BOOKS TO KNOW – Top 10 List – February 2016

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1) 13 HOURS 
September 8, 2015

Mitchell Zuckoff with members of the Annex Team

13 HOURS presents, for the first time ever, the true account of the events of September 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya. A team of six American security operators fought to repel the attackers and protect the Americans stationed there. Those men went beyond the call of duty, performing extraordinary acts of courage and heroism, to avert tragedy on a much larger scale. This is their personal account, never before told, of what happened during the thirteen hours of that now-infamous attack.

2) The Strangler Vine
March 31, 2015

MJ Carter
India, 1837: William Avery is a young soldier with few prospects except rotting away in campaigns in India; Jeremiah Blake is a secret political agent gone native, a genius at languages and disguises, disenchanted with the whole ethos of British rule, but who cannot resist the challenge of an unresolved mystery. What starts as a wild goose chase for this unlikely pair—trying to track down a missing writer who lifts the lid on Calcutta society—becomes very much more sinister as Blake and Avery get sucked into the mysterious Thuggee cult and its even more ominous suppression.

3) Last Stop on the Market Street
January 8, 2015

Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robertson

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

4) Between the World and Me
July 14, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
5) New Leaf
January 5, 2016

 Catherine Anderson

When Taffeta Brown was viciously betrayed by her wealthy husband, she lost everything—including custody of their daughter, Sarah. Now that Taffy has moved to Mystic Creek, Oregon, to start over, she unexpectedly meets the one man who might help her get Sarah back.
Barney Sterling, a local lawman, finds himself drawn to the lovely, guarded Taffy, but he’s stunned by her proposition—that they marry immediately to improve her chances of regaining custody of her daughter. Barney takes marriage too seriously to commit himself to a woman he hardly knows. Yet soon his sympathies fall with the desperate Taffy, and pretending to be in love becomes the easiest part of the plan. But they have no idea what they’re up against, or what they’re willing to risk to make a miracle come true in Mystic Creek.
6) The Speechwriter
July 14, 2015

Barton Swaim

An intimate and hilarious look inside the spin room of the modern politician: a place where ideals are crushed, English is mangled, people are humiliated, and the opportunity for humor is everywhere.
Everyone knows this kind of politician: a charismatic maverick who goes up against the system and its ways, but thinks he doesn’t have to live by the rules. Through his own experience as the speechwriter for a controversial governor, Barton Swaim tells the story of a band of believers who attach themselves to this sort of ambitious narcissist—and what happens when it all comes crashing down.
The Speechwriter is a funny and candid introduction to the world of politics, where press statements are purposefully nonsensical, grammatical errors are intentional, and better copy means more words. Swaim paints a portrait of a man so principled he’d rather sweat than use state money to pay for air conditioning, so oblivious he’d wear the same stained shirt for two weeks, so egotistical he’d belittle his staffers to make himself feel better, and so self-absorbed he never once apologized to his staff for making his administration the laughing stock of the country. On the surface, this is the story of one politician’s rise and fall. But in the end, it’s a story about us—the very real people who want to believe in our leaders and must learn to survive with broken hearts.
7) Storm Riders
July 29, 2014

Margret Weis and Robert Krammes

In a magical world, two enemy kingdoms have long sought a weapon that will win lasting dominance. But then both are attacked by the Bottom-Dwellers, bitter people whose own land was destroyed. Using contramagic strengthened by blood sacrifice, they threaten to bring down whole cities. Freya and Rosia must put aside their age-old conflict to defend themselves. As the Bottom-Dwellers’ contramagic eats away the magic of the dragons that protects the world above, a former dragon-riding hero gathers a new dragon brigade, the one desperate hope of the two kingdoms to defeat the fiends who threaten their world. The new dragon brigade’s high-flying heroics will be to no avail, though, unless they can uncover forbidden knowledge, long hidden by the Church.
8) The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
July 14, 2015

 Natasha Pulley

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

9) Year of Yes
November 10, 2015

Shonda Rhimes

She’s the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder. Her iconic characters—Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating—live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes, the mega talent who owns Thursday night television (#TGIT), is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances? That she hugged walls at splashy parties and suffered panic attacks before media interviews so severe she remembered nothing afterward?

10) A Spool of Blue Thread: A novel
February 10, 2015

Anne Tyler

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon. . .” This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate togetherness: an indefinable, enviable kind of specialness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor.
Brimming with all the insight, humor, and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of Anne Tyler’s work, A Spool of Blue Thread tells a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. It is a novel to cherish.

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