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.
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.
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.
Summary: Set in World War II, this story tells the tale of two young women and their harrowing experiences serving their country. Verity is a secret agent captured by the Gestapo after parachuting into Nazi-occupied France. She is given two options by her captors: reveal everything she knows about England’s defenses and her mission or face torture and an excruciating death. Verity believes she will die regardless of her decision, so what she must come to terms with is how much she is willing to reveal. Given paper and ink, she is tasked with betraying her country, yet what she puts down is so much more. In her writings, she tells the story of her captivity, her past life and how she became friends with Maddie, the pilot, who flew her into France and subsequently crashed. Her story is a tribute to friendship, a test of courage, and revealing look at how it feels to face the possibility of one’s own failings.
Who will like this book: Fans of historical fiction and strong female characters will love this emotionally charged story. That being said, this is really a book for anyone who appreciates a good story with amazing characters. Code Name Verity is a book you regretfully close after finishing and recommend to all your friends the next day.
If you like this, try this: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian
Summary: The first book in a new series by the author of Uglies is a fast-paced alternate history of World War I. The nations of Europe are divided: The Clankers favor mechanical, steam-powered fighting machines and the Darwinists use ‘fabricated’ living beasts created from manipulated DNA as their weapons.
On the eve of war, we meet Aleksandar, a headstrong prince sent into hiding after his parent’s assassination, and Deryn, an ambitious girl who has disguised herself as a boy in order to join the air corps. When Deryn’s ship, the immense blue whale called Leviathan, crash lands near Aleksandar’s hideaway a fantastic adventure begins. This exhilarating story is great for all readers, and is a terrific introduction to the alternate history and steampunk genres.
Who will like this book?: Fans of this popular author. People who like alternate histories and gadget-filled fantasy.
If you like this, try this: The sequel to this book, Behemoth. The Mortal Instruments series by Philip Reeve. The Temeraire books by Naomi Novik.
Summary: Edward and Alphone (Al) Elric have been cursed ever since they tried to bring their mother back through transmutation. Edward has as an advanced-metal arm (automail) and leg, while Al is trapped inside a hollow suit of armor. The land they live is dominated by a military presence, ruled by the State Alchemists. When Ed is recruited, he and Al are drawn into a whirlpool of danger and discovery.
The Philospher’s Stone has the ability to make anyone the strongest person on earth – the catch is that it requires the death of hundreds of humans. The seven humunculi (the results of failed transmutations) are after the stone, as well as a mysterious Ishbalan named Scar. No doubt that Edward has joined the military at the right time: the country’s on the brink of another war between the Ishablans and the Military, the homunculi control the strongest people in the country like puppets, Scar’s on a killing spree, and Ed simply cannot get people to stop calling him short. Looks like it’s going to be another tough day for the Full Metal Alchemist.
Who will like this book?: It’s shonen (but I like it and I’m a girl). It’s kind of like action/fantasy. As depressing as the summary is–it’s a rather sad plot–there is a rather large amount of humor in it as well. Great for the violence & magic/alchemy lovers, and people who enjoy really in depth and twisting plots and historical metaphors, in this case World War II. (Note: Definitely not recommended it if you’ are strictly religious or don’t like stories that question or critique traditional Protestant/Christian ideas.)
If you like this, try this:Inuyasha, D.Gray-Man, Trinity Blood, Trigun, Phantasy Degree, Spiral, Black Cat, Hellsing.
Recommended by: ZZ, resident of Fairfield and avid reader
Title: Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles
Author: Anthony Swofford
Summary: Anthony Swofford served in the first Gulf War as a Marine sniper and describes his time in Kuwait and Iraq, as well as his training and life after the conflict in this original, unsettling memoir. If you are looking for a heroic tale of the glories of combat, you won’t find it here – this book is free from many of the stereotypes you might associate with American war stories. For Swoff and company, the most difficult part of the war is the waiting – for battle, for news from home, and for a chance to use their training. When the fighting starts it seems to be over before it begins.
Operation Desert Storm was a short conflict. But it was brutal. The author doesn’t pull any punches (or leave much to the imagination) when describing battle, his comrades, or his personal life. This unique perspective on life as a solider is one you won’t soon forget.
Who will like this book?: Mature readers interested in military and war stories. People who like intense personal stories.
If you like this, try this: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Kipling’s Choice by Geert Spillbeen. Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers.