Summer Reading has ended

Thanks to all the readers who posted reviews on our Summer Reading blog. Don’t forget to pick up your prizes!

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Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

Dresden Files Turn CoatHarry Dresden is a private investigator in present day Chicago. He is also a wizard. Taken together, these two facts tell you almost everything you need to know about the Dresden Files series. Really, the only other relevant information is that the books are fun to read. In this particular installment Harry is heroically and possibly stupidly defending an old nemesis, the warden Morgan, from the wrath of another set of nemeses, the White Council of Wizards, while trying to keep the collateral damage amongst the non-supernatural denizens of Chicago to a minimum. There are also vampires, werewolves, a skinwalker, a hard-boiled Chicago cop named Murphy, and what is apparently a sentient island of some sort. All in all, it’s an excellent breezy page-turner.

Availability: USMAI or COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Michelle Milne, Assistant Professor of Physics
Rating: Recommended

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The Likeness by Tana French

The LikenessEarly one morning, police detective Cassie Maddox is called to a murder scene. When she arrives she is horrified to discover she looks exactly like the murder victim, Lexie. Next, the cops on scene all decide not to notify the victim’s nearest and dearest, but instead report Lexie as injured and recovering so they can send Maddox undercover in her place to investigate the crime from the inside and the plot carries on from there.

If you can accept the assertion that Maddox is capable of imitating Lexie so well that she can successfully fool the woman’s four best friends/roommates and the even more outrageous assertion that any cop anywhere would think this was a legitimate investigation technique, this is an excellent mystery. French has a genius for writing wonderfully evocative characters and beautiful prose. This mystery was much longer and more rambling that is usual in the genre, but it was a great pleasure to read.

Availability: SMCM Library
Review Submitted by: Michelle Milne, Assistant Professor of Physics
Rating: Recommended with Reservations

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The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Righteous MindThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion is an interesting take on how humans make moral decisions. The book’s thesis has two main points. Firstly, humans make moral decisions via instinct and then use reason to rationalize their decision after the fact, which the author amusingly illustrates using the metaphor of a rider (reason) carried along on the back of an elephant (instinct). Secondly, humans evaluate moral behavior using six different foundations (care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation) rather than judging behavior solely on whether it causes harm to anyone or anything. Haidt argues that the weight a person assigns to each of the foundations is closely correlated with that person’s political affiliation. This argument goes a long way toward explaining how two people from opposite sides of the political spectrum can each leave a debate legitimately convinced that they occupy the moral high ground and that the other person is morally depraved.

The book is a descriptive rather than a prescriptive study, so don’t expect any judgements on what ethical behavior actually consists of. However, it is a pleasure to read and very clearly written. Haidt concludes each chapter with a scrupulous summary highlighting his main points so that the material is easy to understand even if you have no background in ethics, philosophy, or sociology.

Availability: SMCM Library, COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Michelle Milne, Assistant Professor of Physics
Rating: Highly Recommended.

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel set in Earth’s future. To protect earth from  being attacked by aliens. The government designed a plan to breed geniuses in search for the perfect child to save planet earth. A young brilliant boy by the name of Ender lives with his parents and two other siblings. All three siblings are highly intelligent, though vastly different in genetics. Ender is a sensitive boy, his brother cruel and controlling and his sister a peacekeeper. Though Ender’s brother and sister were exceptional and wanted to join the government military training courses, the government only selected Ender for what was to become the transformation of his mind and body.

Availability: SMCM Library
Review Submitted by: Cheryl Colson
Rating: Highly Recommended


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The Best American Short Stories

short storiesThe Best American Short Stories series perfectly highlights the amazing diversity and skill of today’s writers. The book is set up in a way that each short story is like a chapter – maybe ten pages – but each story is so completely different that within an hour you can feel elated, terrified, uncomfortable and content. Topics range from road trips to Jewish women to love lost to the trouble of children. Within one book – and there are at least seven within the SMCM library, each denoting a year – you are bound to find at least one story that will appeal to you. This is the perfect thing to read when you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to a whole novel, but you want a thought-provoking way to get lost for a few hours. Even as a person new to short stories, I consider these books a must-read for anyone who needs a little pick-me-up.

Availability: SMCM Library
Review Submitted by: Jennifer Walker
Rating: Highly Recommended

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June’s Prize Winner is …

Bag of library swagMelanie Gilkerson has won the monthly prize drawing for June.

Submit a review in July to be eligible for the our next drawing. Don’t forget prizes are available for all participants who submit a review between June 3 and August 16.

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