108 Years of Rocky Mountain National Park

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act, establishing park boundaries and protecting the area for the future.  

For more than 11,000 years, people have lived in the area that would become Rocky Mountain National Park. Ute and Arapaho peoples lived on the land that would become the National Park. When white settlers came into the area in the mid-1800s, Native Americans were displaced, forcing many to leave in the 1860s and others made to move to reservations. Throughout the Park, there is still plenty of evidence of Native American settlement, such as stone and bone tools used for cooking, hunting, and processing hide.

The Park is one of the most visited national parks, topping over 4.5 million visitors in 2018. From hiking to rock-climbing to fishing, there is no shortage of activities. The views, even if you aren’t looking to hike uphill for miles, are stunning. The mountains, trees, and waterfalls are bountiful and with all there is to learn about the history, it’s almost impossible to not find something to enjoy. 

Whether you want to plan a trip to a National Park or just want to know more about the absolute wonders that make up the National Parks, we’ve got the materials for you! 

Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Guide by James Kaiser 

Native American Archaeology in the Parks: A Guide to Heritage Sites in Our National Parks and Monuments by Kenneth L. Feder

National Parks of America by Amy C. Balfour 

The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the USA  

Accessible Vacations: An Insider’s Guide to 10 National Parks by Simon Hayhoe 

Complete Guide to the National Parks: All 61 Treasures from Coast to Coast by Erika Hueneke 

National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks of the United States  

100 Things to See in the National Parks: Your Guide to the Most Popular Features of the US National Parks by Stefanie Payne 

Best Parks Ever: America’s National Parks  

America’s National Parks: A Video Tour of All 55 National Parks 

-Linnea  

Happy Birthday, Haruki Murakami!

Haruki Murakami turns 74 years old today! He is a prolific author, having written novels, short stories, nonfiction works, and essays that have consistently been published in The New Yorker. While Murakami remains mostly out of the public eye, the reader may get a general sense of who Murakami is when reading his books: a lover of jazz and music in general, a big baseball fan, a collector of random t-shirts, and a dedicated runner. His books incorporate magical realism, a unique brand of humor, and almost always a cat.  

If you’ve never read Murakami before, he has an extensive catalog to choose from! Whether you prefer nonfiction or short stories or hefty novels, he has something for everyone. (Of course, while he is a well-regarded author, his works might not appeal to all!) 

Short Story Collections 

The Elephant Vanishes (1993) 

Containing stories such as “The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women,” “The Kangaroo Communiqué,” and “Lederhosen,” this is a great introduction to Murakami’s writing style. One of the short stories (“Barn Burning”) even became the basis for the 2018 South Korean psychological thriller Burning. 

After the Quake (2002) 

This collection was written after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. While each short story is independent of one another, they are all connected by the earthquake and its aftermath. 

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2006) 

Quite a few of the short stories in this collection were featured in various English publications before being compiled into one book. Several were in The New Yorker, a few in Harper’s, and one in McSweeney’s. One short story, “Firefly,” was reused in Murakami’s well-known novel Norwegian Wood. 

Nonfiction 

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche (2000) 

In 1995, a religious cult attacked Tokyo subway stations with the toxic liquid sarin, injuring over 5,000 people and killing 14. Murakami interviewed over 60 people: witnesses, survivors, family of the victims, and even members of the cult that committed the act, Aum Shinrikyo.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2008) 

In this memoir, Murakami discusses his passion for running and how running goes hand in hand with writing. His discipline with the sport and examination of the relationship between running and writing are interesting to read about, even if you don’t run. Plus, reading about all the places he’s run marathons (Greece, Hawaii, Boston) is a treat. 

Murakami T: the T-Shirts I Love (2021) 

Pictures of t-shirts that Murakami has acquired over the years and their origin stories—what’s not to enjoy? 

Fiction 

Norwegian Wood (1989) 

Told from the perspective of Toru Watanabe, he is in his late 30s, reflecting on his days as a college student in 1960s Japan. A deeply emotional novel, the sense of nostalgia and longing are intimately felt throughout. This book helped catapult Murakami into more of a celebrity (to his dismay at the time). 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997) 

If you read the short story “The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women,” then you’ve already tackled the first chapter of the much-longer novel. Full of signature Murakami traits like cats, wells, unexpected phone calls, and mysterious disappearances, this is a great introduction to Murakami’s brand of humor. But forewarning—it is over 600 pages! 

