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Staff Picks

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon []

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In an alternate history where the US created a ‘Pale of Settlement’ for Jews after World War II in a desolate corner of Alaska, Yiddish is spoken, ultra-Orthodox gangsters control the islands and a lonely detective tries to solve the murder of a neighbor he barely knew. No ordinary crime novel, Chabon’s language is extraordinarily rich and the setting imaginative and evocative.

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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson []

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The author traces the Big Bang through the rise of civilization, documenting his work with a host of the world’s most advanced scientists and mathematicians to explain why things are the way they are. The author provides witty, interesting and, most importantly, understandable commentary on the many subjects the book addresses.

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The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong []

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Armstrong is a well-known biographer and author on religious and cultural subjects. This memoir is her most personal to date and helps us to understand her interest in the subjects she so skillfully covers, as a person with one foot in the world of the secular and the other in the sacred. She does not skirt around the difficult questions but shows rare candor.

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Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert []

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A humorous look at our thoughts and perceptions around happiness. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains why our predictions of what will make us happy are often wrong. He also examines how our memories of happy times may be distorted. This is not a self-help book, but Gilbert does help us become more realistic in our search for happiness.

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Understanding comics by Scott McCloud [, ]

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The first book in Scott McCloud’s influential trilogy of comics about comics, “Understanding Comics” is both entertaining and informative. Anyone interested in art and storytelling would enjoy reading this fascinating book.

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With Malice Toward None by Stephen B. Oates []

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Oates brings to life both Lincoln’s deep humanity and personal struggles, and his genius in guiding the nation through the Civil War despite political pressures on all sides (not least from his own cabinet). If you don’t have a profound respect for Abraham Lincoln as our greatest president, you will after reading this book.

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The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton []

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Set in Kenya, this book tells the story of a foreign librarian who goes to work at a bookmobile service. Traveling by camel to reach remote villages, she becomes emotionally involved in one community where a couple of books have not been returned. This threatens bookmobile services for the entire village. Beautiful writing and moving story – highly recommended.

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The California Book of the Dead by Tim Farrington []

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Lesbians Marlowe and Daa search for a lover and roommate to replace the departed Jackson, while masseur Jack seduces Marlowe’s cousin, Sheba, into their world of Buddhist rituals, banana smoothies, and California enlightenment.

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Border Songs by Jim Lynch []

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Brandon Vanderkool’s extreme dyslexia and height give him a peculiar perspective, which proves handy once his father pushes him off their Washington dairy farm into the Border Patrol. Though he used to just jump over the ditch into British Columbia, he’s uncomfortable in this uniformed role and instead indulges his obsession with birds and art while incidentally spotting smugglers and illegal immigrants who are provoking an already paranoid society.

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