Books to Know – Top 10 List – February 2012


1.  King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village

by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman, Feb 21, 2012

Peggielene Bartels moved from Ghana to Washington D.C. in her early twenties to work as a secretary at Ghana’s embassy. Years later, she received a call that she had been chosen as her uncle’s heir to be king of a small village in Ghana. This memoir recalls the first couple years of Bartels’ experience in her new role, as she fights to bring better economic prospects to a town with no running water. Bartels resides part-time in Silver Spring, MD and part-time in Ghana.

2.  Beach Week

by Susan Coll, 2010

For those who grew up in the D.C. area, senior beach week is a familiar rite. Susan Coll, Editorial and Programming Director at Politics and Prose Bookstore, penetrates the world of D.C. suburbanites yet again in her third novel, where parents and teenagers alike indulge in bad behavior in a twisted attempt to recapture childhood.

3.  Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales of an Allergic Life

by Sandra Beasley, 2011

Local author and poet Sandra Beasley takes a humorous look at her life with allergies ranging from dairy, soy, and beef to cantaloupe, honeydew, and cucumbers. The memoir is informative as well as amusing, as Beasley deconstructs ingredients in restaurants and processed foods and gambles with her life to participate in typical social interactions. Beasley will have you laughing and sympathizing with her increasingly common plight.

4.  The Ninth Wife

by Amy Stolls, 2011

35-year-old Bess is resigned to being single when she meets handsome Irishman Rory. When Rory proposes, however, he also reveals a secret-he has been married eight times before. The nature and nuances of marriage in our society are explored as Bess moves her long-married, bickering grandparents to Arizona and tries to meet Rory’s ex-wives along the way. Amy Stolls is the literature program officer for the National Endowment for the Arts in D.C. and this is her second novel.

5.  Silenced

by Kia DuPree, 2011

Kia DuPree draws on her experiences growing up in southeast Washington D.C. with a single mother and large family to create the world of a young girl, Tinka, and her mother, Nicola. Nicola wants her daughter to succeed, but Tinka needs to make her own way. DuPree, currently a teacher in D.C., continues the intense level of urban realism established in her previous novel, Damaged.

6.  The Obamas

by Jodi Kantor, 2012

While the biggest surprise this book may hold is the hush-hush Halloween party of 2009, Jodi Kantor’s depiction of the intimate relationship between the White House’s current occupants is still an entertaining read. Despite conflicts between the President and First Lady’s staff, the Obamas work together as a family and take seriously their responsibilities to the American people.

7.  Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

by Sally Bedell Smith, 2012

The biography focuses on the Queen’s life during her reign, which reaches its 60th anniversary this year. Sally Bedell Smith explores what it means to be a modern monarch, and how Elizabeth II has come to define this role. She was able to speak with approximately 200 people close to the queen, including well-known friends and relatives, to produce an unusually personal account.

8.  The Winter Palace

by Eva Stachniak, 2012

The political intrigue between the end of the Empress Elizabeth’s reign and the beginning of the reign of the empress known as Catherine the Great is intriguingly fictionalized in the voice of a young palace maid. Like her mistress, the Princess Sophie (later Catherine), Varvara is more than she seems and her talents will help both young women arrive to prominence in eighteenth-century Russia. Stachniak proves adept both in her choice of historical subject and viewpoint centered in the observations of a spy.

9.  A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness, 2011

Historian Deborah Harkness writes an adult novel about witches, vampires, and demons. The academic setting and real-world problems of the protagonist, Diana Bishop, who denies her witch heritage to live as a human, may appeal to more sophisticated fans of the fantasy genre.

10.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

by Susan Cain, 2012

Self-proclaimed introvert Susan Cain has made it her mission to investigate and explain the social and intellectual benefits of introversion to an American public that has been largely socialized to reward extroversion in school and the workplace. Her defense includes personal experiences from introverts, particularly in the business world, and this innovative study may help change the dynamics of the American workplace for the better.


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