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Fiction |  Nonfiction | First-Year Reading Selection
More Books for Airmchair Travelers | New Poet Laureate |  Literary Prizewinners

Ex Libris welcomes back returning readers with summer reading recommendations from library and campus readers. Our goal is to showcase Raynor Memorial Libraries’ Browsing Collection and to identify a range of contemporary fiction and nonfiction for the general reader. All readers in the Marquette community are invited to suggest books, or better, to write a brief review for Ex Libris. If you missed an alert, earlier issues of Ex Libris are available online.

Clicking on the title or cover image will take you to the book's MARQCAT record; please note locations carefully as items may be in the Browsing Collection or in the Memorial stacks. Books that are checked out may be reserved by clicking on the MARQCAT record's "Request" button.

Still looking for something to read? Check out a list of recent additions to the Browsing Collection.


The Age of DoubtThe Age of Doubt
Andrea Camilleri (NY: Penguin Books, 2012)

My idea of perfect summer reading—mystery, humor, interesting characters, and a wonderful sense of place, which happens to be Sicily. The 14th book in the author's Inspector Montalbano series continues the themes that have made Camilleri wildly popular in Italy, translated into nine languages, and adapted for a television series. Salvo Montalbano is feeling his age (58) and worries about possibly declining mental acuity needed for his job as a police detective. Single with a long-time girlfriend who lives in a distant city, he also fears he is too old to flirt with an attractive younger colleague. A body washes up in the harbor and there really is a mystery to solve amid the psychological angst, and Montalbano takes his time while bucking a dreadful bureaucracy and taking refuge in a deliciously described series of escapes to meals in his favorite restaurants. The series is exquisitely translated by an American, Stephen Santarelli, and readers might not realize that Camilleri's original language is Italian.
Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian


American Dervish: A NovelAmerican Dervish: A Novel
Ayad Akhtar (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2012)

The author’s first novel is the coming-of-age story of a young Muslim-American boy growing up in a western suburb of Milwaukee in the 1980s. Hayat Shah is the child of Pakistani immigrants who are caught between the pull of their traditional cultural values and their attempt to assimilate to their new homeland. Theirs is an unhappy marriage—the father, who is a successful physician, brings tension into the home with his unfaithfulness and drinking. Unlike his wife, he has abandoned his Muslim faith. The wife’s best friend arrives from Pakistan with her young son to escape an arranged marriage and the story becomes more interesting and complex with her arrival. Mina is a devout Muslim and she begins tutoring Hayat in the lessons of the Quran. She reads him passages of the Quran every evening and, as Hayat learns the tenets of this religion, he becomes infatuated with his “auntie” Mina. Mina is a deeply spiritual woman and through her teachings we receive a deeper awareness of the history and meaning of the Quran. Hayat’s parents each have different ideas of what being a Muslim is about and Hayat struggles to understand the contradictions between his growing faith and the behaviors he observes in his Islamic community. The author, who grew up in the Milwaukee area, presents a personal and compelling picture of what it is like to grow up Muslim in the Midwest.
Recommended by Kristina Starkus, Ordering-Receiving Librarian


Boleto: A NovelBoleto: A Novel
Alyson Hagy (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2012)

“The ravens perched high in the spruce trees, hunched like old men wrapped in buffalo robes, and watched them...” Boleto is our chance to watch Will Testerman, a 23-year-old cowboy, find his way in life. Will has been working around and with horses all his life and has spent twelve hundred dollars of his hard-earned money for the promising, unnamed filly which the ravens are watching him work. Will hopes that his training of this horse will be his ticket, if not out of Cabin Valley, Wyoming, then at least to bigger things. In the process we see Will dealing with his family—two brothers, a mother recovering from breast cancer and a gruff, demanding father—and trying to figure out how to reconcile family and personal needs. We observe Will dealing with the diverse range of people in the horse world—from the rich and spoiled to the poor and over-worked. We see Will in action from Wyoming, on his father’s ranch and working as the corral boss on a guest ranch, to Texas “where he babysat rich girls,” to Southern California where he works on a big estancia trying to learn what he can about polo ponies. Hagy shows us a young man, one of the banged-up people in the world, finding out who he is and what his place is in the world. Hagy is a lover of “place” and in this novel she shows us Wyoming as a fully-formed and important character in Will Testerman’s life. Boleto is an excellent read whether you are a horse lover or if the extent of your experience with horses is limited to the pony rides at the county fair.
Recommended by Nick Schroeder, Senior Graphic Designer, Office of Marketing & Communication


