Historical Non-Fiction

Klan War: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save Reconstruction by Fergus M. Bordewich

Although the title of this book is somewhat misleading, as Ulysses S. Grant is something of a minor character, there is a lot of information about the early KKK, and anyone interested in American History will find this book a worthwhile read. Grant was a strong proponent of civil rights, but he’s not really the focus of the book. Bordewich does justice to Grant, detailing legislation he championed in support of civil rights, as well as the judges and cabinet members he appointed who helped make his vision a reality.

And it was a reality. Sort of. For a little while. The reader learns about many of the new elected officials, many newly emancipated, in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, and the ways their activism pushed forward the civil rights agenda.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, there’s a backlash, and it is this that forms the bulk of this book. Alongside the stories of brave people who fought for equal rights are the stories of people who believed in both segregation and subjugation, and the violence they perpetrated in pursuit of their goals. There are numerous descriptions of lynchings, assaults, brutality, and cruelty as the KKK became more organized.

Readers will learn the many ways in which the KKK of the 1860s and 1870s was different from what we now think of the Klan, and may be surprised to find out the Klan was essentially dormant from the late 19th century until the early 1920s, at which point it was increasing immigration that provided the impetus for the resurrection of the Klan into what we know today.

The Wars of Reconstruction by Douglas R. Egerton
The Ordeal of the Reunion by Mark Wahlgren Summers
Ecstatic Nation by Brenda Wineapple

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library

Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan's Plot to Take Over America and the Woman who Stopped Them by Timothy Egan

In November 1925, Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon D.C Stephenson was sentenced for the murder of Madge Oberholtzer, whom he had raped and mutilated in March of the same year. Stephenson had gotten away with raping women for years before Oberholtzer was brave enough to tell her story on her deathbed. Her written testimony put him away. Fortunately, he was not just stopped from harming women, but from harming all minorities in Indiana. 

Stephenson was a drifter who showed up in Indiana in 1923. He was a smooth talker and charmer. Hired by a KKK recruiter, he quickly rose up the ranks, expanding the Klan membership and infiltrating all avenues of Indiana politics and government. As he once said: “I am the law.” He was right. Police officers, judges, mayors, ministers – they were all under the thumb of Stephenson and the KKK. Though the KKK was supposedly a “brotherhood” of white supremacy (not necessarily against blacks, Jews, and Catholics, but just protecting their own race), Stephenson was a regular thug embezzling from the KKK, stealing from farmers, and ordering murders and lynchings.

When Stephenson was finally outed and convicted, many original KKKer’s were appalled at his behavior. Memberships quickly dwindled and their power waned.

This book was thoroughly researched by the author and is a relatively quick read. As non-fiction, we don’t get into anyone’s head, but we feel like we know the ‘characters.’ We easily hate Stephenson and his cronies and have great sympathy for Oberholtzer. However, this is hardly only Oberholtzer’s story. We are half-way through the book before we get to the night of the rape. The book also belongs to the newspaper editors, attorneys, and judges who were not swayed by Stephenson. Without them, Oberholtzer’s testimony would have never been made public at the trial.  

The Second Coming of the KKK by Linda Gordon
Gangbuster by Alan Prendergast
Crooked by Nathan Masters

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library

Eyeliner: A Cultural History by Zahra Hankir

Hankir presents an interesting survey of the use of eyeliner across time and geography. As a proud Lebanese-British journalist who has her feet planted in the cultures of both the Middle East and the West, Hankir shows how eyeliner plays important roles for both men and women in religious and cultural life.

The book is divided into ten chapters examining eyeliner in terms of different cultures, religions, and political expressions. For example, one chapter explains male beauty culture in central Africa, another examines eyeliner as a tool of political dissent for women in Iran, another explores eyeliner as a tool for expressing gender for drag performers, and another two chapters investigate the use of eyeliner for Japanese and Indian cultural performers. Each chapter gives a nice historical background of the area and the kind of eyeliner it uses, explanations of the use of that eyeliner, and plenty of interviews with people from that area explaining what it means to them. Hankir also provides a solid Works Cited section in the back of the book that allows for further exploration of the topics in each chapter - helpful as I found myself wanting to learn more about the different cultures that were introduced in each chapter.

The book itself is pretty accessible to the regular library reader. It seems solidly researched and definitely has a scholarly bent, but it is written in rather informal language (sometimes creating a jarring dissonance in her writing). One of the frustrating things about the book is that Hankir alternates between assuming the reader already knows about obscure topics (for example, providing words in Chinese characters without presenting the reading of those characters or using specific terms from different religions without explaining them clearly) and then overexplaining things that the general reader would already know. Also, the book seems to assume a more than basic knowledge of eyeliner and its use in Western culture, so if you do not wear makeup much yourself you will find yourself at a loss for understanding what a “flick” or “cateye” or “puppydog” or “graphic” eyeliner style looks like.  It would have been good to have a chapter discussing the Western use of eyeliner as well - it would have provided a baseline for readers to understand the comparisons with the other cultures presented in the book. Each chapter also includes one black and white illustration representing the eyeliner style in the chapter, but it is very little compared to what is discussed. It would be easier to understand if more illustrations were provided.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable read. It was a tiny buffet of different cultures, religions, and people that made me curious to learn more. While the author’s strong political views can sometimes be off putting, I found myself reading eagerly and looking carefully at the women around me, wondering how their personal style of eyeliner was part of their cultural background and political views. I feel like a broad spectrum of readers would be interested in this book, including those who are interested in feminism and women’s culture as well as those who are interested in politics, religion, and physical culture.

Dress Like a Woman edited by Sarah Massey, Ashley Albert, and Emma Jacobs
Pockets: An Intimate History of How We Keep Things Close by Hannah Carlson
Unshaved by Breanne Fahs
All Made Up by Rae Nudson

Carolyn Brooks, The Smithtown Library - Commack Building

Sweat: A History of Exercise by Bill Hayes

More memoir than history, Sweat: A History of Exercise by Bill Hayes takes us through a rambling journey of his search for information about exercise, and what seems to have become an obsessive interest in one particular work on the subject. The focus for much of the book is on Girolamo Mercuriale, a Renaissance Era physician who wrote and had illustrated a tome about exercise. While the work of Mercuriale was likely significant, it is not the first such work, and Hayes only scratches the surface of prior and later works on the subject.

After sessions in an archive with a librarian who begins to know him and anticipate his interests, he travels to both England and France to meet with scholars on Mercuriale and eventually is able to find a treasure trove of translated material. The materials that Hayes finds leads him further in his quest, and he eventually is able to view original copies of the drawings done for Mercuriale’s work.

Framed within the context of exploring Mercuriale’s work, and his own exploits in exercise, the reader learns of early Olympic games, boxing matches in Crete, and military training, which included women but only in Sparta. The narrative describes exercises that stem from Pehr Henrik Ling of Stockholm whose work led to the principles that guide modern PE classes. It also addresses the practice of Yoga and the changes it underwent in America, and the advent of television exercise programs as pioneered by Jack LaLanne. This era also saw the rise of body building as exemplified by Arnold Schwarzenegger, martial arts by Bruce Lee, and other sports such as swimming and running by celebrity athletes. Title IX opened the door for women and girls to participate in sports in a way previously impossible. Hayes’ description of these changes is clear although brief.  

His hunt for original works will appeal to history buffs who will be captivated by the idea of looking at books buried deep in archives of prestigious libraries and even a castle on an isolated island in Italy. While Hayes likely compiled an incredible trove of information and experience in his multi-year quest, he leaves the reader feeling undereducated on the subject.

There is too much focus on one author, not enough meat for comparison with those who came before, and a mere glance at modern trends. The athleticism of the author could be a means for connectivity for athletes or exercise aficionados. Hayes has done or tried it all - running, swimming, gym workouts with weight lifting, yoga. He seems to show a great deal of reverence for Mercuriale but has no problem mocking practices such as sweat collection for skin care, which we now know to be useless and really just gross.

This book would be a good beach read for non-fiction lovers. Although catalogued as a history, it is more a memoir of Hayes’ studies of exercise, both physical and academic. Readers who enjoy memoirs, exercise, and in-depth research will enjoy this book.

Making the American Body by Jonathan Black
Let's Get Physical by Danielle Friedman
Ultimate Fitness by Gina Bari Kolata
Embrace the Suck by Stephen Madden
Fit Nation by Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

Ellen Covino, Sayville Public Library

The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman

This well-researched, in depth overview of the 1990s is an eclectic dive into the American grunge era of pop culture, entertainment, sexism, racism and politics. Within the first footnote, the author acknowledges potential biases - “Transparency requires me to admit a few things here, if only to aid those primarily reading this book in order to locate its biases: I was born in 1972. I’m a white heterosexual cis male. I was economically upper-lower-class in 1990, middle-middle-class in 1999, and am lower-upper-class as I type this sentence.”

