Friday, July 19, 2024

We asked, and the Somerville Public Library librarians answered: What’s the last book you read and loved?


“Language City: The Fight to Preserve Endangered Mother Tongues in New York” by Ross Perlin

“I just finished ’Language City’ by Ross Perlin, a nonfiction book about Indigenous languages spoken in New York City that are at risk of extinction. It is a fascinating book about the cultural, political and environmental factors in language development and decline, and is relevant to the linguistic diversity of the Somerville-Cambridge area.” –Alison

From the co-director of the Endangered Language Alliance comes this portrait of the languages of contemporary New York City, the most linguistically diverse place to have ever existed. Perlin follows six speakers of endangered languages, including Seke, spoken by 700 people from five villages in Nepal and a hundred others who live in a single Brooklyn apartment building; N’ko, a radical new West African writing system that has reached Harlem and the Bronx; and Lenape, the city’s original Indigenous language and the source of the name “Manhattan.” “Language City” is a celebration of linguistic diversity while serving as a warning: Half of all 7,000-plus human languages may disappear over the next century, and because many have never been recorded, when they’re gone, they’ll disappear forever.


“The Luis Ortega Survival Club” by Sonora Reyes

“A coming-of-age story with a surprise subplot of sapphic romance, this novel is compelling and sweet in the face of a very serious topic, which it handles sensitively.” –Muhl

After Ariana is assaulted by Luis, a boy she thought really liked her, at a party, the rumor mill starts. Ari, who has always wanted to be noticed, is suddenly getting the wrong kind of attention. When she receives a mysterious note in her locker, she finds herself among a group of other girls he harmed. In a “John Tucker Must Die” vein, the girls form strong bonds (and in Ari’s case, more …) as they plot their revenge and work to expose Luis as a predator.


“The Broken Lands” by Kate Milford

“I can’t say enough about Kate Milford. In this book, she artfully mixes historical fiction, fantasy, horror and even a bit of romance. Her characters are incredibly engaging and varied. Through their eyes you witness the birth of a monster, staggering displays of the firework maker’s art and the formation of friendships strong enough to sustain a city. You also learn a lot about cheating at cards. (All of Milford’s books are related to each other to some degree. Each makes up a part of the universe she created, called The Roaming World, but they can also be read as stand-alones, and they’re just as great!)” –Ellen

A crossroads can be a place of great power. So begins this tale – technically a prequel to “The Boneshaker,” but readable on its own – set in 19th century New York City. A story about the seedy underworld of Coney Island and the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge told through the eyes of two orphans who are determined to stop evil forces, “The Broken Lands” is at once historical and fantastical. As the bridge’s construction progresses, forces of unimaginable evil seek to bend that power to their advantage. Can teenagers Sam, a card sharp, and Jin, a fireworks expert, stop them before it’s too late?


“The Collapsing Empire” by John Scalzi

“I just finished reading ‘The Collapsing Empire’ by John Scalzi. I was still on a science fiction kick after finishing up the ‘Remembrance of Earth’s Past’ trilogy by Cixin Liu, but wanted something a little less existential-dread-inducing. This book, the first of three, was the perfect sci-fi space tale with plenty of twists, political scheming and a fun cast of characters that made reading it a breeze. I’m excited to finish the trilogy!” –Tim P.

Our universe is ruled by physics, and traveling faster than light is not possible – until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time that can take us to other planets around other stars. Humanity flows into space, creating an empire called the Interdependency whose ethos says no one human outpost can survive without the others. But when The Flow changes, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity, the stakes change for the Interdependency. A scientist, a starship captain and the empress of the Interdependency are plunged suddenly into a race against time to discover what can be salvaged from this interstellar empire under the threat of collapse.


“Triple Sec” by TJ Alexander

“This queer, polyamorous romance novel is a delightful and tasty story, following our protagonist Mel, a bartender who falls for a customer and their partner. Sweet and sometimes spicy, ‘Triple Sec’ breaks the mold for traditional romance in a way I found refreshing and unique.” –Laura

When Mel, a jaded bartender at a New York City cocktail lounge, gets asked out on a date by the beautiful, funny Bebe, who is in an open marriage with her husband Kade, she thinks it will just be a fun romp. But when she feels a spark with Kade too, she gets swept into a polyamorous relationship for the first time, learning that love might be more expansive than she ever realized.


“Aspects” by John M. Ford

“Ford is one of the most influential writers of science fiction/fantasy you’ve never heard of. He invented modern Klingon culture, gave Neil Gaiman his start and was a lifelong buddy of Robert Jordan. He only wrote a handful of books, and nothing in a series. This book was supposed to be his series, and the five sonnets published in the back were meant to map to each of the novels, but he died tragically young with the first book unfinished. Neil Gaiman compiled the chapters that John had mailed him and finally managed to get them published, last year, almost 20 years after they were originally written.” –Tim B.

At last, the final work of John M. Ford, one of the foremost science fiction and fantasy authors of his generation, has been published posthumously. Enter the halls of Parliament with Varic, coron of the Corvaric Coast. Visit Strange House with the archmage Birch. Explore the mountains of Lady Longlight alongside the Palion Silvern, Sorcerer. In the years before his unexpected death, Ford combined fantasy and magic in “Aspects,” a novel unlike any other.


