fikryA. J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books, has recently endured some tough years: his wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession--a rare edition of Poe poems--has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, instead of offering solace, are yet another reminder of a world that is changing too rapidly—until a most unexpected occurrence gives him the chance to make his life over and see things anew. 

code girls1An incredible look into the service of women code breakers during World War II, at a time when women were eager to do their part to end the war and bring their loved ones home from dangerous combat. At a time when women weren't expected to go to college, much less hold a job, some of the most talented were handpicked to join the Army & Navy for  codebreaking operations. More and more women joined the ranks as the war raged on. They worked hard to decipher enemy communications in time to make a difference in war operations big and small. We have so much to learn about what women have contributed to history, and this book is a great contribution the historical record. These women were heroes!

homegoingThe book is an amazing masterpiece written by a first-time 26-year-old author, Yaa Gyasi. The novel begins with two half-sisters born in 18th-century Ghana who will never meet. Effia marries a white British man and Esi is enslaved and taken to America. The book follows the children of these two women through the generations, alternating between Africa and America. The chapters are a series of interrelated stories that play out the legacy of slavery on the successive generations. Through this heartbreaking journey, I learned so much about the slave trade within Africa changing my perspective on this horrific time period in our history. The haunting, beautifully depicted characters are etched firmly in my mind. This is a novel with truly staying power for the reader.

 

 davinci3The true tale of a special force of British & Americans during World War II who sought to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.  This rag-tag group of museum directors, curators, art historians and others raced against time (and behind enemy lines) to recover and save the world’s great art work from the Nazis. Adolf Hitler who directed the plunder, was planning on exhibiting his "trophies"  for a `Fuhrer Museum' in his home town of Linz. The inspirational story of these brave men and women is beautifully illustrated through many, many incredibly powerful photographs depicting the theft, storage and recovery of thousands of masterpieces of European art.

  The author later expanded this work into two other in-depth books:  The Monuments Men and Saving Italy.

sppon riverEven 100 years later this collection of short, free verse poems still packs a punch, and is relevant today. Based on the author’s childhood home in central Illinois, it is the portrait of a small Midwestern town, as told through the epitaphs of its former denizens—from beyond the grave.

Masters’ book peels back the veil on small town life to reveal the many secrets and scandals therein, and showing life there to be anything but idyllic and perfect.

A critical and commercial success at the time of its publication, Masters’ book was banned in the schools & library of his home town for 60 years.  Today it is still often assigned in high school and college literature courses, and its portraits are often used as monologues for theatrical auditions.

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