Klosterman goes on to cover many newsworthy topics - Bill Clinton’s impeachment, OJ Simpson’s murder trial, LAPD brutally beating Rodney King, Anita Hill’s testimony; the rise in commercial popularity of different music genres - Alternative and Gangsta Rap; notable sports moments like the home run record chasing race between two players that were using performance enhancement drugs; the Titanic movie and that song we still can’t get out of our heads, and so on.

Considering the vast amount of information that is covered in this book, the pacing is definitely adequate. The Nineties will appeal to those that lived through them, heard stories about being a teenager back then from their very cool 40-something aunt, or anyone with a general interest in US history.

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Andersen
Rock Me on the Water: 1974 by Ronald Brownstein
Music is History by Questlove

Jessicca Webber, The Smithtown Library - Smithtown Building

The Core of an Onion by Mark Kurlansky

The Core of an Onion by NY Times Bestselling author Mark Kurlansky discusses the origin and history of the beloved and humble bulb. As Julia Child once said, “It is hard to imagine a civilization without onions." Onions have been around since the beginning of time. They have been found in the tombs of Egyptian mummies, and Herodotus, the famous Greek historian, claimed that during the construction of the pyramids, the workers were fed on large quantities of onions, garlic, and radishes.  

This book sites dozens of examples of the importance and value of onions. Onions are worthy subjects of art, and many artists including, Renoir, Cezanne, and Van Gogh immortalized the bulb in still life drawings and paintings. Onion’s popularity also shows up in literature and poetry. In Lewis Carroll’s Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts threatens the Seven of Spade for bringing the chef a tulip instead of an onion. According to many botanists and archeologists, it is believed that onions originated in central Asia over 5000 years ago and it is thought that onions were discovered and eaten wild long before farming or writing was invented. The onion has been praised for medicinal purposes and at one time was popular in some cultures as an aphrodisiac. Hopefully the user cooked the onions first. 

I could go on and on and by now you are probably asking, why do onions make us cry. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the odor of the onion that causes one to cry but a vapor that is released when the onion is cut. The toxic vapor transforms into an irritant when it comes into contact with the liquid in your eyes and causes the eye to tear. This book goes into several techniques to prevent that from happening, but you will have to read it for yourself to find out.

This book could have easily been called, everything you wanted to know about onions but were afraid to ask. I enjoyed learning about the many cultivars of onions. It is believed there are well over 600 types with more on the horizon. Each page of this slim book contained interesting tidbits and facts about this commonly used food.

This book is for anyone who loves to eat, cook, or garden. The pace is fast and can easily be read or listened to in a weekend. The book includes a 100 historical recipes that will make you long for a perfect bowl of onion soup. 

Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of America in 11 Pies by Rossi Anastopoulo
A Short History of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce by Massimo Montanari
The Secret History of Food by Matt Siegel

Karen McHugh, Harborfields Public Library

Hollywood Double Agent: The True Tale of Boris Morros by Jonathan Gill

Boris Morros (rhymes with chorus) (1891-1963) was an American Communist Party member, Soviet agent, and eventually a FBI double agent. 

Morros, born in St. Petersburg was a music child prodigy. As a child he attended the St. Petersburg Conservatory, studying under well known composers such as Anatoly Liadov and Nickolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The Conservatory was one of the few institutions that enrolled Jews and provided housing permits so their families could legally live in the city. Later on, Morros was hired to organize, recruit, rehearse, and conduct the ensembles that performed for the tsar and his government.

Eventually Boris, along with his immediate family, made their way to the United States, arriving on Ellis Island in 1922. Morros relied on his music skills to gain work and eventually went to work for Adolph Zukor, owner of Paramount Pictures. Morros went on to become head of music at Paramount and eventually tried his hand at producing pictures (The Flying Deuces starring Laurel and Hardy). 
In 1933, after meeting with an unsuspecting Boris, a Soviet spy wrote Moscow saying "During a conversation with Morros, I got the impression that he might be used to place our operatives in Paramount offices situated in every country and city, that he could be brilliantly put to use providing our workers with a cover." Over the next 14 years Boris or "FROST" (Soviet codename) did exactly that. In 1947, Morros became a counterspy and in addition to passing along FBI approved low-level secrets he also informed on the other spies in the spy ring. According to Gill, Boris "was ideologically uncommitted, constitutionally discreet, addicted to fame and money, and oblivious to the distinction between truth and fiction," traits that enabled him to survive purges, betrayals, and precarious Soviet politics."

This book is perfect for readers who like comprehensive, detailed oriented biographies, rich in history but that read like a thriller.  

Gill did extensive research. Much of it came from readily available materials and well as 1930s and 1940s popular scholarly periodical materials, such as music, radio, theater, and film trade journals. He also conducted interviews with members of Boris's family. Unpublished as well as classified and declassified official sources proved to be very useful. One invaluable source was the archive that was collected by Alexander Vassiliev (former KGB) and eventually published in The Haunted Wood.

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson
Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away by Anne Hagedorn
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre
My Ten Years as a Counter-Spy by Boris Morros

Flying Deuces (Laurel & Hardy)
Second Chorus (Paulette Goddard & Fred Astaire)
Man on a String (Ernest Borgnine portrays Boris) 

Sue Ketcham, Retired

The Sisterhood: The Secret History of Women at the CIA by Liza Mundy

Mundy, author of the bestselling Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II (2017), returns with another work of espionage history centering women. Intrigued by CIA history while researching her earlier book, Mundy interviewed current and former CIA officers in order to tell the story of the CIA from its inception during World War II through the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. 

The Sisterhood reads like any well-written and thoroughly researched work of history, replete with anecdotes, quotes, major and minor events, and biographical sketches. For this reason, I would recommend the book to any reader of history. Increasing its appeal is its novelistic structure: exposition, increased conflict, climax, and resolution. 

The book begins with an exposition of how women gradually increased their presence and influence at the CIA from the 1940s to the 1980s. During this period, the CIA had a very macho culture, what the author calls the “Old Boys’ Club.” Women faced sexual harassment and sexist comments and were subjected to a double-standard. They were also denied promotions and were excluded from career-track positions. They did important work, but men received the credit. This was infuriating to read, but that indignation propelled me through the book. 

This first part of The Sisterhood especially focuses on female clandestine officers. Originally, women were excluded from receiving spy training at “The Farm,” the intense training camp where CIA agents are equipped for overseas service. However, highly talented women refused to give up on their dreams of becoming Case Officers. They persisted and excelled as Case Officers during the Cold War, obtaining important intelligence. Interestingly, their sex gave them multiple advantages, such as their ability to fly under the radar of the enemy and to use their emotional intelligence to win trust. 

Moving into the 1990s, the book shifts settings from overseas to Headquarters. During this time, women at the CIA landed numerous victories. For example, a small team of women tirelessly investigated and exposed Aldrich Ames, a CIA officer and a Russian mole, who was arrested in 1994. Women also won legal cases against the CIA, including one in which officers’ wives, most of whom had performed critical unpaid intelligence work, were able to receive part of their ex-husbands’ pensions after divorce.

During this second part of the book, Mundy shifts the focus off clandestine officers and onto the female analysts who worked at CIA Headquarters. She highlights their brilliance and expertise. This section of the book builds significant tension and conflict as we learn about the founding of Alec Station, the Bin Laden Issue Station in the basement of Headquarters. These genius women were experts on terrorism, Al Qaeda, and bin Laden, amassing an impressive wealth of intelligence on the growth of Al Qaeda in the 90s and submitting countless papers and reports to their superiors regarding the growing threat. They even alerted their superiors to multiple opportunities to kill bin Laden. Unfortunately, their warnings went unheeded for most of the decade. Mundy offers multiple reasons why their warnings were ignored, but the fact that the department was staffed primarily by women was undoubtedly part of the reason why they were not taken seriously. 

This drumbeat of impending doom left me with a visceral sickness as I recognized that the analysts would not stop bin Laden in time to save thousands of lives. The tension peaks as Mundy recounts the events of 9/11 and the intense guilt, fear, and drive felt by the female officers in its aftermath. As a reader, it was fascinating to watch the analysts and clandestine officers join forces in the singular effort to fight terrorism and catch bin Laden. Because the women of Alec Station had been tracking bin Laden for years, their expertise suddenly became desperately needed and sought after. Women played an essential role in the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and it was gratifying to see these women holding significant leadership positions. However, even well into the 2010s, female officers still faced prejudice, sexism, and a double-standard. 

Like any good story, The Sisterhood has several main characters, and the book wraps up by telling us what became of women like Lisa Manfull Harper, Heidi August, Cindy Storer, and Gina Bennett, whose careers we follow from the beginning of the book. These biographical details are crucial for maintaining reader interest throughout this 400+ page book. Additionally, several exciting events keep the pages turning. The 1985 plane hijacking in Malta, for example, becomes a pivotal moment for Heidi August, compelling her to fight terrorism for the remainder of her career. Unfortunately, the book often gets stuck in a slog of confusing Headquarters politics and office drama. It was difficult at times for me to keep track of the various departments, positions, career changes, minor characters, and overlapping timelines. This is not a James Bond novel, and I would not recommend it to readers looking for that type of book. 

