Tag Archives: fiction

Pulitzer Prize 2020 Winners and Finalists


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

A spare and devastating exploration of abuse at a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida that is ultimately a powerful tale of human perseverance, dignity and redemption. On Overdrive.*

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Harper)

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves. On Overdrive.*

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A tender and expansive family drama set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century: a tale of adolescence, transgression, and the conditions that have given rise to the trolls and tyrants of the New Right. , a tender and expansive family drama set in the American Midwest at the turn of the century: a tale of adolescence, transgression, and the conditions that have given rise to the trolls and tyrants of the New Right. On Overdrive.*


Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser (Ecco)

An authoritatively constructed work told with pathos and grace, that captures the writer’s genius and humanity alongside her addictions, sexual ambiguities and volatile enthusiasms.  On Overdrive.*

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century by George Packer (Alfred A. Knopf)

Draws on firsthand writings in a narrative portrait of the influential American diplomat that explores how his achievements over half a century of history were complicated by his political ambitions.

Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, And Me by the late Deirdre Bair (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

A memoir of the author’s experience writing biographies of Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir.


Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel (Oxford University Press)

A masterfully researched meditation on reparations based on the remarkable story of a 19th century woman who survived kidnapping and re-enslavement to sue her captor. On Overdrive; hoopla has audio book.*

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (University of North Carolina Press)

Race for Profit uncovers how exploitative real estate practices continued well after housing discrimination was banned. Hoopla has ebook and audio book.*

The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books)

A sweeping and beautifully written book that probes the American myth of boundless expansion and provides a compelling context for thinking about the current political moment. (Moved by the Board from the History category.) On Overdrive.*

General Nonfiction (2 winners):

The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books)

A sweeping and beautifully written book that probes the American myth of boundless expansion and provides a compelling context for thinking about the current political moment. (Moved by the Board from the History category.) On Overdrive.*

The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care by Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

An elegant and unforgettable narrative about the brutality of illness and the capitalism of cancer care in America. On Overdrive.*

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Louise Aronson (Bloomsbury)

A geriatrician, writer and professor of medicine challenges the way people think and feel about aging and medicine through stories from her twenty-five years of patient care as well as from history, science, literature, popular culture, and her own life. On Overdrive.*

Solitary by Albert Woodfox with Leslie George (Grove Atlantic)

The life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement—in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana—for a crime he did not commit. On Overdrive.*

-posted by Donna, Readers’ Services

*Syosset Public Library patrons can use their library cards to access Overdrive and Hoopla.


Book Reviews: 2 Titles by Elin Hilderbrand

Credit: Nina Subin

One of my favorite authors is Elin Hilderbrand. She has written more than 23 novels, most of which take place on Nantucket Island, MA as the locale. I’ve been reading many of her older novels for the past few months and have enjoyed every one of them. Here are two of my favorites :

Nantucket Nights (2002) 

“For twenty years, three friends have enjoyed a special summer ritual (drinking champagne, swapping stories , and swimming naked under the stars) . On one of those nights, one of the trio swims out and does not return. What happens after the disappearance is that many hidden secrets emerge which may destroy their friendship , their marriages and their families. There are many interesting twists and turns in the plot which make for exciting reading.”

Barefoot (2007) 

“Three woman arrive on Nantucket to spend the summer. Each one has a different problem to deal with. Vicki, who has a baby and a four year old boy, has learned she has a serious illness. Her sister Brenda lost her job as a result of having an affair with a student. There friend Melanie is pregnant and learns that her husband is having an affair. Into their world enters Josh , a college boy who will take care of the kids. What happens with these 4 lives makes for a fun , memorable and bittersweet story.”
The author lives on Nantucket and she includes writing about the various stores, restaurants, beaches, streets and landmarks in her novels. Sounds like a great place to visit.
-posted by Dona, Acquisition Services

Film Review: Bel Canto

Starring : Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe

Setting: Somewhere in South America, 1996

Rating: MA

Available on Hulu

Time: 102 minutes

Based on the novel with the same title, by Ann Patchett, this is also a fictionalized retelling of the actual event, famously known as The Japanese Hostage Crisis. Both the book and the film set the plot somewhere in South America, but history books record the event as taking place in Lima, Peru.

