Most-checked-out titles from the Oak Park Public Library (thru mid-May 2017)
❶ My Brilliant Friend: Childhood, Adolescence, by Elena Ferrante
This is part one of the popular four-part series, soon to be a drama program on HBO, from critically acclaimed Italian author Elena Ferrante.
From the jacket: Beginning in the nineteen fifties in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of coastal town Naples, Italy, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years. The first story in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that also transform the relationship between her two protagonists.
❷ The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
Hannah tells the story of two sisters enduring hell on earth who make tough decisions and risk it all in the name of country and family.
From the jacket: In the quiet village of Carriveau, France, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France, but they do. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive. Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old, searching for purpose. She meets Gäetan and falls in love. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
❸ All the light we cannot see, by Anthony Doerr
A Pulitzer Prize is just one of the accolades received by this novel.
From the jacket: Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris, within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. When she is six, she goes blind. When the Germans occupy Paris in June of 1940, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast. In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that ultimately makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure’s.
❹ The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
This debut novel from Sweeney explores the raw power of family, both in the positive and negative.
From the jacket: Four adult siblings share the fate of an inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, dubbed the nest, which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the nest’s value has soared.
❺ My Name Is Lucy barton, by Elizabeth Strout
Strout, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of “Olive Kitteridge,” focuses on the relationship between mother and daughter.
From the jacket: Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, visits. Gentle gossip seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lies the tension that has informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters.
❶ Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In The End, by Atul Gawande
Gawande’s personal writing has given readers a glimpse into the complications endured by medical professionals.
From the jacket: When it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should, Gawande argues. Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them. And families go along with all of it.
❷ Hillbilly Elegy: A memoir of a family and culture in crisis, by J.D. Vance
A Marine and law school graduate, Vance reviews the struggles of America’s working class through his firsthand knowledge as a product of a poor, small-town, middle-America upbringing.
From the jacket: “Hillbilly Elegy” examines a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans, a demographic on the decline for more than forty years. Though, it rarely gets the insight from the inside that Vance provides. It’s the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it. The Vance family settled in Ohio post-war hoping to escape poverty. On the face a success story, they raised a middle-class family, but deeper, the Vances struggled with expectations and could not escape issues like abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma that plague the region.
❸ The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
A pending HBO movie has pushed this 2010 biography back into the spotlight.
From the jacket: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.
❹ When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
In this memoir, Kalanithi details his dramatic journey from nearly having it all to nearly losing it all, just like that.
From the jacket: At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. “When Breath Becomes Air” chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
❺ Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
Chernow, who has won a Pulitzer Prize, writes the first full-length biography on Hamilton, the polarizing Founding Father who sparked a Broadway sensation, in decades.
From the jacket: Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. Chernow recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: An illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, co-authoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first treasury secretary of the United States. Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build.