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Jen Jen's Picks


Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel

At the urging of fellow book industry friends, I started reading Wolf Hall. I like historical fiction and I’m especially fond of the era of Henry VIII, the time in which this book is set. Wolf Hall is told from Thomas Cromwell’s perspective and Mantel’s treatment of him is a bit more sympathetic than my college textbooks. I recently learned from fellow staff member LouAnn that PBS is doing Wolf Hall as a 6-hour miniseries! For more info on the PBS series, see: If, like me, you like to read the book before seeing it on screen, let us know—this is a book we regularly stock.


Mrs. Poe
by Lynn Cullen

This is the women’s book group pick for our April discussion, and it’s fun to be reading historical fiction about a poet, Edgar Allen Poe, during Poetry Month! This book is about the love triangle which included Poe, his wife Virginia, and Frances Osgood, narrated by Osgood. A fourth character is the literary scene of New York in the 1840’s, which included Margaret Fuller, John James Audubon and poets Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The book is rich with details about the period in which it is set, and spins an interesting story.


Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil
by Lisa Westberg Peters

This is the Current Events book group pick for April and May. It’s a memoir by a woman who realizes that one day she’ll inherit a portion of her family’s mineral rights for land containing oil wells in North Dakota. As an environmentalist, she’s torn between the lure of financial security and her commitments to the land. The account of her struggle is very timely, and I anticipate lively conversation at book group.


The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth

On a recent business trip to Omaha, I found The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth in a used book store. Rexroth is part of a group of poets who came to prominence in the 1940’s. While not a Beat poet, he’s been called the father of that movement. He’s also known for the Asian influences in his poetry. I’m looking forward to reading his poetry.

Sally Sally's Picks


Dead Wake
by Erik Larson

One of my favorite authors of non-fiction is Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, In the Garden of Beasts.) I haven’t read his latest book, Dead Wake, yet, but we  have it in the store. Here’s a clip of Larson talking about the book and what he wanted to achieve in writing it.


The Children’s Crusade
by Ann Packer

It’s always a treat when a favorite author has a new book! Ann Packer’s latest, The Children’s Crusade, is a great story. Bill Blair is a caring pediatrician, a wonderful father, and a lousy husband. His wife Penny, an aspiring artist, is overwhelmed after the birth of their fourth child. As adults, the four children look back on their childhood, each telling his/her version of it. When you pick up this book, be prepared to settle down for a satisfying read.


Radiance of Tomorrow
Ishmael Beah

This book is a novel set in Sierra Leone after that country’s civil war. As the inhabitants of Imperi drift back to their village seven years after fleeing it, they find obstacles to resuming life there. Government corruption, the demands of mining companies, and a lack of jobs stand against traditional village life. One of the village elders encourages people to continue to hope, looking for the “radiance of tomorrow.”


The Conference of the Birds
by Peter Sis

Jen gave me this beautiful book of poetry for Christmas a couple of years ago, and it’s become one of my favorites. Sis has translated and illustrated a Persian epic poem from the twelfth century. It’s a quest story—birds are in search of the true king. Their journey reveals love, faith, and the meaning of life in all its pain and beauty. I particularly liked the illustrations of labyrinths.

Al Al's Picks


Rickey & Robinson
by Roger Kahn

Rickey & Robinson is the true, untold story of the integration of baseball. The author, Roger Kahn, is considered by many to be America’s greatest living sportswriter. The book presents a detailed study of the two individuals, Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, who made integration in baseball happen. It presents many revelations that are sure to surprise and shock readers while presenting an honest picture of many individuals during this important period of American history.


Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s never before published autobiography, Pioneer Girl, is the true story of her pioneering life. Wilder details her journey from Kansas to Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, back to Minnesota and on to the Dakota Territory. The reader will find some of these experiences familiar while others will be surprising. This work presents an in-depth narrative of the author’s life and contains many pictures, maps, and annotations.

Alli Alli's Picks


The Book with no Pictures
by B.J. Novak

I’ve been a fan of Novak for years, due to his work as a staff writer and regular actor (he played Ryan the temp) on the American version of the television series “The Office.” The Book with No Pictures is a children’s book and, as the title indicates, is a departure from other books intended for young children as it has no pictures or illustrations of any kind. Instead it is a book which (hopefully) forces its adult reader to say things that they otherwise wouldn’t and to aspire to a level of performance that will delight the child in their lives and render pictures absolutely unnecessary. It’s fun, creative, and just may bring out a little of whatever child might still be lurking in our sometimes too grown-up skins.


