Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Visible Man

By Chuck Klosterman

Scribner, $25, 240 pages

Who is this author?

You may know Chuck Klosterman from his essays on pop culture in Esquire, or his contributions to  GQ, The New York Times Magazine, The Believer and The Washington Post, or his many collections, such as “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto” or “Eating the Dinosaur.” He’s earned a reputation for being a brilliant analysis of all things pop, especially rock and sports. Born in Minnesota and raised in North Dakota, he nonetheless brings an urbane perspective to life in these United States.

What is this book about?

His first novel, “Downtown Owl,” was about the fictional town of Owl, N.D., but “The Visible Man” is a bit more esoteric. In it, Victoria Vick, a therapist in Texas, takes on a strange patient…whom she never sees… who says he stole government secrets that can make him almost invisible and allow him to spy on other people’s ordinary lives. Is he for real or delusional? One thing seems sure: his mysterious story is driving his therapist crazy and destroying her life.

Why you’ll like it:

Klosterman’s book explores much of modern life: culture, the media, privacy, the way voyeurism attracts some and repels others – subjects he has dealt with in his essays. It’s written with sly, deadpan humor and uncommon insight into modern America. The Los Angeles Times says this of his writing in general:“With a casually smart, conversational style that can recall the sort of debates that happen among friends at last call, Klosterman can burrow into ABBA, Chris Gaines-era Garth Brooks and the social implication of the laugh track with a left-field humor and lightly twisted curiosity that’s consistently thought-provoking.”

What others are saying:

“… strikingly original, a vibrant mix of thriller, sci-fi, and literary fiction genres,” says Publishers Weekly.

“Klosterman has conjured up a novel that manages to be both wildly experimental and accessible, while making perceptive observations about privacy, human nature, and of course, the author’s forte, pop culture,” says Entertainment Weekly.

“The Visible Man is a rich, fast-paced and funny novel made to entertain lovers of literary metafiction, sci-fi and thrillers,” says the Dallas Morning News

“Hidden beneath The Visible Man’s kaleidoscopic structure and high-wire stunts in an irrefutable narrative logic…. Klosterman knows when to get out of the way. . . . All fiction should be so sly,” says

When is it available?

It’s visible now on the new books shelf at the Hartford Public Library.

Echoes: Wickedly Terrifying Tales from the Undergrowth

By Laura Dockrill

HarperCollins UK, $13.95, 336 pages

Who is this author?

Laura Dockrill is a British author, poet and illustrator who has placed high on recent lists of promising authors: in 2009 she was voted Elle magazine’s “top face to watch out for.” Doclrill has published two other books: “Mistakes in the Background” and “Ugly Shy Girl.”

In “Echoes,” she twists familiar fairy tales into stories that will surprise, shock, awe, and hopefully, amuse her readers.

What is this book about?

This seems to be the year of fractured fairy tales, what with two new TV series, “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time,” clamoring for an audience. Dockrill delves into similar territory in “Echoes,” crafting modern versions of the classic stories into what Publishers Weekly calls “a no-holds-barred mix of blood, lust, dirt, and mordant humor in this relentlessly carnal tour de force.” Here you will find new ways to look at Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and other familiar faces – if you dare. The book offers poetry, prose and illustrations, all designed to up-end your childhood memories.

Why you’ll like it:

We all know that Brothers Grimm were certainly aptly named: their bloody tales were meant to teach children moral lessons, but surely created long-lasting nightmares for their innocent young readers. Dockrill enthusiastically follows in their footsteps in her versions, and they are clearly meant for adult readers (who also may find monsters under their beds and their dreams disturbed.) Just as kids enjoyed that frisson of fear when reading the classic fairy tales, many readers will thrill to Dockrill’s up-to-date, dark and erotic fantasies.

What others are saying:

“Poetry, prose, and the author’s deliberately rough-edged illustrations are alternately horrifying and electrifying, disgusting and sickly amusing, and definitely not for children or the weak of stomach. Dockrill is fearless in extending the casual bloodthirstiness of children’s stories….this refreshing modern take on the unexpurgated pre-Victorian style of storytelling,” says Publishers Weekly. 

“Princesses, ghosts, wolves, monsters, and trolls wreak havoc while the foolish, proud, and indulgent meet a dark fate; tales you think you know are brought into our current century, then turned upside down and inside out. Magic and morality plays crash together in unexpected ways in this collection from British newcomer Dockrill….Fairy tale-loving fans of writers as diverse as Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, Gregory Maguire, and Edward Gorey won’t want to miss this unusual collection of stories and poems,” says Leigh Wright in Library Journal

Says Marie Claire magazine:  “The 24-year-old poet and storyteller takes her inspiration from Tim Burton and Roald Dahl in this gloriously off-kilter collection of modern fairy tales and poems. Beyond cool.” 

“Dockrill’s voice comes through in rich detailing and seductive energy…stories linger that long after the book’s been shut,” says Booklist

When is it available?

“Echoes” has magically appeared on the shelves of the Hartford Public Library.

Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case

By Debbie Nathan

Free Press, $26, 320 pages

Who is this author?

Chances are, you’ve heard of Sybil, the woman with 16 different personalities. But you’ve probably never before heard of Debbie Nathan, an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in writing about the occasional hysterias that sweep over America — such as the so-called satanic sexual abuse of children in day care centers –- charges later deemed false when the modern-day witch hunts subsided. A journalist, editor and translator, this is her fourth book. Among her honors are the H.L. Mencken Award for Investigative Journalism, PEN West Award for Journalism and the John Bartlow Martin Award (from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism) for Public Service Journalism. She is a board member of the National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ), which aids people falsely accused of harming children.

What is this book about?

In “Sybil Exposed,” Nathan explores the bestselling 1973 Sybil book (and 1976 movie starring Sally Field and Joanne Woodward), a story widely accepted as true that created a boom in diagnoses of multiple personality disorder, but, as her research shows, was the largely phony product of an unholy collaboration between “Sybil” (real name Shirley Mason), her domineering psychiatrist, Dr. Connie Wilbur, and the ambitious writer who popularized their story, Flora Reta Schreiber. The three even formed a business they called “Sybil Incorporated,” to share profits from merchandise such as Sybil T-shirts and dolls.

Here’s what Nathan told an interviewer for Barnes & Noble:

“My research shows definitively that the Sybil story was largely made up. Much of it was suggested to Shirley by her doctor, Connie Wilbur. Shirley herself often didn’t know when she was having true memories and when she was fantasizing. Still, it’s clear she often told out-and-out lies, not just in therapy but also when she and Connie were working with Flora on the book. To me, what’s amazing is that when Sybil the book and movie came out, millions of people believed a tale that was so over the top that it should have immediately inspired doubt.

“…I learned while researching the book: That when it comes to identifying and diagnosing new illnesses, we should remember that “science” can be fraught with politics, superstition, and alternate agendas.”

Why you’ll like it:

If you were among the many with previous faith in the story of Sybil, you may not like having it demolished by this book, but you have to admire Nathan’s persistence, research and ability to make a complex story understandable. It’s not easy to write a book that goes against the grain and disappoints some readers who were invested in what they believed was a true horror story, but Nathan, who had access to a recently opened archive containing material from Mason, Wilbur and Schreiber, makes her case powerfully.

What others are saying:

“Nathan traces the paths of the three women—the patient, the doctor, and the author who publicized the case—who formed “Sybil Incorporated.” Along the way, she reasons that the concept of the multiplicity of selves—and the subsequent popularity of the diagnosis—may have become the perfect idiom of distress for a generation of women who, rocked by the feminist revolution, felt confusion at their new and conflicting roles. Leveling a steady eye on her oft-sensationalized subject, Nathan serves up a tale just as shocking as the famed original,” says Publishers Weekly.

“The true story of Sybil has found its ideal historian in Debbie Nathan…This is the book that should be a made-for-TV movie,” says The Wall Street Journal.

“In this dazzling expose of a manipulative psychiatrist, an author who’d do anything for fame and a vulnerable girl caught in the middle, journalist Nathan reveals how these three women changed the psychiatric landscape by raising questions of identity that resonated with a generation. The result is a cautionary tale about the ways in which science, in the wrong hands, can capitalize on our collective fears,” says More magazine.

When is it available?

“Sybil Exposed” is available now at the Hartford Public Library.

Zone One

By Colson Whitehead

(Knopf Doubleday, $25.95, 272 pages)

Who is this author?

A Manhattan-bred, Harvard-educated, MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship-winner (among other honors), Colson Whitehead began his career as a reviewer for the Village Voice and has gone on to write many acclaimed books. Among them are the novels “The Intuitionist,” “John Henry Days” and “Apex Hides the Hurt,” as well as the essay collection “The Colossus of New York.” All share his penchant for original and sometimes disturbing perspectives on familiar subjects, such as black folk hero John Henry, the art of marketing and the power of names and zombies. Colson is black, and race figures prominently and fruitfully in his choice of subjects and point of view.

Wait…did I say zombies? Yes, Whitehead takes on the currently popular horror genre in “Zone One,” but gives it his personal twist, making this book far deeper and thought-provoking than your standard shambling-undead-with-poor-personal-hygiene thriller.

What is this book about?

We seem to be fascinated with the walking dead lately, and perhaps it’s political. Partisans of the right and left see each other as brain-dead armies, lurching dangerously and implacably towards annihilating the rest of us. It’s a trope that will not die.

In “Zone One,” Whitehead posits a world-wide zombie disease, an experimental vaccine that might stop it and the Herculean efforts to clear New York City of its zombie hordes. Set in a three-day period, it tells of a quietly heroic black guy ironically nicknamed “Mark Spitz” (he’s afraid of the water) and his allies, members of the Omega Unit. They’re after “skels,” the really dangerous flesh-eating monsters, and catatonic “stragglers,” who seem stuck in a zombie Groundhog Day, mindlessly repeating such actions as making photocopies in their former and now ruined businesses. (I know what you are thinking: there are stragglers in your office, right now.)

There is plenty of gore and violence and creepy stuff as the civilian units struggle to save the city, but since this is Whitehead, there’s a lot more to think about here.

Why you’ll like it:

Colson employs irony with a master’s hand. His writing and stories are multi-layered, offering readers the fun and challenge of appreciating the tale on the surface as well as the allusions and deeper meanings that lie beneath. Characters in this novel suffer from “Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder,” a brilliant name for their condition….and perhaps ours. This is a book that will make readers laugh, recoil and ponder how we got where we are and where we may be going. Zombies, it seems, aren’t the only ones who have lost their way.

What others are saying:

Says Publishers Weekly: Far from the solemn affair so often imagined, the apocalypse in Whitehead’s hands is filled with the kind of dark humor one imagines actual survivors adopting in order to stave off madness. The author sometimes lets the set pieces he’s so good at run long, but otherwise succeeds brilliantly with a fresh take on survival, grief, 9/11, AIDS, global warming, nuclear holocaust, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Pol Pot’s Year Zero, Missouri tornadoes, and the many other disasters both natural and not that keep a stranglehold on our fears and dreams.”

“A zombie story with brains…Readers who wouldn’t ordinarily creep into a novel festooned with putrid flesh might be lured by this certifiably hip writer who can spin gore into macabre poetry…Everything comes to life in this perfectly paced, horrific, 40-page finale shot through with grim comedy and desolate wisdom about the modern age in all its poisonous, contaminating rage. It’s a remarkable episode, but elevated by the power of Whitehead’s prose to the level of those other ash-covered nightmares imagined by T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Cormac MacCarthy,” says Ron Charles in The Washington Post

“Whitehead writes with economy, texture and punch. He has a talent for sardonic aphorism and an ear for phonetic intrigue…[Zone One] is a cool, thoughtful and, for all its ludic violence, strangely tender novel, a celebration of modernity and a pre-emptive wake for its demise,” says Glen Duncan in The New York Times Book Review.

