Culinary Fiction (2016)

Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew

Take a heroine like McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe, a supportive circle of friends, a villain straight out of Agatha Christie, a setting as dangerous and remote as South Africa’s Klein Karoo, a host of recipes for local treats, and a budding romance, and you have Sally Andrew’s series debut.

Our story opens as Mevrou van Harten—Tannie Maria—widow of an abusive husband, dreamily stirs a pot of appelkooskonfyt (apricot jam) in her isolated home outside Ladismith.  Her editor bursts in to announce that the higher-ups at the gazette want to replace Tannie Maria’s recipe column with advice to the lovelorn, an assignment which forces her to become more involved in the community.  Fifty pages later, Mevrou is a witness in a murder investigation, weighing her chances for romance with the lead detective.  By now, we’ve been introduced to a host of colorful locals including the gazette’s daring investigative reporter, and the victim’s explosive husband and her short-tempered best friend.

The setting is at once exotic and familiar.  Much like our own Wild West, the Klein Karoo supports colorful and self-reliant plants, wildlife, and people.  It borders on Botswana, home to McCall Smith’s Mme. Ramotswe and Michael Stanley’s Detective David “Kubu” Bengu.  Our author calls it home.

Read-alikes:
An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks
One Foot in the Grave by Kelly Lane
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu by Michael Stanley
Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

Jackie Malone, Bellmore Public Library



Too Many Cooks by Donna Bate

Too Many Cooks is a light-hearted story about a young American woman, Kelly Madigan, who takes a job ghost writing a cookbook for a movie star living in England. The novel grips the reader in its opening with Kelly’s mother’s funeral and Kelly discovering a letter written to her by her mother. In that letter her mother encourages her to find adventure in her life, to leave the Mid-west, and to not lead the average, ordinary life she lived. Kelly leaves for England to ghost write a cookbook and finds herself working for a beautiful but self-absorbed actress, Natasha Spencer, who just happens to be married to a handsome and rising Member of Parliament.

Celebrity cookbooks usually have some sort of angle to tie recipes together, but Natasha does not really want to reveal anything about her personal life to fans. She actually doesn’t know the recipes for the dishes she wants to include in her cookbook. She just expects Kelly to come up with recipes for dishes she remembers from places she’s lived.  She wants her to recreate her grandmother’s chocolate mousse, but all she knows is that it was smooth and chocolaty and had some liquor in it, or kale burgers that are toothsome and gluten free. Kelly spends days working on recipes while Natasha is away at the spa, or gym or in France with her lover. Natasha’s husband, Hugh, however is around to test the recipes and before long, there is a love affair between Kelly and Hugh.  

There are many funny moments in the story such as Kelly’s off-beat family back home and the lengths Kelly goes to in order to please her control freak boss. And there is also suspense with Natasha driving Kelly crazy with her demands to redo recipes and her condescending manner thus leaving the reader braced for Kelly to lash out at any moment. The romance between Kelly and Natasha’s husband builds suspense also. The reader can’t help hoping that the romance will turn into something permanent with the evil Natasha losing her husband to Kelly.

This book can be recommended to readers who are looking for something light and fun.  Readers who enjoy cooking will find it interesting to read about recipe preparations.  

Read-alikes:
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Myrna Velez, Brentwood Public Library



At the End of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck - in a muddy, stagnant swamps of Northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from the local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can only run so far, even in America, and when Robert's past makes an unexpected appearance, he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last. 

Recommend this book to adults who like historical fiction with a personal look at the lives of those headed west.

Read-alikes:
The Fugitive Wife by Peter C. Brown
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Under this Broken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

Kathy Carter, Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, Retired



Three Blonde Mice by Jane Heller

Elaine and her two friends go on a Farm-to-Table vacation at Whitley Farms in the Connecticut countryside, joining eight other foodies, all eager to watch and cook with renowned chef, Jason Hill, whom they unfortunately find out is a rude, coke-snorting, boor.

About half-way through the week’s stay on the farm, Elaine is perusing the items in her Whitley Farms tote bag and finds a letter threatening to kill the chef during the Saturday’s Bounty Fest finale. She goes to the Whitley Farms manager, who doesn’t believe the threat. The police also don’t believe the threat. Therefore, it’s up to Elaine and her friends to stop the murder.

This is an easy, summer beach-read that one can blow through in an afternoon. It is also easy to put down. Only one character grew/changed, and that was Simon, Elaine’s ex, a minor character.  I can’t determine whether this book is satire or not. The jokes were not funny; the mystery was silly. None of the characters have any depth – they were all over-the-top caricatures. The reader can’t begin to question who the murderer might be, as they don’t have enough information on any of the suspects. There is a little romance between Elaine and another guest, Jonathan, who might be the murderer, but there is never any sense of danger or suspense.

Three Blonde Mice is the second book concerning the three friends, Princess Charming was written in 1997 and is about a hitman coming after one of the three friends.

Perfect for the beach or a plane ride. Check your brain at the door and enjoy, but don’t expect too much.

Read-alikes:
Mary Kay Andrews
Princess Charming by Jane Heller
Nancy Thayer

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



All the President's Menus by Julie Hyzy

Olivia Paras is the White House Executive Chef, recently married to Secret Service agent, Leonard Gavin, in Julie Hyzy's eighth White House Chef series. There's a sequester going on at the White House so entertaining, planning and executing White House dinners has been curtailed and for the time being, Olivia is running the kitchen with only Bucky as assistant and the world-renowned pastry chef, Marcel. 

For highly-sensitive diplomatic reasons, President Hyden cannot cancel a planned visit from the first female candidate for the presidency of fictional Saardisca, where female leadership is unheard of and where dissidents to the government are harshly handled. Coinciding with the visit, the White House kitchen is hosting four Saardiscan chefs anxious to learn the secrets of organizing and presenting State dinners efficiently. 