Instead, I would recommend this book to anyone, male or female, who is interested in international relations, American foreign policy, the CIA, Washington culture, and counterterrorism. I would also recommend this book to readers who enjoy empowering stories of brilliant women defying sexist power structures. It is an inspiring, but heavy read. 

Circle of Treason by Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille
Wise Gals by Nathalia Holt
In True Face by Jonna Mendez

Emma Yohannan, Central Islip Public Library

The Dictionary of People: The Unsung Heroes Who Created the Oxford English Dictionary
by Sarah Ogilvie

I never thought about how new dictionaries become established, especially one that would become the first dictionary of the English language that aimed to start with the Anglo Saxons and describe the language, word origins, and their usage.

Sarah Ogilvie has written a book about just that. Ms. Ogilvie is a linguist, lexicographer, computer scientist, writer, professor, and former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Dr. Ogilvie is currently a member of the Department of Linguistics, Philology & Phonetics at Clarendon Institute, University of Oxford.

Her book is filled with the stories about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and the brilliant, quirky, dedicated volunteers who toiled for many years to compile the dictionary. 
The OED was first proposed by members of the London Philological Society in 1857. Ads were published in newspapers and literary publications asking for volunteers to read books and send in slips that specify a word and quote of its usage in the book. Many people responded by sending in hundreds of thousands of slips over the 70 years it took to complete the OED. In 1879 Oxford agreed to publish the work. It’s first edition came out on January 29, 1884. Two of its best-known editors were Frederick Furnivall and the Scottish lexicographer, James Murry. There have been several updated editions over the years along with a CD-ROM version in 1987 and the first online edition in 2000. 

Who were these volunteers? According to Dr. Ogilvie’s professionally researched and well written book, they were, average people, language specialists, alcoholics, architects, inventors, linguists, philologists, kleptomaniacs, scientists, medical doctors, a murderer, a cannibal, suffragists, and the daughter of Karl Marx, along with many, many more. They came from all over the world. The OED has been called the “Wikipedia of its time.”

The creation of this historical publication is extremely interesting and reads like a mystery, but it might not be for everyone at 384 pages. Anyone who loves words and language and stories about eccentric, remarkable people should give it a try.

The Dictionary Wars by Peter Martin
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library

Disney's Land by Richard Snow

Richard Snow brings a factual account on how one of the greatest amusement parks came to be. This title discusses Walt Disney’s early life, building up to his ideas and reasons for wanting to create such a place. The author shares the challenges and setbacks in developing Disneyland, including finding a location, obtaining funding, and working with many who had limited knowledge of a skill while learning on the job. After building a miniature railroad of his own in his backyard, Walt was inspired to build something bigger so that the world can enjoy a clean park with an emphasis on having a happy staff. He decided to hire data analysts who examined the best developing area in California and bought property in Anaheim for $4,600 an acre. Walt’s brother, Roy Disney, took on the business end for Walt, managing to get ABC network to invest a half a million dollars in Disneyland. The author writes about the important figures who aided in the building and construction of Disneyland including Vice President C.V. Wood, engineer of the Mark Twain Joe Fowler, landscaping company the Evans Brothers, Arrow Development Co. who built Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the Tea Cups, and Harriet Burns, the first woman to be hired by Disney, who worked on props and miniature models.

When Disneyland finally opens, a televised show airs with host Art Linkletter announcing the parade, interviewing guests and providing a dedication to each land in the park. The show was a success, but on the inside of the park, it was a mess. Thousands of people were entering who really weren’t supposed to be there, causing long lines for attractions and bathrooms. They ran out of food, people left with paint stains on their clothing due to last minute paint jobs and the rides did not run smoothly. The press had a field day writing up all they saw on opening day, but it did not deter people from coming the next day. Eventually, with the right equipment and expertise, rides began operating correctly and soon more attractions were added. This non-fiction piece ends with Walt’s death from lung cancer. The light in Disney’s firehouse apartment burns all night long every night of the year. On the window are names that helped birth Disneyland along with phrases said by these dreamers. For a historical non-fiction story, the author clearly organizes the events chronologically in short chapters, appealing to any ride enthusiast and to anyone who wants to learn more about Disney’s dream. I felt the concise writing made this book appealing to those who enjoy less detail in informational pieces and the people introduced in each chapter made it a memorable story of the vision that came true.

Architects of an American Landscape by Hugh Howard
The Disney Animation Renaissance by Mary Lescher
Three Years in Wonderland by Todd James Pierce

Liana Coletti, West Islip Public Library

Children of Ash and Elm by Neil Price

Throughout history, there are many peoples or past Empires and Kingdoms who, when mentioned, conjure up clear images in the minds of people today. The Romans, the Mongols, the Pilgrims, or the Aztecs; whenever groups like these are spoken of, most of us will have similar ideas of who and what they were in our head. Many of us will (hopefully) recognize that the images in our heads don’t perfectly represent who these people were, but usually the disparity isn’t too great. However, movies and television, as well as the simple passage of time, warp our understanding of history, leading us to misconceptions or overgeneralizations. The task of good historical non-fiction books is often to sift fact from fiction and correct our preconceived notions. Perhaps no people in all of history however, have a wider difference in their public perception versus their lived reality, than the people commonly referred to as the Vikings. 

From the horned helmets that were invented in the 19th century for a production of a Germanic opera, to the idea that they were wild-haired savages eating magic mushrooms to begin blood-lusted rampages through Christian Europe; almost everything the common person pictures when thinking of the Vikings is either misguided or a complete fabrication. For his newest book, Children of Ash & Elm: A History of the Vikings, archaeologist Neil Price meticulously deconstructs the web of lies and confusion that surround these extraordinary people. 
For many, reading historical works is an attempt to fill in the gaps of our knowledge, a way to bring the past into living color. With a people like the Vikings, Price’s task is less about adding depth to what the average reader knows, but more akin to a sculptor carving away at a block of stone to reveal the truth of the Vikings, hidden beneath our preconceptions. Price spends the entire first third of the book challenging the reader to center the Vikings in their own narrative, even using multiple pages to discuss whether ‘Vikings’ is even an appropriate word for the people of Scandinavia in this time period. Too often, the Vikings are portrayed as a hitherto unknown people, exploding into the history of Europe in the period after the Roman Empire falls and before the European Kingdoms of France, England, or the Holy Roman Empire can take root. Instead, like the title suggests, Children of Ash & Elm places them firmly in their own world first, before seeing how their interactions with the rest of Europe and Asia play out. Or as Price puts it in his introduction; “What, for some, is ‘background’, building up to what the Vikings accomplished out in the world, is here the point itself.”
These parts form the strongest sections of the book, where Price uses archaeological evidence as well as the few surviving contemporary accounts, to give the reader an idea of who the Vikings were. Not just how they dressed or built their homes, but what motivated them to dress or build that way, how the natural world around them shaped their beliefs, and most importantly, how the Vikings viewed themselves as individuals and as a community. Only when Price has sufficiently described these people, does he go into the more traditional history; the monastery raids, the invasions of England and France, as well as the settlement of Iceland and North America. Yet he routinely goes to great pains to remind the reader that we should not view these events simply as dates with lines on a map. He wants the reader to understand what is motivating these people on these extraordinary journeys. Many of the stories Price highlights in these sections survive as mere fragments of the incredible and mysterious lives these people led. Warriors who traveled from their homes in Sweden to the far East of Baghdad, before settling somewhere in England. A Queen from Iceland that possibly visited North America before her meeting with the Pope. Or even the regular farmers who erected massive stones carved in intricate runes, to honor their families, and leave behind a legacy for their descendants.
Children of Ash & Elm is an incredibly rich work, but that richness also comes with density. Those not used to reading academic historical non-fiction may be daunted both by the size, clocking in at just over 600 pages, and by the writing style standard to this level of research. The structure of the book could also confuse those who have no understanding of European history in this period (roughly covering the years 600 - 1200) as Price bounces around in both time and space, rather than following any sort of linear timeline as a more traditional history book might. Anyone with the faintest interest in the Vikings should read Children of Ash & Elm, those without that interest may lose steam after hearing about yet another burial mound and what its findings mean for historians and archaeologists. For those who crave richness and complexity when reading, Price’s newest book is an excellent work about one of history’s most misrepresented and misunderstood people.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
Northmen: The Viking Saga, AD 793-1241 by John Haywood
River Kings by Cat Jarman 

Connor McCormack, Northport-East Northport Public Library 

Translated Fiction

Mother's Instinct by Barbara Abel

Translated from the French by Susan Pickford

The Brunelle’s and Geniot’s live next door to each other and are best friends. Their sons are also best friends. But what happens when one son dies? And who is to blame?

This intriguing thriller sets a quick pace with short chapters that follow the dissolution and destruction of these once-close friends. Mothers Leticia and Tiphanie go into each other’s houses, share everything, and treat each other’s kids like their own, but when Tiphanie’s son falls from a window and dies, she turns her anger and grief on Leticia. Does grief turn to revenge? Or is paranoia running rampant? 

