Staff Favorites

Lynn Sherr
Reviewed by Danielle
Sally Ride

Everyone knew Sally Ride.  No one knew Sally Ride.

In the recent biography, Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr, we meet a woman, a scientist, a daughter, a sister, a pioneer, a wife, a hero. We meet someone who succeeded in slipping earth's surly bonds while maintaining the firm grounding that defined so much of who she was. We meet an enigma understood by few but beloved by many.  We meet an introvert who held the world's attention with a quiet charisma and blazing intelligence. We meet a public woman who strongly guarded her privacy and her heart. We meet strength and integrity writ large in the gentle guise of a woman with a bright smile and eyes that looked with equal importance into the depths of the universe or into the eyes of a child whose dreams took shape beyond the stars. Seemingly made of equal parts earthy groundedness and star-filled wonder, she epitomized the best of both worlds and defined the word hero for me and countless others.

The book itself would, most likely, have made her uncomfortable in its honesty but proud of its content. Sherr considered herself a friend to Ride, and the respect and love inherent to that are evident throughout the book, but there was so much hidden in the depths of who Ride was that even those considered friends barely scratched the surface of this incredible woman. One of the depths that is given a lot of consideration in the book is the fact that Sally Ride, American hero and inspiration, was gay and in a nearly 30-year relationship that very few knew about until one line was printed in her obituary naming her partner. The author's journey to come to terms, herself, with this revelation about her friend works itself into many aspects of the book.

A simple look at the cover of the book reveals so much in the bright eyes and impish glee momentarily caught as we see a dream come true, the moment when the idea of dancing in the sky became a giddy and awe-inspiring reality. Growing up as she did during a time when the world told women exactly what they could and couldn't be, she quite simply said, "No." and did as she chose. That choice resounded through a generation and will continue to resound every time another little girl steps outside, looks up and says, "Yes, I can!". That, along with the place she holds in the hearts of those who knew and admired her, is her well-earned and well-deserved legacy...a legacy boldly written across the sky like a shooting star that burns bright, remains frustratingly unreachable but leaves in its wake a shining trail of stardust for others to follow.

Reviewed by Zach
Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe

Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, Chvrches (i.e., Churches with a “v” instead of a “u”) have crafted a synthpop masterpiece in their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe. I enjoyed this album so much that I quite honestly could not remove this album from my CD player. The songs are catchy to the point of infectious, and the energetic dance-inspired beats and the ethereal vocals are perfectly offset by the reflective, oftentimes melancholy, lyrics. Think Passion Pit, M83, Depeche Mode, and 80s-influenced electropop to get a general impression of what this band sounds like, but I suggest you check it out on your own if you have even the slightest interest in this music scene. The songs “The Mother We Share,” “We Sink,” and “Lies” come highly recommended as possible entry points.

Graeme Simsion
Reviewed by Zach
The Rosie Project

If you are a fan of CBS’s hit sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, there is a very good chance you will enjoy Graeme Simsion’s hilarious and heartwarming novel, The Rosie Project. The book’s narrator and protagonist is Don Tillman, a 39-year-old genetics professor whose social awkwardness, lack of empathy, emotional shortcomings, and rigid need for rules and routine (think Big Bang’s Sheldon Cooper) are more likely to be clear indicators of an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder rather than just cute personality quirks. With his 40th birthday soon approaching and still unmarried, Don embarks on the Wife Project, creating a 16-page, double-sided questionnaire that will connect him to the perfect woman. Unfortunately, the young, beautiful, and free-spirited woman he meets through the project—Rosie Jarman, a bartender at a local gay bar—is totally unsuitable; yet he struggles to understand why he can’t tear himself away from her, even going so far as to assist her with discovering her biological father. While I don’t typically read romantic fiction, I was truly moved as Don slowly realizes that he has strong feelings for Rosie. Think of The Rosie Project as Sheldon Cooper finds love and you will have a good idea of what this book is like.

Susannah Cahalan
Reviewed by Sarah
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Brain on Fire (available at Acorn and through SWAN) is a true story about a New York Post reporter (Cahalan) who suddenly began experiencing serious health issues in her early twenties with no apparent cause. Cahalan was admitted to the NYU Medical Center when her symptoms began to include seizures and psychosis. Her symptoms resembled someone possessed, and many with her condition may have been deemed just that. While she was in the hospital for a month with no firm diagnosis, she has little to no memory of that entire time. Finally, a doctor came up with a cause of her illness just in the nick of time—a recently discovered, rare illness that affects the brain. Cahalan uses her experience as a journalist to reconstruct her time in the hospital through interviews and records, and she recounts her experiences pre- and post-illness in this very interesting memoir. Cahalan’s story reminds us of how fragile, yet resilient, the human body can be.