NEW BOOKS MAY 2019

FICTION

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions- what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.

Something to Live For by Richard Roper

Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…

All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people. The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him. Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.

A charming, humorous and life-affirming tale about human kindness that strikes a chord in a world where loneliness is a growing problem.

BBC News Online, Top Fiction of 2019

The Strawberry Thief  by Joanne Harris

Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her ‘special’ child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.

But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray. The arrival of Narcisse’s relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist’s across the square – one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own – all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence – even, perhaps, a murder…

 

NON-FICTION

Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car and How It Will Reshape Our World by Lawrence D. Burns and Christopher Shulgan

An automotive and tech world insider investigates the quest to develop and perfect the driverless car—an innovation that promises to be the most disruptive change to our way of life since the smartphone.

We stand on the brink of a technological revolution. Soon, few of us will own our own automobiles and instead will get around in driverless electric vehicles that we summon with the touch of an app. We will be liberated from driving, prevent over 90% of car crashes, provide freedom of mobility to the elderly and disabled, and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. 

Autonomy is the story of the maverick engineers and computer nerds who are creating the revolution. Longtime advisor to the Google Self-Driving Car team and former GM research and development chief Lawrence D. Burns provides the perfectly-timed history of how we arrived at this point, in a character-driven and heavily reported account of the unlikely thinkers who accomplished what billion-dollar automakers never dared.

Beginning with the way 9/11 spurred the U.S. government to set a million-dollar prize for a series of off-road robot races in the Mojave Desert up to the early 2016 stampede to develop driverless technology, Autonomy is a page-turner that represents a chronicle of the past, diagnosis of the present, and prediction of the future—the ultimate guide to understanding the driverless car and navigating the revolution it sparks.

Dinomania: Why We Love, Fear and Are Utterly Enchanted by Dinosaurs  by Boria Sax

From Jurassic Park to Sue the T-Rex and Barney, our dino love affair is as real, as astonishing, and as incomprehensible as the gargantuan beasts themselves. At once reptilian and avian, dinosaurs enable us to imagine a world far beyond the usual boundaries of time, culture, and physiology. We envision them in diverse and contradictory ways, from purple friends to toothy terrors—reflecting, in part, our changing conceptions of ourselves. Not unlike humans today, dinosaurs seem at once powerful, almost godly, and helpless in the face of cosmic forces even more powerful than themselves.

In Dinomania, Boria Sax, a leading authority on human-animal relations, tells the story of our unlikely romance with the titanic saurians, from the discovery of their enormous bones—relics of an ancient world—to the dinosaur theme parks of today. That discovery, around the start of the nineteenth century, was intimately tied to our growing awareness of geological time and the dawn of the industrial era. Dinosaurs’ vast size and power called to mind railroads, battleships, and factories, making them, paradoxically, emblems of modernity. But at the same time, their world was nature at its most pristine and unsullied, the perfect symbol of childhood innocence and wonder. 

Sax concludes that in our imaginations dinosaurs essentially are, and always have been, dragons; and as we enter a new era of environmental threats in which dinos provide us a way to confront indirectly the possibility of human extinction, their representation is again blending with the myth and legend from which it emerged at the start of the modern age.

Fun and ferocious, and featuring many superb illustrations of dinosaurs from art, popular culture, film, and advertising, Dinomania is a thought-provoking homage to humanity’s enduring dinosaur amour.

The Dragon: Fear and Power by Martin Arnold

From the fire-breathing beasts of North European myth and legend to the Book of Revelation’s Great Red Dragon of Hell, from those supernatural agencies of imperial authority in ancient China to the so-called dragon-women who threaten male authority, dragons are a global phenomenon, one that has troubled humanity for thousands of years. These often scaly beasts take a wide variety of forms and meanings, but there is one thing they all have in common: our fear of their formidable power and, as a consequence, our need either to overcome, appease, or in some way assume that power as our own.

