Category: Books

Five Books That Leave You With Hope for Humanity –

I gotta admit—I really struggle with dark, morally gray stories with heavy, bleak endings. I have to ration those kinds of books, limiting myself to one every 4 or 6 months. Most of it is because of depression, my constant shadow—past experience tells me that I’ll take on all those heavy emotions, and it’ll make for a pretty unpleasant week or so afterward. The rest? Personal preference for the shinier side of life.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think darker stories are important, especially as a way of processing trauma and addressing big issues. And hell, some people just like them! That’s cool. You do you. For me, though, I want to leave a book feeling like the world isn’t so bad, like there’s hope for us all if we can just keep going. And so, this list was born!

Let me clarify, though—these books aren’t shiny happy rainbows all the time. There’s betrayal. There’s death. There’s confict. But what really matters in a Book That Leaves You With Hope For Humanity is the attitude of the main characters and the overall tone of the work. Does each moment drip with existential dread and mounting hopelessness as obstacle after obstacle destroys the good guys? Nope, disqualified. Is there persistence in the face of hardship, a hopeful ending, and characters who are, deep down, Generally Good People? Sign me up.

So whether you deal with mental health issues and need to take care of yourself, or you’re just feeling crushed by The World and All Its Stuff, here are five books I hope will leave you feeling like your soul is filled with stars instead of crushing black holes.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet Becky Chambers competent ensembles SFF

All you can do, Rosemary—all any of us can do—is work to be something positive instead. That is a choice that every sapient must make every day of their life. The universe is what we make of it. It’s up to you to decide what part you will play.

If this book and its companion novels have been on your TBR for a long time, please let this be the final kick in the ass you need to actually read them. You won’t find action-packed shoot-em-up sci-fi here—remember, this is a book about the long way. What you’ll find instead are characters you will fiercely love and deeply understand, and brilliant commentary on war, the lenses through which we each view the world, and what makes a being worthy of personhood from culture to culture. The book is full of little gems of positive wisdom like the one above, and you’ll leave this book with a renewed sense of your place in the universe and greater respect for the disparate life experiences of the people around you.

The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

I believe that any dad who raises his child to believe the world is full of magic, and that there’s always hope no matter what, truly deserves for her to rescue him one day when he needs it.

This book is one of the most unique debuts of 2019, and far too many people have missed out on it. British Muslim protagonist, submarine races in a future where London is completely underwater, a Good Dad who has been mysteriously arrested, and some next level conspiracy stuff. It’s book one of a duology, so you gotta know that there won’t be easy or satisfying answers here yet. What lands this book on the list, though, is the way the theme of hope is woven throughout the book. The quote above is just one example of many. Leyla is a protagonist I’m thrilled to follow along with, because her determination and relentless spirit make me feel more powerful and capable, too. Also, that cover!

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Maybe Greta was right. Maybe everyone did have a song in them—or a story. One all their own. If that were so, Asha had found hers.

And here she stood at the beginning of it.

This one may not scream “hopeful” on the surface. The main character is a dragonslayer girl with a tragic past and a bleak future, forced into a death dealing role she doesn’t want and a marriage she’s repelled by, and living in a world full of slavery and selfish politics. The story, though! The awesome dragons who are lured by the power of storytelling! Lest you be turned off by the idea of hunting and killing dragons, I will give you a very minor spoiler and say that things… evolve over the course of the book. Most importantly, the ending filled me with the exact feeling I’m going for with this list, and the same feeling I try to end all my own books with—that feeling of the world opening up before you, with healing and possibilities and brighter futures and change on the horizon. Best of all, there are two companion novels, and the covers of all three are GORGEOUS gold-flecked additions to your shelf.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason

Courage is the best companion when going into the unknown.

An unusual and unique read with a majorly voicey omniscient narrator. This book gets called “The Princess Bride meets Princess Leia,” and… yeah, actually, that works. It’s a full integration of fairy tale tropes in a spacey science fiction setting. Our hero, Rory, is fiercely smart, has a magical BS meter, and can cook up a political scheme with the best of them. I will never be tired of girls breaking out of the cages they’re born into, and Rory does it with wit, humor, and mountains of courage.

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

You get in there and fight, Emmett. Be worthy. Not in their eyes, but in yours. Break the rules you need to, but never forget who you are and where you come from. When they knock you down, and they will, don’t you quit on me.

This book doesn’t pull punches. There will be deaths that hit you in the feels, and plenty of twists and turns. There’s also powerful social commentary, a fighting spirit, and that relentless drive to do what’s right for family, friends, and humanity. This now-complete trilogy wraps up with plenty of drama, action, and pain, but never loses that feeling that got it on this list to begin with.

Originally published January 2020.

M.K. England is an author and YA librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls rural Virginia home. When they’re not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the D&D table, digging in the garden, or feeding their video game addiction. They love Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in their presence. You’ll regret it. M.K. is the author of THE DISASTERS (2018) and SPELLHACKER (January 2020), both from Harper Teen.


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Three New Books That Stare Up at the Stars – The New York Times

Civilization and the Stars
By Jo Marchant
386 pp. Dutton. $28.


