Bruno, Chief of Police: Got Truffles?

Following the adventures of Bruno Courreges, the chief of police (in fact, the only police) in a small town of the Perigord in France, is a tour de force of excitement and pleasure. Well-conceived mysteries, comtemporary and edgy, are balanced with Bruno’s propensity for gardening, cooking, training his bassett hound puppy and riding his horse around the countryside. He is a friend and mentor to his whole village, protecting the farmers and market growers from egregious and invasive regulations, coaching the kids' tennis and rugby teams and upholding a strong, but individual, sense of rightness about surviving the vagaries of modern life and the bureaucrats of the EU. A nice juxtaposition here of domesticity, small-village life in modern France and the inevitable murder and mayhem.

Bruno has his own website and, rumor has it, a cookbook coming soon, but start with these recipes. He has become a larger-than-life character whose exploits and lifestyle provide an enviable counterpoint to, well, everyday life. I recommend you start with Bruno, Chief of Police and proceed in order through the eight (so far) books!

Library Lists: Nonfiction for Fiction Readers

I used to spend most of my time reading fiction and would often have to force myself to pick up a nonfiction book, even if it was about a subject I'm truly interested in. There’s so much great nonfiction out there though that sometimes I felt like I’m missing out (and indeed I was)! If you’re interested in reading more nonfiction but still crave the sweeping storylines and character development of novels, the books on this list are a great place to start your delve into the nonfiction world.

Devil in the White City combines the story of the planning and execution of the Chicago World’s Fair with that of a serial killer who targeted his victims throughout the duration of the Fair. The two stories complement one another well, making for a gripping story that reads just like a fictional murder mystery—with the added chills of being real!

Wild is Cheryl’s Strayed’s now famous account of her physical and personal journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. After a tough childhood and young adulthood, Strayed makes the decision to hike the PCT as a way to heal her mind and her heart, and to challenge her body. Her account of her journey is riveting and brutal, making for a fast-paced, breathtaking read.

The Tipping Point: Malcom Gladwell is known for his popular books on sociology and psychology. This was his first, and revolves around the psychology of the magical moment when a trend becomes a trend. Also try Outliers and David and Goliath, both also by Gladwell.

The Warren Commission Report: a graphic investigation into the Kennedy assassination is a well-researched and wonderfully designed non-fiction graphic novel. It clearly and concisely presents the all-too-often muddled details of the JFK assassination and ensuing investigation and is a great book for both readers who are generally unfamiliar with the event, and for those who know a great deal about it but want to see the subject presented in a unique manner.

Set in the fascinating, beautiful, mysterious Savannah, Georgia, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has a cast of characters that are completely unforgettable. The book begins almost as a travel log, with author John Berendt describing unique details about Savannah and offering interesting historical facts about the city and surrounding area to readers. These chapters are so engrossing, that it’s easy to forget that the book actually becomes a true crime story. When that turning point does occur, it happens subtly and smoothly, and the book slides gracefully from a Southern narrative to a revealing look at a strange and unlikely murder mystery.

In I Wear the Black Hat, cultural critic Chuck Klosterman theorizes about how the modern world understands the concept of villainy. Why are some villains lauded as anti-heroes while others, who have often committed lesser crimes, destined to be hated by the masses until the end of time? Find out in this witty, culturally relevant analysis of mass media.

Since its publication in the late 1990s, The Boys of Summer has been a favorite of sports lovers everywhere. Roger Kahn, the “dean of American sports writers,” shares his stories of growing up down the street from Ebbets Field, and delves deeply into the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers leading up to their 1955 win of the World Series. Kahn then tracks the fascinating stories of the players as they age and move beyond their baseball-playing years. A great read for fans of baseball, history, Americana, or all of the above.

Women in Clothes is a unique, almost artistic piece. Compiled by four friends, the book includes advice and anecdotes from over six hundred women and dwells on not just what we wear but on all the elements of style. As the back cover reads, Women in Clothes is “an exploration into the questions we ask ourselves while getting dressed every day.”

Desert Solitaire is Edward Abbey’s classic recount of his time spent in the wilderness of the American southwest. The book is adventurous, passionate, poetic, and clever. Its ongoing popularity is a testament to its timelessness… and its ability to allow readers to experience a place that, for the most part, no longer exists.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a scientific odyssey like no other by beloved author Bill Bryson. In this book, he attempts to understand everything—and impart his understanding to readers—from the Big Bang to the rise of civilizations. He takes challenging subjects: geology, physics, astronomy, paleontology… and does his best to make them understandable to people who, like himself, were rendered bored or terrified of science in school.

