. But beneath the glitz and superficial normalcy, a class war has begun, and it is nothing like the conventional portrayal of the decade. Against this backdrop Aaron Holland Broussard discovers the poignancy of first love and a world of violence he did not know existed. When Aaron spots the beautiful and gifted Valerie Epstein fighting with her boyfriend, Grady Harrelson, at a Galveston drive-in, he inadvertently challenges the power of the Mob and one of the richest families in Texas. He also discovers he must find the courage his father had found as an American soldier in the Great War.

Terry’s Picks

The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel

Cecile, a stylish 47-year-old, has spent the weekend visiting her parents in a provincial town southeast of Paris. By Monday morning, she’s exhausted. These trips back home are always stressful and she settles into a train compartment with an empty seat beside her. But it’s soon occupies by a man she instantly recognizes: Phillippe Leduc, with whom she had a passionate affair that ended in her brutal humiliation 30 years ago. IN the fraught hour and a half that ensues, their express train hurtles towards Paris. Cecile and Phillippe undertake their own face to face journey – in silence? What could they possibly say to one another? Constructed like an intensely intimate theater performance or a high-wire act on rails, this is a psychological thriller about past romance, with all its pain and promise.

The Luminaries by Catton, Eleanor

Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize, a breathtaking feat of storytelling where everything is connected, but nothing is as it seems…. It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

Aging daughter of the South, Sookie Simmons Poole, has trudged along cheerfully through life under the shadow of her overbearing mother, Lenore. Faced with empty-nest syndrome, Sookie knows she won’t be too bored, since Lenore lives right next door and still has her mail delivered to Sookie’s house. When a mysterious letter arrives, Sookie questions everything she ever knew about her family, and her story soon dovetails with that of a proud Polish family from Wisconsin. The Jurdabralinskis’ gas station was nearly shuttered when all the area men joined up during WWII, but the family’s four girls bravely stepped up. Eldest daughter Fritzi was already a great mechanic, having been a professional stunt plane pilot in the 1930s. When Fritzi joins the WASPS, an elite but downplayed female branch of the U.S. Air Force, the story really comes to life. Flagg’s storytelling talent is on full display. Her trademark quirky characters are warm and realistic, and the narrative switches easily between the present and the past.

Flagg’s fans won’t be disappointed in this one, and there’s a lot to be said for giving tribute to the real-life WASPs (the official records of the force were classified and sealed for nearly 35 years). The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a perfect combination of comedy, mystery, wisdom, and charm.