Booklist’s starred review says: “This diabolically smart, covertly sensitive, ruminative, and witty zombie nightmare prods us to think about how we dehumanize others, how society tramples and consumes individuals, how flimsy our notions of law and order are, and how easily deluded and profoundly vulnerable humankind is. A deft, wily, and unnerving blend of pulse-elevating action and sniper-precise satire.”

When is it available?

It’s now on the shelves at the Hartford Public Library

Ed King

by David Guterson

(Knopf Doubleday, $16.95, 320 pages)

Who is this author?

David Guterson had a huge hit in 1994 with “Snow Falling on Cedars,” his novel about a murder trial and an interracial affair that was adapted as a film starring Ethan Hawke in 1999. He followed that with a short story collection, “The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind” in 1996, “Our Lady of the Forest, a tale of religion and visions and faith in 2003 and “The Other” in 2008, a novel about two friends who take divergent paths. Now comes “Ed King,” set like all Guterson’s books in the Pacific Northwest

What is this book about?

It’s about a philandering father, a vengeful unwed mother and an abandoned baby who grows up to be an Internet tycoon reminiscent of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. It’s also about the myth of Oedipus, that unlucky Greek fellow who murdered his father and unknowingly married his mother. No doubt you recall that one…Sophocles got a pretty good play out of it and it gave a name to the famous Freudian complex.

This version, which begins in Seattle in the 1960s, gives us a baby, fathered by an au pair and her employer, who is adopted by a rich family and eventually becomes known as the “King of Search” for his Google-like computer wizardry. But is being a billionaire enough to buy happiness when your life is following the path of an ancient curse?

Why you’ll like it:

Guterson is known for his scathing wit and deft use of irony. It takes plenty of nerve to use a classic myth as the frame for a contemporary novel, but many reviewers felt Guterson met the challenge well.

This just in:

The Literary Review in London just awarded Guterson its annual tongue-in-cheek (oops) Bad Sex in Fiction award for “Ed King.”  He graciously commented, “Oedipus practically invented bad sex, so I’m not in the least bit surprised”. 

What others are saying:

“How would a modern man go about killing his father and marrying his mother, just like Sophocles’ Oedipus? Guterson’s vivid recreation . . . is a study in outsized avarice and arrogance. Exuberantly rambunctious, Guterson’s bold pondering of the Greek classic is a fiendishly tantalizing romp,” says Carol Haggas in a Booklist starred review.

“Even for those who are well versed in Sophocles, Ed King is filled with plenty of surprises and sly homage to the original (as well as a few other Greek myths), and half the fun here is reveling in the sheer cheekiness of the narrative. Ed King is not a new story, yet Guterson has managed to infuse this novel with feelings of freshness, relevance and even believability that are sure to delight 21st-century readers. A special pleasure will be experienced by those who can appreciate how the old elements have been modernized. Oedipus may not have been Guterson’s to begin with, but by the end, readers will have no doubts that Ed King is a creation entirely his own, ”says Stephanie Harrison for BookPage.

“The technological titans of Ed King, walled off in their estates and kingdoms, and privy to the best life that money can buy, strive and strain with little thought to where all their efforts might be headed. It forces the thought: what have all the technological achievements of Microsoft, Amazon, Apple wrought, when it comes to changing certain fundamental certainties of human nature? Ed believes the sky is the limit. Will [he] cheat death? Will he dodge the bullet of fate?” writes Mary Ann Gwinn in The Seattle Times.

When is it available?

You can borrow it now from the Hartford Public Library.