The plot begins to thicken when Marcel passes out and later claims to have been drugged. Soon afterwards one of the Saardiscan chefs collapses and dies in the White House kitchen. Are these events merely the result of natural causes or is something else cooking? Olivia finds herself embroiled in an international mystery and true to form, she makes it her mission to find the truth and save the White House from an international incident. 

Author Hyzy convincingly conveys the atmosphere of the White House Kitchen describing the food they prepare and the relationship between Olivia and her staff. The characters are fairly well realized. An important scene takes place at Blair House, the president's guest house on Pennsylvania Avenue, details of which add to the novel's sense of place. Meanwhile, the suspense bubbles along like soup simmering on a stove. 

Recipes included.

Recommended for all readers: YA to Adult, both women and men.

Read-alikes:
Goldy Schultz Mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson
Hannah Swenson Mysteries by Joanne Fluke
White House Chef Mystery Series by Julie Hyzy

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

In All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes, Kat works at her aunt’s bakery making nothing but chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cupcakes because, to her aunt, anything else is just weird. What Kat really wants is to have her own shop. She’s gone to business school and has so many ideas, but to her family, Kat’s dreams are unimportant and she seems to be a constant disappointment. Her best friend Lucas is the only one who ever gives her the support she needs, but Kat thinks it’s only because she’s been friend-zoned and that’s what good friends do. What Kat doesn’t realize is that Lucas is in love with her just as she’s in love with him only neither knows how to tell the other for fear of ruining their friendship. When Lucas sees that the reality show Cupcake Combat is looking for new contestants, he signs Kat up without her knowing figuring this will be the ultimate gesture. What he’s not prepared for is all of the little things that seem to get in the way. Will Kat and Lucas get their happily ever after or will Lucas have to let Kat go to follow her baking dreams?

This was a cute, romantic book and an extremely quick and easy read. The reader sympathizes with Kat about the way her family treats her, wants Kat to succeed and prove everyone wrong and roots for Lucas to tell Kat his feelings so they can be together. However, the will-they-or-won’t-they story line was a little overplayed as each chapter had both main characters constantly second guessing themselves throughout the entire book. The book also had religious undertones with one of Lucas’ friends texting him scripture notes to bolster his courage and with Kat’s dad being a pastor, as well as her epiphany to “seek God’s will and ask him to guide her to his plans, in his timing.” Although the story isn’t overtly religious all the way through, there’s just enough that it may bother a reader who’d prefer it not be there or may attract a reader who’s looking for something a bit more spiritual. This book is good for readers looking for a nice, clean love story, those who like reality cooking shows and those who enjoy small-town stories with happy endings. 

Read-alikes:
The Cake Therapist by Judith M. Fertig
Since You've Been Gone by Anouska Knight
The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughn

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library 



Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J., Ryan Stradal

As the daughter of a chef and sommelier, it is inevitable that Eva Thorvald would have a once-in-a-generation palate. After losing both her parents at a tragically young age, it becomes even more clear that Eva’s skill and palate come from her genes. Raised by her well-meaning, if not culinary-refined, aunt and uncle, this novel is very much a coming-of-age story as Eva transforms from an awkward teenager to one of the most sought-after chefs in the country.

Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view, and while seemingly disparate from the start, all eventually connect to Eva and to the dramatic conclusion of the book. These differing perspectives tell the story of Eva’s life, dish by dish. As a middle school student, she grows hydroponic chocolate habanero peppers in her closet, which she then uses to forge a friendship with the chef at local Mexican restaurant, impart revenge on bullies at school, and develop a tolerance so high she is able to win a chili-eating contest. The teenage Eva finds herself landing an internship at a restaurant following a first date. Regular attendance at a supper club inspires twenty-something Eva to make a key career move and start hosting exclusive pop-up dinner parties in remote locations that, at their height, boast a waiting list of several years and garner $5,000 a plate. The final dinner of this book draws it together to a satisfying conclusion.

Set in Minnesota, the tone of this novel is as down-to-earth as Midwesterners themselves, interlaced with a charming quirkiness. Stradal weaves Midwestern cuisine and culture throughout each of the stories to give it an authentic feel of time and place; Eva’s father is raised making lutefisk for the family; a romantic interest’s brother goes on a hunting trip; a baking competition has a category specifically for bars.

This book is a story of both family and food, and would appeal to readers who appreciate a story with relationships at its heart, as well as those with a penchant for good food, creative dining and food culture. Readers will find themselves rooting for Eva while their mouths water for her cooking. It would also make a good adult-to-teen crossover novel, and will appeal to teens following Eva’s struggles and journey.  Author Stradal has also sprinkled recipes throughout the book for the reader to try. I can vouch personally for Pat Prager’s bars on pp. 211-212. They are very tasty! Overall, a delicious read!

Read-alikes:
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

Jill Wylie, Hauppauge Public Library



Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen

On the outskirts of Philadelphia, two brothers run a popular restaurant called Winesap. With a chic atmosphere and an inspired menu, Britt and Leo have successfully established Winesap in their own little corner of the world of fine cuisine. Enter their younger sibling Harry who has plans to open his own trendy restaurant. As he approaches his brothers for advice, support, and approval, Harry sparks a series of events that make up the crux of Wildgen’s novel. Sibling relations, the rivalry of competing businesses, and the politics of running a successful restaurant are fully examined in this delectable story.

The story unfolds slowly, allowing the reader to savor every passage, much as they would every bite of a tasty dish. Strong character development with realistic dialogue and character interaction, Bread & Butter is sprinkled with romance, drama, realistic sibling portrayal, and a genuine glimpse into the inner workings and culture of the restaurant business. Foodies will thoroughly enjoy the read with all of its scrumptious detail, as will those that are interested in the complexity of the relationships between siblings. Bon appetit!