In this fiery cultural history, Martin Arnold asks how these unifying impulses can be explained. Are they owed to our need to impose order on chaos in the form of a dragon-slaying hero? Is it our terror of nature, writ large, unleashed in its most destructive form? Or is the dragon nothing less than an expression of that greatest and most disturbing mystery of all: our mortality? Tracing the history of ideas about dragons from the earliest of times to Game of Thrones, Arnold explores exactly what it might be that calls forth such creatures from the darkest corners of our collective imagination.

Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson

A radical, provocative argument that the global population will soon begin to decline, dramatically reshaping the social, political and economic landscape.

For half a century, statisticians, pundits and politicians have warned that a burgeoning planetary population will soon overwhelm the earth’s resources. But a growing number of experts are sounding a different kind of alarm. Rather than growing exponentially, they argue, the global population is headed for a steep decline. Throughout history, depopulation was the product of catastrophe: ice ages, plagues, the collapse of civilizations. This time, however, we’re thinning ourselves deliberately, by choosing to have fewer babies than we need to replace ourselves. In much of the developed and developing world, that decline is already underway, as urbanisation, women’s empowerment, and waning religiosity lead to smaller and smaller families.

In EMPTY PLANET, Ibbitson and Bricker travel from South Florida to Sao Paulo, Seoul to Nairobi, Brussels to Delhi to Beijing, drawing on a wealth of research and firsthand reporting to illustrate the dramatic consequences of this population decline – and to show us why the rest of the developing world will soon join in. They find that a smaller global population will bring with it a number of benefits: fewer workers will command higher wages; good jobs will prompt innovation; the environment will improve; the risk of famine will wane; and falling birthrates in the developing world will bring greater affluence and autonomy for women. But enormous disruption lies ahead, too. We can already see the effects in Europe and parts of Asia, as aging populations and worker shortages weaken the economy and impose crippling demands on healthcare and vital social services. There may be earth-shaking implications on a geopolitical scale as well.

EMPTY PLANET is a hugely important book for our times. Captivating and persuasive, it is a story about urbanisation, access to education and the empowerment of women to choose their own destinies. It is about the secularisation of societies and the vital role that immigration has to play in our futures.

The Fast 800 by Michael Mosley

The culmination of Dr. Mosley’s bestselling dieting trilogy features revelatory new science with a higher 800-calorie limit. 

Six years ago, Dr Michael Mosley started a health revolution with The 5.2 Fast Diet, telling the world about the incredible power of intermittent fasting. In this book he brings together all the latest science (including a new approach: Time Restricted Eating) to create an easy-to-follow programme. Recent studies have shown that 800 calories is the magic number when it comes to successful dieting – it’s an amount high enough to be manageable but low enough to speed weight loss and trigger a range of desirable metabolic changes. Depending on your goals, you can choose how intensively you want to do the programme: how many 800-calorie days to include each week, and how to adjust these as you progress. Along with delicious, low-carb recipes and menu plans by Dr Clare Bailey, The Fast 800 offers a flexible way to help you lose weight, improve mood and reduce blood pressure, inflammation and blood sugars. Take your future health into your own hands.

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown

An astonishing expose of the aftermath of Chernobyl – and the plot to cover up the truth.

The official death toll of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, ‘the worst nuclear disaster in history’, is only 54, and stories today commonly suggest that nature is thriving there. Yet award-winning historian Kate Brown uncovers a much more disturbing story, one in which radioactive isotopes caused hundreds of thousands of casualties, and the magnitude of this human and ecological catastrophe has been actively suppressed.

Based on a decade of archival and on-the-ground research, Manual for Survival is a gripping account of the consequences of nuclear radiation in the wake of Chernobyl – and the plot to cover it up. As Brown discovers, Soviet scientists, bureaucrats, and civilians documented staggering increases in cases of birth defects, child mortality, cancers and a multitude of life-altering diseases years after the disaster. Worried that this evidence would blow the lid on the effects of massive radiation release from weapons-testing during the Cold War, scientists and diplomats from international organizations, including the UN, tried to bury or discredit it. Yet Brown also encounters many everyday heroes, often women, who fought to bring attention to the ballooning health catastrophe, and adapt to life in a post-nuclear landscape, where dangerously radioactive radioactive berries, distorted trees and birth defects still persist today.