On December 17, 1997, a party was held for the Emperor of Japan in the home of the Japanese ambassador to Peru, Morihisa Aoki. The movie gives the audience the correct impression that this was a huge event with hundreds of dignitaries from all over the world In attendance. In actuality, 600 people attended the gala. Among the guests was a wealthy industrialist, Katsumi Hosokawa, who accepted the invitation under the guise of wanting to build a Japanese factory in poverty stricken Peru. As an ardent opera buff, he was instrumental in arranging for his favorite soprano, Roxann Coss, to be the evening’s guest performer. It was his sole reason for leaving Japan to attend the party. Roxane agreed to sing, only after her agent accomplished the negotiation that would bring her an acceptable amount of money. The only person of importance who did not make an appearance, much to the ambassador’s disappointment, was the Peruvian president. His excuse: he’d rather stay home to watch his favorite television show.

In the middle of Ms. Coss’s aria, the party was taken over by an army of rebels. They’re main and only goal was to kidnap the president. Once they realized that he was not there, they decided to take everyone hostage. Within the first two weeks, they did release all the women and a random selection of men. Records indicate that 287 people, including Roxane Coss, the only female hostage, were kept in captivity for 126 days.

The captors felt that if Ms. Coss stayed with them, they would be closer to having their demands met: better prison conditions, the release of certain prisoners who are their relatives, and making sure that money from foreign assistance gets allocated to all of citizens and not just the select few.

As most people know, Julianne Moore is not a professional opera singer. Renee Fleming was her dubbed voice. The editing and sound effects were so precise, and along with Ms. Moore’s the voice substitution doesn’t make a bit of difference to the viewing pleasure. Her facial expressions and mannerisms were perfectly timed with the music and in sync with Ms. Fleming’s voice.

While watching the movie, please keep in mind that this is not a documentary or a memoir. The book and film, are pieces of historical fiction with lots of drama and romance. Romance? During a hostage crisis? If you include the army of rebels with the amount of hostages, there were over 300 people living together for over 4 months. Relationships developed between the hostages and the guards. A deep love affair was built between Roxane and, Katsumi Hosokawa. The food the hostages were given in the beginning was a bit questionable. As time progressed the group actually conduct sit-down dinners around the banquet table, eating gourmet meals. It was fascinating to watch how human behavior can change according to circumstances. This story is a perfect example of how the environment can affect a person’s character.

To explain how the crisis ended would be a spoiler. I suggest that you watch this entertaining movie and learn a bit about Peruvian history, even though the writers land you in a non-descriptive Spanish speaking country in South America.

-posted by Isabel, Readers’ Services

Next Week’s Title Swap

Excited to hear about our favorite books? Join the Readers’ Services Department next Tuesday afternoon for a fun and lively presentation of all History and Historical Fiction books we can’t stop talking about.  Visit the Live Streaming page of our website for access.

Leave with a list of great reads!

No registration required. 

See you there!

-posted by Donna, Readers’ Services

Facebook Fridays: Book Discussions

How does it work? Visit the Library’s Facebook page: Syosset Public Library, search for the post, read the provided background information, and participate in questions in the comments below. A great opportunity to read and engage with your community! No registration required. 
All titles are available for instant download using your library card on Hoopla. Hoopla books can be read on your computer or smart device. Visit https://www.hoopladigital.com/
Led by Jackie Ranaldo, Head of Readers’ Services 

Friday, April 17, at 2:30 PM – The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Friday, May 1, at 2:30 PM – Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald 

Already posted and ready for discussion: Friday, April 3, at 2:30 PM – The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict 
-posted by Jackie, Readers’ Services

What We’re Reading Now

We’re checking in with our staff today to see what they’re reading:

Pam M., Assistant Library Director:

“I am reading The Button Man by Andrew Gross, part historical fiction, part crime drama, very enjoyable!”

