Facts: One for Every Day of the Year by Tracey Turner and Fatti Burke
DJCZ0QYUEAQ6nC4.jpg
Tracey-Turner.jpg
IMG_7639_web.jpg

'Facts: One for Every Day of the Year' by Tracey Turner and illustrated by Fatti Burke

This beautifully illustrated book is perfect for all those fact loving kids (and adults )out there. There is a fact for every day of the year; funny, shocking, astonishing, surprising, mind-blowing, scary facts. The layout and brief descriptions also make the book the perfect starting point for lots of interesting conversations and quizzing!

Did you know, for example, that during an average lifetime, your heart will beat about 2.21 billion times and you’ll take around 672 million breaths? Or that cash money isn’t always made of metal or paper. That pepper was used in Europe as money, while Dogs’ teeth were used as currency in New Guinea. 

Or did you know that not all blood is red? That lots of creatures have yellow or green blood and that cockroaches have white blood!

There is something in here for everyone - Facts! promises to be the gift that keeps on giving!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Facts: One for Every Day of the Year! 

Hannah Gough
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
 
rebel-of-the-sands-1.jpg
alwynhamilton-3379resized1.jpg
 

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, reviewed by Natalie Kelly-Haigh. Thanks Natalie!

Meet Amani, the Blue Eyed Bandit. Her life seems to be closing in on her, trapping her into the hell she has always been planning to escape. Having only what she thought were her blue eyes from her father that she never knew, her mother was the only one she had. Her mother told her stories of a city, full of freedom and opportunities for them. A place where they could go and find Amani’s aunt. Instead her mother is killed when Amani is young, and Amani confides in teaching herself the skills in firing a gun up on the far and hidden sand dunes that surround her only reach of life. Only to come back later to the only place she has to call home; to the sexist, traditional and close minded people she hates.   

Her desperate tries to get money to leave to the city her mother described, lead her to an arena with a gun and a scarf to mask the girl behind it. While shooting for money, her unusual blue eyes call on the title of the Blue Eyed Bandit. When all hope of leaving seems lost, the mysterious foreigner she shot with in the arena and hid in her shop, saves her. After brutally sacrificing a friend, she seizes her only chance at freedom, and rides across the empty sand dunes on a godly creature with a broken compass to guide the way. 

When the last piece of hope she thought she knew turns out to be a lie, she follows her connection with the foreigner, running from pursuers and chasing a goal. However Amani doesn’t actually know, what that goal is… 

The Rebel of the Sands is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read, the story so well told that it blesses those that read it. If you’re looking for a good book, this story has it all. 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Rebel of the Sands! 

Hannah Gough
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
 
anotherdayinthedeathofamerica.jpg
gary-younge.jpg
 

Reviewed by Hannah Gough

The Guardian journalist Gary Younge picked at random one day (24-hour time frame) in 2013 in which ten young people were killed by guns in America. 

Each chapter of the book is devoted to one of the ten victims and varies in length as some are more in-depth as Younge was dependent on the willingness of friends and family members to be interviewed. In the book Younge opens up the stories of the young lives while at the same time weaving in his own personal journey in undertaking this investigation. 

This book helps to put a human face to the gun-related death statistics which are flashed before our eyes regularly in the media. ‘Another Day in the Death of America’ reminds you that behind the numbers are actual young children; take Jaiden Dixon for example, a 9 year old boy who had been slow getting ready for school that morning but didn’t make it off his front porch before he was shot dead.  

As Younge states, this is not a book about race or gun control, it is about understanding the circumstances that resulted in ten young people being shot and killed in a 24-hour period. This is not an extraordinary day in terms of murders in the USA, none of these deaths made the news: it was ‘just another day’. 

The book is relevant on so many levels especially since the underlying structural problems of gun control or lack thereof in America are still unresolved. This book will make you feel emotions which are warranted given the shear number of gun deaths – take the time to read this book. 

I will leave you with this poem by a freshman student named Tyler who went to school with one of the youths killed. 

We hope to live,

Live long enough to have kids 

We hope to make it home every day

We hope we’re not the next target to get sprayed…

We hope never to end up in Newark’s dead pool

I hope, you hope, we all hope. 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Another Day in the Death of America! 

 

Isabella Smith
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
 
f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9f.JPG
Angie-Thomas.jpg

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

The Hate U Give is a brutally honest book, speaking up about the very real issue of police brutality and giving a strong voice to the Black Lives Matter movement.  It unapologetically gives insight to the reality of racial bias in the justice system, through the eyes of a 16 year old girl whose world is shattered because of it.

