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Reader’s Advisory Book of the Week Project
“In the beginning, there is no he. There is no she.” In her 2015 novel She of the Mountains Vivek Shraya shares two tales of love: stories of the goddess Parvati and her beloved Shiva intertwine with those of two lovers in modern Canada. A lyrical exploration of the complexities of individuality, queerness, and understanding, and a powerful story about hearing your own voice over the din of the crowd, Shraya’s riveting work challenges homophobia and identity policing from all corners. This swift, heartfelt, thought-provoking read resonates.
“With an Afrofuturist premise grounded in a queer neuroatypical worldview, An Unkindness of Ghosts is the post-Butler novel many of us have been waiting for.” – Strange Horizons. Rivers Solomon’s gorgeous prose, grip-you-and-pull-you-in-because-you-care-so-much-about-them characters, and brilliant, harrowing worldbuilding all come together in a sci-fi story for the ages that also deeply reflects upon our own world.
Book of the Week, May 27
“Necessary and illuminating.” –Meghan O’Rourke. Esmé Weijun Wang is a mental health advocate, novelist, and author of The Collected Schizophrenias, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. Wang’s essays insightfully investigate ideas of illness, health, and her own experience—all the places where there are no easy answers. “There might be something comforting about the notion that there is, deep down, an impeccable self without disorder, and that if I try hard enough, I can reach that unblemished self. But there may be no impeccable self to reach, and if I continue to struggle toward one, I might go mad in the pursuit.”
Book of the Week, May 20
“If we hadn’t done this there’d always have been things we wouldn’t have known, a part of ourselves we wouldn’t have found.” Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path is a luminous, frank memoir about the 630-mile path along the coast of Devon and Cornwall that she and her husband embark on after losing their home. Their days camping and hiking are colored by encounters with seabirds and bottlenose dolphins, spray and mountain paths, every shade of light, sweat, and hunger, profound beauty without and a deepening perspective within—sharply rendered, too, are encounters with others, questions raised by the myriad responses to homelessness they run into, and Winn’s reflections on the trail, nature, and humanity along the way.
Book of the Week: May 13
“My mother had heard the myth told in school that girls became boys and boys became girls when they walked under a rainbow. On their drives to Istanbul through miles of sunflower fields, when the sky revealed its arch, my mother pleaded with her father to go faster, imagining all that she would do once she crossed to the other side.” A young Turkish woman. Walking and talking in Paris. A rapidly changing Istanbul. Walking on the Ceiling by Ayşegül Savaş is a mesmerizing new novel about intersecting lives, people and places in the heart, the stories we tell others and all those we tell ourselves.
Book of the Week: May 6
“Her Nai Nai practicing taiji in the backyard, as the sun rose…After her death, neither [Mei] nor Sandy could remember the slow dance she would perform alone each morning. Movements with mythic names. Wave Hands like Clouds. Carry Tiger to Mountain. Each step shifts into the next. Tigers become geese…”
Writer and musician jia qing wilson-yang’s Small Beauty tells the story of Mei, a woman grieving the death of her beloved cousin in rural Ontario. As she reflects on her life from a canoe in the middle of a lake, Mei’s story and the stories of her loved ones join in a moving, meditative novel—on family and history, conversation, secrets and discovery, race, queer and intergenerational community, nature, new beginnings, and love. wilson-yang’s writing shines. Small Beauty received the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction.
Book of the Week: April 29
“Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who / loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no / place else to go. / Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short. / Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way / through the dark.” In the radiant poetry of Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, writer, musician, artist, and Mvskoke Nation member Joy Harjo brings the sorrow and the song. Pull up a chair to the kitchen table that Harjo invites us to again and again—a place where stories are shared, and a place for listening.
Book of the Week: April 22
“Small crimson lights of charcoal fires. The honey smell of fried mahamri. Here the timbre of the sea…” Looking for an epic novel to curl up with this spring? The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is a vibrant coming-of-age tale for readers who enjoy lush, lyrical contemporary fiction. It follows Ayaana’s spectacular journey as she embarks by ship from Pate, her island home off the coast of Kenya, and discovers her own path through the world—from the seas of the Shengsi Islands to the streets of Istanbul—until her story carries her home. With a complex cast of characters, a profound look at longing and discovery, and settings that sing on the page, The Dragonfly Sea is the kind of book that comes alive in your hands.
