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Villanova Staff Bookshelf: Home
In the spirit of the ABC's Bookshelf, Villanova Staff regularly come together to talk about and recommend books they have read. See the details below for good reads as recommended by our staff. Enjoy!
"What are we reading, loving, being surprised or challenged by? What’s new and what have you missed? The Bookshelf is a program for dedicated readers and those who wished they read more."
Eleven years ago, six kindergartners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to. Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are. fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max--the only one who hasn't come back. Which leaves Max's sister, Avery, wanting answers. She wants to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story. But as details of the disappearance begin to unfold, no one is prepared for the truth.
Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there. Beartown is a small town in a large Swedish forest. For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together - or pulls them apart. Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. Change is in the air and a bright new future is just around the corner. Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who'll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear. With the town's future at stake, no one can stand by or stay silent. Everyone is on one side or the other. Which side would you be on?
Daniel Whittaker has left some unusual instructions in his will: in order for his three children to collect their generous inheritance, they must hand-deliver letters addressed to strangers from their father’s past. Who are these people and what was their significance to Daniel? For his eldest son, Richard, there are hidden motives for his impatience to settle the will. His sister Evonne is still hurting from decades of her parents’ disapproval. The youngest sibling, Kelly, believes she knew her father best. As Daniel’s children carry out his last wishes, each of them must confront their entrenched ideas about their father, and reconsider their own lives. What they discover is beyond anything they imagined.
Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side. The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with. Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.
The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy's body. From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm - called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo - and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie's soul. Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders' inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices - living and dead, historical and fictional - Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?
I never had words to ask anybody the questions, so I never had the answers. Abandoned by her mother as a toddler and only occasionally visited by her volatile father who keeps dangerous secrets, Justine is raised solely by her Pop, an old man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop's chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow they can almost touch - a place of staggering natural beauty that is both a source of peace and danger. Although Justine doesn't know it, her father is a menacing criminal and the world she is exposed to is one of great peril to her. She has to make sense of it on her own - and when she eventually does, she knows what she has to do. A brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power, guns and violence, in which grown-ups can't be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature, The Choke is a compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in deep trouble.
Growing up with his father in a small coastal town, all Ted knows about his mother is that she died when he was a boy. His father has brought them halfway across the world to start anew, but her absence defines and haunts their lives. When Ted meets Anthony and Claire, an intense friendship begins, carrying them to Sydney and university. They introduce him to poetry and art, and he feels a sense of belonging at last. But as the trio's friendship deepens over the years, Ted must learn to negotiate the boundaries of love, and come to terms with a legacy of secrets and silence.
Lifelong friends Jake and Alex are torn apart when they make a terrible split-second decision that ends in tragedy. As guilt closes in on Jake, he becomes increasingly determined to confess to the police. But Alex just wants to move on with life. He's got a cool new girlfriend, fancy new house and posh new school, and doesn't want his future to be ruined by a mistake in his past. Told backwards in alternating viewpoints, this gritty novel takes us through the wreckage of a broken friendship, back to the moment when everything changed
Matt and John are best friends, working-class guys trying to earn some money in Montauk for the summer. When they meet Driana, JoJo, and Stef, three friends who live a much different life of priviledge, Matt and John find themselves in a sticky situation where temptation rivals sensability. Worlds collide when the group ventures out to sea aboard a small boat that Stef sneaks out from her dad's dock. As the waves rise and the fragil vessel weakens, things go horribly wrong. Adrift at sea for days, who will have what it takes to survive?
Ester Nilsson is a sensible person in a sensible relationship. Until the day she is asked to give a lecture on famous artist Hugo Rask. The man himself sits in the audience, spellbound, and, when the two meet afterwards, he has the same effect on her. From now on Ester's existence is intrinsically linked to this conversation, and the chain of events that unravels will change Ester's life.