Starr lives on the border of two completely different worlds; the rough neighbourhood where she lives and her posh high school in the suburbs. On one hand her “normal” consists of  gunshots, gang violence and riots. But despite all that it is where her true roots lie and a home she could never abandon.  On the other side exists a sense of safety, secureness and protection. But with it comes a cost to conceal her true self, she becomes the non confrontational Starr who holds back her slang and doesn't give anyone a reason to associate her with “ghetto”.

However the fine barrier between her two worlds clash when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her best friend Khalil. Another case of police brutality, another unarmed kid who did nothing wrong but was merely shot based on his race and colour, another name to add to the list of R.I.P hashtags, another person who deserved better.

Now Starr finds herself caught up in the middle of it all. Being the only witness to Khalil's death, only she knows the truth. What she says or doesn't say could determine everything. She is torn between fighting for justice for her friend or keeping quiet to avoid meeting the bullet herself.

This heartbreakingly powerful novel demands for change in the current police force and justice for those individuals who are harassed for their colour. It is a critically important read as it is not only informative and compelling but also teaches readers to stand up and use the greatest weapon they have ; their voice.

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Hate U Give! 

 
Isabella Smith
The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
 
 

Reviewed by our very own Hannah Gough!

If you enjoyed the podcast Serial, this is a book for you!

True crime literature doesn't do it justice, as the author Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevichsuccessfully weaves in her own story. We don't live in a black and white world where people who commit crimes are wholly evil. However, how does one come to terms with a man who has confessed and is indeed guilty of a child's murder? Ricky is on death row when we first meet him and Alexandra is a young law student, but the story takes you back to the very beginning of both of their childhoods to try to make sense of it all. If you are ready for the journey, I cannot recommend this book enough. It reads like a thriller while calling into question the very essence of who we are as human beings.

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Fact of a Body! 

 

Isabella Smith
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
 
 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

What goes through the mind of a truly lonely person? What does it feel like to have to live, when you really would rather not? In a world where social connections and physical appearance can make or break you, how do you cope with people’s stares and a total lack of friendships?

Every once in a while, a news report will reveal the true number of people who live lonely lives and most of us know people who at one point or another have experienced loneliness, but much like depression used to be, loneliness is today very much a taboo subject - often seen as a sign of weakness and therefore rarely a topic of conversation except in the abstract.

Enter: Eleanor Oliphant. 

A young woman with a dark past and a very predictable present. A life that follows the exact same schedule every single day, the same job, the same clothes and the same two bottles of vodka. 

“….usually, I don’t speak from the point at which I state my destination to the bus driver on Friday night, right through until I greet his colleague on Monday morning.”

Gail Honeyman’s debut novel “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” is a wonderful introduction not only to a lovable character but also to her world - a world where everything must stay very simple, very practical and very much the same. Any unexpected movements and she risks facing demons better contained safely within the confines of a regularly scheduled Wednesday afternoon telephone conversation. She has to stay strong, in control. Her password of choice....Seneca’s words: “Fire tests gold and adversity tests the brave”.

But Eleanor knows something is wrong - she knows she is lonely and the struggle between the safety of the known and the promise of unknown land her in a tug of war. 

“I took one of my hands in the other, tried to imagine what it would feel like it was another person’s hand holding mine. There have been times where I felt that I might die of loneliness. People sometimes say that they might die of boredom, that they’re dying for a cup of tea, but for me dying of loneliness is not hyperbole. When I feel like that, my head drops, and my shoulders slump and I ache, I physically ache, for human contact - I truly feel that I might tumble to the ground and pass away if someone doesn’t hold me, touch me.”

”People don’t like these facts, but I can’t help that”.

Fortunately for Eleanor, however, life refuses to be controlled and random acts of kindness force her to embark on a roller coast ride of chance encounters and risk taking her outside of the carefully set boundaries of her meticulously planned life - while stockpiling pills for a quick exit. 

“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” may not seem like the perfect summer read, but believe me…it is! It is a heartwarming, funny and illuminating novel about the plight of so many people who live quietly among us, whose lives we don’t understand or appreciate. It is also the story of the power of parents over their children - for good and for (very) bad - and the responsibility of society to the children who need us the most. Finally, it is a novel about the wonderful unpredictability of life and how just one person can mean the difference between light and utter darkness. 

 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine! 