Book of the Week: April 15
“I should have stoked the stove / an hour ago. The house / will go cold as stone. Wonderful! / I won’t have to go on / balancing my checkbook.” Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon is our book of the week: her striking, honest reflections on the life of the mind and heart (and about daily life at Eagle Pond Farm) continue to resonate. “My neighbor honks and waves driving by. / She counsels troubled students; keeps bees; / her goats follow her to the mailbox. / Last Sunday afternoon we went canoeing on the pond. / Something terrible at school had shaken her. / We talked quietly far from shore…The light / around us seemed alive. A loon—itinerant— / let us get quite close before it dove, coming up / after a long time, and well away from humankind.”
Book of the Week: April 8
“the poem. / the one that is running through your life. / pay attention. / to that poem.” Nayyirah Waheed’s second book, Nejma, gathers together another small galaxy of her evocative, sharp poetry. If you are not yet familiar with her work, you can also find it on Instagram @nayyirah.waheed. “early. / while the sun is still white. / i pick the pink leaves. / i heat the water until it becomes milk. / i search for the cinnamon juice i made yesterday. / and i find it. / next to the lemons soaking in rose molasses.”
Book of the Week: April 1
“It was spring. I was still hopeful. In my chest, what beat / was cracked but still salvageable.” Our book of the week is Oculus, a new collection of poems by Sally Wen Mao. It is both astonishing in scope and completely relatable, exploring nature and voyeurism, racism and robotics, love and family, dipping effortlessly between these themes and beyond. Mao’s work shines: it is brilliant, accessible, eclectic, provocative, and beautiful. “Will you be electric sheep, electric ladies, will you sleep? / There is no end of things in the heart. / My robot, my poet, ancient and erstwhile and now / and f-ever, / the best mischief: to be stranded in this electricity with you.”
Book of the Week: March 25
“She blinked, squeezed her eyes shut, and then opened them again and saw the same thing. Things. Hundred and hundreds, thousands, more than her eyes could count, all around the boat and leading on, out, jellyfish. Glowing and bright like the stars had fallen down into the sea, like she was in the middle of a new and important constellation.” —from Our Homesick Songs, by Emma Hooper.
Book of the Week: March 18
“Ross Gay’s “The Book of Delights” reminds us of the wisdom of old songs: What a difference a day makes. This is a glimpse into a year of an artist’s life, dazzling with wit, wisdom and heart.” —Tayari Jones. Poet, gardener, and teacher Ross Gay’s slim book of beautiful, conversational “essayettes,” written over the course of a year, is as honest and real about life’s present hardships as it is about life’s infinitely discoverable sweet joys. The Book of Delights is an unputdownably warm and generous book about all the worlds within this world that draw near to each other—fig trees and friendships, hummingbirds and high fives, loss and recovery, memory and love. Dip into this new book for some mind-and-heart sustenance as we wing, slowly, towards spring.
Book of the Week: March 11
“One Tuesday in November she finished the wash-up / Mounted a white horse / And rode into the force nine waves / Out beyond the lighthouse. / Feck it, she said, startling the neighbours, / It’s go now or be stuck here forever…” -Mary O’Malley, from the poem “A Young Matron Dances Free of the Island.” Looking for just the right poetry to recite this weekend? The Wake Forest Book of Irish Women’s Poetry shares the sharp, lively, evocative work of sixteen Irish poets, including Rita Ann Higgins, Moya Cannon, Eva Bourke, and Eavan Boland: “I want a poem / I can grow old in. I want a poem I can die in.”
Book of the Week: March 4
“Written in such heart-stoppingly beautiful language there’s a good chance readers will ignore the plot and spend a few hours just chewing on the words, slowly…”-N.K. Jemisin. Four women—Tav, a soldier, Tialon, a scholar, Seren, a poet, and Siski, a noble—share their rich and wondrous stories in Sofia Samatar’s lyrical fantasy, The Winged Histories. If you love brilliant and beautiful writing, unforgettable worlds, epic journeys, and complex characters, lovers, and revolutions, Samatar’s fantastic tales are for you to seriously sink into (with a pen to jot down your favorite lines). For a reading marathon, pair with “A Stranger in Olondria,” this novel’s companion. And for those participating in our 2019 Reading Challenge: let it be known…there’s a map in this book.
Book of the Week: February 25
Complicity. Duplicity. Lies. And the truth. “What I actually did for a living had long since inoculated me against any of the romantic ideas I’d once had about spies…It’s not romantic to be so loyal that you compromise your sense of yourself.” But Marie Mitchell knows who she is. In American Spy she tells her uncompromising story—a suspenseful and nuanced navigation of life in the crosshairs of American betrayals. Cold War spy thriller, complex social commentary, and deeply-felt story of family, sisterhood, loss and courage, this unsparing and absorbing debut novel by author Lauren Wilkinson twists, turns, and keeps the reader thinking through the very last lines.
