Staff Pick – Laura Jean– IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot, DB 70661

The imminent release of HBOs The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, featuring Oprah Winfrey on Saturday April 22nd has generated new interest in the book on which it is based. THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS explains the origins of HeLa cells, which were ultimately used in developing vaccines, medical treatments, and many other scientific breakthroughs. These cells were harvested from a young African American woman in Baltimore, Maryland, Henrietta Lacks, who was suffering from a particularly virulent form of cervical cancer. This book not only explains the impact HeLa cells have had on the evolution of medical research, it also delves into the way that the medical establishment treated Mrs. Lacks and her family and their fight for compensation and acknowledgement.

Written in a thought-provoking and journalistic manner, Ms. Skloot, does a brilliant job of explaining fairly complex scientific processes and medical procedures in a way that anyone can understand. In addition, she interviews Mrs. Lack’s family with compassion, yet maintains her journalistic neutrality. She skillfully sets their personal story against the backdrop of the racial and medical culture of the latter half of the 20th century. Winning best book awards from organizations such as The National Academies of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for over two years.

NLS Annotation: Science journalist chronicles the life of African American Henrietta Lacks, who in 1951 had cervical tissue removed and grown in culture–without her permission–producing the first continuously replicating human-cell samples for research. Discusses subsequent medical breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine and AIDS treatment. Explores bioethical concerns involving tissue ownership. Bestseller. 2010.

If you have already read this book or would prefer a book that looks at the broader issue of medical ethics and race, try MEDICAL APARTHEID: THE DARK HISTORY OF MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION ON BLACK AMERICANS FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO THE PRESENT by Harriet A. Washington, DB 66297.

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi, DB 84732

If you enjoy historical family sagas that feature a host of complex characters set amidst a sweeping storyline, you may enjoy Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel. Nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, Dylan Thomas Prize and Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction, HOMEGOING tells the history of both Ghana and the United States through the eyes of multiple generations of a family as they encounter the racial, religious, and political tensions that permeated both countries from the 18th century until the present day.

NLS Annotation for HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi (DB 84732): In the 1700s, half sisters Esi and Effia are born in Ghana without knowing each other. Effia marries a wealthy Englishman, while Esi is imprisoned in the dungeon of the castle where Effia lives, before she is shipped to America and sold into slavery. Their descendants witness history. Unrated. Bestseller. Commercial audiobook. 2016.

If you have already read this book or enjoy African American family sagas, try ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY by Alex Haley (BR 17794, DB 53160). Or if you’re more interested in reading about a contemporary family bound to both the United States and Ghana, try GHANA MUST GO by Taiye Selasi (DB 76458).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray, DB 85432

Do you enjoy humorous young adult novels that involve absurd situations and over the top characters? If so, you might like BEAUTY QUEENS. Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Young Adult Novel for 2011, BEAUTY QUEENS describes the trials and travails of several beauty pageant contestants, surviving in the wild. Written with a witty and offbeat tone, I quite often found myself laughing out loud at the outrageous adventures these talented ladies encounter. If you’re a proud Texan, you’ll be excited to note that Miss Texas leads this band of intrepid and inventive ingénues.

NLS Annotation: After their plane crashes and strands them on an island, the fifty beauty contestants for the Miss Teen Dream Pageant channel their talents into surviving. But the arrival of some hot reality-television pirates adds new complications. Descriptions of sex and some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2011.

If you already read this book or simply enjoy humorous young adult books with feminist adventures and subtle romance, you might try I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU by Ally Carter (DB 66621).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– BLACK WATER RISING by Attica Locke, DB 72177

If you like legal thrillers such as those written by John Grisham and Lisa Scottoline, you might try the Jay Porter Series by Attica Locke, starting with BLACK WATER RISING (DB 72177). Nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, a 2010 NAACP Image Award, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, this story, set in Houston, Texas, follows lawyer Jay Porter as he becomes embroiled in a murder investigation and the labor disputes and racial turmoil of the early 1980s.

BlackWaterRising

Recent winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, Attica Locke, is a native of Houston, Texas and her knowledge of the area reveals itself in her detailed descriptions of the city as well as the social issues that dominated the area in the early 1980s. Her writing is gritty and compelling and she has created an intricately detailed plot with a well-developed protagonist in Jay Porter.