Isabella Smith
I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi
 
 

Reviewed by our very own Luaras Morina

I first heard about Luvvie Ajayi and her debut book on “The Read” podcast, which is hosted by Kid Fury and Crissle. Unknown to me, Luvvie Ajayi is a famous blogger, pop-culture critic and comedian. I was convinced that thiswas going to be my next book and I couldn’t wait to read it.

My first impressions, when starting to read the book, were that Luvvie Ajayi is honest, funny and likeable. She made me laugh out loud. Not like a when you text “LOL” in a serious face but like a serious and uncontrollable laugh out loud.

The book is split into four parts: Life, Culture, Social Media and Fame. I was sucked into the book right away and before I knew it, I was done and left wanting more. Luvvie tells the truth in a series of essays that depict and reflect our everyday lives. From minor thoughts on people that share Facebook updates of deceased people, to the over sharing relationship fanatics that display a“Days of Our Lives” mantra, to religious fanatics and eBehaviour - Luvvie is here to judge you. Hey, she even judged me for my Instagram obsessions of #HashtaggingComplicatedSentences #SorryNotSorry

“I’m Judding You” is an easy ready with a quirky take on certain slag words that you can’t help but laugh along to. The substance in the book is an opportunity to get a better understand of today’s world. It should not be mistaken as a comedy biography but rather a serious commentary with a humorous touch.

As Luvvie says “I am not asking them [readers] to make speeches on how they have a dream. I am, however, challenging people to not stay silent as the world crumbles”.

If I were you and are looking for a late Spring-early Summer read then this is the book. I promise you that you won’t regret it. Enjoy #lifewithluaras

 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF i'm judging you TODAY!

Isabella Smith
King's Cage By Victoria Aveyard
 
 

Reviewed by our expert YA (Young Adult) book reviewer Natalie Kelly-Haigh. Read on and you will know why she is fast becoming an expert! Thanks Natalie!

"The Red Queen book series is the one that makes you question why you read any others. The recently published third book surrounding Mare Barrow’s life is called King’s Cage. After having finished the second book, Glass Sword, I got the impression that it was the end. And what a disappointing end that would have been. But it’s not. Mare Barrow is alive. However the lightning girl is not.

In King’s Cage, Mare is not thriving. She’s captured by her one, true enemy. The boy who has an obsession with her. The shadow of her loved one. The twisted monster Queen Elara forged from a young, innocent boy. The King of Norta. Maven Calore. Mare is no longer the lightning girl. She is a prisoner, a newblood unable to use her power with silence weighed on her nonstop. She grieves for her brother Shade, prays for her family, and dreams of the red flag belonging to Scarlet Guard. Mostly though, she longs for the flame of Cal, and the fierce eyes that once looked into hers. Cal can’t live without her. After having made his new alliances, he fights with the Scarlet Guard, as a weapon to them, and as a traitor to his people. The only thing valuable thing he owns is Mare’s heart. And nothing’s going to stop him from trying to get her back.

Without Queen Elara around, Mare feels she has gained one mercy. She can’t play mind games with Mare, or slither into her deepest thoughts. Now, Mare can play a few mind games of her own, tiptoeing into the hidden truths. Throughout her imprisonment, she finds depth to characters such as Evangeline, and sickening facts about Maven. She finds a world once again full of convincing masks and twisted lies. But hope is not gone. There is still a resistance. A dawn bigger than anyone could’ve ever imagined.

Life is no better than Mare’s first experience in a castle though. She has gone from being fake silver royalty, to Maven’s forged resemblance of a terrorist, and now to his pet, disguised as a prisoner. How is the public meant to take all of these transitions? Do all their alliances lie with Maven? Or is there a new rebellion, siding with the Scarlet Guard? And if so, is it for the same reasons? To rise as red as the dawn? Or something much, much deeper…

Mare is determined to find an escape. A crack she can squeeze out of. A mistake in a plan that she can hide behind. A way to wake up from this poisoned nightmare. Our story does not end with her escape though. There are more battle cries to shout, more dawns to rise. More love to share between her and Cal. More people to meet, including Shade’s child he shall never see. More secrets to uncover, more stories to reveal. This story shall rise. Rise as Red as the Dawn."

 

Reserve your copy of King's Cage Today!

Isabella Smith
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
 
extraordinary-means-9781471115486_hr.jpg
robynschneider_1.jpg
 

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider, reviewed by Sophia Christodoulou (age 13) Thanks Sophia!

Extraordinary Means is a read that will broaden your knowledge on what it is like to be a sick teenager. Lane lived a fairly normal life as a teenager: applying to colleges, hanging out with friends and family and working none stop to get into the best college. When he is diagnosed with tuberculosis he is sent to a sanitarium called Latham house where he is treated as though he is on vacation. He meets Sadie and her friends and learns how to operate at Latham to ensure he beats the disease and gets the most out of the ‘vacation’. As Lane and Sadie fall in love their world becomes filled with excitement and adventure. But when hope starts to occur and their group of friends start to get sicker, their worlds threaten to come crashing down.

If you have never understood what it is like for a sick teen or the challenges they go through, this book will help you get a better sense of how their lives operate and their perspective of of life as a teenager.

Extraordinary Means is written simply, with hints of humor, insight, and facts about tuberculosis. What I really enjoyed about this book is that it showed me issues that sick teens faced that I had never considered a problem. It broadened my knowledge about the consequences of tuberculosis and showed very meaningful insight about the characters. The writer's style reminded me of a John Green novel so I think if you are a man of his books you will love Extraordinary Means.

Thanks Sophia!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Extraordinary Means today!

Austin Sailsbury
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
 
MariaSemple.jpg
 

You know that scene from the Oscars last night? The one where La La Land won, then didn’t win? Well that could have come straight from a Maria Semple novel. The craziness, the cringing, the idea of what NEVER could, NEVER should happen, but then does. That was all very reminiscent of Maria Semple and two of the most entertaining books I have read in the past few years, “Where’d you Go, Bernadette” and her latest novel “Today will be Different”.

“Where’d you Go, Bernadette” was a sleeper. One of those strange novels almost impossible to pigeon hole and with a quirkiness that makes its success so unpredictable and therefore so much more fun.

But while in “Where’d you Go, Bernadette”, one had the feeling that Maria Semple wasn’t quite sure how “different”, quirky and edgy she could allow her main character to be, in “Today will be Different” it is obvious that the success of Bernadette has emboldened her to go all in with her new protagonist Eleanor Flood.

The novel takes place during one “out of control” day in the life of Eleanor Flood, a former (“has been”) tv writer trying to come to terms with a marooned career in a status obsessed world; her son Timby who attends an equally status obsessed Seattle private school and who owes his name to the auto correct function of his mother’s smartphone; and Joe, her hand surgeon husband who seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth.

Into the roller coaster ride of Eleanor’s day Maria Semple inserts Eleanor’s memories of the past, in particular her relationship with her sister Ivy whose life in the exaggerated southern elite culture of New Orleans adds spice as well as bewilderment to the more shaken than stirred cocktail Ms Semple offers up.

“Today will be Different” is a wonderfully funny and satirical, yet at times quite moving and serious novel that will please fans of "Bernadette" and I am sure initiate new members into the Maria Semple fan club.

Janet Maslin of The New York Times put it perfectly when she wrote in her review that “Maria Semple’s Today will be Different serves up screwball with Soul.” Happy Reading!

 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Today will be different today!

Austin Sailsbury
Girl Up by Laura Bates
 
v220-Laura-Bates-TPv3.jpg
 

Book of the Week - Girl Up by Laura Bates, reviewed by Natalie Kelly-Haigh (one of our young readers). Thanks Natalie for a strong review!

"Girl Up is like a combination of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Chicken Soup for the Soul, except not for the faint hearted.

Girl Up is a perfect, well researched and honest book. It states the facts, mocks the ridiculousness of gender inequality, and unapologetically gives the happiness and confidence that in today’s world, too many teenage girls need. Girl Up made me feel so welcome and at home, reminding me how proud I am to be a feminist.

Girl Up can be enjoyed by everyone, especially feminists who will love the articulate humour and easy relation to the author’s words. It is a needed and comforting voice that should be heard by everyone.

This book is a masterpiece by Laura Bates, who is one of the only people capable of elegantly displaying dancing vaginas, swearing and patriarchy busting. The book is so funny and many times I found myself in hysterics while reading. Laura Bates harnessed the ability to mix humour and seriousness together, in a page turning and delightful book.

Girl Up is a necessary and solid book, filled with stories from girls, experiments from children, real-life facts and Laura Bates’ mature and strong words. Laura Bates managed to juice the simple and important things to do with gender equality, pouring them into pages.

I am still amazed by the book, for it has had a real impact on me, despite how much I felt the same way towards gender equality before reading it. Girl Up is a special and unique book, designed for special and unique people. Plenty are, but I can guarantee that they will be even more so after they read Girl Up."