At the funeral, Tiphanie lashes out at Leticia. Then as weeks and months go by, strange things begin happening to Leticia and her family including a family friend being murdered on their street. 

Finally, Tiphanie seems to be getting over her grief and awkwardly invites her neighbors to dinner. But while they’re there, Milo (Leticia’s son) is rushed to the hospital after eating Doritos.

Did Tiphanie intentionally put poisoned powder on them or was it a mistake (she left herbal powder where Milo could reach it). This push/pull dance goes on – Leticia doesn’t know whether or not she can trust Tiphanie – until the surprise conclusion which leaves a permanent ending to Leticia’s family.

The husbands have no real role in the story. Both are passive and accepting of whatever comes their way. While the mothers have always been striving to be perfect mothers, the fathers don’t feel the need to compete in child rearing.

This book would be good for people who like thrillers and family drama.

Let Me Lie by Clare MacKintosh
The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes
Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library

The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada
Translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews

SIDE NOTES: Never read a book in translation before. That said, I liked looking up all the places in Argentina that the author has mentioned in her book. Some include Rosario, Buenos Aires, and Patagonia.

APPEAL: For those interested in religious fiction, small town/rural setting, family drama, and character development.

This story opens with a Reverend and his teenage daughter Leni stuck at a mechanic shop, waiting for their car to be repaired before moving on to their destination of a friend’s house in Castelli.

Both the Reverend and Leni are invited to stay for dinner since the process of fixing their car will take some time. During their time at the shop, we learn a lot about the Reverend (Pearson), Leni, Gringo (Mr. Brauer) the mechanic, and his young worker Tapioca. The Reverend attempts to share Christianity beliefs to Mr. Bauer and Tapioca, but they are reluctant to listen about religion, or at least Mr. Bauer is reluctant because he believes in the nature of things and that religion is for people to hide behind God. Pearson became a Reverend after his miraculous baptism and his mother encouraged him to share his journey while learning and teaching biblical messages.

Leni thinks her father is a bit forceful when it comes to his teachings and is a bit apprehensive when first meeting the Gringo and Tapioca. She eventually loosens up and mocks her father’s way of sharing the Bible. She admires her father but disapproves of his approach. We learn of her mother who seemed to have a love for her and the Reverend. However, one day, as they were traveling, Leni heard them arguing. He grabbed her mother’s suitcase, brought it to her, and left her on the side of the road crying. We do not learn of how and why this has happened.

Tapioca’s background is just as sad as we are told that his mom took care of him until he was 9 yrs. old. They both show up at the mechanic’s shop and she explains to the Gringo that Tapioca is his son. She  tells him that this is too much to do on her own and she needs to find work so she leaves him with the Gringo who has agreed to care for him. Though Tapioca is scared at first, he becomes friendly with his dogs and becomes acclimated to his new living environment. The Reverend does get through to Tapioca a.k.a. Jose (his real name).

Half way through the story, the Reverend finally has a chance to speak with the Gringo, explaining how well he has raised Tapioca (Jose) but his religious education is lacking. The Gringo didn’t want to listen to anything about religion so the Reverend left him alone. Tapioca, on the other hand, was definitely moved by the Reverend’s words and felt that he was sent there for a reason. The Reverend decides he is going to persuade the Gringo in taking Tapioca to his next visit and then bring him back.

Just as the car becomes fixed, a storm rolls through and the Reverend and his daughter are unable to leave. While waiting out the storm, Gringo and Reverend have a deep conversation about their past, telling memories of how they grew up and particularly talking about death. As they grow in their bond, the Reverend finally asks the Gringo if Tapioca can come along on their next visit. They have a physical fight over this and the end result is that the Gringo gives in and allows Tapioca to go.

The ending falls flat in that the Reverend, Leni, and Tapioca all drive away with no interaction but their own thoughts and each character is meant to see something, but the “something” is never explained. The story does not go on and we are left pondering what happens to the characters. There are also many unanswered questions such as what happened to Leni’s mom.

Quote that I enjoyed:
“We’ve been on the road long enough to know that patience is a good counselor. There’s a reason for every turn of events, even if we don’t know what it is.” ~ Reverend

Brickmakers and Dead Girls by Selva Almada
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez
Noah's Wife by Lindsay Starck
The Boys by Toni Sala

Liana Coletti, West Islip Public Library

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a delightful and heartwarming novel that skillfully weaves together humor, empathy, and human connection. The story revolves around a failed bank robber who inadvertently finds himself in a hostage situation during an open house apartment viewing. As the police attempt to unravel the mystery behind the events, the novel takes readers on a captivating journey exploring the lives and anxieties of the diverse group of characters involved.

The novel is a celebration of human imperfections and the profound impact that understanding and compassion can have on individuals facing their own struggles. Backman's writing is both insightful and humorous, creating a narrative that effortlessly balances laughter and introspection. The characters are richly developed, each with their quirks and vulnerabilities, making it easy for readers to connect with and care about them.

The power of empathy, forgiveness, and the unexpected ways in which people can come together to support one another are themes throughout the novel. The novel is a testament to the idea that even in the midst of chaos, there is room for kindness and understanding.

This book is perfect for readers who enjoy character-driven stories with a blend of humor and heart. If you appreciate novels that explore the complexities of human relationships and the resilience of the human spirit, this is a must-read. It's a touching and uplifting tale that will leave you with a renewed sense of hope and a smile on your face.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley

Nanci Helmle, The Smithtown Library, Commack Building

Text for You by Sofie Cramer
Translated from the German by Marshall Yarbrough

Two years after her fiancé Ben died, Clara is still trying to piece her life back together. As things at work get hectic and she's on the verge of losing her job do to downsizing, she decides she's going to text Ben's old phone as a way to talk about her feelings and hopefully figure out how to move on. Unbeknownst to her, Ben's phone number has been reassigned to a man named Sven, who is now receiving her text messages. At first he thinks it's strange, but the more messages he receives, the more he's intrigued by the sender. Being a journalist, he does some research and eventually tracks her down. What starts as simple curiosity turns into a first date and Sven not being honest with Clara as to who he is.

The book takes place over several months and in that time we see Clara come out of her grief and find herself again. We learn more about Ben and how their relationship wasn't perfect and we see how grief can effect a person on a tremendous level. Clara's best friend and Sven's co-worker make for fun interactions in what is overall a sad book, and an eventual coming of terms leaves the reader hopeful for Clara and Sven. 

While not the best romance book ever written, Text for You is a pleasant story and pulls at the reader's heartstrings. It's setting in Germany also makes for an interesting read, leaning about the towns where the two main characters live as well as their lives and customs. This book would be best for romance readers who don't mind a slow read and a good cry as long as there's a happy ever after.

If interested, this book was made into a Netflix movie called Love Again starring Sam Heughan and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. The general story is still the same, but some of the details have been changed including the character's names, having Celine Dion, playing herself, help in the search for "Clara", and it's no longer set in Germany.

The Last Goodbye by Fiona Lucas
Someone Else's Bucket List by Amy Matthews
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

The Boy and the Dog by Seishu Hase
Translated from the Japanese by Alison Watts

There are endless stories about the spiritual bonds formed between people and dogs. Seishu Hase’s The Boy and The Dog, translated into English from the original Japanese by Alison Watts, explores all the different forms this bond can take. Hase uses a series of vignettes to tell the story of a dog named after a Japanese guardian deity, Tamon, traversing across the islands of Japan in search of family, in the aftermath of the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Along this incredible journey, Tamon embodies all the different ways humans connect with dogs. As emotional support for someone in crisis, a family companion for a man struggling with money, as a guard dog for a thief hoping to go clean, or as a hunting dog for an aging widower; Tamon fits seamlessly into each person’s life before continuing his journey. Some of the stories are stronger than others, but each provides a unique glimpse into how people and dogs interact.

Hase’s writing style is laconic, but his economy of words still creates a fully formed world for each of the stories within the novel. Despite only staying with the human characters for short periods of time, they are all fully fleshed out, allowing the reader to connect with many of them instantly. Some readers might be thrown off guard with how flawed some of them are, but in a way, this just showcases how dogs can affect all kinds of people. Hase mainly writes crime novels about the Yakuza, and it shows in how some of these stories play out, but it does not detract from the overall charm of the book as a whole. In many ways, Tamon’s presence is what inspires these flawed characters to change. While the people are interesting and carry the plot forward, Tamon is the central figure of the novel. Although there is no fantastical element of hearing Tamon’s voice or thoughts, he still comes across full of personality, with his own unique character. For each of the people in the novel Tamon encounters, he always seems to find them at just the right moment in their lives; something any pet owner can relate too.

While the connection between people and dogs is the driving force of the novel, the other main theme is humanity in the aftermath of a disaster. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami have created an indelible mark in Japan. The novel begins just a few months after the disaster and continues years later, yet readers will still feel the long shadow that surviving such a cataclysmic event can cast over a person’s life. There is always a somber tone to the writing, with an undercurrent feeling that another disaster is never far away. Many of Tamon’s caretakers are experiencing extreme loneliness or PTSD. At no point is Tamon the perfect cure for these ailments, but in all cases, he is what allows the person to begin their healing process. 