Read-alikes:
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library

Science Fiction (2016)

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

It’s a battle of technology vs. magic, of science vs. nature as the world looms near total destruction in this quirky original novel by the editor of io9.com. While the threat of the apocalypse is imminent throughout the story, the heart of this book is the unlikely coming-of-age relationship between two social outcasts, Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead.
Patricia is only a child when she learns she is a witch.  After discovering she can speak to a wounded bird, she is lead deep into the forest where she is met by an enormous cognizant tree and the Parliament of Birds. From this point on, Patricia waits for the day when she will be rescued from her strict parents and manipulative sister and whisked away to a magical school. In the meantime, she befriends computer nerd Laurence who can time travel and built a computer with ever-increasing artificial intelligence in his closet. The two support each other through the bullying that filled their middle school years, and survive attempts by their guidance counselor (really a deadly assassin) to drive them apart.

Fast forward to futuristic San Francisco, where Patricia is a practicing witch after finishing school at Eltisley Maze and Laurence is a wunderkind working for a tech investor. Each is trying to save society the best way they know how. Patricia works with a small group of witches saving the citizens of the city through a discreet combination of spells and punishments. Laurence uses his skills to create the Pathway to Infinity, an anti-gravity portal to another dimension, designed to rescue humanity when disaster strikes. The two friends are reunited and their relationship and dependence on each other is rekindled. Unbeknownst to either, and simultaneous to their independent efforts, the artificial intelligence created so long ago in Laurence’s closet is at work drawing them together time and time again to save the world as it falls apart around them.

When Superstorm Allegra hits and threatens the future of the planet, which side will be the savior, Patricia’s connection with nature and magical powers, or Laurence’s advancements in engineering? The answer is a combination of both - the ancient wisdom of a magical force of nature working in tandem with technology.

This book is a recommended read for fans of science fiction, fantasy, magical realism and stories about the apocalypse. Chapters alternate viewpoints between Patricia and Laurence, keeping their relationship so much the focus of this novel that the personal and romantic aspects may make in an enjoyable choice for non-readers of this genre as well. With its hip, fresh and futuristic tone, this novel is also ideal for millennial readers and “new” adults. Readers should not get bogged down by the amount of time spent dwelling on Patricia and Laurence’s middle school years, the pace of the novel speeds up once it moves to San Francisco into an unforgettable read.

Read-alikes:
Duplex by Kathryn Davis
The Magicians Series by Lev Grossman
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito

Jill Wylie, Hauppauge Public Library



The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

Jeremy Logan is an "enigmalogist"—an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation. In Newport, Rhode Island, where he has been retained by Symposikon, one of the oldest and most respected think tanks in America, Logan is trying to find out why one of its most distinguished doctors began acting erratically—violently attacking an assistant in the mansion's opulent library and, moments later, killing himself in a truly shocking fashion. He finds an ingeniously hidden secret room, apparently untouched for decades. The room is a time capsule, filled with eerie and obscure scientific equipment that points to a top secret project long thought destroyed, known only as "Project S." Ultimately, the truth of what Project S was . . . and what happened in that room . . . will put Logan in danger.

It is a slow beginning, but about 2/3 of the way in, starts to get a bit more exciting. The author writes a lot of lengthy descriptions of rooms and apparatus, which unfortunately add nothing to the story. There was no character development and the other characters didn’t add much to the story. Very easy to put down, but easy to read also. Relatively quick pace, but not what I would call a thriller.

Read-alikes:
Deep Storm, Terminal Freeze and The Third Gate (Jeremy Logan Series) by Lincoln Child
Michael Crichton
Clive Cussler
Douglas Preston

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



And Again by Jessica Chiarella

And Again is the story of four people chosen to participate in a test group for SUBlife, a company that does human cloning and is awaiting FDA approval. The four participants are David, a U.S. Senator who had a brain tumor; Linda, a woman who had been paralyzed from the nose down for the past eight years after being in a car accident; Connie, an actress who contracted a virulent strain of HIV due to drug use and Hannah, an artist who was dying of Cancer. As each character wakes up in his or her new body, each must readjust to their new healthy lives and relearn how to deal with loved ones.

Told from each character's point of view in alternating chapters, And Again is mostly heartbreaking. Linda has no idea how to interact with her kids after only being able to communicate by blinking for the last eight years and spending the last five of those in a nursing facility while life went on without her. Hannah, who was a great artist, can barely remember how to hold a paintbrush and is no longer attracted to her boyfriend. Connie is destitute after her disability checks are canceled and has no family to speak of and Davis is hiding his participation in the study because his Christian constituents won't re-elect him if they know. None of the characters make good decisions and wind up emotionally distraught and a bit self-destructive as their new bodies are almost like teenagers with raging hormones and hard to control tempers.

Although an interesting story, this book can't really be considered science fiction as the cloning is almost an afterthought. It never delves into the science behind it and we meet the characters after the operations are complete. The main focus of the story is more about the characters finding themselves again after being sick and trying to be better people making better decisions. And Again is more a study of human nature and should be given to a reader looking for character-driven books rather than a die-hard science fiction fan.

Read-alikes:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The year is 2044. James Halliday, the videogame designer of OASIS, a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG or MMO) has died. Halliday sends a short video film invitation title “Anorak’s Invitation” to all users inviting them to find the Easter egg that he hid somewhere inside the videogame. The first person to find it will inherit Halliday’s entire fortune. Let the hunt begin! Anyone who knows anything about James Halliday knows he has “Harbored a lifelong obsession with the 1980s.” Wade Watts, the story’s protagonist, has read Anorak’s Almanac from cover to cover in order to learn all he can about Halliday. Cline uses the Almanac as a springboard to sprinkle ‘80’s pop culture references throughout the book … “I watched every episode of The Greatest American Hero, Airwolf, The A-Team, Knight Rider, Misfits of Science, and The Muppet Show.”

Ready Player One is a fast-paced nostalgic trip down memory lane. Not to worry if you are not a video gamer, the story line is straightforward and you’ll find that the dialogue and descriptions are nicely balanced. “Land of the Lost, Thundarr the Barbarian, He-Man, Schoolhouse Rock!, G.I. Joe - I knew them all. Because knowing is half the battle.”

The movie, which is to be directed by Steven Spielberg, is scheduled to be released March 30, 2018.