NLS Annotation: Texas, 1981. African American lawyer Jay Porter rescues from the bayou a white woman he later suspects is involved in a murder. Despite his racially charged criminal past and impending fatherhood, Jay investigates and finds links to Houston’s political elite and big oil. Some violence and some strong language. 2009.

If you’ve already read this book and enjoy a good legal thriller series with a suspenseful tone set in the urban south, try the Penn Cage series by Greg Iles, starting with QUIET GAME (DB 49340). If you’d prefer a legal thriller series with a female protagonist, try the Carole Ann Gibson series by Penny Mickelbury, starting with CAROLE ANN GIBSON, BOOKS 1-3 (DB 84707).

Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards Announced

goodreads-choice-awards-2016

The social cataloging website for book lovers, Goodreads, has just announced their readers’ Choice Awards for 2016. The Texas Talking Book Program has a good number of them in our collection. Are you looking for a non-fiction book? Goodreads members chose WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanthithi (BR 21371; DB 83643) as their favorite memoir. Are you more interested in fiction? Try TRULY MADLY GUILTY by Liane Moriarty (DB 85100). Is young adult fiction more your thing? Ruta Sepetys’ book SALT TO THE SEA (DB 83767) was their selection in that category. Perhaps you’re in the market for a new author to explore. Goodreads readers awarded Alwyn Hamilton the honor of Debut Goodreads Author for her book REBEL OF THE SANDS (DB 84465). No matter which genre you enjoy, the bibliophiles at Goodreads have chosen a favorite book published this year. Contact us and we can help you find your next favorite book.

For more information: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2016

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng, DB 80393

If you enjoy family dramas written in a moving tone and with a compelling writing style, you may enjoy EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU (DB 80393), the debut novel by Celeste Ng. New York Times Notable Book of 2014 and ALA’s Alex Award winner in 2015, this book reveals the life of teenager, Lydia Lee through the eyes of her parents, older brother Nathan, younger sister, Hannah and ultimately her own.

EverythingINeverToldYou

Book jacket for Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This book is beautifully crafted and strongly character driven. As the reader learns more about each member of the Lee Family, they are inexorably drawn deeper into the unvoiced hopes, dreams, and fears of each family member and how they affect each other, especially Lydia.

NLS Annotation for EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng (DB 80393): Examines the secrets of the Chinese-American Lee family of Ohio before and immediately after the 1977 drowning death of their middle child–high school sophomore Lydia. History professor James and his wife Marilyn–whose medical school plans were aborted by pregnancies–had high hopes for her. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex. 2014.

If you have already read this book or enjoy books that deal with the ways in which a family deals with the death of a loved one try LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold (DB 54698, BR 14806). Or if you’d prefer another book that looks at the complex dynamics of an immigrant family as they struggle to fit into their community and confront difficult emotions when processing personal losses try SLEEPWALKER’S GUIDE TO DANCING by Jacob Mira (DB 79244).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M. R. Carey, DB 80678

The recent theatrical release of the movie The Girl With All the Gifts, featuring Glenn Close, brings to life the 2014 post-apocalyptic novel, GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M. R. Carey (DB 80678). Nominated for multiple science fiction and horror awards, this story, set twenty years after the event known as The Breakdown, follows a group of survivors as they travel to military headquarters.

The_Girl_with_All_the_Gifts

Intricately plotted, with an atmospheric and creepy tone, this horror novel is written in a compelling manner that inextricably draws the reader into the dystopian landscape of post-apocalyptic England. The point of view shifts between characters, offering the reader a glimpse at the motivations behind their actions and a view into their inner turmoil.

NLS Annotation for GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M. R. Carey (DB 80678): A pandemic has turned countless people into zombies known as “hungries.” The administrators of a military camp studying these hungries must flee when a group of anarchists breach their security. They bring Melanie, a 10-year-old second-generation hungry with incredible strength and intellect, debating the status of her humanity all the while. Some violence and some strong language. Bestseller. Commercial audiobook. 2014.

If you’ve already read this book and enjoy post-apocalyptic novels featuring zombies and young protagonists, you may try PASSAGE by Justin Cronin (DB 71422) or if you’d prefer a zombie horror novel that feels more like a political thriller with science fiction elements, try FEED by Mira Grant (DB 77374).

Staff Pick – Laura Jean – REDEPLOYMENT by Phil Klay, BR 20602, DB 78988

If you enjoy war stories with authentic characters that are written with a haunting and moving tone, try REDEPLOYMENT by former Marine captain and Iraq veteran, Phil Klay. He won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014 for this collection of short stories about the complex feelings experienced by soldiers in a war zone as well as the difficulties soldiers face when returning home.

