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Nancy Pearl's Bookcase

Nancy Pearl (born January 12, 1945) is an American librarian, best-selling author, literary critic and was, until August 2004, the Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book at Seattle Public Library. Her prolific reading and her knowledge of books and literature first made her locally famous in Seattle, Washington, where she regularly appears on public radio recommending books. She achieved broader fame with Book Lust, her 2003 guide to good reading. Pearl was named 2011 Librarian of the Year by Library Journal.

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When Soviet agent Viktor Tronko defected to the US in 1964, he made two intriguing claims: he insisted that Russia had not placed a mole inside the CIA, and that Lee Harvey Oswald had not been recruited to assassinate the president. Convinced that Tronko was working as a disinformation agent, the CIA furiously did everything they could to break him. But Tronko had one more surprise for them: he refused to break.

Almost two decades later, former CIA officer Mel Pokorny shows up at journalist Michael Kessler’s house and offers to talk about Tronko. It’s the scoop of a lifetime for Kessler. But the more he investigates, the closer he gets to the truth: a truth so shocking that someone would do anything to keep it under wraps. This could be the biggest story of his life…if it doesn’t kill him first.

Filled with fascinating characters and darkly delicious humor, The Soul of Viktor Tronko is a rich, suspenseful espionage saga inspired by a true story.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

The first book in nationally renowned librarian Nancy Pearl’s new Book Lust Rediscoveries series, this lost literary classic is available for the first time in decades. As funny and entertaining as it is captivating and heartrending, A Gay and Melancholy Sound is a shattering depiction of modern disconnection and the tragic consequences of a life bereft of love.

Joshua Bland has lived the kind of life many would define as extraordinary. Born in a small Iowa town to a controlling, delusional mother who had always wanted a daughter rather than a son, her anger at him colors his life. His father, a compassionate drinker incapable of dealing with Joshua’s mother, walks out on his wife and son, leaving a vacuum in the family that is damagingly filled by his tutor-cum-stepfather Petrarch Pavan, scion of a wealthy New York family who has secrets of his own. Playing on Joshua’s brilliance, Petrarch trains him to win a nationwide knowledge competition, but Joshua’s disappointing results in the finals are met with anger and disbelief by both his mother and stepfather. If Petrarch was unsuccessful in teaching Joshua the information he needed to win the contest, he had more success in instilling Joshua with the cynicism, self-doubt, and self-hatred that fill his own soul.

Enlisting in the army during World War II, he serves first as an infantryman, where his irreverent letters home turn him into a best-selling author. Then, as a paratrooper, he meets the physical challenges he thought were beyond his reach and helps free the concentration camps before being wounded as the Allied forces free Buchenwald. Back home after the war, he becomes a wildly successful producer—and all of this by the age of thirty-seven. But when his production company flounders amid critical and financial woes, the reality of who he is becomes perfectly, depressingly clear: he has had a lifetime of extraordinary experiences—and no emotional connection to any of it.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Brother and sister Jerry and Daisy Lou Malone leave behind their provincial Midwestern upbringing to test their mettle in the big, beckoning world of 1920s America. For Jerry, the future lies west, with like-minded pioneer souls keen to play the “land game” as homesteaders on the Great Plains. Daisy, in turn, heads for the lights and luxe life of New York City, hoping to sing her way to stardom. But fate and failing fortunes reunite them in tiny Shelby, Montana—and draw them into the 1923 Dempsey-Gibbons World Heavyweight Championship, the faltering town’s grand scheme to save itself from economic ruin. And for a moment as fleeting and spectacular as Halley’s Comet, these American dreamers will savor the sweet taste of an extraordinary life.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

In Rochester, New York, a seventy-five-year-old artist, Austin Fraser, is creating a new series of paintings recalling the details of his life and of the lives of those individuals who have affected him--his peculiar mother, a young Canadian soldier and china painter, a First World War nurse, the well-known American painter Rockwell Kent, and Sara, a waitress from the wilderness mining settlement of Silver Islet, Ontario, who became Austin?s model and mistress. Spanning more than seven decades, from the turn of the century to the mid-seventies, The Underpainter--in range, in the sheer power of its prose, and in its brilliant depiction of landscape and the geography of imagination--is Jane Urquhart's most accomplished novel to date, with one of the most powerful climaxes in contemporary fiction.