In 1825, in a remote Irish valley lying between the mountains and Flesk river of Killarney, three women are brought together by strange and troubling events. Nora Leahy, a widow, has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her grandson, Michael. The boy cannot walk or speak and Nora has kept him hidden from neighbours, who might see in his deformity evidence of supernatural interference. There is rumour that Michael is a changeling, a 'fairy stock', and the cause of the ill luck that swarms the valley. Down by the river, an old woman known as Nance Roche lives alone, acting as a 'doctress' to the community, a person said to possess knowledge from the Good People that enables her to cure inexplicable ills. With the arrival of a new priest and his determination to cleanse the valley of superstitious practices, the purity of Nance's actions is called into question. As misfortune begins to befall Nance's patients and her need to assert her importance to the community intensifies, Nora Leahy brings Michael to be cured. The women begin to banish the changeling and restore the healthy child, but as their desperation increases, their folkloric practices become more dangerous, until all their lives are in danger.
Kungadgee, Victoria, Australia. A weekend in late November, 2014. At Hugh and Christine Cleary's new vineyard, Whipbird, six generations of the Cleary family are coming together from far and wide to celebrate the 160th anniversary of the arrival of their ancestor Conor Cleary from Ireland. Hugh has been meticulously planning the event for months - a chance to proudly showcase Whipbird to the extended clan. Some of these family members know each other; some don't. As the wine flows, it promises to be an eventful couple of days
Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret. Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father's life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering. At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in.
An elderly man, living alone in the suburbs, thinks back on his life: the missed opportunities, the shocking betrayals, the rare moments of joy. When his 10-year-old neighbour hides in his garden one afternoon, they begin an unexpected friendship that gives them a reprieve from their individual struggles.
Swedish Lapland, 1717. A group of disparate settlers struggles to forge a new life in the shadow of the grim mountain Blackasen whose dark mythology lies at odds with the repressive, almost feudal control exerted by the church. Into this setting, Maija, her husband and two daughters arrive, yearning to forget the traumas that caused them to abandon their native Finland and start anew. Not long after their arrival, their teenage daughter Frederika stumbles across the savagely mutilated body of a fellow settler, Eriksson, in a picturesque glade. The locals are quick to dismiss the culprit as wolf or bear. Maija, however, is unconvinced and compelled by the ghosts of her past she determines to investigate a murder.
Nathan Nelson is the average son of a genius. His father, a physicist of small renown, has prodded him toward greatness from an early age--enrolling him in whiz kid summer camps, taking him to the icy tundra of Canada to track a solar eclipse and teaching him college algebra. But despite Samuel Nelson's efforts, Nathan remains ordinary. Then, in the summer of 1987, everything changes. While visiting his small-town grandfather in Michigan, Nathan is involved in a terrible accident. After a brief clinical death--which he later recalls as a lacklustre affair lasting less than the length of a Top 40 pop song--he falls into a coma. When he awakens, Nathan finds that everyday life is radically different. His perceptions of sight, sound and memory have been irrevocably changed. The doctors and his parents fear permanent brain damage. But the truth of his condition is more unexpected and leads to a renewed chance for Nathan to find his place in the world.
Tess is in trouble. Stuck on a farm outside Byron Bay, cut off from family and friends, Tess knows she must find a way to escape her violent partner to save her life and the life of her child... A chance meeting offers a way out - but can she ever trust again? Tess embarks on a desperate road trip back to the heart of her past. But what will be waiting for her at home? Will her family forgive her - and can she forgive them?
Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.
How far would you go to become someone else? Imogen is an heiress, a runaway, and a cheat. Jule is a fighter, a chameleon, and a liar. Imogen is done pretending to be perfect, and Jule refuses to go back to the person she once was. Somewhere between the mansions of Martha's Vineyard and the shores of Cabo San Lucas, their intense friendship takes a dark turn.
On a May afternoon in 1943, a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared. Only two crew members survived: one of them a young lieutenant named Louis Zamperini. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War, as Zamperini is driven to the limits of endurance.
As her parents clash over unwashed dishes and unlit fires, ten-year-old Laura works hard to keep the household running. When her mother disappears into the bush, Laura finds a farewell note and makes an impulsive decision that alters the course of her family's life. Despite her anger and grief, Laura helps her father clear their wild acreage to carve out a farm. But gradually they realise that while they may own the land, they cannot tame it - nor can they escape their past. Anchor Point charts Laura's life over the course of four decades as she tries to hold her family together and find her place in the world. Eventually, she has to confront the choices she has made and decide where she truly belongs.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant : she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. That, combined with her unusual appearance (scarred cheek, tendency to wear the same clothes year in, year out), means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kind of friends who rescue each other from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond's big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one