Two Peoples, One Place by Ray Raphael, and Freeman House, who have both written acclaimed local history books in the past, really takes the cake. It gives a wonderful dual perspective on the rich and bloody history of Humboldt County. Going back all the way to geologic history, this books documents major points of Humboldt history told from the perspectives of both the early, Native settlers; and the later, European ones. This history is fraught with misunderstanding, as well as good and evil acts from every side of the story. It is thrilling to see this well-written, lushly illustrated contribution to the cultural and historical understanding of this wild, wonderful place we call home.  Purchase this book here!

Gretel Ehrlich is one of my favorite prose artists. Her meditations on living in Montana are so evocative and beautiful, they might as well be poetry. Imagine my glee when I discovered this little charmer, Arctic Heart, snuggled on my shelf. This poem cycle was written after a trip to the Canadian High Arctic, and in these spare, personal poems you really can feel the beauty of the ice and wind and the comfort to be found in desolation. Sorry, this book has sold!


Norman Mailer may have been a misogynistic manly man, but he can sure tell a story. I picked up Harlot’s Ghost one day in the library, just on the strength of its cover, and was entranced. The next winter, I decided to go for The Executioner’s Song. That winter, I almost had to quit my internship because I could hardly bring myself to leave my cozy chair and this utterly engrossing book for the cold of a Chicago winter. This is a book to challenge your deepest beliefs, and to make you question everything you know about guilt, society, love, and human life. It tells the story of Gary Gilmore, executed in the State of Utah in 1977. The story follows Gary through his early life; his first brushes with the law, early imprisonment, his gruesome crime, and finally, his death. The book is based almost entirely on interviews with his family members and Gary himself. Like In Cold Blood, The Executioner’s Song gives a snapshot of our justice system and the people on both sides of the decisions being made. This is a humanizing and very very sad book, which showcases Mailer’s prodigious talent in this week of his death.

I have always been a sucker for boarding school books, so Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld is right up my alley. The story is told by Lee, a intelligent if unremarkable girl from Indiana, who by virtue of good grades and uncommon persistence, achieves a scholarship to a prestigious Massachusetts school.

Upon arrival, she is thrust into a world of privilege and decadence, where the typical problems of high school (status, grades, image) are exacerbated by the extremes of wealth and the lack of supervision.

In many ways this is a very typical coming-of-age/boarding school story (I should know, I’ve read a lot of them!), what sets it apart is the candid, down-to-earth voice of Lee, a sharp kid suddenly thrust to the fringes of what amounts to a foreign society. Check it out!


The Franchise Affair

Josephine Tey is, in my opinion, one of the most compelling mystery writers ever to have been published. Her stories break out of the traditional who-done-it mold to offer interesting character studies and innovative crimes that oftentimes may not be crimes at all.

Her main detective, Inspector Alan Grant features in several of her novels, sometimes taking an active role, and other times remaining in the background, as in “The Franchise Affair”. This novel, while set in the 1940’s is based on the 18th Century case of Elizabeth Canning. The story now features the affable attorney Robert Blair, who is drawn into investigating the case on behalf of his client, Marion Sharpe. With a little bit of luck, and a lot of persistence, Mr. Blair manages to unravel a knot that stumps Scotland Yard, and may stump even the most weathered armchair detective.

To purchase this fabulous book, click here!

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