Staff Picks for January 2015

This month, Virgie introduces us to the hero of the movie, Unbroken - Louis Zamperini - who completed his book just two days before his death, at the ripe old age of 97. In his closing statement he wrote that he wanted his life to count up to the very last minute! This book is evidence that he did.

Logan introduces us to Hanya Yanagihara, her debut novel, and her psychologically complex narrator. "You hate him, you curse him under your breath, but you can’t stop reading."

Dive in to these two books, Don't Give Up, Don't Give In, and The People In The Trees, and the rest of our first batch of staff picks for 2015...

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The Rosie Project: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476729091
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - June 3rd, 2014

Emily's Staff Pick: The Rosie Project is a hilarious, honest, modern love story. Normally, I avoid feel-good romance stories, but I couldn’t put this book down!

Don Tillman is a brilliant, painfully awkward (although always endearing) genetics professor who has planned every detail of his life down to the nanosecond. When Don decides he wants to get married, he endeavors to select a partner using an exhaustive survey that will eliminate all drinkers, vegetarians and spontaneous non-planning types from his quest, and therefore verify complete marital compatibility. The “Wife Project” is the logical way to choose a life partner, right?

Rosie Jarman is a spontaneous, vegetarian, bartender, and so Don immediately eliminates Rosie as a candidate for the Wife Project. Yet Rosie has a project of her own, the “Father Project,” and as a geneticist, Don agrees to help Rosie identify her biological father.

I thoroughly enjoyed the comedy and surprises this story offers, and the reminder that however logical we may be, love is the strongest, most illogical force out there.

If you’ve already read and loved The Rosie Project, the follow-up, The Rosie Effect, was just released on December 30

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The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062288752
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Harper - October 14th, 2014

Emily's Staff Pick: Genoways details the highly industrialized process of how hogs – 60,000 per day- become spam. This is an exposé on the two Hormel packing plants in particular, and the factory farm industrial complex in general, in the vein of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

I recommend The Chain because it provides a different perspective than other books I’ve read on factory farming, with a focus less on animal welfare and more on human rights issues, especially regarding the labor conditions for the undocumented workers employed in these factories.

This is a confronting read, but worth your time.

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The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393328646
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - May 17th, 2006

Emily's Staff Pick:  This book is an old favorite of mine. Vaillant brilliantly synthesizes environmental history, cultural anthropology, and botany to tell the story of a 300-year old Sitka spruce and a logger-turned-eco-terrorist who felled the golden tree and disappeared into the wilds of British Columbia.

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The Bishop's Wife Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781616954765
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Crime - December 30th, 2014

Virgies Staff Pick: Sister Wallheim is a 54 year old woman, a stay-at-home mother of five grown sons and the wife of a Mormon bishop. She is not a detective, nor a prophet, but deeply cares about the people in her ward. Nevertheless, her role as a bishop’s wife is compromised when disturbing situations arise in her ward.

Disturbed by the church’s patriarchal structure, Sister Wallheim is determined to get to the bottom of these situations, even if it means working on her own.

This is an exciting mystery that takes place within the confines of the Mormon Church. I learned interesting information about the LDS church and it’s practices.

The story kept me intrigued until the very end!

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Don't Give Up, Don't Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780062368331
Availability: Special Order
Published: Dey Street Books - November 18th, 2014

Virgies Staff Pick: If the book Unbroken had an affect on you, or if you have not read Unbroken but have heard the rave comments from friends, or anticipate attending the upcoming movie directed by Angelina Jolie, then this is the perfect book to read!

Louis Zamperini, the hero of Unbroken led a life of inspiration. Two days before his death, at the ripe old age of 97, he completed this book of wisdom, to pass on to his followers. How appropriate!

The short chapters tell his stories that reveal the values and lessons that sustained him throughout his life. Although he grew up in an era different than mine, his wisdom is powerful. I can relate!

In his closing statement about this book, just days before he died, Zamperini wrote that he wanted his life to count up to the very last minute. I guess it did!

His was not an easy life. He overcame inconceivable obstacles yet believed it was these experiences that made him who he is. He would have it no other way!

Louis Zamperini is truly a CHAMPION, SURVIVOR, HERO and LEGEND!

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The Heaven of Animals Cover Image
By Nancy Tillman, Nancy Tillman (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780312553692
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Published: Feiwel & Friends - September 2nd, 2014

Virgies Staff Pick: Tender words … gentle illustrations … the PERFECT book for youngsters who have lost a pet - any kind of pet!

This picture book for children, written by my favorite author, is certain to give a warm, peace of mind during a difficult time. This book is actually meaningful for people of all ages, who have lost a pet!

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The People in the Trees Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345803313
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Published: Anchor - May 6th, 2014

Logan's Staff Pick: Hanya Yanagihara can write!

In her strikingly ambitious debut, Yanagihara introduces the despicable Norton Perina, the misogynistic, cynical, and brilliant scientist who discovers immortality in a remote Micronesian tribe.

As the novel opens, he is also serving prison time for endangering a minor.

I wouldn’t necessarily call this an enjoyable read. It’s dark and upsetting, but Yanagihara should get props for creating such a psychologically complex narrator. You hate him, you curse him under your breath, but you can’t stop reading.

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316715973
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Published: Back Bay Books - July 1st, 2002

Logan's Staff Pick: This collection was Breece D’J Pancake’s first and last publication. When he took his own life at the age of 26, we lost an author who could have been one of the greatest short fiction writers of the twentieth century.

His gritty and genuine depictions of Appalachian life could be compared favorably to Daniel Woodrell or Cormac McCarthy, but Pancake’s own voice was something entirely different.

Kurt Vonnegut called him “The most sincere writer I have ever read”, and that unique sincerity pushes this underrated author into an almost mythic status.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062255662
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - June 3rd, 2014

Shannon's Pick: Gaiman creates a fantastical world at the end of the lane.

A series of events draws a young boy to the farm at the end of the road where he meets Lettie Hempstock and her unusual family. Lettie claims that the small pond behind her farmhouse is in fact an ocean that divides our world from the world she originated from.

Lettie guides the novel’s unnamed protagonist through fear and the impossible when the two worlds collide. This compact novel packs more imagination, love, awe, and fear in its 178 pages than most large novels have the ability to.

This tale of innocence lost and childhood fantasy is worthy of a sleepless night for all readers.

Yes Please Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062268341
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Published: Dey Street Books - October 28th, 2014

Shannon's Pick: Amy Poehler finally delivers the book that lets us take a peek into her incredible career and hilarious insights!

Filled with Saturday Night Live memories and Poehler’s early career as an improvisation comedian in Second City, Yes Please is a great read.

Amy Poehler proves herself as a new author and writes an original book that offers self-empowerment advice as well as the many laughs.

I Want My Hat Back Cover Image
By Jon Klassen, Jon Klassen (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780763655983
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Published: Candlewick - September 27th, 2011

Shannon's Pick: This is one of my favorite children’s books. The illustrations in I Want My Hat Back are simple but compliment the the story line of a bear who loves his missing hat and wants it back.

A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2011!