Books to Get You Thinking 2018 Holiday Edition

The year seems to have flown by exceptionally fast and we’re back to cool crisp days of December ushering in the festive atmosphere of the Holidays!   Now would be perfect time to wrap up your shopping and get the perfect gift for everyone on your list - and what could be a more perfect gift than books!  Ernest Hemingway put it so succinctly, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” This year there was an outstanding selection of new books covering a rich and wide variety of subjects, and rarely a day passes when I don’t come across a new and fascinating read in the library’s New Books Area.  For just about everyone on your list, from science enthusiasts, history buffs and current affairs followers, to the nature and animal lovers, it will be easy to find a book that they would enjoy!  You might even be tempted to check out some of these fascinating reads - all of which can be borrowed from your closest branch of the Mercer County Library System! From all of us at the library, we wish you and yours a wonderful holiday and a very happy New Year!

These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore

A perfect book for history buffs following the passage of events that have propelled the country to where it stands today.  Within the pages of this volume, Jill Lepore, Harvard University American History professor and staff writer at the New Yorker, spans more than five centuries of American history. Jill Lepore’s “These Truths” focuses on the three basic tenets of “political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people” that were laid out by the Declaration of Independence and referred to by Thomas Jefferson as “sacred and undeniable.” Jill Lepore studies how each of these founding principles fared in different periods of American history, extending from the sixteenth century onwards to present times.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

A definitively unique gift for book lovers of all shades this Holiday Season! The book centers on the investigation of the 1986 massive fire that ravaged the Los Angeles Library for seven hours and destroyed and damaged more than half a million books and manuscripts, many of which were irreplaceable. The author, a writer for the New Yorker since 1992, skillfully interweaves a fascinating narrative about the special place that public libraries hold in the social fabric of America.  Based on deep research, the book traces the history of the Los Angeles Library and includes stories of prominent figures who have made significant contributions to the public library system in America.  Susan Orlean writes about her deep love for public libraries – “sanctuaries of learning that embody the looping, unending story of who we are.”

How to be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery

A captivating collection of personal stories by Sy Montgomery that will warm the heart of all nature and animal lovers.  Montgomery spent her entire life studying the lives of animals and writing about the natural world.  In this book, through thirteen different stories, the author bring to life the engaging personalities of different animals whose presence both enriched and made a deep impact on the author’s life. To Montgomery, “knowing someone who belongs to another species can enlarge your soul in surprising ways.”  Here, among a large cast of characters, we meet the endearing family of three giant emus from the Australian Outback, Christopher Hogwood, a small piglet, and Tess, an injured border collie.

In Pieces by Sally Field

Sally Field, two-time Academy award and three-time Emmy award winner, writes this poignant and powerful memoir about her life and career.  Researching old photographs, journals and letters, Sally Fields took seven years to complete the manuscript of this volume. Through her writings, she shares with readers her most personal stories and recollections, and the many disparate forces that shaped her life - the vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, the abusive relationship with her stepfather, the deep emotions she harbored for her mother, the years spent with her grandmother at her California house and her relationship with actor, Burt Reynolds.

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Goodwin, an acclaimed historian and presidential biographer, investigates the fundamental question of what constitutes good leadership through a detailed study of four different American presidencies - that of Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. What these presidents had in common was that they all steered America during difficult, troubled times in US history, facing very different political, economic and social landscapes.  Goodwin presents a fascinating book recounting the lives of each of these Presidents - what shaped their characters and molded them into remarkable leaders - each demonstrating grit, resilience, resolve and moral turpitude that continue to be an inspiration and guiding light for all who aspire to be an effective leader.

Farsighted: How We Make Decisions that Matter the Most by Steven Johnson

The ability to make deliberate, farsighted decisions that have life altering implications for the years ahead, along with communication through developed languages and innovation are unique traits characteristic to man.  Through fascinating stories, Johnson develops powerful insight into the tools one can hone to build the critical skills of complex decision-making and being able to make hard choices that could shape our entire future. The tools would include multidisciplinary and diverse perspectives developed through a study of the sciences and humanities, along with techniques to build a full spectrum map of a complex decision, designing a scenario plan and the competence to measure uncertainty.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

In this highly anticipated memoir, Michelle Obama, the first African American to serve as first lady of the United States, provides readers with a compelling story of her life, of how she became what she is today, and her passion for empowering women and girls - both in America and all over the world. With honesty and warmth, she reflects on the many phases and facets of her life as well as the people and events that have shaped her - growing up in South Side Chicago in the 1970s as part of a working class family, the time she spent at Princeton University, her relationship and marriage, and the challenges of being a working mother and raising two daughters while protecting them from the political glare of their father’s Presidency.

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

A riveting book about NASA’s Apollo 8 mission in Summer 1968 - the first mission that carried humans a quarter million miles away from the earth to orbit multiple times around the moon. It was a mission far riskier than any other previously undertaken - the infrastructure, industry, manpower and technology required to put astronauts into orbit around the moon or actually landing them on the moon was still evolving with numerous design and engineering issues. It was also the time of the intense space race where two super powers, America and the Soviet Union, competed to becoming the first nation to put a man on the moon. Researching hundreds of hours of transcripts, Kurson gives a vivid account of the mission, including some of its most risky and tension filled moments and maneuvers.

Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar

A captivating book that interweaves the author’s personal experiences as a physician with a history of the milestones and advances in cardiology. The author also discusses the “emotional and scientific dimensions of an organ that has intrigued and eluded scientists and philosophers for centuries.”  Metaphorically, the heart has been often considered as a source of courage, desire, ambition and love, but essentially the heart is the engine of life itself - life ceases as soon as the heart stops beating. Over the years the steady increase in life expectancies has largely been a result of the major advances and technological innovations in cardiac procedures however, adherence to a heart healthy lifestyle has increasingly lagged behind. This may halt the steady progress made in containing a disease once considered fatal and translate to higher rates of cardiovascular disease in future years.

The Tangled Tree: A Radical History of Life by David Quammen

The evolution of life on earth over the last 4 billion years is a story of extraordinary intrigue and importance. In this book, award-winning science journalist David Quammen tells the story of recent discoveries in molecular biology which are reshaping our understanding of human life. Central to Quammen’s narrative is the theory of horizontal gene transfer, the capacity of genes to move across species boundaries to create novel molecular organizations and biological functions. This well-written, thought-provoking book is replete with personal stories of researchers who discovered fundamental principles governing intricate gene movement and their implications for human health. It is a book about the molecular mosaic of life and tapestry of species interactions which has made human life so exceptional and unique.

- Nita Mathur, West Windsor Branch