Hide Me Among the GravesHide Me Among the Graves
Tim Powers (New York: William Morrow, 2012)

A sequel of sorts to The Stress of Her Regard, this new novel by World Fantasy Award winner Tim Powers revisits his wonderfully realized Victorian London. The Romantic poets have been mostly replaced by younger poets such as Christina Rossetti (Goblin Market) and Algernon Swinburne (Atalanta in Calydon). But as with Shelley, Byron, and Keats, their poetry is aided by the attentions of the Nephilim, sometimes knows as Lamia, a type of vampiric possessor who requires human blood for immortality, but whose "attentions" provide in return a facility with language and poetry. Veterinary surgeon John Crawford, son of Stress’s protagonist, finds himself mixed up in the Rossetti siblings’ struggle to free themselves of their uncle, the suicide John Polidori, and Miss B., another ancient being. Crawford’s first family was killed by these ghostly parasites, and now his new and fragile family is in danger as well. Filled with arcane blood rituals and meticulously created new mythologies, this vintage Powers “secret history” weaves together actual historical characters such as the Rossettis (Christina, Maria, Gabriel, and William), the poet Swinburne, and the adventurer Edward John Trelawny (who really did swim across the Niagara and now we know why), to present a phantasmagorical explanation of their grim and death-obsessed poetry. This literary work of atypical fantasy is not exactly a light summer read, but it will transport you to chilly, rainy, gas-lit London and leave behind the scent of garlic and blood.
Recommended by Bill Gagliani, Stacks Supervisor


Hitler's NieceHitler's Niece: A Novel
Ron Hansen (New York: HarperFlamingo, 1999)

Summer readers often prefer relaxing or light-hearted fare. Hitler’s Niece is neither, yet the book is too good not to include in Ex Libris. Hitler’s Niece is a well-researched and compelling historical thriller. But be warned: it takes the reader to a very dark place. The title character is Angelika (Geli) Raubal, the daughter of Adolph Hitler’s half-sister, Angela. The novel traces Geli’s life from her baptism in 1908 to her death (reportedly a suicide) at age 23 in Uncle Adolph’s Munich apartment. At the center of the story is Geli’s relationship with Hitler, the subject of much rumor and conjecture over the decades. Hansen presents a vivid and utterly believable account of their interactions. Geli begins her life in middle class comfort; her Uncle Adolph is the destitute black sheep of the family. When the early death of Geli’s father leaves the family impoverished, Uncle Adolph re-enters the scene, now a celebrated war hero filled with political purpose. He lifts Geli out of poverty, paying for her education, and showering her with gifts and favors. Hitler’s obsession with Geli grows in step with his rising political power. Geli died in 1931, two years before Hitler became Germany’s chancellor. Hansen implies that Hitler’s efforts to dominate his niece foreshadowed his treatment of the German nation. Hansen enjoys a reputation as a leading Catholic novelist. To fans of Mariette in Ecstasy or Atticus, the Catholic angle in Hitler’s Niece will seem relatively muted, perhaps because of the suffocating sense of evil that permeates Hitler’s rise to power. Yet the wretchedness and depravity of the Nazis actually amplify the novel’s transcendent moments, making them seem like gulps of air to a drowning soul. How readers react to this book could hinge on their opinion of Hansen’s Geli. She struck me as basically a decent person, though sometimes petty, vain, and unreflective—in other words, a lot like the rest of us. None of us, however, has been trapped in the nightmare world of Hitler’s inner circle. In Hansen’s telling, Geli ultimately responds with a desperate kind of bravery. She speaks truth to her uncle’s power and pays the price.
Recommended by Bill Fliss, Archivist


RedshirtsRedshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
John Scalzi  (NY: Tor, 2012)

Star Trek fans will recognize the phrase "redshirts" as the minor characters, the extras, that get killed while on "away missions" off the ship. Scalzi’s latest novel takes that premise and runs with it when he asks "what if the redshirt characters knew what was going to happen to them?" Ensign Andy Dahl gets a plum assignment in the xenobiology lab on board the starship Intrepid. He settles in, makes friends, gets sent on a couple of away missions, and yes, loses a friend. But he and his friends have been noticing the odd things happening on board the Intrepid: his colleagues in the lab always disappear when certain commanding officers are near, handsome Lieutenant Kerensky regularly gets seriously injured but always recovers unrealistically quickly, and then there is The Box (it solves intractable scientific problems). Dahl and his friends come up with a plan to try to circumvent their likely deaths, and to regain control of their lives. The main body of the novel is fast-paced and slick, and has some enjoyably snarky dialogue, but it doesn’t offer a lot of emotional depth. It does have lots of pop cultural comedy and gentle mockery (Hollywood gets more than its share). It is in the three codas that Scalzi fleshes out the consequences of his novel’s premise on minor characters—here three of his extras are given a say and finally the larger questions of love, self-determination, and responsibility are considered. This is perfect for summer reading: a quick, easy read, with some good laughs as well as a bit of thought. You do not have to be a hard-core Star Trek fan to enjoy this!
Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian


The Wise Man's FearThe Wise Man's Fear: Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2
Patrick Rothfuss (London: Gollancz, 2011)

This fantasy door-stopper will not be for everyone: it is almost 1,000 pages, and you really should have read the first volume, Name of the Wind (only 660 pages!), in order to enjoy it fully.  Like the Harry Potter books (but written for an older audience), this series has magic, a coming of age story, a hunt for legendary creatures, and a quest for justice. The framework for the books spans both the present and the past: in the present (written in the third person), the mild-mannered, depressed innkeeper Kote unwillingly tells stories about his legendary youth to two men in the dining room, while ominous signs develop in the country outside. But most of the narrative takes place in the past (told in the first person), as young Kvothe narrates significant events from his life. In Name of the Wind, he tells of growing up as a precocious child in a troupe of traveling performers, and after their murder, as a homeless kid in a big city; he tells of finagling his way into the university of magic, and making friends and enemies. In Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe continues at the university, but then is suspended from school. While suspended he finds temporary work in a distant region, gets some training by an order of mercenary soldiers, and is seduced by a faery. What ties the books together and connects the two timelines, is that Kvothe is on the hunt for the Chandrian, the supposedly mythical creatures who killed his family and who have some bearing on the unrest in the series’ present. Though Wise Man’s Fear could have been tightened up considerably, Rothfuss’ writing is very good and kept me coming back. Kvothe is sometimes an insufferable conniving brat, sometimes unbearably caring and kind, and always insatiably curious. The contrast between the young, determined Kvothe, and the older, downcast Kote is a puzzle that drew me in. Now the wait for the Day 3 volume begins!
Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian


Dancing BarefootDancing Barefoot: The Patti Smith Story
Dave Thompson (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011)

Artist, poet, singer, songwriter, and activist Patti Smith is a paramount figure in the U.S. punk rock movement. In 1967 Smith was attending college for a teaching degree in art, when she dropped out to go to New York City to become an artist. With little money Smith’s strong will helped her not only to survive, but to thrive in the big city. Smith met a kindred spirit, another young, unknown artist by the name of Robert Mapplethorpe. Together they met New York’s elite countercultural artists, poets and musicians. Smith began performing her poetry in New York bohemian clubs, eventually adding music. The Patti Smith Group was born and went on to international acclaim. Musical journalist Thompson relates Smith’s experiences in the music world drawing from numerous prior press interviews. In 1980 Smith married fellow musician, Fred “Sonic” Smith (originally of the Michigan hard-core rock group, MC5) and for the next 15 years, she dropped out of the music business, living with her husband in a Detroit suburb where they raised their two children. When her husband unexpectedly died in 1995, Smith returned to New York where she continued her music career. Smith is still recording today and in 2007 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Smith also become an acclaimed author with her 2010 award-winning memoir, Just Kids, that details her relationship with Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989. This book provides excellent background on this highly influential musician and artist known today as the "Godmother of Punk Rock" and whose music continues to touch millions.
Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian


Health Care ReformHealth Care Reform: What it is, Why it's Necessary, How it Works
Jonathan Gruber  (New York: Hill & Wang, 2011)

Health Care Reform is Jonathan Gruber’s attempt to enable readers to absorb the dryly-written 2,000+ page Affordable Care Act (ACA) in an entertaining and easy to understand graphic novel format.  Gruber can hardly be considered an unbiased expert on the subject, as he was both the architect of the Massachusetts health reform law and a key participant in the design of the ACA. The content does have a slight partisan lean, but his point is to educate people about ACA, not debate it. The graphic novel format forces him to be concise and he does a good job explaining the reasoning behind the law and how it will impact individuals and companies. It is a fast read, but if you are already knowledgeable about the law’s basics and are looking for more detailed information, you are better off looking elsewhere. Gruber provides a further reading page at the end, which is not exhaustive but provides a good list of initial primary sources. The subtle black and white drawings by Nathan Schreiber are not visually stunning, but don’t distract the reader from the content, which is the important thing. Like Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón's The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, Gruber has utilized the graphic novel medium to make accessible a lengthy and dry, yet important content.
Recommended by Eric Kowalik, Instructional Designer, Research & Instructional Services


My Stone of HopeMy Stone of Hope: From Haitian Slave Child to Abolitionist
Jean-Robert Cadet (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011)

This is the memoir of a modern-day slave who managed to escape his servitude and some of its long-lasting effects. At the age of four, Jean-Robert Cadet was given away by his father to work as a domestic slave for another family. At roughly fifteen, he was first abandoned by his "host" family, then sent to join them in America, and finally kicked out onto the streets of a New York City suburb. With the help of two teachers at critical points in his youth, somehow Cadet found a love of learning which allowed him to create himself anew, and work to get beyond mere survival. Cadet first started writing about his childhood as a letter to his young son, a letter that turned into the book Restavec, published in 1998. This book expands on that, including some much darker stories, e.g. witnessing a murder by the Tonton Macoutes, the paramilitary police; many stories about learning the ins and outs of racism in the US and how it differs from racism in Haiti; and learning to love and live in a family. Fortunately, some of the stories about his acculturation to the US can make you scratch your head in bemusement, and lighten the overall tone of the book. Cadet also tells of his life since Restavec: returning to Haiti hoping to find his father but finding his mother’s family instead; working to help other restavecs; and visiting Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Cadet estimates that there are 300,000 restavec children in Haiti and his overriding message is that until Haiti treats all of its children well, with education for all, the country will not be able to escape its current poverty, crime and corruption. The book is both fascinating and painful to read.
Recommended by Valerie Beech, Research & Instructional Services Librarian


The ObamasThe Obamas
Jodi Kantor (New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 2012)

This is an engaging traditional political narrative with a distinctive point of view. Its chapters literally march through the Obama presidency dealing with a few months each, ending in the summer of 2011, a low point that included the debt limit imbroglio. For political junkies like me there are tasty retellings of still familiar events from the angle of the insiders involved. And, of course, feuds and jealousies among the staff appear regularly, the most prominent ones involving William Gibbs vs. Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel vs. everyone. The distinctive point of view comes from the author’s relating how all these events impacted the Obamas’ marriage. The couple arrived in the White House with a common distaste for the cut and thrust of everyday politics and for the constrictions that public exposure put on their private lives. It took two years for them to accommodate the constrictions, define their new roles in public and with each other, and learn to use the tools of public power effectively. The book ends with Michelle better than Barack at using the public stage of the White House, while he worked to turn himself into a more effective traditional politician and a better communicator with the American people.
Recommended by John Jentz, Research & Instructional Services Librarian


