Book Bites: Dickens, Death, and Cookies (Oh My!)

The air is crisp, the skies are clear, and the sweaters temporarily came out of storage. The fabulous fall weather this week has us bristling with anticipation for Halloween—and looking ahead to winter holidays, too. 

It’s the perfect time to curl up with a book. Whatever your mood this season, spooky or sweet, our staff is ready with great recommendations. Read on for a roundup of what we’ve been loving, or stop by the shop to chat about hundreds more. 

Ages 4-8

A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal (Illustrations)

Travel around the world and eat your way through Santa's celebration in many countries. From Sri Lanka to South Africa, Poland to Puerto Rico, this charming book allows us to experience Christmas around the world. A map and recipes complete the delightful package.
—Cathy

READ it because who wouldn't want to read a charming book full of cookie recipes?
PASS if you're really hungry and reading a book about cookies might make you faint.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Ages 8-12

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow has the misfortune to be born on Eventide, the unluckiest day of the year, and is therefore destined to die on her 11th birthday. Shortly before that day, a mysterious man named Jupiter spirits her away to Nevermoor, a fantasy version of London. The only way Morrigan can remain in Nevermoor is to gain entrance to the Wondrous Society by passing several challenging tests. This is a fabulous debut novel for grades 4 and up that's full of wonderful world building and characters you immediately consider friends. I cannot wait to read more! 
—Cathy

READ it to meet your new favorite cast of characters—this is the first of nine planned books!
PASS if you never really understood the appeal of, say, Harry Potter.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Ages 13-17

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Will's brother Shawn was just murdered outside their apartment complex. He spends that night stunned with grief and wakes early the next day to find and kill the person who shot Shawn. As Will rides the elevator down to the lobby, the car stops on each floor and a ghost gets on. First, his surrogate brother; next, his best friend from childhood. An uncle. His father. And finally, Shawn. Each ghost tells a story and wonders why Will is seeking vengeance. Told in spare prose poetry, this stunning novel describes the unflinching violence that still inhabits parts of our cities and forces recognition of the unbearable grief these communities must bear. An important conversation starter for all to read, from grades 7 to adult. 
—Cathy

READ it because you should always, always read anything Jason Reynolds is writing. Always.
PASS if you don't like reading really good books.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Poetry

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur's The Sun and Her Flowers is a collection of moving poetry divided into five sections: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. Her poetry covers topics ranging from love to depression, family, and feminism. The Sun and Her Flowers is an authentic portrayal of the joys and hardships that come with being a young woman.
—Rachel

READ if it's been too long since you explored such a beautiful form of writing.
PASS if you've hated poetry ever since your first grade teacher forced you to write a haiku.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Just as Charles Dickens is enjoying literary fame and familial bliss with a sixth baby due, his publishers inform him that sales of his latest work, Martin Chuzzlewit, are declining as his debts are rising. With the holidays approaching, they suggest writing a Christmas story as the answer to his woes. Feeling exploited and abandoned by his family, friends, and public, Dickens retreats into himself and the streets and quarters of his past, all the while contemplating and observing the characters and conditions surrounding him. Brimming with nods to Dickens’ life and literature, Samantha Silva transports readers to the dark, damp streets of London as he searches for inspiration in this enchanting imagining of the story behind A Christmas Carol
––Jennifer

READ for a fascinating glimpse into the life of a literary titan.
PASS if the words "Tiny Tim" are enough to send you into a fit of ugly, ugly sobs.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Crimes of the Fathers by Thomas Keneally

Prolific Australian writer and Booker Award winner (Schindler's List), Keneally in this novel tackles head on the issue of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic priesthood. His protagonist is Frank Docherty, a Catholic priest who was banished from the Sydney diocese in the 1970s for pushing his liberal social justice agenda too far for the established Church. He now lives in Canada where he is a psychology professor and priest. In 1996, on a trip home to visit his aging mother, Docherty steps right into the middle of a brewing controversy over an ongoing court case and potential new charges of past abuses by priests. Although Docherty has come to Sydney to ask for reinstatement into the Sydney diocese, from the moment he steps into a cab at the airport and discovers that the driver is a former victim to his visit with old friends whose victimized son had recently committed suicide, he is compelled, as a psychologist, to encourage the victims to seek redress in both the Church and the court system. Although this novel is not an anti-Catholic polemic, Keneally, a Catholic himself, does not hesitate to condemn those within the institution of the Church who seek to cover up the abuse with something less than Christian charity. Recommended. 
—Alice

READ because this is a layered and well-written exploration of a story that demands your empathy.
PASS if you're looking for some ligther fiction to carry you through the post-Harvey months. (Try the Dickens thing instead.)
Order Your Copy on our website.

Adult Nonfiction

From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

Funeral director and cultural anthropologist Caitlin Doughty (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes) is back. In From Here to Eternity, she travels the world and explores each destination’s death practices, broadening readers’ understanding of grief, love, and the reality of mortality. Armed with a dazzling toolbelt of fascinating experiences and her signature witty pen, Ms. Doughty marches boldly into our culture’s closet, pulls out our skeletons, and displays them in all their uncomfortable, comic, mortal glory. As she curates the display, she walks readers through the illogic and inhumanity of our cultural anesthetization and commercialization of death. Her message is simple and true: Death should not be taboo; death should not be a series of products; we should engage with death. And she’s dead right.
—Mary Cate

READ it because this book will broaden your horizons and challenge you to engage with a subject that shouldn't be so taboo.
PASS if you're an immortal being who needn't bother with human trifles.
Order Your Copy on our website.

Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel by Francine Klagsbrun

Well-researched, well-presented, and easily read, Lioness places Golda Meir at the center of the causes to which she devoted her entire adult life. Born in Ukraine and raised in Milwaukee, Golda emigrated to British-mandated Palestine in 1921 at the age of 23. A fervent supporter of working class rights, she believed firmly in socialism as the best means for establishing and maintaining a Jewish community and, eventually, a Jewish state in Palestine. Not very well educated, always seeing things as black or white, and known for her stubbornness, she was also a tireless worker, a charismatic speaker, and a valuable link between Jews in Israel and Jews (and their money and political pull) in the United States. The author does an excellent job of not only giving us an intimate look at Meir, but also describing international politics, diplomatic machinations, and Israel's internal political struggles. 
—Alice

READ it because you probably don't read very many really good biographies. 
PASS if you've never cared for stories about people who were raised in Milwaukee.
Order Your Copy on our website.