Book of the Week: February 18
“I want to live simultaneously inside the wonder and the grief…as long as we are living, there is always time to expand the story.” Pam Houston’s Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country is our book of the week. Colorado mountain winters, wolfhounds and elk calves, aspen groves and wildfires, our changing world, people who love the land, and the complex history of healing over a lifetime—whether she is sharing stories, offering observations, or asking questions, Houston’s new memoir moves with a gripping clarity, humor, honesty, and depth. “Her stories of love, loss, and a life lived in relationship to land give us good reasons not to give up on ourselves and each other. This is the book we need right now to remind us how to endure—passionately. An unstoppable heart song.” -Lidia Yuknavitch.
Book of the Week: February 11
Continuing our look at love in February… Our World, with photographs by Molly Malone Cook and text by Mary Oliver, shares their life together and their work—in prose, poetry, and pictures. “We would often wake before there was light in the sky and make coffee and let our minds rattle our tongues…It was a forty-year conversation.” Look here for a songbird fed from a teaspoon, portraits of Lorraine Hansberry and Walker Evans, stories of Mary and Molly gathering clams and cranberries in their baskets, their intimacy, joys, and influence upon each other, and treasures like the full text of “The Whistler,” an incredible poem about the depths and surprises of love over time.
Book of the Week: February 4
Poet, educator, and arts activist Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World is a memoir, and it remembers and celebrates her husband, Ficre Ghebreyesus, who died suddenly in 2012. It is love story and testimony: Ficre Ghebreyesus was a father, painter, chef, music-lover, book-lover, language-lover, and deeply good-hearted man. He was, warmly, “He who loved to wear the color pink. He whose children made him laugh until he cried.” With all the splits and separations of this life, it feels somehow rare to hear of a love that works through the years: years of laughter, coffee breaks, two beloved sons. ”Casa dolce casa” was their home, and the portrait of this home, marriage, and family is so moving, and so full of light. It’s also rich with culture—music, recipes, and bookish references—a treasure trove for the curious reader. Ghebreyesus’ paintings themselves subscribed to what someone called in his work “tutto,” which Dr. Alexander describes as “an unshakeable belief in beauty, in overflow, in everythingness, the bursting, indelible beauty in a world where there is so much suffering and wounding and pain.” Some time after their father’s death, Alexander asks her sons: “How can we be so happy, when we have been through so much?” And she answers her question in the same breath: “The forest is not denuded. The trees are standing tall.”
Book of the Week: January 28
“You don’t get to decide what’s important for us. You can choose for yourself, but no one else.” Tillie Walden’s graphic novel On A Sunbeam packs a dreamy punch. Here people gaze through windows into spacescapes rendered in gorgeous sunset colors, orange and pink and blue and red and yellow, and the vivid, fantastical artwork is a full half of the pleasure of this graphic novel. At the same time the stories and the cast of tight-knit characters who care deeply about each other shine, as do the themes Walden tackles: personal agency. Love. Respect. Responsibility. Bullying. Bravery. Understanding. Kindness. It’s a wonder of reading and seeing and feeling, with planets of ruins and wonders, ancient beings, danger and heartache, journeys and rescue, and quiet, tender moments of togetherness over space games, hot chocolate, and discovery of all kinds in a soaring fish of a spaceship.
Book of the Week: January 21
“Sonia Sanchez has long been a soldier of Love./She wields protests like wind. At 82,/she marches like she is leading/a second line. Awe at her knees. With her cane/she cracks blessings and calls your nearest kin. She/speaks peace in a cadence of prayers.” At age 71, Sonia Sanchez was arrested with eleven other grandmothers as they peacefully protested at a military recruitment center in Philadelphia. (The Granny Peace Brigade, as the group called themselves, were acquitted of charges of “defiant trespassing.”) Sonia Sanchez is just one of many women honored through poetry, photographs, history, and witness in writer and scholar DaMaris B. Hill’s new narrative-in-verse, A Bound Woman Is A Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland. As Dr. Hill observes, “Black women have been heavily invested in abolition, protest, and resistance movements aimed at the acknowledgement of Black humanity. Some of these movements began in the colonial era. Writing poems about such women has forced me to question what it means for a Black woman to engage in resistance…These poems are love letters.”
