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Holly's Picks

Book Cover for Leading So People Will Follow Andersen, Erika
Leading So People Will Follow

If you've been in management for a while, you've probably read your share of management books. The advice starts to run together after a while, so you might be hankering for something new. Try Leading So People Will Follow by Erika Andersen. Joseph Campbell is mentioned in the first few pages, so you are immediately aware that this isn't your average MBA-produced book. Andersen uses a fairy tale to illustrate 6 different leadership qualities: farsightedness, passion, wisdom, courage, generosity, and trustworthiness. Andersen offers easily digestible, practical tips for gaining these qualities. For example, she gives some really great tips on how to delegate, which is a skill that eludes many managers. This is a great title for managers or aspiring managers who like to think outside the box when it comes to leadership.
Recommended February 2014

Book Cover for House at Sugar Beach Cooper, Helene
The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood

In The House at Sugar Beach, Helene Cooper tells a very personal coming-of-age story, set against the backdrop of Liberian civil unrest. Many readers will relate to the aches and triumphs of her adolescence and her attachment to her parents, while learning much about the African country founded by freed American slaves. As the book opens, seven-year-old Helene moves with her family to a huge, isolated oceanfront home. Due to her ancestors’ role in creating the country, Helene is brought up in a very wealthy environment and is considered a “Congo.” The “Country” people, or original inhabitants of Liberia, aren’t so lucky in most cases. The book reads like a novel, as we are only provided with the narrator’s perspective. But because our narrator is a journalist, we have scenes involving first crushes and school dances juxtaposed with coups and riots. The bulk of the book focuses on her time in Liberia, but Helene does eventually move to the States, and we learn a bit about her life here: her less-than-perfect assimilation into American high school and college, and her journey into a career with the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Check this title out before Helene’s visit to Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Monday Night Lecture Series on February 10, 2014.
Recommended January 2014

Book Cover for Accidentally Amish Newport, Olivia
Accidentally Amish

27-year-old Annie Friesen has used her powerful brain to build a successful software company from the ground up. Now her business partner and lawyer (soon-to-be-ex) boyfriend are conspiring to take it all away from her at any cost. To escape their evil plan, Annie stows away in a lumber truck and lands in Colorado Amish country, a place she would have never thought she belonged, but dreamy, blue-eyed Rufus the carpenter might convince her otherwise. Now that she has the chance to unglue herself from her smartphone and laptop, Annie can finally see the world for what it is. Accidentally Amish is a refreshing break from your everyday romance novel. This is the first in a series, so you have to keep reading to find out what happens with Annie and Rufus!
Recommended September 2013

Book Cover for London: the Essential Insider's Guide Adams, Tim (editor)
London: the Essential Insider's Guide

In this travel book, novelists, art curators and other talented people share their favorite places in and around London. You can learn both secret things about familiar places, and familiar things about secret places. In other words, you can look at the British Library in a new light with Adam Chodzko, a multimedia artist, or you can learn about Ravi Shankar Restaurant, one of a number of South Indian restaurants tucked away in Bloomsbury, with Lucretia Stewart, London native and travel writer. This is a great title in a not-run-of-the-mill series of travel books: "City Secrets".
Recommended August 2013

Book Cover for How to Be Black Thurston, Baratunde
How to Be Black

Written by The Onion digital director, this book is half-memoir, half-essay on contemporary race, and fully hilarious. The alternate title for this book was Post-Racial America is Some BS, and Other Thoughts on How to be Black. Thurston ties together stories from his own life — growing up in DC, attending Sidwell Friends School and then Harvard — with commentary on current events such as Barack Obama's election. He writes: “Through my story, I hope to expose you to another side of the black experience while offering practical, comedic advice based on my own painful lessons learned."
Recommended May 2013

Book Cover for Budapest Noir Kondor, Vilmos
Budapest Noir

Try this novel if you like any combination of the following: *Film Noir - because the fast plot and the sometimes seedy, sometimes altruistic characters will remind you of those old black-and-white mystery films, *Crime Fiction - because the plot centers around protagonist Zsigmond Gordon, journalist, solving a murder that the police are at best ignoring, *Budapest - because most of the book takes place there, and many famous Budapestian places are visited, including the New York Cafe, *World War II history - because this book takes place in 1936 and offers interesting insights into the political and cultural zeitgeist of Hungary leading up to War, *Politics - see above, *Trams - our fine protagonist rides them everywhere, *Boxing - because the sport figures somewhat prominently in the plot, *Cigarettes- everybody's smoking them, *Gutsy, Independent Ladies - because our fine protagonist is dating one.
Recommended October 2012

Book Cover for Bright's Passage Ritter, Josh
Bright's Passage

Bright is a World War I veteran come home to West Virginia. He marries a close family friend and begins to farm the homestead built by his parents. Then the horse starts talking to him. Bright listens. It appears that horse has been possessed by the spirit of an angel who chased after Bright, from a bombed church in France to rural West Virginia. Bright and his infant son set off on a journey guided by the angel, fleeing vengeful neighbors and natural disasters. Accomplished songwriter Josh Ritter forays into novel writing in Bright's Passage, and the result is a narrative with precise prose and a taut trajectory, weaving in examinations of psychology and religion. Ritter's gift for storytelling certainly extends into novel form.
Recommended September 2012

Book Cover for Perfect Peace Black, Daniel
Perfect Peace

May 17th, 1940, in Swamp Creek Arkansas, Perfect Peace is born. The name is recorded in the family bible, right below six older brothers. Perfect’s mother, Emma Jean had only ever wanted daughters. She prayed hard with each pregnancy that she would deliver a girl. The 7th birth would have to be that girl, whether delivered by the Lord or not. Emma revels in spoiling her daughter, for years and years. But on Perfect's 8th birthday, Emma Jean suddenly chops off Perfect’s hair and puts her in overalls. And then Perfect becomes Paul. Emma explains, first to her husband and six sons, and then to the rest of the community, that Perfect was always anatomically a boy. What follows is a careful and painful depiction of a young person forced to navigate a rural, impoverished community with a new and utterly unfamiliar gender.
Recommended August 2012

Book Cover for Behind the Beautiful Forevers Boo, Katherine
Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Since he could walk, sixteen year old Abdul Hussain has reeked. He spends his days sifting through trash heaps to find recyclable materials to sell, as the sole wage-earner in his family of 11. The Hussains make their home in the Annawadi slum, situated just outside the Mumbai airport and next to a sewage lake. Along with their neighbors, the Hussains dream of a new life, new opportunity. In 'new' India, castes mean less as the economy grows, but not everyone can or will escape the polluted, crowded slums. According to the UN, nearly 1 billion people live in slums around the world. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is the story of a few of such dwellers. This non-fiction title was written by a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, and her prose reads much like a fiction novel. I laughed, cried, and learned. You can't ask for more from a book.
Recommended May 2012