Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. 

Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships. (Publisher Summary)

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Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor HendersonTen Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
Set at the end of the 1980s, Henderson's first novel limns the way a tragic loss brings three people together in unexpected ways. When 16-year-old Jude Keffy-Horn's best friend, Teddy, dies of a drug overdose after a night of heavy partying, Jude blames himself, not knowing that Eliza, the daughter of Jude's father's girlfriend, gave Teddy cocaine the evening of his death. Eliza also slept with Teddy, and she soon discovers she's pregnant with his child. Both Jude and Eliza find themselves drawn into the orbit of Teddy's magnetic older half-brother, Johnny, a punk-rock tattoo artist who ostensibly abstains from drugs, alcohol, and sex. But Johnny's clean living masks the secret he's trying to hide from the world, a secret that threatens to unravel Jude and Eliza's plans to leave childhood behind and jump straight into what they believe will be their exciting adult lives. The magic of Henderson's debut lies in the way she so completely captures the experience of coming-of-age in the turbulent and exciting era that was the 1980s.  (Booklist Reviews)




Join the Book Discussion

 People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Join the Community Library's book club on August 20th (between 2PM and 4PM) for a lively discussion of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks!

Registration is open, click here to reserve your seat today! 

With an ingenuity equal to that standing behind her Pulitzer Prize–winning March (2005), Brooks now fictionalizes the history of an actual book, the Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, an extremely precious illuminated manuscript originally from medieval Spain.  Australian book conservator Hanna Heath is called to restore the famous Sarajevo Haggadah. The condition of the manuscript leads her on a search for answers to where the Haggadah has been all its life. This, of course, leads Brooks on a marvelously evocative journey backward in time, to periods of major religious strife and persecution, from the 1940 German occupation of Yugoslavia, to 1894 Vienna, to 1609 Venice, to 1492 Barcelona, and, finally, 1480 Seville. Like a flower growing through a crack in a slab of concrete, the exquisitely beautiful Sarajevo Haggadah remained an artistic treasure throughout the centuries despite always seeming to be caught between opposing sides in skirmishes of greed, intolerance, and bloodlust. (Booklist Starred Review)

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch
In this daring novel, Yuknavitch takes a provocative look at the intimate relationship among love, art, and sex in a group of emotionally scarred artists who want to save one of their own. The Small Backs of Children is written in the voices of characters without first names—photographer, writer, poet, performance artist, playwright, filmmaker, and painter—the novel begins in modern Eastern Europe (likely Lithuania), occupied by an unseen force, where a photojournalist captures an award-winning shot: a young girl running from her exploding home, in which the rest of her family dies. The girl escapes into the woods, making her way to a widow's home; the widow teaches her about art, and the girl begins to paint. Meanwhile, an American writer who is friends with the photographer, is hospitalized with severe depression. The writer's best friend, a poet, believes she can help the writer; she enters the war zone to bring the orphaned girl to the United States. Yuknavitch's novel is disturbing and challenging, but undoubtedly leaves its mark. (Publisher Weekly Reviews)

Spotlight on Biography

Born Survivors by Wendy Holden
Born Survivors by Wendy Holden
In the closing weeks of WWII, three Jewish women who had concealed their pregnancies in a fight for survival under the Nazis brought their babies into an uncertain future, an act of remarkable bravery and defiance. Those babies, now grown, note in their introduction to this incredible book that they are destined to become some of the last survivors of the Holocaust. That they survived at all is a miracle, but their story and that of their mothers is filled with many chance moments that, had they gone differently, would have eradicated them from the world in a moment. With remarkable detail gleaned from a wealth of research, journalist and author Holden relates the three women's unforgettable journey from their imprisonment in ghettos to their arrival at Auschwitz, where the feared Dr. Josef Mengele inspected each woman to find out who was pregnant, through their forced labor at munitions factories and the final hellish transport to the Nazi concentration camp at Mauthausen. Seeing the war through their eyes reveals not only the unimaginable cruelties that humans are capable of inflicting, but also the kindness and courage with which some of us are able to rise to meet adversity. Though these women's suffering was intense, their story reverberates with the power of hope, and, like their babies, will live on. An astonishing and deeply moving work. (Booklist Starred Review)

Spectacle by Pamela Newkirk
Spectacle by Pamela Newkirk
In 1904, at a time when African Americans were beginning major campaigns for civil rights, Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was displayed at the St. Louis World's Fair as an example of the "pygmy" people of West Africa. Two years later, Benga was exhibited at the New York Zoological Garden in the Monkey House, along with an orangutan, drawing enormous crowds. The 4-foot-11-inch man had been brought to America by Samuel Phillips Verner, a failed missionary who was in the process of remaking himself as a scholar of African culture. It was a time of racial turmoil across the U.S. and pseudoscientific justification of the exploitation of Africa and oppression of those of African descent. Newkirk details Verner's arduous journeys, lies, and manipulations, covered by the veneer of science even as he sought to secure financial interests in the Congo under the rapacious rule of King Leopold of Belgium. Benga's extraordinary journey from West Africa to St. Louis, New York, and eventually to Virginia sparked controversy as the nation and the world struggled with issues of race and exploitation. Uncovering this shameful chapter of U.S. history, Newkirk challenges Verner's reputation as a hero who rescued Benga from cannibals and highlights those who helped Benga live the remaining years of his life with dignity. (Booklist Starred Review)

Eye on the Struggle by James McGrath Morris
Eye on the Struggle by James McGrath Morris
Morris is the first to tell barrier-breaking journalist Ethel Payne's complete story in Eye on the Struggle. Among this biography's many disclosures is the crucial role this book-loving daughter of a Pullman porter—and constant patron of her South Side Chicago public library branch—played in the success of the Chicago Defender, a tremendously influential African American newspaper distributed in the Jim Crow South by Pullman porters. Harassed on her way to high school when she passed through a white neighborhood, Payne was encouraged to write by her English teacher, who had also taught Ernest Hemingway. Payne had stories published in a Defender spinoff, Abbott's Monthly, while she attended the Chicago Public Library Training School and became a junior library assistant. After qualifying for a government-documents librarian post at the U.S. Department of Justice, she was turned away because of her race. In a neat turnaround, Payne signed on as an assistant service club director, shipping out to an army post in Japan in 1948. There, intrepid, ever-curious, and truth-seeking, Payne investigated the plight of the stigmatized children of black GIs and Japanese women. She lost her military job when the Chicago Defender published her exposé but was hired by the paper. Morris' straight-ahead chronicle of Payne's extraordinary front-line life reveals how invincible and incisive she was as she forthrightly "combined journalism with advocacy" and made the most of the "box seat on history" she fought so ardently and courageously to occupy. (Booklist Starred Review)

Hissing Cousins by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer
Hissing Cousins by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer
It's hard not to like Alice Roosevelt Longworth, though Peyser and Dwyer give many reasons why we shouldn't; for one, at 85, Alice did her impersonation of Eleanor Roosevelt's speech (and jutting jaw) for 60 Minutes. She also slapped on a checkerboard mask at 82 and attended Truman Capote's infamous black-and-white ball. In short, she said—and did—what she wanted, consequences be damned. But marvelous Eleanor, the authors note, will be the one remembered. The two women were cousins, but, as the book's title aptly points out, they weren't altogether close. Alice was a Republican and Teddy's cherished daughter, the much-watched and -quoted princess of the White House. Eleanor was a Democrat and later helped her husband get into the White House himself. Alice was funny, caustic, and somewhat of a pill. Eleanor devoted her life to good works and true causes (women's rights, segregation, and so much more). The lives these women lived weren't easy (tossed by death and illness), the times were turbulent (from wars to Teapot Dome to Tricky Dick), and the two cousins were almost, the authors note, "reverse role models for each other, examples of how not to live." Peyser and Dwyer's detailed and witty double biography is hard to put down, a fascinating look at an era and two exceptionally strong, intelligent women. (Booklist Starred Review)

Listening to Stone by Hayden Herrera
Listening to Stone by Hayden Herrera
The phenomenally gifted and versatile sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904–88), the American-born son of an Irish American mother and a Japanese father, felt like an outsider wherever he went. Leonie Gilmour met poet Yone Noguchi via a newspaper ad. She was looking for work. He needed help with his English. Not only didn't Yone marry Leonie, he returned to Japan while she was pregnant, and when Leonie followed several years later, she discovered that he had another family. Young Noguchi, a nature-loving prodigy, thrived nonetheless. Sent back to the States alone at age 13, as tenacious as he was talented, Noguchi endured extreme hardships until attaining success and social standing, first with portraiture, then by creating an eloquent form of modernism that fused tradition and innovation, East and West. A passionate stone carver and a constant traveler with a notoriously complicated love life, Noguchi constructed, with tremendous vision, skill, and turmoil, dynamic outdoor installations all around the world. But as Herrera so sensitively illuminates and assiduously documents, his mixed heritage and illegitimate birth caused him endless anguish, including time in a WWII Japanese American internment camp. Herrera tells Noguchi's astounding, story of "unstoppable creative energy," fame, and perpetual alienation with thrilling narrative drive and deep perception and reinvigorates appreciation for Noguchi's searching and evocative art. (Booklist Starred Review)