Read-alikes:
Armada by Ernest Cline
The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Sue Ketcham, LIU Post



Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

This is the official novelization of the latest blockbuster Star Wars film released to great acclaim in December of last year: actually, this print release was delayed so as to not steal thunder from the film debut. The film script, too, was handled with excessive security, kept in a safe when not in use!  

Once again, the forces of good are pitted against the forces of evil. Seeking tyrannical domination of the universe, The First Order has risen from the Galactic Empire defeated years ago by the Resistance which included Luke Skywalker, General Leia Organa and Han Solo. The First Order, led by villains such as Kylo Ren (tragically, the son of Leia and Solo) and Supreme Leader Snoke, wishes to destroy the Republic which is championed still by Leia and some courageous new supporters who feature prominently in this story. Their chief effort is to locate champion Luke Skywalker, to enlist his help.

This adventure is fast-paced, and exciting, with a marvelous cast of characters including imaginative alien creatures and saucy robots. Despite all the elements usually found in science fiction which also include fabulous weaponry and spacecraft, amazing intelligence and perception abilities, it is the human qualities of the story that really stand out- courage, compassion, grace and, above all, love.

Read-alikes:
The RCN series by David Drake
The Deathstalker Series by Simon E. Green
Other Star Wars books

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library



The Peripheral by William Gibson

The Peripheral features two mildly dystopian futures, each a reflection of unpleasant economic aspects of our present reality. Flynne Fisher lives in a near future rural America. The economy is depressed, the local government corrupt, and the employment options in her town are limited to synthesizing illegal drugs or working retail. Her brother works off the books flying a security drone in a videogame -- he says it’s money for nothing, but when Flynne subs for him, she sees a woman get eaten from the inside out by a swarm of robots, and then someone takes out a hit on her brother. 

Wilf Netherton lives in London in the far future. Eighty percent of the world’s population has died off due to the long term effects of climate change and the world is now run by the ultra-wealthy, who no longer have to pay lip service to democratic values. Wilf works in public relations -- he’s been sleeping with a client and gave her an unusual drone to run security for her. Unfortunately, she gave it away to her sister, who has since disappeared, and the rumor is that Wilf is responsible. 

That’s the first few chapters, and the plot gets more complex from there. If it drives you crazy not to know exactly what characters are talking about, this one isn’t for you. For example, Flynne and her friends frequently refer to a policing unit called “Homes.” It’s not until Wilf asks for clarification near the end of the book that anyone calls it Homeland Security. 

If you are willing to sit back and enjoy the ride, the real fun of this book is in Gibson’s setting, characters, and humor. Wilf’s Russian mafia friend has pet Tasmanian tigers, resurrected through cloning, and his Goth IT girl is covered in tattoos of extinct animals that run away from strangers. Everyone in Flynne’s town shops at Hefty Mart, eats at the Hefty snack bar, and pays using Hefty Pal. An intriguing, complex sci-fi thriller with interesting, multi-faceted characters. Recommended for fans of science fiction. 
 
Read-alikes:
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
River of Gods by Ian McDonald
Reamde  by Neal Stephenson

Tabitha Johnson, North Babylon Public Library



Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What would happen to our present world if a flu virus developed that is resistant to current treatments and is high contagious? If the epidemic spread quickly and killed within one to two days? If, eventually, about 99% of the world's population dies? This is what happens in Station Eleven.

Mandel creates an absorbing account of how civilization would break down. Hospitals would quickly overflow with the sick and dying and hospital staff would die as well. The news would report each development until there were no more news people alive and TV stations would broadcast empty news stations. With police and fire fighting staff dying as well, no help would arrive for emergencies. Eventually electricity and water would stop with most of the world dead and no one to operate power stations. The few remaining survivors would face lawlessness and all the advances in technology and health would disappear. People would die from infected cuts and other diseases since there would be no more medicine. Within time, generations would be born that never new the world before it collapsed.

Mandel interweaves several characters lives and time shifts between pre and post epidemic and gets its title from a graphic novel that one character gives to another. Vividly depicting the fallen world with descriptions of overgrown trees and crumbling buildings, Mandel shows scenes of a post-apocalyptic world that convinces the reader that these situations could happen. It is a gripping novel with the interconnected stories of the characters engaging the reader and a well-developed plot that keeps you turning the page. The tone is suspenseful and the reader experiences the fear and danger the characters face.

Read-alikes:
J by Howard Jacobson
The Stand by Stephen King
California by Edan Lepucki
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Myrna Velez, Brentwood Public Library



Planetfall by Emma Newman

A colony consisting of 1,000 people has ventured, via pods, to another planet in order to escape a devastating environment on the planet Earth. The colonists were led on their journey by their visionary leader, Suh. Shortly after Planetfall, Suh mysteriously disappears into what is perceived by all to be God's City. The colony shares the belief that Suh is communing with God and will eventually return. But 22 years have passed and the colonists' anual communal event anticipating the return of an enlightened, all-knowing leader has been an exercise in futility. The story focuses on the colony's top engineer, Ren, and the Ringmaster of the settlement, Mack. The two of them have successfully harbored a secret that, if exposed, could threaten the colony's very existence. Technology and faith have sustained the colony thus far, but the arrival of a mysterious young man, and some shocking revelations about Ren's severe emotional dysfunction, precipitate a series of events that could tear the colony's world apart.

Planetfall is a suspenseful, futuristic novel that thoroughly develops its characters in a plot that takes unexpected turns. Faith, science, love and heartbreak are themes throughout the story, and readers will find it difficult to put it down as it barrels its way to its unexpected conclusion. Mystery, suspense and the price of human foible make Planetfall a page-turning read for science-fiction buffs as well as any reader that enjoys plot-twisting, character-driven novels. 

Read-alikes:
Half Way Home by Hugh Howey
Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
On the Steel Breeze by Alastair Reynolds
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



The Martian by Andy Weir

Six days ago astronaut Mark Watney became on of the first people to walk on Mars. Today he's sure he's going to be the first person to die there. Thought to be dead by his fellow crew members after a freak storm knocked out his suit's link with is team, he finds himself alive but alone on the planet with no way to get off or even to signal Earth that he's alive. What results is one man's mission to survive on a planet with no food and to get home using his intellect and ingenuity. 