Kafka on the Shore (2005) 

Intertwining narratives make up this magical tale: a 15-year-old boy who runs away to escape a curse and an old man who can talk to cats. Metaphysics, music, suspense, humor, and the mundane make up this brilliantly woven story. 

-Linnea 

National Bird Day

Pigeons, parrots, penguins-oh my! With almost 11,000 species of birds in the world, there’s a lot to learn! In North America, that number lessens to about 2,000 species and in just Ohio, there are 427 species, making it a little easier to recognize that bird perched on a tree branch in your backyard.  

Whether you’re a birdwatcher, bird lover, or just bird tolerator, there’s a lot to know about these ever-present creatures. If you’re curious about the best places to birdwatch or you want to learn which birds are native Ohioans or just look at some pretty pictures of birds, we’ve got some books for you! 

The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Ohio by Paul G. Rodewald 

Birds of Ohio by Jim McCormac 

The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird by Jack E. Davis 

Around the World in 80 Birds by Mike Unwin 

The Private Lives of Public Birds: Learning to Listen to the Birds Where We Live by Jack Gedney 

The Hummingbird Handbook: Everything You Need to Know about these Fascinating Birds by John Shewey 

Where the Birds Are: The 100 Best Birdwatching Spots in North America by Robert M. Brown 

Great Birding in the Great Lakes: A Guide to the 50 Best Birdwatching Sites in the Great Lakes States by Tom Powers 

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide by Tui De Roy 

Happy birding!

-Linnea

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year when we all choose how we want to improve or adjust in the new year. We’re full of hope and ambition, the fear of abandoning our resolutions yet to creep into reality. Our resolutions tend to be pretty similar year after year. How many of us vow to read more, spend less money, watch less television, or pick up a new hobby? And how many of us, after weeks of good intentions, let those goals fall by the wayside as ~life~ gets in the way? You are not alone! And if your goals match any that I listed, you’re not alone there either. 

According to statista.com, a lot of us share the same resolutions:

To help achieve those goals and stay on track longer than a month or two, maybe some of these books will be handy!  

If you… 

Want to cook more meals at home: 

The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen: 80 Authentic, Healthy Recipes Made Quick and Easy for Everyday Cooking by Samantha Ferraro 

The Easy Vegan Cookbook: Make Healthy Home Cooking Practically Effortless by Kathy Hester 

Eating Well Made Easy: Deliciously Healthy Recipes for Everyone, Every Day by Lorraine Pascale 

Want to spend less time on social media: 

How to Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price 

Growing Up Shared: How Parents Can Share Smarter on Social Media-and What You Can Do to Keep Your Family Safe in a No-Privacy World by Stacey Steinberg 

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport 

Want to reduce stress: 

The No-Nonsense Meditation Book: A Scientist’s Guide to the Power of Meditation by Steven Laureys 

Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance by Emily Fletcher 

The Extremely Busy Woman’s Guide to Self-Care: Do Less, Achieve More, and Live the Life You Want by Suzanne Falter 

Want to exercise more: 

Hiking Ohio Gary S. Williams 

Running Well by Sam Murphy 

How to Rock Climb! by John Long 

Want to learn a new skill: 

Hoop Quilts for Beginners: 15 Designs Using Easy Patchwork and Embroidery by AnneMarie Chany 

HTML and CSS by Joe Casabona 

Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook & CD: Listen, Practise, and Learn 

Want to spend less money: 

Little House Living: The Make-Your-Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-sufficient Life by Merissa A. Alink 

The 30-Day Money Cleanse: Take Control of Your Finances, Manage Your Spending, and De-stress Your Money for Good by Ashley Feinstein Gerstley 

Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects into Stuff You Love by Blair Stocker 

I hope some of these books help you create a plan or spark ideas for how to keep going on your resolutions. But remember, It’s Okay to Break Your New Year’s Resolutions! 

-Linnea 

Historical nonfiction treat

Once Upon a Town: the Miracle of the North Platte Canteen

by Bob Greene

Written in 2002, this is a portrait of the North Platte Canteen in North Platte, Nebraska. From December 17, 1941 until the end of World War II more than six million GIs traveling in troop trains stopped in North Platte on their way to the Pacific coast. In this small city of 12,000, the young men and women were welcomed, thanked, and treated to a feast. There they enjoyed coffee, home-cooked food, and friendly conversation.

