David Margolick describes the lives of two girls in the famous photograph from Little Rock Central High School’s desegregation in 1957: a stoic African-American girl walking on the first day of school followed by a white girl, her face distorted as she screams racial epithets. Elizabeth and Hazel is a thought provoking and memorable exploration of how this experience affected their lives in attempts to reconcile the painful, traumatic experience within themselves and with each other.
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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is a readable discussion of the historical and social context of a time in Palestine that nurtured and gave rise to many prophets, preachers, and self-proclaimed messiahs. Jesus, who was born in this milieu, is discussed as a life shaped, developed, and affected by the world around him. Reza Aslan’s fascinating book provides a greater understanding of how Jesus’ life and ministry fits into the historical time and was sustained to this day.
A short and fun read, Michael J. Trinklein describes unsuccessful proposals for new states in Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It. For each “state,” there is one page of easy, often witty, fact-filled narrative followed by a map illustrating what the state would have looked like. This is great for trivia and history buffs looking for some off-beat aspects of American history.
A readable, fascinating history of the early United States, Empire of Liberty describes political and social philosophies of the time and their effect on American society and events. Without directly saying so, the book makes it evident that the roots of current American thought can be traced back to that time, with often striking parallels.
Larry of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends The Martian by Andy Weir:
Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after a mishap during a storm prevents him from escaping the planet with the rest of his crew. Alone, with a small supply of food and damaged equipment, the only thoughts on his mind are survival and the hope that a rescue party will come for him. With his optimism and engineering skills, he is determined to live, yet at every turn, there are obstacles that threaten his survival. While this is a story of attempting to overcome long odds in a harsh environment, it is also filled with just enough wit and humor to lighten the story without diminishing its seriousness. The plot takes the reader on a “what more can go wrong” roller coaster ride with a steady progression of the story leading to a climactic, edge-of-your-seat ending. The Martian is a suspenseful, fun, and rewarding read.
Endeavour is a must-see movie for those who enjoy PBS’ Inspector Morse series. Young Endeavour Morse struggles with the naïveté of youth, his past, and learning hard life lessons while on his first detective case in this coming-of-age whodunit, full of twists and turns.
The World Without Us describes the relationship between humans and nature using science with a dash of philosophy to imagine what would happen if the earth was suddenly without us. The human impact on nature and the restorative abilities of the earth are clearly explained in this pop science read.
If you like dry English humor, then Kind Hearts and Coronets is for you. Louis plots the demise of family members, shortening the line of succession to become Duke. His conniving and lust for revenge is punctuated with humorous circumstances and whimsical dialog as he romances, manipulates, and eliminates his relatives.
The Girl who Played Go is a touching, intimate novel set in the 1930s. A Japanese soldier and a teenage girl both struggle with their roles in Manchurian-Chinese society. The Chinese strategy game of Go, which draws the characters together, is a metaphor for their lives in search of self.
The Metabarons by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Juan Gimenez is an epic space opera graphic novel. The characters include humanoids, cyborgs, and other mechanical and living creatures. It is a story of bravery, sacrifice, loyalty, survival, ethics, and morality. The plot, enhanced by luscious illustrations, makes this book a page-turner.