A disadvantaged but once happy Jewish immigrant family is brought together by the women’s garment trade and torn apart by the birth of organized crime in 1930s New York City.


Pam S., Reference/Teen Services Librarian:

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

A 12-year-old lone survivor of a plane crash investigates the stories of his less-fortunate fellow passengers before making a profound discovery about his life purpose in the face of transcendent losses.


Evelyn, Readers’ Services Librarian:

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his thirteenth year, Frank Drum explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery, and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.


Sonia, Health Reference Librarian:

“I am reading Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear for a Cozy Mystery postal book club I belong to. Pretty good so far!”

In her first case, private detective Maisie Dobbs must investigate the reappearance of a dead man who turns up at a cooperative farm called the Retreat that caters to men who are recovering their health after World War I.


Betty , SPL Graphic Artist:
“Just finished reading Into the Raging Sea by Rachel Slade (okay, in my case, it was an SPL Kindle e-book) is this century’s semi-replication of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm.    On October 1, 2015, Hurricane Joachim blasted into the Bermuda Triangle, opened its all-devouring mouth and swallowed the US-flagged container shop El Faro whole and without mercy.   The circumstances and why it happened make this book difficult to put down.”
Recounts the sinking of El Faro, a container ship that was swallowed by Hurricane Joaquin in the Bermuda Triangle, examining America’s merchant marine fleet and revealing the truth about modern shipping.
Jackie, Head of Readers’ Services:
“I am reading the 2020 Long Island Reads Selection Light from Other Stars by Erika Swyler.”
Decades after her grieving father, a laid-off NASA scientist, triggers chaotic changes in his pursuit of life-extending technology, an astronaut confronts dangerous family secrets to stop a world-threatening crisis.
All summaries from the publishers.

-posted by Sonia, Reference Services








5 for the Oscars

Here are the five books that inspired the films that are nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award this year.  The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony honoring the best films of 2019 will take place on Sunday, February 9 at 8 pm ET.

I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt

A longtime mob associate relates his descent into a life of crime, his position as both a hit man and head of the Teamsters union in Wilmington, Delaware, and his inside knowledge of payoffs, mob hits, and the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

Caging Skies by Christine Leunens

An avid member of the Hitler Youth in 1940s Vienna, Johannes Betzler discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa behind a false wall in their home. His initial horror turns to interest — then love and obsession. After his parents disappear, Johannes is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house and the only one responsible for her survival. By turns disturbing and blackly comic, haunting and cleverly satirical.

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

One bad day. According to the grinning engine of madness and mayhem known as The Joker, that’s all that separates the sane from the psychotic. Freed once again from the confines of Arkham Asylum, he’s out to prove his deranged point.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young women.  Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

The Pope: Francis, Benedict, and the Decision That Shook the World by Anthony McCarten

Why did Pope Benedict walk away at the height of power, knowing his successor might be someone whose views might undo his legacy? How did Pope Francis — who used to ride the bus to work back in his native Buenos Aires — adjust to life as leader to a billion followers? If, as the Church teaches, the pope is infallible, how can two living popes who disagree on almost everything both be right?

-all summaries from the publishers

-posted by Sonia, Reference Services


Afternoon Book Discussion



In Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary

of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

1 PM

with Jackie Ranaldo, Head of Readers’ Services

“A novel based on the true story of an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor traces the experiences of a Jewish Slovakian who uses his position as a concentration camp tattooist to secure food for his fellow prisoners.” – from the publisher

This program is free.

No registration required.

Books are available at the Circulation Desk.

Photographs and videos taken during library programs may be used for library publicity.

-posted by Jackie, Readers’ Services