WHAT WE'RE READING

Like reading? Looking for book recommendations?

Learn what the librarians @ CSW are currently reading and talking about. See something that peaks your interest here? Swing by the library and ask to check the book out!

Check out the What We're Reading Archives to see past selections.

SPEAK NO EVIL by UZODINMA IWEALA

What it's about: A high school senior living in Washington, D.C, Harvard University bound in the fall, who is grappling with the two world's to which he exists--the obliging son of successful Nigerian parents with certain expectations for his life and the inner turmoil of being a gay, black teenager. A track star and formidable student, the story examines his evolving relationship with his best friend and one-time girlfriend, Meredith, and explores of the world of two privileged teens from starkly different backgrounds.

Why you might like it: The story is first told from Niru's perspective, and then, his best friend Meredith. The book is a slim, quick story with a deep, gut wrenching twist at the end. A deeply personal and immensely literary account, it aims to answer the question: how do you grow as friends when you no longer provide the emotional support the other needs?

For fans of: Junot Diaz, tight realistic fiction, excised dialogue

THE LAST PAINTING OF SARA DE VOS by DOMINIC SMITH

What it's about: A 1950s forgery of an obscure Dutch landscape completed by painter Sara De Vos, believed to be her only painting. It also happens to be a rare phenomenon--women in 17th century Netherlands did not paint landscapes, but rather bowls of fruit and portraits of children. Who was Sara De Vos? Why did she create this painting? And how did it become forged and forever link three lives?

Why you might like it: Told from multiple perspectives during three time periods and on three continents, this novel will transport you to 1950s New York, 1600s Netherlands, and even Sydney, in the 2000s. What ever happened to that forged painting? Explore deep relationships and mistakes through gorgeous language and mysterious circumstances.

For fans of: historical fiction, mysteries, art and art history, sardonic storytelling

LAVINIA by URSULA K. LE GUIN

What it's about: In the classic, epic poem The Aeneid by Vergil, hero Aeneus fights to claim the king's daughter, Lavinia; they are destined, together, to found a new empire. In Vergil's poem, Lavinia doesn't utter a word. Leave it to a master like Le Guin to give voice to an epic heroine and tell her unknown story. Lavinia's life is filled with freedom and friends until several suitors, from disagreeing realms, come knocking. Her father must choose whom Lavinia will marry. Follow the story of Lavinia, as she meets the poet ghost of The Aeneid, and learns of her fate. Who would challenge a prophecy?

Why you might like it: The language is haunting, beautiful, and you find yourself savoring the last parts of the book because you just can't imagine it ending. It's also enriching to explore some of the work of a recently passed author like Le Guin, and discover her stories anew. Le Guin herself claimed Lavinia to be her favorite of all her work--to which she is mostly known for science fiction and fantasy writing. Plus, its got bloody battles, clashes of titans, fights to the death, prophecies, land grabs, female-only parties for blessing the Gods and fates, and a powerful queen named Amata who you find yourself equally intrigued and repulsed by.

For fans of: strong female characters, classics, ancient Rome, and epic storytelling

ARTEMIS by ANTHONY WEIR

What it's about: The author of blockbuster hit, The Martian, follows up with a book about a young woman living on the first moon colony, Artemis. Jazz is a porter by trade but mostly makes deals to deliver illicit goods to her clients, making her a low rate criminal on Artemis. Follow Jazz as she embarks on her biggest haul yet, what she didn't know she was getting into, and the ultimate showdown for control of Artemis.

Why you might like it: Our narrator, Jazz, is sharp, sarcastic, and a bit of a troublemaker--flawed, but ultimately, reliable. The story is fast paced, adventurous, and dark, at times, but humor isn't lost. Some of the writing gets technical, which means there's opportunity to learn a little bit about what it would take for humans to live on the moon but it doesn't bog down the fast paced plot.