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For the McWilliams children, life is forever altered the day a terrorist bomb blast rips through the train carrying them across Italy, instantly killing their parents. Dazed and frightened, Charlotte, Oliver, and baby Julia cling to oldest brother Sam, who―only seven at the time―is haunted by every detail.After he and his siblings are taken in by their kindly but peculiar grandparents, Sam becomes consumed with protecting them at all costs. His compulsive behavior―which includes shoplifting materials to make a bomb shelter for the quartet―leads to his placement in “the Cage,” a juvenile detention center on the outskirts of Washington, DC. It is there that Sam, inspired by letters exchanged between his deceased parents, dreams up Plum & Jaggers, a darkly bizarre comedy troupe. Made up of him and his brother and sisters, the group pokes fun at life’s tragedies and will eventually carry them into adulthood. But even once grown, Sam McWilliams finds he cannot always stop things from blowing apart.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Patrick O'Neil is a travel agent who never goes anywhere. His closest confidante, Sharon, is chain-smoking her way to singles hell, passing up man after man. His parents, proprietors of a suburban men's store whose fortunes are sagging more visibly than its customers, can't agree how best to interfere in their sons' lives. And his lover, Arthur (a nice golden retriever of a guy to whom Patrick can't quite commit), wants to cement their relationship by buying a house. Then a call comes in the middle of another sleepless night. Tony, Patrick's straight-as-an-arrow younger brother, has fallen in love with a beautiful lawyer who is turning him on to...opera. Unfortunately, she's not the woman he's already pledged to marry. Tony's life is a mess. Finally, the brothers have something in common.

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Marty Langsmith is only five years old when a strange thunder rolls across the Hawaiian sky and life as she knows it explodes into flames. With her mother, April, and hundreds of other women and children, Marty is evacuated from the ruins of Pearl Harbor and sent into a brave new world overshadowed by uncertainty and grief. Feeling abandoned by her deployed Army officer father in the wake of the attack, Marty is haunted by nightmares of the lion in the lei shop, a creature that’s said to devour happy children. But as the years pass, mother and daughter slowly begin to embrace their new life and make peace with the pain of the past. Spanning the tumultuous war years, The Lion in the Lei Shop deftly recaptures a dramatic chapter of American history. Originally published in 1970 and reissued for a new generation of readers as part of renowned librarian Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Rediscoveries series, this lyrical novel gives a rarely heard voice to the women and children of Pearl Harbor.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

The first novel by Newbery Award-winning author Nancy Willard: A stunning story of magic and miracles, and a testament to the enduring power of faith and love Ben and Willie Harkissian are twin brothers (think Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau) growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the eve of World War II. A baseball launched into the October sky sets in motion a series of events that transforms many lives. Ben leaves for the front and faces death-figuratively as well as literally. Left behind is Clare Bishop, who has been paralyzed from the waist down. But in exchange she receives a very special gift. She can see the future, be at one with animals, and chat with Death. Willie Harkissian remains in Michigan, as well, though his relationship with his brother will never be the same. A love story interrupted by war, this is also a novel about discovering the ordinary in the extraordinary and finding the miraculous in everyday life.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

With this extraordinary first volume in what promises to be an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy's fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces.

Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse's crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a "data haven" in Southeast Asia—a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe's tough-as-nails granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty...or to universal totalitarianism reborn.

A breathtaking tour de force, and Neal Stephenson's most accomplished and affecting work to date, Cryptonomicon is profound and prophetic, hypnotic and hyper-driven, as it leaps forward and back between World War II and the World Wide Web, hinting all the while at a dark day-after-tomorrow. It is a work of great art, thought and creative daring; the product of a truly iconoclastic imagination working with white-hot intensity.

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