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Fiction |  Nonfiction |  Recent Books by Marquette Faculty | 
Recent books by Marquette Alumni | Prizewinners


Ex Libris brings reading recommendations from library staff readers. Our goal is to showcase Raynor Memorial Libraries’ Browsing Collection and to identify a range of contemporary fiction and nonfiction for the general reader. In addition to staff choices, we highlight recent books by faculty and alumni and literary award winners. All readers in the Marquette community are invited to suggest books, or better, to write a brief review for Ex Libris. If you missed an alert, earlier issues of Ex Libris are available online.

Clicking on the title or cover image will take you to the book's MARQCAT record; please note locations carefully as items may be in the Browsing Collection or in the Memorial stacks. Books that are checked out may be reserved by clicking on the MARQCAT record's "Request" button.

Still looking for something to read? Check out the libraries' "virtual" browser. Click on a jacket image to see the full MARQCAT record.

Fiction

The Help by Kathryn StockettThe Help: a Novel

Kathryn Stockett. New York: G. P. Putnam's, 2009

This is Stockett's first novel and she and its heroine share a similar background--both raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Stockett graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, then worked in New York City in magazine publishing for nine years. The novel centers on Eugenia (nicknamed "Skeeter" by the maid who raised her), who has just moved back home after graduating from Ole Miss. Her mother intends that she join the Junior League and country club set, find a husband, and marry asap. Set in civil rights-era 1962, Skeeter has her sights set on a writing career and lands a job as the local newspaper's household advice columnist, knowing not the first thing about running a household. Skeeter turns to the maid of her best friend, Aibileen, and her friend Minny. After Skeeter's young married friends start a campaign to build segregated toilet facilities for their maids, Skeeter and the two black maids round up a dozen maids and begin a clandestine oral history project to document the lives and treatment of the maids. This is an unputdownable and moving story with both humor and hope.

Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian

 

A Mercy by Toni MorrisonA Mercy: a Novel

Toni Morrison. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008

Morrison's novels span the years from 1970 (The Bluest Eye) to this, her 8th, and the Pulitzer-winning author (Beloved, 1987) and Nobel Laureate reaches furthest back in time, to the colonial 1680s, for her setting. In poetic, dreamy, and stream-of-consciousness fashion she portrays a real stew of characters: a Dutch landowner, Jacob Vaark, who immigrated to the new world to claim inherited land in Virginia; his wife, "Mistress;" the young black slave girl Vaark was given by her mother (the "mercy" of the title) as payment of a debt; a native American slave sold to Vaark by Presbyterians; and a young woman of mixed parentage, apparently a shipwreck survivor. This cast, plus others, provides the narrative in fragments and in no discernible order. The reader quickly absorbs the rigors of colonial life and there are no heroes: smallpox ravages the population without regard to class, the Christians rate a particularly unflattering portrait. Motherhood, viewed from several angles, offers only death and pain. This slim book is a quick read, but it might take more than one reading to understand the voice within.

Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian

 

Split Image by Robert B. ParkerSplit Image

Robert B. Parker. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2010

The most recent mystery and crime writer to leave us is Robert B. Parker, creator of Spenser, the P.I. and chivalrous knight character. In recent years, Parker had added alcoholic ex-cop Jesse Stone and tough lady P.I. Sunny Randall to his stable of recurring characters. Parker's sudden and untimely death leaves a void for those of us who valued his quiet tough-guy tales. No one other than Elmore Leonard could match him for dialogue. He is widely considered to have restored the American P.I. tale to its early glory. In this last Jesse Stone novel, Paradise, Mass., Police Chief Stone has fallen into the bottle again due to his inability to detach from ex-wife Jenn. An ex-mobster and a thug are whacked in his town, however, and soon Stone is investigating the wives of two mobsters—identical twins with a colorful history. The twins may be involved in the murders, but Stone is also captivated by how devoted they appear to be to their thuggish husbands, setting off his newest fight with the drinking. But it may be on-again off-again lover Sunny Randall (riddled with issues herself), in town on a cult-and-kidnapping case, who rescues him. As always, the dialogue crackles with noir intensity and ironic repetition, and not a small amount of wry humor seeps through the plentiful shrink-speak as Stone and Randall seek answers for their depression from each other and their therapists. Parker had been tying his different series together, and Sunny and Jesse make a lovely but wounded couple. Definitely recommended to fans, and readable as a stand-alone, but perhaps a new reader should begin with the first Stone novel, Night Passage, and work toward this one.

Recommended by Bill Gagliani, Stacks Supervisor, Access Services

 

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth KostovaThe Swan Thieves: a Novel

Elizabeth Kostova. New York: Little, Brown, 2010

I loved Kostova’s first novel, The Historian, about Vlad the Impaler, and I found the locale descriptions and characters as riveting as the subject matter. The Swan Thieves, her second novel, is a mystery about psychology, romance, obsession, and art. The story follows Dr. Andrew Marlow as he endeavors to uncover the reason one of his patients, the artist Robert Oliver, attacked a painting in the National Gallery. Dr. Marlow must interview people such as the ex-wife and former girlfriend who have shared his patient’s life because the artist refuses to talk. The narrative shifts from the present day to the nineteenth century and the source of the mystery, two Impressionist painters. Kostova’s use of multiple points of view works well and was not disruptive to the story. The author’s skill in character development is also evident in her second novel. She is gifted in drawing realistic characters that have a depth of experience and history. She has a talent for describing a location that makes the reader see the place in its entirety. I recommend this book to people who enjoy character development, and are not daunted its 576 page.

Recommended by Sharon Olson, Technical Services

Nonfiction

An Affair to Remember by Christopher AndersenAn Affair to Remember: the Remarkable Love Story of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy

Christopher Andersen. New York: William Morrow, 1997

In the Hollywood that existed long before instant media access and cutesy portmanteaus became standards of celebrity news, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy carried on a decades-long relationship that was relatively unknown outside of a small circle of friends and industry insiders. Christopher Andersen’s biography, written with the reclusive and retired Hepburn’s permission and assistance in the years leading up to her death, chronicles the lives of these two beloved movie stars, their careers, and their undying love for each other in the face of personal and professional obstacles. Andersen begins with their early lives, seeking to determine how their experiences sowed the field for the relationship that would blossom on the set of their first meeting and movie, 1942’s Woman of the Year. At times he touches on their relationship with the media—how and why their story remained a well-known but not publicized secret—as well as the most interesting parts of the book, in my opinion, which detail how their relationship was influential in their career choices, exposing the private motivations for choosing the projects they did. But the bulk of the book focuses on their later years, Tracy’s failing health, Hepburn’s balancing of his needs and her career, and the tensions that the outside world put on them. To his credit, Andersen neither overlooks their individual faults, nor overemphasizes their particular virtues; instead, the book is a well-balanced exploration of two fascinating celebrities and their enduring love story.

Recommended by Elizabeth Wawrzyniak, Office Associate, Dean's Office

 

Clapton by Eric ClaptonClapton: the Autobiography

Eric Clapton. New York: Broadway Books, 2007

Eric Clapton's music career spans five decades; he has won 19 Grammys including a Lifetime Achievement Award and has been inducted several times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now in his sixties, Clapton tells us his story beginning with his youth in a working class town. Born out of wedlock, Clapton grew up believing his grandparents were his parents and that his real mother was his sister. At the age of nine, Clapton learned the truth; however, he had a loving home and as a young teen, his grandparents bought him a guitar which he learned to play by listening to records of his idols—blues greats Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Soon Clapton was playing impressive lead guitar for John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and later the Yardbirds. He went on to form the super groups Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominoes before going solo. In his personal life, Clapton lived through major struggles: addiction to hard drugs and alcoholism, and the accidental death of his four year-old son, perhaps the biggest blow. In his grief, Clapton penned the song "Tears in Heaven." Clapton has now been clean and sober for two decades and continues to record and perform to sell-out crowds. For rock fans, Clapton's reflections tell not only his unique story but also provide a look at rock and roll history.

Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

Columbine by David CullenColumbine

Dave Cullen. New York: Twelve, 2009

Dave Cullen presents a fascinating, heartbreaking account of the Columbine tragedy that shatters commonly held notions about what happened in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. The first reporter on the scene, Cullen spent the better part of the next decade studying what happened that day and all that led up to it. Meticulously researched and documented, Columbine intertwines the events leading up to the killings with its aftermath. In so doing he weaves a riveting story that shook my preconception of Columbine. What amazed me most is how mistaken I was regarding what Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris planned that day and what drove them to it. They hadn’t targeted jocks, or anyone for that matter; they didn’t have a vendetta; there was no feud; they were not part of the Goth culture or "trenchcoat mafia;" they hadn’t been targeted by bullies (and in fact had done their share of bullying). All of that existed at Columbine, and adds to the staying power of the myths held by many today. On the surface Klebold and Harris were intelligent, popular students. But beneath the surface, Klebold was severely depressed and suicidal, and Harris was a sociopath. They planned to blow up the school and gun down anyone trying to escape, but their homemade bombs failed. The tragedy as we know it is what they did instead, but their original plan called for hundreds of victims—an act of domestic terrorism. While he cannot offer easy answers, Cullen helps the reader understand the events and explains (as best anyone could) what drove two seemingly normal boys to kill.