Michelle Obama by Peter Slevin
Michelle Obama by Peter Slevin
A descendant of slaves, Michelle Obama has a lineage and a life history most unlikely for a First Lady. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago in a working-class black family, she has lived her life against the backdrop of major developments in black America. When she became First Lady in 2008, she changed the trajectory of American history. Journalist Slevin explores Michelle's family history and struggle to rise above racial limitations, her marriage, and her close friendships. He details the unerringly strong, well-balanced sense of self she has taken with her from Chicago to Princeton to Harvard Law School to corporate America and eventually to the White House. In her undergraduate thesis on straddling the racial and economic divides, Michelle explored themes that continued to challenge her and her husband as they advanced in their careers and even as the nation's first family. Slevin chronicles Michelle's evolution from very reluctant candidate's wife to engaging First Lady and protective first mother. She has focused on supporting military families, encouraging better nutrition and exercise for youth, and urging urban youth, in particular, to get an education. Like all First Ladies, she has sparked affection, criticism, and controversy, often with a racial tinge aimed directly at the first African American First Lady. (Booklist Starred Review)

On His Own Terms by Richard Norton Smith
On His Own Terms by Richard Norton Smith
A nightmare for political handlers, the man who claimed "a Democratic heart with a Republican head" poses no small challenge for a biographer. But after a decade of exhaustive research, Smith delivers a compelling portrait of a man who defied the simplifying ideologies of his age. Born to privilege but schooled as a social progressive by his philanthropist parents, Nelson Rockefeller traveled an improbable trajectory, serving as both a Roosevelt New Dealer and an Eisenhower Cold Warrior, repeatedly demonstrating exceptional leadership and unflagging energy. In-depth research illuminates Rockefeller's exceptional record as a governor of New York, expanding welfare benefits, protecting the environment, and subsidizing the arts, only to alienate the state's liberals with his forceful handling of the Attica Prison riots. But Rockefeller's maverick impulses emerge most clearly in Smith's account of why the governor clashed with Barry Goldwater over the future of the GOP. Readers see how Rockefeller's liberal sympathies repeatedly doomed his presidential aspirations as conservative intraparty foes frustrated his hopes, refusing even to recognize his loyal service as Gerald Ford's vice president. And though Smith focuses on Rockefeller's public service, he does delve into the tangled marital and family life behind that service. Complete and balanced, a biography of exceptional substance. (Booklist Starred Review)

Respect by David Ritz
Respect by David Ritz
With an outsize musical talent and a troubled family life, Franklin has worked to keep her painful history hidden and has poured everything into her singing. She was the gospel prodigy of the charismatic Baptist preacher C. L. Franklin; her mother separated from the family and died at an early age. Franklin started her career singing in the gospel circuit, one every bit as steeped in earthly temptations as any other genre, before moving into R & B. She was a legend—and a young mother—by her teens, eventually earning for herself the title of Queen of Soul, and she struggled to hold on to it through changes in popular music and challenges by younger singers. Despite tumultuous marriages, bouts with alcoholism and depression, and a reputation as a demanding diva, Franklin has maintained her stature on the strength of her talent and her support for civil rights. She has also been steadfast in protecting her image and her secrets, even in her biography, From These Roots (1999), ghostwritten by Ritz. Some 15 years later, this is his unauthorized attempt to get at the elusive Franklin, the one who so skillfully hid her pain in her music. Drawing on previous work and interviews with those close to Franklin, Ritz offers a portrait of a woman for whom faith and respect are essential. (Booklist Starred Review)

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Fairly or not, Orville and Wilbur Wright will always be best remembered by the general public for December 17, 1903, the day at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, when the brothers flew, for the first time, a heavier-than-air vehicle. Of course, the brothers had accomplishments and interesting lives that both preceded and followed that triumphant day, as this fine biography by esteemed historian McCullough shows. McCullough offers an interesting portrait of their youth in Dayton, Ohio, that also serves as an examination of daily life in post–Civil War Middle America. Neither boy had a formal education beyond high school, although Wilbur's plan to attend Yale was thwarted by an injury. Yet both displayed keen intelligence and strong interest in various mechanical devices. That interest led to their ownership of both print and bicycle shops, but their interest in the possibility of human flight soon became an obsession for them. McCullough illustrates their creative geniuses as well as their physical courage leading up to the initial flight. He also pays tribute to an unsung hero, their sister Katherine, who played a prominent role in their achievements. This is an outstanding saga of the lives of two men who left such a giant footprint on our modern age.High-Demand Backstory: This author's countless previous bestsellers demand that public libraries have his latest book in their shelves. (Booklist Starred Review)