WHAT WE'RE READING ARCHIVES

Like reading? Looking for book recommendations?

Learn what the librarians @ CSW have previously read and talked about. Current recommendations live at READ SOMETHING. This is a log of everything the librarians have read and reviewed.

FINDING YVONNE by BRANDY COLBERT

What it's about: Yvonne, high school senior, violinist, and burgeoning... pastry chef? This young adult novel finds Yvonne searching for meaning at a major crossroads in her life: graduating high school. Does she want to be a violinist? Work in a high end restaurant kitchen churning out baked goods? Something else entirely? As Yvonne struggles to make decisions about her future, she also struggles in relationships: with her father, with her boyfriend (...or boyfriends?), her mother, who mysteriously up and left the family when she was small. Where will this journey take her? The story makes a few unexpected turns, which will leave you asking questions and wondering what will ultimately become of Yvonne.

Why you might like it: Part romance, part personal discovery, part family history, this story doesn't sugar coat complex, and often tough, topics. Colbert manages to find humor in these trying times and as a reader, you find yourself rooting for Yvonne.

For fans of: strong female characters, romance, self discovery, young adult reads

CRAZY RICH ASIANS by KEVIN KWAN

What it's about: New Yorker Rachel Chu is delighted when her boyfriend, Nicholas Yeung, invites her for a summer vacation to visit his friend's and family in Singapore and attend the wedding of Nicholas' best friend, Colin Khoo. What Rachel doesn't know is that Nicholas is from one of the richest Asian families, his amma lives in a palace, and he's one of Singapore's most eligible bachelors. Told, chapter by chapter, from different characters' perspectives, expect a rollarcoaster ride of gossip, scheming, what it means to be family, and of course, love.

Why you might like it: This is an incredibly addicting and downright fun novel but still manages to share a wealth of information on Asian culture and Singaporean history. You won't want to put it down. Plus, it's a Hollywood blockbuster--out now in theaters--and is the first major breakout film featuring an all Asian cast. It's an impressive companion to the novel.

For fans of: beach reads, romance, books to movies

SPEAK NO EVIL by UZODINMA IWEALA

What it's about: Niru, a high school senior at a private school in Washington D.C., is Harvard bound in the fall. A star on the track and in the classroom, Niru is struggling to find his place as he straddles two worlds--that of the strict, rigid expectations of his Nigerian parents and his closeted, gay identity. Through his friendship with "girlfriend" Meredith, the story explores emotional support and how, despite a desire to be all things to someone you love, at some point, it isn't possible.

Why you might like it: Heart-wrenching, deeply honest exploration of friendship, family, and expectations. The first part of this slim novella is told from Niru's perspective. The story's culmination is told through Meredith's eyes and provides deeper insights into the aftermaths of the stories we tell and don't tell.

For fans of: short fiction, excised dialogue, Junot Diaz

ANIMALS STRIKE CURIOUS POSES by ELENA PASSARELLO

What it's about: 16 tight, literary essays about famous animals in history that humans have idolized. Think: a wholly mammoth specimen carved out of ice, where it remained encased and preserved for 13,000+ years.

Why you might like it: You learn a little bit about a particular animal in short, literary, biography form. It is playful, performative, and dramatic. The stories, despite being about distinct animals of different species (wolf, elephant, spider), is woven together and tightly constructive to feel like the essays playfully interact. However, its easy to pick up and dip in and out of, reading in no particular order.

For fans of: Prince (get it?), essays, history, animals and animal behavior

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 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