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Local History

Discover the beautiful towns of Westerly, RI and Stonington, CT.

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Staff Picks

June 2020

Hannah B. recommends:

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

This is an exceptional memoir. I recommended listening to the audiobook if possible, as it is read by the author.

From goodreads.com: Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Memoir 

 

Colleen W. recommends:

JoJo Rabbit (2019 film)

From rottentomatoes.com: Writer director Taika Waititi brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, Jojo Rabbit, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother is hiding a young Jewish girl  in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.

                             Satire

-and-

Halt and Catch Fire (2014-2017 television series)

From imdb.com: Set in the 1980s, this series dramatizes the personal computing boom through the eyes of a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy whose innovations directly confront the corporate behemoths of the time. Their personal and professional partnership will be challenged by greed and ego while charting the changing culture in Texas' Silicon Prairie.

Drama

 

 

Brigitte H. recommends:

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

This statement sums of the book very well “…a pitch-perfect evocation of the era’s tawdry glamour and a coming-of-age story whose fizzy surface conceals unexpected gradations of feeling." --New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)”

From amazon.com: In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves - and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now eighty-nine years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life - and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. "At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time," she muses. "After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is." Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

Historical fiction

-and-

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea is the perfect combination of the love of words, life stories, and relationship between time and fate.

From amazon.com: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues -- a bee, a key, and a sword -- that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians -- it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose -- in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

Fantasy

 

Betsey M. recommends:

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

I recently had to read it for my creative writing class and it really has fantastic science fiction stories. Each chapter is a short story so it is easy to finish in a night, even though it was assigned to me I think it was one of the best required reading of my semester. Being brought into different worlds and thinking of other realities in comparison to ours was really awesome to have experienced with each of his short stories!

                             Science fiction

 

 

Keara B. recommends:

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler

They are some GREAT dystopian books that I enjoyed and really get yah thinking about the world.

Amazon.com description of Parable of the Sower: God is change. That is the central truth of the Earthseed movement, whose unlikely prophet is 18-year-old Lauren Olamina. The young woman's diary entries tell the story of her life amid a violent 21st-century hell of walled neighborhoods and drug-crazed pyromaniacs - and reveal her evolving Earthseed philosophy. Against a backdrop of horror emerges a message of hope: if we are willing to embrace divine change, we will survive to fulfill our destiny among the stars.

Amazon.com description of Parable of the Talents: Environmental devastation and economic chaos have turned America into a land of horrifying depravity. Assault, theft, sexual abuse, slavery, and murder are commonplace. Taking advantage of the situation, a zealous, bigoted tyrant wins his way into the White House.

Directly opposed is Lauren Olamina, founder of Earthseed - a new faith that teaches "God Is Change". Persecuted for "heathen" beliefs as much as for having a black female leader, Earthseed's followers face a life-and-death struggle to preserve their vision.

Science fiction

 

 

Judy T. recommends:

The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones

I am in the middle of an adult “easy reader” called The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones. It’s about a Brit travel agent living in NYC who gets a job serving as an assistant and tour guide for her TV idol, England’s most beloved baker. They travel by bus throughout New England researching regional dessert recipes for an upcoming cookbook, accompanied by the baker’s mother and surly teenage daughter. Their first 3 stops are Mystic, Usquepaugh (Kenyon’s Grist Mill), and Newport. It’s always fun to see how our area is described by outsiders. So far, very enjoyable light reading.

Fiction

 

Sara C. recommends:

Henna Artist (audiobook version) by Alka Joshi and narrated by Sneha Mathan

From goodreads.com: Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist--and confidante--to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow -- a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

Historical fiction

-and-

The Mountain Sings (audiobook version) by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and narrated by Quyen Ngo

From goodreads.com: With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the BanyanThe Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War. Tran Dieu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Noi, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart.

Historical fiction

 

 

Stacy C. recommends:

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

From amazon.com:

This is how you find yourself.

There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.

For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice -- the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.

Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon insists: The braver we are, the luckier we get.

Memoir

 

Amanda S. recommends:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

From amazon.com: England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

Historical fiction

-and-

Schitt's Creek (2015– television series)

From imdb.com: When filthy-rich video store magnate Johnny Rose and his family suddenly find themselves broke, they are forced to leave their pampered lives to regroup and rebuild their empire from within the rural city limits of their only remaining asset -- Schitt's Creek, an armpit of a town they once bought as a joke.

Comedy

 


Teresa P. recommends:

After Life (2019– television series)

From rottentomatoes.com: Tony (Ricky Gervais) had a perfect life. But after his wife Lisa suddenly dies, Tony changes. After contemplating taking his own life, he decides instead to live long enough to punish the world by saying and doing whatever he likes from now on. He thinks it's like a Super Power -- not caring about himself or anyone else -- but it turns out to be tricky when everyone is trying to save the nice guy they used to know.

                             Drama


Sandra K. recommends:

What We Do in the Shadows (2014 film and 2019- series)

With Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Matt Berry, and so many others as actors and sometimes creators, you know you’re in for something great. The film is a comedy horror mockumentary following the antics of three vampires living in the present, who are absolutely not up with the times. The series follows four others, with the introduction of Colin, an energy vampire, and the familiar Guillermo, as my favorite new touches. It’s one of those few franchises where you can absolutely feel the love the creators have for their subject, and the awkward charm throughout all is spot on.

Comedy