Good luck finding a copy of the sudden phenomenon known as Fifty Shades of Grey, a scintillating romance novel – the first in a trilogy – that’s stirred up a whirlwind of conversation lately. The novel started its life as an online-only Twilight fan fiction story; once it picked up some enthusiastic readers and momentum, Ms. James modified her main characters’ names, professions, and paranormal status and Fifty Shades was born. Since then, it’s found a major publisher and a movie deal in addition to a spot on the national scene. Find your reason for not reading this sexy novel below and read on for your next great read!

 

  • I like ‘romantica’ (romance novels with very erotic scenes), and I’ve already read (or I’m impatiently waiting for) this trilogy. What should I read next? If you’re a fan of the genre, try books by any of these authors, who mix plenty of sensual action into their happily-ever-afters: Shayla Black, Colette Gale, Kresley Cole, Zane, Janice Maynard, J.R. Ward, and Lora Leigh.
  • This book was too racy for me! For a gentler read with contemporary setting and a happily ever after, try any of these writers who focus on lighter romance: Lisa Kleypas, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, and Rachel Gibson.
  • I’m so sick of Twilight and all its spin offs – whatever is the opposite of that is what I want to read. Try out these realistic, literary, thought-provoking novels for a reading experience just as compelling as the-vampire-book-that-must-not-be-named but minus all the bloodsucking, romantic quivering, and hype: Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell; The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; Arcadia by Lauren Groff; The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt; Swamplandia! by Karen Russell; Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. Nary a vampire in sight!
  • I want to read romance or erotica, but I’m embarrassed to let people see me with them. Don’t sweat it, a lot of us are in the same boat, and DPL has some awesome solutions! For the ultimate in anonymity, check out our WILBOR database of ebooks you can check out for free. You don’t have to own a smartphone, Nook, Kindle, or iPad – WILBOR offers tons of audiobooks that can be played from an mp3 player, and ebooks can frequently be read on your computer without transferring to an e-reader. Explore WILBOR’s help page or call the Reference desk if you need assistance. Also, don’t forget that all three branches have self-checkout counters, so you can pick out your favorites and none of the staff need to be any the wiser! Or take matters into your own hands with a Do-It-Yourself or inexpensive book cover. If anyone asks, just shrug and say, “oh, I’m finally trying to finish Middlemarch – the darn thing is just so long!” No one wants to talk about Middlemarch, so you’re free to read your salacious paperbacks in peace.

Arcadia by Lauren Groff chronicles the rise and fall of a 1970s commune in upstate New York.  While living in makeshift homes, a group of idealists calling themselves The Free People work together to renovate an old mansion where hundreds could coexist in harmony, sharing equally in manual labor and production of food.  Though it was started by people looking for a life of freedom, equality, and communal living, it becomes clear over time that this utopian society isn’t all that was promised and dreamed of.  People are often just cold and starving, but they keep waiting for life in Arcadia to get better at the encouragement of their charismatic but ultimately hypocritical leader.

We learn about Arcadia through the eyes of a five-year-old boy named Bit, the first child born in the commune.  Bit lives in a bread truck with his hard-working father Abe and his deeply depressed mother Hannah, who was a ray of light in Arcadia until her miscarriage caused her to see Arcadia as it really was.  Despite his age Bit is an astute observer of the good times and bad in Arcadia, and so his childlike lens is perfect for introducing this society.  The story moves through the ups and downs of Arcadia’s history, visiting Bit and catching up on his life and the livelihood of the Arcadians when Bit is 5, 15, 35, and 50 years old.

My favorite thing about this book was Lauren Groff’s lovely prose.  She makes it easy to become fully immersed in the world of Arcadia through the lush detail.  Even the parts of the story that could easily come off sounding like cliches (everyone is vegan, the women wear flowing dresses and braids, plenty of illegal drugs are consumed) somehow transcend this because Groff’s rich writing and realistic characters keep this novel from turning into a series 1970s cliches.

Once I really got into this book, I couldn’t put it down.  The characters were so compelling and real that I just had to know what would happen to Bit, Abe, Hannah, and Arcadia itself.  Though I had a good idea of how things would turn out, the last quarter of the book took me to some unexpected places.  Overall I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re interested in historical fiction or 1970s culture.

A list of excellent things about World War Z:

  • Author Max Brooks (progeny of Mel Brooks) uses the word “decimate” appropriately – it means to kill one out of every ten people, usually as a show of force or intimidation and it is NOT a synonym for rampant destruction. The grammar nerd in me squealed with delight when I read that!
  • Interview-style storytelling means a focus on plot that’s both exciting and quick to read (Corollary: if there’s a chapter that you don’t like, it’s over quickly and the next one won’t be about the same person, the same event, or even the same country)
  • Rapid pacing keeps you on the edge of your seat. I couldn’t put this down!
  • Plausible and thoroughly reasoned geopolitical scenarios and global reactions to the zombie apocalypse
  • It’s the zombie apocalypse. So it’s awesome.

