Current Picks: Book Reviews

March: The Complete Series

From the first page of these compelling graphic memoirs, you'll be hooked. Congressman John Lewis shares his life story, from growing up on a farm in Alabama to the infamous march in Selma on Bloody Sunday. His personal journey provides an inside look at the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. With familiar faces (Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X) and lesser known figures who made incredible contributions, Lewis presents a gripping history lesson.

The black and white artwork by award winning artist Nate Powell enhances the words and emotions of Lewis' story and the nonviolent resistance movement. The words and the art complement each other immensely.There is so much to discuss—it makes a great book club pick.

Read March: Book One (2013), March: Book Two (2015), and March: Book Three (2016). Check out the graphic memoirs immediately from Hoopla. For more titles on timely issues, check out our lists: Antiracism for Adults, Social Justic & Systemic Racism, and Black Voices: Memoirs, Essays, & Poetry.

11/22/63

This is a long book, over 30 hours, but worth every minute. It's the story of Jake Epping. His friend Al has found a time portal to September 9th, 1958. Al has been using it to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. But now Al is dying. He shows the portal to Jake and convinces him to take over the project. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty. The portal has rules. First, while everyone else is whatever age they were in 1958, Jake is still aging normally. Second, the past doesn't want to be changed. The bigger the change, the bigger the resistance to change. Third, every trip through the portal erases any changes made during previous trips. Jake has to start from scratch each time he enters the portal.

Stephen King did a great job researching Lee Harvey Oswald. Jake has to be sure he's got the right man.And then there's Sadie.

Check out 11/22/63 (2011) today. You can read or listen to the book via Overdrive.


Embracing Defeat

If you are interested in World War II or the aftermath of World War II in Japan, then this is a great in depth look at all levels of Japan's reconstruction. From how the Americans and Japanese worked together to restructure the government to how the public managed from day to day, John W. Dower covers it all. It includes how American influence changed Japanese daily life and how the public viewed these changes. It even includes individuals with memorable stories, such as a soldier who sent money back to the government so he would owe them nothing and would take nothing from them because they surrendered.

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (2005) is lengthy and in depth, but the information it holds is fantastic if you are interested in Japan after World War II.

Listen to Embracing Defeat on Hoopla today.



The Road

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, The Road (2006) follows a father and his young son heading south on a mostly deserted road, pushing a shopping cart with all their belongings. Any human they encounter is a threat to either steal their food or worse, to eat them as food. Every second is a fight for survival, and barely a page goes by where there is not a description of hunger. The father's sole purpose is to keep his son alive.

I would recommend this Cormac McCarthy title to readers of dystopian fiction.

Check out our list Welcome to Dystopia for more ideas.

The Road is available as an ebook on Overdrive and audiobook on Hoopla.


Dragon Hoops

Gene Luen Yang is a comic author and writer who has written award-winning graphic novels as well as for the most iconic comic book character Superman. In Dragon Hoops (2020), Yang follows his local high school basketball team, telling their stories and comparing their athletic feats to those of the comic heroes who inspired him when he was young. Yang proves that it is the story of the hero that matters most, not the fancy cape or superpowers.

This is a great read for readers who enjoyed Ghost by Jason Reynolds, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, or Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.

You can also read Dragon Hoops on Overdrive today. 


Apeirogon

Two men, one Palestinian and one Israeli. Two young daughters lost to the violence which is sadly prevalent in their part of the world. These two men from opposite sides of the conflict manage to come together and forge a friendship in their common hope for peace.

Colum McCann writes in an interesting format, offering up what at first might seem random facts or short anecdotes. It did take me a few pages to get into it, but it was definitely worth it to see how everything comes together, how the facts and fiction intertwine to create a deeply moving narrative. Not only was this beautifully written, it was also very educational, giving me insights into an ongoing conflict and a way of life so very different to mine.

Apeirogon (2020) is longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Read the book on Overdrive



Perfect Little World

Pregnant by her high school art teacher, Izzy Poole decides to join the Infinite Family Project because of the stability it will provide her and her newborn son, Cap. The project is the idea of Dr. Preston Grind and billionaire Brenda Acklen. Basically, ten families with babies agree to live together for ten years and raise the children communally, with the kids not knowing who their real mothers and fathers are for the first several years.

Izzy finds herself fitting in well with the rest of the parents, but starts to develop feelings for Dr. Grind. Not surprisingly, cracks begin to form in the relationships between other participants, too. Will Dr. Grind succeed in his vision of forming lifelong bonds, i.e. families made of people who aren't related?

Perfect Little World(2020) is an intriguing story about an unusual community and the moral compromises that keep it together. Check out this Kevin Wilson novel today—borrow the ebook or audiobook instantly via Hoopla or Overdrive.



Ready Player One

In the year 2045, the real world is so dismal that everyone escapes by spending as much time as possible in a virtual reality universe known as the OASIS. When the creator of this universe dies, he bequeaths his vast fortune and rights to the OASIS to the first person who can find three eggs hidden in the game itself. In order to find these eggs, the gunters (short for "egg hunters") must learn everything they can about 1980s pop culture, especially about how to play the video games of the time.

Wade Watts, an indigent teen living in a stacked trailer park, is determined to be the winner of the contest. Standing in his way is IOI, Innovative Online Industries, a corrupt corporation that will stop at nothing to take control of the OASIS. This sci-fi thriller is exciting right until the end, and especially appealing to anyone who grew up in the 1980s.