From 1941 until the canteen closed, 55,000 volunteers from 125 different towns, some 200 miles away, gave both food and time to make sure not one of these trains were missed and that each soldier was fed. Given the shortages and rationing at the time, it was a miracle. (The only federal funding received was a $5.00 bill from President Roosevelt. He had heard about the Canteen and wanted to help.)

The original idea for the Canteen came from Rae Wilson, a young salesperson at the local drugstore. The citizens of North Platte were expecting Company D.134th Infantry of the local National Guard unit to pass through the town on the way to the Pacific Coast on Christmas Day 1941. That day there was a Company D that came through, but it was a Kansas unit of the National Guard. The community shared what they had with those soldiers and decided to make it their mission to welcome all GI’s that passed through.

For more information you will want to take a look at the following website. https://lincolncountymuseum.org/the-north-platte-canteen1.

~Emma

A Concert for the Ages 

On December 22, 1808, Ludwig van Beethoven debuted two symphonies (including perhaps his most famous, The Fifth Symphony), a piano concerto, and a choral piece, plus a few other favorites in a four-hour long benefit concert at the Theater-an-der-Wien, one of Vienna’s grandest theaters.  

The concert was…not a success. From frigid temperatures to ill-rehearsed pieces to contentious relationships between Beethoven and the musicians, the concert was certainly one to remember, but maybe not for the reasons a composer would want!  

Even though the concert may not have gone to plan, Beethoven did make a cash profit—his only of the entire year. Many composers were not revered in their time and only in their later years or even posthumously, were they appreciated and acknowledged for their talent. 

Beethoven is probably one of the most famous names in composing and if you’re interested in some of the reasons he is so highly regarded, here are some books to learn more: 

Beethoven: A Life by Jan Caeyers 

The Great Composers: The Lives and Music of 50 Great Classical Composers by Jeremy Nicholas 

How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond by John Powell 

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes 

Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths 

And if you want to recreate the concert from the comfort of your home, here are some of the pieces on CD: 

Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4 

Choral Fantasy, Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 5 

Symphony No. 5, C minor; Symphony No. 6, F major, “Pastoral” 

Give us a call (440-333-7610) if you’d like to place any of the physical copies on hold! 

-Linnea 

Top Reads of 2022

We were supposed to choose our top ten, but some I read were in a series, so I grouped them together – cheating? nah, just a way to promote more books! Changes from previous years – I read a lot more nonfiction that I usually do – and not as much literary fiction, though there were a lot of enticing releases. Here’s the list, in no particular order.

Nonfiction:

One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World by Michael Frank

Between the Woods and the Water and A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Beata Heuman: Every Room Should Sing by Beata Heuman

The Man Who Could Move Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Fantasy/SciFi:

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott

Graphic Novel:

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton

Mystery:

Missing Presumed and Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

The Man Who Died Twice and The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman

Vera Kelly Lost and Found by Rosalie Knecht

Fiction:

The Book of Goose by Yiyun Lee

Chilean Poet by Alejandro Zambra

~ Dori

Stacey’s 10/10 for the Top Ten of 2022

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

If you enjoyed The Jane Austen Society by the same author, you’ll enjoy this one too! Set in 1950’s London, this story follows Evie Stone, Viven Lowry, and Grace Perkins, as they navigate the difficulties of navigating the old-fashioned rules and new ways of thinking in a post-war era. Mentioning actual influential authors, artists, and politicians, led this reader off on short bursts of research to find out even more. 

Finely Donovan is Killing It AND Finely Donovan Knocks ‘em Dead by Elle Cosimano

Finely Donovan is a woman of many talents, she’s a best selling author, she’s a mom, she’s about to be the ex-wife of a cheating husband, and she’s accidentally started solving murders. Joined by Vero, a live-in nanny, Finely is as surprised as anyone when this unlikely duo take on some pretty serious bad guys -and win! If you like the Stephanie Plum mysteries, let this be the new series you start in 2023!

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley

Iona feels like her best days are behind her, professionally and personally, but she’s in for a great surprise when strangers on her daily commute tell her what they think of her. With plenty of sass and sweet moments, I dare you to read this book and not feel better about the world we live in!

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant chemist with innovative ideas and the ability to make those ideas into reality. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, she’s a strong smart woman in the 1960s, and she’s beautiful, and she’s dismissed by men in power at every turn. Elizabeth isn’t a quitter though, she believes provable facts and hard work make a difference. If you enjoyed Mad Men on television, you’ll love this one!