There are only two “bad” things about it, really. First, there’s a hefty helping of military action and associated jargon; if that isn’t to your taste, be prepared to skim or skip those paragraphs. Second, the interview-style format means that there is 0 character development, so if you rely on relatable characters to draw you into a narrative, that’s not going to happen here. But these aren’t really weaknesses as much as they are features of the book – for every reader who hates those features, there’s one who finds them fascinating. If that’s you, this book is sure to please.

May is “Get Caught Reading” Month. How does one celebrate? Well, you could read, or take a picture of a friend or co-worker reading and post it on a bulletin board. (You can email bworthington@publishers.org to get the logo to make your own “celebrity” poster).

You can order an actual celebrity poster on www.getcaughtreading.org. Rob Lowe anyone? Supported by the Association of American Publishers, other celebs are Iowa’s own Shawn Johnson, Sebastian Junger and Emma Roberts.

Some schools and libraries are designating a spot for kids (and adults) to read for fun during the day. Can you think of a better way to take a break?

With his big blue eyes and soulful expression, George was the irresistible runt of the litter. But Dave and Christie Nasser’s “baby” ended up being almost five feet tall, seven feet long, and 245 pounds. Eager to play, and boisterous to the point of causing chaos, this big Great Dane was scared of water, scared of dogs a fraction of his size and, most of all, scared of being alone.

Giant George is the charming story of how this precocious puppy won Dave and Christie’s hearts and along the way became a doggie superstar. In 2010, George was named by Guinness World Records as the Tallest Dog in the World-ever. He appeared on Oprah, and even has his own global fan club. But to Dave and Christie, this extraordinary animal is still their beloved pet, the one who has made them laugh, made them cry, and continues to make them incredibly happy. (provided by publisher)

When Doug Mack picked up a 1963 edition of Europe on Five Dollars a Day, he stumbled on an inspired idea: to boldly go where millions have gone before, relying only on the advice of a travel guide that’s nearly a half century out-of-date. Add to the mix his mother’s much- documented grand tour through Europe in the late 1960s, and the result is Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day, a funny and fascinating journey into a new (old) world, and a disarming look at the ways the classic tourist experience has changed – and has not – in the last generation.

After a whirlwind adventure spanning eight countries – and costing way more than five dollars a day – Mack’s endearing account is part time travel, part paean to Arthur Frommer’s much-loved guide, and a celebration of the modern traveler’s grand (and not-so-grand) tour. (provided by publisher)

Most flowers on the market today are imported, mass-produced and chemical-laden. The 50 Mile Bouquet  by Debra Prinzing introduces some of the innovative voices of the dynamic new Slow Flower movement: the organic flower farmers, the sustainably-motivated floral designers…and the flower enthusiasts who are increasingly asking, “where and how were my flowers grown, and who grew them?”

With documentary-feature reporting and full color photographs, this visually elegant book takes us into the farms and design studios of these slow-flower folks to follow the green journey of the 50 mile bouquet. This is the first book to spotlight this major transformation in how cut flowers are grown, designed and consumed, which closely mirrors the locavore/slow food revolution in the culinary world. The 50 Mile Bouquet is the slow flower guide to organic flower-growing, gathering and design. Foreword by Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential. (provided by publisher)

On an overcast September day in 1993, Jim Abbott took the mound at Yankee Stadium and threw one of the most dramatic no-hitters in major-league history. The game was the crowning achievement in an unlikely success story, unseen in the annals of professional sports. In Imperfect, the one-time big league ace retraces his remarkable journey.

Born without a right hand, Jim Abbott as a boy dreamed of being a great athlete. Raised in Flint, Michigan, by parents who saw in his condition not a disability but an extraordinary opportunity, Jim became a two-sport standout in high school, then an ace pitcher for the University of Michigan.   But his journey was only beginning.   As a nineteen-year-old, Jim beat the vaunted Cuban National Team. By twenty-one, he’d won the gold medal game at the 1988 Olympics and – without spending a day in the minor leagues – cracked the starting rotation of the California Angels. In 1991, he would finish third in the voting for the Cy Young Award. Two years later, he would don Yankee pinstripes and deliver a one-of-a-kind no-hitter.

It wouldn’t always be so good. After a season full of difficult losses – some of them by football scores – Jim was released, cut off from the game he loved. Unable to say good-bye so soon, Jim tried to come back, pushing himself to the limit-and through one of the loneliest experiences an athlete can have. But always, even then, there were children and their parents waiting for him outside the clubhouse doors, many of them with disabilities like his, seeking consolation and advice. These obligations became Jim’s greatest honor.

In this honest and insightful memoir, Jim Abbott reveals the insecurities of a life spent as the different one, how he habitually hid his disability in his right front pocket, and why he chose an occupation in which the uniform provided no front pockets. With a riveting pitch-by-pitch account of his no-hitter providing the ideal frame for his story, this unique athlete offers readers an extraordinary and unforgettable memoir. (provided by the publisher)