Book of the Week, January 14: She Would Be King
“Epic, beautiful, and magical, this astonishing first novel boldly announces the arrival of a remarkable novelist and storyteller.” -Edwidge Danticat. Drawing on the rich magical realism of Vai storytelling traditions and shining her own light on the depths of Liberian, Caribbean, and U.S. history, debut author Wayétu Moore spins the complex, interwoven tales of Gbessa, June Dey, and Norman Aragon, three unique characters with remarkable powers and profound stories, in She Would Be King. “Alike spirits separated at great distances will always be bound to meet, even if only once; kindred souls will always collide; and strings of coincidences are never what they appear to be on the surface…”
Book of the Week: January 7
“Winter is here…maybe it came a little earlier than we all expected. It’s the time when the trees go to sleep. The bears go to sleep. We all rest. And then we will be reborn in the spring. But it’s important to make sure we’re ready. Now is the time to help your relatives prepare their winter homes. Make sure they have enough food. Enough wood. Enough medicine to make it through the dark season.” It’s the dead of winter…have you gathered enough food…are you prepared for the dark? The slow burn of novelist and journalist Waubgeshig Rice’s mysterious winter thriller will creep up on you. Set in a small northern Anishinaabe community as the outside world crumbles, Moon of the Crusted Snow is a moving, powerful winter’s tale of conflict and community, fear and fortitude, darkness and tenderness, hope and survival.
Book of the Week: December 31
“It doesn’t have to be the way it is. That is what fantasy says…it is a subversive statement.” Vital, playful, sharp, Ursula K. Le Guin’s book of short essays No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters may inspire a reader’s own thoughtful New Year’s reflections. “No Time to Spare” offers insight into the author’s last years of musing, thinking, responding to the world and imagining it anew. Le Guin turns her writer’s eye to any number of the things that have lightness or weight: technology, old age, time, a lynx, her cat Pard, injustice, solidarity, anger, music, telling the truth, all that matters to her. Musing on knowledge wrought from time, she writes, “What it made me think about above all is how incredibly much we learn between our birthday and the last day…” Flawed or extraordinary, we’re thankful for these last words Le Guin left for us. “No matter if the knowledge is intellectual or practical or emotional, if it concerns alpine ecosystems or the Buddha nature or how to reassure a frightened child: when you meet an old person with that kind of knowledge, if you have the sense of a bean sprout you know you’re in for a rare and irreproducible presence.”
Book of the Week: December 24
“Again open / the book / of reds and golds /…so you might know things / as they are.” -Jane Hirshfield. Warm yourself this winter with the words of Hearth, a new anthology that “challenges us to redefine home and hearth: as a place to welcome strangers, to be generous, to care for the world beyond one’s own experience.” It’s edited by Annick Smith and Susan O’Connor, with essays, poems, and art from Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Natasha Trethewey, Intizar Husain, Andrew Lam, Chigozie Obioma, Luis Alberto Urrea, Gretel Ehrlich, Kavery Nambisan, Angie Cruz, Debra Magpie Earling, and more.
Book of the Week: December 17
“Now I am bolder, and angrier, and more joyful; none of these things contradict each other. Now I am the writer that short stories made me. So come on. There’s the future over there. Let’s all go.” Worldbuilding genius N.K. Jemisin’s How Long ‘til Black Future Month? is a brilliant parcel of worlds, each one a gem and a revelation. Twenty-two stories transport us to new places, spin tales of magical feasts, fae-fighting mothers, living, breathing cities, dreamers, lovers, and revolutionaries. A perfect book for settling into on a winter’s night when you want to be carried away by pure storytelling magic.
Book of the Week: December 10
You may have already tuned in to Mothers of Invention, a new podcast on women and climate justice from Irish comedian Maeve Higgins and former Irish President Mary Robinson. But there’s an uplifting, heartening book about climate justice, too? In Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, Mary Robinson shares all that IS truly possible through stories of people doing grassroots work that deeply impacts their communities, countries, and the world. We see how Sharon Hanshaw of East Biloxi, Mississippi became an activist for the rights of her community after Hurricane Katrina. Constance Okollot, who calls herself a “climate change witness,” advocates on behalf of women farmers in Uganda who are experiencing the crippling fallout of drought. Jannie Staffansson is a powerful voice for how climate change has affected Europe’s indigenous Saami people. Climate Justice is a welcome reminder of how many people and countries continue to be devoted to our planet’s future—and to each other.