Redeployment

Written in a compelling and candid manner, these stories pack an emotional punch. Whether it’s a story relating the problems a soldier encounters on returning to civilian life or another story describing the aftermath of an IED attack, Mr. Klay has a strong familiarity with the military language and mindset.

NLS Annotation: Twelve stories about soldiers at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the personal wars they fight reintegrating into society at home. In the title story, a soldier who had to shoot dogs on the battlefield must readjust to life in suburban America. Violence. 2014.

If you enjoy this book, but would prefer the stories told from the point of view of the women left at home, try YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE by Siobhan Fallon, DT 07103. Of if you’d prefer a non-fiction collection of war stories from former soldiers try THINGS THEY CANNOT SAY: STORIES SOLDIERS WON’T TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT THEY’VE SEEN, DONE, OR FAILED TO DO IN WAR edited by Kevin Sites, DB 76432.

Staff Pick – Laura Jean– THE SECRET CHORD by Geraldine Brooks, DB 82635

If you enjoy literary historical Biblical fiction that is realistic in nature, you may enjoy THE SECRET CHORD. Nominated for the 2016 Women’s Prize for Fiction as well making Booklist’s Best Historical Fiction for 2016 list, THE SECRET CHORD tells the story of the Old Testament warrior, King David, from the viewpoint of Natan, his prophet and advisor.

Cover of The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Ms. Brooks, who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for MARCH (DB 64617), provides a vivid, richly detailed view of the land of Israel a millennium prior to the birth of Christ. Amid this setting, she places a variety of characters who each relate a part of David’s life.

NLS Annotation: King David rules Israel during the Second Iron Age. As he moves from a lowly shepherd to the leader of the Israelites, the lives of those he impacts, including the prophet Natan, his wives, and his son Solomon, reflect back on him. Violence, strong language, and descriptions of sex. Commercial audiobook. 2015.

For a non-fiction look at the life of King David try KING DAVID: THE REAL LIFE OF THE MAN WHO RULED ISRAEL by Jonathan Kirsch DB 56945. Or if you’d enjoy another historical fictional account of this legendary man, try the Children of the Lion series by Peter Danielson. The eighteenth and nineteenth books in the series, THE SHINING KING DB 51108 and TRIUMPH OF THE LION DB 51109, both deal specifically with the life of King David.

Bill Gates’ 2016 Summer Reading List

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has just announced his summer reading list for 2016. The Texas Talking Book Program has the majority of the list in our collection. Although many of his selections deal with math and science, Mr. Gates emphatically states that he chose books that made him think and kept him up at night reading instead of sleeping. He explains that he only chose ones that he genuinely loved.

For more information directly from Bill Gates himself, click on the video below.

In TBP’s collection:

Title: SEVENEVES
Author: STEPHENSON, NEAL

A catastrophic event forces humanity to band together to survive, though only a handful succeed and flee Earth. Five thousand years later, their descendants number three billion and comprise seven distinct races. They embark on a journey into the unknown, to an alien world–Earth. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2015.
DB 83040

Title: SAPIENS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND
Author: HARARI, YUVAL N

A discussion of the development of human culture and history, from the emergence of the first species of the genus Homo over 2 million years ago to the twenty-first century. Examines progress from the standpoints of biology, anthropology, paleontology, and economics. Translated from the 2011 Hebrew edition. Bestseller. 2015.
DB 81335

Title: HOW NOT TO BE WRONG: THE POWER OF MATHEMATICAL THINKING
Author: ELLENBERG, JORDAN, 1971-

Mathematician–and former child prodigy–reveals the mathematical patterns and principles that underlie everyday life. Ellenberg argues that math is an extension of common sense and can be learned by paying attention to aspects of the world around us–including electoral politics, the stock market, and grocery shopping. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. Bestseller. 2014.
DB 79914

Title: VITAL QUESTION: ENERGY, EVOLUTION, AND THE ORIGINS OF COMPLEX LIFE
Author: LANE, NICK, 1967-

Biochemist theorizes the emergence of morphologically complex life two billion years ago, two billion years after simple bacterial life arose. Discusses the basis for the question he is trying to answer, and presents evidence for his hypotheses, including cellular morphology and biochemistry, genetic divergence–including sex–and a 2010 discovery. 2015.
BR 21297; DB 83289