One of the benefits of staffing the Welcome Desk is talking about great books. Two recently released titles that have been frequently requested are the fictional novel, "Lone Wolf" by Jodi Picoult and the nonfiction title, "The Obamas" by New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor. Both of these recently made it to my "to read" list. Not able to put either down, I finished them in time to blog about them here.
"Lone Wolf" by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult, once again, has successfully written a multifaceted story that entertains the reader with the complications of family relationships, while encouraging the reader to consider a moral dilemma, in this case, who in a family makes the final life-or-death decision, while also introducing the reader to a completely new subject. I learned more than I ever thought I would about the advanced socialization of wolf packs and the in-depth experiences of a professional wolf researcher who literally lives among a wolf pack for two years in a Canadian forest, at the expense of his wife and two children. The format of the story, similar to some of Picoult's previous novels, is told in the first person by different characters, allowing the reader to develop a relationship with, and consider each character's point of view as the story evolves.
Picoult's talent for storytelling, developing characters who could literally be "the girl (or boy) next door", drawing the reader into the story, results in the real world being put on hold for the duration of the book. At least, that's my experience with Picoult's novels. The next best thing to reading her books is listening to them on audio while on a long car trip.
"The Obamas" by Jodi Kantor, New York Times correspondent
Often reading fiction simultaneously with nonfiction, I read chapters of "The Obamas" between sections of "Lone Wolf." Being such diverse books, there was no confusion of characters or storyline. Jodi Kantor has chronicled the Obamas' story and some of America's recent history from November, 2008 – the time of the presidential election to President Obama's 50th birthday in August, 2011. With an inside glimpse into the personal lives of the president and first lady, their family, close friends, along with staff from the East and West Wings of the White House, Kantor is able to chronicle the challenges and successes of the presidency, the first lady and the country.
I approach nonfiction by first reviewing supplemental sections to the text such as author notes, bibliography, index, photographs and, often the most likely to be inferior – or even absent – accompanying maps. These sections are great accompaniments to the text and give insight into the breadth of research conducted. "The Obamas" includes significant supporting documentation, including a wide selection of photos.
Kantor, who has covered the Obamas since 2007, includes details about Michelle Obama's personal struggle with becoming the first lady: putting her career on hold, founding "Let's Move," parenting Malia and Sasha without exposing them to more than she is comfortable, and negotiating a healthy balance between her public and private life. Kantor writes in detail about President Obama's adjustment to the White House, his loss of personal freedom and the frustrations of Washington, D.C., and his commitment to his family and dedication to achieving his goals for the United States.
Writing a biography of the president while he is still in office, actually while he's in the middle of his first term, doesn't allow for a book with a historical perspective. Perhaps Kantor will publish a second volume that includes the balance of Obama's time in office and later a biography about the Obama years that includes the perspective and reflection that time will allow.
Maybe these titles will make it to your list of books (whether in print, digital or audio) to check out. If you do, or already have, please share your thoughts by commenting here or with me at the Welcome Desk!