The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

“Books and ideas are like blood; they need to circulate, and they keep us alive.”

One of my absolute favorite genres to read is historical fiction, but this particular book hits the jackpot because it is also about libraries and the amazing people who work in them! Just published in February, The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles, weaves together two primary narratives spanning across time and place to create a beautiful and haunting story about the strength of friendship, family, and libraries in the face of betrayal, loss, and war.

This story begins in 1939 France with the narrative of Odile Souchet, a fresh graduate of library school who interviews for a librarianship position at the American Library in Paris (ALP). She quickly finds herself at home in the stacks and among several new friends, including fellow librarians, devoted library subscribers, a volunteer who quickly becomes her best friend, and a police officer who becomes her beloved beau. Before long, however, Odile loses a part of herself as her twin brother, Remy, goes off to war and everything she loves, including the library, is endangered.

The second central narrative takes place in 1980s Montana through the eyes of a young teenager named Lily. After the death of her mother and her father’s eventual remarriage, Lily finds herself both lost and trapped in a small rural town she desperately wishes to escape. She eventually finds a sense of liberation in the friendship she develops with her elderly neighbor, who teaches her French, shares her love of literature and books, and essentially becomes a second mother during some of her darkest moments. Before long, Lily becomes curious about her neighbor’s past, as all she (and the rest of the town) knows is her status as a widowed war bride who left her entire life behind in Paris to come to Montana with her husband after the war. Despite the difference in age and background, these two characters have more in common than meets the eye and share a kinship of love and understanding that truly stands the test of time.

Overall, this novel is a heart-wrenching and tragic, albeit beautiful, story filled with memorable characters who are tested by unimaginable hardships. I reveled in the development of several characters, especially since I felt I was able to connect with their complex and flawed personas. While you learn the fate of many of these individuals, I definitely found myself wanting more information on others! I also really enjoyed Charles’s writing style – in addition to writing beautifully, it is obvious how much research she did in the creation of this book by the way she is able to truly whisk you away to another time and place as you read.

While I definitely loved the fictional aspects of this novel, I was delighted to learn that several librarians in the story, along with their remarkable and heroic actions, were based on real individuals. Despite the dangers and risks war posed to both the people and resources of the library, the ALP stayed open to subscribers, maintained a service in which they delivered around 100,000 books to soldiers fighting overseas, and risked their own lives to deliver books to Jewish subscribers who had been barred from entering the library. Charles first learned about this incredible history upon becoming the programs manager at the ALP and, feeling wholly inspired, decided to delve deeper into the history by writing this book. The result? An ode to the truly incredible and impactful roles libraries will always have in our society.

All in all, I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who loves libraries and books, remarkable character development, and experiencing the strength and resiliency of the human race, especially through relationships formed with others.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

“The things we fear the most are often the things we should fear the least. It’s irrational, but it’s what makes us human. And if we’re able to conquer those fears, then there is nothing we’re not capable of.”

If you are looking for a whimsical and darling story to whisk you away from reality for a bit, you need not look any further than The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. One of the most popular fantasy titles of the past year, this book invites readers to indulge in moments of introspection about living life to the fullest while remaining light, fun, and magical. Intrigued? Without further ado, let me tell you more about this exquisite book that is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year thus far!

This story begins with Linus Baker, a middle-aged man who lives a very solitary life in a world with magical beings. A caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY), he works to ensure that orphanages under the jurisdiction of the government are up to code and treating their young wards well. A strict follower of the rules, Linus never allows himself to form attachments with the magical children he visits; nor does he question the state of their well-being after he leaves. Although with good intentions and a kind heart, Linus naïvely and passively wades through life doing and believing everything he is told. This also carries over into what he tells himself, as he believes his life – complete with his verbally abusive coworkers and boss, his daily walks home in the rain without an umbrella, and listening to the same music at home each night alone with his cat – is as good as life is meant to be for him.

That is, until Linus receives a special assignment from Extremely Upper Management. Due to his impeccable attention to detail and impressive impartiality to magical orphans, Linus is selected for a month-long, confidential assignment in which he must observe six exceptional children, as well as their master, at an orphanage on an island no one knows about. What Linus also doesn’t know, however, is just how exceptional these children are. Despite his lack of comfort with the assignment, he is given no choice and leaves for this island the very next day. What unfurls at the orphanage after he arrives is the beautiful, comedic, and heartwarming story of how six magical children – a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, a were-Pomeranian, an unidentifiable green blob, and the Antichrist, to be exact – as well as their master, completely change Linus’s life forever.

Overall, this story pulls at your heartstrings and is truly innocent at its core. I wish I could meet all of the children – they are the sweetest, funniest, and most resilient set of characters, despite all of the challenges each has faced due to the prejudices hurled at them for having a magical background. One of the strongest tropes in this story (and also a favorite of the author himself) is that of the “found family,” or characters bound as a family not by blood, but by pure unconditional love for one another. Not only is this trope strong with the bonds shared between the children, all of whom come from different backgrounds, places, and lives, but also for Linus, as he develops relationships and finds love he never knew he needed or deserved. This story also features a beautiful, “slow-burn” romance between Linus and Arthur, the master of the orphanage, as Klune aspires to include positive LGBTQ+ representation in his stories. This book truly epitomizes how sometimes you can find love when you aren’t even looking for it.

It is also clear that some of the struggles faced by the magical beings in this story are also faced by people who are marginalized in our society today. With thoughtful and profound quotes from Linus, Arthur, and the children regarding the ways in which to make the world a kinder place, this story exudes empathy, love, and kindness toward those who are different. It urges characters and readers alike to choose love over hate, empathy and an open mind over prejudice, and understanding over fear. This message of unconditional kindness and love for others was absolutely my favorite part of this book, as it allows for the hopeful and optimistic vision of a future in which love does conquer hate.

All in all, I would highly, highly recommend this to anyone who is up for a book that will leave you laughing, thoughtful, teary-eyed, and in love with a family that finds itself together in the cerulean sea.

This title is also available in the following formats:

OverDrive eBook

This is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism by Don Lemon

“We can be simultaneously fearless about our future and truthful about our past. We can be equally conscious of our country’s failings and proud of our country’s progress. The very essence of progress is to build a bridge that takes us from here to there, but what good is progress without healing?”

This exceptional quote was one of many that resonated with me upon finishing Don Lemon’s recent publication, This is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism. As the only Black prime-time anchor in America, Lemon wields his unique position and extensive journalistic experience to provide insightful, moving, and passionate calls for racial justice in this impressive and timely title. Lemon also incorporates his personal experiences and narrative into the text, lending this book a rich and personal dimension to impress the significance and urgency of its content.