The Dovekeepers

By Alice Hoffman

(Scribner, $27.99, 501 pages)              

Who is this author?

Best-selling writer Alice Hoffman has come a long way since her first novel, “Property Of,” was published in 1977. She’s gone on to write more than 30 works of fiction, including books for young adults and children. Among her best known novels are “Turtle Moon,” “Practical Magic ,” “The River King,” “Blackbird House” and “The Ice Queen.” “Practical Magic,” “The River King” and “Aquamarine” were made into movies.

Hoffman, who lives in Boston, also is a breast cancer survivor and established the Breast Cancer Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge after being treated there.

Her novels are known for incorporating magical realism and often heartbreaking romance into stories of contemporary lives, but her latest, “The Dovekeepers,” reaches far back into ancient times to tell the story of four women at the siege of Masada in Israel.

What is this book about?

The story of Masada, a mountaintop fortress held by some 900 rebellious Jews and their families during their battles with the Romans around the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., is a grim and heroic one. The ancient historian Josephus wrote that the siege lasted for months and when the Jews realized their cause was lost, they killed themselves, with only two women and five children surviving to tell the tale.

Hoffman builds on this story by telling it through the eyes of four women, all of them keepers of doves and all of them fiercely independent, bold and brave. They are Yael, an assassin’s daughter who lost her mother in childbirth and was rejected by her father; Revka, a baker’s wife who brings her mute grandsons to Masada after their mother’s murder;  Aziza, a girl raised as a boy who becomes a warrior; and Shirah, who knows how to practice medicine and perhaps, magic. They meet at Masada, where they interact in its final days, each keeping a powerful secret they fear to share.

Why you’ll like it:

Grounded in ancient history and archeological studies, this novel is a departure for Hoffman and can be read as history as well as historical fiction. She spent five years researching it and made visits to Masada in the process, an experience she calls “intense and moving.”  She credits the women who lived and died there with inspiring her book:

“In telling their story of loss and love, I’ve told my own story as well,” she writes. “After writing for 35 years, after more than 30 works of fiction, I was given the story I was meant to tell.”

What others are saying:

Amazon lists “The Dovekeepers” one of the best books of 2011.

“Alice Hoffman’s “The Dovekeepers” is a splendid entertainment, a harrowing, thrilling, feminist historical novel fueled to fever pitch by a rich imagination… a combination of good writing, affecting themes, and dramatic storytelling. It’s an enthralling tale that lingers in the mind,” says The Boston Globe.

Connecticut author Wally Lamb says:

“In her remarkable new novel, Alice Hoffman holds a mirror to our ancient past as she explores the contemporary themes of sexual desire, women’s solidarity in the face of strife, and the magic that’s quietly present in our day-to-day living. Put The Dovekeepers at the pinnacle of Hoffman’s extraordinary body of work. I was blown away.” 

When is it available?

“The Dovekeepers” is available now at the Hartford Public Library.

The Night Strangers

By Chris Bohjalian

(Crown, $25, 375 pages) 

Who is this author?

Chris Bohjalian, the Vermont-based author of 14 novels, knows his way around the best-seller, having scored a New York Times No. 1 spot with “Midwives.” His “The Double Bind,” Secrets of Eden” and “Skeletons at the Feast” also made the coveted list.

Having interviewed and met Bohjalian, I can also attest that he is a genuinely nice and thoughtful guy.

Bohjalian often garners inspiration for his fiction from actual events — here, the amazing feat in 2009 when airline pilot “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed his crippled jet in the Hudson River. Bohjalian studied water-landing survival techniques at Survival Systems in Groton to learn what such a crash might feel like. Also, when he bought his 1898-era home in Vermont, he found a crypt-like room in the basement sealed with long carriage bolts. That odd discovery also figures in “The Night Strangers.”

What is this book about?

