New Arrivals

APRIL 2024

You Have to Be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live: Ten Weeks in Birmingham That Changed America by Paul Kix, 973.923/507 KIX—See New Books Display

There’s an iconic American picture from the 1960s of a black teenager, a white police officer, and the police officer’s lunging German Shepherd. In the chaos of George Floyd’s death, Paul Kix couldn’t help but draw parallels to this picture. This caused him to dive deeper into events that happened in Birmingham in 1963 that had never been talked about before. Kix takes the reader on an in-depth exploration of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s ten-week campaign to end segregation. He also provides insight into the minds of four powerful men: Martin Luther King, Jr., Wyatt Walker, Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Bevel. Written in prose that evokes thrills and shock value, this story is an adaptation of the ten weeks that were labeled “Project C” and shows how the voices that spoke up then shaped our culture now.

The Ferryman by Justin Cronin, FICTION CRONI [AMER]—See New Books Display

The world outside is falling apart, humanity is disappearing, but life on the secret archipelago of Prospera appears idyllic, at least for the aristocrats, who are served by a worker class while devoting themselves to creativity and self-actualization. It seems that even mortality has been cured. The aristocrats wear a monitor to measure their vitality, and when it drops below ten percent, they retire to another island called the Nursery, where their bodies are renewed and all their memories removed, making them ready to start a new life as another person. Proctor Bennet is one of the ferrymen who help transport elderly people from Prospera to the Nursery, by force when necessary, but he is struggling with his own problems. Political unrest and rumors of revolution are spreading among the worker class, Proctor’s vitality monitor is suddenly plummeting, he has started dreaming (which is not even supposed to be possible for residents of Prospera), and he has just overseen the forcible “retirement” of his own father, whose last words to Proctor were questions about the reality of their world and a mysterious name, “Oranios.” Shattered by his father’s suffering, Proctor tries to understand his last message. Was it just delusional rambling or something more sinister? As Proctor seeks answers, he begins to realize that his previous life was based on a web of lies, and he will now have no choice but to fearlessly confront the truth.

The Quiet Tenant by Clémence Michallon, FICTION MICHA [AMER]—See New Books Display

A psychological thriller about a serial killer is nothing new, but the enchanting part of The Quiet Tenant is the three interesting perspectives that you follow throughout the novel: the serial killer’s teenage daughter, his girlfriend, and the current victim in his shed (told in second person). Aidan Thomas is the ideal man in his small New York town. He’s hardworking, he cares for his family, and he’s “young, strong, and groomed.” Little do they know that he’s kidnapped and murdered eight women, with a ninth woman, “Rachel,” waiting for her end in his shed for the past five years. When Aidan’s wife suddenly dies, he’s forced to move Rachel in with him and his daughter, Cecilia. Aidan assumes that since Rachel has been in captivity for so long, she will be too scared to try to escape, but he is wrong. She remembers who she used to be, and she forms a bond with Cecilia to try to get back to her old life. When Aidan starts dating Emily, the local bartender, she is pulled into his orbit and comes very close to discovering Aidan’s secret. This debut thriller explores the trauma that these three girls face and the strong bond they form to fight back against Aidan.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See, FICTION SEE [AMER]—See New Books Display

In a time when education is forbidden to most women, Tan Yunxian has the opportunity to study Chinese medicine with her grandmother, one of a handful of female doctors in China. Since the treatment of female patients by male doctors is restricted in their puritanical culture, female doctors are desperately needed, especially for childbirth. During her training, Yunxian befriends Meiling, a young woman who is learning to be a midwife. The difficulty of learning their professions draws the two women together: the motto of their friendship is, “No mud, no lotus.” But both their friendship and Yunxian’s dreams of being a doctor come to a sudden halt when she is forced into an arranged marriage by her family. Her new mother-in-law insists that Yunxian behave like a respectable wife, confining herself to ladylike pursuits like embroidery and reciting poetry. She strictly forbids Yunxian to see Meiling or to continue treating women’s illnesses. How can Yunxian find the courage to follow her dreams, if it means bringing shame and scandal to herself and her family? Lisa See’s insightful historical novel is based on the life of a real woman who lived during the Ming dynasty.

