NPL Picks: Recommended Reading
New books, reviewed for you by library staff and volunteers. Use the links to check availability or place a hold.
Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach
Reviewed by Circulation Desk Volunteer Mary Otto
“They’d driven all the way to Mr Styles’s house before Anna realized that her father was nervous.” Puzzled by this first sentence of Eagan’s new novel, we have to read only a few more pages to learn that 12-year-old Anna is the main character in a story that begins in the Manhattan Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, in 1934, when jobs are tight and her father, Eddie Kerrigan, will do nearly anything to put bread on the table. Of course he’s nervous, we soon realize, because working for Dexter Styles in his nightclub empire would lower him to the level of a gangster in the New York underworld.
Anna appears to be a good girl, devoted to her mother, a former dancer now homebound in Brooklyn and caring for Anna’s disabled younger sister. But when Anna finishes school and secures a job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the plot thickens. Soldiers leave for war and Anna soon manages to exchange her her office job for the chance to become the first female diver in the Navy Yard. She’s good at it and we admire her. Her father disappears, her mother returns to her Midwestern roots, and Anna, left to live alone in the family apartment in Brooklyn, turns out to be more complex than we had first imagined.
Egan’s book is a well-researched history of Brooklyn during the war, an engaging coming-of-age story of a woman who is both capable and canny, and a thriller. Egan is good at characterization — we care about Anna, her family, her friends. We follow them through the years, ending up with those that remain, in very different circumstances by war’s end, in California.
Dan Brown, Origin
Reviewed by Circulation Manager and Volunteer Coordinator Janis Murcic
I gobbled up Dan Brown’s new release “Origin” in three days, while an NPL volunteer is slowly and wisely savoring its revelations. Fans of Dan Brown should be pleased with, and new converts might emerge from, reading Brown’s latest fun and engaging plot on religion versus science. Set in contemporary Spain, primarily in Madrid and Barcelona, the Catholic Church, Spanish royalty, and the arts and technology take center stage when a former student of Robert Langdon, Harvard Professor of Symbology, invites him to attend an event at the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum where Langdon’s highly tech-talented and successful former student plans to reveal the definitive answers to two ancient and perplexing questions: “where humankind came from,” and “where humankind is going.” Thus begins Brown’s foray into an intriguing mystery involving Spain’s dying king and his son, the Guggenheim Museum director, a triumvirate of global religious leaders, a trail of symbols (of course!), and technology forces, all working to manipulate the outcome.
Exciting action moves from Madrid to Barcelona’s famous buildings designed by the Spanish architect Gaudi whose structures focus on nature’s elements. Against this architectural backdrop, high-tech plays a starring role, ending with an interesting prediction, of which I will say no more.
A fun read, worth it for the Spanish architecture and history alone, although the exploration of modern science makes it doubly worthwhile.