What We’re Reading Now:

Michael Noll, Program Director  

Ain’t Nobody Nobody by Heather Harper Ellett

Polis Books
September 24, 2019

As someone who grew up on a farm outside a small town, I can be awfully critical of novels set in such places. So many of them miss what I feel to be essential aspects of rural people: their incredible weirdness, their acceptance of details that are common to their world but that seem exotic to many people in cities, and their sense of humor. But Heather Harper Ellett’s country crime novel Ain’t Nobody Nobody gets all three right. In this passage, a disgraced former sheriff tries to investigate a dead body by calling a woman from his former office. But, she won’t give him any information:

“I cain’t! I just cain’t! You know that, and we haven’t spoken in…well, I don’t appreciate you putting me in this position.”

     “What, the new sheriff gonna get mad at you? I hear he runs a tight ship. He off the ventilator yet?”
     “It’s not a ventilator!” Gabby said. “It’s an oxygen tank, and his mind is sharp as a tack.”
     “He’s eight-four.”
     “He’s a veteran!”
     “Union or Confederacy?”
     “W-W-2! We should be honored that he agreed to serve this community! And in his golden years!” She composed herself. “Just six months more and he’ll be the oldest living sheriff in Texas history. Right here in Pine County. Now that is an honor. You don’t go and tell me that ain’t an honor.”

Neena Husid, Leadership Austin Fellow 

Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren
Simon & Schuster
October 22, 2019

The ambition, the angst, the daring, the hi-jinx, the insecurity, the impulsiveness, the drugs, the sex-it’s all there and jumps off the page in Holly George-Warren’s, “Janis.” This biography speaks truth to hype and gives readers a new, or revised, look at America’s-and certainly Texas’-first female rock star, Janis Joplin. From birth to her ridiculously young death, the story of how this quirky, overly bright, artistic soul blossomed into a larger than life legend grabs you as urgently as her mind-bowing voice once did. Remember? Listening to Joplin’s screaming blues felt like being smashed by a train and enjoying every minute of it. George-Warren’s painstaking portrayal of the young rebel who flaunted bigotry to explore the worlds of the blues greats she emulated and then ignored misogyny and sexism to rise to the top, is a must read for anyone who’s had dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues and knows only a Janis  song can cure them.

Catherine Gregoire, Administrative Assistant 

Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley
Grove Press
September 3, 2019

Nothing encourages a writer like a book that makes writing sound like the most magical, worthy, and noble act of creation. Mosley blends enchanting metaphors with straightforward instruction to emulate the writing process. Not many guide books on writing have left me entranced by the voice while also learning practical tools and tips like Mosley’s has.

Evan Parks, Project Specialist 

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
Balzer + Bray
October 1, 2019

Dear Sweet Pea, Julie Murphy’s newest book and her first foray into middle grade, is a wonderful story full of life and heart about a young girl attempting to navigate the shifting relationships between herself and her friends as they prepare to graduate from 7th grade as well as handling her parent’s recent divorce. Murphy describes the complexities of human relationships and life in a way that’s full of hope and empathy. I heartily recommend it to anyone that has ever felt insecure about their bodies, about their relationships, or their place in the world. By that, I mean everyone.

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