Dad's Maybe Book by Tim O'Brien

Staff Pick

In 2003, Tim O'Brien began “a few short messages in a bottle that my kids might find tucked away in a dusty file cabinet long after my death.” Then his son Tad proposed he write a “maybe” book: which all writers do at the outset. “We are all writing our maybe books full of maybe tomorrows, and each maybe tomorrow brings another maybe tomorrow and then another until the last line of the last page receives its period.” If this sounds hokey, think again. Dad’s Maybe Book (Houghton Mifflin, $28) explores ambiguity. Tender, funny, and poignant, it reveals O’Brien as father, magician, Vietnam vet, and reader (especially of Hemingway) as well as O’Brien the writer. Though he believes his obituary will call him a “war writer” really he is anti-war, anti-absolutism. “This entire maybe book, like our lives, is full of maybes…and it’s okay to say ‘maybe’ even when you believe you have access to some self-evident ironclad miraculous and eternal Truth.” The most poignant chapter—“An Immodest and Altogether Earnest Proposal”—suggests we eliminate the word war from our vocabulary, substituting killing people, including children. This reframes not only our best war literature but also our values themselves.

Dad's Maybe Book By Tim O'Brien Cover Image
ISBN: 9780618039708
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Mariner Books - October 14th, 2019

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

Staff Pick

2016, the lunar Year of the Monkey (Knopf, $24.95), began for Patti Smith with a west coast concert tour, during which she saw her friend of forty years, Sandy Pearlman, succumb to a cerebral hemorrhage. She later watched the decline of another old friend, Sam Shepherd, and felt the acceleration of time as she turned seventy, couldn’t sleep, and took up walking at night. Smith survived all this and, exhibiting no symptoms of “dried-up poet syndrome,” recounts it with the same matter-of-fact yet slightly bemused tone that made her previous memoirs so engaging. Taking what comes, Smith turns it all into remarkable language; whether describing a deserted café that has “a J. G. Ballard kind of gone,” or a patch of blue wildflowers looking “as if it had been seeded by sky,” she is our great poet of ambience. Fittingly for a time permeated by “an atmosphere of artificial brightness with corrosive edges…[and] an avalanche of toxicity,” Smith moves frequently and without warning between daily life, memories, and dreams, intermittently receiving “transmissions” from a neon Dream Inn sign. Between dreams, she references a wide range of films, music, and books; makes the rounds of cafés; and snaps many of the Polaroids that complement this vivid, poignant, and deeply satisfying narrative.

Year of the Monkey By Patti Smith Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525657682
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf - September 24th, 2019

Mighty Justice by Dovey Johnson Roundtree

Staff Pick

Dovey Johnson Roundtree (1914-2018) is not a household name—yet. However, what this absolutely inspiring woman was able to accomplish for civil rights was revolutionary and should make her one. In Mighty Justice: My Life In Civil Rights (Algonquin, $16.95), Roundtree, with co-author Katie McCabe, regales us with hard fought triumphs over gender and color barriers. As a Howard University School of Law graduate, she became one of the few African American female attorneys of the time. With that came many defeats, but she showed her strength with a few powerful victories over Jim Crow laws. And from there, her law practice prospered. She went on to spearhead the female minister movement of the AME Church, combining her ministry with her law degree to fight for disadvantaged children and families. Woven throughout this memoir are Roundtree’s personal stories of struggling with the racism that was eating away at the country she loved and wanted to help. Roundtree is an American hero who makes this country beautiful.

Mighty Justice: My Life in Civil Rights By Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Katie McCabe, Tayari Jones (Foreword by) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616209551
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Algonquin Books - November 5th, 2019