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, FICTION MCBRI [AMER]—See New Books Display

It’s 1972 in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, when construction workers dig up a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Tensions arise when speculations start on who the skeleton was and how it got there. Citizens of Chicken Hill know hardship, as they are a hodgepodge of immigrants ranging from Jewish to African American, living side by side. The more you dig into each character’s story, the more you realize how much people in this community struggle and what they do just to stay afloat. When the mystery of the skeleton is solved, and the reader sees how the white population played into it, the author shows that love can still reign even amidst the deepest struggles.

Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo, 305.822 WOO—See New Books Display

Just a few days before Christmas 1848, a Georgia slave named Ellen Craft dressed herself as a white man and headed north to Pennsylvania, having carefully arranged the journey ahead of time on steamships, trains, and carriages. With her was her husband, William, who was pretending to be her slave. Ellen had inherited a very light complexion from the white planter who raped her mother, and their daring escape was successful, but Ellen and William’s dramatic story did not end when they found freedom. They both became world famous and played significant roles in the events leading up to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. The first half of Ilyon Woo’s meticulously researched and engaging biography follows the couple on their dangerous journey north, with flashbacks to their childhoods and the traumatic experiences that led them to take such a desperate step. The second half of the book begins with a brief explanation of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and the attempts by the former “owners” of Ellen and William to recapture them. Eventually, they had to flee to England, where they wrote a book describing their escape, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom. (Ironically, William alone was credited as the author; the couple’s experience with prejudice was far from over, and the reader can’t help wondering how much easier Ellen’s life would have been if she had simply continued presenting herself publicly as a white male.) Woo’s fascinating book gives Ellen full credit for all her achievements, creating an enthralling portrait of these two brave and remarkable individuals. As contemporary abolitionist Wendell Phillips said of the Crafts not long after their escape, “Future historians and poets would tell this story as one of the most thrilling in the nation’s annals, and millions would read it with admiration of the hero and heroine.”

The ɫ Collection’s Best Titles

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chemistry by Ian Guch, 540 GUC

Of course, none of the books in the wonderful Complete Idiot’s Guide series are really intended for “idiots.” These books just do a great job of explaining the basics of any subject in normal, everyday language. The library’s edition of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chemistry covers all the topics that you are likely to encounter in your beginning chemistry courses here at ɫ, including the periodic table, types of compounds, moles (not the furry kind that ruin your lawn), chemical equations and stoichiometry, gas laws, and the rudiments of organic chemistry and nuclear chemistry. This book can help you get an A in chemistry! (And if you’d like to talk to an actual person as well, the library is home to the world’s greatest chemistry tutor, Scott Smith, who taught the subject for decades at ɫ. He’s now retired but still loves helping students ace chemistry. If you’d like to work with Scott, stop by during his hours, Wednesday 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. and Thursday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.)

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, FICTION REID[AMER]

Alix Chamberlain is a successful woman who has made her name by being confident and showing other women how to do the same. She is taken aback when her babysitter, Emira, who was shopping with Alix’s toddler, Briar, is accused of being a black woman kidnapping a white baby. With everything caught on film, Emira is embarrassed, and Alix is outraged. Alix tries using her power to make the situation right, but Emira is weary. She’s twenty-five and unsure of what the next steps in her life are. When the video brings someone back into Alix’s life, both women find themselves with more questions than answers about themselves and the people around them.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, 298.5 HOF

Wikipedia defines this brilliant little classic as an introduction to the Taoist belief system, which—as the author of this book would point out—is a superb example of how definitions usually miss the point. It also risks putting off readers who are not interested in joining an institutional religion or studying an abstract belief system. The Tao of Pooh, like the heart of Taoism itself, disdains all pretentious human-made systems, theories, and philosophies in favor of what is simple, natural, and spontaneous. The book centers on a series of imaginary conversations between the author and Pooh Bear, the accidental sage, with the author then pointing out how Pooh exemplifies the humble wisdom of ancient Taoist masters—and how these insights can help us live with greater peace and happiness today. Since discovering The Tao of Pooh many years ago, this reviewer has returned to it several times, whenever she feels herself growing too serious, downhearted, or losing her sense of humor, and in dire need of some common sense. You can read the whole thing in a couple of hours if you’re a fast reader, or you can linger over it for weeks, and make it a form of meditation.

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