It’s easy to forget, but for most of human history, the night sky was the best show around. Barring cloud cover, the ethereal haze of the Milky Way dominated as neighbor planets shone among stars too numerous to count. Meteors injected drama with their fiery trails. The moon, in its regularity, marked the passing of month and season. The dynamic night sky was ever-present, and as such played a crucial role in the development of art, agriculture, science, religion, politics and more, argues Marchant, a science journalist, in “The Human Cosmos.” Outer space and humanity’s relationship to it, she writes, is foundational, even inextricable, from culture itself.

Marchant’s story starts on the walls of Lascaux cave in southwestern France, discovered in 1940, adorned with pigment depicting animals like bulls and ibexes. Scholars have argued over the meaning of the paintings, which could have been created as far back as 37,000 years ago, with some believing they were “art for art’s sake.” But more recent interpretations support the idea that the paintings were fertility calendars for animals, connecting them with constellations prominent during mating season. If it’s correct, the earliest known markings left by humans provide a direct line from Earth to the sky, humanity to the cosmos.

From here, Marchant takes the reader on a ride through Western civilization. We learn of Babylonian scholars and the ancient Greeks. Marchant details the fascinating difference between star maps used by Polynesians who settled on islands throughout the vast Pacific over thousands of years, and the approach of Western explorers like Cook.

Marchant is a deft writer. Her characters are vivid, and her stories flow. The unexpected connections she makes between, for instance, a person on LSD and an astronaut’s experience being in space — both report feelings of otherworldly interconnectedness — are often quite satisfying.

“The Human Cosmos” is a reminder that the forces that shape humanity far precede modern people and will persist long after we’re gone. “There’s nothing bigger than the cosmos,” Marchant writes.


Order, Chaos, and Uniqueness in the Solar System
By Paul Murdin
280 pp. Pegasus Books. $27.95.

A few years back, a Martian dust devil made news. The Curiosity rover had snapped a series of gray-scale shots of a ghostly white spout moving past the camera and then out of view behind a hill. It wasn’t the first time extraterrestrial weather had been captured by a rover or probe, but it felt like a particularly charming moment for a planet that many people assume to be a lifeless, inert rock.

“The Secret Lives of Planets,” like those dust-devil photos, is also a charmer. Murdin is an astronomer and his descriptions are clear and sentences precise. While various scientists make appearances throughout, it’s not the human personalities that are the main draw. The author trains his attention on the discoveries themselves and descriptions of the evolution, day-to-day activity and projected future conditions of our planetary neighbors as well as our home base. There’s surprisingly enough drama in these details to keep a space-minded reader turning the pages.

In “Secret Lives,” all planets, including dwarf planets like Pluto, the asteroids Ceres and Vesta, and the major moons of the solar system get their own chapters, which felt great. Just because a celestial body doesn’t quite meet current planetary requirements doesn’t mean it’s not a fascinating place to visit.

Ceres, for instance, is the largest globe in the agglomeration of asteroids just beyond Mars. It was on its way to becoming a full-size planet, but Jupiter’s looming presence (gravity) kept it from collecting more material. “Arrested development,” the author writes. A reader learns that Jupiter, itself a roiling ball of gases and the biggest planet of them all, would have become a star with only 30 percent more mass.

Perhaps one of the most exciting recent planetary rendezvous of the past few years has been the 2015 flyby of the New Horizons probe with Pluto, an almost complete planetary mystery until recently. The probe captured stunning landscapes: mountains made of water ice, glaciers made of nitrogen and winds that carry methane snowflakes. It’s a beautiful, chilling scene, and one that redoubled my gratitude for home.

How Stones From Outer Space Made Our World
By Tim Gregory
299 pp. Basic Books. $30.

Gregory is a geologist with an enthusiasm for storytelling. His “Meteorite” covers both cultural and scientific history and the present-day study of the fireballs that screech through the atmosphere, explode above and crater our planet, revealing secrets of how our solar system came to be. Meteorite hunters chase the remnants all over the globe to be sold at a cost that, per ounce, often exceeds the value of gold.

Humanity has a long history of using and revering meteorite material. In the early 1900s, archaeologists at a site in Iran discovered metal beads made of iron that predate the Iron Age by 3,000 years. How? Modern analysis revealed the beads’ material came from space, specifically chunks of rock that reside in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. “There is something stirring about humanity’s first contact with iron — a metal that so much of our civilization is built upon — being iron of a celestial origin,” the author writes.

One of the main allures of meteorites to scientists, Gregory explains, is the fact that most of them are like clocks frozen an instant into the formation of the solar system. Earth rocks can take a geologist only so far, giving just a partial story of our planet’s origins. But meteorites still contain flecks of dust from the first millions of years of our solar system’s life, a snapshot of all that came before any planets coalesced.

At the moment, a robotic probe called OSIRIS-REx is on its way back from a close encounter with an asteroid named Bennu where it scooped a sample of soil to be analyzed in late 2023 here on Earth. Reports from space indicate that the sample container was so full it’s not been able to completely close; material is being shed in transit. But if all goes well, there will still be enough dirt and rock left for scientists to analyze a kind of pristine meteorite — one that’s avoided the heat of re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere and will be able to tell us so much.


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DC Teens Reflect On Police Brutality, Racial Justice In Kids’ Books – DCist

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The 10 Best Books of 2020 – The New York Times


CreditCredit…Artwork by Luis Mazon



In Millet’s latest novel, a bevy of kids and their middle-aged parents convene for the summer at a country house in America’s Northeast. While the grown-ups indulge (pills, benders, bed-hopping), the kids, disaffected teenagers and their parentally neglected younger siblings, look on with mounting disgust. But what begins as generational comedy soon takes a darker turn, as climate collapse and societal breakdown encroach. The ensuing chaos is underscored by scenes and symbols repurposed from the Bible — a man on a blowup raft among the reeds, animals rescued from a deluge into the back of a van, a baby born in a manger. With an unfailingly light touch, Millet delivers a wry fable about climate change, imbuing foundational myths with new meaning and, finally, hope.

Fiction | W.W. Norton & Company. $25.95. | Read the review | Listen: Lydia Millet on the podcast

A mystery story, a crime novel, an urban farce, a sociological portrait of late-1960s Brooklyn: McBride’s novel contains multitudes. At its rollicking heart is Deacon Cuffy Lambkin, a.k.a. Sportcoat, veteran resident of the Causeway Housing Projects, widower, churchgoer, odd-jobber, home brew-tippler and, now, after inexplicably shooting an ear clean off a local drug dealer, a wanted man. The elastic plot expands to encompass rival drug crews, an Italian smuggler, buried treasure, church sisters and Sportcoat’s long-dead wife, still nagging from beyond the grave. McBride, the author of the National Book Award-winning novel “The Good Lord Bird” and the memoir “The Color of Water,” among other books, conducts his antic symphony with deep feeling, never losing sight of the suffering and inequity within the merriment.

Fiction | Riverhead Books. $28. | Read the review | Listen: James McBride on the podcast

A bold feat of imagination and empathy, this novel gives flesh and feeling to a historical mystery: how the death of Shakespeare’s 11-year-old son, Hamnet, in 1596, may have shaped his play “Hamlet,” written a few years later. O’Farrell, an Irish-born novelist, conjures with sensual vividness the world of the playwright’s hometown: the tang of new leather in his cantankerous father’s glove shop; the scent of apples in the storage shed where he first kisses Agnes, the farmer’s daughter and gifted healer who becomes his wife; and, not least, the devastation that befalls her when she cannot save her son from the plague. The novel is a portrait of unspeakable grief wreathed in great beauty.

Fiction | Alfred A. Knopf. $26.95. | Read the review


At once personal and political, Akhtar’s second novel can read like a collection of pitch-perfect essays that give shape to a prismatic identity. We begin with Walt Whitman, with a soaring overture to America and a dream of national belonging — which the narrator methodically dismantles in the virtuosic chapters that follow. The lure and ruin of capital, the wounds of 9/11, the bitter pill of cultural rejection: Akhtar pulls no punches critiquing the country’s most dominant narratives. He returns frequently to the subject of his father, a Pakistani immigrant and onetime doctor to Donald Trump, seeking in his life the answer to a burning question: What, after all, does it take to be an American?

Fiction | Little, Brown & Company. $28. | Read the review | Listen: Ayad Akhtar on the podcast

Beneath the polished surface and enthralling plotlines of Bennett’s second novel, after her much admired “The Mothers,” lies a provocative meditation on the possibilities and limits of self-definition. Alternating sections recount the separate fates of Stella and Desiree, twin sisters from a Black Louisiana town during Jim Crow, whose residents pride themselves on their light skin. When Stella decides to pass for white, the sisters’ lives diverge, only to intersect unexpectedly, years later. Bennett has constructed her novel with great care, populating it with characters, including a trans man and an actress, who invite us to consider how identity is both chosen and imposed, and the degree to which “passing” may describe a phenomenon more common than we think.

Fiction | Riverhead Books. $27. | Read the review | Read our profile

Don and Mimi Galvin had the first of their 12 children in 1945. Intelligence and good looks ran in the family, but so, it turns out, did mental illness: By the mid-1970s, six of the 10 Galvin sons had developed schizophrenia. “For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted,” Kolker writes. His is a feat of narrative journalism but also a study in empathy; he unspools the stories of the Galvin siblings with enormous compassion while tracing the scientific advances in treating the illness.

Nonfiction | Doubleday. $29.95. | Read the review | Listen: Robert Kolker on the podcast

Presidential memoirs are meant to inform, to burnish reputations and, to a certain extent, to shape the course of history, and Obama’s is no exception. What sets it apart from his predecessors’ books is the remarkable degree of introspection. He invites the reader inside his head as he ponders life-or-death issues of national security, examining every detail of his decision-making; he describes what it’s like to endure the bruising legislative process and lays out his thinking on health care reform and the economic crisis. An easy, elegant writer, he studs his narrative with affectionate family anecdotes and thumbnail sketches of world leaders and colleagues. “A Promised Land” is the first of two volumes — it ends in 2011 — and it is as contemplative and measured as the former president himself.

Nonfiction | Crown. $45. | Read the review

In his latest book, the author of “Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?” and “1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare” has outdone himself. He takes two huge cultural hyper-objects — Shakespeare and America — and dissects the effects of their collision. Each chapter centers on a year with a different thematic focus. The first chapter, “1833: Miscegenation,” revolves around John Quincy Adams and his obsessive hatred of Desdemona. The last chapter, “2017: Left | Right,” where Shapiro truly soars, analyzes the notorious Central Park production of “Julius Caesar.” By this point it is clear that the real subject of the book is not Shakespeare plays, but us, the U.S.

Nonfiction | Penguin Press. $27. | Read the review

Wiener’s stylish memoir is an uncommonly literary chronicle of tech-world disillusionment. Soured on her job as an underpaid assistant at a literary agency in New York, Wiener, then in her mid-20s, heads west, heeding the siren call of Bay Area start-ups aglow with optimism, vitality and cash. A series of unglamorous jobs — in various customer support positions — follow. But Wiener’s unobtrusive perch turns out to be a boon, providing an unparalleled vantage point from which to scrutinize her field. The result is a scrupulously observed and quietly damning exposé of the yawning gap between an industry’s public idealism and its internal iniquities.

Nonfiction | MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $27. | Read the review | Listen: Anna Wiener on the podcast

This is a short book but a rich one with a profound theme. MacMillan argues that war — fighting and killing — is so intimately bound up with what it means to be human that viewing it as an aberration misses the point. War has led to many of civilization’s great disasters but also to many of civilization’s greatest achievements. It’s all around us, influencing everything we see and do; it’s in our bones. MacMillan writes with impressive ease. Practically every page of her book is interesting and, despite the grimness of its argument, even entertaining.

Nonfiction | Random House. $30. | Read the review

[ Want more? Check out our list of 100 notable books of 2020. ]

Illustration by Luis Mazon. Produced by Lauryn Stallings.

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2020 Energy Books: Apocalyptic and Political – Energy Institute Blog – Energy Institute at Haas

A fictional book about a US-wide power outage and books about local and global politics.  

2020 has been a year like no other, even in the domain of energy books. Other than the first two below, it was a dry year for energy-themed books until the fall. Since then, there’s been a bit of a cloudburst.

  1. Total Power, by Kyle Mills. I usually stick to non-fiction in this review, but my husband saw this in a bookstore and I decided to give it a try. It’s fully in the spirit of 2020 since reality has overlapped with fiction in so many ways this year. 

The book’s hero is a CIA agent, Mitch Rapp, the subject of a multi-part series. Think of a Jack Ryan or Peter Quinn from Homeland character. The villain is an evil consultant hired by the Department of Energy to assess the possibility of a massive nationwide electricity outage. The consultant decides to implement the scenarios he has been trying to warn everyone about, partly in frustration with ineffectual government bureaucrats and bombastic legislators but mainly because he’s a really bad guy. 

You might want to take my recommendation with a grain of salt because I don’t usually read this genre, but I got sucked in. It’s definitely a page-turner, kind of like reading a script for a season of Homeland or Fauda. While it’s not great literature, the writing was decent.

More to the point for this blog, the energy details were pretty realistic. There’s a reference to the real-life Metcalf substation attack, when someone attacked a major PG&E substation that brings power to Silicon Valley by shooting at  transformers to drain them of protective oils. The evil consultant sets off the nationwide outage by infecting a number of utility and system operator computer systems with malware that sends them fake information and simultaneously dispatching ISIS accomplices to take down a couple of strategically chosen substations. The outage cascades as toppling equipment sparks wildfires, which lead to more damage. I’ll be curious to get some more expert engineers to comment, but these seemed like actions that could be pretty disruptive to the grid. And, the fact that Texas has its own grid is part of the plot.

Life in the midst of the outage sounds horrible – no running water, supply chains for food are disrupted, no communications, and its forecast to last for at least six months. By the tenth day, there are marauding gangs killing people in search of provisions.  

It’s not important to the plot, but I would also like this crowd to fact check one detail – the natural gas system still works during the outage. Does that seem right?

Maybe it’s my 2020 mentality, but the book left me with the nagging thought that something like this could happen. I would bet, for example, that 2 years ago, a book about a global pandemic would have sounded implausible.

  1. Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States, by Leah Stokes. According to the “policy feedback” concept, once a policy is implemented, it gathers steam and is hard to derail. To use one of Stokes’ non-energy examples, because Obamacare provided coverage to enough people who were previously uninsured, it created a set of passionate defenders who now work hard to block its repeal. Stokes sets out to explain why this kind of positive feedback loop hasn’t (always) worked for state-level clean energy policies. She focuses on the role of interest groups – from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to environmental groups – and tells detailed stories about the recent history of clean energy policy in several states.

I liked this book a lot. It’s a bit wonky – it’s got figures, copious endnotes and citations galore. But, I was interested in the intellectual debates in political science. For example, she describes empirical work that finds little correlation between lobbying expenditures and policy changes, but argues that interest groups hide their expenditures in numerous ways, making it very hard to actually measure them in empirical work. Plus, Stokes writes very well and she highlights some provocative, unsettling anecdotes. For example, she describes how ALEC provides model legislation to help derail clean energy policies, and often targets junior legislators who haven’t yet developed their own agendas to introduce their bills. And she describes how interest groups start “astroturf” campaigns – like the Ohioans for Sustainable Jobs, who opposed a state clean energy standard –  to convince policy makers that the public is more opposed to clean energy than it actually is.