An astonishing historical detective story, Manual for Survival makes clear the irreversible impact of nuclear energy on every living thing, not just from Chernobyl, but from eight decades of radioactive fallout from weapons development.

Nemesis Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens by David Stuttard

Alcibiades was one of the most dazzling figures of the Golden Age of Athens. A ward of Pericles and a friend of Socrates, he was spectacularly rich, bewitchingly handsome and charismatic, a skilled general, and a ruthless politician. He was also a serial traitor, infamous for his dizzying changes of loyalty in the Peloponnesian War. Nemesis tells the story of this extraordinary life and the turbulent world that Alcibiades set out to conquer. David Stuttard recreates ancient Athens at the height of its glory as he follows Alcibiades from childhood to political power. Outraged by Alcibiades’s celebrity lifestyle, his enemies sought every chance to undermine him. Eventually, facing a capital charge of impiety, Alcibiades escaped to the enemy, Sparta. There he traded military intelligence for safety until, suspected of seducing a Spartan queen, he was forced to flee again, this time to Greece’s long-term foes, the Persians. Miraculously, though, he engineered a recall to Athens as Supreme Commander, but suffering a reversal, he took flight to Thrace, where he lived as a warlord. At last in Anatolia, tracked by his enemies, he died naked and alone in a hail of arrows. As he follows Alcibiades’s journeys crisscrossing the Mediterranean from mainland Greece to Syracuse, Sardis, and Byzantium, Stuttard weaves together the threads of Alcibiades’s adventures against a backdrop of cultural splendor and international chaos. Navigating often contradictory evidence, Nemesis provides a coherent and spellbinding account of a life that has gripped historians, storytellers, and artists for more than 2,000 years.

Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine and Mysteries of Blood by Rose George

Blood carries life, yet the sight of it makes people faint. It is a waste product and a commodity pricier than oil. It can save lives and transmit deadly infections. Each one of us has roughly nine pints of it, yet many don’t even know their own blood type. And for all its ubiquitousness, the few tablespoons of blood discharged by 800 million women are still regarded as taboo: menstruation is perhaps the single most demonized biological event.

Rose George, author of The Big Necessity, is renowned for her intrepid work on topics that are invisible but vitally important. In Nine Pints, she takes us from ancient practices of bloodletting to the break though of the “liquid biopsy,” which promises to diagnose cancer and other diseases with a simple blood test. She introduces Janet Vaughan, who set up the world’s first system of mass blood donation during the Blitz, and Arunachalam Muruganantham, known as “Menstrual Man” for his work on sanitary pads for developing countries. She probes the lucrative business of plasma transfusions, in which the US is known as the “OPEC of plasma.” And she looks to the future, as researchers seek to bring synthetic blood to a hospital near you.

Spanning science and politics, stories and global epidemics, Nine Pints reveals our life’s blood in an entirely new light.

Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Called Helga: A Not So Perfect Tree Change by Todd Alexander

Once I was the poster boy for corporate success, but now I’m crashing through the bush in a storm in search of a missing pig. How the hell did we end up here?

Todd and Jeff have had enough of the city. Sick of the daily grind and workaday corporate shenanigans, they throw caution to the wind and buy 100 acres in the renowned Hunter Valley wine region, intent on living a golden bucolic life and building a fabulous B&B, where they can offer the joys of country life to heart-weary souls. Todd will cook, Jeff will renovate. They have a vineyard, they can make wine. They have space, they can grow their own food. They have everything they need to make their dreams come true. How hard can it be?

This joyously honest account will make you laugh till it hurts, and you’ll shed more than a few tears.

MYSTERY/THRILLER

The Chestnut Man   by Søren Sveistrup

In a Playground just outside Copenhagen a woman is found dead with one hand cut off. A small chestnut figure hangs over her. Naia Thulin and Mark Hess are sent to investigate but they soon discover another woman has been brutally murdered. This time both her hands have been cut off. And the chestnut figure is back. 

Thulin and Hess soon suspect that these murdered women are connected to the missing daughter of Rosa Hartung, the Minister of Social Affairs, and work against the clock to stop the killer from striking again.