Beginning with a letter he wrote for one of his black nephews, Lemon relates the tragic injustice of George Floyd’s murder, the overall injustice of racial inequities in the very roots of America’s foundation, and the fact that silence is no longer an option. He also identifies the cyclical process of America reacting to such instances of racial injustice: Weeping. Rage. Blame. Promises. Complacency. Finally, he expresses to his nephew his deep fear of what will come next if the world grows numb to racial injustice, leaving those oppressed with only a “wax-museum visage of complacency.”

After this striking letter, Lemon delves into his reporting and personal experience to identify several major areas of racial injustice through seven primary chapters. These subjects range from highly-discussed issues, such as police brutality and the removal of monuments, to perhaps lesser-known topics and histories, such as the intentional subjugation of Black Americans throughout this country’s history, the connections between racial injustice and the economy, and how change is actually supposed to happen. One uniquely interesting facet of this book is how Lemon draws parallels between these subjects and the history of racial injustice in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, not far from where he grew up. One such instance of this was his explanation of the 1811 German Coast Uprising, the largest slave revolt in American history; I had never heard of this major historical happening before reading this book.

In retrospect, one of the most moving moments in this title is learning alongside Lemon himself that he is the descendant of a white plantation owner and a black-owned slave. Upon further research, evidence suggests his great grandfather tried to sincerely do right by his wife and child. Rather than feel resentment or shame about his heritage, Lemon feels that he embodies “both the struggle for survival and the hope of reconciliation” and that this is what ultimately makes all of us American. After reading several books with a focus on social injustices experienced in this country, I am absolutely inspired and in awe of the hope, optimism, and compassion held by marginalized and oppressed groups of people in the United States, such as Lemon.

In addition to reading this title, I also had the opportunity to watch a recording of the keynote speech Lemon presented at this past year’s Library Journal Winter Summit, in which he discusses how this book was a response to friends, family, acquaintances, and even viewers asking him how they can start and engage in conversations about race. An ode to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Lemon additionally felt compelled to write this book because of his unique and far-reaching platform, hoping this work could help facilitate these conversations and provide both adults and children with the language needed for these dialogues.

Overall, this book is another key title I would recommend if you are looking to dip your toes in anti-racist literature. In addition to being an accessible length of fewer than 300 pages, Lemon also cites a myriad of additional resources to help readers continue their education and research into topics of racial injustice.

*On this topic of racial justice, I also wanted to share a new resource recently added to the Davenport Public Library website for those interested in finding more books about social justice. Titled “Social Justice Reads,” this guide features new and notable titles in our collection for many types of social justice issues, such as racial equity, LGBTQ+ rights, environmental justice, and women’s rights. This guide will be continually updated to showcase and reflect the newest titles regarding social justice added to our collection. You can access the guide here.*

New True Crime Titles

Looking for a new true crime book to read? Here are some titles that hit the shelves in January, February, and March. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

At Any Cost: A Father’s Betrayal, a Wife’s Murder, and a Ten-year War for Justice by Rebecca Rosenberg

At Any Cost unravels the twisted story of Rod Covlin, whose unrepentant greed drove him to an unspeakable act of murder and betrayal that rocked New York City.

Wealthy, beautiful, and brilliant, Shele Danishefsky had fulfillment at her fingertips. Having conquered Wall Street, she was eager to build a family with her much younger husband, promising Ivy League graduate Rod Covlin. But when his hidden vices surfaced, marital harmony gave way to a merciless divorce. Rod had long depended on Shele’s income to fund his tastes for high stakes backgammon and infidelity–and she finally vowed to sever him from her will. In late December 2009, Shele made an appointment with her lawyer to block him from her millions. She would never make it to that meeting.

Two days later, on New Year’s Eve, Shele was found dead in the bathtub of her Upper West Side apartment. Police ruled it an accident, and Shele’s deeply Orthodox Jewish family quickly buried her without an autopsy on religious grounds. Rod had a clear path to his ex-wife’s fortune, but suspicions about her death lingered. As the two families warred over custody of Shele’s children—and their inheritance— Rod concocted a series of increasingly demented schemes, even plotting to kill his own parents, to secure the treasure. And as investigators closed in, Rod committed a final, desperate act to frame his own daughter for her mother’s death.

Journalists Rebecca Rosenberg and Selim Algar reconstruct the ten years that passed between the day Shele was found dead and the day her killer faced justice in this riveting account of how one man’s irrepressible greed devolved into obsession, manipulation, and murder.

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

A chilling true story—part memoir, part crime investigation—reminiscent of Ann Rule’s classic The Stranger Beside Me, about a little girl longing for love and how she found friendship with her charismatic babysitter—who was also a vicious serial killer.

 Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked—took her and her sister on adventures in his truck. He bought them popsicles and together, they visited his “secret garden” in the Truro woods. To Liza, he was one of the few kind and understanding adults in her life. Everyone thought he was just a “great guy.”

But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.

Some of his victims were buried—in pieces—right there, in his garden in the woods. Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.

Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal the chilling and unforgettable true story of a charming but brutal psychopath through the eyes of a young girl who once called him her friend.

Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels by Ioan Grillo

From the author of El Narco, a searing investigation into the enormous black market for firearms, essential to cartels and gangs in the drug trade and contributing to the epidemic of mass shootings.

The gun control debate is revived with every mass shooting. But far more people die from gun deaths on the street corners of inner city America and across the border as Mexico’s powerful cartels battle to control the drug trade. Guns and drugs aren’t often connected in our heated discussions of gun control-but they should be. In Ioan Grillo’s groundbreaking new work of investigative journalism, he shows us this connection by following the market for guns in the Americas and how it has made the continent the most murderous on earth.

Grillo travels to gun manufacturers, strolls the aisles of gun shows and gun shops, talks to FBI agents who have infiltrated biker gangs, hangs out on Baltimore street corners, and visits the ATF gun tracing center in West Virginia. Along the way, he details the many ways that legal guns can cross over into the black market and into the hands of criminals, fueling violence here and south of the border. Simple legislative measures would help close these loopholes, but America’s powerful gun lobby is uncompromising in its defense of the hallowed Second Amendment. Perhaps, however, if guns were seen not as symbols of freedom, but as key accessories in our epidemics of addiction, the conversation would shift. Blood Gun Money is that conversation shifter.

The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story by Kate Summerscale

Internationally bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Kate Summerscale follows a ghost hunter in 1938 London in a case that illuminates changing social attitudes toward psychoanalysis, sexuality, and the supernatural

London, 1938. In the suburbs of the city, a young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos. In Alma Fielding’s modest home, china flies off the shelves and eggs fly through the air; stolen jewellery appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a turtle materializes on her lap. The culprit is incorporeal. As Alma cannot call the police, she calls the papers instead.

After the sensational story headlines the news, Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research, arrives to investigate the poltergeist. But when he embarks on his scrupulous investigation, he discovers that the case is even stranger than it seems.

By unravelling Alma’s peculiar history, Fodor finds a different and darker type of haunting, a tale of trauma, alienation, loss and revenge. He comes to believe that Alma’s past has bled into her present, her mind into her body. There are no words for processing her experience, so it comes to possess her. As the threat of a world war looms, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.

With characteristic rigor and insight, Kate Summerscale brilliantly captures the rich atmosphere of a haunting that transforms into a very modern battle between the supernatural and the subconscious.

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

The gripping true story, told here for the first time, of the Last Call Killer and the gay community of New York City that he preyed upon.

The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.

He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.

Nor will he be his last.

The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.

This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.

Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, A Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice by Ellen McGarrahan

In 1990, Ellen McGarrahan was a young reporter for the Miami Herald when she covered the execution of Jesse Tafero, a man convicted of murdering two police officers. When it later emerged that Tafero may have been innocent, McGarrahan was appalled by her unquestioning acceptance of the state’s version of events. The revelation propelled her into a new career as a private investigator.

Decades later, McGarrahan finally decides to find out the truth of what really happened in Florida. Her investigation plunges her back into the Miami of the 1960s and 1970s, a dangerous world of nightclubs, speed boats, and cartels, all awash in violence. She combs through stacks of court files and interviews everyone involved in the case. But even as McGarrahan circles closer to the truth, the story of guilt and innocence becomes more complex, and she gradually discovers that she hasn’t been alone in her need for closure. Because whenever a human life is forcibly taken—by bullet, or by electric chair—the reckoning is long and difficult for all.

A fascinating glimpse into the mind of a private investigator, Two Truths and a Lie is ultimately a deeply personal exploration of one woman’s quest to find answers in a chaotic world.

We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper

You have to remember, he reminded me, that Harvard is older than the U.S. government. You have to remember because Harvard doesn’t let you forget.

1969: the height of counterculture and the year universities would seek to curb the unruly spectacle of student protest; the winter that Harvard University would begin the tumultuous process of merging with Radcliffe, its all-female sister school; and the year that Jane Britton, an ambitious twenty-three-year-old graduate student in Harvard’s Anthropology Department and daughter of Radcliffe Vice President J. Boyd Britton, would be found bludgeoned to death in her Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment.

 Forty years later, Becky Cooper a curious undergrad, will hear the first whispers of the story. In the first telling the body was nameless. The story was this: a Harvard student had had an affair with her professor, and the professor had murdered her in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology because she’d threatened to talk about the affair. Though the rumor proves false, the story that unfolds, one that Cooper will follow for ten years, is even more complex: a tale of gender inequality in academia, a ‘cowboy culture’ among empowered male elites, the silencing effect of institutions, and our compulsion to rewrite the stories of female victims.

 We Keep the Dead Close is a memoir of mirrors, misogyny, and murder. It is at once a rumination on the violence and oppression that rules our revered institutions, a ghost story reflecting one young woman’s past onto another’s present, and a love story for a girl who was lost to history.

We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption by Justin Fenton

Baltimore, 2015. Riots were erupting across the city as citizens demanded justice for Freddie Gray, a twenty-five-year old black man who had died while in police custody. At the same time, drug and violent crime were surging, and that year, Baltimore would reach its deadliest year in over two decades: 342 homicides in a city of six hundred thousand people. Under intense scrutiny–and a federal investigation over Gray’s death–the Baltimore police department turned to a rank-and-file hero, Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, and his elite unit, the Gun Trace Task Force, to help get guns and drugs off the street.

And yet, despite intense scrutiny, what The New York Times would call “one of the most startling police corruption scandals in a generation” was unfolding. Entrusted with fixing the city’s drug crisis, Jenkins and his posse of corrupt cops were instead stealing from its citizens–skimming from the drug busts they made, pocketing thousands in cash found in private homes, and planting fake evidence to throw Internal Affairs off their scent. Their brazen crime spree would go unchecked for years, and would result in countless wrongful convictions, the death of an innocent person–and the mysterious death of one cop who was shot in the head the day before he was scheduled to testify against the Force.

Award-winning investigative journalist Justin Fenton has been relentlessly exposing the scandal since 2017, conducting hundreds of interviews and poring over thousands of court documents. The result is an astounding feat of reportage about a rogue police unit, and the American city they held hostage.

The Woman Who Stole Vermeer: The True Story of Rose Dugdale and the Russborough Art Heist by Anthony M. Amore

The extraordinary life and crimes of heiress-turned-revolutionary Rose Dugdale, who in 1974 became the only woman to pull off a major art heist.

In the world of crime, there exists an unusual commonality between those who steal art and those who repeatedly kill: they are almost exclusively male. But, as with all things, there is always an outlier – someone who bucks the trend, defying the reliable profiles and leaving investigators and researchers scratching their heads. In the history of major art heists, that outlier is Rose Dugdale.

Dugdale’s life is singularly notorious. Born into extreme wealth, she abandoned her life as an Oxford-trained PhD and heiress to join the cause of Irish Republicanism. While on the surface she appears to be the British version of Patricia Hearst, she is anything but.

Dugdale ran head-first towards the action, spearheading the first aerial terrorist attack in British history and pulling off the biggest art theft of her time. In 1974, she led a gang into the opulent Russborough House in Ireland and made off with millions in prized paintings, including works by Goya, Gainsborough, and Rubens, as well as Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid by the mysterious master Johannes Vermeer. Dugdale thus became – to this day – the only woman to pull off a major art heist. And as Anthony Amore explores in The Woman Who Stole Vermeer, it’s likely that this was not her only such heist.

The Woman Who Stole Vermeer is Rose Dugdale’s story, from her idyllic upbringing in Devonshire and her presentation to Elizabeth II as a debutante to her university years and her eventual radical lifestyle. Her life of crime and activism is at turns unbelievable and awe-inspiring, and sure to engross readers.

Nutrition & Wellness Titles

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, one aspiring ambition I’ve had is to become a healthier person, both physically and mentally. One aspect of this ambition has been learning more about nutrition and how to eat healthier. With this in mind, I would like to share and recommend a few books I have recently read about food and nutrition, as well as highlight some similar titles in our library collection.

How to Eat: All Your Food and Diet Questions Answered by Mark Bittman & David L. Katz (2020)

Written in a Q&A format, this book essentially reads as a conversation between renowned food writer Mark Bittman and physician and health expert David L. Katz as they answer a myriad of health questions pertaining to food and nutrition. A sampling of these questions include the following:

  • Why do I crave salty foods?
  • Which is better, diet soda or the real thing?
  • Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
  • What is the microbiome?

This title is primarily broken down into sections detailing specific diets, such as the Mediterranean, Paleo, Keto, and Whole30 diets; dietary patterns and lifestyle; foods and ingredients; and basics about nutrition. While it was interesting to learn about several popular diets, one key takeaway for me was simply how they defined “diets” themselves: a lifestyle, or a dietary pattern that can be maintained in the long term. I admit, whenever I think of “dieting,” I think of a food regimen to engage in for a limited period of time to achieve a certain result before reverting back to “normal” eating habits, so this definition definitely provided a helpful perspective.

In addition to detailed information about diets and dietary patterns, Bittman and Katz also dive into information about several types of foods, as well as how their nutrients affect your body and overall health. An enlightening aspect of these sections for me was the authors’ framework of considering the “forest for the trees” when thinking about the impact of eating any given food, or acknowledging the food as a whole rather than obsessing over each and every nutrient within it. I personally tend to get stuck in the weeds when reading nutrition labels and, while it is still important to know what exactly is in your food, Bittman and Katz emphasize appreciating the overall benefits of the whole food as you work to improve your diet.

While I found that a little bit of background knowledge was needed at times during this read, I learned so much from this book and essentially read it in one sitting. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking to dip their toes into information about general food and nutrition.

How to Be a Conscious Eater: Making Food Choices That Are Good for You, Others, and the Planet by Sophie Egan (2020)

Filled with a plethora of information and interspersed with colorful graphics and images, this title considers ways in which we can make more conscious food choices in our lives. Sophie Egan, a renowned food and health journalist, as well as the former Director of Health and Sustainability Leadership at The Culinary Institute of America, contends there are three questions we should ask ourselves when making decisions about food:

  • Is it good for you?
  • Is it good for others?
  • Is it good for the planet?

These questions are asked throughout the entire book as Egan dives into four main areas of “stuff” to consider: stuff that comes from the ground, stuff that comes from animals, stuff that comes from factories, and stuff made in restaurant kitchens. Within each of these sections are several short, accessible chapters designed to help readers consciously make healthier choices, especially for the next time you go to the grocery store.

One aspect of this title separating it from the others in this post is Egan’s deep dive into the background, context, and processing of food. While this isn’t the first time I have tried to consciously eat healthier in my life, this is admittedly the first time I have truly stopped to consider the process of how the food on my plate gets there. These considerations span from water and carbon footprints; to animal, environmental, and social welfare; to the larger impact current practices have on our planet, especially those contributing to global warming. Not only was I enlightened by this knowledge, but also disheartened and disturbed by the ways in which the food industry works.

Overall, this is a solid read if you are looking for not only ways to eat healthier, but also to learn more about the bigger picture when it comes to food practices. I would also recommend this to anyone interested in the overall intersection of food, health, and climate in today’s world.

How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life by Frank Lipman (2018)

While this title also includes information about nutrition and how to adopt healthier dietary patterns, bestselling author and doctor Frank Lipman takes a more holistic approach to wellness in general, encouraging the consideration of six “rings” to achieve a happier and healthier life: how to eat, sleep, move, protect, unwind, and connect. This approach, termed by Lipman as the Good Medicine Mandala, essentially puts you at the center of these rings and considers how changes made in each of these rings can, in turn, create healthier changes in other areas of your life. Divided into six primary sections devoted to these topics, Lipman presents practical ways in which we can improve the ways we eat, sleep, move, protect, unwind, and connect with easy-to-digest scientific background information.

While this book may not be as comprehensive on nutritional topics as the former two titles, it isn’t really meant to be; I would argue this is a major perk of the book! By engaging in the six different rings, Lipman introduces a diverse spectrum of topics beyond just nutrition, ultimately giving readers multifaceted options to improve their overall health. (On this note, it is important to mention that readers do not need to read this book all the way through or in order to benefit from its content.) There is also a really neat shorthand section at the end of the book noting and cross-referencing content in the text about what you can do to help yourself in certain scenarios, such as when you are frequently overwhelmed and anxious, always tired, or want to lose weight.

One overarching takeaway from this book for me was considering Lipman’s multiple metaphors for how the rings essentially work together to create healthy change. He illustrates the integration of the rings in three ways: (1) as an archery target, in which you practice your aim and allow your arrows to touch the rings you most wish to improve upon; (2) as the rings of a tree trunk, in which the rings form and evolve as it grows; and (3) as a ripple on a pond that spreads from a single pebble, in which one change you make will impact all of the other aspects of your life in a healthy way. In all of these scenarios, Lipman depicts how one small change today can lead to larger and more significant changes for your life tomorrow. So what better time to start getting healthy than today?

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a more holistic way to tackle wellness (rather than exclusively focusing on nutrition), or for anyone who is looking for a blueprint of small actions to engage in to start their journey to wellness.

Read-Alikes available at the Davenport Public Library

If you enjoy any or all of these titles, here are some other similar reads in our collection that may interest you!

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal by Mark Bittman (2021)

Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? by Mark Hyman (2018)

Food Fix: How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities, and Our Planet – One Bite at a Time by Mark Hyman (2020)

Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere (2018)

How We Eat With Our Eyes and Think With Our Stomach: The Hidden Influences that Shape Your Eating Habits by Melanie Muhl & Diana Von Kopp (2017)

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter

“One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.”

If you are ever looking for a biography on an absolutely fascinating person, look no further than J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. After re-reading The Hobbit with intentions of reading The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) for the first time, I decided to read up a bit on the author himself before embarking on the journey. This book provides an extremely detailed and comprehensive insight into the life of one of the most well-known and renowned authors of our time and is the official authorized biography of Tolkien by the Tolkien Society. This authorization stems from Carpenter having unfettered access to Tolkien’s personal papers and letters, as well as permission to interview family members and close friends.

Beginning with the meeting of his parents in England and concluding with his death in 1973, this biography seemingly details every moment in between of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s life with acute clarity. Completely unbeknownst to me, Tolkien was born in South Africa and lived there for five years before moving with his mother, Mabel, and younger brother, Hilary, to Birmingham, England. Shortly thereafter, tragedy and poverty struck the family upon the death of his father (who was still working in South Africa as a bank clerk). Despite this, Mabel did all she could to ensure an education for both of her sons at King Edward’s School. Tragedy struck again, however, when she passed away just nine years after moving back to England. Orphaned at just twelve years old, Tolkien and his younger brother were placed under the guardianship of Father Morgan, a close family friend and local Catholic priest. Under his guidance, aid, and mentorship, Tolkien was able to complete his schooling at King Edward’s School before eventually continuing his education at the University of Oxford.

