Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

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Title: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

Author: Sarah Vowell

Summary: With the surging popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musicalization of Alexander Hamilton’s life, there is new interest in not just the Founding Fathers, but those who fought and served around them. Here with a take on the tale of ‘America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman,’ is humorist Sarah Vowell. While you may not be familiar with her brand of irreverent historical writings, I bet you have heard her voice: as Violet in The Incredibles. Here, she follows the young French nobleman from his early days in France to his final, farewell tour as the last living Revolutionary general.

This isn’t just a date-by-date retelling of Lafayette’s incredible and improbable life as a rebel and statesman. Instead, like all of her books, Vowell uses his story to consider something deeper – when have these States of ours ever truly been United? Her witty, clear-as-the-Liberty-Bell voice is an excellent guide through parts of our history that have been forgotten or romanticized into mythology. You will learn, you will laugh, and you will perhaps see the world a little differently. As we wander through an intensely combative political season, this books is not only a joy to read, but contains important lessons for us to understand.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers. Fans of the new musical Hamilton. American history buffs. Anyone who likes non-fiction that will make them laugh.

If you like this, try this: For more by Sarah Vowell, start with Assassination Vacation. More non-fiction: try Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow or Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts. For fiction set in the Revolutionary era, try the graphic novel The Sons of Liberty by Alexander Lagos or Fever, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Andreson, or 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Dare to Disappoint

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Title: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey

Author/Illustrator: Özge Samancı

Summary: Özge grew up in a small village on the Mediterranean sea in Turkey, a proud and ancient nation with a tumultuous recent history. While she treasured her dreams of becoming an actress, or an adventurer, or even an underwater explorer like her idol Jacques Cousteau, she also knew that she had an obligation to her family and to herself to study as hard as she could and enter a profession that would allow her to support herself in a time when such opportunities were rare, especially for girls. So at a young age, Özge sets her dreams aside in order to devote herself to one goal: Getting in to the best college possible so she can study the most challenging subjects so she can get a great job to guarantee her future. Will she succeed? Is it worth it? What will she find out about herself along the way?

This bright and charming graphic memoir was written and designed by Samancı, who is now a professor living in Chicago. While it offers a detailed and lighthearted look at growing up in Turkey, what makes it truly fascinating is its terrific depiction of living through the stress of expectations, be they of your family or your society in general, and how it is truly universal, whether you live in the United States today or grew up halfway around the world 30 years ago. Heartfelt and unexpectedly sensitive, this book is well worth your time.

Who will like this book?: Fans of books set in other countries. Memoir readers. Anyone who likes beautiful illustrations – these pages are full of creative and clever visuals.

If you like this, try this: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. For more on Turkey, try Blue Voyage by Diana Renn.

The Song Machine

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Title: The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Machine

Author: John Seabrook

Summary: Have you ever wondered why the music on the radio all sort of sounds the same? This book will tell you why…and basically, you can blame Sweden. Author Seabrook investigates the way most pop music is made today: by armies of technicians individually responsible for each element of the tune, from melody to lyrics to the all-important hooks that grab and keep the listener’s attention. The science of modern song craft is explored in-depth, with details about the rise of Scandinavian hit-makers like Max Martin (who has produced more number 1 hits than anyone besides George Martin, who worked with the Beatles), the type of artists who thrive under the guidance of super-producers, the fate of the session musicians who have been replaced by computer beats, and what the digital future of music means for record labels, artists and the listening public.

This book will resonate with anyone who loves music, especially those who love (or love to hate) today’s top hits and hit-makers including Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and the Weeknd. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for something a little different to read this winter season.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in the mechanics of music production. Non-fiction fans who like reading about contemporary topics.

If you like this, try this: How Music Works by David Byrne. Decoded by Jay-Z. For younger readers: Learn to Speak Music by John Crossingham. For a perspective on this trend from a different era: Rhythm Ride: A Roadtrip through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Marvels

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Title: The Marvels

Author/Illustrator: Brian Selznick

Summary: In 1766, Billy Marvel, survivor of a terrible shipwreck that claimed the life of an entire crew of sailors, including his brother, lands in London. He finds work in a theater and becomes the founding member of an acting dynasty that would span generations and centuries until it fell into ruin. All that remains of the legendary family is their strange and mysterious mansion in London. Decades later, young Joseph Jervis flees his country boarding school in search of his best friend who has moved to the city. Lost and alone, he calls upon his reclusive uncle Albert, who lives in the incredible and bizarre home that once belonged to the Marvels. Albert has no time or patience for Joseph, and he lives by very strict and strange rules about what can be touched, moved or used in the house. With the help of the girl next door, Joseph is determined to discover the secrets of the house, the truth about Marvels and reasons why his uncle seems so peculiar.

