Staff Picks: The World in a Book

Posted by Aaron on

Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.
     -Mary Schmich

Staff PicksAre you planning a vacation this year? Where are you traveling to? Even if it’s just a “staycation,” you can travel the world reading a book, from the South Carolina Low Country, to South Africa, to the countryside of England — as well as a trip of self-discovery through relationships with our canine friends. The John Marshall library staff is pleased to share these recommendations to get your travels started.

Cheryl, Page, John Marshall branch library

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

Set in the heart of South Carolina’s Low Country, and it tells the tale of three generations of women and their buried secrets. The matriarch of the family, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she has to have the final word on everything, especially when she is wrong. The matriarch’s daughter is caught up in being middle-aged and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. Her twenty-two year old daughter whose dreamy ambition of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds. During a Low Country storm these three deal with challenges that demand that they face the truth of themselves. After a confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness as they establish a new order for their lives and future. This is a great story of how three generations come together as the Hurricane Sisters.

Johnetta, Library Clerk, John Marshall branch library

A Beautiful Place to Die by Mala Nunn

Set in South Africa in the 1950s, where the irrational rule of Apartheid is the law, racial stratification of society is manifest in every aspect of this murder mystery. The intertwining of every shade of humanity occurs, despite the laws that dictate that many normal interpersonal interactions are unnatural and unlawful. The story line is very satisfying with surprising twists right up to the end. I am now reading the second book in the series, Let the Dead Lie, and I can’t wait to see if some more of my favorite characters resurface.

Gloria, Library Associate, John Marshall branch library

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney

As an avid dog lover, I eagerly await the next good dog story to hit the shelves. Stories of rescue dogs are nearest and dearest to my heart. This novel does not disappoint, as it is a story of not only rescued dogs but also of people in need of rescue. The Sanctuary, high on the top of a mountain, is a place of refuge for abandoned and abused dogs, but within its walls are the helper people who are also in need of rescue. Both learn, grow and gain strength from each other, however, in the end it seems that the dogs share the most.

Told with a deep understanding of the intelligence and love that dogs have to give to their human companions, this is an inspiring, touching, funny, and insightful tale of dogs and people who fall short of what is expected of them and yet go on to embrace life. This is a book to be treasured and read again, and it is one that could be appreciated by even those not totally comfortable with dog hair on their chair.

Deborah, Library Branch Manager, John Marshall branch library

A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch

When I first started reading this book, recommended by a patron, I thought it might be a little too cutesy. However it turned out to be a delightful travel diary, detailing a springtime trip she and her husband took on the Queen Mary 2 to visit England. The book is a work of art, entirely handmade, from the handwritten text to the wonderfully whimsical watercolors created to illustrate every page. The photographs she and her husband took are very special glimpses into their ramble through the English countryside, as they visited the homes and strolled the gardens of literary greats like Jane Austen and William Wordsworth. Her homage to her favorite author and watercolorist, Beatrix Potter, is as fanciful as Miss Potter’s books. Recipes are even included, and their visits to English tea rooms and pubs are featured throughout. The book was written with real joy and true appreciation to just be there — reading this travel journal made me feel like I was actually there, walking along with her through the wildflower covered countryside dotted with sheep. Susan Branch has done a number of handmade books, mostly cookbooks in the “Heart of the Home” series, but this is her first travel book. My hope is that she has more travel planned — and another travel diary planned as well. This book made me want to book a cabin on the QM2 and sail right over to England!

Cheryl, Page, John Marshall branch library

Looking for more book lists and staff suggestions? Stop by the reference desk at your local library.

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