One of the most fascinating parts of this book for me was learning how LOTR came to be. It was such an unmeditated, disorderly, and delayed process, yet that is where the real genius and magic resided. Tolkien had no clear outline of his saga while writing it, let alone any idea that this was to be his masterpiece and legacy. It all began with his love of language. As a young boy, Tolkien was fascinated by the mechanics and workings of words, eventually coming to learn an astounding variety of both ancient and modern languages, including Welsh, Finnish, and Gothic. In fact, he loved languages so much he actually began creating his own – he even wrote journals in languages he invented! After creating these languages, Tolkien felt he had a responsibility to “discover” the history behind them; this history would ultimately become the foundation of an entire mythology (eventually captured in The Silmarillion) and, unbeknownst to Tolkien, the foundation for The Hobbit and LOTR. 

While there is SO much more I could talk about, I have condensed some more interesting tidbits about Tolkien and LOTR in the fun facts below!

  • Tolkien was known for his procrastination on projects; this was in large part due to his perfectionist attitude toward his own work. After reading about his lengthy process of writing and publishing LOTR, it is a miracle anything was ever published at all!
  • LOTR is NOT a trilogy – nor did Tolkien ever want it to be. It was broken into three volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) primarily due to the cost of paper at the time and worries that such a long manuscript would not garner enough sales to be worthwhile.
  • Tolkien was NOT a fan of allegory. He specifically noted his works were not meant to be interpreted in the political context of the time in which they were written; he felt that allegories ultimately limited the reader’s imagination. With that being said, he did admit to the resemblances between his work and his own life experiences – he even acknowledged his close likeness to Bilbo Baggins!
  • Tolkien was an Assistant Lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Despite knowing Edith Bratt (his future wife) as a teenager, Tolkien was forbidden to spend time with her due to her being three years his senior.
  • One of Tolkien’s most prized works, Beren and Lúthien, was inspired by his love for Edith; these names are even inscribed on their tombstones.

From his early childhood and love story with Edith, to his time serving in WWI and developing dear friendships among fellow intellectuals (including C.S. Lewis), to becoming the father of four and holding several professorships, to creating Middle-Earth and experiencing fame as an author, this biography marks the loves, joys, tragedies, struggles, accomplishments, setbacks, fame, and daily life of the man who would go on to publish the masterpieces we know today, along with a plethora of scholarly work, poems, and short stories. Overall, I would highly recommend this biography to anyone who wants to learn more about Tolkien’s life, as well as those who are general LOTR fans!

*I would also highly recommend checking out https://www.tolkiensociety.org/ for even more information on all things Tolkien!*

New True Crime Titles at Main

Looking for a new true crime book to read? Here are some titles that hit the shelves at our Main Branch in January, February, and March. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000 by Peter Vronsky

Fans of Mindhunter and true crime podcasts will devour these chilling stories of serial killers from the American “Golden Age” (1950-2000). With books like Serial Killers, Female Serial Killers and Sons of Cain, Peter Vronsky has established himself as the foremost expert on the history of serial killers. In this first definitive history of the “Golden Age” of American serial murder, when the number and body count of serial killers exploded, Vronsky tells the stories of the most unusual and prominent serial killings from the 1950s to the early twenty-first century. From Ted Bundy to the Golden State Killer, our fascination with these classic serial killers seems to grow by the day. American Serial Killers gives true crime junkies what they crave, with both perennial favorites (Ed Kemper, Jeffrey Dahmer) and lesser-known cases (Melvin Rees, Harvey Glatman).

Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher by Charlotte Bismuth

In 2010, a brave whistleblower alerted the police to Dr. Stan Li’s corrupt pain management clinic in Queens, New York. Li spent years supplying more than seventy patients a day with oxycodone and Xanax, trading prescriptions for cash. Emergency room doctors, psychiatrists, and desperate family members warned him that his patients were at risk of death but he would not stop.

In Bad Medicine, former prosecutor Charlotte Bismuth meticulously recounts the jaw dropping details of this criminal case that would span four years, culminating in a landmark trial. As a new assistant district attorney and single mother, Bismuth worked tirelessly with her team to bring Dr. Li to justice. Bad Medicine is a chilling story of corruption and greed and an important look at the role individual doctors play in America’s opioid epidemic.

Hunting Whitey: The Inside Story of the Capture & Killing of America’s Most Wanted Crime Boss by Casey Sherman

Based on exclusive, fresh reporting, the thrilling, definitive inside story of the pursuit, capture, and killing of legendary South Boston mob boss, James “Whitey” Bulger, detailing as never before his years on the run, how he evaded capture, and his brutal murder in prison.

For the first time, Boston reporters Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge draw on exclusive interviews and exhaustive investigative reportage to tell the complete story of Whitey Bulger, one of the most notorious crime bosses in American history—alongside Al “Scarface” Capone and Vito Genovese—and a longtime FBI informant. The leader of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang and #1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, Bulger was indicted for nineteen counts of murder, racketeering, narcotics distribution, and extortion. But it was his sixteen-year flight from justice on the eve of his arrest that made him a legend and exposed deep corruption within the FBI.

While other accounts have examined Bulger’s crimes, this remarkable chronicle tells the story of his life on the run, his capture, and his eventual murder inside one of America’s most dangerous prisons—”Misery Mountain”—in 2018. Interweaving the perspectives of Bulger, his family and cohorts, and law enforcement, Hunting Whitey explains how this dangerous criminal evaded capture for nearly two decades and shines a spotlight on the dedicated detectives, federal agents, and prosecutors involved in bringing him to justice. It is also a fascinating, detailed portrait of both Bulger’s trial and his time in prison—including shocking new details about his death at Misery Mountain less than twenty-four hours after his arrival.

Granted access to exclusive prison letters and interviews with dozens of people connected to the case on both sides, Sherman and Wedge offer a trove of fascinating new stories and create an incomparable portrait of one of the most infamous criminals in American history.

The Last Book on the Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers by Ben Kissel

An equal parts haunting and hilarious deep-dive review of history’s most notorious and cold-blooded serial killers, from the creators of the award-winning Last Podcast on the Left.

Since its first show in 2010, The Last Podcast on the Left has barreled headlong into all things horror, as hosts Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel, and Marcus Parks cover subjects spanning Jeffrey Dahmer, werewolves, Jonestown, and supernatural phenomena. Deeply researched but with a morbidly humorous bent, the podcast has earned a dedicated and aptly cultlike following for its unique take on all things macabre.

