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Fiction |  Nonfiction |  For Young Adult Readers | 
Spotlight on First-Year Reading |  Spotlight on Prizewinners


Ex Libris brings summer reading recommendations from library staff readers. Our goal is to showcase Raynor Memorial Libraries’ Browsing Collection and to identify a range of contemporary fiction and nonfiction for the general reader. In addition to staff choices, we highlight this year's First-Year reading selection, Persepolis, and recent literary award winners. All readers in the Marquette community are invited to suggest books, or better, to write a brief review for Ex Libris. If you missed an alert, earlier issues of Ex Libris are available online.

Clicking on the title or cover image will take you to the book's MARQCAT record; please note locations carefully as items may be in the Browsing Collection (Raynor 1st level) or in the Memorial stacks. Books that are checked out may be reserved by clicking on the blue recall/hold button at the top or bottom of the MARQCAT record.

Fiction

book jacket 
	  illustrationThe 19th Wife: A Novel

David Ebershoff. New York: Random House, 2008

Readers should approach this historical novel with patience, but they will be rewarded. The story begins with a narrative by the 19th wife of Mormon founder Brigham Young, Ann Eliza Young, a real-life wife who rebelled against plural marriage by divorcing her husband and launching an anti-polygamy campaign. Intertwined with Ann Eliza's story is the contemporary fictional story of 20-year old Jordan Scott, who was banished six years earlier from a conservative Mormon town, and who learns from a headline that his mother (who happens also to be a 19th wife) has been charged with the fatal shooting of his father. The juxtaposition of Ann Eliza's story with Jordan's detective efforts to clear his mother make for fascinating reading. The two stories are buttressed with many pseudo-primary documents--archivists' notes, newspaper articles, letters, and scholarly articles. A huge amount of historical research clearly went into Ebershoff's version of events, but curious readers will want to check out Ann Eliza Young's Wife No. 19, Or the Story of a Life in Bondage (1875). Other resources include an Ebershoff interview that addresses what drew him to Ann Eliza's story. This is a successful novel that wrestles with what it means to be faithful and what demands organized religion can place on followers.

Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustrationCemetery Dance

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. New York: Grand Central Pub, 2009

Anyone who has become a fan of Preston and Child's creation, the eccentric and slickly unorthodox FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast (introduced in The Relic and also appearing in novels such as Brimstone and Dance of Death) will find this new entry much more satisfying than the last. While The Wheel of Darkness included a fabulous shipboard murder mystery/adventure as part of its plot, Pendergast's participation seemed almost secondary. Not so in Cemetery Dance, where Pendergast is front and center, again hot-headedly assisted by his pseudo-Watson, Lt. Vinnie D'Agosta of the NYPD. This time the murder of a dear friend draws Pendergast and D'Agosta into a web of strange voodoo-like rites, including animal sacrifice, taking place at a weird ancient church located in Inwood Hill Park at the northernmost tip of Manhattan. Spurred by first one murder and then another, both purportedly committed by a zombie-like creature, and then a subsequent kidnapping, Pendergast and D'Agosta race against time to decipher the mystery at the core of the ancient squatters' paradise known as the Ville. Never lacking in action or chills, as well as a bracing dose of macabre humor, this newest Pendergast thriller is in fine form and various series regulars make satisfying cameos. This is summer reading, perfected.

Recommended by Bill Gagliani, Stacks Supervisor, Access Services

 

 

book jacket illustrationThe Knights of the Cornerstone

James P. Blaylock. New York: Penguin Group, 2008

The author of such California gothics as The Rainy Season and All the Bells on Earth returns with another whimsical, nostalgic fantasy that seems gentle but manages to deliver a sharp-edged punch. Comfortably unemployed Calvin Bryson, an eccentric and talented cartoonist, agrees to run an errand for his uncle and cancer-ridden aunt, who reside in the strange little desert community of New Cyprus. Immediately drawn into some sort of bizarre squabble between two groups of unusual people, Calvin soon learns that just about all the town's citizens are Knights of the Cornerstone, keepers of some interesting relics, such as the Veil of Veronica, which might just possibly be the real Shroud of Turin – or something. Their opponents will stop at nothing to acquire the relics for their own unsavory purposes. Thrust and parry events escalate rapidly to a full-blown medievalist battle complete with siege engines and other logical but unexpected extremes. Revisiting similar themes as his 1991 novel, The Paper Grail, Blaylock effortlessly blends gentle fantasy with Knights Templar mythology transplanted to an unlikely but altogether well-realized place. Calvin is just the sort of aimless, unfocused hero Blaylock prefers--a vessel who can be filled with purpose once a noble quest is shown to be his destiny. Deceptively simple narrative hides some astute observations about people rising to the occasion, doing right by others, the modern world, Time, and the imponderable nature of miracles and who owns them. Knights is a worthy addition to Blaylock's canon of North American magic realist novels peopled by the quirky, well-intentioned folks we might ourselves wish to be.

Recommended by Bill Gagliani, Stacks Supervisor, Access Services

 

 

book jacket illustrationPast Perfect

Susan Isaacs. New York: Scribner, 2007

This novel is pure summer reading. It’s about Katie Schottland, a 40-something writer for a small but successful cable TV show about espionage. When she receives a phone call from long-ago colleague Lisa asking for help in reaching the news media on a “matter of national importance,” at first she blows off the request. When Lisa offers to explain why Katie was fired from her job at the CIA many years ago, Katie agrees to talk with her … but Lisa disappears. Katie spends the next four weeks trying to figure out what happened to Lisa, what is the “matter of national importance,” and why was she fired from her dream job as a CIA analyst. In form the book is a mystery; in essence it is more of a character study, one that looks at how the puzzle of a long-ago traumatic event still shapes the life of the protagonist. The reader is treated to wonderful portraits of supporting characters (Katie’s family members, and Huff and Jacques, her “spook” contacts); to some interesting background on the fall of East Germany; and to writing that is fluid, full of dialogue and comical imagery (Total Manhattan Sushi Woman?!). The mystery “answers” are not terribly surprising, and involve the usual human failings; but I found that this only makes Katie’s story work better. The motivations are not always completely convincing, but this book is still fun and entertaining.

Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustrationThe Reader

Bernhard Schlink. New York: Random House, 2008

Admittedly, I hesitated to pick up another German philosophical novel. As an earnest student I read Siddhartha and The Glass Bead Game, but they never really grabbed me. (I can acknowledge that in my old age.) And why not just go to the movie? Kate Winslet won an Oscar for it. Well, I recommend the novel anyway. It did grab me. Set in a West German university town in the 1950s, the story revolves around an affair between an adolescent boy and a woman in her thirties, and follows the aftereffects of their relationship many years later. Bernhard Schlink writes in a clear but mesmerizing style that belies the usual stereotypes of ponderous Germanic writers. And he maintains an almost cinematic narrative of successive pictorial scenes that keeps a reader enveloped in the book, even when he takes up the profound moral and philosophical questions that preoccupy him. The format of the book allows him to take up these questions in a much more subtle and flexible fashion than the movie. Let yourself get caught up in this short, hypnotic, and profound novel.

Recommended by John Jentz, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustrationThe Women

T. C. Boyle. New York: Penguin Group, 2009

Boyle’s new novel will appeal to readers who enjoy history, architecture, and biography. The 3-part story is told by a fictional apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, Tadashi Sato, and follows Wright’s love life in reverse chronological order beginning with 3rd wife, Olgivanna; then Maude Miriam Noel, lover and second wife from 1923-4; then his lover, Martha (Mamah) Borthwick Cheney; then his first wife Kitty. Although each woman’s story is well drawn, the whole that emerges is really a portrait of Wright and it is not flattering. Wright was an arrogant social disaster, whose personal life was in constant upheaval, on the brink of bankruptcy while elaborately courting new clients. Wright was also perennially trying to disentangle himself from a former wife while ensconcing the next at Taliesen. Boyle’s fine writing and dialogue make this book hard to put down as he brings to life the work of building some of Wright’s masterpieces, such as Taliesen and Tokyo's Imperial Hotel. This book made me want to read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, which was published last year and focuses on Martha Cheney.

Recommended by Susan Hopwood

 

 

In Memoriam: John Updike

book jacket illustrationEndpoint and Other Poems

John Updike. New York: Random House, 2009

Updike wrote a poem for his birthday each of the last five of six years before he died. He also wrote sonnets, occasional poems, and other verse. This is both something surprising and characteristically Updike. As the reviews suggest, Updike gave his greatest effort to his prose (fiction), but he has talent. For those who want to share a prominent writer’s thoughts on aging, there are some nuggets here.

Recommended by Ed Block, Professor of English

 

 

Nonfiction

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Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

Richard Wrangham. New York: Basic Books, 2009

The author of this relatively short book (205 pages of text, ~100 more pages of notes, sources and index) is a primatologist, but he draws on many other fields in presenting his theory about how hominids developed into humans. That control and use of fire allowed hominids to evolve is not a new theory. However, Wrangham has a new slant on it--he compares our eating patterns (cooked food) with those of other primates (raw food), and measures the costs to the individual of both patterns. Because cooked food allows quicker and less costly (energy or time) digestion, all kinds of changes became possible: physical changes such as shorter large intestines and larger brains; and social changes such as the development of pair-bonding, which he argues developed first from an economic relationship rather than a sexual one. Wrangham includes supporting stories about “raw foodists” and how their diet affects their physiology, how our understanding of digestion began after an accidental shooting at Fort Mackinac in 1822, and how cooking by men in one of the rare cultures where responsibility for cooking is shared is fundamentally different from the cooking done there by women. The author builds a compelling case for his thesis in this fascinating book.

Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

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Hellfire

Nick Tosches. New York: Grove Press, 1998

I’m always up for a good rock star biography or a true crime tale. The lives of musicians and murderers fascinate me and I’ve read hundreds of books in both categories. Unfortunately, only a few are worth recommending. Hellfire, a rock bio, actually tends to fall, slightly, into the true crime genre—with a "novelistic touch." It’s been called an "essential biography," an American classic. It’s without question the best in its class, and nothing else comes close. Tosches can’t sing, but his terrific prose rhythm and lyrics are exhilarating. Starting in an old, Pentecostal southern preaching voice, it begins with the strange history of the first wealthy and powerful, but eventually screwed up and trashy, Fayetteville, Louisiana-spawned Lewis clan, and ends with the first 30 years of the generally nightmarish existence of its most famous member, Jerry Lee. Dark and demonic, then bright and promising. Then back to dark. Tosches knows the voice himself, and truthfully speaks.

Recommended by, Bruce Cole, Cataloger and Cujé Music Collection Librarian

 

 

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Heroic Living

Chris Lowney. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2009

This book may appear to be just another self-help guide of the unremarkable sort that clutter bookstore shelves by the dozen. Admittedly, the title sounds a bit hokey. And potential readers may be further deterred when they discover that the author was once a managing director at J.P. Morgan & Co.--albeit years before our current meltdown. But first appearances can be deceiving. Chris Lowney was a Jesuit before he became an investment banker and family man, and here he offers a unique blend of Ignatian spirituality and corporate life coaching to address the chronic stress and unhappiness of modern life. Lowney laments how we compartmentalize our thinking, leading us to live split lives, constantly pulled in multiple directions. In response, Lowney formulates a whole-life strategy designed to help readers connect their deepest beliefs with what they do all day. Heroic Living is heavily influenced by Ignatius of Loyola’s The Spiritual Exercises, that 500-year old masterpiece of spiritual discernment and practical psychology. Lowney does a good job of couching Ignatian insights in language that will resonate with 21st century readers. Lowney is Catholic, but he has crafted the work to appeal to people of all faith traditions. It is ideal summer reading for anyone who needs to take a step back from the pell-mell of daily life and reflect on the big picture.

Recommended by Bill Fliss, Archivist

 

 

book jacket illustrationJohn Lennon: The Life

Philip Norman. New York: Ecco, 2008

John Lennon & Beatle fans take note! This 800+ page biography is considered the definitive work on Lennon as it contains new information from recent interviews with those who were close to him, including widow Yoko Ono, fellow ex-Beatle and songwriting partner Paul McCartney, and producer George Martin. The multi-talented and multi-faceted Lennon was an exceptional songwriter, singer, musician, artist, writer, actor and social activist and in 1980, at the age of 40, was fatally shot by a deranged fan. Aspects of his personal life are covered--his troubled youth, the tragic death of his mother and the separation from his father, his failed first marriage and his absenteeism as a father, his marriage to unconventional artist/activist Yoko Ono and their family life with son Sean. Professional aspects of his career are covered as well, including his musical drive resulting in the creation of one of the most famous and influential bands of all time, The Beatles; the stardom of being a Beatle, the disputes (legal and otherwise) among the group and the eventual break up of the band. Lennon's solo music career and his collaborations with wife Yoko are discussed, as well as their unorthodox campaigns for peace. Lennon was a very complex individual and this book, which contains controversial viewpoints, attempts to provide a more comprehensive and gritty look at a legendary figure whose music and life continue to influence many throughout the world.

Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

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Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power

Gerald L. Posner. New York: Random House, 2002

In 1959 Detroit, an ex-autoworker by the name of Berry Gordy Jr. started a small record company with $800. He began recording a number of relatively unknown African-American artists and as exposure grew, black and white audiences became energized by this new, vibrant, and exciting music. The company, of course, was Motown and millions of records featuring the “Motown Sound” were sold world-wide. Via Gordy's vision, talented stars were created, such as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops, and the Jackson 5 (featuring preteen lead singer, Michael Jackson). This book provides in-depth background on the history of Motown, focusing on how Gordy grew the company into one of the highest grossing black-owned companies of the era. Gordy was a consummate businessman who easily recognized talent and reportedly did not make decisions based on race; he hired a number of whites who worked in sales and were helpful in getting the unknown label's recordings distributed to major radio stations in the early 60s. Also discussed are the backgrounds, personalities, and collaborations, as well as conflicts among the Motown artists and staff, some of which ended in lawsuits and/or the artists leaving. However, by the 80s the huge success of Motown had waned and in 1988 Gordy sold Motown Records for $61 million. Motown music fans will find this book of great interest as it provides behind-the-scenes stories (though not all harmonious) about this independent music label which created superstars and broke down racial barriers with the phenomenal music it created and produced.

Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

book jacket illustrationSame Kind of Different as Me

Ron Hall, Denver Moore, Lynn Vincent. Colorado: Thomas Nelson, 2006

Using alternating viewpoints, this is the true story of how a homeless, illiterate black man and a wealthy, educated art dealer were brought together by one woman’s faith, stubborn optimism, and unflagging commitment to serving God through serving others. Denver Moore grew up during the 1960s in rural Louisiana, a modern-day slave in the tenant farming system of Southern plantations. Ron Hall grew up in working class suburbs, attended college and parlayed a flair for the art world into a successful business. Their paths cross in a run-down and dangerous area of Ft. Worth, Texas, at the Union Gospel Mission. There Ron’s wife, Deborah Hall, has been drawn to serve the area homeless with a loving, trusting and nonjudgmental heart…dragging her reluctant and somewhat skeptical husband with her. Denver is known at the Mission as a reclusive and sometimes dangerous inhabitant of the streets. Through prayer and persistence Deborah begins to chip away at the wall around Denver, urging Ron to befriend him. Trust between Ron and Denver is hard-won but eventually friendship grows. It is Deborah and her unfailing faith while battling cancer that seals the bond between the two men and brings together individuals from their very different lives. This is a truly inspirational tale of faith, friendship, loss, survival, and the miracles that can happen when two very different worlds come together.

Recommended by Pat Berge, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

For Young Adult Readers

book jacket illustrationChains: Seeds of America

Laurie Halse Anderson. New York: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2008

Rate Chains, which was a 2008 National Book Award selection, as one of my favorite summer reads. In her young adult novel, Anderson spins a tale of Isabel, a thirteen-year old slave living during the American Revolution. Thought-provoking quotes, well-researched observations, and historical facts about the war raise deep questions about freedom and the chains that existed physically and spiritually for all Americans--black and white. Isabel is owned by a cruel New York City couple who are against the American Revolution; by a twist of fate she becomes an informant for the Patriots, gathering secret details from her slave masters. The historical context on the beginnings of the revolution shows how the American people fought to become free from British rule while slaves were denied their freedom and humanity from both sides. Intended for a young adult audience, the book also proves captivating for older readers. Anderson provides further historical facts and research for readers who are interested in learning more.

Recommended by Carolyn Weber, Library Intern

 

 

Spotlight on First-Year Reading

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Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi. New York: Pantheon, 2003

This August all incoming first-year students will be discussing Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi. This is the first time a graphic novel has been selected—the story is told entirely through panels of the author’s black-and-white drawings. The author tells first-hand the story of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Through the eyes of an adolescent girl, changes in the school curriculum and the advent of the hijab show how life changed for residents of Tehran in the 70s and 80s.

Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian

 

 

Spotlight on Prizewinners

Marilynne Robinson’s Home has won the Orange Prize for fiction. The annual British award is given for the best English-language novel written by a woman. Home was recommended in the April 2009 Ex Libris.

First-time novelist Michael Thomas has won the prestigious International Impac Dublin Literary Award for his Man Gone Down (2007). The award, with nominations from libraries, is open to fiction written in any language and the jury described Man Gone Down as a “drama of individual survival set against the myth of an integrated and racially normalized America.”

 

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Alice Munro has won the Man Booker International Prize, a lifetime achievement award given in alternate years. Munro is a Canadian author of short stories whose most recent collection is The View from Castle Rock (2006). Other finalists for the award included V. S. Naipaul, Joyce Carol Oates, E. L. Doctorow, and Mario Vargas Llosa.

The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg and published by Marquette University Press in 2008, recently won two first-place awards from the Catholic Press Association. In the Spirituality category, the jurors said, “Instead of simply talking about justice, peace, the poor, the reader is invited to encounter the reality of each situation, event, and person with a mentor and a guide who can be trusted to shine the necessary light which illumines: Dorothy Day.” In the Biography category, jurors wrote, “Scholars and lay readers will benefit from this close-up and personal walk with one of the twentieth century's great Catholic figures."