Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Know-It-All

Title: The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

Author: A.J. Jacobs

Summary: The premise of this book is quite simple: Jacobs, then an editor for Esquire, decides to fill the ever-growing gaps in his education by reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The whole thing, from start to finish. As his ‘knowledge’ increases, so do the hilarious encounters between his mostly-patient wife, his father (who once attempted the same feat, but stalled B), his obnoxiously smart brother-in-law, Alex Trebek, and the staff of the hallowed encyclopedia itself.

Organized from A to Z, this is a very funny book with a very big heart, especially concerning the struggles of Jacobs and his wife to conceive. Full of trivia (including Descartes’ preference for cross-eyed women), and amusing anecdotes about modern life, this book is probably a better way to spend an afternoon then hefting a volume of the Britannica – not only will it make you feel smarter, it will put a smile on your face.

Who will like this book?:Fans of comedic writing, trivia masters, confirmed know-it-alls or know-it-alls in training.

If you like this, try this: Jacob’s latest book, The Year of Living Biblically. For a more serious look at famous reference books, go for The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Soul Catcher

Title: Soul Catcher

Author: Michael White

Summary:Augustus Cain has a dependency on laudanum, a weakness for gambling, and a talent for slave catching. When he gambles and loses his favorite horse to a wealthy tobacco planter, the only way to get him back is to accept a job hunting down the man’s runaway slave.

This is the moving story of two people grudgingly joined together on what will become a life altering journey for both of them. Rosetta, the runaway slave determined to stay free no matter what the cost and Cain, the reluctant “soul catcher” hired to bring Rosetta back to captivity.

Michael White is an extraordinary writer who brings to life the exceptional, multi-dimentional characters in this story.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Down River

Title: Down River

Author: John Hart

Summary: Five years ago, Adam Chase was acquitted of murder, even though his own stepmother testified against him. Most people in his hometown believed that he was guilty and that his father’s money paid for the verdict. Adam left home soon after the trial and has been living in New York ever since.

Now Adam has been asked by a childhood friend to come back to his hometown in North Carolina. Adam returns to find that the residents’ feelings toward him have not changed since he left. To make matters worse, many of them are angry with Adam’s father for interfering with a local land deal which could make them all rich. After Adam’s arrival,  violent attacks occur against the people closest to him. Seeds of doubt as to Adam’s innocence are again planted and he must find the true murderer before he/she kills again.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

The Savage Garden

Title: The Savage Garden

Author: Mark Mills

Summary: The Savage Garden, written by Mark Mills, is the story of two murders, committed 400 years apart, and the attempt to solve the mystery of both crimes.

It’s 1958 and Adam Strickland, Cambridge undergraduate, has just been dumped by his girlfriend. When he is offered the opportunity to study a Tuscan Renaissance garden for his art history thesis, he accepts the offer. The garden was built in 1577 as a memorial to the villa owner’s wife Flora, who died at a very young age. During his research, Adam begins to see the garden’s statues and inscriptions as clues to Flora’s murder, not as a memorial to her death.

As Adam deciphers the clues in the garden, he begins to suspect that the more recent murder-that of the current villa owner’s son, may not be as clear cut as everyone thinks. Signora Docci’s son, Emilio, was shot and killed by Nazi officers on the third floor of the villa and the area has been sealed off ever since. Though everyone is excited about the revelation of Flora’s murder, Adam finds himself in danger when he begins to question the events surrounding Emilio’s death.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator


Title: Mudbound

Author: Hillary Jordan

Summary: Halfway into Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, Mudbound, I knew that she had earned a place on my “Must Read Authors” list. This is a wonderful, beautiful, brutal, tragic, richly painted novel that is worthy of all of its high praise.

It’s the Mississippi Delta in the 1940’s. The story opens as Henry and his brother Jamie are trying desperately to bury the body of a man, their father. Slowly, the reader is drawn into the lives of the six people who set in motion the events that lead to this man’s death. Laura and Henry McCallan are struggling with day-to-day life on a farm; Hap and Florence Jackson, the black sharecroppers who live and work on the McCallans’ farm, must deal with racism and the unforgiving conditions of the labor they face every day. Each family awaits the return of a war hero, and each family is brought to its knees as their wounded veterans come home and try to resume a “normal” life.

Before it was even published, Mudbound was the winner of a literary prize, the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Barbara Kingsolver, the founder of the award, had this to say of Hillary Jordan: “her characters walked straight out of 1940’s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are still with me.”

And they are still with me as well.

Recommended by: Mary, Reference Librarian

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

Title: I Was Told There’d Be Cake

Author: Sloane Crosley

Summary: This collection of witty, self-depricating, utterly hillarious essays examine what is means to be young, single and whipsmart in New York today. Crosley, who grew up in Westchester and has written for the New York Observer, Playboy and The Village Voice, touches on many of the common experiences of growing up in suburbia: summer camp, being a bridesmaid, secretly wishing you lived somewhere more exotic; as well as life in post-9/11 New York, from the secret kindness of strangers, dinner parties and moving to a new apartment. However, like the essays of David Sedaris, these mundane events transform into irreverant, laugh-out-loud commentaries on the intricacies of modern life.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book calls Crosley “a 21st century Dorothy Parker.” Usually statements like these bother me, but in this case, the proof is in the reading. This is an outstanding debut collection, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Who will like this book?: People waiting patiently for the next David Sedaris book. Young, single, urban (or wannabe urban) women.

If you like this, try this: The books of David Rakoff, including Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable. Or try Sarah Vowell’s witty commentaries on pop culture and history, particularly Assassination Vacation.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian