If you’re looking for a novel having bold narrative risks as well as a chance to really get taken in by the characters, then quickly check out Delicious Foods by James Hannaham (HAN). It may take you the first chapter to get used to the narrative style of “Scotty” but after that you’ll be completely taken in. The story is heavy but tugs at your heart. Winner of the 2016 Pen/Faulkner Award for fiction, a finalist for the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Los Angeles Tim Prize for Fiction, a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and Washington Post, Hannaham’s work is a sign of a great work. He was honored by the American Library Association for his earlier novel, God Says No (On Order).
For a book small enough to fit in your pocket, Rules for a Knight, by Ethan Hawke (HAW), has a kelly-green cloth cover that feels good to hold and much to offer. In the editor’s note, Hawke explains that this book is his own reconstruction of a badly damaged letter written by a 15th century knight and Hawke ancestor to his children. To this he adds thoughts from the writings of other “knights” most of whom are 19th & 20th century authors, thinkers, artists or leaders, e.g. Emily Dickson, Bob Dylan, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nelson Mandela, Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Teresa and Victor Hugo, to include a few. The book contains 20 knightly rules, each with its own chapter.
As a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Jane Smiley’s much anticipated final volume Golden Age, following Some Luck and Early Warning (both also in fiction, SMI) is here. The challenge of writing a series that spans a century, with each chapter representing a year, could be daunting but not for Smiley. Golden Age covers 1987 to 2020 and the details provided show her knowledge of politics and environmentalism along with her humor. Those who read this trilogy about the five generations of a family and the accompanying wars, crises and rise of the technological, will make one think about how much has changed–and yet how little has changed in the same time.
Fitting with our recent celebration of pirates here on the Beach, consider the novel, We are Pirates by Daniel Handler (HAN). I picked up this book because of my fascination for the Lemony Snickett books. To put this in the context of pirates is intriguing. Pirates are not only fun and fascinating in their escape and rebellion, but also sad (average lifespan for a Caribbean pirate was about two years due to disease, alcoholism, conflicts). Handler captures this life so well that the reader will push against those who tried to contain the pirates but also feel their pain, and in the end, We are Pirates fits perfectly.
Also fitting in with pirates is Pirates of the 21st Century by Nigel Cawthorne (True Crime/Cawthorne). This is an overview of piracy in the Somali area, giving details of major hijackings and the negotiations process. Cawthorne examines how a phenomenon thought to be consigned to history is once again a worldwide challenge. He gives suggestions how the international community and its peace-keeping forces can aid in bringing stability and security to the oceans of the world.
Watergate junkies may think they know all there is to know about Richard Nixon and his inner circle but journalist Bob Woodward has one more chapter to write. In The Last of the President’s Men (US History/20th Century/Woodward), he offers a look into the files and memories of Alexander Butterfield, who was Haldeman’s deputy during that time. It’s plenty enlightening about an era we thought we already knew.
The oral history in West of Eden: An American Place, by Jean Stein (US History/West/Stein), offers a chronicle of five Hollywood families, from the Dohenies (behind the oil boom in southern California), to the film mogul Warners and lesser-known but fascinating families. True crime readers will enjoy Stein’s portrayal of a world of wealth and emotional cruelty.
If you enjoyed Grandpa Green by Lane Smith with children, it giving respect to aging and the end of life, then you will rush out to soak in There is a Tribe of Kids by Smith (also JE SMI) which brings honor to childhood and the beginning of life. The sponge-paint illustrations are vibrant and bring their own momentum to this illustrious story.
What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, on a boat in a moat with a frog, a dog and a goat on a log, by author & illustrator Emma Virgan (JE VIR), is perfect for toddlers to preschoolers. Children join Pig on a exciting boat ride as she enjoys an exciting boat ride that is truly more fun with friends. Pig-themed elements appear throughout the work: pink snouts cover the endpapers, a pig pulls part of a boat onto the title page and the back cover shows pig and her friends peeking over the jacket cover.
Dr. Leroy Hommerding
Beach Library Director