Staff Selections

Kathleen

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
Teddy Wayne

Before you disregard this beautiful sparkly silver book as teen pop-dom fluff, open it and sample Whiting Award winner Teddy Wayne's prose.  What I like best about this novel is Jonny's voice.  While the obvious cultural inspiration for the character is Justin Beiber,  likeable 11 year old pop prodigy Jonny doesn't immediately call to my mind any other literary protagonists. He is smart and funny, but never wise beyond his years or precious. I agree with Publisher's Weekly, which said, "Masterfully executed...the real accomplishment is the unforgettable voice of Jonny. If this impressive novel, both entertaining and tragically insightful, were a song, it would have a Michael Jackson beat with Morrissey lyrics."
This book was refreshingly fun to read, and left me thinking slightly differently about celebrity culture.

Mary

Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole
Benjamin R. Barber

Barber illuminates the issues surrounding our culture of consumption, describing the market mania that misdirects our lives, choking out our more vital concerns as individuals and as a nation. Besides producing a vapid character in the populace, consumer culture acts in direct opposition to the needs of a democratic government. This compelling study makes a convincing case for re-evaluating many recent legislative actions, and for citizens to recognize, speak out and act for our true imperative interests rather than market-manufactured "needs".

Paul

GIVE ME EVERYTHING YOU HAVE
James Lasdun

 

English Professors are seldom stalked, but novelist James Lasdun found himself in just such a situation when he undertook the teaching of a writing course.  Among his students was a talented Iranian student who was working on a memoir.  He did what he could to help her and an email correspondence began.  Her letters, as the correspondence continued, took on an ominous tone with sexual, racial and political implications.  They did not stop and Lasdun’s life became a nightmare.  Threats were involved,  suicide hinted at,  lives complicated.  The tale is told with great empathy and the circumstances could well come out of one of  Lasdun’s excellent novels.  A chilling book.

Terry

Red or Dead
David Peace

Saying this book is about soccer is like saying Moby Dick is about whaling. Yes, it is about soccer but so much more. Ignore the whole soccer thing (I personally can't stand the game) and the fact that it's 700 pages long. What drives this book is David Peace's unique cadence in his prose. You will either love it or not. Just open it to random spot and start reading. Within a few sentences it will either have you hooked or drive you to distraction. Go ahead, give it a try.

Tim

The Butterfly Cabinet
Bernie McGill

Based on true events, The Butterfly Cabinet is a fascinating tale of Victorian culture and class.  In 1892, Maddie McGlade was a maid for a wealthy family in Ireland.  Her employer and lady of the house, Mrs. Harriet Ormond, was a strict disciplinarian -- so much so that her young daughter Charlotte does not survive one of Harriet's punishments.  In a shocking judicial decision for the times, Mrs. Ormond is sent to Grangegorman Prison.  Fast forward to 1968, and 92-year-old Maddie McGlade is in a nursing home, and wishes to tell the story to Harriet's granddaughter -- the story of what really happened in that house.  Moving between 1968 and Harriet's prison diary from 1892, Ms. McGill's weaves a tale of two completely different women:  an aristocratic Victorian "lady" and a down-to-earth commoner who both had a part to play in the child's death.  Filled with secrets and detail and history, The Butterfly Cabinet is a superb example of great Irish storytelling.