Ex Libris brings summer 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 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 most recent additions to the Browsing Collection.
Lee Child. New York: Delacourt Press, 2010
In Child's 14th thriller, Jack Reacher is riding in a tour bus full of old folks through a blizzard in South Dakota when the driver flinches and the bus crashes. Nearby, the town of Bolton has its own problems—a killer is on the loose, a witness to a major drug case is in danger, a gang of bikers squatting on a mysterious old military base is ready to terrorize anyone who gets in their way, and the local prison is the conduit for instructions from Plato, a Napoleon-like Mexican drug cartel leader whose plans include silencing the witness, and the odd military base. Reacher's Army MP crime-solving expertise comes in handy when he's recruited to help the Bolton police identify the hitman who's bound to make an attempt on the witness before the case goes to court. Lee Child's knight-errant returns in this more introspective thriller than usual, one in which the cold South Dakota winter itself becomes a character in the tense stand-off between those who would protect the elderly witness and those who would do her harm. It's possible that you'll guess part of the solution, but it's also possible that Child will surprise you when he finally releases the spring he's been winding up while moving the chess pieces on the board. This time Reacher's physical attributes are no help, in fact even become a hindrance, and he places a fair amount of trust on a husky female voice from his old office in faraway Virginia. 61 Hours is an unusually quiet thriller, but within that quiet lies both the danger and the key to Reacher's personality and his philosophical realization with regard to winning and losing. History and memory and the forgotten clash symbolically in the climax, and the book's bleakness will stay with you even if you read it in the summer sun.
Recommended by Bill Gagliani, Stacks Supervisor
Stieg Larsson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
The third entry in the late Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy picks up only hours after the previous book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, ends. Lisbeth Salander, the series’ protagonist, is in the hospital with serious bullet wounds, including one to the brain, delivered by her father, and she is wanted by the police on three counts of murder. Her father, a Russian spy-turned-mobster, is in the next hospital room, recovering from a head injury received at the hand of Salander herself. The Russian has made his daughter’s life a living hell, but, having been granted asylum by the Swedish government, he is the subject of protection that extends so far into the police department and government that the institutions themselves are unaware of who pulls the strings. To prevent their mistakes from coming to light, the manipulators want nothing more than to discredit Salander and hide her away in a psychiatric hospital. Salander, though hobbled and isolated, is not without resources. Led by Mikael Blomqvist, a discredited journalist introduced in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a cast of recurring characters and sympathetic newcomers use ingenuity, persistence, and a bit of illegal technology to prove that the truth must out. Through the three volumes, Salander is revealed as a solitary figure, both victim and scapegoat, deeply flawed, but intensely focused on her own style of morality and justice. Though not an easy read, Hornet’s Nest is a gripping conclusion to the trilogy, with enough plot twists to satisfy mystery lovers and devotees of political thrillers alike, and the brilliant, enigmatic Lisbeth Salander remains a fascinating anti-hero who refuses to be daunted. Readers who have completed Dragon Tattoo and Fire should be advised that Hornet’s Nest starts out slowly. Hang in there; the last two-thirds of this volume are worth the wait. To those who have not tackled the trilogy, I advise reading them in chronological order, as characters and plot developments cumulate. Multitaskers will enjoy the trilogy in audiobook format, outstandingly narrated by Simon Vance. An excellent film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is available on DVD.
Recommended by Susan Sponberg, Cataloger
Jamie Ford. New York: Ballantine Books, 2009
For his first novel, Ford has produced a winner that is historically interesting and evocative of the 1940s. The story of Chinese American Henry Lee alternates between him at age twelve in a pre-war, ethnically diverse Seattle neighborhood and the mid-1980s, after Henry's wife dies of cancer. Both stories focus on difficult relationships between fathers and sons—first Henry and his father, then between Henry and his college-age son, Marty, whose relationship is strained due to communication issues. Henry's father is driven by memories of the war in China and wants nothing as much as a fully Americanized son. The young Henry experiences a budding friendship with the only other Asian student (who happens to be Japanese), also a scholarship student at their prestigious private school, set against the beginning of the Japanese internment program. The portrait of Keiko's family life in the Idaho camp is heartbreaking and yet, fairly drawn. Ford subtly questions what it means to be an American and how immigrants adapt their cultural heritage to their new environment.
Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian
Helen Simonson. New York: Random House, 2010
A retired and widowed army major living in a small English village finds a kindred spirit, a friend, and romance in the person of the village shop-keeper, a widow. So far nothing extraordinary, right? But the Major is a quintessential English gentleman, and the widow, Mrs. Jasmina Ali, is of Pakistani descent. Driving the plot is a pair of valuable antique guns, left to the Major and his brother by their father; after the brother’s death, who will inherit the gun is up for grabs. Both the Major and Mrs. Ali have relatives set to drive them to distraction, and of course there are some gossipy and propriety-obsessed neighbors in the village. The Major and the widow must work out how to balance their own respect for tradition (their separate traditions), their obligations to their families, and their desire for each other as individuals. There are intriguing subplots involving the Major’s insensitive, banker son and his American girlfriend, and the widow’s very religious nephew and his former girlfriend and young son. The tension between tradition and modernity, family ties and individual interests, and between narrow and open-mindedness provide realistic spice for this gentle comedy of manners (think Jane Austen updated for modern times). The novel has a slow start and could have used a bit more editing, but overall the author’s writing is a joy to read. This truly is perfect for summer reading.
Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research and Instructional Services Librarian
Robert Goolrick. Chapel Hill, N.C: Algonquin Books, 2009
“Standing in the middle of the crowd, his solitude was enormous.” And so, Ralph Truitt, living in northern Wisconsin in 1907, advertises in the Chicago newspapers for “a reliable wife.” And so, Catherine Land, living in Chicago, answers his ad and finds herself on a train headed north to marry and live with him. And neither of them get what they expect. Truitt wants a plain and simple woman, a reliable wife. Catherine, anything but plain and simple, is coming to marry Truitt, murder him, and inherit his wealth. When Truitt meets Catherine on the train platform and immediately realizes that she is not the woman in the photo she sent, he says to her, “This begins with a lie. I want you to know that I know that.” Little did he know how much of a lie. A Reliable Wife is a novel about the stories people tell themselves and others. It is about how people tell themselves one story about who they are, tell someone else another story, and tell another person yet a third story. Which is the “truth” and which are fabrications? Are we reliable narrators of our own lives? Are we able to change our story, rewrite the ending, or more importantly, the middle? A Reliable Wife examines these themes in the context of a historical novel which is well told and artfully written. Goolrick does an excellent job of describing the characters and their motivations and psychology. He also gives you a wonderful feel for “place.” On the first page, describing northern Wisconsin in October as winter is coming on, he tells you, “The land here flew away from your eyes, gone into the black horizon without leaving one detail inside the eye. Stubble through the snow, sharp as razors. Crows picking at nothing.” He starts you off feeling the desolation of northern Wisconsin but doesn't leave you “picking at nothing.” This is a novel to enjoy for the plot, the themes it examines, and the language used to tell the story.
Recommended by Nick Schroeder, Senior Graphic Designer, Office of Marketing and Communication
Shaila Abdullah. Ann Arbor, MI: Modern History Press, 2009
This short novel takes place in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack and its impact on the life of a young Pakistani American woman. Here are the bare bones of the story: shortly after Arissa’s husband dies on 9/11, her unborn child is diagnosed with major disabilities, and she faces a completely changed future. She must begin to deal with her grief, move closer to family and medical facilities in Texas to prepare for her baby’s arrival, and find work. In the course of that, she finds the almost finished manuscript of her husband’s novel. During the next several years, she works on finishing the novel of her beloved husband, and tries to find some equilibrium for herself. In flashbacks the reader learns about Arissa’s privileged but unhappy youth in Karachi, her marriage, and her work as an artist. She finds love and acceptance from a few friends and from her mother-in-law in particular. Though there is little action, there is so much going on in Arissa’s life that the reader is alternately appalled, heart-broken, and thrilled on her behalf, all the while seduced and dazzled by the beauty of the author’s writing. Though elements of the Muslim immigrant experience are there (and some are horrifying), most of all, this novel is an interior journey through love and loss, and toward survival.
Recommended by Valerie Beech, Business Reference Librarian
Colson Whitehead, New York: Doubleday, 2009
This is a great summer reading choice. It takes place between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 1985 and follows 15-year old Benji and his "Cosby family" of doctor father, lawyer mother, and three kids. Don't look for a lot of plot, but in a Holdenesque narrative he covers all the archetypal teen issues—clothes and hair, scoring beer, music, girls, overcoming dorkiness, and most of all, fitting in. Sag Harbor, on Long Island, as far back as the 1930s was home to an enclave of upper-middle class blacks who spent summers in their seasonal beach cottages. The neighboring kids spent a lot of time fending for themselves while their parents worked in the city and socialized with friends. Whitehead, born in 1969, has stated in interviews that the novel is highly autobiographical and that he did indeed summer in Sag Harbor. Harvard-educated, winner of a MacArthur fellowship (2002) and numerous other literary prizes, Whitehead has three earlier novels to his credit.
Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian
Janet Evanovich. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010
In her 16th escapade, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum must rescue her boss and cousin Vincent Plum before he’s killed by his kidnappers. Vinnie has gotten into debt with his bookie to the tune of a million three and has been cooking the books of the bail bonds office. It turns out that Vinnie was scamming an even bigger scammer and is in more trouble than first appears. Concerned about losing their jobs, Stephanie, Lula and Connie set out to find Vinnie and clear his debt. The women find trouble at every turn—having adventures with a pet alligator, cattle stampedes, and the attendees at Hobbit Con. Stephanie continues to split her love life between Ranger, the Man of Mystery, and sexy Trenton Homicide Detective Joe Morelli. Once again Evanovich proves that she is adept at characterization. While I must say that I enjoyed previous entries in the series more, followers of Stephanie Plum's adventures will find this good summer reading.
Recommended by Sharon Olson, Acquisitions Department
Aravind Adiga. New York: Free Press, 2008
The white tiger, a rare jungle creature, comes along only once a generation. The same can be said of The White Tiger’s main character, Balram Halwai, a lowly laborer born in destitute, rural India who against all odds rises from his impoverished beginnings to become a self-made, successful entrepreneur in one of India’s growing, bustling cities. Balram’s story is one of fascination, told with witty philosophical insights and astute observations regarding his country’s culture, society and the economic disparities between the rich and poor. In a series of letters to a visiting Chinese premier, Balram details his ascent from lowly servant to achieving his lifetime dream of owning and running his own business. (Hint: one of the means employed is murder.) Smartly written, entertaining, and teeming with black humor, this book earned first-time author Adiga the 2008 Man Booker International Award for fiction. A definite must-read if you are looking for a captivating, multicultural, and thought-provoking novel!
Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research and Instructional Services Librarian
Anya Kamenetz. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Pub., 2010
Over the last twenty years college tuition has increased more than any other good or service, yet almost half of college students don’t graduate and those who do have unprecedented levels of federal and private student loan debt. In DIY U, Anya Kamenetz offers solutions to the aforementioned issues with American higher education by leveraging technology and different approaches to teaching. Kamenetz spends the first half of the book explaining the history, sociology, and economics of the Clark Kerr "college for all" model. What started with the intention of getting more folks to college via Pell Grants, the GI Bill and other government subsidies has led to a work force that was 'graduate' hungry while also encouraging a rise in cost due to consistent government subsidies. College degrees are slowly becoming less valued, not because of the education they represent, but the fact that one must get one to stay competitive. The second half of the book provides a plethora of examples of ways in which technology and innovative thinking can improve the nature of higher education while also controlling its cost. Examples include institutions which utilize technology and resources, such as Google Books, iTunesU, YouTube/edu and OpenCourseWare for free or marginal-cost open-source content, techno-hybridization and unbundling of educational functions. On the cost side, Kamenetz discusses the University of Maryland, which has managed to hold the line on tuition for four years in a row, and the College of the Ozarks, which is tuition-free for students willing to commit to the college work-study programs. This fast read is well worth the time especially for educators and will provide many new ideas and resources.
Recommended by Eric Kowalik, Instructional Designer
Daniel L. Everett. New York: Pantheon Books, 2008
Everett first visited the Amazonian Pirahã tribe as a missionary in 1977. Then he trained as a linguist and later as an anthropologist. With the ultimate goal of translating the Bible into Pirahã, over the course of the next thirty-plus years he spent large amounts of time with this tribe, often with his wife and children along. This book is about Everett’s journey among the Pirahã, and has two main parts: all about learning their language and culture; and reflections on the relationship between culture and language. There are stories about near disasters, such as a major bout of malaria, and a confrontation with the tribe about alcohol drinking; and stories about how the Pirahã tried to teach him about daily life on an Amazonian river. There are funny stories about practical jokes and how wives handle their husbands’ infidelity; a frightening story about territory, murder and punishment; and serious stories about work and family responsibility. Many of these stories help illustrate Everett’s belief that the Pirahã’s very conservative culture (in the sense of "staying the same") and worldview have influenced their language, which is linguistically very unusual. Among other things, it has a minimalist sentence structure, and no words for numbers or colors (they use descriptive phrases instead, so "like dried blood" means "black"). At the end of the book there is a brief chapter on Everett’s own transformation from missionary to skeptic, in part because of his experiences among these people who are closely attuned to their environment, and happy in it. I found this book fascinating and well-written.
Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research and Instructional Services Librarian
Gordon Thompson. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008
The British music invasion of the 1960s was one of the most exciting times in rock and roll history. From England emerged such groundbreaking groups as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Kinks and they, along with a number of other British bands (the Animals, the Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers), flooded the American recording charts with hit after hit. This book does not go into detail about the bands and their members, but rather concentrates on the British music industry at that time and the important people who worked behind the scenes and who made these groups into hit-making artists: the songwriters, record company producers, recording engineers, and music directors. Most bands had little control in the studio as control was relegated to the record producers. Bands did not write their own material and producers selected which songs would be recorded. Challenging this practice were the early Beatles who rejected a song their producer, George Martin, had chosen for them. Luckily, Martin saw talent in them and was persuaded to accommodate them. The band recorded Lennon and McCartney’s “Please Please Me” which became the Beatles’ first number one hit. The success of this song spurred other bands to begin writing and recording their own material and thus, a wave of fresh, new music came into existence with burgeoning songwriters such as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (Rolling Stones), Pete Townsend (The Who) and Ray Davies (The Kinks) followed by a multitude of others. This is an intriguing book for rock music fans who wish to dig deeper into the revolutionary 1960s rock and pop music scene.
Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research and Instructional Services Librarian
Norris Church Mailer. New York: Random House, 2010
How did Barbara Jean Davis, a high school art teacher living in Arkansas with her three year old son from a previous marriage, become the sixth and final wife of writer Norman Mailer? Norris Church Mailer takes us from her small town beginnings to the glamorous and unconventional life of literary celebrity in New York City in her memoir, A Ticket to the Circus. Mailer recounts dating a young, single Bill Clinton, being entertained by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, her brave battle with cancer and of course, life with Norman Mailer. When Sam Donaldson asked Norris what life was like with Mailer, she replied, “Well, Sam, it’s kind of like living in the zoo. One day Norman is a lion, the next he’s a monkey. Occasionally, he’s a lamb and a large part of the time he’s a jackass.” In fact, Norman Mailer’s apartment came equipped with a trapeze and tightrope. Mailer tells her story with honesty and humor. A Ticket to the Circus is well written and highly entertaining—the perfect summer diversion. Just sit back and enjoy the show.
Recommended by Jean Zanoni, Associate Dean of Libraries
Haruki Murakami New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008
Murakami uses long-distance running and training for marathons as a metaphor for writing and as a way to focus on what is important in life. He notes that most of what he knows about writing fiction he learned by running every day. Never one for team sports, he found that running suits his solitary personality and helps him stay focused on reaching goals that he sets for himself. For him, running marathons and writing novels have much in common. “…a writer has a quiet, inner motivation and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible.” Running is a meditative activity, filled with random thoughts that occur to him “like clouds in the sky,” helping him to accept things as they are. While running he ponders the mysteries of life and reflects on the aging process and the end of one’s existence. This book is not about fitness or health; rather it is a thoughtful memoir that uses running as the basis for musing on the nature of one’s being and the process of writing fiction. The physical pain of training and running in marathons is an unavoidable reality, which leads to this insight about life: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” In this memoir, centered on the act of running, the author reveals much about himself and his development as a writer.
Recommended by Kristina Starkus, Technical Services
Marquette Magazine asked Matt Blessing, Head of Special Collections and University Archives, to share his top five summer reading recommendations—an eclectic selection including Jack Kerouac and Ivan Doig. See his list and read why he chose the books he did in this summer magazine Web exclusive.
Leif Enger. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001
This August all incoming first-year students will be discussing a novel, Peace Like a River. As described on the publisher's Web site, "The story of a father raising his three children in 1960s Minnesota, Peace Like a River is at once a heroic quest, a tragedy, a love story, and a haunting meditation on the possibility of magic in the everyday world." The reading program, in its ninth year, is organized by Manresa at Marquette, a campus project that encourages reflection upon one’s vocation, or how each of us is called to use our gifts in service of the world.
A. F. Moritz. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2008
Moritz's latest collection won the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize for 2009. The Marquette Journalism (B.A. '69, M.A. '71) and English (PhD, 1975) alumnus is a resident of Toronto, where he teaches at Victoria University. He has published more than 15 books of poetry and has won other literary awards. In awarding the Griffin Prize, the judges cited his "beautiful command of what William Empson called ‘a long delicate rhythm based on straight singing lines.’ In his extraordinary collection The Sentinel, we never lose our bearing, so sure is his formal grace, even as we are carried into fabulous circumstance, get lost in places we know, are found in imaginary cities or in any ‘prosperous country’." His publisher's site features audio recordings and reviews of his works.
The PEN/Malamud award for excellence in the short story is given annually to two authors—one a veteran author and one at the start of a career. The 2010 awards went to Edward P. Jones, a Pulitzer Prize winner, for his stories, including All Aunt Hagar's Children (2007). The Vietnamese Australian author Nam Le won the prize for his debut collection, The Boat (2008).
Fans of mystery fiction eagerly await the Edgar Awards announcements by the Mystery Writers of America. 2010 winners were: In the Shadow of Gotham by Stephanie Pintoff for the best novel and for the best first novel by an American author, The Last Child by John Hart.
Barbara Kingsolver was awarded the 2010 Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction for The Lacuna, a novel about political turmoil in mid-20th century Mexico and the United States. Daisy Goodwin, judges' chair said, "We chose The Lacuna because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy." The British prize is awarded annually for the best novel written by a woman in English.
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