What Should I Read Next?
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

#5 in our new regular feature that offers up staff-selected recommendations for your consideration.

undergroundrailroadColson Whitehead has been getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so, for his latest novel, Underground Railroad. In this Oprah’s Book Club Selection, Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
undergroundairlines
So, yes, read that great book, but also consider Ben H. Winter’s chilling new thriller that offers a brilliant and completely different take on the same difficult landscape by daring to mix slavery and science fiction, Underground Airlines.
In this chilling new thriller, a bounty hunter named Victor tracks fugitives for the United States Marshals Service. But his mission, like his past, is complicated: The people he’s chasing are escaped slaves. Their main crime is rejecting a life of forced servitude. And Victor himself was once one of them.
The novel is both creatively and professionally risky as it tackles the thorny subject of racial injustice in America. It takes place in a contemporary United States where the Civil War never happened, and slavery remains legal in four states, and it’s narrated by a former slave who has paid a steep moral price for his freedom. “I had reservations every day, up to the present day, because the subject is so fraught, and rightfully so,” Mr. Winters said. “It isn’t as if this is ancient history in this country.”
Both books come highly recommended, deepening the impact and adding layers of complexity to one another.

What Should I Read Next?
Mischling : a novel by Affinity Konar

We’re going to try something new here, a regular feature that will offer up some staff selected recommendations on books for you to consider.

Let’s start with a book that is both compelling and hopeful, albeit a somewhat dark as it traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning. It is more than well worth the read. mischling

It’s Mischling : a novel by Affinity Konar.

It’s 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain. That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks–a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin–travel through Poland’s devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.

booksthatchangedAnd for something a little lighter to browse, try The books that changed my life: reflections by 100 authors, actors, musicians, and other remarkable people – edited by Patrick Bethanne.

This is a quick, readable collection of reflections by prominent authors, politicians, actors, musicians, and celebrities on a book that changed their lives – maybe you’ll get some inspiration.

Dan Weiss

Check back often for more suggestions from the FML staff. Happy reading!

Constant Change

ChangeIt’s well trodden ground that the only thing that is constant is change
(thanks Heraclitus), and we’ve had more than our full share of that here over the past year.

We’ve completely overhauled our computer system, we’ve added Kindles and iPads, expanded our band-width and improved our WiFi network. We added a new, updated AWE Early Literacy Learning Center workstation in Children’s Department (thanks to a grant from the Union County Freeholders). We’ve had some major staff turnover and added some wonderful, new faces here (say hi to Mandy and Meredith and Monica) that, along with those of us that remain (Dan, Susan, Nancy, Jill, Sheldon, Anita and all our fabulous pages), have strengthened the team and are helping to make a significant difference in the day to day services we can provide.

We embraced a new logo and upped our social media visibility with both Twitter and Instagram pages to go with our Facebook presence and, along with e-notifications for coming due materials and check-out receipts, we’ve started a monthly e-newsletter. We designed and launched a new website, and now, with an ongoing eye towards improved usability and being responsive to the variety of mobile platforms we’re being accessed on, as well as stability and security, we’ve recently re-worked and re-launched our recently re-designed website.

And at the very end of 2015 we had some holiday fun on a national level when the Library’s own Hook & Needle Club’s crocheted bowls were featured in the fantastic Chex Mix yarn bombing campaign video.

And there’s plenty to look forward to coming up in 2016 – we’ve kicked off a new Family Friendly First Sunday Series with great programs for everyone to enjoy together. We’ve started regular Monday afternoon Fanwood Maker Lab sessions, to go along with the weekly Tuesday afternoon Hook & Needle knitting and crochet group and Wednesday afternoon scrabble club.

So as the new year gets under way, we’ll resolve to continue to embrace change, strive to improve our services and broaden our outreach, and stay flexible and responsive to all members of our Fanwood community and the wonderful families and library users we serve. We are confident that 2016 will (inevitably) continue to bring more, exciting changes and improvements to the already amazing Fanwood Memorial Library… and we’re ready!