Andy Weir tells this story with a great deal of humor while keeping the reader from being bogged down with technology.

Read-alikes:
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Kathy Carter, Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, Retired



The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

If you enjoyed The Producers, you’ll like Wray’s holocaust caper about a family of amateur physicists who challenge Einstein’s linear theory of time. Our story begins in 1903 in Znotomo, Moravia, when Ottokar Gottfrieden Toula discovers that time travels in a circle and is dispatched by a runaway motor car before he can present his proof to the scientific community. His descendants spend the next 70 years trying to recreate it. Ottokar’s two sons, Waldemar, a brilliant scientist who joins the Nazis, and Kaspar, a teacher who flees to New York with his Jewish wife and their two daughters, go their separate ways.

Wray’s male characters can be divided into brilliant but obsessive loners and responsible family men trying to get by. Women are secondary characters, either sex objects or frustrated wives. Some minor characters are based on historical figures. Buffalo Bill, a distant relative of Kaspar’s wife, sponsors him when he applies for U.S. citizenship. L. Ron Hubbard is the model for the narrator’s father. Wray’s theme is the tenacity and resilience needed to cope with the vagaries of “chance, fate, and probability.” His style is inventive and playful, with an eye for the telling detail. Settings are cosmopolitan and the tone is generally casual. He wanted his book, to be “fun” to read, and it can be. Souffle or matzo, you decide.

Read-alikes
Bare-faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard by Russell Miller
Version Control by Dexter Palmer
Flashback by Dan Simmons
Home Fires by Gene Wolfe
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

Jackie Malone, Bellmore Public Library

Biography (2016)

St. Paul: The Apostle We Love to Hate by Karen Armstrong


Paul (5-67CE) is a seminal, if controversial, figure in world religious history. Most people are familiar with the story of his astonishing conversion, on the road to Damascus, from bitter enemy of the fledgling movement surrounding Jesus, to founder of multiple communities of Jesus’ followers all throughout Asia and Europe. Armstrong’s brief (125 pages) study concentrates upon the picture of Paul and his interpretation of Jesus’ message found in the seven letters (epistles) scholars agree were certainly his own work. She asserts that Paul’s efforts, his travels and his writings, were instrumental in turning a small sect, rooted in Judaism, into one of the largest religions practiced in the world. Truly, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Paul’s life changed the course of history!


This is a serious book, scholarly in tone, and requires careful attention on the part of the reader. Suggest it only to those interested in religious history and spirituality, or Christianity.

Read-alikes:
Who Made Early Christianity: The Jewish Lives of the Apostle Paul by John Gager
The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul by Adam Hamilton
What Paul Meant by Gary Will

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library



Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life by Jonathan Bate

Was Ted Hughes, an academic babe magnet born to a Yorkshire shopkeeper and his Celtic wife, a “rotter”?  Most famous in this country as Sylvia Plath’s errant husband, he rose to Poet Laureate status at home, where he enjoyed fishing trips with the Queen Mother and fulfilled his civic duties with gusto. Hughes was a great poet, good provider, canny businessman, and caring father, but he was also an unrepentant womanizer.

Given access to Hughes’ personal archive, biographer Jonathan Bate took on the task of making the personal information it contained available to future biographers and interested general readers. His scholarly account opens with a deposition taken in a Boston law office well after Sylvia’s suicide, in a civil suit seeking damages from Ted, among others, for defaming a patient in a mental hospital in a film based on Sylvia’s novel, The Bell Jar. Bates continues at a measured pace, alternating chapters dense with complex anthropological (Graves) and psychological (Freud) theory in vogue at the time with simple historical accounts of Ted’s life.  He includes telling photographs, a useful index, and extensive footnotes.

Read-alikes:
Coleridge:  Darker Reflections, 1804-1834 by Richard Holmes
The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes
Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes
John le Carre, The Biography by Adam Sisman
Sylvia Plath:  A Literary Life by Linda Wagner-Martin
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Jackie Malone, Bellmore Public Library



Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin

I was 3 years old when Johnny Carson retired from late-night television, and my only experience of him prior to this book was a “best of” DVD that I once watched on a bus trip. Since this book is partially an exposé of Carson’s character, the fact that I didn’t have any emotional investment in Carson’s public persona reduced the impact the book could have on me. That being said, Johnny Carson is an enjoyable biography. The author, Henry Bushkin, was Carson’s lawyer and confidante during the height of Carson’s fame. It’s packed with celebrity anecdotes, including a story about an event, hosted by Carson, at which Dean Martin was so drunk that he couldn’t go on stage.

Carson comes off as vengeful and deeply insecure (Bushkin blames Carson’s mother) and has the moody temperament common to comedians, but he is also generous to a fault with those he deems his friends and quick to cut people out of his life if he thinks he’s been wronged. In the eighteen years the book covers, Carson divorces twice, Bushkin once, and they both repeatedly burn bridges with various friends, girlfriends, and business associates. There is sadness on Bushkin’s part when Johnny does eventually drop him, but no surprise.

Overall, an entertaining biography, both funny and nostalgic. I imagine that those with first-hand experience of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson would find it even more interesting. Recommended for readers interested in ‘70s and ‘80s Hollywood, and for all fans of gossipy memoirs.

Read-alikes:

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and me by Pattie Boyd
Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher
Listen Out Loud: A Life in Music - Managing McCartney, Madonna, and Michael Jackson by Ron Weisner


Tabitha Johnson, North Babylon Public Library




Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever

Life for the Alcott’s was never easy and Louisa and her family experienced financial difficulties almost her entire life. Alcott worked to help support her family from an early age. Over the years she worked as a teacher, seamstress, governess, domestic helper, and writer. She also served as a nurse in the Union Hospital at Georgetown, D.C. While working as a nurse she contracted typhoid. Although she eventually recovered, for the rest of her life Louisa would suffer from horrific headaches and pains in her legs and joints which are believed to have been caused by mercury poisoning. One of the accepted treatments for typhoid at that time was to be given a compound containing mercury. The letters she wrote home during her time as a nurse would eventually be revised and published as Hospital Sketches (1863) in The Commonwealth.