I don’t agree with one of her premises: she laments that Republicans should support clean energy policies in principle because they will create jobs, a concept that Severin and others have tried to debunk in this blog. But, this is a minor point. Overall, she’s digging into an important underbelly of our current democratic system in a particularly relevant domain for energy policies – the states.

  1. The New Map: Energy Climate and the Clash of Nations, by Daniel Yergin. If Stokes takes the hyper-local perspective, Yergin zooms out to the geopolitics of energy. His overarching theme is recent changes in the in the control of fossil fuel supply in the US (due to fracking), Russia (due to the breakup of the Soviet Union), China (due to its rising economic and political clout, exemplified by its attempts to dominate the South China Sea, through which over half of the world’s oil tanker shipments pass) and the Middle East (due to the rise of ISIS). 

I just got this book recently, and I’ve skipped around a bit, so take this as provisional, but I recommend it. Yergin is certainly a wonderful storyteller and writer. He has a reporter’s ability to find the interesting anecdote and an opinion writer’s ability to extrapolate to meta trends. My two nit-picky complaints are that the coronavirus mentions seem a bit pasted in and I found the 4 pages on the energy transition in developing countries superficial.

Severin, who has been reading the book for longer than me says, “Like his previous two books on oil, this one has a lot of useful historical and institutional detail. It is not exactly a page turner, but I found the geopolitical discussions of Russia and China particularly helpful in understanding the world today.” The New York Times reviewer was a bit less favorable than either of us.

Here is a list of books I came across recently but haven’t read. Please share your thoughts in the comments if you’ve already read them or if you have other suggestions:

Happy reading!

Keep up with Energy Institute blogs, research, and events on Twitter @energyathaas.

Suggested citation: Wolfram, Catherine. “2020 Energy Books: Apocalyptic and Political” Energy Institute Blog, UC Berkeley, November 23, 2020,


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Books of the Week Nov. 16 – 20 – The Hartselle Enquirer – Hartselle Enquirer

Reviewer: Sarah Laughmiller 

TitleA Voice in the Wind – book one of the Mark of the Lions series 

Author: Francine Rivers 

Genre: Inspirational 

During the first Jewish Roman War, a young girl is ripped from her home in Jerusalem and sent to Rome to be thrown into slavery. Serving an aristocratic Roman family, Hadassah clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance and protection.  

Torn by her love for her master’s son and her faith in God, Hadassah dares to speak up above her station. She clings to the voice in the wind for guidance.  

If you love a good romance with some danger, and if you love reading about miracles taking place, then you’ll love this book. It’s extremely encouraging to see how an ordinary person is put into extraordinary circumstances. Her strength endures through some of the toughest trials imaginable. Her faith is tested time and again.  

This is an amazing story of trust and perseverance.   

This is just the first installment of a trilogy. If you enjoy this one, you’re bound to love the other two. If you have any questions about any of our digital resources, please contact the library at 256-773-9880. Happy reading! 


Author: Marissa Meyer 

Reading Level: Young adult 

This book is a science fiction retelling of the classic story of Cinderella. The main character, Cinder Linh, is this versions Cinderella. Her evil stepmother only keeps her around because she’s a talented mechanic; however, what makes her a talented mechanic is that she is a cyborg.  

Being a cyborg makes her adept at fixing machines and androids. Her abilities catch the eye of Prince Kai after his beloved nanny droid dies. While fighting her growing attraction to Kai, Cinder is sold by her stepmother for monetary gain. Will she escape captivity and get her happy ending? 

This book is perfect for young adult readers looking for books that have strong female protagonist and romance. Cinder, already mature for her age, quickly starts changing into a fierce and loyal woman who puts the wellbeing of others before herself. She learns that she can be strong and loving at the same time. Being complex makes her strong, not weak. Her growth starts a chain reaction of all the other characters maturing into bright young adults. 





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Community Book Drive to collect books for Madison Reading Project – WMTV – NBC15

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – The Madison Reading Project is looking to give out 10 thousand books to children in need this holiday season as part of the Community Book Drive.

From picture books, graphic novels, or chapter books for older readers, the Madison Reading Project looks to give free and quality books to those children who need new reads.

The organization is looking to collect 10 thousand books and reach their yearly goal of giving away 60 thousand books.

“We’re thrilled to be able to continue our mission right now and I feel like our group has just seen even more requests come in throughout the summer and into fall,” said Childs. “We’re gearing up for the winter because there are so many kids that are going to need books over the holidays.”

Childs says that the pandemic has made it more difficult for children to get access to new books, as many are home-bound.

“They’re just really looking for anything that’s new and engaging,” she added. “With kids being at home, I think it’s even more urgent for kids to have things, especially those who don’t have the funds to be able to purchase books online or get to the library.”

Those interested in donating like-new books from home can find donation bins across Dane County or purchase new books online directly from Madison Reading Project’s Book Wish Lists.

The Community book Drive runs through December 15 to ensure books are delivered in a timely manner.

For information on the Community Book Drive, click HERE.

Copyright 2020 WMTV. All rights reserved.


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Bored after surgery, Tyler Seguin laments having to read books – Russian Machine Never Breaks

Tyler Seguin did some awesome things in the 2020 playoffs, but now I’m getting worried about him.

Seguin recently underwent a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair. The surgery is going to keep the talented centerman off the ice until the start of April and he’s already running out of things to do three weeks into his recovery.


“Coming out of surgery, with COVID going on, you know there’s nothing really left to watch on Netflix or Apple TV so I kind of starting reading books now,” Seguin said. He shrugs with an exasperated look on his face.

Here is an updated jpg of Sophisticated Tyler.

Lucky for Seguin, Peter, who is a bigger reader than I, just released a list of awesome hockey books he could read to fill time.

But if those aren’t good, I have a few suggestions.

Good luck, Tyler, during this difficult time in your life.

Do you guys have any suggestions for him?

Screenshot courtesy of Tyler Seguin/@avocadomahi


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BOOKS | REVIEWS: A Promised Land – Texarkana Gazette

“A Promised Land” by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House)

Reading Barack Obama’s deeply introspective and at times elegiac new presidential memoir, I thought often about something the writer James Baldwin said in 1970, two years removed from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and despairing about America from abroad.

“Hope,” an exhausted Baldwin told a reporter from Ebony magazine, “is invented every day.”

Inventing hope has long been the Obama project, from his early days as an organizer through the 2008 campaign, a two-term presidency and now, in retrospect, his intermittent career as a memoirist. Finally free of electoral politics, the former president concedes that the project has gotten harder, that he has struggled at times to find hope — the very thing he personified for so many.

“A Promised Land” often reads like a conversation Obama is having with himself — questioning his ambition, wrestling with whether the sacrifices were worth it, toggling between pride in his administration’s accomplishments and self-doubt over whether he did enough. Written in the Trump era, under an administration bent on repudiating everything he stood for, his elegant prose is freighted with uncertainty about the state of our politics, about whether we can ever reach the titular promised land.

On that central question, he writes glumly in the book’s preface, “the jury’s still out.”

Covering only the first two and half years of his presidency, this 701-page tome — part one of two — isn’t the usual post-presidential legacy-burnishing project. There is a literary grandness, to be sure — references to Hemingway and Yeats and dramatic renderings of moments high and low captured in sometimes Sorkin-esque dialogue. But the triumphs are tempered with brooding reflections about the inevitable limitations of the presidency. In this surprisingly fast-moving volume, the audacity isn’t in the hopefulness but the acknowledgment of its low ebb.

Readers might have a hard time determining whether Obama’s expressions of disappointment reflect his actual feelings at the time or, rather, emotions colored by the hindsight of having seen his legacy deliberately unraveled.

That muddling might be unconscious, but the general omission of Donald Trump seems intentional. Not until page 672 does Obama mention him by name, in a passage on the inane 2011 controversy over his birthplace. Obama only foreshadows Trump’s unlikely ascent by registering his concerns about rising nativism and the tribalism his election seemed to unleash, an implacable opposition party and conservative media increasingly untethered to truth.

Unspooled chronologically, the book’s first 200 pages recapture the headier days of the future president as a young man, highlighted by Obama’s evocative account of his bright-eyed 2004 address to the Democratic National Convention. He relates what it was like to feel the first spark of an electrical charge that would carry him to the White House just four years later.

“There comes a point in the speech where I find my cadence. The crowd quiets rather than roars,” he recalls. “It’s the kind of moment I’d come to recognize in certain magic nights. There’s a physical feeling, a current of emotion that passes back and forth between you and the crowd [Y]ou’ve tapped into some collective spirit, a thing we all know and wish for, a sense of connection that overrides our differences and replaces them with a giant swell of possibility — and like all things that matter most, you know the moment is fleeting and that soon the spell will be broken.”

The bulk of the book is about what happened when the spell began to break — about facing something he recalls the Czech writer Vaclav Havel warning him about early in his presidency, the “curse” of having raised his country’s expectations.

Obama took office in January 2009 amid a spiraling economic crisis, his lofty plans for change running smack into the buzzsaw of Washington’s partisan realities. Looking back on his early efforts to involve Republican lawmakers in efforts to pass a $787 billion financial stimulus package and shore up banks and automakers on the edge of collapse, Obama acknowledges his stubborn naivete; he simply “did not want to believe” that his electoral mandate meant nothing to the GOP.

The necessity of using additional billions in taxpayer dollars to bail out unsavory bankers in order to prevent a deeper economic collapse offered an early lesson, Obama writes: “Sometimes you were just screwed, and the best you could do was have a stiff drink and light up a cigarette.”

Detailing the fevered policy-making of his first two years, Obama draws a textured portrait of himself as a rookie executive — seeking counsel from aides, sneaking cigarettes on the Truman Balcony, frustrated by the constraints on his ambitious agenda but undaunted in pursuing it, even at a steep political cost. His retelling of his administration’s carefully calibrated responses to crises unforeseen — the H1N1 epidemic, the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the Arab Spring — can evoke a strange nostalgia for an era of process-driven policymaking.

His major achievements passed thanks to the Democrats’ legislative majorities, and Obama lauds the courage of vulnerable lawmakers who provided the decisive votes to enact Obamacare knowing it would cost them their seats. “How many of us are tested in that way, asked to risk careers we’ve long dreamed of in the service of some greater good?” he marvels.