On its surface, The Boy and the Dog could have been a simple and heartwarming story about a dog looking for his lost family. A Disney movie turned into the written word. Instead, Hase structures the novel in a way that challenges this straightforward approach, allowing him to explore the bond between people and dogs in a more meaningful and deeper way. Some readers may feel that the emotional climax of the story falls a bit short compared to what came before. Hase tends to tell the reader what they should feel, rather than allowing these emotions to come up naturally. This comes across in its strongest form at the end of the novel with the final vignette. Thankfully, the uneven ending does not diminish the beautiful stories contained within. For anyone who has bonded with a dog before, The Boy and the Dog will bring on strong emotions and remind us of the power of a dog’s love.

A Dog's Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

Connor McCormack, Northport-East Northport Public Library

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Translated from the Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot

At the Tokyo cafe, "Funiculi Funicula", if someone sits in a certain chair, if they are poured a cup of coffee, they are given the chance to travel to the past.  There are several rules that need to be followed, the most important of them being, you must return before the coffee cup cools.

Through four interlinked stories ("The Lovers; Husband and Wife; The Sisters; Mother and Child"), we read the emotional, heartwarming time-travel journeys of customers and employees.  This slim novel is compelling, engaging and the leisure pace allows the reader to focus on details and character development.

"At the end of the day, whether one returns to the past or travels to the future, the present does not change. So, it raises the question: just what is the point of the chair?" Can the chair change someone's heart?

In 2018, this book was made into a movie called Cafe Funiculi Funicula.

The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Tales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (book 2)
Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (book 3)
Shubeik Lubeik by Dina Muhammad

Sue Ketcham, Retired

Eastbound by Maylis de Kerangal
Translated from the French by Jessica Moore

Eastbound by Maylis De Kerangal, translated from French by Jessica Moore, explores the relationship of two strangers who come together in unlikely circumstances on a train heading east across Russia. As the work unfolds, we find ourselves drawn to the characters. Aliocha is a young Russian man, conscripted into the Army headed to his perceived certain doom. Hélène is a French woman who is fleeing an unfulfilling relationship with a Russian bureaucrat.

Hélène knows a few words in Russian, Aliocha no French at all. In a dance of pantomimes and broken explanations they communicate. The plot is simplistic – he is trying to desert an army he has not yet officially joined, and she is running away from, but not to anything or anyplace in particular.  
De Kerangal paints a bleak picture of Russia. Cold gray days and rampant alcoholism, lack of power in the lower classes, remnants of Soviet era bureaucracy, all conspire to create a young man with a visually stooped posture, already beaten down by a system that has fated him to serve in an Army of bullies. The train car in which he begins his journey is dark, damp, dirty and poorly lit. It reeks of sweat, cigarette smoke, and the prevailing feeling of fear. This is in stark contrast to the car he finds himself in with Hélène. The first-class car is spacious in comparison, clean, and although clearly large enough for two people, she is the only inhabitant.  

The two characters interact in a series of meaningful looks, hand gestures and a few words of broken Russian uttered by Hélène. A surprising accomplice arrives in the form of the provodnitsa (a woman who cleans and oversees the carriage), who both gives Aliocha information about the stations and creates a diversion when the train is being searched for the missing soldier.  

While there is just enough plot to move the story along, the real meat of this novel is in the character study and setting. De Kerengal paints a picture of Russia and leans weight to the import of the scenery when she uses the “Pearl of Russia,” Lake Baikal, as a visual turning point in the story. The train passes the lake and passengers are entranced. It is not long after this physical break in the bleakness of the story that we see the plot take a turn to a more hopeful path.

As the book concludes, we are left with a haunting view of Russia and how she treats her lower classes, and how the harsh landscape reflects, or perhaps, creates, a populace of downtrodden depressed citizenry. This is not a book with a plot tied up with a neat little bow, but rather a study in landscape, setting, and character.   

Although written in 2012, it is clear why Moore would choose to translate this book in 2023. As Russia continues to wield military power in Ukraine, the threat of conscription looms for the current generation. The style can be challenging to read with long sentences that require the reader to keep the subject and predicate in mind. Readers who enjoy descriptive writing and setting-driven work will find this book likable. 

Cafe Unfiltered by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Embers by Sandor Marai
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Midnight Train to Prague by Carol Windley

Ellen Covino, Sayville Public Library

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
Translated from the Italian by the author

This short novel by acclaimed author Lahiri offers a unique reading experience that will appeal to a slim audience. Written using the present tense and a first-person point of view, the novel is composed of short chapters and short sentences. Since the novel lacks a plot, it is best described as a series of vignettes. The chapter titles capture the sketch-like quality of the book: “In the Waiting Room,” “At the Beautician.” The novel is more akin to poetry than to fiction is written as stream-of-consciousness. Furthermore, each character and location remain unnamed, including the protagonist. Curiously, the city where the book takes place, and which is a character in its own right, is never identified, although it is obviously Rome or another major Italian city. Lahiri herself moved to Rome from the United States, and Italian words pop up throughout the text, such as ciao, arrivederci, and signora. There are also references to ancient ruins. I believe the anonymity of the location and characters evokes the universality of urban loneliness. Nevertheless, this will be off-putting to most readers, particularly given the lack of plot. Sadly, many readers, me included, first fell in love with Lahiri’s work due to its generous cultural specificity. Her short stories capture details of the Indian American experience that are rooted in specific places, people, and events. Therefore, the vagueness of Whereabouts, if not disappointing, is at the very least disorienting and frequently confusing. For example, the protagonist mentions “my friend” in reference to a nameless character described earlier in the novel. The reader lacks the anchor that names provide. This is one reason why I believe this book rewards readers willing to consume it in one sitting. Indeed, despite the meandering plot, the short chapters keep you reading. They are lulling, almost hypnotic, and they often end with a punchy sentence that pushes you forward. Just as you would not read one stanza of a poem and walk away, so too in this case, the chapters must be read in one sitting to appreciate the wholeness of the work. 

The heroine, a nameless, solitary professor in her early 40s, is depressed. She has a cynical and bleak outlook and remains alienated despite her frequent interactions with friends and acquaintances. She is working through the issues and traumas of her youth: the death of her father, her estrangement from her mother. Walking with the protagonist through this listless fog of loneliness, the reader is rewarded by moments of poignant beauty. We share her delight in the rays of sunshine at a local park and celebrate the moment when she finds herself laughing “for the first time” (pg. 144). By experiencing the most mundane moments with the heroine, I grew to care for her with an empathy that most protagonists fail to elicit. By sacrificing plot, Lahiri offers a different way to connect with a character on a deeper level. 

I would describe Whereabouts as meditative, introspective, and poignant. I think most people, however, will find the novel confusing, depressing, and boring. For a certain reader, however, this book might be a revelation, particularly if they can relate to middle-aged, urban isolation. I would recommend this novel to lovers of contemporary poetry, someone who wants a book to savor, or those who seek to inhabit the Italian setting. 

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Emma Yohannan, Central Islip Public Library

The Last Wild Horses by Maja Lunde
Translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley

Author Maja Lunde has written other novels that address the effects of climate change—specifically, The History of Bees and The End of the Ocean. But her latest entry in this topic-connected series focuses on the Przewalski horse, or the takhi—the last living wild horses that are thought to be the ancestors of the domestic horse that we know today. Lunde’s novel describes three distinct attempts at the preservation of this endangered species by including three diverse narratives, in three different time periods, depicting three different scenarios.

The story opens in the year 2064, after what is referred to as “The Collapse.” The effects of climate change have reduced humankind to a dystopian existence based solely on resourcefulness and survival. The reader is introduced to Eva and her daughter who are living on what remains of their wildlife farm. And because Eva is determined to save the last specimens of wild horses that they have living on the farm, she refuses to leave her property to join others who have fled north to a more inhabitable environment—in spite of the fact that her daughter urges her to do so. As supplies dwindle, Eva travels to the docks to barter for food and comes upon a “wanderer” who appears to be in distress. She offers her a ride and refuge for a few days at the farm, only to have days turn into weeks, and weeks into months—changing the dynamic at the farm in unforeseen ways.

Next, the reader is introduced to Mikhali, a zoologist in 1881 St. Petersburg. Having been informed that the skull of the infamous Przewalski horse had been found in Mongolia, an expedition is arranged to find, capture, and return some of the elusive animals to the zoo in Russia, with the ultimate goal of preserving the animal’s bloodline. The excursion not only provides a physical challenge for the zoologist, but it also tests his understanding of his identity and his heart.

Finally, in 1992 Berlin, a veterinarian dedicates her life to preserving the tahki horse by breeding them and then returning them to the wild in Mongolia. As we read about her latest effort to transport a group of horses to their final destination in Mongolia, we witness the complex relationship she has with her son, who has had an unsteady recovery from drug addiction.