EMAIL US TODAY TO RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Girl Up.

Austin Sailsbury
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
 
paulinhospital_0-1-1-1.png
 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, reviewed by Alison Walker (of the Books & Company Book Club).

Paul Kalanithi was a 36 year old neurosurgeon on the verge of attaining everything he had worked so hard for over the last ten years, when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He decided to write "When Breath Becomes Air" as a two-part memoir. The first part chronicles his life from childhood, through university, medical school and his neurosurgical training, while in the second part he bravely recounts his quest to come to terms with his mortality.

"When Breath Becomes Air" is a fascinating book. Paul was academically a very high achiever and it is interesting to read that he was determined not to become a doctor like his father. He said he knew medicine only by it's absence, because of the long hours his father worked, so instead he initially pursued studies in English literature and human biology. He became interested in the brain because it enabled us to give meaning to our lives, but he never lost his love of literature and in the second part of the book he often returns to literature to help him make sense of his diagnosis and the thought of death.

Paul is an engaging writer and tells many interesting stories about his life as a surgeon, but it is the second part of the book that will remain with me for a long time. Yes, his diagnosis was extremely tragic, but I liked reading about how he coped with becoming the doctor instead of the patient, how he faced his new reality head on, and how he and his wife decided whether or not to start a family during his treatment. Despite the subject matter, it is not a book that is without hope and it is one that I am very glad I took the time to read.

Email us today to reserve your copy of When Breath Becomes Air.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
 
 

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, reviewed by Sofia (age 9).

What better way to celebrate the back to school month of August than by welcoming our new book reviewer Sofia (age 9)….and what better book to start with than Mary Poppins by P.L.Travers.

“I have read many wonderful books in my lifetime, but none were as interesting as the one I just finished. Mary Poppins by P.L.Travers is a great read. It connected to the Disney film, but it was also very different. Mary Poppins was very strict in the book. After the film was made, many people said that Walt Disney made Mary too sweet. I would agree if I had not watched the film first. When someone says Mary Poppins, I automatically think the sweet Mary Poppins from the film.

P.L. Travers had Jane and Michael as characters but in the book there was also John and Barbara, the younger Banks twins. Mr. Banks was mean, and did not often appear in the book.
The magic in the book was breathe taking. Every chapter took you through a different course of Magic. My favorite chapter was Miss Corry. It was baking magic (and I love love to bake). There was star hanging, sugar cane fingers, and much more. I truly love this book. Go to your neighborhood bookstore, Books and Company and read it yourself.”

Thanks for the lovely review Sofia!

Email us today to reserve your copy of Mary Poppins.

Austin Sailsbury
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
 
 

I thought I knew what to expect when I picked up “Homegoing” the debut novel by Yaa Gyasi – a novel of emigration and immigration, of loss and the search for a new and better life.

I did get that, but I also found myself quickly turning the pages of a novel set in the fascinating historical and cultural context of Ghana, a country I knew little about.

“Homegoing” opens with the heartbreaking, chilling stories of the African slavetrade, of wars fought between the Asante and Fante tribes with British and American slavetraders waiting in the wings ready to exploit the situation. The novel follows two half-sisters Effia and Esi born in two different villages and into two very different futures. We follow their families from 18th century Ghana to present day as some stay in Africa and some travel to America destined to a life in slavery.

The novel covers a lot of ground in its 300 pages, leaving some historical periods, especially the development and growing independence of Ghana, unexplored or at least not fully explored. In spite of each chapter’s focus on a different family member the novel never feels disjointed, as Yaa Gyasi succeeds in making each story utterly personal, intimate and relevant, willing the reader to move forward at a quick pace to discover their fates.

With “Homegoing” we are once again reminded that where we come from is an inextricable part of who we are and that – if we allow it to – it can determine who we become, for better or for worse.

Email us today to reserve your copy of Homegoing.

Austin Sailsbury
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
 
 

Marie Laure and Werner are young adults during World War II. One blind, the other an orphan; one a young French girl, the other a young German radio operator. Both find themselves in the small town of Saint Melo during the German occupation of France.

The book is a beautifully crafted tale of two people caught in situations beyond their control trying to find their way, literally through their senses. All the Light we Cannot See is full of detailed description as if Doerr is attempting to feel his way through the simple, yet multi-layered stories of kind, generous people whose lives are turned upside down by war.

Although set in the 1930s and 1940s of Germany and France, it is difficult not to read the story and its descriptions of shattering windows, basement shelters and thousands of people, families, parents, grandparents, crazy uncles and frightened children on the run without thinking of the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and devestation in Syria.

We read books like these and are moved by the plight of the characters, silently grateful that we don’t have to experience the same horrors, that the war ended and a peaceful Europe rose from the ashes.

I recently re-read passages of Anthony Doerr’s book – and once again was struck by the shortness of our collective memories. The generation that experienced the horrors of that war are still alive to bear witness to the atrocities committed and the years and reasons that led to them.
Yet, here we are, making similar mistakes, accepting – if not applauding – similar rhetoric, giving in to similar fears, one group of scapegoats exchanged for another, watching a generation of Europeans leaders who cannot agree on letting in the Marie Laures of our time.

 

Email us today to reserve your copy of All The Light We Cannot See.

Austin Sailsbury
Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
 
 

Is there a better way to tackle a grey Monday than by diving into the world of Harry Potter? Thank you for another great review, Sofia!!

“I love reading books, but none as intriguing as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rolling. I just finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book in the series. I would not suggest this book for children under seven years old. This book was a mystery yet an adventure, you thought you had the plot figured out but things twist and turn and it turns out you don’t.
I enjoyed the character choices that J.K. Rolling has in this series. Some of my favorites characters were the thirteen year old wizards, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and last but not least Buckbeak the playful hippogriff.

Like all of her books J.K. Rolling made this a real page turner. Whenever I had a free moment, I would dash to my backpack to grab my Harry Potter book. I completely tuned out the whole world while I read this book.

When I asked my classmates who had read Harry Potter only 51% of the class had read it! So don’t end up like them, because they are missing out on a great book experience.”

 

Email us today to reserve your copy of Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

Austin Sailsbury
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
 
91ePx6oDUTL.jpg
Author J.D. Vance
 

I had a very different beginning – and ending – in mind for this book review. Because Hillary was supposed to win! Right? Well, that didn’t happen and now I am more grateful than ever for having read this week’s Book of the Week, Hillbilly Elegy – A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.

The book is a memoir of a young man who has made his way from a poor white community of Jackson, Kentucky (the land emboldened by the words of Donald Trump) through the dreams of middle class America in Middletown, Ohio to the hallowed halls of Silicon Valley. But this is not your typical memoir depicting the classic American dream; it is more than anything an analysis of a country and culture in crisis.

J.D. Vance’s journey from a poor Appalachian town via the Marines and Yale Law School to success in California is a journey filled with fear, pain and hard work, but it is also a journey made possible by the love of a grandmother who in any other setting would be reported to Social Services. On the face of it this might seem like your ordinary rags to riches story. However, What makes J. D. Vance’s book so powerful and moving is the recognition that for the vast majority of children growing up in poor white America there is very little hope, if any, of making it to even the periphery of what the rest of us would call a comfortable life. It seems at times as if there is conspiracy of circumstance and coincidence that sets up hurdle after hurdle for these kids and that only a stroke of luck, a single devoted teacher or a tough as nails family member can play the role of superhero. But this surely cannot be what the children of the wealthiest nation in the world (and their parents) should have to rely on in 2016?

Hillbilly Elegy has no racial component. It does not set white communities up against African Americans and it does not address the black experience in America today (many other great books are doing that.) Yet, interestingly, many of the experiences of Vance’s family members mirror those of the poor black community in the south.

The book also describes the historic migration of entire communities from the South to the North in search of post war middle class dreams of homes, white picket fences, security and education for their children. It opens the reader’s eyes to what happened to these large communities once the dream disappeared due to globalization and financial crisis and how many of the members of these communities had nowhere to go and not much to lose.
And in an additionally interesting “twist” Vance does not blame one or the other, the system or the individual, rather describes how the downfall of this very large group of people (voters!) is due not only to an, at times, unfair society but also to the inability of individuals to understand the role they could play in their own lives.

It only took a chapter or two to realize that I had met the people (millions it turns out) who voted for Donald Trump. It wasn’t all a huge surprise – I had peered through my bubble and thought I had seen them, but really I hadn’t.

In this week of Thanksgiving I am grateful to J.D. Vance for broadening my horizon and adding color to the default “black and white”. I fear Trump and all the ugliness he embodies but thanks to Hillbilly Elegy I am less angry at the people who voted and more angry at the politicians who took advantage of them, lied to them and will without a doubt let them down.

 

Email us today to reserve your copy of Hillbilly Elegy.

Austin Sailsbury