Hot Books for Winter Break

Are you ready to curl up with a good book during the winter break? Maybe when there’s snow on the highways or rain on the ski slopes you’ll be in the mood for a best-seller. These are the books that have been flying off library shelves here at Adams Library and in libraries throughout the state. Some are very new and some are newly hot.  – Judith Stokes, RIC associate professor of Adams Library

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (2001), winner of Canada's 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and the British Commonwealth’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002, was not as popular then as it is now that the movie version is out. You have seen the boy and the tiger on the boat, if only in the advertisements. The son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India, the boy is energized by the power of stories, exploring religions one after another, adopting each in turn with the joyous faith he will later carry onto that lifeboat.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005), the biography behind Spielberg’s new hit film Lincoln has gained renewed popularity. Historian Goodwin approved the film treatment of the last four months of Lincoln’s life, saying nothing in the film is “implausible” to the historical record. The book’s unique historical contribution is in its focus on Lincoln’s cabinet, full of his own political rivals, as well as his extraordinary ability to lead that disparate group: William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates, who ran against Lincoln for the 1860 Republican nomination, and Edwin Stanton, his most vocal critic.
Cloud Atlas: A Novel, by David Mitchell (2004), is also getting a boost from its popular film adaptation. Like the film, the book weaves several interconnected stories across lives and time. Undaunted by his medium, Mitchell drops the reader mid-sentence on page 39, which set off a torrent of claims for a “complete” copy of the book, when it was new. Trust the author and just keep reading. No pages are missing, no thread is left untied and everything is interconnected, after all.

11/22/63, by Stephen King (2011), takes us back in time with Jake Epping, mild-mannered English teacher. Recruited by a dying friend, he agrees to investigate a “rabbit hole” in time that always takes him back in time to the exact same day in 1958. If you have not suspended disbelief yet, do it now, because returning the same way allows him to reappear in the same spot he left, precisely two minutes later in 2011 time, no matter how long he spends in this “Land of Ago." Caught up in the excitement of time travel, the temptation to change history becomes irresistible, but there is more for a thoughtful man to learn while living in the past, and there is more than just adventure here for the reader, as well.

The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail But Some Don’t, by Nate Silver (2012), has the pundits and the talk show hosts all in thrall since Silver’s “told you so!” following the 2012 election. Big Data not only refined Obama’s campaign but predicted his election for those like Silver, who can reduce the human noise that distorts the statistical signal. From baseball games to political polls, it is how he reads the data that gives Nate Silver the edge.

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich (2012), won the National Book Award for fiction this year. Erdrich’s spellbinding stories, inspired by her Native American heritage and her American life, have been winning awards and faithful readers for over 20 years. This latest work in a mature and enduring opus, has already been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, the quintessentially American classic, a singular achievement. Bringing youth and warmth into a story of racism and rape is an extraordinary challenge, but Erdrich meets the mark and then some.

This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz (2012),  is only the third book by this hot young author, but Díaz already has a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/O.Henry Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Award under his belt. Here Diaz assembles nine new stories about Yunior, the Dominican American stud who has figured in his novels, with all the streetwise swagger and irresistible energy of Diaz’s eloquent slang, and just enough maturity to begin to feel the effects of his own actions.

No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden, by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer (2012), the memoir of Matt Bissonnette, recounts his life (Mark Owen is a pseudonym, Kevin Maurer a journalist) as a member of Navy SEAL Team 6, culminating with a detailed account of the mission at  Abbottabad. The backstory is about this experienced Navy SEAL, from when he qualified for Team 6 – the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group – through the constant training, the calls to action and the tremendous motivation it takes to live the life of the elite special-ops warrior.

Home, by Toni Morrison (2012), follows Frank Money, Korean War veteran, from his postwar funk in Seattle to his hometown in Georgia, on a mission to rescue his sister. Intertwined with the spellbinding narrative, Frank’s voice struggles with memories of vivid bloody death, dismemberment and, worse, guilt, even while he cautiously travels the not-quite-underground routes African Americans had to use, being passed along brother to brother to avoid the traps laid for him, for any man of color with no white boss nearby to miss his labor in 1950s America.

Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us about Health and the Science of Healing, by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers (2012), began with the investigations of Dr. Natterson-Horowitz, cardiologist and professor at the UCLA Medical Center, based on her experience as cardiac consultant at the Los Angeles Zoo. Learning from veterinarians, she came to understand that the differences between human and animal medicine are comparatively minor. Along with journalist Kathryn Bowers, Dr. Natterson-Horowitz offers a fascinating narrative of discovery in which she demonstrates the ubiquity of the same diseases in both animals and humans and how cooperation in the medical/veterinary community can advance healthcare for all.