Staff Picks – June 2021

Desert Oracle: Volume One, Strange True Tales from the American Southwest by Ken Layne, recommended by Vicki
A compact collection of oddities, Desert Oracle reads like the progeny of The Thing — an attraction in Southern Arizona preceded by a caravan of billboards lining I10 — and The Twilight Zone. The first chapter “Try not to die,” explores the many ways to perish in the Mojave Desert; following entries visit the varied inhabitants that call the desert home — be it human, animal, mineral or extraterrestrial. Entertaining vignettes that don’t attempt to solve, but explore the unexplainable.

Who is Maud Dixon by Alexandrea Andrews, recommended by Diana
Florence Darrow believes that she’s destined to be a famous writer. Working as a low level publishing employee, Florence stumbles into a job as an assistant to the brilliant novelist known as Maud Dixon. Maud’s true identity is a secret until Florence finds out Maud is really Helen Wilcox. Helen can be difficult and demanding but she is full of wisdom — not only on how to write, but also on how to live. Florence quickly falls under Helen’s spell and eagerly accompanies her to Morocco where Helen’s next novel takes place.  

Florence’s life begins to feel interesting enough to inspire her own novel. But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory and no sign of Helen, she’s tempted to step out Helen’s shadow and into Helen’s life. 

Who is Maud Dixon is an entertaining psychological thriller about how far one might go to claim the life you always wanted.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, recommended by Dennis
A lot of fun for fans of Science Fiction novels. A middle school science teacher awakens with no recollection of who he is or where he is. As time passes, his memory returns in pieces. It seems he is on a suicide mission to literally save the earth. He has to figure out how to stop “Astrophages” (a great term created by our protagonist) from consuming the sun’s energy. The book is humorous, full of fun science, pulls at your heart strings and even has aliens. A fun and exciting read.    

Family Reunion by Nancy Thayer, recommended by Trish
Perfect summer read. Eleanor lives alone in her Nantucket home, but what would have been a boring summer is now full of surprises. Some are the least expected.

The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan, recommended by Tracie
What do you get when a rabbi meets a sex worker?  Modern Intimacy workshops! Ethan is a second career rabbi trying to increase attendance at his synagogue. Naomi has the credentials and qualifications to teach and is looking for students. Together they create a curriculum on modern intimacy and dating with a goal to increase attendance, get Naomi experience, and test the steps for their own personal experiment. Are Ethan and Naomi attracted to each other or is it just the syllabus?

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell, recommended by Louise
Gladwell has a gift for taking a complex subject and describing it in a way that is both nuanced and easy to understand. His latest book, The Bomber Mafia, describes the think tank that developed the theory of precision bombing during the early years of World War II. That idea was in direct conflict with the British model of carpet bombing, the model that the generals in the field wished to use. Layered in with this history is the story of how napalm was developed and first used, in Japan; the development and efficacy of the Norden bombsight; and an exploration of the characters and personalities of Generals Haywood Hansell and Curtis LeMay. This is an entertaining must-read for anyone interested in the history of World War II. Actually, it’s an entertaining read for anyone at all.

The Poetry of Strangers: What I Learned Traveling America with a Typewriter by Brian Sonia-Wallace, recommended by Karen
Engaging memoir by Sonia-Wallace, who travelled America with his typewriter, asking others “What do you need a poem about?” Creating poems on the spot, he was able to connect with others in an oft forgotten way. From street parties, to Amtrak, to the Mall of America and many other places across the U.S., he shares his experiences and reminds us of the importance of storytelling — including our need to have our own stories heard.