Staff Picks

The Bell JarBrooke
The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath

Synopsis: The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

Brooke says: Most people recognize Sylvia Plath as the writer who killed herself by sticking her head in an oven. While that is not completely accurate, The Bell Jar reveals what Sylvia herself has reflected on as when her life became even sadder. This autobiographical work by a phenomenal and accomplished poet and author will have you deeply intrigued. By the end of the novel, Sylvia transforms Esther’s depression into a beautifully manifested fact of life: it becomes almost rational. With mental health awareness growing in today’s society, The Bell Jar serves as a poetic insight to what it can be like in a world where melancholia takes over.

Brooke's Past Staff Picks

Elizabeth is MissingDonna
Elizabeth is Missing
Emma Healey

Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger. But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.

Donna says: Healey’s moving debut is a great match for anyone who enjoyed Alice LaPlante’s Turn of Mind. Maud is a compelling character in this leisurely paced work of fiction but delving into the mysteries is time well spent.

Donna's Past Staff Picks

The Fire this TimeElizabeth
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race
Jesmyn Ward

Synopsis: Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time. The Fire This Time is divided into three parts that shine a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestle with our current predicament, and envision a better future. Of the eighteen pieces, ten were written specifically for this volume. In the fifty-odd years since Baldwin’s essay was published, entire generations have dared everything and made significant progress. But the idea that we are living in the post-Civil Rights era, that we are a “postracial” society, is an inaccurate and harmful reflection of a truth the country must confront. Baldwin’s “fire next time” is now upon us, and it needs to be talked about.

Elizabeth Says: Edited by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, The Fire This Time is a moving and powerful collection of essays and poetry that examines race in American. Can be used in the categories of “Book about a current issue” and “A book of Essays” in the Read More 2018 Challenge.

Elizabeth's Past Staff Picks

Big Stone GapMegan
Big Stone Gap
Adriana Trigiani

Synopsis: Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the tiny town of Big Stone Gap is home to some of the most charming eccentrics in the state. Ave Maria Mulligan is the town's self-proclaimed spinster, a thirty-five year old pharmacist with a "mountain girl's body and a flat behind." She lives an amiable life with good friends and lots of hobbies until the fateful day in 1978 when she suddenly discovers that she's not who she always thought she was. Before she can blink, Ave's fielding marriage proposals, fighting off greedy family members, organizing a celebration for visiting celebrities, and planning the trip of a lifetime-a trip that could change her view of the world and her own place in it forever.

Megan Says: I found this book to be glorious and breathtaking. If you loved The Gilmore Girls, you will LOVE Big Stone Gap. The small town of Big Stone Gap has all the charm and warmth of Stars Hollow. It is full of bigger than life characters and witty, hilarious banter. This book is a total delight. It is a perfect choice to satisfy the Read More category: first book in a series.

Megan's Past Staff Picks

Be Frank with MeNina
Be Frank with Me
Julia Claiborne Johnson

Synopsis: Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends assistant Alice Whitley to monitor her progress. When Alice arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Nina says: It takes a while for the story’s message to announce its presence, but at some point you realize this is a book about not being perfect, or even trying to be, and accepting the imperfections in yourself and those around you without labels or judgments. You’ll also wish each of us could have a Frank in our lives.

Nina's Past Staff Picks

Unbury CarolRandall
Unbury Carol
Josh Malerman

Synopsis: Carol Evers is a woman with a dark secret. She has died many times but her many deaths are not final: They are comas, a waking slumber indistinguishable from death, each lasting days. Only two people know of Carol’s eerie condition. One is her husband, Dwight, who married Carol for her fortune, and—when she lapses into another coma—plots to seize it by proclaiming her dead and quickly burying her alive. The other is her lost love, the infamous outlaw James Moxie. When word of Carol’s dreadful fate reaches him, Moxie rides the Trail again to save his beloved from an early, unnatural grave.

Randall says: The latest from Bird Box author Josh Malerman is not without flaws, but it is still an engaging, race-against-the-clock adventure with memorable characters. There are a few supernatural elements that will appeal to fans of Weird Westerns and Horror fans will enjoy the slow-burn, psychological dread of Carol’s Howltown. Once you join Moxie on The Trail, you won’t want to put this one down.

Randall's Past Staff Picks

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