Seamlessly alternating narratives throughout the novel, Lunde creates a compelling atmosphere in each scenario that will absorb the reader from the beginning of the book to its reflective conclusion. The characters are thoroughly fleshed out, and the reader’s emotions will authentically coincide with those depicted in the story. Beautifully written and provocative in its portrayal, the characters may live in different time periods, but all display an extraordinary commitment to preserving a small slice of nature. You don’t have to love horses to enjoy The Last Wild Horses, as it makes a powerful statement about humanity, the various forms love can take, and the lengths to which people will go to preserve the connection between themselves and the natural world.

Horse by Geraldine Brooks
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Extinction by Bradley Somer

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina
Translated from the Italian by Lucy Rand

This a story about grief, sadness, hope, and love inspired by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated many coastal areas of Japan in the Toholu region. Yuri, the main character is a young radio show host who lost her mother and daughter to the tsunami. Through her phone-in radio show, she learns about a wind phone where people go to have one-way conversations with their deceased loved ones. When she arrives at Bell Gardia, where the phone booth is located, she meets the garden’s curator and the two become friendly. Each month she makes the hours long trip to the mountains and each time she sees a man. After several months they also become friendly. They share their tragedies, she about losing her mother and daughter, who although they followed instructions and sought shelter on higher ground still perished as the tsunami was greater than expected.  He, Takeshi, tells her about his wife’s terminal illness and the trauma that caused his daughter to stop speaking. Their relationship deepens as they continue to visit the wind phone each month.  On many of these occasions they meet others who are mourning their own loss. There is the father whose son is swept out to sea in a rubber raft after accepting a dare from a friend. The father is both sad and angry at his son’s carelessness. They also meet a young student who talks to his mother and gives weekly updates about the rest of the family, and finally a young man who speaks candidly to his father that is still very much alive.  Although she has visited Bell Gardia for years, Yui cannot bring herself to speak into the phone.  

After a time, Yui and Takeshi’s relationship becomes romantic. He invites her to live with him and his daughter and she moves in. All seems well until he proposes, and Yui has to decide whether or not she can leave her old life behind and move forward with a new family.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written with elegant sentences that border on poetry. The characters felt real and each one made you feel their pain. Because this story was inspired by real life events, it was especially meaningful, and many times brought me to tears. The beautifully described setting felt otherworldly and made me want to travel to Japan someday. This novel would make a great book discussion and I would recommend it to patrons looking for something special for their next book group. The book includes a glossary and helpful notes that speak to the uniqueness of this magical place.

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
Death and Other Holidays by Marci Vogel

Karen McHugh, Harborfields Public Library

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten
Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good is a fun collection of 5 mystery/crime short stories written by the well-known Swedish crime writer, Helene Tursten. Her most famous books are the  Detective Inspector Irene Huss series and have been dramatized as movies and tv series. An Elderly Lady is completely separate from that series and is centered around Maud, an 88-year old woman who lands on the opposite side of the law.

When reading stories with an elderly protagonist, we might assume the character is hard of hearing, weak in the legs, and fuzzy in the mind. This is definitely an ageist trope, and the author uses that stereotype to her advantage. Maud, our elderly protagonist, is well aware of the ways that younger people view the elderly and uses that to her advantage--performing feats that mentally and physically she is still capable of and then covering up her actions by pretending to be a fuzzy little old lady. I don’t want to give away all the details as that would spoil the surprises, but suffice it to say that she gets into all sorts of trouble that she ultimately benefits from and gets away with it. She’s the complete opposite of Miss Marple.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes crime fiction or mysteries. I would also suggest it to anyone who enjoys a rather subversive, feminist fiction read. It’s a short, sweet collection that reads quickly but leaves ones interested in reading more about Maud in the sequel, An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed. It’s a bit like a good appetizer --you eat it quickly, and it gets you ready for your next meal.

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon
The Old Woman with the Knife by Byeong-Mo Gu
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Carolyn Brooks, The Smithtown Library - Commack Building

Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir

Your Table is Ready by Michael Checchi-Azzolina

This book is marketed as a food memoir written by a man who worked at some of the most famous restaurants in New York City and was once lauded as the “top Maître D'” in the city. The tantalizing title and marketing leads the reader to expect a book chock-full of tales of fine food and fine wine, the challenges and creativity associated with working with famous chefs, and exciting encounters with celebrities served by the author. Unfortunately for the reader, the book reads more like an encounter with a random drunken stranger at a bar who spends the evening recounting his sexual and drug-filled exploits in college rather than an interesting story of the ins and outs of the restaurant industry in NYC.

Michael Cecchi-Azzolina grew up in Brooklyn in a deeply mob-connected single-parent household. He started off as a thieving altar boy, graduated to selling stolen pastries off of the back of a truck and working the counter at his local diner (skimming money off the till with his fellow workers), and eventually headed off to college in Florida where he could get an English degree done with as little work and as much partying as possible. He lands back in NYC in an attempt to break into the acting biz. As many wanna-be actors do, he made ends meet by becoming a waiter. The next eighty percent of the book is a recollection of all the sex, drugs, and rock and roll that he experienced in the rollicking seventies, eighties, and nineties. He is very graphic in his language and describes every drug and sexcapade he and his fellow workers got into. The last twenty percent of the book actually addresses his life as a full-fledged and well-known Maître D' who helped to make some of the most famous restaurants successful. This was the most interesting part of the book and what I had expected to read from the blurbs.

This book is quite shallow and self-aggrandizing. Cecchi attempts to go for a rough and tumble Anthony Bourdain-type atmosphere, but it just reads as a tawdry list of parties and adolescent actor shenanigans. He touches briefly upon a number of topics in the book that could have led to deeper and more interesting reflections on society at the time (the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s and its effect on his colleagues, his life as a director and actor, the misogyny and mistreatment of women in the business, and the general mistreatment of workers in the restaurant industry), but rather than exploring those depths he turns back to crass party stories. I would not recommend this to most readers because the percentage of worthwhile content doesn’t balance out the graphic language and stories of sex and drug use.  

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Heat by Bill Buford
Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Carolyn Brooks, The Smithtown Library - Commack Building

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World 
by Jonathan Freedland

Broadly speaking, biographies of historical figures tend to fall into two major categories. The first is the straightforward recounting of an individual’s life, from their childhood to their death. The second, and the category that Jonathan Freedland’s masterful book The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World falls into, is when an author uses a single individual as a reader’s window into a broad historical event. Freedland’s account of Rudolf Vrba’s (born Walter Rosenberg) escape from Auschwitz and attempts to stop the Holocaust in progress, is a brilliant work that gives readers a first-person point of view of one of humanity’s greatest crimes. 

The most gripping sections of the book detail how Vrba was first able to survive within the camp and his subsequent escape. These chapters give readers an in-depth look at Auschwitz’s complex hierarchy, both among the prisoners and their tormentors, the day-to-day life of those spared from the gas chambers, and how Vrba, only 19, used his unique position to plot his escape. However, the escape from the camp is only the beginning of Vrba’s complex life. His main reasoning for escape was not purely for personal safety, but to spread the news of Germany’s mass murder to those who he believed could put a stop to it. The final sections of the book show how Vrba’s message repeatedly and agonizingly fell on deaf ears, and how Vrba, who lived until 2005, dealt with what he perceived as a failure to save hundreds of thousands of people from their fate. 

Freedland, who also writes thrillers under the pseudonym Sam Bourne, paces the story well while still taking time to pause the narrative, in order to paint a wider picture of the events surrounding Vrba. Even though readers will know at the start that Vrba’s escape is successful, the tension is palpable as he and his fellow escapee, Alfred Wetzler, hide under a stack of lumber for three days as SS patrols search for them. Most importantly, the book does not shirk from showing Vrba’s own failings after the war. Vrba’s escape helped prevent some 200,000 Jewish people of Hungary avoid extermination. Yet Vrba himself would be the first to tell anyone that he was not a hero, despite his heroic act. He is human. He is angry and combative, even with those who want to help him, arrogant at times and consistently sarcastic. It is hard to discern if his extreme paranoia is a product of his experience living for two years in Auschwitz, or if that paranoia was what allowed him to survive and escape. In his own words, Vrba did not fit into “the survivor clichés manufactured for the taste of a certain type of public.” 

The Escape Artist is not a typical Holocaust biography, which means it is not for all audiences. It does not contain many stirring messages of hope; there are no reassuring lines like the immortal words of Anne Frank: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Instead, many readers may be left shaking with rage when Freedland reveals how not only did leaders of both the remaining Jewish communities within Europe and the Allied war effort, ignore Vrba’s warnings, but how some of them actively suppressed the information. Vrba himself would have to reckon with this fact all his life, and only decades later would he achieve some sort of peace.  

The Escape Artist is a very dark but immensely rewarding read. It does a wonderful job of not just documenting the Holocaust through Vrba’s eyes, but the complex nature of Holocaust remembrance, especially among the survivors.  