MEMBER RECOMMENDATION

Normal: A Novel by Warren Ellis

Some people call it “abyss gaze.” Gaze into the abyss all day and the abyss will gaze into you.

There are two types of people who think professionally about the future: Foresight strategists are civil futurists who think about geoengineering and smart cities and ways to evade Our Coming Doom; strategic forecasters are spook futurists, who think about geopolitical upheaval and drone warfare and ways to prepare clients for Our Coming Doom. The former are paid by nonprofits and charities, the latter by global security groups and corporate think tanks.

For both types, if you’re good at it, and you spend your days and nights doing it, then it’s something you can’t do for long. Depression sets in. Mental illness festers. And if the abyss gaze takes hold there’s only one place to recover: Normal Head, in the wilds of Oregon, within the secure perimeter of an experimental forest.

When Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, arrives at Normal Head, he is desperate to unplug and be immersed in sylvan silence. But then a patient goes missing from his locked bedroom, leaving nothing but a pile of insects in his wake. A staff investigation ensues; surveillance becomes total. As the mystery of the disappeared man unravels in Warren Ellis’s Normal, Adam uncovers a conspiracy that calls into question the core principles of how and why we think about the future–and the past, and the now.

YOUNG ADULT

MEMBER RECOMMENDATION

Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway

When Becky and her mum move to the tiny village of Oakbridge, Mum is hoping for a new beginning. But when Becky discovers an old photo of her mum in hospital clutching a baby, twelve years before Becky was born, Becky becomes haunted by the thought that her mum is keeping something from her. Stifled by her mum’s over-protectiveness and depressive moods, Becky feels more alone than ever. the only place she finds comfort is at the beautiful local Butterfly Garden with her new friend, the wild-spirited and impulsive Rosa May. But Becky can’t shake off the unanswered questions. Why can’t she swim? Where is her dad? Who is the baby in the photo? And why is her mum lying to her? As the two girls spend more time together however, Rosa May’s unpredictable temper and possessive streak suggests that she is hiding something as well…and in the heat of the sun-drenched summer, it seems that Becky is the only one in the dark. 

MEMBER RECOMMENDATION

(For 13+ years) Set in a world of ominous landscape and macabre menace, The Dark Tower series features one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations—The Gunslinger—a haunting figure who embodies the qualities of the lone hero through the ages, from ancient myth to frontier Western legend. As Roland crosses a desert of damnation in a treacherous world that is a twisted image of our own, he moves ever closer to the Dark Tower of his dreams—and nightmares.

MEMBER RECOMMENDATION

Tangled Secrets by Anne-Marie Conway

Maddy can’t find her voice. With her grief over Nan’s death, her struggle for Mum’s attention, and the mystery of the strange woman Dad keeps meeting, it’s easier to keep everything locked up inside. But as terrible tangled secrets bring Maddie’s whole world crashing down, it seems only bad boy Kieran Black can give her the confidence to speak up.

CHILDREN'S FICTION

Creepy Susie by Angus Oblong 

(For 6-12 years) Creepy Susie. Mary Had a Little Chainsaw. Milo’s Disorder. Rosie’s Crazy Mother. The Siamese Quadruplets. Emily Amputee.  Your mother never told you these stories. She didn’t want to scare you. But Angus Oblong is not your mother. 

If Edgar Allan Poe and David Lynch wrote a book, it might be as warped, wicked, and perversely funny as this treasury of twisted tales from childhood’s Twilight Zone. So don’t be alarmed if you find yourself screaming . . . with laughter . . . until the day you die. Which may be very soon.

MEMBER RECOMMENDATION

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Happy Birthday by Rachel Ren Russell

(For 9-11 years) Nikki and her BFF’s Chloe and Zoey have been planning a birthday party of epic proportions! There’s just one problem—Nikki’s mom says no way to the budget they need to make it happen. Nikki’s ready to call the whole thing off, but some surprising twists might take that decision out of her hands, and help comes from the person Nikki would least expect. One way or another, this will be a birthday that Nikki will never forget! 

Fing By by David Williams 

(For 6+ years) Myrtle Meek has everything she could possibly want. But everything isn’t enough. She wants more, more, more! When Myrtle declares she wants a FING, there’s only one problem… What is a FING? 