“Sister, Maiden, Monster” by Lucy A. Snyder

“Author Lucy Snyder takes your head for a spin with ‘Sister, Maiden, Monster.’ Between the covers, you will find yourself at once disgusted and flushed red with scenes that combine steamy [woman loving woman] romance with stomach-churning body horror. It is not for the faint of heart, but the propulsive, always-pining-for-more plot will keep your nose to the spine.” –Leo

A viscerally futuristic story, “Sister, Maiden, Monster” takes place in the aftermath of a virus that has torn across the globe, transforming its victims in nightmarish ways. Amid the world’s collapse, dark forces bring together three women who must evolve to survive. Erin, once quiet and closeted, acquires an appetite for a woman and her brains. Why does forbidden fruit taste so good? Savannah, a professional BDSM switch, discovers a new turn-on: committing brutal murders for her eldritch masters. Mareva, plagued with chronic tumors, is too horrified to acknowledge her divine role in the coming apocalypse, and as her growths multiply so too does her desperation.


“Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World” by Christian Cooper

“This book tells the fascinating story behind the Central Park birder whose viral video during the pandemic shocked the nation by exposing the racial tensions that linger in contemporary American culture. Cooper not only talks about his avid birding pursuits, he also discusses his days at Marvel, where he introduced the first gay storylines into the world of comics.” –Carrie

In May 2020, Christian Cooper, a self-described “Blerd” (Black nerd), was birding in Central Park when what might have been a routine encounter with a dog walker turned into an explosion of racial tensions – and a video that went viral. In “Better Living Through Birding,” Cooper tells the story of his life leading up to the now-infamous incident in Central Park, including his days at Marvel Comics, where he introduced the first gay storylines, and shows how a life spent looking up at the birds prepared him to be a gay Black man in America today.


“Horrorstör” by Grady Hendrix

“It’s entertaining and even though it’s a spooky book, it’s a cool page-turner with much needed dashes of humor. The book looks like an Ikea catalog (amazing idea), as the story takes place at night inside of an Ikea-like store. While there are scenes that make you feel scared of the dark, there’s never a moment when it’s too frightening to read alone. The characters are uniquely likable, and the book makes you wonder: What would you do if you were trapped in your haunted workplace with your co-workers and some ghosts determined to never let you escape?” –Mikayla

At the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, something is amiss. When employees come in each morning, they find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets and smashed Liripip wardrobes. The furniture superstore is the contemporary haunted house in this hilarious and terrifying tale, with three employees volunteering for an overnight shift to solve the mystery. It’s in the dead of the night that they’ll patrol the empty showroom, investigate strange sights and sounds and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.


“Not Here to Make Friends” by Jodi McAlister

“Set behind the scenes of a ‘Bachelor’-like reality show, this character-driven romance asks the question: But what if we made each other worse? This book has it all: friends to lovers, second chances, fairy tale romance, and a true understanding of what makes reality television fun to watch. ‘Not Here to Make Friends’ makes everything it does feel brand new, a treat for experienced romance readers (and reality watchers), as well as for those who’ve never read any before. And if you’re looking for more realistic reality TV history, there’s an excellent history of the genre by Emily Nussbaum called ‘Cue the Sun!’ coming out next month.” –Brigid

Reality TV producer Murray O’Connell is the showrunner for reality dating show “Marry Me, Juliet,” and that means he’s the boss. He controls the cast, the crew and the story. Until Lily Fireball turns up. Lily is everything viewers love to watch: She’s feisty, dramatic and never backs down from a fight. Her villain narrative should be easy to pull off, but Murray keeps getting in her way. Because before she was Lily Fireball, she was Lily Ong – Murray’s best friend – and he’s determined to stop her blowing up her life on television. As the season unfolds, Lily and Murray go head to head. Lily just wants to have some fun with her role, and Murray just wants to film the show he planned. Why won’t she listen to him? And why can’t Murray focus on the job, instead of the woman he thought was just a friend?


“The Hero of This Book” by Elizabeth McCracken

“Former Somerville Public Library librarian Elizabeth McCracken traveled to London in 2019, 10 months after her mother, Natalie Jacobson McCracken, passed away. Traveling alone, McCracken takes in everything around her while also recalling similar trips with her mother, using her recollections as a springboard to dive into her mother’s life. Like the author and her mother, this hybrid novel-memoir is compact and mighty. Full of beautiful writing, ‘The Hero of This Book’ is simultaneously poignant, tender and so, so funny. If you like Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Strout, you’ll love Elizabeth McCracken.” –Cathy

The narrator of “The Hero of This Book” takes a trip to London, one of her mother’s favorite cities, and once there finds herself reflecting on her mother’s life and their relationship. A writer, the narrator remembers everything that made her mother extraordinary: her brilliant wit, her generosity, her unbelievable obstinacy, her sheer will in seizing life despite physical difficulties. While she wants to respect her mother’s sense of privacy, the woman must come to terms with whether making a chronicle of this remarkable life constitutes an act of love or betrayal in this searing examination of grief and renewal.