Louisa’s began her writing career writing under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard. As Barnard, she wrote thrillers and what she called “blood and thunder” novels and stories such as Pauline’s Passion and Punishment, Behind a Mask, and A Long Fatal Love Chase.  She also wrote over three hundred stories, some of which were exclusively for children. Louisa wrote over a dozen more stories under her own name, including the novel which brought her fame and financial success, Little Women.

A biography about Louisa would be incomplete without discussing her father, who went by the name Bronson. Bronson was an educator with a progressive, Transcendentalist vision. Bronson began Temple School in Boston which initially was well received and thriving but eventually was rejected by the public and petered out within a few years. Bronson would attempt to start other schools but they would all eventually meet with failure as well.  Frequent guests to the Alcott home included well-known intellectuals such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller.

Days before he died, Bronson said to Louisa, “I am going up. Come with me.” She replied “Oh I wish I could” to which her father replied “Come soon.” On March 6, 1888, two days after Bronson’s death, Louisa May Alcott passed away. She is buried in Concord near longtime friends Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau.


Susan Cheever has written a well-researched, well-written biography. The one criticism I have is the interjections that Cheever makes about a parallel between her and Alcott’s life. Louisa May Alcott would appeal to anyone, but especially to someone like myself, who has loved Little Women since they were a young girl. In fact, by the time you’re done, you may get an urge to read Little Women.

Read-alikes:
The Journals of Louisa May Alcott - Jed Myerson and Daniel Shealy (eds)
The Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott - Jed Myerson and Daniel Shealy (eds) 
Louisa May Alcott: A Biography by Madeleine Stein

Susan Ketcham, B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library, LIU




A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction by Patrick J. Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy was a Congressman from Rhode Island when a minor crash while driving "under the influence" in Washington, D.C. became the first step in a long rehab...and his eventually taking control of his life. He grew up in a family that did not discuss their problems: divorce, his mother's drinking, his father's drinking, bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse - all swept under the rug.

He had already been in rehab as a senior in prep school for cocaine and alcohol abuse. In 1988, when a tumor was found on his spine, he was relieved (the tumor turned out to be benign) because those around him would be inclined to be sympathetic to his drug use believing he was in pain.

His trials during rehab made him determined to persevere. His father turned his back on him telling him not to bother contacting him for a while, and there was little support from the rest of the family. Some were embarrassed by his revelations. Others were angry with him for divulging family secrets. Well-written with chilling details...much sadness and pain...and finally a successful outcome. Patrick has made it his life's mission to bring mental illness into the public discussion as a disease, the same as chronic physical ailments.
 
He decided to leave Congress in 2011 not long after his father’s death to devote his career to advocacy for brain diseases and to create a new, healthier life and start a family. He has since founded the Kennedy Forum, which unites the community of mental health, and co-founded One Mind for Research, which sponsors brain research and open science collaboration. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Amy, and their four children.

This is a good read for men and women of all ages. There are insights into the Kennedy Family, sympathetic details for others fighting mental disease or addiction and a great deal of information for laypeople and professionals.

Read-alikes:
Fast Girl: a Life Spent Running from Madness by Suzy Favor Hamilton
Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever
But Enough about Me: A Memoir by Burt Reynolds

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero by Douglas Perry

Eliot Ness known as leader of the legendary “Untouchables” honest lawmen who could not be bribed and taking down Chicago’s Al Capone during the Prohibition Era, Ness emerges as a much more complex individual than the boy scout image Hollywood depicted. Eliot had a Criminal Law teacher, August Vollmer, known as The Father of Modern Law Enforcement who became Eliot’s mentor.  Some of Eliot’s firsts were to train cadets before putting them on the beat; previously the cadets were given a badge and a gun and sent out on patrol. Ness also encouraged the hiring of black cadets who he felt would do a better job patrolling their own neighborhoods. After Capone’s downfall and the targeting of Chicago  speakeasies, Ness rose to Cleveland’s Director of Public Safety and took on the illegal gambling rackets and the corrupt police and politicians. Ness was also interested in joining the FBI but J. Edgar Hoover did not hire him because he did not want to be overshadowed by the charismatic Ness.  

Perry superbly depicts the meteoric rise and eventual decline of Ness, who had his demons and died at 55 an alcoholic, alone and penniless. While reading this biography I couldn’t help but think that we could use the young idealistic Eliot Ness today to combat the graft and general dishonesty in politics where those to which we have entrusted our public funds and policy decision making are lining their own pockets.

Read-alikes:
Allan Pinkerton: The First Private Eye by James A. MacKay
The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition by Athan Theoharis

Peggy McCarthy, Smithtown Library, Retired



Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please is the autobiography of actress and comedian Amy Poehler who has starred on television shows like Saturday Night Live and Parks & Recreation as well as movies such as Baby Mama and Wet Hot American Summer. Poehler touches briefly on her childhood and time in college but mostly focuses on how she got started as a comedian and the people and jobs that got her where she is today. Interspersed with photographs from when she was young and from the different projects she has worked on, Yes Please can almost be considered a mixed media project with the artwork, scripts pages, etc. helping to break up the narrative of her life.

Yes Please isn’t linear, it doesn’t start at point A and end with the present day but instead goes back and forth and tell anecdotes of what is was like to work on various projects, how she’s known many of the people she’s worked with for years, including one her best friends, fellow comedian Tina Fey, and is a snapshot into Poehler’s self-described chaotic mind. Poehler talks about subjects such as how she has trouble sleeping, what it was like to try to make it as a comedian in the early 90s in Chicago then in New York City, jobs she’s held to make ends meet, being a female comedian in a mostly male dominated field and while not going into details, she shares a little bit about her feelings on her divorce from actor Will Arnett and about how happy her two sons make her.

