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Kirsten’s pick: “Madhouse at the End of the Earth” by Julian Sancton.

This is the account of Belgica’s overseas bid for the discovery of the Antarctica in 1897.  The journalist that wrote this did exhaustive research and it is so well written that you just cannot wait to see what happens next. It includes the first research into the effects of isolation and endless night on men and a history of that era’s great explorers. This is one of those books that I start recommending to everyone as a must read. I’m passing it off to my Dad next.

Jonathan’s pick: “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves” by Frans de Waal.

Do animals have feelings? Any person who has a pet will likely say yes, absolutely. But the scientific world viewed this with skepticism for many decades. It’s easy to look at even our pets and see the need for food, shelter and self-preservation rather than love, hate, fear and other complex emotions. De Waal draws on his experience as a primatologist and social psychologist to discover that in actuality, humans and animals share a great
many emotional states, despite brain size, habitat, or any other factor.

John’s pick: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl.

When I was in third grade, I borrowed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from the classroom library. The book had no front or back cover, but the whimsical world of the eccentric Willy Wonka and his fantastic chocolate factory on the pages inside was so delightful that I checked it out many times. At the end of the year, my teacher gifted me the book, with an inscription that I still remember: “To John, who doesn’t judge a book by its cover.” An enchanting story for kids young and old. 

Cliff’s pick, from our Naturita branch: “The Long Walk” by Brian Castner.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began when I was in college. Like so many Americans, I was largely insulated from them, and there always seemed to me to a gulf between civilian and veteran experiences. No one seemed eager to reach across it. Brian Castner’s book does just that. He works to bring the reader inside the intensity of modern warfare, the ambiguity and ambivalence, and the long lasting effects of the trauma he experienced. I found it a moving read about a war we are doing our best to forget.

Sara’s pick: “Matrix” the newest novel by Lauren Groff

It’s about the life Marie de France, the (probably) real Abbess of a (probably) real English convent. In Groff’s imagining, Marie is sent to live with the nuns as their Prioress at the age of seventeen by then-queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. What follows is nearly seven decades of Marie’s challenges and successes in a world made entirely of women. “Matrix” is quietly beautiful, atmospheric and triumphant. I didn’t want it to end.

Barbara’s pick: “The Fortune Teller” by Gwendolyn Womack.

If you love libraries and history this is a good read. It is full of suspense and intrigue and very descriptive. An enthralling tale of deception, forgiveness and love.

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