top banner image



Fiction |  Nonfiction |  Spotlight on Faculty |  And More Poetry... | 
Spotlight on Alumni |  Spotlight on Prizewinners


Ex Libris brings summer reading recommendations from a broad cross-section of 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 highlighted recent 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 (Raynor 1st level) or in the Memorial stacks. Books that are checked out may be reserved by clicking on the blue recall/hold button at the top or bottom of the MARQCAT record.

Fiction

book jacket 
  illustrationCity of Thieves

David Benioff (Viking, 2008)

 

This is an engrossing coming-of-age story that takes place during the siege of Leningrad in World War II. In a city that is starving, two young men in trouble are sent by the secret police chief to look for a dozen eggs for his daughter’s wedding cake, which takes place in six days. They are a shy and idealistic teenager, Lev, and a gregarious and horny young soldier, Kolya. Since everyone in Leningrad is starving, they have no luck in the city proper, where they encounter some of the real horrors of war and starvation. So they head off into the countryside, where they meet both Soviet partisans and Nazis. Thrown together in appalling circumstances, the young men come to know and rely on each other while hunting for those eggs; and as they walk, they discuss music, literature, sex and defecation. That incongruous juxtaposition of starvation and hunting for wedding cake eggs will give you some idea of how the author uses the ridiculous to leaven this story. And there is good dialogue and descriptive detail, all of which make this a very good read.

Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustrationCareless in Red

Elizabeth George (HarperCollins, 2008)

 

Former Scotland Yard detective Thomas Lynley returns in this much anticipated book from Elizabeth George. At the end of With No One as Witness, Lynley, his friends, family, and colleagues were left stunned by the tragic and senseless murder of his wife, Helen, and their unborn child. Careless in Red begins with Lynley on a solo trek along the coast of his native Cornwall, his existence reduced to putting one foot in front of the other and avoiding thoughts of Helen. Fortunately, murder intercedes. Lynley discovers the body of a rock climber at the base of Cornwall’s cliffs and, as the first person on the scene, he becomes both a witness and a potential suspect. Aware of his reputation and his tragic circumstances, the short-staffed local DI in charge of the case presses a reluctant Lynley into service. Lynley, in turn, calls on his former partner and friend, Barbara Havers, for help. As the investigation proceeds, George paints a vivid picture of the locale and its residents, leading the reader into the dark side of the characters’ lives. Fittingly, Lynley’s role in the investigation is secondary, yet it provides the impetus for him to begin coping with his grief and reengaging in the lives of others, as well as his own.

Recommended by Pat Berge, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustrationPeople of the Book: A Novel

Geraldine Brooks (Viking, 2008)

 

Brooks' recent novels (Pulitzer Prize winning March, 2005, and Year of Wonders, 2001) have been rich in time and place, inspired by historical events, and informed by her years as a Wall Street Journal correspondent during crises in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. People of the Book is superficially a novel about Australian rare book conservator Hanna Heath and her job to preserve a 15th century Spanish illustrated manuscript Haggadah, a Jewish prayer book. Inspired by a true story, the priceless Haggadah in question was saved from destruction in the bombings of Sarajevo libraries. However, Brooks' novel delves into clues supposedly found in the volume’s pages (a strand of hair, wine stain, butterfly wing) to trace the book’s feasible route from Seville in 1480 to 1600s Venice to 20th century Bosnia. Fans of historical fiction and lovers of books will find this story fascinating. See Brooks' web site to learn more about the author.

Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustrationPetropolis

Anya Ulinich (Viking, 2007)

 

This first novel by an immigrant author is both a marvel and a puzzle--something Louise Erdrich, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Carl Hiaasen might have put together. This is the improbable story of an improbable protagonist, Sasha Goldberg, who is a chubby, black, Jewish child in the Siberian mining town Asbestos 2. When she is eight, her father abandons his family to emigrate to America, and she is almost compulsively pushed to excel by her beautiful mother. She ends up in art school, where a teenage love affair ends as you might expect. But her mother takes over the baby and Sasha follows in her father’s footsteps, emigrating to America as a sort of mail-order bride. In America at the tender age of 16, she manages a fantastical journey from Phoenix to Chicago and finally to New York, where she finds her father, and more importantly, his new family, and respectable employment. Despite the crazy plot, Sasha emerges as quite a sympathetic character, with the tenacity to survive both crazy circumstances and family, and the tenacity to hold onto her family as well. It is a tale of growing up and surviving and how family members can torment and love one another simultaneously. Ulinich pokes fun at the foibles of teenagers and parents, and at both Russian and US culture, in some of the blackest humor I’ve read in quite a while. And throughout, there is Sasha’s voice and unique view of events.

Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustrationDevil May Care

Sebastian Faulks (Doubleday, 2008)

 

To celebrate the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth, the Fleming estate commissioned a new James Bond novel, tapping noted British historical fiction author Sebastian Faulks. Fleming's literary legacy, secret agent 007, is recognized all over the world through books, movies and tie-ins, and Faulks joins a select group of authors who have added new chapters to that legacy: Kingsley Amis (as Robert Markham), John Gardner, Raymond Benson, and most recently Charlie Higson (writing about the Young Bond). In what seems to be a stroke-of-genius choice, Devil May Care picks up immediately after the original Fleming sequence and drops a slightly mind-damaged Bond into the heat of the Cold War, sending him to Iran to match wits with another megalomaniacal villain, Dr. Julius Gorner, a pharmaceuticals magnate with shady ties to both sides of World War II. Aided by the lovely and colorfully "liberated" Scarlett Papava, who has her own motives, and a bevy of Fleming-esque secondary characters, Bond begins his campaign with a tennis battle reminiscent of the golf game against Goldfinger. In fact, the whole caper reads a bit like a pastiche of the classic Goldfinger, but not to its detriment. True Bond and Fleming aficionados will argue forever whether this new Bond stands up to the original, but it's undeniable that Faulks presents a less super-human secret agent, and takes the opportunity to make some sly observations about the present-day situation in this volatile region. Ultimately, time and distance will determine whether Faulks succeeds in his attempt to rein in the movie Bond, but Devil May Care seems to hit all the right notes, even if some echo Fleming's own works. Anyone who has followed Bond's adventures will want to judge first-hand whether Faulks’ version of the immortal secret agent does indeed pay tribute to Fleming, Ian Fleming. To me, it's a resounding yes, even if the new authorial byline is oddly tagged with the curious phrase: "Writing as Ian Fleming."

Recommended by Bill Gagliani, Stacks Supervisor

 

 

book jacket illustrationThe Girl With No Shadow

Joanne Harris (Morrow, 2008)

 

Harris’s sequel to Chocolat (1999) is delicious summer reading. Those who saw the 2000 film instead (Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, and Johnny Depp), shouldn’t wait for the new film—be sure to pack this for the trip to the beach. Chocolatier Vianne Rocher has been carried by the winds to a new home in Montmartre and lives under a new name, Yanne Charbonneau, with her daughters, Anouk, now 11, and Rosette, a toddler. Hints of fairies, witches, spells, and Aztec myths threaten Vianne’s new chocolaterie when a mysterious stranger, Zozie, breezes into their lives. A less-than-exciting fiancée and forebodings of Roux’s return hint of a cataclysmic finale.

Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian

 

 

Nonfiction

book jacket illustrationLaughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad

Firoozeh Dumas (Villard, 2008)

 

As a follow-up to her critically acclaimed Funny in Farsi, Dumas has come through with a sequel containing more witty observations and insightful reflections about growing up and living in a multicultural environment. Her latest book provides additional stories about her life in Iran as a child and later with her family in the U.S. after their permanent move in the 1970s. She and her family settled in Southern California where they began adjusting to American life. Differences in culture can make for humorous stories and Dumas provides many examples, relaying anecdotes with wit and genuine warmth. She writes about her college years, living in the international housing dorms of UC-Berkeley, where she met her future husband, a Frenchman. His introduction to her Iranian-American family provides more interesting tales. Dumas is terrifically funny and her stories show that family, love, and laughter cut across all lines.

Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian.

 

 

book jacket illustrationLeaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children

John Wood (Collins, 2006)

 

This book is based on the true story of John Wood’s decision to leave Microsoft to start a non-profit organization called Room to Read. Wood recounts his journey from being a Microsoft marketing manager in Asia to starting a non-profit organization dedicated to building libraries and schools in developing countries. The tale starts in 1998 in Nepal with his hiking trek through the mountains and ends in 2006 with over one million children enrolled in schools worldwide created by Room to Read. He saw how illiterate the world’s children are and took steps toward the ambitious goal of making every child in the world literate. Though non-fiction, Wood’s prose reads like a novel with a powerful message. If you’re looking for an inspiring read on how one person can positively change the world, this is a great choice.