Being written by a comedian, one would think the book would be funnier, and although there are times when I laughed out loud, overall I found the book to not be as interesting as I’d hoped. The choppiness of the narrative, which is quite like Poehler’s real thought process, made the back and forth a bit annoying and at times I found myself wondering if I even cared about finishing the book. That said, Poehler is brutally honest about herself and readers will like that aspect of the book; some of the things she says will make people think. She also has a dirty mind which makes for some fun reading. For lovers of biography and those who like comedians/comedy.

Read-alikes:
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian by Bob Saget
I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short
Almost Interesting: A Memoir by David Spade

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library




Troublemaker by Leah Remini

In Troublemaker, Remini begins her story when she’s nine years old and finishes in 2013 when she disengaged from the Church of Scientology.

Remini and her sister were introduced to Scientology by their mother when they were children in Brooklyn. They continued their servitude at the Fort Hamilton Hotel in Clearwater, Florida, working and studying the science, not going to conventional junior high school. At 13, they moved to Los Angeles, where Remini pursued her acting career and continued her studies in Scientology. 

As an adult, Remini gave over $2,000,000 to Scientology in the form of books, classes, and donations. Her first inkling of something amiss, was when the Church showed pictures of staff members handing out brochures to flood victims when they should’ve been handing out bottled water. She asked what her money was going to, as she had been told it was going for food and water, but never received a clear response.

Things started going really bad when Remini and her husband were invited to Tom Cruise’s house for a dinner party (where he wanted to play Hide n Seek). Remini witnessed him throwing a tantrum over cookies and noted unbecoming behavior from other Church members. In the Church, members are encouraged to write up others’ aberrant behavior supposedly so those members can “overt” (kind of like confession). However, once Remini did this (she had been reported on many times) the Church became her enemy, keeping tabs on her constantly, making her take extra training classes at her own expense, etc.

Finally, she was deemed a Suppressive Person, meaning all her friends and family were ordered to have nothing to do with her. In 2013, she and her family left the Church losing almost all their Scientology friends, but gaining their freedom.

In 2013, after leaving the Church, she was on the TV show, Dancing with the Stars, where she performed as a puppet, with her dance partner pulling the strings to show how she had felt when she was with Scientology.

Written in a conversational style, the reader feels as if she is having a conversation with the actor. Though not quite linear, and only scratching the surface of her ordeal, it is a quick, easy read. A good read for any Remini fans or anyone looking for insight into Scientology.

Read-alikes:
The Creation of Human Ability: A Handbook for Scientologists by L. Ron Hubbard
The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology by John Sweeney
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library




Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse


In this memoir, Brando Skyhorse, tells his story of survival in a dysfunctional family that lived in the rough neighborhood of Echo Park, Los Angeles. Skyhorse believed throughout his life that he was American Indian when in reality; both his mother and biological father actually were Mexican American. Skyhorse’s mother was a young and attractive woman who was emotionally unstable and suffered from bouts of rage. When Skyhorse was three years old, his mother in one of her rages, forces Skyhorse’s father to leave. Skyhorse’s mother, wanting a more interesting life, reinvents herself and Brando as American Indians. It took Brando Skyhorse almost 30 years to learn about his true background and meet his real father.

As a boy, Skyhorse accompanied his mother on trips to meet potential new husbands she found through personal ads. Skyhorse’s mother became interested in American Indian political activists and developed a correspondence with an American Indian stranger in prison, Paul Skyhorse. In a visit to the prison, she introduced this stranger to Brando as his father. Paul Skyhorse eventually adopts Brando and legally gives him the American Indian name. But Paul Skyhorse is just one of five stepfathers that Brando Skyhorse has throughout his life with his mother.

Brando Skyhorse never had a chance to live a normal child’s life. He was often blamed for things that went wrong by both his erratic mother and his bitter grandmother. His mother isolated herself in her bedroom as she worked as a phone sex operator. He lived in fear of his mother’s rages, of her threats of killing him or throwing him out of the house and he lived with the need of a father’s love. Every step-father his mother found, losers from prison or conmen, who stole from employers or from Brando’s mother, filled the boy with hope for a father. These men eventually leave, either driven away by Brando’s crazy mother or by their own restlessness.  

Skyhorse writes a darkly comical memoir. His writing is at times lyrical and moving. Skyhorse’s tone is matter of fact as he relates all the awful and strange experiences. The reader comes to understand that there was love in this strange family. Brando’s mother never left him although she drove him crazy. The life of lies showed him how to tell his story and he learned that “stories sustain us” and “carry us through lives we convince ourselves we can’t escape to get to the lives we ought or need to live instead.”

Take this Man is a book that would appeal to readers who enjoy reading about survival. These stories show other people’s experiences lead to new understanding of life. Take This Man shows the impact of one’s identify can have on one’s life as well as the importance of a father’s presence in a child’s life.

Read-alikes:
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Myrna Velez, Brentwood Public Library



Just Kids by Patti Smith


Musician, poet and visual artist Smith chronicles her intense life with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe during the 1960s and '70s, when both artists came of age in downtown New York. Writing with wonderful immediacy, Smith tells the affecting story of their entwined young lives as lovers, friends and muses to one another. Eating day-old bread and stew in dumpy East Village apartments, they forged fierce bonds as soul mates who were at their happiest when working together. To make money Smith clerked in bookstores, and Mapplethorpe hustled on 42nd Street. The book abounds with stories about friends, including Allen Ginsberg, Janis Joplin, William Burroughs, Sam Shepard, Gregory Corso and other luminaries, and it reveals Smith's affection for the city—the "gritty innocence" of the couple's beloved Coney Island, the "open atmosphere" and "simple freedom" of Washington Square. Despite separations, the duo remained friends until Mapplethorpe's death in 1989. "Nobody sees as we do, Patti," he once told her.