Reality HungerReality Hunger: A Manifesto
David Shields (New York: Knopf, 2010)

In collage fashion, David Shields mixes and juxtaposes 618 aphorisms, mini-essays, provocative statements and quotations with his own thoughts to present a two-fold argument: that the non-narrative of reality—elusive, contradictory, and more interesting—is spelling the end of the novel's long reign in literature and the digital age is calling into question copyright in relation to art. None of Reality Hunger's items are attributed within the text and Shields fought to publish the book without any attribution at all, arguing that citation belongs in the realm of journalism—not art. The Random House lawyers won out and the book contains an appendix of citations, preceded by a statement from Shields imploring the reader to remove the appendix. Shields argues that digital age techniques such as sampling in hip hop, auto tuning and digital mash-ups, have moved art away from original creation to creating with found objects. Value has shifted away from a copy toward the many ways to "recall, annotate, personalize, edit, authenticate, display, mark, transfer, and engage a work." Despite pulling content from various contexts, Shields creates a cohesive work and the narrative flows seamlessly from one item to the next. His controversial argument that fiction is on the decline may not sit well with everyone, but his insights on copyright and creating with found objects in the digital age provide delectable food for thought. Those interested in a further examination of the creative and commercial value of creating with found objects, including the related debates over artistic expression, copyright law and money might want to view the PBS film Copyright Criminals.
Recommended by Eric Kowalik, Instructional Designer, Research & Instructional Services


Satan is RealSatan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers
Charlie Louvin and Benjamin Whitmar (New York: ItBooks, 2012)

There doesn’t seem to be much Whitmer here—it’s all in Charlie’s colorful voice, gritty and grim—and that’s what keeps you reading. Charlie and his brother Ira invented a form of close, ghostly, high harmony country music style in the late 1940s. After many rough and tumble years on the road they finally charted a couple records and were invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1955. They split up in 1963 and Charlie began a reasonably successful solo career that continued until his death in 2011, shortly after finishing this book. Don Everly, of the Everly Brothers, put it plain and simple in a comment on the back of the book, “They influenced everybody.” Gospel, pop, country, rock—from the 50s to the present, the Louvin Brothers continue to echo through the decades. Their catalog is still routinely sampled, and their songs re-done and re-recorded by stars like Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Gram Parsons, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers, just to mention a few. They were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. From Sand Mountain, Alabama, and a childhood of extreme poverty made much worse by an ugly, abusive relationship with their father, Charlie and Ira never escaped violence, brutality, alcoholism, and borderline insanity during their twenty-some years of working and recording together until Ira died in a car crash in 1965. The book doesn’t pull any punches in descriptions and recollections, and includes fascinating and often bizarre encounters with stars like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff, and Bill Monroe during their years of touring with country greats. They were punk, gothic country pioneers long before that genre was born and their hellfire gospel songs preached “choices” and the inevitable wages of a life of sin. Along with a great, gritty story of never giving up against some terrible odds, there is a dark, primitive kind of rhythmic cadence in Charlie’s narration that keeps the pages turning and puts Satan is Real in a place above most musical biographies.
Recommended by Bruce Cole, Technical Services Librarian  


Slinging the Bull in KoreaSlinging the Bull in Korea: An Adventure in Psychological Warfare
John Martin Campbell  (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010)

