Saturday, November 30, 2013

The 2013 List of Best Books Lists

If you're like us, you like to give books for the holidays, especially ones for those nieces and nephews who love to read. But which ones? I confess I love love love the "best books of the year" lists that I find all over the internet.

In case you enjoy them too, here is a collection for your perusal. P.S. Unlike the other titles we talk about here, these books aren't necessarily in the library's catalog.

First on the list is our own Southwest Books of the Year! This year there are 7 Top Picks and 27 Panelist Picks. Southwest Books of the Year considers titles published during the current year that are about Southwest subjects, or that are set in the Southwest.


All Ages
PCPL's Southwest Books of the Year
Best Books of 2013 (NPR)
Goodreads Choice Awards 2013
National Book Awards (and finalists)
The 13 Best Biographies, Memoirs, and History Books of 2013 (Brain Pickings)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In my opinion, one of Tucson's greatest perks is its practically perfect (that is to say, WARM) weather. I absolutely despise being cold, so the rain and chill over the last few days have left me huddling under a blanket and dreaming of triple digits. I think it's safe to say that I will probably never actually make it to Antarctica, the coldest place on Earth, and yet I am fascinated with the continent. Gabrielle Walker's book Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent presents an absorbing blend of human interest, history, and science to describe a place that few of us will ever get to see for ourselves. We discover how penguins thrive and why Antarctica is such a perfect place to study astronomy. We learn about the astounding feats and determination of Antartica's earliest explorers, and we meet present-day scientists who brave temperatures of 100 degrees below 0 to spend their winters at the South Pole. Walker's writing is detailed and precise, and her descriptions  of Antarctica's frozen beauty, brilliant scientists, and adorable penguins are almost enough to make me consider taking a journey south...someday.

PS: If you'd like to read a novel that's partially set in Antarctica, I highly recommend Where'd You Go, Bernadette. It's a hysterically weird novel full of quirky characters, entirely composed of emails, memos, and letters.

Happy reading!

~Queen of Books

Sunday, November 24, 2013


The word "zoobiquity" isn't in the dictionary, but it will be soon. Zoobiquity is the title of a popular science book by Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, M.D. and Kathryn Bowers. The term refers to a new species-spanning approach to health and medicine. Dr. Natterson-Horowitz is a cardiologist at the UCLA Medical Center and a cardiac consultant for the Los Angeles Zoo. While working at the zoo, she realized how humans and monkeys suffer from many of the exact same diseases and conditions. She wanted to explore other animal species and see what can be learned from combining veterinary knowledge and human medicine.

The book is packed full of interesting scientific anecdotes. You'll be able to pepper your conversations with amusing and sometimes startling facts. Wallabies can become addicted to opium. Koalas suffer from chlamydia. Dinosaurs got cancer. Humans and other animal species have eating disorders and sexual dysfunction. Adolescents of many species display risky behaviors. While the book is entertaining, it also raises a serious issue about human beings as part of the wider animal kingdom. We could improve our health by viewing the world from a broader perspective. This is especially important as diseases cross species.

Dr. Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers spoke at the Tucson Festival Books in March of 2013. You can watch the taped presentation online at BookTV.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Creative Genius

I have read more than my fair share of books about kids, teens and adults on the autism spectrum. I have been fascinated by the ways our brains work in such completely different ways. For the most part, these novels have been written by adults not on the spectrum, but they attempt to put together what is going on in someone else's brain and turn that into a complete character. I recently read Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks and he took this concept about five steps further, in a truly creative way.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Think you've got a difficult relationship with your mother? What if your mother was an immortal goddess, and you weren't? That's the situation facing Isadora, the daughter of Isis and Osiris, in Kiersten White's entertaining and fast-paced The Chaos of Stars.

It's rough on Isadora, living with her parents. They're thousands of years old, and she's sixteen. They have world-creating powers, and she's really good at . . . decorating her bedroom. They'll live forever, and she won't. When her mother announces her pregnancy, it's the last straw. Isadora flees to San Diego and her older brother's house and sets about trying to create a normal life for herself, like she's seen on TV and in magazines. But it's not so easy to fit in with other mortals when you've only known gods and goddesses your whole life.

And if you know your mythology, you know that there are always plots afoot, as the immortals scheme and backstab. But the plotting is darker this time. Someone actually wants to kill Isis, and they might be able to do it. This time, Isadora--mortal, weak, powerless--might be the only one who can stop it and save her mother's life.

--Maureen K.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bootstrapper Jo Link begins her memoir, Bootstrapper : From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm one summer morning - drunk on her farmhouse porch, binoculars in one hand, her fourth beer in the other and a self-help book for achieving a Zen divorce open on her lap. The man she is divorcing relocated across the street, and she watches him haul 20 years of marriage accumulation to the curb. She disagrees with the "Free" sign he pounds into the ground, because "someone paid handsomely for this wreckage, and that someone is me."