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher

Last year was the first time I’d read a book by this author and A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking made my top ten for the year. Who would have guessed a repeat appearance already?! A Wizard’s Guide is meant for a slightly younger audience than Nettle and Bone, but they’re both chock full of quirky characters and interesting adventures featuring strong young women. If you’re looking to set off a quest with a demonic chicken, fairy godmother, disgraced knight, and a youngest sister trying to save her sister and kingdon, this one’s for you!

The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman

If you were old enough to care about pop culture or politics during the 1990s, this book is full of things you probably forgot or to provide better insight on what happened back in the day. A good sense of humor and enjoyable footnotes (yes, enjoyable footnotes!) made this an extra fun walk down memory lane.

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

It’s been a little bit of time since this author’s last book but this was worth the wait. Zoey lost her Mom when she was pretty young but now she’s done with high school and she’s headed back to Mallow Island where her Mom left her a studio apartment in the small Dellawisp Condos community. Zoey hopes to spend the summer searching out more of her Mom’s past but finds herself caught up in a different kind of mystery. If she’s willing to listen to the Dellawisp’s resident flock of birds, she should be fine…. right?

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

I’m not afraid of animals telling me part of the story and neither should you be (if you don’t mind my saying so). In this book Tova Sullivan, a 70 year old widow, and a giant Pacific octopus named Marcellus narrate a story of love, family, friendship, and connection. Small details keep connecting in unexpected ways, and help make the end 100% satisfying.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

People moving through time, voluntarily or by mistake, can make me a little anxious on their behalf. Generally I don’t read to feel anxious and usually skip over stories where people find themselves bouncing through time. I’m so glad I read this one though. Alice is turning 4o and loves 99% of her life as an independent woman living in her NYC hometown, the missing 1% is due to father’s ailing health. When she discovers she can travel to her past, giving her the chance to live slightly altered timelines and, more importantly, seeing her father strong and healthy, Alice’s journey truly begins.

The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

When Satoru finds a stray cat in need of medical attention, he doesn’t hesitate in his swift actions to save a life. Naming his new cat companion Nana, Satoru and Nana quickly settle into the properly respectful worshiping relationship every cat person should recognize. But they aren’t just good companions, they have the kind of strong bond nothing could break. Traveling across Japan, Satoru and Nana visit people and places from Satoru’s past, and each visit leaves a lasting impression on all involved. Fair warning: Nana tell the entire story, and he’s a *gifted!* storyteller. Give it a try, you might like it too!

Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett

I’ve been struggling for months to describe this book, keeping in all of the story’s amazingly enjoyable quirky elements and bonus features. Now that we’re (alphabetically) at the end of my list, I’ll ask you just to trust me so I don’t need to do another bad job and you still get the joy of meeting new fictional friends doing interesting things…. 🙂

If you’ve read any of these, or if you decide to try one, let me know what you’re thoughts were! Happy Reading! -Stacey

Christine’s Best of 2022!

If I could add 25 books here, then it would have been easier to pick! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Click on the titles below to reserve your copy!

When Brooklyn Was Queer by Hugh Ryan

Non Fiction: Gender Studies, LGBTQ+, History “Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer is a groundbreaking exploration of the LGBT history of Brooklyn, from the early days of Walt Whitman in the 1850s up through the queer women who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, and beyond. No other book, movie, or exhibition has ever told this sweeping story. Not only has Brooklyn always lived in the shadow of queer Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Harlem, but there has also been a systematic erasure of its queer history–a great forgetting.

Ryan is here to unearth that history for the first time. In intimate, evocative, moving prose he discusses in new light the fundamental questions of what history is, who tells it, and how we can only make sense of ourselves through its retelling; and shows how the formation of the Brooklyn we know today is inextricably linked to the stories of the incredible people who created its diverse neighborhoods and cultures. Through them, When Brooklyn Was Queer brings Brooklyn’s queer past to life, and claims its place as a modern classic.”

Ring Shout by P. Dejeli Clark

Fiction: Horror/Paranormal “IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS. In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die. Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up. Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?”

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

Fiction: Teen, Fantasy, Witches “On the way home from a party, seventeen-year-old Ivy and her soon-to-be ex nearly run over a nude young woman standing in the middle of a tree-lined road. It’s only the first in a string of increasingly eerie events and offerings: a dead rabbit in the driveway, a bizarre concoction buried by her mother in the backyard, a box of childhood keepsakes hidden in her parents’ closet safe. Most unsettling of all, corroded recollections of Ivy and her enigmatic mother’s past resurface, with the help of the boy next door.

