|August 2016 Staff Reviews, Readings, Science Books, and More!
We hope you enjoy these new additions to our Staff Favorites table. Plus, check out the great author readings coming up, browse some book group titles, and see our roundup of the latest books from our Science section.
New Staff Reviews
|Here are three new Staff Favorites:
The Unseen World
by Liz Moore
reviewed by Carol
Ada has not been raised like a typical daughter. David, her single, socially inept father, is a brilliant computer scientist who heads his own prestigious university lab. He home-schools Ada, which consists largely of bringing her to work with him every day and teaching her overly-advanced subjects in the evenings. When David starts to show signs of dementia, 14-year-old Ada tries to keep their deteriorating household a secret. Inevitably, David is placed into a nursing home, leaving Ada to be raised by Liston, one of his colleagues, along with her three sons. No longer able to communicate, it comes to light that David is perhaps not who everyone thought he was. Liz Moore, the author of Heft, brings us unforgettable characters faced with seemly impossible circumstances.
by Jonathan Franzen
reviewed by Will
If Franzen's earlier novels showed that all unhappy families are dissimilar, then Purity goes a step further in the 21st Century to show that the nature of the post-middle class family and individual identity are even more of a mystery.Franzen has fun putting his characters into misery again, but this time they have a bit more free will than he normally affords them, as they struggle in a larger, perhaps more political landscape.Pip, who is burdened with crushing college debt and haunted by not knowing the identity of her father, leaves her bullshit job selling fake green energy scams to unwitting consumers, and instead follows a path into the hacker world and investigative reporting.And Andreas Wolf is a charismatic hacker who steals the secrets of others while harboring his own.Wolf navigates two separate totalitarian worlds: first in East Germany before the fall, and then later traversing the landscape created by today's massive tech companies.It all makes for a darkly comic, compelling novel.Oh, and there's a missing nuclear warhead, too.
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell
reviewed by Pat
I put this down with a reluctant sigh. My first encounter with O'Farrell's writing was so engaging I had to immediately acquire an earlier novel to counter the feeling of loss. The central characters, Daniel and Claudette, meet on a rural road in Ireland. They're both on the run: Daniel from a failed marriage and horrible custody battle in California; Claudette from the public gaze as a famous film star. They fall in love, have children, and carefully construct a life in rural isolation. This life is put in jeopardy by Daniel's misreading of a pivotal event in his past. Juggling multiple perspectives, chronologies, and continents, this engrossing novel is contemporary in structure but feels like good old-fashioned storytelling.
Authors Coming in September
Thursday, September 8, 7pm
The local author reads from his novel, Fever Tree. When a handsome and mysterious stranger arrives in Crooked River, the town is consumed by rumors. Although a deeply private young man, Dieter befriends everyone from deckhands to shopkeepers. On the rebound from a disastrous relationship, the charming but hesitant Maggie Paterson falls in love.Teddy Mink, the town's notorious, paranoid drug lord, convinced that Dieter's a narc, formulates a plan to silence him. Maggie's recently estranged ex, who moonlights as a drug runner for Teddy, jealously agrees that Dieter must be handled no matter the cost. From the moonlit beaches of Quintana Roo to the waterfront docks of Crooked River, Florida, Fever Tree is a beautifully written story that charts the surprising journey of a deeply troubled young man zealously guarding the secrets of his past.
A Soldier's Son
Tuesday, September 13, 7pm
Local author Jack Estes's new novel, A Soldier's Son
, is the powerful and redeeming story of a father's haunting memories of war, and his desperate attempt to save his son. "Estes skillfully presents the effect of war on families both in the moment and decades later. His characters are rich and complex. Battle scenes are vividly drawn, keeping the reader caught up in the action. A complex novel of the past and future, fathers and sons, and war and redemption, and the devastating impact of large-scale violence on both the perpetrators and the victims." - Kirkus Review [Please note that this event has been rescheduled from an earlier postponed date.]
Julia Claiborne Johnson
Be Frank with Me
Monday, September 19, 7pm
In Johnson's debut novel, reclusive literary legend M. M. "Mimi" Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she's flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she's put to work right away--as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer's eccentric nine-year-old. As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank's father is, how his gorgeous "piano teacher and itinerant male role model" Xander fits into the Banning family equation-and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
The Lost Codex of the Christian Heretics
Tuesday, September 20, 7pm
The Da Vinci Code
meets The English Patient
in this thrilling new novel by Oregon author, Kyla Merwin. Discover the hidden secrets of early Christianity as three daring friends search the remote and mysterious landscapes of 1947 Egypt--unveiling the most controversial archaeological discovery in 2,000 years. The Lost Codex is the story of danger, love, betrayal and choice. It's a journey though the fears and ecstasies of the human spirit, and a search for the most controversial religious material of the 20th century.