Mr. and Mrs. Meek will do anything to keep their darling daughter happy, even visit the spooky library vaults to delve into the dusty pages of the mysterious Monsterpedia. Their desperate quest leads to the depths of the jungliest jungle where the rarest creatures can be found. But will they ever find a FING? 

An explosively funny, totally surreal Tall Story about two perfectly nice parents and their unbelievably monstrous daughter.

The Unicorn Quest: Secret in the Stone by Kamilla Benko 

Claire Martinson and her sister Sophie are fighting to save Arden, the magical land they discovered by climbing up a chimney in their late aunt’s house. They are the last descendants of Prince Martin of Arden, and only a prince or princess – with magic in their blood – can awaken the lost unicorns.

As Claire struggles with her magical training, Sophie uncovers dangerous truths about the people they thought were their friends. Will Claire be able to prove she is the heir who was prophesied and unlock the magic of the unicorns – before it’s too late?

CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOKS

10 Rules of the Birthday Wish by Beth Ferry

(For 4-8 years) After that’s been established, a crew of hilarious animals help picture book pros Tom Lichtenheld and Beth Ferry take readers through a joyous romp that covers the most important elements of every year’s most essential holiday, including singing; closing your eyes and making a wish; blowing out candles on a cake, then settling into bed and dreaming of your wish coming true.

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato: A Charlie and Lola Series by Lauren Child

(For 4-7 years) Lola is a fussy eater. A very fussy eater. She won’t eat her carrots (until her brother Charlie reveals that they’re orange twiglets from Jupiter). She won’t eat her mashed potatoes (until Charlie explains that they’re cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji). There are many things Lola won’t eat, including – and especially – tomatoes. Or will she? Two endearing siblings star in a witty story about the triumph of imagination over proclivity.

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour

(For 3-6 years) Lubna’s best friend is a pebble. She found it on the beach when they arrived in the night, then she fell asleep in Daddy’s salty arms. Lubna tells Pebble everything. About home. About the war. Pebble always listens to her stories and smiles when she feels afraid. But one day, when a little boy arrives, alone in a world of tents, Lubna poignantly understands that he needs Pebble even more than she does . . . Author Wendy Meddour joins forces with illustrator Daniel Egneus to create an important story about the power of friendship.

Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat by Deborah Underwood

(For 4-6 years) When Cat loses a tooth, the Tooth Fairy delivers a wholly unwanted sidekick: a mouse. Together, Cat and Mouse are tasked with running a few Tooth Fairy-related errands—a challenge, since Mouse is just as competitive and mischievous and hilariously self-involved as Cat. The stakes rise and so does the deadpan humor, culminating in a satisfying surprise that will leave readers eager for yet another delightfully devious Cat adventure.

Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies

(For 6-7 years) want pants, says a little panda to his father. You are a panda, answers the father. Pandas do NOT wear pants.

And so begins a hilarious battle of wills when a young panda tries to convince his father why pants make perfect sense. After all, pants are soft. Pants keep you warm. Some pants even have . . . POCKETS! But with a menacing snow leopard lurking in the background, will the longed-for pants end up having an even greater role to play?

Jacqueline Davies’s humorous story, with deliciously droll illustrations from Sydney Hanson, captures the push and pull between a parent and child as they face off over the age-old dilemma of what to wear . . . with the most heart-warming of results.

There’s a Giraffe In My Soup by Ross Burach

(For 4+ years) What if you found a giraffe in your soup, an alligator in you entree, an elephant on the table, or even an ostrich in your dish?

In this debut picture book from author-illustrator Ross Burach, an assortment of hairy, scary animals pop out from under the lid at a restaurant!

 

When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland

(For 3-6 years) Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are–an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation.

In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to “get over” it or indicates that it’s “bad,” both of which are anxiety-producing notions.

Simple illustrations that recall the classic style of Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon) invite readers to add their own impressions.

Eva Eland’s debut picture book is a great primer in mindfulness and emotional literacy, perfect for kids navigating these new feelings–and for adult readers tackling the feelings themselves!