What if there’s more to Ivy’s mother than meets the eye? And what if the supernatural forces she messed with during her own teen years have come back to haunt them both? Ivy must grapple with these questions and more if she’s going to escape the darkness closing in.

Straddling Ivy’s contemporary suburban town and her mother’s magic-drenched 1990s Chicago, this bewitching and propulsive story rockets towards a conclusion guaranteed to keep readers up all night.”

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Fiction: Fantasy “Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon–like all other book eater women–is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger–not for books, but for human minds.”

Hester: A Novel by Laurie Lico Albanese

Fiction: Historical “Isobel Gamble is a young seamstress carrying generations of secrets when she sets sail from Scotland in the early 1800s with her husband, Edward. An apothecary who has fallen under the spell of opium, his pile of debts have forced them to flee Glasgow for a fresh start in the New World. But only days after they’ve arrived in Salem, Edward abruptly joins a departing ship as a medic–leaving Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible.

When she meets a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is a man haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows–while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. As the weeks pass and Edward’s safe return grows increasingly unlikely, Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. Together, they are a muse and a dark storyteller; the enchanter and the enchanted. But which is which?

In this sensuous and hypnotizing tale, a young immigrant woman grapples with our country’s complicated past, and learns that America’s ideas of freedom and liberty often fall short of their promise. Interwoven with Isobel and Nathaniel’s story is a vivid interrogation of who gets to be a “real” American in the first half of the 19th century, a depiction of the early days of the Underground Railroad in New England, and atmospheric interstitials that capture the long history of “unusual” women being accused of witchcraft. Meticulously researched yet evocatively imagined, Laurie Lico Albanese’s Hester is a timeless tale of art, ambition, and desire that examines the roots of female creative power and the men who try to shut it down.”

Mem by Bethany C. Morrow

Fiction: Science Fiction, Humanity/Identity “Set in the glittering art deco world of a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist in Montreal discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete. The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source — zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept.
And then there is Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem capable of creating her own memories. An ageless beauty shrouded in mystery, she is allowed to live on her own, and create her own existence, until one day she is summoned back to the Vault. What happens next is a gorgeously rendered, heart-breaking novel in the vein of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Debut novelist Bethany Morrow has created an allegory for our own time, exploring profound questions of ownership, and how they relate to identity, memory and history, all in the shadows of Montreal’s now forgotten slave trade.”

Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

Fiction: Horror/Apocalyptic, Transgender “Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they’ll never face the same fate.

Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: other people aren’t safe.

After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics–all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.”

Which Side Are You On? by Ryan Lee Wong

Fiction: Asian American, Literary “Twenty-one-year-old Reed is fed up. Angry about the killing of a Black man by an Asian American NYPD officer, he wants to drop out of college and devote himself to the Black Lives Matter movement. But would that truly bring him closer to the moral life he seeks?
 
In a series of intimate, charged conversations, his mother–once the leader of a Korean-Black coalition–demands that he rethink his outrage, and along with it, what it means to be an organizer, a student, an ally, an American, and a son. As Reed zips around his hometown of Los Angeles with his mother, searching and questioning, he faces a revelation that will change everything.
 
Inspired by his family’s roots in activism, Ryan Lee Wong offers an extraordinary debut novel for readers of Anthony Veasna So, Rachel Kushner, and Michelle Zauner: a book that is as humorous as it is profound, a celebration of seeking a life that is both virtuous and fun, an ode to mothering and being mothered.

Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen

Fiction: Thriller, Historical, LGBTQ+ “Lavender House, 1952: the family seat of recently deceased matriarch Irene Lamontaine, head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. Irene’s recipes for her signature scents are a well guarded secret–but it’s not the only one behind these gates. This estate offers a unique freedom, where none of the residents or staff hide who they are. But to keep their secret, they’ve needed to keep others out. And now they’re worried they’re keeping a murderer in.

Irene’s widow hires Evander Mills to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death. Andy, recently fired from the San Francisco police after being caught in a raid on a gay bar, is happy to accept–his calendar is wide open. And his secret is the kind of secret the Lamontaines understand.