Obama’s emotional restraint gives way in moving passages about fatherhood and the loss of his mother and grandmother, and in recalling moments when he seethed, as when a recalcitrant general went rogue in an interview. He lavishes praise on his staffers but is unsparing and funny in depicting some world leaders. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public projections of a “satirical image of masculine vigor” he writes, were curated “with the fastidiousness of a teenager on Instagram.”

The narrative puts the reader in the room at defining moments — “I love that woman,” Obama tells an aide after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assures him she’ll get his health care bill across the finish line — but also in the head of an acutely self-aware individual.

On finding out he’d been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he asks, incredulously, “For what?” When a candle-holding crowd gathers outside his hotel window in Oslo before the ceremony, he thinks of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The idea that I, or any one person, could bring order to such chaos seemed laughable,” he writes. “On some level, the crowds below were cheering an illusion.”

Nowhere is the heaviness of the presidency clearer than in Obama’s descriptions of deciding to authorize military action, first in Libya as part of a NATO coalition and then in the raid that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden, which concludes this volume. The ticktock of the raid’s secret planning and execution is exhilarating, but Obama reflects on the cathartic euphoria of the aftermath.

Reading an email from the daughter of a 9/11 victim after announcing Bin Laden’s death to the country, he considered the profound losses of so many, the courage of CIA analysts and Navy SEALs involved in the successful raid and the sadly unique swell of national pride and common purpose:

“The fact that we could no longer imagine uniting the country around anything other than thwarting attacks and defeating external enemies, I took as a measure of how far my presidency fell short of what I wanted it to be — and how much work I had left to do.”

Obama’s anguish is leavened, however, by his sense of history and what Dr. King called the long arc of the moral universe.

A visit to the former Buchenwald concentration camp with Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, along with a D-Day commemoration at Omaha Beach, France, “answered whatever doubts stirred in me” about how individuals can change the world. And in 2007, when Obama was still a candidate, a visit to Selma, Ala., to mark “Bloody Sunday” similarly fortified him; elders who’d endured bombings, beatings and firehoses connected their journey to his own, casting themselves as “the Moses generation” and leaving it to him, “the Joshua generation to take the next steps.”

Four years later, Obama delivered a college commencement speech in Miami, offering his presidency as proof to another generation “that the American idea endures.”

“At about the same age as the graduates were now, I’d seized on that idea and clung to it for dear life,” he writes. “For their sake more than mine, I badly wanted it to be true.”


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The 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 – TIME

In a year when the headlines were dominated by conflict around the things that make us different—race, class, gender, politics and all the other markers of identity—the best nonfiction books tore into those tensions and explored the humanity beneath. Some authors revisited historical figures to ask how their perspectives on race and religion shaped the world, for better or worse. Others shared personal stories to underscore the impact of a society that endangers people due to realities outside of their control. But all these titles call for greater awareness and empathy.

Here, the best nonfiction books of 2020. Also read TIME’s lists of the 10 best fiction books of 2020, the 100 must-read books of the year and the 10 best video games of the year.

10. Just Us, Claudia Rankine

Author and poet Claudia Rankine knows how difficult conversations about race can be: she knows they can lead to resentment, rage and even deeper misunderstandings between people. But she tries just the same to have them again and again in Just Us: An American Conversation, which blends essay, history and poetry and recounts a series of dialogues between herself and white people on a slew of thorny topics, from affirmative action to the whitewashing of history to the link between blondeness and white supremacy. Rankine sometimes finishes these talks trembling with fury, trying to hold in her emotions lest she be labeled an “angry Black woman”; other times, her counterparts reveal perspectives she hadn’t considered. Through these exhaustive (and exhausting) conversations, Rankine demonstrates how Americans of all races might begin to engage with each other with more honesty and grace—and, in the process, bridge gaps that these days can feel wider than ever.

Buy Now: Just Us on Bookshop | Amazon

9. Hitler: Downfall, Volker Ullrich

There will never be one definitive book about a figure as complicated and malevolent as Adolf Hitler, and, indeed, each year brings a horde of new books that attempt to understand the rise of the dictator and his Nazi party. But German historian Volker Ullrich’s two-volume biography, the second of which, Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945, was published in a sharp English translation by Jefferson Chase this year, stands above its peers. It is an epic book that narrates in vivid detail how Hitler reached the height of his power in Germany and to the brink of triumph as he conquered much of Europe, and then fell in a long, bloody spiral of defeat. Perhaps one of the clearest insights Ullrich gives readers is a study of the amalgam of madness and narcissism that spectacularly wowed his country and other parts of the world—until it proved his undoing.

Buy Now: Hitler: Downfall on Bookshop | Amazon

8. Having and Being Had, Eula Biss

In Having and Being Had, her collection of snappy essays concerned with capitalism and privilege, Eula Biss addresses the discomforts that come with living comfortably. At the start of the book, she and her husband have just purchased their first house, leading her to question the actual value she assigns to the items she’s considering buying. Biss investigates everything from the messaging on IKEA catalogs (which, she discovers, creepily suggest that “consumers” and “people” are not one and the same) to the origins of Monopoly, constantly evaluating the purpose these items serve in our lives. Through her precise and poetic prose, Biss makes startling observations on the inner-workings of capitalism and how it informs our perspectives on class and property.

