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A Few Good Books: June 2017

by Emily M | Jun 14, 2017
Looking for a book recommendation?  Look no further!  Here are a few good books I've enjoyed recently.

Book Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

silversparrowSilver Sparrow tells the story of two families living in Atlanta, Georgia.  One is James Witherspoon’s public family.  James is married to Laverne and together they have a daughter, Chaurisse.  The three live together in a modest home and function like most nuclear families.

The other family is James’ secret family. Despite already being married to Laverne, James marries Gwen across the state line in Alabama shortly after the birth of their daughter, Dana.  James spends one evening each a week with Gwen and Dana, who know about Laverne and Chaurisse.  Laverne and Chaurisse, however, have no knowledge of James’ other family and live in ignorant bliss.  Silver Sparrow explores how James’ decision to keep a secret family will spiral out of control for everyone involved.

There’s a lot to like about Silver Sparrow: the premise is original and surprisingly believable.  Rich backstories explain how James came to be in this unusual position and the author deftly creates a setting wherein the reader gets a real feel for middle-class, African-American life in Atlanta in the 1980s.  Nevertheless, the book does have a few weak spots.  A few key characters were underdeveloped and the ending left something to be desired.  However, I would still recommend this book for its unique premise and engrossing storyline. 

Book Review: Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

ghettosideFrom 2001 to 2012, Jill Leovy was a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, reporting on homicide in L.A.  For more than a decade, she reported on the murders of African-American men and boys on L.A.’s south side. She spent time with the family members of the deceased, and with the detectives who investigated their murders.  Ghettoside is her attempt to explore and explain our country’s high rate of black-on-black crime, while also examining why the murders of so many young black men and boys go unsolved, and how the two are related.

Despite the tragic content, Ghettoside is immensely readable.  Leovy deftly weaves together the heart-wrenching stories of the murders of a dozen young African-American men in south L.A., of the overworked detectives assigned to their cases, of the frightened witnesses who are so reluctant to come forward, and of the grieving family members hungry for justice.  While telling the individual stories, she also explores aspects of history and human psychology that have resulted in a group of people who not only don’t trust the police to prevent crime, but also don’t trust the police to bring justice to victims.  Leovy asserts that our current rates of black-on-black crime are a result of African-American men carrying out vigilante justice, not trusting our justice system to find and convict the killers of African-Americans.  She asserts that a different type of policing, which focuses less on prevention and more on bringing justice to victims, would actually greatly reduce the rate of violent crime in areas such as south Los Angeles. 

Book Review: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

thekillerangelsWinner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975, The Killer Angels is considered by many to be the best Civil War novel of all time.  I first read it as a freshman in college, as it was required reading for my American History course.  I enjoyed it immensely at the time, and recently decided to give it a reread.

 The Killer Angels is a play-by-play of the Battle of Gettysburg told from the perspective of various officers from both the Union and Confederacy.  Shaara’s ability to describe the battles and what is happening is excellent, but the heart of this book is the way Shaara gets inside the heads of each of the different officers, examining their motivations, fears, strengths, and weaknesses.  The Killer Angels is an excellent insight into the heavy mental and emotional toll of making decisions as the leader of troops on the battlefield. 

What good books have you read lately?

EmilyLong before becoming a librarian, Emily was an avid library patron. She enjoys reading fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, biographies, and classic children’s literature. Her favorite book is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.


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