Recommendations by Mark H

I’d rather hold a book in my hand than read off a screen, but sometimes there’s only an eBook available.  Luckily, Hoopla has many titles available to keep our reading needs satisfied!

If you’ve never used Hoopla before, here’s how to get started. With your library card, you’ll be able to access books, movies, TV shows, digital music, magazines and more.  Use your computer, smartphone, or tablet to explore Hoopla’s borrowing options.  Take a look at February's Bonus Borrows collection, featuring items that won't count towards your borrowing limit.

Whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, new releases, or obscure gems; Hoopla provides a diverse array of options.  Below are some books I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find only on the digital shelf.


Under the Volcano by Malcom Lowry book jacket coverUnder The Volcano by Malcom Lowry

Many times I’ve wanted to put this book on display in the library, then remembered we don’t have a print copy.  Lowry’s poetic writing creates one of the most memorable settings I’ve ever experienced in a novel: Quauhnahuac, Mexico.  The entire novel takes place over the course of the holiday of the Day of the Dead, in 1939.  Lowry’s frank depiction of alcoholism was decades ahead of its time.  This is a story about trying to right the wrongs of the past and salvage what’s left of a life in shambles, but there’s so much more beneath the surface. This is a thoroughly rewarding read, but not a light one.


Spawn by Marie-Andrée Gill book jacket coverSpawn by Marie-Andrée Gill

This poetry book is an intimate coming-of-age portrait and a commentary on the entrenched legacy of colonialism.  This is the fourth book from Marie-Andrée Gill, a young indigenous poet from the Mashteuiatsch Reserve in northern Quebec. These short poems vividly depict the reserve’s natural setting and juxtapose it with images of modern life, pop culture, and technology.  Lines such as, “…the northern lights dancing on Nintendo…” or, “day and night the dandelions push/ through cracks in the cement” are powerfully evocative, but this work should be experienced in its entirety.  Gill is a gifted young writer and I look forward to hearing more from her.


Adolfo Kaminsky A Forger's Life by Sarah Kaminsky book jacket coverAdolfo Kaminsky: A Forger’s Life by Sarah Kaminsky

This non-fiction book tells of a man’s remarkable bravery in the face of imminent danger and how he had to keep his courageous acts a secret for most of his life.  This is a truly inspiring book.  Adolfo Kaminsky, a Jewish teen, was nearly deported from Paris to a Nazi concentration camp, but narrowly escaped. He was then recruited by the French Resistance where he forged identity documents that helped save thousands of lives.  He would work very long hours in a race against time. At one point Kaminsky says, “If I sleep for an hour, 30 people will die”. This book, written by his daughter, tells the story of his secret life as a forger for the French Resistance and other freedom organizations. 

Watch this short documentary by the New York Times as a preview of the book.


How Much Of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang book jacket coverHow Much Of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang

This novel dismantles myths of the American goldrush and is told through an underrepresented perspective: Chinese-Americans.  It is a touching sibling story and a superb debut novel that tackles many issues in its relatively short length.  Zhang takes the quintessential American tale of the wild west and turns it on its head to explore race, gender identity, and the treatment of immigrants (or those assumed to be immigrants).  This is not a lighthearted story and probably not one for fans of old-fashioned westerns.  It is a haunting and thoroughly original work from a literary voice I am eager to hear more from.


Njal's Saga by Anonymous book jacket coverNjal’s Saga by Anonymous

I’m fascinated by oral tradition and collective memory.  It’s understandable that the library wouldn’t have a 13th century Icelandic saga in print, but we can all rejoice knowing it’s available on Hoopla! The main themes of this epic are family honor and masculinity.  Once you get started, it’s easy to lose yourself in the vengeance and brutal violence that defines this story.  Keep in mind, this is not a historical text and is a work constructed by the anonymous author based on oral tradition.  Get ready for fiery feuds, prophetic dreams, and an exploration of fatalism.


Homesick For Another World by Otessa Moshfegh book jacket coverHomesick For Another World by Otessa Moshfegh

I can’t say enough good things about Otessa Moshfegh, but I also know her writing isn’t for everyone.  It’s her lack of interest in universal appeal and the embrace of disturbing subject matter that’s drawn me to her style.  I was first captured by her novels, but this collection of short fiction contains some of her finest work to date.  Moshfegh creates characters that are so imperfect they are relatable in an absurd and uncomfortable way.  These stories are filled with dissatisfaction, desperation, and loneliness.  Homesick For Another World is for those looking for a brutally honest and darkly comedic portrayal of the human condition.