Read-alikes:
Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews by Bob Dylan
I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell
The Virgin at Bennington by Kathleen Norris
I'm You're Man by Sylvie Simmons
M Train by Patti Smith

Kathy Carter, Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library, Retired 



George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door by Graeme Thomson

George Harrison was known as “The Quiet Beatle.” (For anyone that’s been living under a rock for the last half-century, The Beatles were four young “Liverpudlian” lads that captured the world of music by storm, and virtually defined the course of cultural history for decades to follow.) Harrison most likely acquired the distinction of being “The Quiet One” because his three bandmates were a bit more flamboyant than he. The fact that he was the youngest of the lot probably played a part as well. Harrison’s moniker resulted in a veil of mystery, a general feeling that we could never really “know” him as we felt we “knew” the other members of the band. In fact, Harrison was an extremely complex, sometimes contradictory, individual. He had one foot in the world of rock and roll superstardom, and another foot in the world of spirituality; he had a social conscience and, at times, a sense of entitlement; he lived on a grand scale, yet enjoyed the simplest things in life, like tending to his garden.

Harrison was an accomplished songwriter, although his songs were often overlooked for inclusion on The Beatles’ albums because of a dominant Lennon/McCartney writing team. His song Something is one of the most popular songs ever written, with at least 200 covers recorded. In addition to his musical compositions, Harrison supported the advancement of independent filmmaking, introduced the Western world to the spiritual practices and music of India, and with his Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, provided the model for the charity concerts that we are familiar with today.

Graeme Thomson has written a definitive and detailed biography of one of the world’s most innovative and respected musicians to have lived in the 20th century. Thomson traces Harrison’s life from its humble beginnings, to a rise to unprecedented fame, to an untimely death in 2001. Conducting interviews with family members, fellow musicians and friends, and drawing upon scores of articles, interviews, books, and websites, Thomson has captured the essence of a complex and charmed life. Behind the Locked Door is a must-read for every baby-boomer “Beatlemaniac,” every musician that is interested in the band that influenced and changed the course of popular music history, and anyone else with a curiosity about what it may be like to be a celebrity of such enormous notoriety.
           
One note of caution for some readers: Thomson’s account of Harrison’s life is quite revealing. The reader is given a front row seat to all that went on both publicly and privately in Harrison’s life—before, during, and after the era of Beatlemania—and some of it is a little disillusioning. Some of us that remember the era have a vision of four, happy-go-lucky moptops, on top of the world and having the time of their lives! Let’s just say this: Thomson’s book reveals that it wasn’t all “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” 

Read-alikes:
Lennon: The Definitive Biography by Ray Coleman
Ringo: With a Little Help from My Friends by Michael Starr
Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was better known as Mark Twain, America’s highly regarded writer. His last story was his autobiography, which he planned on being published posthumously so that he could speak freely and uninhibited. He did have a lot to say, and at seventy-nine chapters we seem to learn everything about his life. This book is rich with details of various people and events.

Mark Twain has a remarkable ability to tell a story, whether he is recounting pranks that he plays on his brother, (remind anyone of Huck Finn?) or describing stage fright. His first speech was jokingly titled “the trouble begins at eight,” and the trouble did indeed start at eight. He freezes in front of a large audience, but quickly recovers to winning laughter and applause. Ironically, he thinks one of his shortcomings was that he was not humorous, but he obviously was. 

Twain had to go to work at a young age to help support his family. He works at a variety of jobs that were of no interest to him until he discovers that he can make a living by writing, and then he says that he never “worked” a day in his life again. In addition to being a writer, he works the lecture circuit, telling his stories and travelling the world. 

He is intrigued with science and technology and invests and loses money in various projects. He also starts the Webster Publishing Company with his nephew–in-law, which later went bankrupt -- through no fault of his own. Twain doesn’t want to ruin his reputation, so he eventually pays back all of the creditors, even though he isn’t legally obligated to do so.

An added bonus in the book is the first-hand knowledge about life in 19th century America as he travels from place to place. Born in Florida and raised in Missouri, Twain moves several times and by the time the Civil War breaks out, he is a young man living on the West Coast. When he marries he decides to settle in New York and Connecticut with his family. One tidbit: he visits Manhattan frequently, and remembers all the construction going on at the reservoir and remarks; they are building a “big library.” Today we know it as the New York Public Library.

The most touching part of the book is when he talks about the love he has for his wife and children. In the last chapter his heart is broken- as he is now old and his wife and three of his children are deceased, and the fourth is married and living abroad. He says “I was once a very rich man- but now I am poor.” His honesty and sincerity touches us and shows us why he was America’s treasured writer.

Read-alikes:
The writings of Emily Dickinson
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The writings of Walt Whitman

Eileen Gazzola, Huntington Public Library



I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

I Am Malala is the inspirational story of a young girl’s courage to fight for peace, education and equality in the face of fear and Taliban control in Pakistan. Daughter of a progressive father who built schools and believed in educational equality, Malala developed a love for learning. Her passion quickly established her as an advocate for girls’ education. She used a pen name to create a diary for BBC Urdu describing what it was like to live under the Taliban, and won the Pakistan National Youth Peace Prize in 2011. Unfortunately, her outspokenness also attracted the attention of the Taliban, and Malala was shot at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school when she was just 15 years old.

Although this book is written with foreign news correspondent Christina Lamb, its voice is Malala’s own, which radiates with love for her family, pride for her country and passion for girls education and rights. Malala’s story delves deep into her personal ancestry as well as Pakistani history, which at times causes the narrative to slow. This attention to detail, however, would be appreciated by readers with an interest in Middle Eastern history and culture, international relations and current events.

This book is also a must-read for anyone who has followed Malala’s story since it appeared in headlines. For those who were shocked by her attack and inspired by her bravery, this book will provide insight into the events leading up to and following Malala’s shooting, her treatment and her new life in England. Malala’s youth also naturally makes her story appealing to teens, and for those who prefer it, a young reader’s edition of her book is available with additional photos. A documentary, He Named Me Malala, also premiered in 2015.

Read-alikes:
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Jill Wylie, Hauppauge Public Library