Book of the Week: December 3
“The story Magsalin wishes to tell is about loss.” Magsalin appears in Chapter 1 of Gina Apostol’s new novel Insurrecto, and you can find Magsalin’s story in Chapter 1 if you flip straight to page…107. Insurrecto is our book of the week: “A searing and psychedelic road trip through the long, sordid history of Philippine-American relations, Insurrecto is at once a murder mystery, a war movie, and a moving exploration of all the ways grief lives on, both in a people and in a person. A masterful puzzle, in which, as Apostol writes, ‘one story told may unbury another.’” -Elaine Castillo.
Book of the Week: November 26
‘Tis the season for cookbooks! Warm hearts and bellies this winter with recipes from The Immigrant Cookbook: Recipes that Make America Great. Maine’s own chef Cara Stadler shares a recipe for Steamed Bass with Umeboshi Soy Sauce. Page through to unearth more treasures, like April Bloomfield’s Banoffee Pie from England, Zarela Martinez’s Chipotle-Lime Chicken from Mexico, Nina Compton’s Roasted Jerk Corn from Saint Lucia, Carla Capaldo’s Frittedda with artichokes, fava beans, and peas from Italy, and Samantha Seneviratne’s True Love Cake from Sri Lanka. Editor Leyla Moushabeck writes about these dishes: “With each bite, you can taste a distinct element of warmth, like a hug from your mother, or returning home after a journey.”
Book of the Week: November 19
“Ningikendaan akiin bakaanadoon / I know there are different worlds…” -Margaret Noodin
New Poets of Native Nations gathers poetry by Tacey M. Atsitty, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Julian Talamantez Brolaski, Laura Da’, Natalie Diaz, Jennifer Elise Foerster, Eric Gansworth, Gordon Henry, Jr., Sy Hoahwah, LeAnne Howe, Layli Long Soldier, Janet McAdams, Brandy Nālani McDougall, Margaret Noodin, dg nanouk okpik, Craig Santos Perez, Tommy Pico, Cedar Sigo, M. L. Smoker, Gwen Westerman, and Karenne Wood, and is edited and introduced by Heid E. Erdrich, with cover art by Sherwin Bitsui.
Book of the Week: November 12
Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq (edited by Lisa Bowden and Shannon Cain, Kore Press, 2008) is a dynamic and moving collection of poetry and creative nonfiction by women veterans. It’s My Country Too: Women’s Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan (edited by Jerri Bell and Tracy Crow and dedicated to women serving on active duty, in the reserve, and in the Guard, Potomac Books, 2017) offers a meticulously researched and complex history of women’s military stories, raising up their voices and sharing dozens of written and oral accounts and historical photographs, personal experiences, challenges and victories—from accounts of Prudence Wright’s Guard during the Revolutionary War to Major Charity Adams Earley’s command of the 6888th Central Postal Directory in World War II to the many powerful individual stories of today’s veterans.
Contact the library for more information on a wide range of veteran’s histories and resources for veterans.
Book of the Week: November 5
“Never in history has every demographic group been viewed as equal, nor has there been a moment in human history where oppression did not exist. Nevertheless, women, nonbinary folks, people of color, LGBTQ folks, people of faith, and people with disabilities have been fighting for a better future. It is time that we honor this truth and tell these stories. When we learn about the past and the state of the present, we can come closer to creating a world that values everyone’s life.” -Blair Imani
Writer Blair Imani and illustrator Monique Le team up to share short biographies and vibrant portraits of 70 women and nonbinary people in Modern HERstory.
Book of the Week: October 29
“Downeast Maine, where I live, is for me the most beautiful place on earth, even in February, even on a dark day in a sharp wind.” So begins Maine author Susan Hand Shetterly’s luminous and carefully-researched Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge. Her informative, thoughtful writing on seaweed and seaweed harvesting and about the lives of Mainers (her interviews with people particularly shine) is a must read for those curious about “the underwater forest” as well as the many intricately-connected lives on our coast.
About Book of the Week
Our project is created by Reader’s Advisory staff and is focused on sharing one book from the library’s collections each week. The book might be fiction or nonfiction, a new title or an older gem from the stacks. You can see a photo of each new book of the week on the website here. We will also post the books and photos to the library blog each month. Curious about new or past books of the week? Check out the booklist through this link as it continues to grow!
We are committed to our community of readers and to fantastic books. We hope to continue building a City of Readers through exploring and sharing a wide range of books and great authors from the library’s collections. Thank you for delving into the stacks with us, curious readers! If you would like your own personalized list of reading ideas from our staff based on your interests, fill out a “Your Next (Great!) Read” form here and we’ll be in touch.