“Chris Picks” May: Adventure/Danger

Here are this month’s five great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders! Click on a title to place a hold. To find previous Chris Picks just click on the “what to read” link at the bottom of this page or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our home page.

From the first page, I was hooked. Kurson tells the story of two obsessed men, John Mattera and John Chatterton as they search for the unfindable, a pirate ship that is unmistakably identified. In all the years of searching, just one ship has been conclusively discovered. And it isn’t the ship Chatterton and Mattera are searching for.

The personal stories of the two protagonists move this story forward. John Mattera’s life could have gone in a completely different direction as he became involved in the New York crime scene. I won’t say any more for fear of giving away spoilers.

This book is unputdownable and you’ll be reading every chance you get. Find this book and you’ll become obsessed with reading it. I did!

Juliane Koepcke’s parents were scientists in the South American jungle. Juliane grew up knowing the forest intimately and this served her well when she was just seventeen. While traveling with her mother back to her home in South America, their plane flew into a massive thunderstorm and everyone on board died. Juliane was the only survivor, but it is how she survived that’s the story. She fell two miles while still strapped into her plane seat and crashed into the leafy canopy of the very forest she grew up in.

Having lived in that forest helped her survive the days she was lost. The early segment of this book details her growing up and the life she led with her parents prior to the ill-fated trip she took. Juliane’s story is an amazing tale of survival. For those who love adventure and adrenaline-spiked tales, this is one book you won’t be able to put down.

What I found fascinating about Into the Abyss is the story of what happens after a crash and the rescue of four survivors. The crash was only part of the story. What happened to each of the survivors afterward is what gave the book its meat.

In Shaben’s book, I recognized just a bit of Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer’s book about the 1996 Mount Everest Tragedy. Into Thin Air is another nonfiction tragic adventure that anyone interested in reading this kind of book should definitely track down.

Into the Abyss is more than a plane crash story. It’s a story about the friendship that develops among the survivors. Each survivor carries both physical and psychological scars from the crash, and it’s the psychological scars that hurt one survivor more than any of the others. I’m not going to tell you which one, however. You’ll have to read the book to discover that secret.

And trust me. Once you pick this book up, you’ll be hard-pressed to put it down until you’ve finished it.

January 8, 2005. South Africa.
David Shaw, a thrill-seeker and pilot living in Asia with his wife, always sought new adventures. His newest escapade was cave diving, and not just any cave diving, but extreme diving. One of the things I look for in books I read is whether there is sufficient backstory. As with The Bureau and the Mole about the FBI agent turned spy, Diving into Darkness turned on its backstory as well. You learn enough about David Shaw and what made him tick. I also enjoyed becoming familiar with his diving friends as well.

After his U.S. Presidential defeat in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t about to sit still. For the next phase of his life, he opted to travel down a tributary of The Amazon River, one that was uncharted. Facing danger and imminent death at every turn, Roosevelt attained a goal that many thought he would never accomplish. This is quite a rousing tale, one that is a definite page-turner. Every page left me breathless, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Cinematic in scope, this would surely transfer well to the big screen.

Another tale of The Amazon. This one does not take place on the river, however, but in the jungles of the dense forest. British Explorer Percy Fawcett traveled deep into the jungle searching for the fabled El Dorado. Fawcett never returned. Author David Gann attempts to follow in Fawcett’s footsteps, traveling the most likely path that Fawcett himself took.

Fawcett brought his son Jack on the expedition. When Fawcett didn’t return, the search for his group became almost as legendary as the search for the Lost City.  Another unputdownable book.

“Chris Picks” April: Classics

Here are this month’s five great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders! Click on a title to place a hold. To find previous Chris Picks just click on the “what to read” link at the bottom of this page or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our home page.

Wuthering Heights

If you didn’t already know it, I’m a sap when it comes to romance. Wuthering Heights is one of my favorites. I love the writing style of this book. One of the features of classic fiction I enjoy is that you must pay close attention to each word as it is written. Unlike many books today, you can skip whole paragraphs and not lose the meaning of the book. With the classics, you do so at your own peril. Reading about the moors harkens back to another favorite book by Sherlock Holmes. The Hound of the Baskervilles also spends some of its setting on the English moors.

The Scarlet Letter

There have been times when I have read books that were required and disliked every minute and every page. The first time I read The Scarlet Letter in high school, I didn’t understand its meaning and found the style arcane. I re-read the book several years later and as with Wuthering Heights, it has become a must-read at least once a year. I love this book now.

Lost Horizon

I still remember the first time I read Lost Horizon in eighth-grade literature class. We had to pick a classic to read. Unlike other times when we read classics, I couldn’t put this book down. I’ve re-read it several times since and I still find I’m unable to stop reading. I’ve never been able to understand why this one classic holds such sway over me. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Hemingway

Being a writer myself, Hemingway has always intrigued me. So many of his books line my shelves. If someone pinned me to a wall and asked me my favorite, I’d have to say The Sun Also Rises. A Farewell To Arms is a REAL close second. You can’t go wrong with anything Hemingway, however.

And one children’s classic that is likely my favorite children’s book of all time is Charlotte’s Web.

“Chris Picks” March: Irish Theme

Five great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders. Click on a title to place a hold! To find previous Chris Picks just click on the “what to read” link at the bottom of this page or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our home page.

Erin Hart has a four-book series starting with Haunted Ground about several perfectly preserved bodies that are discovered in peat bogs around the Irish countryside. Nora Gavin, the protagonist of the series, must decide whether the bodies are ancient or recent.

I discovered John Banville in the late 1980s when I read The Book of Evidence, a first-person narrative about a prisoner accused of murder. I have since gone on to read other books by Banville and have yet to be disappointed. The Sea and Eclipse are two others I have enjoyed.

I read Patrick McGrath’s Asylum several years ago, at the behest of an old friend. Like Banville above, Patrick McGrath strikes me as very literate. I love his style of writing even though he touches on dark themes.

William Trevor is another Irish writer I’ve read multiple times. The Story of Lucy Gault and Felicia’s Journey are standouts. Both have dark elements running through the books but as with McGrath, the literate style of Trevor makes these books page-turners.

And one for the kid in all of us: Eoin Colfer. I read The Wish List and it was very amusing.  Laughed out loud several times throughout the book. Then of course Artemis Fowl.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Month!

See you in April.