Borrow Ready Player One (2011) instantly on Overdrive—both the ebook and audiobook are available.

And stay tuned: Ernest Cline's sequel Ready Player Two will be released November 24.



A Stranger in the House

Tom and Karen Krupp live a happy married life until the night of Karen's accident. Suddenly, Karen has no recollection of her crash or why she had been speeding in the worst part of town on the night of a mysterious man's murder. Karen's uncertainty has placed her under suspicion of murder and the police have started coming around. Tom starts to question if his wife is really the person he believes her to be, and their marriage slowly begins to spiral. With the police at their door and a curious neighbor across the street, the Krupps' happy life begins to hang by a thread.

A Stranger in the House (2017) by Shari Lapena is a fast-paced psychological thriller. Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook. For more stories in this vein, check out our lists: Psychological Suspense and Domestic Thrillers.



Stamped from the Beginning

This was quite the undertaking—over 19 hours of audio over a couple months. I'm glad I read the remix, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (2020) by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, first. Aimed at teens, it's much more conversational and casual, and it gave me an outline to track my progress through this original, more academic version. Still, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017) by Ibram X. Kendi is very worth the time: it is full of eye-opening historical and current events and topics.

Visit Hoopla to borrow the audiobook of Stamped from the Beginning instantly and visit Overdrive for the ebook version. If you too are interested in the remix Stamped, you'll find both the audio and ebook version on Overdrive.

For more antiracism reading ideas, browse our lists for adults, teens, and kids.



Stepping Stones

This is a charming story of city girl Jen whose family leaves the big city for the country and farm life. If farm life was not bad enough for a city girl, Jen also has two new stepsisters who live in her room every weekend. Stepping Stones (2020) centers on Jen and her sisters' life on the farm and their time spent at the farmer's market. Jen and her new sisters learn about the hard work it takes to run a farm and to be part of a family that sticks together. Overall, Lucy Knisley's story is uplifting and will appeal to readers of books like Smile and Roller Girl

The Vor Game

Miles Vorkosigan is a military cadet about to be stationed to his first assignment. His father is a famous general and has a long list of accomplishments. Miles isn't so lucky; at first look, he is seen as a failure by his peers due to the physical abnormality he was born with. He must work harder, think harder, and be better to get the recognition he feels he deserves.

The world in The Vor Game (1990) by Lois McMaster Bujold is an expansive one with a rich history and backstory around it. Miles is very sarcastic but endearing in what he wants and expects from others. If you are looking for a great series that has an interesting main character and world, then this is a good option to explore.

Listen to the book on Hoopla today.



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American Dirt

Violent, passionate, heartbreaking, heartwarming, suspenseful—all of this and more. Lydia and her 8-year-old son Luca escape a massacre where 16 family members are shot and instantly killed at a Quinceanera party. In shock and running from a drug cartel leader who orchestrated the annihilation of their family, they head to El Norte. With no plan, they follow migrants to the train and learn of the unspeakable dangers that await them in their quest to escape certain death.

As they struggle through their journey, they encounter some very unsavory individuals. Each day brings new threats and always the danger of being caught. In spite of the constant peril, Lydia and Luca cross paths with a few fellow migrants who touch their hearts forever. American Dirt (2020) touches the hearts of readers, who will get caught up in the minute to minute survival of Jeanine Cummins' well drawn characters.

Oprah Winfrey chose American Dirt as an Oprah's Book Club selection. Oprah sat down with the author to discuss the controversy around the book.Visit Overdrive to read the book or listen to the audiobook today.



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In the Garden of Beasts

Take a fascinating and frightening look at the early years of Germany under Nazi rule. The perspective is from the Dodd family. The Dodds moved from Chicago to Berlin when Professor William Dodd became the U.S. ambassador.

1933 Berlin is a glittering, exciting, and prosperous capital. The Dodds are expected to make connections with Berlin's elite by hosting lavish dinner parties at their own expense. And Dodd is supposed to get Hitler to be less vocal about the Jews.

While America turns a blind eye, Dodd slowly begins to see what's really going on behind the scenes in Berlin. His warnings and reports to the State Department are ignored. Then, Dodd's daughter, Martha, a free spirit, starts dating Rudolph Diels. He's handsome, cultured, important, and the head of the Gestapo!

This book is nonfiction but reads like a riveting suspense thriller once it gets going. Check out In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (2011) by Erik Larson on Overdrive today: read the ebook or listen to the audiobook. Then, check out our list: we've got more titles of nonfiction that reads like fiction.



The Sweeney Sisters

Liza, Maggie, and Tricia are the daughters of famous American writer William Sweeney. When he passes away, they reunite at the family home in Connecticut to sort out his affairs. Liza, the oldest, lives with her husband, Whit, and their teenage twins. Middle daughter Maggie is an artist who has floundered as an adult. Youngest Tricia is a successful lawyer in New York. While mourning their father and trying to unearth his memoir (due to his publisher), the women learn that they have another sister, Serena, whom William learned about a month before he died.

The Sweeney Sisters (2020) is the story of the four over the course of a summer as they come to terms with the secret, bond, and move forward. An engaging novel, perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand and readers who love novels about family relationships.

Check out Lian Dolan's latest novel. Listen to the audiobook or read the ebook through Overdrive today.