In their first book, the guys take a deep dive into history’s most infamous serial killers, from Ted Bundy to John Wayne Gacy, exploring their origin stories, haunting habits, and perverse predilections. Featuring newly developed content alongside updated fan favorites, each profile is an exhaustive examination of the darker side of human existence. With appropriately creepy four-color illustrations throughout and a gift-worthy paper over board format, The Last Book on the Left will satisfy the bloodlust of readers everywhere.

Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob by Russell Shorto

Family secrets emerge as a best-selling author dives into the history of the mob in small-town America. Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a city “in its brawny postwar prime,” is where “Little Joe” Regino and Russ Shorto build a local gambling empire on the earnings of factory workers for whom placing a bet-on a horse or pool game, pinball or “tip seal”-is their best shot at the American dream. Decades later, Russell Shorto grew up knowing that his grandfather was a small-town mobster, but never thought to write about him, in keeping with an unspoken family vow of silence. Then a distant cousin prodded him: You gotta write about it. Smalltime, the story of Shorto’s search for his namesake, delves into the world of the small-town mob, an intricate web that spanned midcentury America, stitching together cities from Yonkers to Fresno. A riveting immigrant story, Smalltime is also deeply personal, as the author’s ailing father, Tony, becomes his partner in piecing together their patriarch’s troubled past. Moving, wryly funny, and richly detailed, Smalltime is an irresistible memoir by a masterful writer of historical narrative.

Till Murder Do Us Part: True Crime Thrillers by James Patterson

From the world’s #1 bestselling author comes a collection of Discovery ID true crime stories where the bonds of matrimony and love can tear you brutally apart.

Till Murder Do Us Part: Kathi Spiars can’t believe she’s found such a good man to marry as Stephen Marcum. Twelve years later, she starts to suspect that he isn’t who he says he is. As she digs into his past, she doesn’t realize that learning the truth will lead to a lifetime of fear and hiding. (with Andrew Bourelle)

Ramp Up to Murder: Brandi McClain, a young beautiful teenager, moves to California from Arizona, to model and live with her new boyfriend, a professional skateboarder. But her perfect life is about to turn on its head. In San Diego, investigators hunt for a missing girl. It’s a case that seems to plagued by dead ends. But once the truth emerges, it’s more haunting than they could have imagined. (with Max DiLallo)

The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern-Day Outlaw by Ben Machell

The remarkable true story of a modern-day Robin Hood: a British college student who started robbing banks as the financial crisis unfolded.

Stephen Jackley was a young British college student when the global financial crisis began in 2007. Overwhelmed by the growing indifference towards economic equality, he became obsessed with the idea of taking on the role of Robin Hood. With no prior experience, he resolved to become a bank robber. He would steal from the rich and give to the poor. Against all likelihood, his plan actually worked.

Jackley used disguises, elaborate escape routes, and fake guns to successfully hold up a string of banks, making away with thousands of pounds. He attempted ten robberies in southwest England over a six-month period. Banknotes marked with “RH”–“Robin Hood”–began finding their way into the hands of the homeless. Motivated by a belief that global capitalism was ruining lives and driving the planet toward ecological disaster, he dreamed of changing the world for the better through his crimes. The police, despite their concerted efforts, had no idea what was going on or who was responsible. That is, until Jackley’s ambition got the better of him.

This is his story.

Acclaimed journalist Ben Machell had full and direct access to Stephen Jackley, who in turn shared his complete set of diaries, selections of which are included throughout the narrative. The result lends an intense intimacy and urgency to Jackley’s daring and disturbing tale, shedding light on his mental state and the challenges he faced in his own mind and beyond. It wasn’t until Jackley was held in custody that he underwent a psychiatric evaluation, resulting in a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.

Behind the simple act of bank robbery lies a complex and emotionally wrought story of an individual whose struggles led him to create a world in which he would succeed against all odds. Until he didn’t.

New Religion Titles at Eastern

Looking for a new religious title to read? Here are some books that hit the shelves at our Eastern Branch in January, February, and March. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

Centered: Trading Your Plans for a Life that Matters by Jason Brown 

This riveting story of a top-earning NFL center and his family who walked away from it all to follow God’s call to alleviate hunger as farmers–a life they knew absolutely nothing about–illustrates the sacrifice and ultimate reward of obedience to our heavenly Father even when it doesn’t make earthly sense.

NFL lineman Jason Brown had everything he could ever want. He was the highest-paid center in the game, lived a life of luxury, and was cheered on by millions of people every week. Then, in 2012, Jason heard a call from God that changed everything. Jason turned his back on an incredibly successful career in football to pursue a new dream: ending hunger. But through third-party mismanagement and bad luck, Jason lost most of his savings from the NFL–the same money he’d planned to use to start his new career. He desperately needed the miracle that soon came.

Today, Jason and his family run First Fruits Farms in Louisburg, North Carolina, a state where one in four children don’t know where their next meal will come from. Since 2014, the Browns have donated more than 1.6 million servings of fresh produce to their community. Their motto: Never stop giving. Never stop loving. Never stop growing.

With powerful and deeply personal insight, Centered is an inspiration to embrace the joy of following where God leads–no matter how crazy it sounds.

Crazy Happy: Nine Surprising Ways to Live the Truly Beautiful Life by Daniel Fusco

Is it crazy to want a happy life? The host of Jesus Is Real Radio and Hillsong Channel’s Real with Daniel Fusco unlocks the happiness we long for in the most famous teachings of Jesus and the apostle Paul.

Dissatisfied with your life? Yeah, most of us have been there. There’s no shame in wanting to be happy, but real satisfaction often eludes us. At best, what fleeting happiness we find tends to dribble away in never-ending debts, stressful deadlines, and mindless scrolling. At worst, it’s chased away by anxiety, depression, or fallout from our selfishness.

Here’s the truth: whether we hunt for happiness in parties, bars, the workplace hustle, or even in church pews, we’ll wind up shortchanged. Why? Because we don’t see our lives as beautiful.

But God wants something better for you—happiness so real this world might think it’s too good to be true.

In Crazy Happy, Daniel Fusco unpacks fresh connections in two of the Bible’s most familiar passages—secrets of happiness that can really, truly, honest-to-goodness change things. If you stick around for the ride, you’ll find the kind of God-given beauty that can change your life for good—even in our sometimes-crazy world.

Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It  by Brian D. McLaren

From the author of A New Kind of Christianity comes a bold proposal: only doubt can save the world and your faith.

Sixty-five million adults in the U.S. have dropped out of active church attendance and about 2.7 million more are leaving every year. Faith After Doubt is for the millions of people around the world who feel that their faith is falling apart.