For fans of: Ernest Cline, Neil Stephenson, science fiction buffs

THE FIFTH PETAL by BRUNONIA BARRY

What it’s about: Salem’s Chief of Police John Rafferty finds himself challenged by a murder case tied to the town’s 17th-century witch trials and the “Goddess Murders” that took place twenty-five years ago. Historian Rose Whelan, suspected of both killings, and Callie Cahill, a descendant of one of the accused witches, use their cumulative knowledge and powers of alternative healing to help solve both crimes.

Why you might like it: This book shares details about witchcraft, sound therapy, deja vu experiences, Celtic lore, ancient religious symbolism, and the cultural climate of 17th-century Salem-- unusual topics, yes, but intriguing to consider. Trying to “solve” the crimes in the context of the story’s twists and tangents is a fun challenge, too!

For fans of: contemporary fiction with historical links, murder mysteries, stories set in Massachusetts, supernatural themes

SOURDOUGH by ROBIN SLOAN

What it’s about: As a newly hired software developer for a robotic arm manufacturer, Lois Clary quickly realizes her day-to-day routine is one-dimensional and boring. She decides to use the sourdough starter she was gifted from a restaurant friend to sell bread at a quirky, innovative San Francisco farmers’ market. “Armed” with an obsolete prototype from her former employer, Lois prepares bread on a large scale, but the market’s ambitions grow beyond her personal comfort level-- and may impact society as a whole. She must decide how to leverage the accumulated wisdom from her former experiences to balance the conflicting realities of producing our food of the future.

Why you might like it… This story can be savored in small bites or devoured whole in a weekend. Either way, it’s an easily digested read, but one that can be unsettling over time. It models the unpredictable journey of someone who takes a chance to try something new, succeeds, but eventually questions what really matters in life.

For readers who enjoy: food, robotics, unusual ideas, questioning choices, & stories set in the near future

THE LOST CITY OF THE MONKEY GOD by DOUGLAS PRESTON

What it’s about: A group of scientists and media professionals use cutting-edge technology to peer beneath the canopy of the mountainous rainforests of Honduras. Their search for the rumored Lost City of the Monkey God not only uncovers a here-to-fore unknown civilization, but also raises troubling questions about its demise. Current thinking about the impacts of globalization infuses the storyline.

Why you might like it… Written by a CSW-alum, this book documents what may be one of the most important discoveries of the twenty-first century. It includes a fair share of suspenseful moments, plot twists, and compelling narrative-- engaging the reader through its swings from significant historical events in Central America to contemporary technological challenges.

For folks who like to read: adventure stories, medical and scientific mysteries, stories about social justice


THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE by JOSHILYN JACKSON (available on Axis360)

What it’s about: Fiercely independent divorce lawyer Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who reinvented their history as they moved from town to town, and Kai moved from boyfriend to boyfriend. When one move landed mother and daughter with a low-level drug dealer, Paula made an ill-fated phone call that would send Kai to prison and Paula to foster care, and drive a wedge through their relationship. Years later, Paula is still trying to atone for that devastating act when she receives word that her estranged mother is terminally ill, maybe already dead. Then Kai’s most closely held secret lands on Paula’s doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister.

Why you might like it: The Opposite of Everyone is a gritty, bittersweet story laced with “earthy” language and sharp humor. Paula is tough-as-nails and relentless in ferreting out the secrets that lead to sizable settlements for her clients, but after years spent guarding her heart, her greatest risk may be in letting family and love back into her life.

For fans of: unconventional family stories, hard-boiled detective fiction, legal thrillers.

THE ALICE NETWORK by KATE QUINN

What it’s about: In the aftermath of World War II, American college student Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to Rose. Following her only lead, Charlie barges into the home of Eve Gardiner, a reclusive former spy, demanding information and launching them both on a mission to find the truth.

Why you might like it: Suspenseful, engrossing, and brimming with period detail, this story of two courageous, unconventional women spans decades and continents, and introduces readers to the real-life network of female spies that operated in Europe during World War I.

For fans of: strong female characters, historical fiction, thrillers and suspense