Chip Linton, a pilot without Sullenberger’s skill or luck, ditches his plane in Lake Champlain but not without fatalities: 39 passengers die. When Chip and his family escape to northern New Hampshire to start over, he finds a door in the old Victorian house’s basement sealed with…wait for it…39 bolts. Uh-oh. Worse, some strange women in the small community who call themselves herbalists take an interest in Linton’s 10-year-old twins, and that disturbs his wife. Are the women crazy, or is she? And are the Lintons being stalked by vengeful – and dead — victims of the sunken plane?

Why you’ll like it:

Bohjalian is a born storyteller, and a master of the sneak-up-on-you switch ending. His dialogue rings true, and his method of using a real-life event to hook the reader is a good one.

He insists that he will never “write the same book twice” and says of this one:

“So, why a ghost story?  Well, I love them. They’re fun to read – and yes, fun to write. And when I imagined the subject matter of a plane crash and a pilot’s post-traumatic stress disorder, ghosts seemed as good a way in as any.”

What others are saying:

“Bohjalian flings himself into a full-blooded romance with the paranormal. In doing so, he earns a place alongside Stephen King as the master of the Halloween beach book. This ghost story is expertly and, at times, beautifully written, deliciously creepy, and, like a bag of trick-or-treat loot, silently calls out to you when it’s languishing on the night table,” says Julie Wittes Schlack in The Boston Globe.

“Bohjalian has crafted a genre-defying novel, both a compelling story of a family in trauma and a psychological thriller that is truly frightening. Fans of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones and Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and The Robber Bride will find similar appeal here,” says Library Journal in a starred review.

Publishers Weekly says: “A gripping paranormal thriller. . .Meticulous research and keen attention to detail give depth and character to [the] eerie world. . .Bohjalian is a master, and the slow-mounting dread makes this a frightful ride.”

When is it available?

The Hartford Public Library has it now.

The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern

(Doubleday, $26.95, 387 pages)

Who is this author?

To paraphrase the opening (and closing) line of her remarkable debut novel, Erin Morgenstern “has arrived without warning.”

A young multi-media artist and writer, a Smith college graduate who recently relocated from Salem, Mass. (well known for its witchcraft issues) to Boston, she describes herself (and who could do it better?) on her website,

“I am a writer, a painter & a keeper of cats. I’m also the creator of The Phantomwise Tarot…

“I grew up in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Steve Carrell now owns the store where I bought penny candy and blue raspberry Slush Puppies as a child. This both amuses and disturbs me.

“I was reading Stephen King at age 12 and J.K. Rowling at age 21. This likely speaks volumes about my literary development.”

“I write. Fantastical, fairy tale-esque things with magic and mystery and tea.

“My fiction tends to be location-driven. Nocturnal circuses, subterranean libraries, townhouses dressed up as pirate ships. I got tired of living in Alice’s Wonderland and decided to build some of my own.”

That about sums it up, wouldn’t you say?

What is this book about?

It’s about Le Cirque des Reves, the circus of dreams, the dusk-to-dawn night circus of black-and-white tents with blood-red accents, which mysteriously arrives without advertising. It, suddenly, just is. And it offers seductive delights for the senses, such as a garden made of ice and a maze made of clouds.

But lush description of imaginative fantasies is not all this novel has to offer. It is also a love story about two children gifted with amazing psychic powers who are made pawns in a power game between two master magicians. Celia is the young daughter of the night circus’s Hector, known as Prospero the Enchanter, who has a lifelong rivalry with Alexander, mentor to Marco, a boy he found who also has impressive psychic abilities.

The two magicians enter into a competition, using the unwitting children like chess pieces. What the children don’t know is that it is a cruel contest to the death. What the magicians don’t know is that Celia and Marco will fall in love as they grow older and form a partnership of their own. To tell more would reveal too much of the plot.

Why you’ll like it:

Sometimes books are great reads because of what they are about, other times because of how they are written. This book is both: clever of plot and lyrical of description. It’s been compared to the Harry Potter series, but that’s not quite right. And while it may appeal to younger readers, it’s not a Young Adult book. If it has a literary ancestor, it might be Ray Bradbury, who also could evoke spooky, poignant worlds at the drop of a simile. Just as the story is about enchantment, this book has the rare power to enchant its readers, who will be sorry to see it end.

