If you’re looking for book suggestions, who better to ask your local librarian? They went to college for this, after all. Check out these eight books, which are all staff favorites at the West Bend Library. If any of them sound interesting, click the book cover to place a copy on hold!
1. Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham. Everyone knows what happened at Russia’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant. In 1986, a faulty reactor design, combined with neglectful operators, caused the plant to overheat, explode, and release massive amounts of radioactive contamination into the air. This contamination cleared out the surrounding city and killed over 4,000 people. Though it was covered extensively by the media at the time, investigative journalist Adam Higginbotham argues that the story has many holes and contradictions. In his book, he uncovers the extensive propaganda, secrecy, and myth that may have obscured what really happened Chernobyl. Although it’s a true story, Higginbotham’s engaging, dramatic method of storytelling makes for a novel that reads like sci-fi.
2. Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols. A dynamic combination of science fiction, mystery, and thriller, this debut novel follows the story of Catherine Wells, an astronaut returning to earth after a risky deep space mission. In normal circumstances, this would be cause for celebration, but Catherine’s return is anything but normal. She arrived three years later than she was supposed to, and the five other people on her mission are inexplicably missing. Suffering from trauma-induced amnesia, Catherine struggles to remember what happened-and when she finally does, she knows no one will believe her. Nichols’ tense, evocative writing style creates a novel that’s sure to keep you turning pages.
3. Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg. Since the beginning of time, problems of inequality and divisiveness have torn societies apart. Countless solutions to these issues have been proposed, but sociologist Eric Klinenberg offers a startlingly fresh perspective. Throughout his book, he purports that societal harmony will begin with community spaces that bring people together (like, for example, your local library.) Offering both broad theory and personal examples, the book examines how modern institutions and infrastructure shape our society. This may seem like an overwhelming topic, but by applying it directly to the lives of the readers, the author makes it an engagingly personal read.
4. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. In this heartwarming romantic comedy, an unlikely relationship forms between a grieving widow, Evvie, and a disgraced athlete, Dean. When the two move into adjoining houses, they vow to never discuss Evvie’s late husband or Dean’s failing baseball career; they decide it’s easier that way. Soon, however, these promises are broken., and both realize that to move into the future together, they must first reconcile with their pasts. Written by the host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, this novel’s witty, complex warmth earned it a spot on the New York Times best-seller list soon after its publication.
5. Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran. Though largely forgotten by history books, Anna Maria Tussaud lived a fascinating life. A brilliant artist in the late 1700s, her medium was unusual for her time; she created life-like models of public figures out of wax. After catching the eye of the royal family with her unique work, she is asked to stay Versailles, turning her world upside down. In this way, she must transition from starving artist to wealthy aristocrat during the time of the French revolution. Told from Tussaud’s perspective, this captivating historical fiction novel explores a topic still relevant today; the vast social divide between the rich and poor.
6. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim. This debut novel serves up a feast for the imagination. A light, uplifting read, it tells the story of Natalie, a young woman who inherits her grandmother’s Chinese restaurant. However, according to the neighborhood fortune-teller, there’s a catch; if the restaurant is to thrive, Natalie must cook three difficult recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook and use them to help her struggling neighbors. This heartwarming book explores the importance of community and the restorative power of food, with real recipes mixed in.
7. South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami. Over and over, this novella poses the same question: ‘what if?’ The book follows a young boy, Hajime, as he comes of age and grows apart from his childhood friend, Shimamoto. Though the two become distant in adulthood, their sporadic meetings have a profound effect on both of them. Eventually, Hajime must come to a decision: should he continue his present life of comfort and success, or should he follow Shimamoto to pursue the haunting ‘what if?’ Translated from Japanese, this short but profound novel will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
8. Beartown by Fredrik Backman. There are thousands of small, no-name towns scattered throughout the world, but Beartown, a rural community buried in a Swedish forest, stands apart from the rest. Though the town itself is tiny, its aspirations are much larger. Its hopes lie in the local junior ice hockey team, which is about to compete in the national semifinals. If they win, they could bring long-awaited glory to their sinking hometown; if they don’t, Beartown could sink into anonymity forever. Laden with emotive prose and rich character studies, this novel is both a domestic drama and a slow-burning thriller.
Special thanks to Susan Robbins, Emily Laws, Hannah Kane, and Sara Davister.