Buy Now: Having and Being Had on Bookshop | Amazon

7. The Undocumented Americans, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

In her debut book, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio sets out to portray the nuanced, varied realities of life for undocumented Americans through a seamless blending of journalistic interviews, narrative storytelling and personal reflection. A DACA recipient, brought to the U.S. from Ecuador by her parents at the age of 5, Cornejo Villavicencio approaches her writing with bracing honesty and precision. She gets to know laborers in New York City, still suffering effects of carrying out treacherous cleanup work after 9/11, and patients in Miami seeking alternative options for medical care because they have no access to health insurance. The greatest strength of the book, a National Book Award finalist, is its many characters: Villavicencio paints her subjects not with the stereotypes so often forced on them in media coverage and political debate but instead in their full individuality and humanity—sometimes unflattering, sometimes affirming, but always real.

Buy Now: The Undocumented Americans on Bookshop | Amazon

6. Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald

When the world stopped this year, many people found themselves looking out the window, hearing birdsong replace car horns and watching green buds emerge from the frozen ground. In a moment of darkness, it was a wonderful balm to turn to nature. And in her beautiful collection of essays, Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald shows us how to better observe and comprehend the scenes around us and to enter, however briefly, the worlds of other living things, whether starlings overhead or mushrooms at our feet. In exquisite prose, Vesper Flights further establishes Macdonald as one of the great nature writers of our time—and as a ringing voice of sorrow against the ravages of climate change. Read her to be enthralled, and read her as warning.

Buy Now: Vesper Flights on Bookshop | Amazon

5. The Dead Are Arising, Les Payne and Tamara Payne

What does it take to become a political revolutionary and cultural icon like Malcolm X? For nearly 30 years, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Les Payne compiled research and conducted original interviews about Malcolm’s life to try to answer that question. Sadly, Payne died before he could finish the book, but his daughter Tamara Payne, who helped as a researcher, completed his mission. Together, they have written the essential book for understanding the force that was Malcolm, with deep insights into his childhood, his path to the Nation of Islam and his assassination. In this sweeping biography, which won a National Book Award, readers see a full portrait of a man, set against the vivid backdrop of an America torn apart by the fight for racial justice.

Buy Now: The Dead Are Arising on Bookshop | Amazon

4. Memorial Drive, Natasha Trethewey

Within the first pages of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey’s memoir, we learn of her mother’s murder. In a wrenching prologue, Trethewey reflects on the moment when she was 19 years old and visited her mother’s apartment the day after she was killed. The horrific trauma, and how she remembers it, is at the center of Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir. The book is both a chilling portrait of a mother grappling with racism and abuse and a stunning dissection of the language we use to process memory and loss. In unpacking the events that led to her mother’s tragic death, Trethewey’s voice is controlled but powerful. And though we know how the story ends, the tension in its telling never falters, making its conclusion all the more gutting.

Buy Now: Memorial Drive on Bookshop | Amazon

3. The Dragons, the Giant, the Women, Wayétu Moore

At five years old, Wayétu Moore is consumed by thoughts of her mother, who is studying in New York City on a Fulbright scholarship. The rest of the family is in Liberia, where the promise of a reunion is interrupted by the emergence of civil war. In her stirring memoir, Moore describes her family’s journey as they are forced to flee their home on foot in pursuit of safety. She narrates their saga through the eyes of her younger self, culminating in an imaginative examination of how we process hardship and dislocation. And she doesn’t stop there. Moore picks apart her experience living in Texas, where her family eventually lands, and then catapults back in time to write from her mother’s point of view as a student in the U.S. It’s an innovative and effective structure, one made possible by Moore’s ability to so effortlessly capture the many voices of her family.

Buy Now: The Dragons, the Giant, the Women on Bookshop | Amazon

2. Minor Feelings, Cathy Park Hong

Seamlessly moving between cultural criticism and her own stories, poet Cathy Park Hong dissects her experiences as the American daughter of Korean immigrants in her searing essay collection, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning. She mines both personal and collective adversity in a series of narratives that ask urgent questions about the impact of racism against Asian Americans. Hong’s essays are as impressive in their sharp nuance as they are in their breadth: she writes of her revelations watching Richard Pryor’s stand-up, reflects on how she treats the English language in her poetry and explores the space made for minorities in American literature, among other subjects. In unpacking the indignity and isolation that she can be made to feel as an Asian American—feelings too often dismissed as “minor”—Hong reclaims her sense of self and calls for compassion.

Buy Now: Minor Feelings on Bookshop | Amazon

1. Caste, Isabel Wilkerson

In a year of endless tragedy for people across the country, but especially for Black Americans, The Warmth of Other Suns author Isabel Wilkerson returned with another transformative book on identity. The product of more than a decade of research and reporting, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an electrifying work that reframes injustice and inequity in the U.S. as a caste system, not unlike those in India and Nazi Germany, with Black Americans in the position of least power. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist combines a deep study of history, interviews with experts and ordinary people around the world and frank yet moving stories from her own life to develop a compelling theory of American injustice and the roles we all play in perpetuating it.

Buy Now: Caste on Bookshop | Amazon

Write to Lucy Feldman at and Annabel Gutterman at


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