Recommended by Carolyn Weber, Intern, Research & Instructional Services

 

 

book jacket illustrationRockin' in Time: A Social History of Rock and Roll

David P. Szatmary (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007)

 

Rock and Roll isn't just music--some see it as a reflection of 20th century American society. Szatmary traces how the history of rock and roll is intertwined with our social history. The book begins with the roots of rock and roll, the Delta blues produced in the deep South by African-Americans. It was not uncommon in earlier decades for white performers to record African-American songs and score huge hits. The author shows how the Civil Rights movement helped black performers, especially Motown, become part of the American music mainstream. Sixties protest music (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, etc.) also became popular in its opposition to the Vietnam War and '60s rock music (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Who) was the music of a new anti-establishment generation, the baby boomers. Later, punk music reflected an angry young British generation and made its way to the U.S. Finally, the hard realities of urban life brought hip-hop into fashion. The author concludes with a discussion of how some contemporary musicians are working toward political change. For any person with a serious interest in rock or pop music, this scholarly, yet very accessible book is a must read.

Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustration

The Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with our Favorite Treats

Joanne Chen (Crown Publishers, 2008)

 

Whether you are a chocoholic, a connoisseur of red velvet cake or crème brûlée, a jelly bean or licorice aficionado, or prefer a piece of fruit, The Taste of Sweet will be the perfect addition to your reading list. The book examines why sweets are the “ultimate feel-good, feel-bad food.” Topics include how cultural, gender and socioeconomic differences affect our relationship with sweets, why there is always room for dessert, the search for the ultimate artificial sweetener, and more. Chen has a passion for sweets, and her enthusiasm is apparent in her thorough and interesting treatment of the topic. The Taste of Sweet provides the right balance of facts and research findings with personal anecdotes. So settle down with your favorite sweet treat and indulge in this fascinating and satisfying read

Recommended by Jean Zanoni, Associate Dean of Libraries

 

 

book jacket illustration

Truck: A Love Story

Michael Perry (HarperCollins, 2006)

 

This Wisconsin author is a delightful discovery and he comes off as someone you would like to know. In a month-by-month memoir covering a year, Perry tells of refurbishing his ancient International Harvester truck, planning a garden, and working to end his bachelorhood. The funny and poignant Perry hides no embarrassing details, including setting his hair on fire and being mightily hoodwinked by a practical joke of a parking ticket. Perry’s side trips take him far and wide on book tours for his previous book, Population: 405 (2002), while he works as a nurse, fireman, and freelance writer. His Web site, sneezingcow.com, also describes him as a humorist and musician. Warm portraits of family members, neighbors, and wacky friends make this an unforgettable peek into his year. I look forward to reading more from this gifted storyteller of small-town Americana.

Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian

 

 

Prizewinning Fiction

book jacket illustration

Midnight's Children

Salman Rushdie (Knopf, 1981)

 

Rushdie was recently named “Best of the Best” by the Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award. Best of the Booker was launched earlier this year in recognition of the prize’s 40th anniversary. Rushdie won over five other finalists—all previous Booker winners-- (Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road; J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace; Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist; Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda; and J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur) by receiving more than a third of the votes. The India-born and British-educated Rushdie is probably best known for his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, which earned him a death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini. He is currently receiving high praise for his new work, The Enchantress of Florence.

 

 

New Poet Laureate of the United States

book jacket illustration

Kay Ryan has been named to a two-year term as Poet Laureate, joining the impressive ranks of her 15 predecessors, including Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Billy Collins, and most recently, Charles Simic. The 62-year old Ryan has earned many honors for her poetry--the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Guggenheim and National Endowment fellowships, an Ingram Merrill Award, and the Maurice English Poetry Award. She has published six poetry collections with a seventh expected later this fall and is widely published in other collections of contemporary poetry. Sample her poems in these library holdings: The Niagara River: Poems and Say Uncle: Poems or learn more about her and listen to her reading at Poets.org.