Library Reads: New books for February 2018

This month’s Library Reads includes a book by a Washington author (The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah), a novel set in a library (Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern), and a memoir reviewed by one of our librarians (Educated by Tara Westover). Time to place some holds!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Leni and her troubled family embark on a new way of life in Alaska’s wilderness in 1974 – hoping this is finally the solution for her troubled, POW father. In Alaska, Leni and her family are tested and when change comes to their small community her father’s anger threatens to explode and divide the town. This is a beautifully written novel, descriptive and engaging with well-developed characters and a strong sense of place. ~ Alissa Williams, Morton Public Library, Morton, IL


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The Vietnam War: Essential Accounts

There is no single story of the Vietnam War. In our second of four lists commemorating the premiere of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s ten part documentary series on the Vietnam War, we feature twenty-five memoirs and personal accounts of the War and its aftermath, representing a wide array of experiences and voices. Here are some highlights.

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Inside the Story: Immersive and Personal Journalism

Memoir tends to be subjective, while journalistic writing aims at objective treatment of a topic. Then there are those books that combine these strengths, exploring a topic of interest from within, either through the eyes of someone whose experience gives them a revealing perspective, or a journalist who immerses themselves in the world they’re writing about. In both cases, the results can be both highly informative and deeply moving.

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While a difficult and uncomfortable topic for many to discuss, rape is a deep-seated and prevalent issue that has the ability to harm society just as much as any individual victim. Sexual assault affects everyone; no gender, class, ethnicity, or education can ensure absolute safety. Trauma narratives are as varied and unique as the people that tell them, and in this way, have the opportunity not only to allow survivors a chance to externalize and make sense of their own experiences, but also allow for those experiences to find themselves in a larger framework, eventually leading to a broader understanding about the very real and long term psychological effects of sexual assault.

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Other kids

So it’s pretty much a given that everyone in Seattle is on the hold’s list for Just Kids, Patti Smith’s new memoir about her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. And while that book is all sorts of amazing, there are several other musician memoirs that don’t have a huge holds ratio and just might tide you over until your hold comes in.

Smith’s book definitely isn’t your traditional artist memoir, and I wanted to create a list that wasn’t a collection of drug-fueled, arena-filling rock stars ranting about their exploits. My desire was to create a list of books by musicians that were a little more personal, and a little more intimate I think I was successful in creating a list of books that is probably the most accurate depiction of what it’s like to be young, broke and in a band.


When I Grow Up by Juliana Hatfield

Hatfield’s memoir is probably the most caustic of the bunch, which is perfect for her warts-and-all brand of music. Hatfield not only explores her career after a near-brush with fame, and her current life as a struggling musician nearing her forties, but also her life-long battle with depression and anorexia.


Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be by Jennifer Trynin

Trynin was to be a household name when she released her debut album Cockamamie in 1994, but even though she had the backing of a major label, success was elusive, especially for women in grunge not named Alanis Morissette. Her memoir is engaging, infuriating and funny, in an uncomfortable My So-Called Life kind of way.


Black Postcards by Dean Wareham

Wareham, the solo artist and former front man of both Galaxy 500 and Luna, gives us his on-the-road memory that chronicles the ups and downs of being in a band. Black Postcards reads as hypnotically as Wareham’s music, with descriptions of the constant drudgery of being on tour and performing taking a narcotic effect. Wareham doesn’t always come across as a great guy, but his book is an unflinching look inside the realities of being in a band.


Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh

Rat Girl is probably the most unique and the strangest memoir of the bunch, which should surprise absolutely no one considering the mercurial nature of her music and hallucinatory quality of her lyrics. The book is really just the diary Hersh kept for a year, 1984 to be exact. During that year, her band played a lot of shows, moved to Boston, Hersh was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and she got pregnant. Rat Girl has sharp and scary passages where Hersh’s personal demons seem ready to slither off the page. But the truly affecting parts of the memoir are the funny and strange “freaks” Hersh surrounds herself with, from her band to the aged movie star she befriends at college. Hersh’s book, once again parallel to her music, is a heady experience that only gets more resonant and powerful the longer you are immersed.