Using his own story and the stories of a diverse group of struggling believers, Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor and now an author, speaker, and activist shows how old assumptions are being challenged in nearly every area of human life, not just theology and spirituality. He proposes a four-stage model of faith development in which questions and doubt are not the enemy of faith, but rather a portal to a more mature and fruitful kind of faith. The four stages—Simplicity, Complexity, Perplexity, and Harmony—offer a path forward that can help sincere and thoughtful people leave behind unnecessary baggage and intensify their commitment to what matters most.

Folkloric American Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience: A Crucible at the Crossroads by Via Hedera

Witchcraft and magic in America is an inherently multicultural experience and the folklore of our ancestors from every country converges here at a crossroads. It’s a complicated history; one of uncertainty and fear, displacement and enslavement, merging and migration. Our ancestors may not have agreed on how they saw the world or the magic that inhabits the world, but they shared a very real fear of Witches. Hags, Devils, charms and spells; witchery is rooted in our deepest superstitions and folklore. The traditions of people and their cultures stretch and intersect across the country and this is where the unique traditions of American witchcraft and magic are born.

As practitioners seek to revive and reconstruct the paths of our ancestors, we’ve begun to trace the interconnected roots of witchcraft folklore as it emerged in the Americas, from the blending of people and their faiths. For multiracial practitioners, this is part of our identity as Americans and as witches of this country. Folkloric American Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience is an exploration of the folklore, magic and witchcraft that was forged in the New World.

The Gravity of Joy: A Story of Being Lost and Found by Angela Williams Gorrell

“My vocation was supposed to be joy, and I was speaking at funerals.”

Shortly after being hired by Yale University to study joy, Angela Gorrell got word that a close family member had died by suicide. Less than a month later, she lost her father to a fatal opioid addiction and her nephew, only twenty-two years old, to sudden cardiac arrest. The theoretical joy she was researching at Yale suddenly felt shallow and distant—completely unattainable in the fog of grief she now found herself in.

But joy was closer at hand than it seemed. As she began volunteering at a women’s maximum-security prison, she met people who suffered extensively yet still showed a tremendous capacity for joy. Talking with these women, many of whom had struggled with addiction and suicidal thoughts themselves, she realized: “Joy doesn’t obliterate grief. . . . Instead, joy has a mysterious capacity to be felt alongside sorrow and even—sometimes most especially—in the midst of suffering.”

This is the story of Angela’s discovery of an authentic, grounded Christian joy. But even more, it is an invitation for others to seize upon this more resilient joy as a counteragent to the twenty-first-century epidemics of despair, addiction, and suicide—a call to action for communities that yearn to find joy and are willing to “walk together through the shadows” to find it.

The In-Between Place: Where Jesus Changes Your Story by Kat Armstrong

Jesus’ journey to the woman at the well in Samaria offers insights and hope for women today to make peace with the past, find hope in the present, and step into the future.

God wants us to move toward the goodness He has planned for us. But what do we do when challenges stop our forward momentum? What’s the next step when we fall into a pit of despair with the determination knocked right out of us?

On his way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus traveled through Samaria, a broken place everyone knew to avoid. In Samaria he stopped in Shechem, where evil had gained such a foothold of power that it eventually reigned. Yet the place once condemned as somewhere no one wanted to visit—let alone hang out in for a while—was the location of one Samaritan woman’s most hope-filled encounter with the Savior.

The In-Between Place offers deeply important insights to anyone who feels stuck and can’t see a way forward. It is for the person who feels that if she looks left, her face will be scraped by an immovable boulder, and if she looks right, she’ll see nothing but hard to handle. It’s for the person who feels lost and is not sure she is worth the effort to be found, for the person who feels overlooked and unfulfilled. Because sometimes Jesus saves our greatest spiritual breakthroughs for our in-between places.

Win the Day: 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More by Mark Batterson

The New York Times bestselling author of Chase the Lion reveals seven powerful habits that can help you tackle God-sized goals by turning yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s anxieties into fuel for a better today.

Too many people delay, downsize, or shrug off their dreams just because they don’t know where to start, but playing it safe doesn’t account for the massive cost of a life not fully lived. Win the Day is the jump-start you need to go after your goals, one day at a time. You’ll discover how to:

1. Flip the Script: If you want to change your life, start by changing your story.
2. Kiss the Wave: The obstacle is not the enemy; the obstacle is the way.
3. Eat the Frog: If you want God to do the super, you’ve got to do the natural.
4. Fly the Kite: How you do anything is how you’ll do everything.
5. Cut the Rope: Playing it safe is risky.
6. Wind the Clock: Time is measured in minutes; life is measured in moments.
7. Seed the Clouds: Sow today what you want to see tomorrow.

As Batterson unpacks each of these daily habits, you’ll see how simple it is to pursue them with focus and dedication—not someday down the road, but now. Transform your perspective of a single day and you’ll discover the potential waiting to be grasped at the beginning of each new sunrise.

Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America by Michael Eric Dyson

“Our bodies carry memory – not just our own, but the memory of the group as well. We feel the history in our bones as much as we witness it with our eyes.” 

This is just one of the many profound quotes in Long Time Coming, the latest publication by Michael Eric Dyson, a distinguished scholar of race and religion, as well as a prolific, New York Times bestselling author. In this short, powerful book, Dyson considers how race has shaped our nation from its very founding, tapping into both historical and contemporary insights to guide readers on how we can truly reckon with race in America.

The profundity of this text impacts readers from the very beginning, as each chapter is a letter addressed to a black martyr of racial injustice, including Elijah McClain, Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Hadiya Pendleton, Sandra Bland, and Rev. Clementa Pinckney. In each letter, Dyson considers significant aspects and examples of injustice plaguing Black Americans, relating how the systemic racism inherently planted to enable slavery still permeates today’s society in a myriad of ways. This book  is also extremely timely, as the title itself denotes the momentum of a cultural and social movement, one that has been a long time coming, that spilled over after the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Since then, powerful and reverberating calls for change and reform to achieve true justice for all have been a large part of the history being made today, not unlike the passionate calls for change that occurred in the 1960s.

When reflecting on this book as a whole, one particularly striking moment for me was Dyson’s metaphor of racism illustrated through a tree and its offshoots. When considering the idea of racism as either a seed that is planted or one that merely falls to the ground, thereby growing into both intentional and unintentional forms of racism, he depicts how the change that must occur is bigger than any individual’s thoughts or actions regarding race. Rather, Dyson contends this change must be structural in order to truly combat the cyclical nature of racism and the notions of Anti-Blackness in our country. After drawing this comparison, Dyson ponders whether a reckoning of this scale will occur in today’s world to bring true justice and equity to Black Americans.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book for everyone to read. Not only is it accessible in length and language, but it also delivers an earnest, compelling, and passionate message of racial justice that could not be timelier for the history being made today.