What others are saying:

“Debut author Morgenstern doesn’t miss a beat in this smashing tale of greed, fate, and love set in a turn of the 20th-century circus. …a giant, magical story destined for bestsellerdom,” says Publishers Weekly.

“If this novel is just cotton candy, it’s cotton candy spun from strands of edible silver…With no more lust than a late volume of Harry Potter, Morgenstern manages to conjure up a love story for adults that feels luxuriously romantic. When Celia calls their circus a ‘wonder and comfort and mystery all together,’ she could have been talking about this book,” says Ron Charles in The Washington Post.

Says Newsday: “Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus, is quietly, enchantingly perfect…reading this novel is like having a marvelous dream, in which you are asleep enough to believe everything that is happening, but awake enough to relish the experience and understand that it is magical.”

When is it available?

“The Night Circus” has appeared without warning at the Hartford Public Library.

Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve — Even If It Means Picking a Fight

by Steve Perry

(Crown, $25, 272 pages)

Who is this author?

Steve Perry, the very outspoken advocate for school reform, is an education contributor to CNN, but around here he is best known as the founder of ConnCAP, the Connecticut Collegiate Awareness Program, at Capital Community College and principal of  Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford. US News & World Report named Capital Prep as one of America’s best high schools, not least because it has sent all of its graduates, largely from the black and Latino communities, to four-year colleges.

Perry also writes a column for Essence magazine, and self-published his first book, “Man Up,” which became a hit with readers. He’s a frequent commentator on radio and TV and a motivational speaker whose prime interest is reforming America’s public schools.

What is this book about?

Perry is mad as hell and vehemently not going to take it anymore. He’s fed up with failing schools, unimaginative teachers, uncooperative unions, lazy school boards and anyone else who makes schools – urban, suburban or rural – places that warehouse but don’t teach kids to the best of their abilities. His book is a polemic, but one full of practical advice, and it is earning praise as a refreshingly blunt wake-up call to save America’s schools, students and future.

Why you’ll like it:

If you’re a parent in despair about your child’s education, you will probably like this book. If you are a teacher or part of the educational establishment, you most probably will not. But no matter which side you are on, Perry’s pronouncements should lead to spirited discussions and debates on the state of our schools and what radical or innovative methods could be tried to make them the best that they can be —  or at the very least, better than they are now.

What others are saying:

“This book is a timely addition to the debate on what’s needed to fix the public education system. Readers will appreciate Perry’s blunt, no-holds-barred, conversational tone as he aims to demystify school-based issues such as testing, accountability, what constitutes a good teacher, and teacher tenure…. Highly recommended for parents, preservice and working teachers, college students, and others who have a vested interest in the system,” says Library Journal.

“A leading agitator for reform of the American school system outlines what needs to be done now, and why. Throughout the book, the author displays an admirably action-oriented approach, with plenty of advice for parents and others on how to get involved effectively,” says Kirkus Reviews.

Bill Cosby, who will visit Hartford on Jan. 12 for a fundraiser for Capital Prep, says, “Dr. Steve Perry’s refreshing honesty and fierce work ethic have made him successful in turning very bad schools into very good schools.  This book he’s written about how to help others do the same is pure gold.”

“A stellar book…very powerful… Steve Perry, an extraordinary educator, is sick and tired of being sick and tired.  America’s public schools are broken, and the kids who are bearing the brunt are mostly poor, black or Latino.  Perry pulls no punches in showing that, while the kids fail, no one is accountable because the system protects the adults.  This book will upset some people, but that’s okay. Change doesn’t come quietly, and our kids desperately need change, says Joel Klein, a former New York City School Chancellor.

When is it available?

You can borrow it now from the Hartford Public Library.