There are even more great books for the reluctant nonfiction reader on this more extensive list!

Download of the Day: April 27


Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery - Kerry Greenwood

This first entry in the series introduces a mystery-solving, globe-trotting Australian aristocrat with a nose for adventure in 1920s.

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Download of the Day: April 26


Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Spanish gentleman Don Quixote, deluded and obsessed with the chivalrous ideals touted in books he has read, takes up his lance and sword to defend the helpless and destroy the wicked.

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Download of the Day: April 25


Tornadoes! - Cecilia Minden

Next time there's a tornado watch or warning be better prepared with this educational book about one of nature's fiercest creations.

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It's Only Stanley!

"It's very late, and Stanley is up to something. Will you figure out what he's doing before his sleepy family does?"

Author Jon Agee, known for his whimsical and deeply funny picture books, has just published a new gem: It's Only Stanley.

This charming story begins with the family dog Stanley howling at the moon late one night. The Wimbledon family springs awake, only to find that "it's only Stanley". But the story doesn't end there. The Wimbledons are awoken time and time again, as Stanley's activities become more and more fantastical. The clanking sound that wakes the family turns out to be Stanley fixing the oil tank, and the funky smell emanating from the kitchen is only Stanley making catfish stew. The story builds until it culminates in a very satisfying (yet somewhat bizarre) ending.

The entire story is written in verse, which adds a nice rhythm to this fun read-aloud. The simple watercolor illustrations also add to the story, with hidden gags and clues that hint towards the book's surprising ending. This hilarious book is a must-read for fans of Click Clack Moo.

For more interesting and hilarious reads by Jon Agee, check out Orangutan Tongs : Poems to Tangle Your Tongue, The Retired Kid, and Who Ordered the Jumbo Shrimp? : and Other Oxymorons.

Download of the Day: April 24


By The Sea - Geoff Cawthorn

Soothing piano in the vein of George Winston.

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Download of the Day: April 23


Shoot to Kill - Mark Boulle and the Haba Dudes

Bouncy guitar rythyms backed by an ever-changing array of different instruments characterize this indie rock album from Australian singer-songwriter Mark Boulle.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #526

Lady Montfort's (Clementine Elizabeth Talbot) annual summer ball is the highlight of the season, not just for the household but for the county, and all their London friends. With the millions of details to be seen to, her ladyship relies heavily on her capable and resourceful housekeeper Edith Jackson, a handsome woman in her early thirties. The 1912 ball went off without a hitch. Even the weather was perfect to show off the Montfort's new sunken garden. Tragedy strikes in the early hours of the next morning when the gamekeeper finds a body, hanging in a gibbet that turns out to be that of Teddy Mallory, Lord Montford's dishonorable nephew, just expelled from Christ Church, Oxford.

When it was discovered that a new housemaid and one of their London guests also disappeared during the night, Scotland Yard gets involved. After unwittingly witnessed a violent confrontation between her son Harry, Lord Haversham and Teddy in the early evening, Lady Montfort fears that the official police inquiry is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect. Taking matters into her own hands, the countess enlists the help of Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case.

In Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman "an enchanting debut, author Tessa Arlen (incorporates) exquisite period detail into her well-mannered mystery, offers readers an engaging peek into the lives of upper and lower classes of early 1900s England combined with a little history interspersed." For those who enjoyed English country house mysteries like Gosford Park and Kate Morton's The House at Riverton.

If the elegant estate on the jacket cover brings to mind another establishment depicted in a long-running Masterpiece Theatre TV series, it's intentional. In fact, Tessa Arlen will participate in a panel discussion entitled Downton Malice: British Historical Period Mysteries at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Maryland, Sunday, May 3, 2015.

Historical mystery fans interested specifically in the Edwardian era may wish to check out the author's Redoubtable Edwardians blog, choke-full of fabulous information and readalikes.

Download of the Day: April 22


Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Jane Austen's beloved comedy of manners pits haughty Mr. Darcy against sharp-tongued Elizabeth Bennett in this tale of the errors of first impressions.

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