*On this topic of racial justice, I also wanted to share a new resource recently added to the Davenport Public Library website for those interested in finding more books about social justice. Titled “Social Justice Reads,” this guide features new and notable titles in our collection for many types of social justice issues, such as racial equity, LGBTQ+ rights, environmental justice, and women’s rights. This guide will be continually updated to showcase and reflect the newest titles regarding social justice added to our collection. You can access the guide here.*

New Religion Titles at Main

Looking for a new religious title to read? Here are some books that hit the shelves at our Main Downtown Branch in December, January, and February. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists by Chenxing Han

A must-read for modern sanghas–Asian American Buddhists in their own words, on their own terms.

Despite the fact that two thirds of U.S. Buddhists identify as Asian American, mainstream perceptions about what it means to be Buddhist in America often whitewash and invisibilize the diverse, inclusive, and intersectional communities that lie at the heart of American Buddhism.

Be the Refuge is both critique and celebration, calling out the erasure of Asian American Buddhists while uplifting the complexity and nuance of their authentic stories and vital, thriving communities. Drawn from in-depth interviews with a pan-ethnic, pan-Buddhist group, Be the Refuge is the first book to center young Asian American Buddhists’ own voices. With insights from multi-generational, second-generation, convert, and socially engaged Asian American Buddhists, Be the Refuge includes the stories of trailblazers, bridge-builders, integrators, and refuge-makers who hail from a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds.

Championing nuanced representation over stale stereotypes, Han and the 89 interviewees in Be the Refuge push back against false narratives like the Oriental monk, the superstitious immigrant, and the banana Buddhist–typecasting that collapses the multivocality of Asian American Buddhists into tired, essentialized tropes. Encouraging frank conversations about race, representation, and inclusivity among Buddhists of all backgrounds, Be the Refuge embodies the spirit of interconnection that glows at the heart of American Buddhism.

Black & Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation & Freedom by Pamela Ayo Yetunde

Leading African American Buddhist teachers offer lessons on racism, resilience, spiritual freedom, and the possibility of a truly representative American Buddhism. With contributions by Acharya Gaylon Ferguson, Cheryl A. Giles, Gyōzan Royce Andrew Johnson, Ruth King, Kamilah Majied, Lama Rod Owens, Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Sebene Selassie, and Pamela Ayo Yetunde.

What does it mean to be Black and Buddhist? In this powerful collection of writings, African American teachers from all the major Buddhist traditions tell their stories of how race and Buddhist practice have intersected in their lives. The resulting explorations display not only the promise of Buddhist teachings to empower those facing racial discrimination but also the way that Black Buddhist voices are enriching the Dharma for all practitioners. As the first anthology comprised solely of writings by African-descended Buddhist practitioners, this book is an important contribution to the development of the Dharma in the West.

The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other by Charlotte Donlon

Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, according to many sources. In an age of mobility and fraying civic life, we are all susceptible to its power. But what if loneliness is a necessary part of the human condition? What if it is a current that leads us deeper into belonging–to ourselves, to each other, and to God?

In The Great Belonging, writer and spiritual director Charlotte Donlon reframes loneliness and offers us a language for the disquiet within. Instead of turning away from the waters of loneliness for fear they will engulf us, she invites us to wade in and see what we find there. In vulnerable, thoughtful prose, Donlon helps us understand our own occasional or frequent loneliness and offers touchpoints for understanding alienation. We can live into the persistent questions of loneliness. We can notice God’s presence even when we feel alone in our doubts. Ultimately, Donlon claims, we can find connection that emerges from honesty, and she offers tools, resources, and practices for transforming loneliness into true belonging.

This Hallelujah Banquet: How the End of What We Were Reveals Who We Can Be by Eugene H. Peterson

In this powerful new interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the late, revered author and translator of The Message Bible shows us how to live with profound joy and faithfulness–even when it feels like the end of the world.

When John the Beloved Disciple penned the Book of Revelation, Christians lived in a time of oppression, violence, deception, and injustice. There were temptations from outside the church and divisions within. Some days, it felt like the end of the world.

Two millennia later, the characters are different, but the story’s the same. The life of faith is anything but easy. So how can we learn to live with truth and power when challenges seem to be everywhere?

Through the dramatic symbolism of John’s Letters to the Seven Churches, Eugene Peterson encourages us to see ourselves in these ancient communities as they are examined by the Risen Christ. As we do, we’re forced to ask: What if the troubles that face us were intended to test our faith? What if the secret to deeper satisfaction in Jesus did not mean avoiding pain and trial, but living faithfully through it?

In this powerful, never-before-published work, we are given a new and timely message from one of our most iconic Christian voices. Our anxious longings for peace and joy will be met as we learn to live with overcoming faith, even in the most turbulent times.

My Heart Sutra: A World in 260 Characters by Frederik Schodt 

A cultural and personal journey into the famous sutra that teaches “form is emptiness; and emptiness is form.”

The Heart Sutra is the most widely read, chanted, and copied text in East Asian Buddhism. Here Frederik L. Schodt explores his lifelong fascination with the sutra: its mesmerizing mantra, its ancient history, the “emptiness theory, and the way it is used around the world as a metaphysical tool to overcome chaos and confusion and reach a new understanding of reality–a perfection of wisdom. Schodt’s journey takes him to caves in China, American beats declaiming poetry, speculations into the sutra’s true origins, and even a robot Avalokitesvara at a Kyoto temple.

The Second Happy: Seven Practices to Make Your Marriage Better than Your Honeymoon by Kevin Myers

What is the secret to a healthy, happy, fulfilling marriage?

Nearly every marriage starts out happy, and if we’re honest, nearly every marriage at some point becomes unhappy. Is there a solution? Can an unhappy marriage really get back to being happy? Can it be truly and authentically happy–even better than it was at first? Kevin and Marcia Myers, married for thirty-seven years through nearly every challenge a couple can face, emphatically say yes.

Revealing seven practices that offer help and hope for a happy and enduring marriage, The Second Happy is a captivating, practical resource that provides the tools necessary to tune-up, overhaul, or even rebuild your marriage. Practices to sustain and strengthen marriage include the following:

  • breaking the quit cycle;
  • picking a fair fight so both people win;
  • keeping disagreements from escalating; and 
  • removing pretense from your relationship.

Rooted in Scripture and contemporary insights from the Myers’ marriage, as well as real stories from other couples, this revelatory book shows how any marriage can regain depth, meaning and, yes, happiness.