Thursday, September 22, 7pm
The Multnomah Village author reads from her history of frontier women. Discover the stories of twelve women who heard the call to settle the west and who came from all points of the globe to begin their journey. These are gripping miniature dramas of good-hearted women, selfless providers, courageous immigrants and migrants, and women with skills too innumerable to list. Many were crusaders for social justice and women's rights. All endured hardships, overcame obstacles, broke barriers, and changed the world. Monson ties the stories of these pioneer women to the experiences of women today with the hope that they will be inspired to live boldly and bravely and to fill their own lives with vision, faith, and fortitude. To live with grit.
Crackers: A Southern Memoir
Tuesday, September 27, 7pm
The Portland author returns to Annie Bloom's to read form his memoir. Merritt grew up in Atlanta, Georgia during the turbulent years between the end of World War II and the Vietnam War. A joyously unreconstructed Southerner, he looks on with amazement as Atlanta changes from a sleepy Southern town into the City Too Busy to Hate. Merritt's family is eccentric and colorful, occasionally courageous, often self-centered. This is the story of how the family was caught up in the Orly Air Crash, the Vietnam War, and the emotional fallout from a Cuban whose family had been murdered by Che Guevara. It is the story of the way the Civil Rights Revolution looked to Southerners.
This is the story the way Southerners remember it--and tell each other.
Unliving the Dream
Wednesday, September 28, 7pm
Things are darn near perfect for Alex Fisher: she runs a successful business with the love of her life, her husband and the father of her two great kids. She's managed to sail through nearly forty years without so much as a hiccup. That is, until she discovers her husband has been having an affair. Suddenly Alex is bouncing through divorce, through her daughter's subsequent rebellion, and through the big questions of who Alex herself really is and what she really wants. In this universal tale told through a unique voice, Alex finds that no one escapes unscathed-but we can all have a good laugh and some major personal growth along the way. A humorous, compassionate, and honest look at how the worst time in one's life ultimately leads to unexpected fulfillment and authenticity.
New in Science
Here are some of the latest releases in our Science section:
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
by Ed Yong
Joining the ranks of popular science classics like The Botany of Desire
and The Selfish Gene
, I Contain Multitudes
is a groundbreaking, wondrously informative, and vastly entertaining examination of the most significant revolution in biology since Darwin--a "microbe's-eye view" of the world that reveals a marvelous, radically reconceived picture of life on earth. Many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us--the microbiome--build our bodies, protect our health, shape our identities, and grant us incredible abilities. In this astonishing book, Ed Yong takes us on a grand tour through our microbial partners, and introduces us to the scientists on the front lines of discovery. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.
In Praise of Simple Physics: The Science and Mathematics Behind Everyday Questions
by Paul J. Nahin
Physics can explain many of the things that we commonly encounter. It can tell us why the night is dark, what causes the tides, and even how best to catch a baseball. With In Praise of Simple Physics
, popular math and science writer Paul Nahin presents a plethora of situations that explore the science and math behind the wonders of everyday life. Roaming through a diverse range of puzzles, he illustrates how physics shows us ways to wring more energy from renewable sources, to measure the gravity in our car garages, to figure out which of three light switches in the basement controls the light bulb in the attic, and much, much more.
This Is Your Brain on Parasites
by Kathleen McAuliffe
This book is a riveting investigation of the myriad ways that parasites control how other creatures including humans think, feel, and act. These tiny organisms can only live inside another animal, and as McAuliffe reveals, they have many evolutionary motives for manipulating their host's behavior. Organisms we pick up from our own pets are strongly suspected of changing our personality traits and contributing to recklessness, impulsivity, even suicide. Microbes in our gut affect our emotions and the very wiring of our brains. Germs that cause colds and flu may alter our behavior even before symptoms become apparent. In the tradition of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel
and Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish
, This Is Your Brain on Parasites
is both a journey into cutting-edge science and a revelatory examination of what it means to be human.
Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension
by Samuel Arbesman
Complexity scientist Arbesman offers a fresh, insightful field guide to living with complex technologies that defy human comprehension. As technology grows more complex, its behavior mimics the vagaries of the natural world more than it conforms to a mathematical model. If we are to survive and thrive in this new age, we must abandon our need for governing principles and rules and accept the chaos. By embracing and observing the freak accidents and flukes that disrupt our lives, we can gain valuable clues about how our algorithms really work. What's more, we will become better thinkers, scientists, and innovators as a result. Lucid and energizing, this book is a vital new analysis of the world heralded as "modern" for anyone who wants to live wisely.