Part memoir and part scholarship, Campbell chronicles his experience in the ARCS (Air Resupply and Communications Service), an Air Force enterprise in psychological warfare prompted by the outbreak of the Korean War. Katherine Kallestad’s introduction provides much needed context regarding the war, which helps the reader follow Campbell from his initial call to service, training on the production and distribution of propaganda, and his experiences practicing his craft in Korea. The first four chapters are mainly nostalgic memoir full of interesting anecdotes from the author, but chapter five is where the book turns from memoir to valuable scholarship. In addition to a lengthy bibliography of works pertaining to psychological warfare, the real gem of this chapter is the 50+ pages of propaganda leaflets produced by both the UN forces and their North Korean counterparts. Campbell provides a brief explanation of each piece and for some includes feedback on the effectiveness of a particular leaflet received from debriefs with North Korean POWs. So how successful were the psychological warfare operations in Korea? Early in the war, among 120,000 UN prisoners, 12,000 were persuaded to surrender by psychological warfare, primarily leaflet operations. The financial cost to the United States of “psywar capture” to conventional capture or kill was probably a ratio of 70 to 1 in favor of psychological warfare. The success of the psywar campaign proved that the following phrase posted outside one of the ARCS’s offices was right on target: "El toro es mas fuerte que la bala" (The bull is mightier than the bullet). The Libraries also offer an ebrary digital edition of the book.
Recommended by Eric Kowalik, Instructional Designer, Research & Instructional Services


Sweet Judy Blue EyesSweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music
Judy Collins (New York: CrownArchetype, 2011)

Known for her breathtakingly beautiful voice, singer/songwriter/social activist Judy Collins has been a part of the music scene since the early 1960s. In 1968 Collins had her first top ten hit, the Joni Mitchell-penned “Both Sides Now.” Fast forward four decades: Collins has recorded 38 albums and is still considered one of the greatest singers of modern times. In her autobiography Collins provides a very frank, open look at her life covering her family, her music and recording career, her friendships and her battles with alcoholism and depression. Pregnant and married at 19, Collins was encouraged by her then-husband to sing in restaurants and taverns for extra money to help ends meet. Audiences were mesmerized by Collins’ unique, captivating voice. Soon, Collins was working large venues and became friends with folk singer greats such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Collins also discusses some of her unsuccessful relationships, one of which was with Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, and Nash.) Stills went on to write the song “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” for her, which became a huge hit for CSN in 1969. Collins’ battles with alcohol and depression were severe and lasted more than two decades. Now happily married, Collins has been sober for more than 23 years. Unfortunately not all has turned out well. Her only child, Clark, had drug addiction issues all his life and at the age of 33 he committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. Collins has since become an advocate and speaker for mental health causes. Collins’ autobiography allows us to witness her bittersweet life from her early years to the date. This is an excellent read if you are interested in the lives of U.S. music icons.
Recommended by Rose Trupiano, Research & Instructional Services Librarian


A Wedding in HaitiA Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship
Julia Alvarez (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012)

Alvarez, a professor of creative writing at Middlebury College in Vermont, is well-known for her novels, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) and In the Time of the Butterflies (1994). So this slim real-life travel story surprises. The backstory is that Alvarez, a native of the Dominican Republic (D.R.), had established with her husband an organic coffee farm and literacy center in her homeland. She had come to know a young Haitian boy, Piti, as an employee and later promised to attend his wedding when the time came. “One of those big-hearted promises you make that you never think you’ll be called upon to deliver someday.” The book consists of a hair-raising and dangerous driving trip from the D.R. to the distant “boonies” in Haiti; and a repeat visit to smuggle Piti’s new family out of Haiti and into the D.R. without papers. The story brings a close-up view of both pre- and post-earthquake Haiti through the eyes of Alvarez and various fellow wedding travelers. The long-held culture clash of the two countries melts away among the festivities and friendships forged by the wedding.
Recommended by Susan Hopwood, Outreach Librarian


WildWild: From Lost to Found
Cheryl Strayed (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)

Early on in Wild, the account of a young woman’s solo journey through the Pacific Coast Trail, Cheryl Strayed shares the story of how she came by her last name. After her mother’s unexpected death from cancer at 45, Strayed’s life seems to unravel. Her family slowly dissolves all ties in their grief, her life moves across the country and back and then wanders to and fro as her husband pursues his dreams, and the choices Strayed makes seem worse and worse until finally, she seems to hit bottom. Staring down the divorce papers waiting for her signature, the author signs her new name—not her mother’s, not her father’s, not her husband’s, but hers—in an act of definition, and almost defiance. Strayed, she chooses, because “its layered definitions spoke directly to my life.” Strayed, meaning to wander from the proper path, to deviate, to be lost, to become wild, and so on. If Cheryl Strayed’s life before her PCT trip was one of wandering aimlessly, of being lost and straying from the path, the journey she embarks upon in Wild is the tale of how she found her way again. It might seem cliché to say that her walk on the PCT was one of soul-searching, was life altering, was the start of a new beginning. But in the end, all of these things are true. Her memoir—always honest, sometimes brutally so—is the true story of how to be lost, and how to find yourself again.
Recommended by Liz Wawrzyniak, Evening Reserves Supervisor


Half a Life Half a Life
Darin Strauss (San Francisco: McSweeney's, 2010)

"Half my life ago, I killed a girl." So begins this year's first-year common text. In unblinking honesty, Strauss tells about the accident that would haunt him to the present day. The internationally-bestselling writer Darin Strauss is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, winner of the American Library Association's Alix Award, and (for Half a Life) the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. Before he published Half a Life in 2010, Strauss wrote three novels: Chang and Eng (2000), The Real McCoy (2002), and More Than It Hurts You (2008). Since 2002 Marquette University has asked all incoming new students to read a common text and engage in a discussion during New Student Orientation. For more about the author, book reviews and discussion questions, see the Libraries' research guide. See more about the First-Year Reading Program on the Office of Student Development website.


Our July 2011 Ex Libris summer reading suggestions of travel and adventure books proved so popular we decided to add some new ones this year. These recommendations were gathered from regular Ex Libris contributors.

The Black NileDon't Mention the WarsParis I Love YouTurn Right

The Black Nile: One Man’s Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World’s Longest River by Dan Morrison (Viking, 2010). Journalist Morrison enlists a friend to travel in a small boat from Lake Victoria, 3,600 miles to Cairo and the Mediterranean. In a humorous tone, he documents tribal conflicts, disease, and poverty in an Africa largely unseen in mass media.

Don’t Mention the Wars: A Journey Through European Stereotypes by Tony Connelly (Dublin, New Island, 2009). Irish news correspondent Connelly sets out on a tour of Europe to test the modern-day credibility of long-held cultural stereotypes. The result is a thought-provoking, intelligent and often funny critique of ten countries as seen through the eyes of locals, ex-pats and Connelly himself.

Paris, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2012). A young writer moves to Paris (2007-08) to work in an advertising agency. His anecdotal account of a year of language problems and cultural differences and of his love affair with the city is sometimes lyrical, sometimes comical, and very enjoyable.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams (Dutton, 2009). Part history, part adventure, part archeology, and all fascinating! The author recounts the 1911 “discovery” of the ancient city by stepping into the shoes of Yale professor Hiram Bingham III.


Natasha Trethewey

The Library of Congress has named Natasha Trethewey the 19th U.S. poet laureate. The 46-year old native of Mississippi is a  professor of English and creative writing at Emory University. In addition to her 2006 Pulitzer-award-winning collection, Native Guard, she has published Beyond Katrina: a Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), and Domestic Work (2000).  She will begin her duties in September.

Literary Prizewinners

Song of 
	  AchillesMalcolm X book jacket book jacket


The Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, announced in June, went to American author Madeline Miller for her first novel, The Song of Achilles (Bloomsbury, 2011). In making the award the judges' chair said “This is a more than worthy winner—original, passionate, inventive and uplifting. Homer would be proud of her.” The prize is given annually to a novel written in English by a woman.

The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded in April. The committee caused a stir by not awarding a prize for fiction for the first time since 1977. The prize for history went to Manning Marable for Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. John Lewis Gaddis won the biography award for his George F. Kennan: An American Life, reviewed in the March Ex Libris. The general nonfiction award went to Stephen Greenblatt for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. The award for poetry was given to Tracy K. Smith for Life on Mars.


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