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WORD recommends these books this February.
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Fiction We Love:

 
       

After Birth by Elisa Albert (ebook available)
One of the most gloriously angry  -- and just plain glorious -- novels I've ever read, After Birth left me breathless and madly impressed. Ari is a tired, lonely new mother whose life with baby is not the one she was sold; Mina is the very pregnant former riot grrl who moves in down the street. Their friendship is complicated, messy, honest, fierce; the story Albert weaves around them is equally intense. I rarely like to make promises about how you'll think or feel after a novel, but I'm pretty sure few people could read this and look at motherhood the same way. (Molly)


The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen (ebook available)
A surrealist mystery that involves an exclusive literary society, their secret -- possibly murderous -- past, a famous disappearance, and a disease that causes the words in books to morph, scatter, change? Yeah, it's got a lot going on; but I could not stop reading and exploring the bizarre world of Rabbit Back. If you enjoy the mythic and fantastical, and don't mind an ending with a few loose ends, I highly recommend you pick this one up. (Emma)

Against the Country by Ben Metcalf (ebook available)
In this genuinely beautiful dark comedy, Metcalf skewers the Thoreau wannabes of the world. There's a long-held misconception that those raised in the country are innocent and those in the city are anything but. However, Metcalf, in rambling Faulkner-esque prose, argues that maybe it's not innocence but rather ignorance that the country fosters. And just maybe the city provides the kind of culture that kids should be exposed to in order to grow up as thoughtful, tolerant adults. As someone who loves the city, I found myself laughing out loud a lot at his observations. It's a sharp, modern look at society and America's obsession with the great outdoors. (Katelyn)
 

     

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman (ebook available)
This collection of short stories is unique. Each story is beautifully written, focusing on a different talented and fearless woman who, today, is virtually unknown, but during her own lifetime was related to a historically significant person or on the cusp of fame herself. These women are given clear voices of their own and are brought to life by Bergman's prose. She left me wanting to look up every single gutsy character in the collection so I could learn even more about them. (Nancy)

Man V. Nature by Diane Cook (ebook available

Cook's stories run straight toward the indecent, knocking hard against mankind's discomfort in the world. Whether it's the lust-filled woman's pursuit of Meteorologist Dave Santana, or the stalker looming on the front lawn of a woman who's recently given birth, each story holds a dark, fable-like quality. Cook's language and storytelling will have you feeling like there is no way out, in the best way. (Katie)

I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar (ebook available)
Here is a small story about two small, broken men. One, Hiro, is a hikikomori (or shut-in) resistant to society and the pressures of adulthood. The other, Necktie, is an older businessman, down on his luck and ashamed after being fired for falling asleep on the job. Their rapport begins in a park, where Hiro is attempting to acclimate himself to the outside world and Necktie hovers teary-eyed over his bento box lunch. Where it ends exactly is harder to say. A sensitive and emotional novel certain to appeal to fans of Haruki Murakami, Catcher in the Rye, and beyond.(Chad)

Nonfiction We Love:

  

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon (ebook available)
Quintessential cool chick Kim Gordon shares her life story in this very revealing and inspiring memoir of growing up in California, her band, marriage, and almost everything else a fan like myself has always wanted to know. Girl In A Band makes a rock goddess like Kim more relatable while making the reader feel more powerful. She really is just THAT cool. (Kirby)

The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber (ebook available) (available February 24)
Ah, bureaucracy: our sad weird giant utopia built on hold music, long lines, and paperwork. In The Utopia of Rules, anthropologist and activist David Graeber (the man who brought us Debt, not to mention the Occupy slogan "We are the 99%!") lends his acute brain-powers to the pencil pushers and cogs, approaching them using everything from Batman to Max Weber, fantasy lit to the German Postal Service. The result is a demanding, important examination of a subject that bolsters institutional violence, paralyzes the imagination, and, perhaps most alarmingly, silences the types of conversation this book starts. (Chad)

Ghettoside by Jilly Leovy (ebook available)
If the media buzz hadn't already alerted you, this is an important book. I thought I'd picked up fiction, not just because I couldn't believe the premise -- that an entire population of U.S. citizens are essentially forced into a spiral of lawlessness -- but also because of how gripping and suspenseful the prose is, punctuated with awful statistic after awful statistic. Leovy set out to write a history of violence, finding that the same pattern cropped up everywhere: a minority group without a trusted legal authority will settle their own disputes, creating cycles of viciousness and disintegrating power structures. The group in particular is young black men in south L.A. The results are captivating and heartbreaking. (Ashanti)

Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt (ebook available)
Silver Screen Fiend is an intimate and funny account of Oswalt’s four-year love affair with film. From 1995 to 1999, Los Angeles' New Beverly Cinema is his home away from home. Oswalt systematically checks off each classic movie he sees, hoping to absorb the dos and don'ts of filmmaking. Oswalt's passion for stand-up comedy runs alongside his tales of midnight shows and double features, which, mixed with his conversational tone, makes for a humorous and insightful read. While his crusade to watch them all is certainly an ambitious one, it’s one that is easy to relate to if not share implicitly. (Jasper)
 

 


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (ebook available)
I have always considered myself a feminist, but when asked why, my speech floundered, only equipped with objections for the principles of equality. Even worse, I felt that I needed to add modifiers to the word itself -- a feminist, yes, but not Extreme or Man-hating. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addresses the nebulous and  negative notions of feminism and articulates the ideology succinctly. She delves into all the sticky bits of gender politics and unpacks the baggage in a refreshingly concrete way. I honestly feel quite thankful that this book exists. (Ashanti)

Displacement: a Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
In this beautiful, heartwarming, and relatable book, Knisley has written and illustrated a beautiful and relatable memoir about a cruise she took with her elderly grandparents as their caregiver. Faced with the reality of their mortality, she has moments that are both humorous and heartbreaking. I appreciate her honesty when it comes to her frustrations. Also, for some reason, page 73 makes me burst out laughing each time I look at it. (Alyssa)

Slouching Towards Bethlehem  by Joan Didion 
There's something horrific about the late 1960s in America. Many things. Although the period ended 12 or so years before I was born, the copious evidence of that time still manages to convey its nightmares across the decades. Is there anything more frightening than acid, orgies, and the hippie Johnnys who tell you it's the only way to be free? I'm kidding (a little). Joan Didion's shrewd, wry, and compassionate perceptions anchor this intensely complex hinge of modern America, free of the hyperbole, cynicism, contempt, or reduction so common to writing of that time, or any time. (Jaye)

Books for Teens, Tweens, and Littles:

      
 

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton (ebook available)
The night Quin takes her Oath and becomes a Seeker, everything changes. She learns the ugly truth that her family has been keeping from her, but she can't do anything to fight it ... or can she? Set in two very different places -- her family's quiet, idyllic estate in Scotland and the bustling clamor of Hong Kong -- Seeker is a thrilling start to this new series. (And the author will be in Jersey City on February 24, too! Come by and get a personalized copy!) (Arielle)

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan (ebook available)

When their house burns down, twin brothers Patrick and Dom Finnerty go to stay at their summer cottage -- but Skerries, Ireland is a very different place in midwinter. The waves crash, old men walk into the sea, bad men stalk the shores, and one day someone else looks out through Dom Finnerty's eyes. Into the Grey is a haunting, atmospheric psychological thriller that investigates the love between friends and brothers -- and we learn just how powerful it can be. (Nikki)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (ebook available)
In a world where people have either red or silver blood, Silvers are rich and powerful with supernatural abilities while Reds serve them. Mare is a 17-year-old Red who, by accident, publicly discovers she has a power of her own. To cover this up, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his sons. This novel has fantasy, a corrupt government, rebellions, plot twists, betrayal, and a little romance. I loved it. I seriously couldn't put it down. (Lydia)


The Last Dragon Charmer: The Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay (ebook available)
Hilarious! Prince Caden gets banished from magical Razzon to Asheville, North Carolina, the most mundane of worlds...except maybe it isn't, because isn't that the villainous Rath Dunn teaching math? And what sort of demons are the lunch ladies? With all the out-of-place and -time confusion of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and all the madcap adventures of The School for Good and Evil, I read this book in a whirlwind, and I can't wait for the next one. (P.S. the dragon. The dragon is the best.) (Nikki)
 

 


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (ebook available)
This is the story of a lonely gorilla, Ivan, who lives in a shopping mall, painting and watching humans pass by. He doesn't think of his former home in the forest until he befriends a recently captured baby elephant. It is a tender, funny, poignant story about friendship and home, inspired by a true story. It is perfect for reading with your child and for older kids who read chapter books on their own.  Winner of the 2013 Newberry Medal. (Kerry)

The New Small Person by Lauren Child (ebook available)
When Elmore Green finds out he's losing his place as the only child, he is not happy. The new small person does so many awful things (like -- yikes! -- licking his jelly bean collection!) but can't be blamed because it's "only small." This book will make an insightful companion for any new big brother or sister, complete with Lauren Child's fantastic illustrations. (Arielle)

Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon (also available as a picture book and ebook)
This is the cutest story ever. Penguin and Pinecone become the best of friends, and Penguin knits Pinecone a scarf. But sadly, inevitably, they must part. A pinecone should live in the forest. Months (or years) later, Penguin returns to see what Pinecone has been up to. So much has changed! But they still value each other for what they had, and what they've become. It's my favorite friendship fable in years. (Emily)

 

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