Bootstrapper recounts the year following Link's divorce as she struggles to keep her family on their six acre farm. She lays claim to the debt and the dirt and, comparing their life with the phases of the moon, resolves to stay financially solvent 30 days at a time. She turns from a tree-hugger to a hunter and gatherer - including eyeing a wild turkey they hit on the road as potential dinner. She wins a zucchini contest sponsored by a local bakery for a year of free day-old bread, and she and her sons exist on eggs, bread and squash for much of the winter. She can't afford to heat with electricity, so they scour the roadside for firewood and tack plastic over the single pane windows to keep out the snow. Often, they are cold and hungry. She is cheered by the seed catalogs that arrive by mail in the spring, but the well goes out when it's time to plant. And, with no credit or collateral, she must refinance the farm to buy out her ex-husband.

Determined to stay on the farm, Link greets each challenge with innovation and tenacity which - as any farmer will tell you - is as important as water, credit or collateral. Told with wit and infused with Buddhist wisdom, Bootstrapper is a lesson on looking adversity in the eye and not blinking.

Vicki Ann

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Handle with Care

As the holiday season approaches, brownies - and close cousins, bars, quick breads, toffee and fudge - often form the delicious contents of care packages sent from your home to family and friends, near and far. Shirley Fan, a six year veteran of the Food Network, wrote The Flying Brownie: 100 Recipes for Homemade Treats that Pack Easily, Ship Fresh and Taste Great to provide the home baker with both tasty recipes and comprehensive packing and shipping instructions - including necessary supplies, vendors, and addresses for troops in the armed forces serving abroad.

While writing The Flying Brownie, Fan thought back to her college days when her parents harvested their backyard peach tree and mailed the luscious bounty off to their daughter. It never arrived and now Fan, a registered dietitian, has written her first cookbook and created an unusual niche where care packages occupy center stage. But, not to be upstaged, the recipes alone could carry the book. For example, if you like to balance the sweet with the savory, a chapter entitled "Shippable Savories" includes recipes for Golden Cheddar Coins, Garlic and Dill Seasoned Pretzels and Ridiculously Easy Bagel Chips.

Enough said, with the The Flying Brownie in hand, preheat your oven and get started.


Do you know the origin of the "Care Package"? Fan explains that the name originated with the creation of the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe (CARE) at the end of World War II. CARE began with a singular mission: to send life-saving provisions to survivors of the war. These "CARE Packages" were actually unused food parcels for soldiers, repurposed to benefit citizens of war-torn Europe. The first shipment of CARE Packages was delivered to residents of Le Harve, France in 1946.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


AttachmentsWho’s reading your email, and what do they think of you?

These are questions discussed in Rainbow Rowell’s novel Attachments. Lincoln works the night shift as an “internet security officer” for a newspaper. In his official capacity, his job is to read everyone’s correspondence and write a report if it violates company policy. While the rest of the world is sleeping, Lincoln wades through tasteless jokes and forbidden web traffic. It’s lonely work, but as a 28-year old Dungeons & Dragons aficionado who lives at home with his mom, Lincoln is used to loneliness.

And then he starts reading Beth and Jennifer’s emails to each other. Even though they both work at the paper, Beth and Jennifer’s exchanges are pretty much exclusively non-work-related, full of inappropriate details about their personal lives and stories that make Lincoln laugh out loud. He knows he should report them, but he can’t stop reading. And, soon, he finds himself falling in love with one of them. But how could he ever even introduce himself now that he’s been reading all her secrets for this long?

Attachments is a romantic read with a sharp wit and a big heart. Even if you don’t usually go for love stories, I recommend giving this one a go. Fair warning, though: you might never look at your email the same way again.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

The plan for Sunday...chores. Of course, reading is always on the "to do" list, but I told myself it was going to be minimal. One chapter over coffee, two chapters max. And then hours later, with breakfast dishes still on the counter I finished Brilliance by Marcus Sakey. So much for self-control. And productivity.

In Brilliance, one percent of the next generation of children are born with extraordinary emotional, spatial, musical, or mathematical gifts. These "brilliants" have the ability to improve society, but might just as easily decide to crash the stock market or hack military weapons systems. Naturally, the government steps in to manage the education of young brilliants with boarding schools and biometric devices. Activities by suspicious adult brilliants are monitored by the Department of Analysis and Response (DAR) in order to prevent acts damaging to the country. Nick Cooper is a brilliant and top agent of the DAR due to his ability in recognizing body language patterns. Cooper's job: to locate and apprehend the abnorms (brilliants gone bad). When intelligence chatter warns of an imminent threat on the financial markets Nick rushes to prevent it, but is unable to. In the aftermath, his search to find the terrorist responsible for the attack forces him to reexamine where his loyalties lie.


Friday, November 1, 2013

The Emperor's Children you are waiting for The Woman Upstairs, pick up The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud. The story follows three friends in New York City, crowding 30 and living in a quiet uneasiness following the comfortable excesses of the late 20th century. Marina stays with her wealthy parents and works on a long-awaited book about children's clothes. Julius, a struggling magazine writer, is cheating on his new boyfriend and Danielle, a documentarian, begins an affair with Marina's father, Murray Thwaite. In the 1960s, Murray gained notoriety as a left-wing journalist supporting laborers and civil rights groups but has since grown fat and indolent. He secretively writes his tome How to Live but, rather than sharing his wisdom and experiences with a new generation of writers, he fills the pages with self-righteousness.