Andy had never imagined a world like Lavender House. He’s seduced by the safety and freedom found behind its gates, where a queer family lives honestly and openly. But that honesty doesn’t extend to everything, and he quickly finds himself a pawn in a family game of old money, subterfuge, and jealousy–and Irene’s death is only the beginning.

When your existence is a crime, everything you do is criminal, and the gates of Lavender House can’t lock out the real world forever. Running a soap empire can be a dirty business.”

The Trees by Percival Everette

Fiction: Mystery/Thriller, Anisfield-Wolf Winner “Percival Everett’s The Trees is a page-turner that opens with a series of brutal murders in the rural town of Money, Mississippi. When a pair of detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrive, they meet expected resistance from the local sheriff, his deputy, the coroner, and a string of racist White townsfolk. The murders present a puzzle, for at each crime scene there is a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till.

The detectives suspect that these are killings of retribution, but soon discover that eerily similar murders are taking place all over the country. Something truly strange is afoot. As the bodies pile up, the MBI detectives seek answers from a local root doctor who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years, uncovering a history that refuses to be buried. In this bold, provocative book, Everett takes direct aim at racism and police violence, and does so in a fast-paced style that ensures the reader can’t look away. The Trees is an enormously powerful novel of lasting importance from an author with his finger on America’s pulse.”

A Prayer For the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

Fiction: Science Fiction, Robots, Gender Non-Conforming “After A Psalm for the Wild-Built comes this tale of hope and acceptance in the second volume of the USA Today bestselling Monk and Robot series. After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home. They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe. Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?”

A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Fiction: Psychological, Women, Japan, Pacific NW “In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace–and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox–possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.”

Happy Birthday, Bill Bryson!

Happy 71st birthday Bill Bryson! An accomplished journalist, author, and lecturer, Bryson has published over eighteen books, with subjects ranging from language to travel to science. His nonfiction works are full of humor and wit, making even the potentially dull topic on the human skeleton enjoyable to read. If you’re new to Bryson’s work, here are some good places to start: 

If you’re interested in travel… 

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail 

Bill Bryson really had no business hiking the Appalachian Trail, but fortunately for us, he did. In exchange for his misery, we get a delightful account of hiking one of the longest trails in the United States. Bryson balances his struggles on the trail with bits of history, descriptions of nature, and plenty of retellings of the people he hiked with and encountered along the way. This is a very realistic portrayal of one person’s experience, told with humor and genuine awe of the land. 

(It was also made into a movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte!) 

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America 

After a decade in Great Britain, Bryson decides to return home to Des Moines, Iowa, before driving through 38 states, exploring towns with names most have never heard of. Reflecting on the America of his youth (the family car trips and getting lost using paper maps and staying in cheap motels), Bryson tries to create some of the magic he felt. He has no problem poking fun at the people he meets, and his sarcasm is present on every page of the travelogue. While you may not plan an entire trip to the middle of nowhere Wyoming, maybe Bryson will inspire you to stop and take in the sights before getting back on the road again. 

If you enjoy reading memoirs… 

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid 

This was my first foray into the world of Bill Bryson, and it was an absolute blast. Bryson grew up in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950s, and beautifully recreates his experiences in middle America: the advent of microwaves, innocent youth swiping beer, and like many young kids, pretending to be a superhero. It can be hard to read a memoir about someone you know nothing about, but this was a perfect introduction to Bryson’s writing style and provides insight into how his early life informed future works. 

If you prefer science… 

The Body: A Guide for Occupants 

Bryson’s most recent book explores how our bodies function, without getting bogged down in too many specifics. From skin to the effects of disease to digestion, learn a little bit of almost everything related to the human body. I know I take mine for granted at times, only really appreciating it when I’m not feeling well. But this book is full of great, funny, and interesting reminders that our bodies are pretty cool, operating in a million different ways at all times.  

If you want to explore the English language… 

Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States 

Ever hear a word and think “how did that come to be?” Bryson had similar questions and embarked on a quest to the origins of the English language as it exists in the United States. Aside from just etymology, Bryson includes history and side stories to add context to the words he explores. Why do we pronounce “lieutenant” differently from those English speakers across the pond? How has censorship impacted the evolution of certain words? When did we start using the term “junk food”? An informative and interesting look into language and how words come to be. 

Those are just a select few of his books—maybe you’d rather read about his travels in Australia, or delve into A Short History of Nearly Everything. Whichever you choose, Bryson will be sure to feature his accessible writing style and signature wit on every page. 

-Linnea