The Nazis Knew My Name by Magda Hellinger & Maya Lee
Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz by Shlomo Venezia
I Escaped from Auschwitz by Rudolf Vrba

Connor McCormack, Northport-East Northport Public Library

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl

Lead singer of the rock band Foo Fighters tells tales of Grohl's childhood and how much music meant to him once he was introduced to punk rock, as well as his rise from unknown drummer, to his years in Nirvana, and finally to the lead singer of a band that has put out 11 studio albums, won 15 Grammys, and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021. 

Grohl's story begins with hanging out with childhood friends, getting into small amounts of trouble, and always loving music. As he's starting his teen years, he's introduced to punk rock by a cousin and this leads him on his journey to become a drummer. With the unwavering support of his mom, Grohl practices playing drums on his pillows, saves enough money for just one lesson, and eventually lies his was into a band and goes on tour with them right after graduating high school. 

Grohl's memoir moves on to his early days touring in a crappy van and sleeping on people's floors to get by. He eventually makes it out west and leaves the band that gave him his start to join Nirvana. His time in Nirvana had a huge impact on him especially once they found fame and became popular. He talks about what that did to the band, especially Kurt Cobain, and how his death was a blow to the music industry. The latter part of the book is dedicated to founding the Foo Fighters, finding love, starting a family, and the different experiences and honors he's be part of on his rise to the rock star we know today.

Grohl is very respectful of the people and musicians he's met, played with, fanboyed over, and worshiped. There's no juicy gossip, telling of tales, or revealing of secrets. Instead what the reader finds is a heartfelt dedication to the craft and those who've spent their lives chasing their dreams. If you're looking for what it's like to meet Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Little Richard; win a Grammy; be asked to drum for Tom Petty on Saturday Night Live; or collaborate with Joan Jett while she reads bedtime stories to your daughters, this is the book for you. Slow at times but definitely comprehensive of Grohl's life, The Storyteller is a book for lovers of music, rock, down-to-earth musicians, and family with a bit of drugs and a lot of cursing thrown in.

Surrender by Bono
From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars by Virginia Grohl
I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana by Nick Soulsby

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library

Spare by Prince Harry

If Prince Harry had to boil this book down into one sentence, I expect it would be, “I will remain devoted to my mother forever, and I despise the paparazzi to the very core of my being.” That would be an accurate description of this book, but it does leave a lot out.

Harry talks about his education (not distinguished), his relationship with his brother and father (alternately loving and heartbreakingly cruel), his time in the military (action-packed), his time spent in Africa and the charitable work it led to (inspiring), his relationship with his grandmother (close), and much more.

As much as Diana and the paparazzi dominate the book, the writing really comes alive when Harry departs from those topics. One example is when he talks about the military. The part that really shines is less his descriptions of his time in war zones, and more his thoughts about what being in the military meant to him, and his frustration that his title prevented him from seeing much action. The narrative also comes alive when Harry describes meeting and falling in love with Meghan, who of course becomes another major theme in the latter half of the book.

But surrounding all that is Harry’s loathing of the paparazzi, and he doesn’t mince words about it. He details story after story that come out in the British tabloids (and even some more reputable news outlets) that are just plain lies, recounts his battles with the palace about how to respond to them, and suggests more than once that certain people within the palace are feeding information to the press. The palace’s unwavering policy of not responding, even to the tabloid stories that were clearly untrue, along with Harry’s suspicions of a leak in the inner circle, led to a major breach between Harry and Charles and William.

Of course, we have only Harry’s side of the story here, and as Goethe tells us, “One man’s word is no man’s word; we should quietly hear both sides.” But the palace continues its policy of silence, and it’s unlikely that any further developments happen quietly. So, we have to take Harry’s word for it, for now, which is very easy to do after reading this candid memoir.

Bad Mormon by Heather Gay
Growing Up Biden by Valerie Biden Owens
More than Love: An Intimate Portrait of My Mother, Natalie Wood by Natasha Gregson Wagner

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library

All In by Billie Jean King

Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, racism, equal opportunity, equal pay—what could these movements have in common with tennis? In a name, Billie Jean King. She is one of the world’s greatest all-time tennis players, but political activism was her life’s calling as much as the game. Her role as an acclaimed global athlete provided her with a platform to spearhead some of the most significant societal and cultural changes that many of us may take for granted. 

From a very early age, Billie Jean Moffitt had an awareness that there were inequities in the world. Why were all the participants in the local tennis clubs only white, and male? She wondered why she was relegated to sitting behind the courts to eat her bagged lunch, while the tennis club treated the boys? Why weren’t there any varsity sports teams for girls? Why did a club advisor feel perfectly comfortable telling her that she may go far in the sport because she was ugly, and then bar her from being in a team photo because she was wearing shorts instead of a skirt? The inequities became even more evident to her as her tennis career progressed. 
Tournament-title-winning women were not allowed to compete in sanctioned tennis matches. They were told by tournament organizers that no one was interested in watching women play. And when they were allowed to play, their winnings were a fraction of what the men were awarded.

Billie Jean had no patience for the disparity in her beloved sport, so she embarked on a campaign to right the ship. Hence, the formation of the “Original Nine”—a group of nine courageous women that were willing to forfeit their careers by breaking away from the men’s circuit to establish their own tour schedule. Today, women are not only included, but equally compensated. This is due, in great part, to the efforts of Billie Jean King.
Billie Jean not only advocated for the women in professional tennis, but for women in all sports and all walks of life. She was a driving force behind the passage of Title IX; she sparked the creation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA); she has been a champion in the advancement of civil, women’s, and gay rights; and she has promoted countless social and educational initiatives. Through the years, Billie Jean has been instrumental in accomplishing many societal milestones with a laundry list of world leaders, celebrities, and everyday people—including President Obama, Vice President Biden, Nelson Mandela, Gloria Steinem, Elton John, Martina Navratilova, and so many others.

All In is the biography of a trail-blazing woman who set out from a very young age to right the wrongs in the world. The narrative, which traces her entire life to date, is written in the first person making it an easy read. The book tells the story of a sports legend and a political activist. The only caveat is that fans of tennis may glean more from certain parts of this book than non-tennis enthusiasts, as it contains detailed descriptions of matches and opponents. On the other hand, the balance of the book presents a fascinating account of Billie Jean King’s entire life—her life-long commitment to social change; her struggle with coming out as gay; her involvement in the infamous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. Ultimately the book draws the portrait of a human dynamo who proclaims that she will never rest as long as there is injustice, on or off the court. 

Open by Andre Agassi
The Master: The Long Run & Beautiful Game of Roger Federer by Christopher Clarey
You Cannot Be Serious by John McEnroe

Women's Struggles in Sports:
When Women Stood by Alexandra Allred
Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman
Who Let Them In by Joanne Lannin

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

This memoir is about a celebrity actor who dreamt about the life he thought he could never have, but eventually achieved it through many hardships along his journey. Simu Liu, star role in Marvel’s Shang Chi, begins his story by sharing the early life of his parents, growing up under Mao Zedong’s rule in China and the difficulties they went through to gain an education. During their schooling in China, his parents met each other, keeping their relationship a secret as it was frowned upon to date. Once they graduated, they married and had a plan to go to university in Canada. However, Simu’s mother became pregnant with him, and plans changed. With a full scholarship, his father started in North America, eventually earning enough money for his mother to join him in Canada and leaving Simu behind in the care of his grandparents. By the time Simu was 4 years old, his dad came over to China to pick him up and move him to North America, and this left Simu sad to leave his grandparents and extended family.

When he arrives in Canada, the whole family must adjust to this new setting. For Simu, he no longer needs to boil water to take a hot shower. His mother realized her mistake when she left him at home for 30 minutes to go run an errand. When she came back, Simu was crying at the top of the steps. Unfortunately, adjusting to this new lifestyle becomes worse as his parents become strict on manners and education, often leaving Simu sad and angry through the abusive situations that occurred. For lying, he was locked out of the apartment at the age of 7 to reflect on his mistake. For dating a girl from another school, he was slapped across the face. Simu was always searching for love and affection, but there came a point in his life where he just gave up pleasing them. By the time he is a senior in high school, he puts his mind to his academics with the underlying thought that if he gets into a college far from home, he wouldn’t be under his parents’ rules. He achieves just that and winds up going to Northwestern University.

In his first year, Simu does the bare minimum, but is able to get good grades. He partied, slacked off, and was a bit of a showoff, trying to fit in with the rest of the crowd, looking for the love he never received. By sophomore year, he started failing. Just getting by in college, Simu tried to achieve an internship in accounting but getting a 55 in one of his classes prohibited him from achieving it. Instead, he went to a career fair and landed a job in marketing for Wonder Bread. He was on the set for a commercial shoot, and this was his first exposure to meeting an actor and seeing the spotlight for the first time.

Simu graduates college, masters the interview process, and lands a job at a top firm. While working there, he felt accomplished but at the same time bored of his work; not to mention not knowing how to do his job from failing so many classes. During his year and a half there, he never improved, playing hooky one day to be an extra on a movie set. They let him go from his job in April of 2012 and he felt like a failure, especially to his parents.

Craigslist became Simu’s friend as he found job after job as an extra on a movie set. Eventually he landed small roles all the while, his parents were not happy with his choices, and he wasn’t speaking with them. He realized he needed to go back to school for acting if he wanted to make it in the big leagues, so he used whatever money he was making from these small acting jobs to pay for schooling and was basically broke. As a side job, he was Spiderman at birthday parties as well as doing flash mobs to sell products. Money was tight but he was determined to fulfill his dream.

A big turn of events occurred when he landed the role on Blood & Water, a Canadian TV series. His parents started talking to him again. After completing this role, he found an agent in Hollywood who said he would need a US visa to work in the states but since it was costly, he went back to Canada and landed two roles at once. One role was for Kim’s Convenience about a Canadian convenience store run by an Asian family and another for the TV version of Taken.
While on set, he was advised to apply for the visa and just go for it in America because there were very few Asian actors on the market.

In trying to score an American movie while obtaining his Visa, Simu was shot down many times for various roles including the lead in Crazy Rich Asians. He felt terrible but his parents kept his spirits up by saying they raised him to never give up. Eventually he connected with Ken Jeong who mentored him and introduced him to other actors.

As the book comes to a close, he reflects on his biggest success of all, playing the lead actor in Shang-Chi, making it to the top and experiencing the love from the Marvel community. I recommend this title to a person looking for a coming-of-age story because as the book progresses, we see the maturity and growth in Simu as he achieves his dreams of being a star actor. This is a good story for those looking to learn more about Asian family life and assimilating to the cultures of North America. The underlying message of this book is essentially to find your dream and fulfill it. Don’t fall back on something that is going to bore you for the rest of your life.

Never Grow Up by Jackie Chan
Making a Scene by Constance Wu
How to American: An Immigrant's Guide to Disappointing Your Parents by Jimmy O. Yang

Liana Coletti, West Islip Public Library

Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis

Gold Dust Woman is the newest biography about one of rock’s leading ladies, Stevie Nicks. The book begins in the early 1970s when a young Stevie Nicks and then boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham are writing songs, playing gigs in sunny California, and trying desperately to get a record deal. In the book, we learn about young Stevie’s nomadic life. Her family moved around a lot in order to support her father’s corporate ladder climb. Eventually they settled in Northern California where Stevie meets Lindsey and the two begin dating and collaborating on music. Stevie, a deeply sensitive and thoughtful person, always kept a journal nearby so she could write poems, keep notes and drawings. All of these became inspiration for music. As luck would have, Stevie and Lindsey got the opportunity of a lifetime when mega British rock band Fleetwood Mac invited them on tour. The band was losing steam and needed something new to revitalize them and Mick Fleetwood thought that Stevie and Lindsey were just the thing to bring the band back to greatness. This book blatantly describes the life and loves of Stevie Nicks and at the same time wonderfully documents her collection of songs. In it we learn the true inspiration and backstory of many of her and the band’s most popular and successful hits. However, there is a dark side to this thrilling rollercoaster ride. Stevie and the rest of band lived a sex, drug, and booze fueled existence. The relationship between Stevie and Lindsey was volatile. Lindsey was prone to violent fits and there were reports that he attempted to strangle Stevie until Mick Fleetwood intervened. There were also torrid affairs taking place between members of the bands and others. It was a whirlwind ride and yet through it all Stevie survived. 

The second half of the book is devoted to Stevie’s success as a solo artist after a breakup with the band. It seemed that everyone was unhappy and getting on each other’s nerves while touring. That said, Stevie always remained loyal to Fleetwood Mac and would tour on and off for years. The tales of Stevie’s love affairs are legendary. Stevie had deep feelings for many men, most were musicians. She was involved with Don Henley, Tom Petty, and Mick Fleetwood, who was said to be smitten with her for years. They all fade in comparison to Joe Walsh who Stevie said was the “one.” The one she would have married and changed her life for. The book goes on to document many nights spent in the studio creating the music we love her for with a variety of legendary musicians, sound engineers, producers, and backup singers. Stevie is truly a gifted musical legend with over 40 years of writing, singing, and performing for the masses and whose ability to weather musical taste changes over the years remains incredible. 

I really enjoyed this book. I loved learning about the music industry and was impressed at the level of skill and passion that goes into recording a single song. I think it is monumental task to select just the right producer, engineers, musicians, and singers to make a reality of what began as a scribble on a piece of paper. I learned so much about the relationships that Stevie had with members of the band both personal and musically. I enjoyed learning about the world of the music business and the colorful people who make it all happen. When I was reading this book, I was also watching the Prime TV series Daisy Jones and the Six. What a joy ride though the 70s. This book is for anyone and everyone who loves listening to music. 

Jennifer Juniper: A Journey Beyond the Muse by Jenny Boyd
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
Mirror in the Sky: The Life and Music of Stevie Nicks by Simon Morrison

Karen McHugh, Harborfields Public Library

Code Name Blue Wren: The True Story of America's Most Dangerous Female Spy and the Sister She Betrayed by Jim Popkin

Arrested 10 days after 9/11, Ana Montes’ story did not make the cover of any newspapers. From 1985 until her arrest in 2001, Montes spent 17 years moving up the ranks to more and more classified positions within the United States’ Defense Intelligence Agency while simultaneously feeding top secret information to the Cuban government. 

Written by an investigative journalist, this in-depth biography definitely picks up the pace as Montes’ identity as a mole gets closer to being revealed to her co-workers and would be a good suggestion for those who enjoy stories about espionage and/or true crime.

The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War -- A Tragedy in Three Acts by Scott Anderson
Life Under Cover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox
Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House by Valerie Plame Wilson

Jessicca Newmark, The Smithtown Library - Smithtown Building

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships 
by Nina Totenberg

An excellent biography and autobiography of two well-known, powerful women in the political and legal arena and the enduring friendship between them.

When Totenberg, as NPR’s Legal Affairs Correspondent, was covering the first major Supreme Court case that addressed discrimination based on gender, she felt she needed a mentor who could explain the issues to her. She made a cold call to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a law professor at Rutgers University. Ginsburg spent an hour on the phone explaining to her how the Fourteenth Amendment applied to all people; that discrimination based on gender was unconstitutional because it denies equal protection. She quotes Ginsburg as saying about that conversation, “We have been close friends ever since.”  
In writing about her life, Totenberg discusses the progressive stand of NPR in hiring more than “token women” and of sexual harassment in the professional world where, as she puts it, “they gently fended off unwanted advances”. They were less able to recognize and report sexual harassment than women who entered journalism just a few years later.    

The relationship between Ginsburg and Totenberg is poignant and powerful… and there is much to enjoy about politics and friendships with a helping of Washington gossip included.  

Dinners with Ruth would appeal to older teens and adult men and women.

Wise Gals: The Spies Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage by Nathalia Holt
The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama

Grace O'Connor, Retired

I'm Possible: A Story of Survival, a Tuba, and the Small Miracle of a Big Dream 
by Richard Antoine White 

I’m Possible is an inspiring memoir about a boy who struggled in Baltimore and grew up to become the first African American to receive a Doctorate in Music for Tuba Performance. 

Born prematurely to a teen mom who struggled with alcoholism, Richard Antoine White dealt with hardships from the beginning. For the first four years of his life, Richard and his mom did not have a house to call their own, but they had each other. Even at a young age, Richard thought he could look after his mom. Richard recounts many memories of himself as a preschooler being on his own at night finding a safe and soft spot under a tree to sleep until his mom returned in the morning. This was his life until one day at four years old he almost died searching for his mom in a blizzard. Richard’s mother selflessly gave up her rights to give Richard a chance. He was taken in by his adoptive grandparents, where he would live for the remainder of his youth.

Transitioning to a stable household was a big adjustment for Richard. There were rules and routines, and grandparents who had to teach discipline. Richard was not a great student in his elementary school years. He struggled with math and reading. School started to get better in 4th grade when he was able to join the band. Richard and his friend chose the trumpet because “it only has three valves, so it’s easy”. Quickly, Richard fell in love with playing music. He discovered talent and a sense of purpose when he played. When he moved to middle school, he saw a sousaphone in the band room and was in awe. He quickly switched to this instrument and his passion for music grew even more. He was accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts high school and then to the Peabody Conservatory. As he continued his education, Richard began to see the racial and socioeconomic disparities in the music world and in life as one of the few Black students in his programs. 

With perseverance and teachers who saw the spark in him, Richard worked hard to reach his dream of becoming a professional musician. He secured a coveted spot in the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, helped build the New Mexico Philharmonic, and became the first African American to receive a Doctorate in Music for Tuba Performance. Now a professor, mentor, and motivational speaker Richard Antoine White shares his story through his memoir, and a 2018 documentary, R.A.W. Tuba. 

This remarkable memoir shows that with a dream and determination, anything is possible. The audiobook starts each chapter with little tuba interludes performed by the author. This is a must read for people looking for a memoir that roots for the underdog, or someone who has a passion for music.  

Every Good Boy Does Fine by Jeremy Denk
Purpose by Wyclef Jean
Words Without Music by Philip Glass

Nanci Helmle, The Smithtown Library - Commack Building