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Jonathan Strage & Mr. Norrell
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke

This fantastic tale takes place in early 19th century Britain. There are gentlemen groups who study theoretical magic but no one has actually performed magic in hundreds of years. The reclusive and grumpy Mr. Norrell however changes all of that when he starts practicing practical magic and is able to demonstrate to his colleagues that magic can actually be performed. Soon he becomes famous throughout Britain and is eventually brought in to help the war against Napoleon. Another young magician pops up in Britain named Jonathan Strange who becomes Mr. Norrell’s apprentice. Their different approaches to magic begin to clash and we watch as they deal with the dangerous powers of faerie where magic comes from. This book is brilliantly written and truly conveys the literary conventions of the period.

Jan 5, 2011
Dave Cullen

In this great work of journalistic accomplishment, Dave Cullen takes the many narratives and myths that sprang from the tragedy of Columbine and reframes them.  This event wasn't a school shooting planned by two bullied outcasts with all the blame resting on their parents.  Instead, the attack was actually a failed bombing attempt by Eric Harris, a psychopath, and Dylan Klebold, a suicidal depressive.  It was planned out for over a year and extremely well documented.  The amount of police ineptitude before the event and the cover up that occured afterwards is astonishing and angering.  This account gives us a deeper understanding of what actually took place on April 20th, 1999.

Jan 4, 2011
Emma Donoghue

Locked in a small room for the first 5 years of his life, Jack has never been outside of the room in which he was born. This does not bother Jack, who cannot fathom a world outside of Room, but for his mother the four walls are a prison in which she tries to lead a normal life with her son. When his mother plans for their escape, Jack has to face a sudden and very frightening expansion of the world he has always known.  Fascinating from start to finish!

Dec 27, 2010
Jonathan Franzen

Freedom is a great book for anyone who finds a good character as interesting (if not more so) than a good plot.  Franzen writes about the rise and fall and eventual re-ascent of Walter and Patty Berglund and those closest to them, through good intentions and self-destructive behaviors.  With each new narrator other characters come into clear view, for better or worse, in a timeline that jumps around to give you bits and pieces of their interconnected lives that slowly illuminate a full story.  

Dec 19, 2010
Paul Auster

This was my first Paul Auster novel and I thought the set-up was unique and the writing less difficult than I had imagined (almost conversational as much of the last part of the novel breaks down into various conversations). Not only was the novel separated into 4 perspectives, but also 4 which are not directly connected through mutual circumstance (that is, not all about the same time and experience, but involving the same characters), so you have to do some of the connecting yourself. Nothing is completely resolved (did Adam sleep with her? did Born kill the young boy? did he kill Cecille's father? Whose memory can be trusted?) but enough hints at the more evil (tho elegantly dressed and eloquently, when not drinking, speaking) and more good-hearted characters (but wrongly acted on). I'm looking forward to my next Auster novel.

Dec 17, 2010
Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro

This is the story of Kathy H and her friends Tommy and Ruth and their experiences as students at a special school called Hailsham. We know from the beginning that there is something different about the students. Al l they seem to study is art and literature and each are encouraged to create art worthy of acceptance into Madame’s gallery. The teachers seem to skirt around the topic of the students’ futures without ever really explaining it to them. We know from the beginning that Kathy has grown into something called a Carer and it is her job to visit and care for other former students at hospitals across the UK. Ishiguro is amazing at describing minutiae and making it interesting and relevant as we learn about the destiny’s of Kathy and her friends.

Dec 13, 2010
Old Man's War
Old Man's War
John Scalzi

Even if you don’t normally read science fiction, you will enjoy this book. John Perry is about to turn seventy-five and he has two choices ahead of him: to either quietly live out the rest of his life and die like everyone else or join the mysterious Colonial Defense Forces and get launched into space with his youth restored and no chance of ever returning to earth again. John chooses the later and we follow him on his adventure into space. He is joined by other 75 year old's from all over the world who have made the same choice and we watch as they learn to adapt to their new battle-ready bodies and find out just who the Colonial Forces are battling.

Nov 28, 2010
The Road
Cormac McCarthy

 It follows a father and son through a world destroyed by an undefined cataclysm, a nuclear winter full of starvation and violence.  As they move toward the ocean and the hope a somewhat better life they scavenge for food and try to remain unseen and therefore safe.  It is not the story of an apocalypse so much as it is the story of how we retain hope and humanity once the world as we know it has ended.

The Road received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was recently made into a film starring Viggo Mortenson and Kodi Smit-McPhee (also available at the library). 

Nov 23, 2010
The Great Typo Hunt
Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson

After attending his college reunion, Jeff Deck decides it's his turn to do some good in the world.  But what to do?  An editor by trade, he is astonished by the number of typos he sees all around.  He creates the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) with the help of his friends and embarks on a transcontinental journey to find and correct typos and educate those who have made the mistakes, if possible.  What he does find is an abundance of missplaced apostrophes and misspellings as well as a crash course in human behavior, customer service, self-awareness, education, friendship, and even the federal government.

An entertaining journey across the United States which will make you look a little closer at how messages are conveyed.

Nov 22, 2010
The Other Wes Moore
Wes Moore

The author Wes Moore shares the same name as a convicted armed robber but the similarities don’t stop there. Both Wes’s grew up at nearly the same time on the mean streets of Baltimore where the allure of easy money selling drugs was strong. Both struggled in school with teachers who didn’t expect much out of them and a mother who expected more. Both had fathers who were nonexistent in their lives. The author, Wes Moore, however goes onto graduating high school, college, becoming a prestigious Rhodes Scholar, and attending Oxford University for his master’s degree.  This book makes a plea for humanity towards kids growing up in urban centers where resources and positive role models are lacking. Read it and feel inspired to help! (I listened to the book on CD- read by the author- which is a great way to hear the confidence and clarity with which the author leads his life)

Nov 20, 2010

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