Book Bites: What Silence of the Spy and the Absolutely Remarkable Creature, Please!

Do you feel that? In the air? That’s fall, friends, and it’s perhaps the most magical time of the year for new books. Not only is it a great time to curl up on an armchair and read, but all the big publishers are starting to put out their very best titles, knowing that they’ll make a perfect gift for your son / daughter / niece / nephew / mom / dad / uncle / aunt. 

We’ve got a particularly fun selection for you this week. Texas author Chris Barton is one of our very favorites—his nonfiction picture books are fun, smart, and sneaky-educational. His latest subject is none other than Houston’s own Barbara Jordan, and how could you not love her? It’s a wonderful book. Next up, we’re staying local (would you expect anything less?) with up-and-coming cartoonist and graphic novelist Ngozi Ukazu. She’s written a charming graphic novel about hockey (and pies) that you will absolutely adore—trust us. 

From there, we move into the novels. We’ve got a fun debut with serious teen/adult crossover appeal written by Hank Green (brother of John!), and a fascinating, feminist retelling of The Odyssey. And finally, nonfiction. Alice was on the edge of her seat reading a Soviet spy memoir that’s earned high praise from none other than John le Carré. And Noah may have gotten a little weepy reading a short, sweet memoir about the incredible power animals have to enrich our lives. Don’t wait, folks—these titles would really look better on your shelves than ours.

Ages 4-8

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton; Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Chris Barton tells the remarkable story of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, from her childhood in Houston through her time in politics to her teaching career at the University of Texas. He frames the story around her distinctive, powerful voice and reminds the reader of the difference Jordan made in the country. Gorgeous illustrations highlight the story of this outstanding public servant. For every school and library in Texas, as well as family bookshelves.  

READ because this is an uplifting, inspiring story, and it’s full of some truly cool illustrations.
PASS Congresswoman Jordan’s inspiring story along to the next generation of Texans!
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 14-18

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

Eric Bittle is from Georgia and loves skating, baking, and vlogging. This funny, charming graphic novel details his first two years on the hockey team at Samwell College in Massachusetts. We meet his teammates, watch his vlogs and cheer for him as he tries to get past his fear of being checked. Along the way, Eric comes out to his teammates, falls in love, and begins to find a place for himself on campus. I cannot wait for volume two!

READ this if you liked The Prince and the Dressmaker or Simon vs.
"PASS" is a move you can make in hockey to get the puck to another player. We just learned that!
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing follows the protagonist April May through her journey of unexpected fame after she accidentally makes first contact with one of the alien “Carl” statues that mysteriously appear in every major city on earth. Suddenly finding herself the leader of a movement for peace and world cooperation, it falls to April May to solve the mystery of the Carls. April’s narration will immediately pull you into her life story as it incorporates elements of today’s social media culture and reads like an actual autobiography.

READ because this is a fun, hip book that you can talk about with both your mom / dad / daughter / son.
PASS if aliens give you the creeps. (Statistically speaking, they’re, like, definitely out there.)
Order your copy on our website.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

This is the kind of novel that makes you wonder what the author has experienced to be able to write so vividly about war, death, pestilence, brutality, and their effects on relationships among women and men. In this case, it's the collateral damage of the decade-long siege of Troy by the Greeks. Homer told the story from the standpoint of the warriors—Agamemnon, Achilles, Ajax, Odysseus, and others. Barker looks at the events from the perspective of the women captured by the Greeks, and one woman in particular, Briseis, a woman of noble birth who was given as a slave to Achilles. In the final dramatic weeks of the siege, Briseis narrates a story about the daily indignities she faces, along with the political and physical events that will change her life forever. Booker Award winner Barker brings to life the characters to whom Homer introduced us and gives us a jarring look at ancient history, showing how far we have come over time and how little some aspects of human behavior have changed. Highly recommended.

READ if you’re a fan of Madeline Miller, Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, or Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
PASS if you think you’d better dust off that old copy of The Odyssey first.
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Nonfiction

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

John Le Carré calls this "the best spy story I have ever read," and I'm inclined to agree. Two things make it such: first is Macintyre's brilliant storytelling capability, and second is the fact that it's a true story, thoroughly researched and spine chilling in its detail. Oleg Gordievsky was a KGB agent in the 1970s and 1980s who became disillusioned with the Soviet system and decided to live the increasingly complicated life of a double agent, working for Britain's M16. Stationed in London in the late 1980s, he fed valuable information to the British at a crucial time in Russia's relationship with Britain and the U.S. He was eventually betrayed by the infamous Aldrich Ames of the CIA. Macintyre interviewed many of the actors in this drama, and the result is a vivid and exciting story that kept me on the edge of my seat while reading. Highly recommended. 

READ because this is every bit as gripping as any fictional thriller you can find.
PASS if you really don’t need to relive the stress of the Cold War.
Order your copy on our website.

How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery; Illustrated by Rebecca Green

Naturalist Sy Montgomery (her book The Soul of an Octopus was a National Book Award finalist in 2015) returns with a sweet and affecting memoir chronicling thirteen of the most meaningful friendships of her life—each with an animal. Elements of the classic animal memoir are here: Montgomery writes about no fewer than four different dogs, as well as a particularly lovable pig. But there are surprises, too, like the chapter devoted to a trio of emus encountered in the Australian Outback, or the one about a gentle South American tarantula. In examining her own life through the lens of the animals that have populated it, Montgomery hits on something universal: Our intersections with the animal kingdom, no matter how small, have the extraordinary power to elevate and strengthen our own humanity. Stylish two-color illustrations by Rebecca Green enliven the text, and photographs in the back add extra resonance.

READ if you’ve ever loved a pet. This lovely book gets right at the heart of that bond.
PASS yourself some tissues in advance. 
Order your copy on our website.