Recommended by Leslie Quade, Bindery Preparation/Book Preservation Supervisor, Technical Services

 

Just Kids by Patti SmithJust Kids

Patti Smith. New York: Ecco/Harper Collins Publishers, 2010

In 1967 Patti Smith moved to New York, met a boy, cut her hair, and became a poet. Just Kids is her memoir of this time, but it isn’t one for gossipy revelations about the artists and icons with whom Patti Smith consorted. We do get to hear a few good stories about familiar names, like Sam Shepard picking her up during his stint as the drummer for the Holy Modal Rounders, Harry Smith haunting the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel, and Jim Carroll being reliably unreliable. But the real motive here is a promise kept to the boy she met, Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversial artist who would die of AIDS in 1989. The promise was to tell their story, and in the process, Smith gives us a beautifully rendered elegy to their partnership, their youthful idealism and a long-lost city from a time when real estate was cheap enough for part-time bookstore clerk poets to write, paint, and crash. Just Kids ends just as Smith is making a name for herself beyond New York, and she doesn’t go much into how that happened, other than to explain that her hit song, "Because the Night" (co-written with Bruce Springsteen), came about because Mapplethorpe wanted her to record something he could dance to. Ultimately, Smith’s book is a fairy tale about becoming an artist, and is recommended to anyone interested in how that is done.

Recommended by Ann Hanlon, Digital Projects Librarian

 

Justice by Michael J. SandelJustice: What's the Right Thing To Do?

Michael J. Sandel. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2009

Political philosophy as leisure reading? Sounds unlikely, but it really does work. Written by a popular Harvard professor, this introduction to the study of questions about freedom, justice, governance and social order is aimed at the general reader, not the specialist. Without blatantly imposing his own conclusions on the reader, Sandel pretty much grabs your attention with concrete problems and questions that we can all understand and grapple with. Is price-gouging ok? What are the ethics of hiring a live-in nanny? What is the role of racial preference in college admissions? Through these and many other cases, he analyzes the precepts of utilitarianism, libertarianism and other –isms, and examines broader questions. What is free choice? What is the role of government in recognizing virtue? Can markets be moral? What is the role of loyalty? In the last chapter things get especially interesting when the author finally and clearly expresses his own viewpoint on one important issue: if Americans do not engage more in our civic life, we all lose. We lose our sense of community and a shared understanding of what our country is. This is a thought-provoking and well-written book.

Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

Little Richard by David KirbyLittle Richard: the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll

David Kirby. New York: Continuum, 2009

A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom! It was 1955 and an exciting new sound was on the radio. This new music was like nothing before and U.S. teenagers were loving it! Credited as being one of the first songs of rock and roll, Little Richard's wild, often-nonsensical song "Tutti Frutti" hit the airwaves. Born in Macon, Georgia, Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman) was like no other performer—loud, outspoken and flamboyant, he played boogie-woogie piano and during performances would jump up and dance on the piano. Other hits soon followed such as: "Long Tall Sally," "Good Golly Miss Molly," and "Lucille." Within a couple of years, Little Richard became a major world-wide success. The author admits that this work is not the definitive biography of Little Richard (Kirby cites the book The Life & Times of Little Richard by Charles White as the definitive guide), however, this is a fun, breezy account of Little Richard's life and his impact. Major entertainers such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and David Bowie have cited Little Richard as a primary influence. In 1957 when Little Richard was at the height of his fame, he gave up rock and R&B music to become a preacher and would perform only gospel. After a number of years, Little Richard was able to reconcile his R&B/rock and roll style with his religion, but he never achieved the same level of commercial success. However, Little Richard's legacy is great —in 1986 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; in 1993 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; and in 2007, Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" was named number one in Mojo music magazine's list of top 100 records that changed the world.

Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

Renegade by Ricahrd WolffeRenegade: the Making of a President

Richard Wolffe. New York: Crown Publishers, 2009

This book is advertised as an insider’s account of the 2008 presidential campaign, which makes it sound like a traditional political narrative, but it’s not. And it’s better for it, although a more challenging read as a result. The book is an effort to answer a question posed by the author to Obama: “Who are you? That’s the question people are going to ask six months from now and six years from now.” Seeking an answer, the author organizes his chapters roughly in chronological order of the campaign, but within any one of them he moves back and forth in time, drawing on interviews, anecdotes, and other writers who might elucidate the chapter’s main theme, such as Obama and race, or Obama’s view of the world, or Obama as a politician. So enjoy this book on several levels, for its insider stories, of course, but also for the way an excellent writer approaches complex themes. He doesn’t say pointblank who he thinks Obama is, letting you draw your own conclusion. I concluded that he is a center-left pragmatist with long view of social change. The tension between his left-of-center goals and his pragmatism frustrates any simple labels for his politics. Enjoy a good read and figure out what you think.

