The Book Jam Blog
Read our latest reviews
Good news -- once again, we asked our our favorite booksellers at The Norwich Bookstore to review their favorite books from their reading thus far this autumn. Great news -- this list is by no means the extent of their recommendations. So, if you like what you see here, view their staff reviews here, or better yet visit them in person. And, THANK YOU Norwich Bookstore staff for always providing great books for us to read and to give.
Tell Me Who We Were: Stories by Kate McQuade (2019). McQuade’s connected stories, centering around the lives of girls who once attended boarding school together, kept me intrigued and curious. As each story started, I made a game of guessing which girl was the focus and who the narrator might be. We see them as women, girls, teens, elderly, mothers, daughters, friends, lovers, and wives. The incident with their teacher is a point of connection and here are the spokes spinning out from the hub. Nothing in nature is permanent, neither are books. These images are ethereal, try and wrap your arms around them and they billow like smoke. The glimpses are haunting and gauzy, and some are based in myths and fairytales. In these pages you will stumble across crows, trees, taxidermy, secrets, lies, and the freedom of summer. Reading one is like letting the peach juice run down your chin. ~ Selected by Beth.
Good Husbandry by Kristin Kimball (2019). I loved The Dirty Life, Kimball's first book about starting a farm on 500 acres in Essex, NY. In Good Husbandry --great title -- she continues the story. Problems erupt: runaway horses, an injured husband, the intense vagaries of modern weather. Children, as they are wont to do, complicate the work balance and her relationship with her husband. But Kimball's love of the farm and what she and her husband are trying to do triumph. And boy do they work hard. A well-written and often moving tale of what it's like to be a young farmer these days. ~ Selected by Carin
White Bird by R.J. Palacio (2019). This well-written graphic novel, by the author of Wonder, is a wonderful way to introduce middle grade and older readers to the many acts of bravery and heroism that took place before and during World War II. A young Jewish girl is hidden by a family in Nazi-occupied France by a couple and their son. This is done at large risk to the family and the reader discovers both great bravery as well as kindness. The art is simple, and skillfully helps tell the story. This quote from the book sums it up for me: "It always takes courage to be kind, but in those days, such kindness could cost you everything." ~ Selected by Penny
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (2019). January lives in a big house on the shores of Lake Champlain with her guardian, a collector of antiquities, while her father is away for months at a time seeking treasures to add to the guardian’s collection. January is left mostly to her own devices and discovers a room where mysterious presents appear as if by magic. The discovery of a book containing stories of other worlds leads January on adventures that are both exciting and dangerous. The Libro.fm audio version of this book (available for download from the bookstore!) had me enthralled and making opportunities to listen so I could find out what happened next. ~ Selected by Jennifer
Talking to Strangers; What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell (2019). I think Malcolm Gladwell is the original ‘Outlier’ given his unusual, timely perspectives on topics generally under the radar. Or do his books deeply explore the obvious? In any case, Talking to Strangers is as absorbing and full of ‘AHA! Moments’ as his previous works. I’m from the generation who grew up with the enforced “never talk to strangers” mantra, so I was fascinated by the theories he proposes. Gladwell analyses through history and current events how we all fail to detect a lie, miss cues and ignore our intuition about strangers when we do interact with them. Bernie Madoff, Adolf Hitler, the CIA, and more recently, the unfortunate and fatal Susan Bland traffic stop in Waller Country, TX are among the featured examples here. We cannot assume the best about people we do not know but that is a trait of our modern society. And we cannot abandon trust, either. “There are clues to making sense of a stranger. But attending to them requires care and attention.” Absolutely engaging. ~ Selected by Sara
How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2019). Whether you are 4, 44, or 94, this picture book/graphic delight (and my pick for serious 2020 Caldecott consideration!) has it ALL. Begin with its fuchsia end papers directing you to the book on the shelf. Pull that book off the shelf on the calligraphy collaged title page that introduces us to the book’s graphic style. Feast your eyes on the rainbow compilation of text and color that follows it Don’t miss the almost too pale apple shape poem that is the colophon and then join the satisfied reader under her book umbrella and the rain of letters on the dedication page.
Now slide into this adventure, savor each turn of the page, and as Kwame Alexander exhorts, “ SLEEP. DREAM. HOPE (You never reach)---------THE END. I loved it! ~ Selected by Susan
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry (2019). There is a deceptive power in silliness, when wielded by someone truly clever, to convey ideas and emotions with a light hand. This novel is very silly, and very clever, and mostly, a love letter both to English literature and to those that know and love it as well as the author. Because this rollicking adventure is clever, and silly, it would be very easy to overlook its deft sensitivity, its greater themes of influence and interpretation- not just in the give and take between reader and writer, but in the influence we have upon each other. A delightful gift for lovers of Dickens, and fans of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. ~ Selected by Brenna
Running With Sherman by Christopher McDougall (2019). This is a story of Sherman - a once-neglected donkey - with people, community, caring, and connections at its core. McDougall (Born to Run) adopts Sherman and explores ways to help him heal - beyond the obvious physical support. A colorful cast of two- and four-legged characters is involved with side explorations of mental and physical fitness and health issues. Burro racing in Colorado anyone? ~ Selected by Liza