One More Thing, Stories and Other Stories
by B.J. Novak 

This one is intended for adults and is currently on national bestseller lists.  I have not read it in its entirety yet, but have very much enjoyed what I have so far.  It lends itself well to picking it up in fits and starts (as one might do if reading between customers and projects at a bookstore) as it is a book of short stories.  I found it to be quirky, sweet, and funny with a little edge and darkness at times.  While it isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, the ideas are ones I haven’t heard before and I keep going back for more.

Ann Ann's Picks


The Signature of All Things
by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things is a work of fiction spanning two centuries and many countries of the world. The story begins with Henry Whittaker who is born poor but makes his fortune in the quinine trade.  The heart of the story belongs to Henry’s daughter, Alma Whittaker. Readers follow Alma from her childhood until she is an old woman. We know her dreams and disappointments. She is a talented botanist herself and the story delves into her theories and discoveries. The characters in the story and the events of the day, both personal and historical, give us a sense of the controversial issues and schools of thought that were prominent in the 1800s. The emphasis on botany and the uniqueness of Alma and her way of interacting with the world make The Signature of All Things an intriguing story.

Claire of the Sea Light
by Edwidge Danticat

The story begins on Claire’s seventh birthday in the seaside town of Ville Rose, Haiti. Claire’s mother died in childbirth and her father has decided to give her away. Claire of the Sea Light is Claire’s story. It is also a collection of intertwined vignettes about the inhabitants of the seaside town of Ville Rose and their lives, which intersect each other in ways that are often more than meets the eye. Awareness of the sea, which brings life and death, permeates the lives of the characters. The story leaves readers with a sense of Haitian culture, beliefs, and the struggle to survive. Claire of the Sea Light leaves a lasting impression.

Gail Gail's Picks


Spirits in the Grass
by Bill Meissner

Luke tanner is working on a baseball field for his hometown of Clearwater, Wisconsin when he uncovers a bone fragment.  His neighbors, local politicians, and Native Americans on a nearby reservation all become involved in the mystery.  This is a great story for both men and women, whether you are into baseball or not.


The Real Minerva
by Mary Sharratt

The Sister Wolf Book Group read Summit Avenue by Mary Sharratt several years ago and we all liked it.  I was not disappointed in this book either.  The setting is Minnesota beginning in 1923.  The story is suspenseful, fast paced and true to life for that time.  Three women are struggling to make it in the world against the rigid rules of the day.  This is a "can't put it down book!"


Up:  A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure
by Patricia Ellis Herr

The introduction to this book is titled "You've got to be Kidding!" The author and her daughter heard this statement many times during the two years they hiked the mountains of New Hampshire.  There are 48 peaks that measure at least 4,000 feet in height.  Patricia and Alex her daughter climbed to the top of each peak in those two years. So is this unusual? Yes, as Alex was just five years old when she started climbing and reached all 48 peaks by the age of seven. This is a delightful book with some good insights into raising children as well.

Hannah Hannah's Picks


The Serpent of Venice
by Christopher Moore

This ribald (such inventive cussing!) and irreverent novel joins the characters from Othello and The Merchant of Venice. We're led through the adventure by a sassy jester whose friends include a monkey, a giant savant, Shylock's daughter, and, perhaps, a mermaid. If you enjoy Monty Python, you'll love this book.


The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
The characters and events in the movie (starring Matt Damon) and the novel overlap, but they are quite different. The book takes place largely in Tom Ripley's mind, so the fresh approach was inspired. Somehow they tell the same strange tale. It's fun to compare them as you read, and the prose is perfect.



By its Cover by Donna Leon
I didn't mean to bring up Leon again, but this one is about books! I couldn't resist.



Elephant Rocks: Poems by Kay Ryan

On my 50th birthday I read this poem from Elephant Rocks to my family:

As some people age
they kinden.
The apertures
of their eyes widen.
I do not think they weaken;
I think something weak strengthens
until they are more and more it,
like letting in heaven.
But other people are
mussels or clams, frightened.
Steam or knife blades mean open.
They hear heaven, they think boiled or broken.

Iain Iain's Pick


The World Treasury of Children's Literature
by Clifton Fadiman

This book is a collection of stories from a variety of times and places, such as Ancient Greece, Rome, Germany, and other cultures. The World Treasury may not be a typical children's book of fairy tales, but it contains a wealth of history and mythology that give a unique and interesting insight into other world cultures.

LouAnn LouAnn's Pick


When My Brother Was an Aztec
by Natalie Diaz

This was one of my favorite recent poetry reads. The book is a sometimes tender, sometimes brutal look at what addiction can do to a family. There are also thought-provoking views of Native American issues (Diaz is Mojave), and female experience. This book is not a light read, but it is one that stayed in my thoughts long after I finished it. For a sample poem:


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