Recommended by John Jentz, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

Switch by Chip HeathSwitch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Chip Heath and Dan Heath. New York: Broadway Books, 2010

Part self-help, popular business, and social change manual all rolled together, this book is about change management. But it’s a really good read anyway. The authors are brothers and have written together very successfully before (Made to Stick). For their framework, they borrowed the image of an elephant and its rider symbolizing emotion and reason respectively (from Jonathan Haidt’s Happiness Hypothesis). Both must become engaged before change becomes likely, both must work toward the same goal or path, and that path must be shaped enough so that the first steps are not too daunting. That’s a short summary of the book. But you should read it because the authors are good story-tellers, and they use great stories to illustrate their points. For example, how an international aid staffer reduced malnutrition in rural Vietnam; how a hospital reduced its medication administration error rate by having nurses wear vests; and how a website hosting company improved its customer service by unplugging the answering machine. Perhaps the one complaint I have is that the writing is so fluid and easy to read, it sometimes seems glib. But don’t discount the ideas and the scholarship being presented on what is usually a dry subject. This book may even deserve a second read.

Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

Recent Books by Marquette Faculty

Developing Interests by McGee YoungDeveloping Interests: Organizational Change and the Politics of Advocacy.

McGee Young. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2010

Meet Assistant Professor of Political Science McGee Young (Ph.D., Syracuse University, 2004), whose research interests lie at the intersection of interest groups, public policy, and American political development. Young teaches undergraduate courses in American politics, political organizations, business and politics, politics and regulation, politics of American capitalism, and environmental politics, as well as a graduate course on interest groups. His earlier publications include articles in Studies in American Political Development and Polity. In Developing Interests, Young explores interest group politics in the United States through the defining lens of four key advocacy associations in two major and highly contested policy domains—the small business and environmental lobbies. He has a working paper,"Political Parties and Changing Patterns of Civic Associationalism," and a chapter, "The Price of Advocacy: Mobilization and Maintenance in Advocacy Organizations," which will appear in Advocacy Organizations and Collective Action (Cambridge University Press) later in 2010.

Recent books by Marquette Alumni

To celebrate the centennial of women at Marquette, the Libraries have posted an extensive bibliography of books by alumnae and women faculty. Selected books from the collection are featured in a year-long rotating series of exhibits in Raynor's lobby.

The Pint Man by Steve RushinThe Pint Man: a Novel

Steve Rushin. New York: Doubleday, 2010

1988 Marquette Journalism grad Rushin worked at Sports Illustrated for 19 years after graduation, covering all sports from locations around the world. From 1998-2008 he wrote a weekly S. I. column, "Air and Space," and since leaving S. I., he now writes occasional pieces for Golf Digest and Time. After two nonfiction books, Road Swing and The Caddie Was a Reindeer, this is Rushin's first novel. Marquette gave Rushin an honorary doctorate in 2007, when he also delivered the commencement address. The Pint Man harks back to the post-college life of the unemployed Rodney Poole, much of whose life centers around Boyle's, a New York City Irish bar. The guys who hang out in Boyle's enjoy lots of beer and much conversation about sports and chasing women. The book is light on actual plot, but there is movement toward Rodney's finding a job and establishing a relationship with the lovely Mairead. In his jacket blurb, Carl Hiaasen calls Rushin a "master juggler of words, a mischevious crossword-puzzler run amok," and the wordplay is incessant from a writer who has a great sense of humor and likes flaunting it. See his Web site for more about Steve Rushin.

Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian

LITERARY PRIZEWINNERS

War Dances by Sherman AlexieWold Hall by 
	  Hilary MantelThe First Tycoon by 
	  T. J. StilesVersed by Paul 
	  Armantrout

 

War Dances, a collection of short stories by Sherman Alexie won the 2010 Pen/ Faulkner Award for fiction. The Pen/Faulkner is the largest U. S. peer-juried prize for fiction. Alexie previously won the 2007 National Book Award for his autobiographical novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

The 2010 Pulitzer Prizes were announced this month. Winners in letters and drama include: Tinkers by Paul Harding (fiction); Next To Normal (drama) by Brian Yorkey; Lords of Finance: the Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed (History); The First Tycoon: the Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (biography) by T. J. Stiles; Versed by Rae Armentrout (poetry); and The Dead Hand: the Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman (general nonfiction).

The National Book Critics Circle Awards (NBCC) for 2009 were also announced recently. Notable among them: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel for fiction; The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes (general nonfiction); Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill (autobiography); Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey (biography); and Notes From No Man's Land: American Essays by Eula Biss (criticism).


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