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October 2018 Staff Picks

Brenda’s Pick : No baggage: a minimalist tale of love & wandering by Clara Benson

no baggageI hate packing for a trip, so this book title caught my eye. It’s an engaging story/memoir involving two people who have just met…literally…on a dating site. They are at places in their lives where they’re ready to take a risk, and set off for a an eight-countries-in-3-weeks trip together…with No Baggage and No Plans! Fascinating and gutsy, Clara and Jeff take off and learn about each other on the fly and the author describes the experience (and her life) with a style all her own.

“…my sense of amazement was less about surviving the absence of backpacks and more about the magic that naturally flowed into spaces formerly occupied by possessions and plans.”

David’s Pick : Another Year [DVD]

 another yearThis small, quiet, and devastating masterpiece in characterization and acting comes from Mike Leigh, who is renowned for working closely with his actors to workshop and refine his story ideas during the production process. Without a conventional plot, it follows a happy couple (played perfectly by Ruth Sheen as Gerri and Jim Broadbent as Tom) and the various people in their lives who are suffering and can’t seem to understand why (especially Mary, in a brave and harrowing performance by Lesley Manville). In the end, it is a meditation on the elusiveness of happiness with no pat answers.

David’s Pick :  Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

only to sleepOsborne admits that it is daunting to take on the persona of such a well-known fictional character as private detective Philip Marlowe, let alone contribute to the legacy of Marlowe’s creator Raymond Chandler. Nevertheless, here we have an ageing Marlowe in the year 1988, facing mortality and the withering away of the world he once knew and mastered, wandering through Mexico on the trail of a dead man who may not be dead. Thankfully, Osborne doesn’t try too hard to imitate Chandler’s inimitable style, but instead gives us a melancholy portrait of the gumshoe coming to the end of his tether. The atmosphere throughout is suitably menacing, and the plot is nice and convoluted as befits a case from Marlowe’s files.

Jayme’s Pick : Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

fruit of the drunken treeSet in Bogotá during the reign of Pablo Escobar, when kidnappings are a norm, this engaging story follows two young girls, their privileged family and a live-in maid from a guerrilla-occupied slum. The alternating narratives of Chula and Petrona provide an innocent, yet insightful, perspective into the chaos of the world around them as they navigate growing up in uncertain times. But even more than that, it’s a story about women and what they must do for self-preservation in times of strife. This wonderful debut, inspired by the author’s life, showcases a beautiful new voice in literary fiction.

Joanne’s Pick : Global Girlfriends: How one mom made it her business to help women in poverty worldwide by Stacey Edgar

global girlfriendsThis is a marvelous account of how one woman, with simple small steps and a passion to help women pull themselves and their families out of poverty, has made an enormous impact on the lives of many women around the world.  Stacey started a socially conscious business with just $2,000.00 that has turned into a multi-million dollar enterprise specializing in fair trade, handmade items made by women providing employment to help them feed their families and send their children to school. This book has many personal accounts of the difficulties women face in different parts of the world and also how we as individuals can make a difference too by the tremendous power we each have as consumers.

Megan’s Pick : Brain on Fire

brain on fireImagine losing yourself, and not just your personality but also control of your body. Brain on Fire is the intense story of Susannah Cahalan, who faces medical mysteries and confusion as she and her family try to help her recover herself. This memoir is a must read not only because the story is so fascinating and compelling, but also because of how it’s told. The illness that Cahalan faced had a serious impact on her memory, and so she had to go backwards,using her skills as a journalist, to piece her “month of madness” together.

Megan’s Pick : I am, I am, I am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell

i am i amGood nonfiction has the power to bring us into a person’s most vulnerable moments and make us feel like we are part of the experience. Maggie O’Farrell brings us into some of the parts of her life that until she put them in her book, she’d shared with very view people. This well-crafted and beautifully written uses death to tell the stories O’Farrell’s life. In some of the most intense brushes with death, she finds reasons to live, even when it seems too hard. I am, I am, I am is a book I’ve added to the short list of titles I’ve read that linger with me days and weeks after I’ve finished.

 Natalie’s Pick : Lone Rider: the first British woman to motorcycle around the world by Elspeth Beard

lone riderElspeth Beard was dismissed by the British motorcycling community, and had no sponsor and little family support when she rode her 1974 BMW motorcycle 35,000 miles around the world in 1982. Beard is finally getting respect for her epic adventure and pioneering spirit, as revealed in this book.