New Books February 2017

Fiction

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thein
In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming. As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China’s relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to. Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming – and for Marie.

4321 by Paul Auster
On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson’s story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid twentieth-century America. A boy grows up-again and again and again.

Rotten Row by Petina Gappah
In her accomplished new story collection, Petina Gappah crosses the barriers of class, race, gender and sexual politics in Zimbabwe to explore the causes and effects of crime, and to meditate on the nature of justice. Rotten Row represents a leap in artistry and achievement from the award-winning author of An Elegy for Easterly and The Book of Memory. With compassion and humour, Petina Gappah paints portraits of lives aching for meaning to produce a moving and universal tableau.

 

Mystery / Thriller

The Evenings by Gerard Reve
Twenty-three-year-old Frits – office worker, daydreamer, teller of inappropriate jokes – find life absurd and inexplicable. He lives with his parents, who drive him mad. He has terrible, disturbing dreams of death and destruction. Sometimes he talks to a toy rabbit. This is the story of ten evenings in Frits’s life at the end of December, as he drinks, smokes, sees friends, aimlessly wanders the gloomy city street and tries to make sense of the minutes, hours and days that stretch before him. (The first English translation of a postwar masterpiece.) 

The Dying Detective by Leif G.W. Persson
Retired Chief of the National Crime Police and Swedish Security Service Lars Martin Johansson has just suffered a stroke. He is paying the price for a life of excess – stress, good food and fine wine. With his dangerously high blood pressure, his heart could fail at the slightest excitement.  In the hospital, a chance encounter with a neurologist provides an important piece of information about a 25-year-old murder investigation and alerts Johansson’s irrepressible police instincts. The period for prosecution expired just weeks earlier and that isn’t the only limitation. Johansson is determined to solve the atrocious crime – from his deathbed.

 

Non-Fiction

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed the World by Michael Lewis
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky met in war-torn 1960s Israel. Both were gifted young psychology professors: Kahneman a rootless son of holocaust survivors who saw the world as a problem to be solved; Tversky a voluble, instinctual blur of energy. In this breathtaking new book, Michael Lewis tells the extraordinary story of a relationship that became a shared mind: one which created the field of behavioural economics, revolutionising everything from Big Data to medicine, from how we are governed to how we spend, from high finance to football. Kahneman and Tversky, shows Michael Lewis, helped shape the world in which we now live – and may well have changed, for good, humankind’s view of its own mind.

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
Why is America living in an age of profound and widening economic inequality? Why have even modest attempts to address climate change been defeated again and again? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? Dark Money illuminates the history of an elite cadre of plutocrats–headed by the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olins, and the Bradleys–who have bankrolled a systematic plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. Mayer traces a byzantine trail of billions of dollars spent by the network, revealing a staggering conglomeration of think tanks, academic institutions, media groups, courthouses, and government allies that have fallen under their sphere of influence. Drawing from hundreds of exclusive interviews, as well as extensive scrutiny of public records, private papers, and court proceedings, Mayer provides vivid portraits of the secretive figures behind the new American oligarchy and a searing look at the carefully concealed agendas steering the nation. Dark Money is an essential book for anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.

At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails  by Sarah Bakewell
Paris, near the turn of 1933. Three young friends meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and their friend Raymond Aron, who opens their eyes to a radical new way of thinking. Pointing to his drink, he says, “You can make philosophy out of this cocktail!” From this moment of inspiration, Sartre will create his own extraordinary philosophy of real, experienced life – of love and desire, of freedom and being, of cafés and waiters, of friendships and revolutionary fervour. It is a philosophy that will enthral Paris and sweep through the world, leaving its mark on post-war liberation movements, from the student uprisings of 1968 to civil rights pioneers. At the Existentialist Café tells the story of modern existentialism as one of passionate encounters between people, minds and ideas. From the ‘king and queen of existentialism’ – Sartre and de Beauvoir – to their wider circle of friends and adversaries including Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Iris Murdoch, this book is an enjoyable and original journey through a captivating intellectual movement. Weaving biography and thought, Sarah Bakewell takes us to the heart of a philosophy about life that also changed lives, and that tackled the biggest questions of all: what we are and how we are to live.

 

Children’s Picture Books

Chinese New Year for Kids by Baby Professor
Why do dragons dance during Chinese New Year? Allow your children to find the right answers on their own with the help of this very informative book.

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim
In this Chinese American retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” a careless Goldy Luck wreaks havoc on the home of a family of panda bears. She eats up the littlest panda’s rice porridge, breaks his rocking chair, and rumples all the blankets on his futon. When Goldy takes responsibility for her actions, she makes a new friend (and a whole plate of turnip cakes!) just in time for Chinese New Year.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she?  Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it–Yoon-Hey.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
The first in the much-loved Knuffle Bunny series, join Trixie, her dad and her favourite stuffed bunny in this award-winning and brilliantly observed cautionary tale. This is the tale of what happens when Daddy’s in charge and things go terribly, hilariously wrong. The story follows Daddy, Trixie and Knuffle Bunny on their trip to the neighbourhood laundromat. But their adventure takes a dramatic turn when Trixie realizes somebunny’s been left behind…And no matter how hard she tries to tell dad, he just doesn’t understand!

Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems
Trixie can’t wait to show off her one-of-a-kind Knuffle Bunny at school. But a dreadful surprise awaits … Trixie’s bunny is not so one-of-a-kind after all! And matters get worse that night when Trixie realizes that she has brought home the WRONG BUNNY! A phone call later, dad and Trixie are off on a desperate late-night mission to reclaim the real Knuffle Bunny!

 

Children’s Fiction 

Auggie and Me by RJ Palacio
Wonder tells the story of Auggie Pullman: an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face, whose first year at school changed the lives and the perspectives of everyone around him.  Auggie & Me gives readers a special look at Auggie’s world through three different characters – bully Julian, oldest friend Christopher and classmate Charlotte – and  how he has touched their own lives.  These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there and are a treasure for readers who don’t want to leave Auggie behind when they finish Wonder.

 

Young Adult 

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Dill’s father is in jail for an unspeakable crime. Shunned by the neighbours in their small religious Tennessee town, he and his mother try to make ends meet.  Dill’s only respite from poverty and prejudice are his two friends: Lydia and Travis. Travis is an oddball, finding sanctuary from his violent father in his obsession with an epic fantasy saga. Lydia is fast-talking and fiercely creative, pinning her hopes on her achingly cool fashion blog. Dill fears his heart will break when she escapes to a better life in New York. Dill wants to get through his final year of high school in one piece. But there’s a dark secret at the heart of his family, a serpent poisoning his blood, filling him with despair and he must confront this legacy of madness and desperation before it tears him apart.

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa and before the car accident that changed everything.  Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a hot guy and falls, hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.