This is another masterpiece from Mr. Selznick – author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was a past One Book One Town title (so yes…we might be a bit biased!) – that takes an unusual artistic artifact – in this case, the Severs house in London, to tell a universal story of love and connection. The history of the Marvel family is told wordlessly and the story of Joseph and Albert is expressed in words, with both tales twisting and spinning their way together for a satisfying and emotional resolution that will stick with you for a long time. This is a book full of surprises and you’ll want to share it with everyone you know.

Who will like this book: Other than everybody? Fans of graphic and illustrated fiction. Artists and actors. Readers who like mysterious stories and characters, but not crime stories or creepy thrills.

If you like this, try this: Anything else by Brian Selznick. (You’ve read Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret already, right?!) The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Symphony for the City of the Dead

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Title: Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Author: M.T. Anderson

Summary: During World War II, the Russian city of Leningrad, formerly known as St. Petersburg, was bombed and held under siege by Nazi forces for almost three years, unable to obtain fresh food or other necessities for survival. Starving and desperate, residents of the cosmopolitan cultural capital of the nation endured unspeakable horrors. It was the stuff of nightmares, but it was also a source of inspiration, as famous composer Dmitri Shostakovich created a piece of music that would come to demonstrate to the war-torn world the incredible strength of his native city, the Seventh Symphony.

Born before the Russian Revolution, Shostakovich was a living witness to an incredible time in world history. This stunning and impeccably researched work of non-fiction describes the epic story of the war in the U.S.S.R. by telling the story of this one man, an artist who had been held up a both a hero and a pariah by those in charge over the course of his turbulent life. This book is challenging and deeply rewarding, much like author Anderson’s acclaimed fiction including Feed and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Even if you think you know all there is to know about World War II, this book will surprise you.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in history. Musicians and artists. People who are curious about everyday life under war conditions.

If you like this, try this: For more on Russian history, try The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming. The Road of Bones by Ann Fine. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. For mature readers, City of Thieves by David Benioff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Dumplin’

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Title: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Summary: Willowdean Dickson is waiting for that moment when her life will really start. Living in a small Texas town famous for it’s beauty pageant as a fat girl isn’t always easy, but Will knows that she is who she is and she shouldn’t have to apologize for it. Even though things have been tougher since her beloved Aunt Lucy passed away, Will has always had her long-time best friend Ellen, a new job at Harpy’s Dogs and Burgers, and her own piece of freedom in the form of her car, Jolene, named after the legendary song by her all-time hero, Dolly Parton. As the summer before junior year begins, Will begins to realize that Bo, the hot athlete from a local private school might want to be more than just co-workers with her. Is this the beginning of her real life? Suddenly she finds her hard-won self-confidence begin to slip away, setting into a motion a chain of events that will reshape her life and her outlook, forever.

There is a strong chance that this might become your new favorite book. It captures some of the raw truths of navigating the high school experience as someone who doesn’t conform to what is supposedly normal to reveal that, in fact, everyone has something unique about them that makes them better than whatever normal is supposed to be. This delightful and emotional story deserves to be read by anyone who has ever felt less than perfect. Readers will feel like they have been transported to Texas and will wish that Willowdean could leap off the page and into their lives.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are fans of Rainbow Rowell and John Green. Anyone who ever dreamed of being a pageant queen.

If you like this, try this: Food, Girls and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allan Zadoff. This Book Isn’t Fat It’s Fabulous by Nina Beck. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. For mature readers, The Duff by Kody Keplinger.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Ink and Bone

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Title: Ink and Bone

Author: Rachel Caine

Summary: Jess and his family are black market smugglers who trade in the rarest and most dangerous of commodities: Books. The Great Library that rules over the world allows people to download and read things, of course, but very few people are allowed to actually own bound copies of books. In order to get an inside look at the mysterious agents who run the Great Library and it’s satellite locations all over the world, Jess is convinced by his father to apply for entry into the elite Library training program and soon he is on his way to Alexandria, Egypt. As he makes friends and enemies in his class and clashes with his surly, aggressive mentor, Jess begins to realize how seriously the Library takes its stance on the value of knowledge above everything else – including the lives of enemies, innocents and the trainees themselves. When his friend comes up with a radical idea that could change the way information is transmitted forever, Jess must decide what is more important: His family and the mission they have set before him, or exposing the secretive and deadly nature of the Library. Either decision will cost him greatly and be impossible to forgive.

One of the great intellectual tragedies in history was the legendary destruction of the Library of Alexandria. Although there are several different theories about what happened and when, what is not in doubt is that countless scrolls containing works by famous authors were lost forever. This imaginative and fast-paced tale imagines a world where the library not only survived, but managed to become the ruling entity of the entire world. Short communications before each chapter give you a sense of what’s to come and the larger scope of the story as you read, compelling you to keep turning the pages to see how it all works out. There is something here for almost every reader: Action, humor, romance and mystery. This thrilling adventure will leave you begging for the second installment of The Great Library series.

Who will like this book?: Fans of dystopian series like Divergent and The Hunger Games. People who love books.

If you like this, try this: The Archived by Victoria Schwab. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian