Often anthologized and quoted writer Charles Baxter has a new collection of stories, There’s Something I Want You to Do.

The stories are broken down into two sections, Virtues and Vices, each containing five stories. Characters come and go through the ten stories, set mostly in Minneapolis.  That Baxter understands the failings and strengths of humans is evident, and we see once again why he is considered such an authority on the short story form.

A great choice for book clubs as members can explore Baxter’s interpretation of each of the virtues and vices.

There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories by Charles Baxter (Pantheon) Recommended by Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC

A Plague on All Our Houses examines the AIDS epidemic and the doctors behind the discovery of its cause and the tangled motivations of the search.  Readers delve into knowledge about how academia works, and whether the work is for ego or for helping the sick. The book also details how Hollywood and the government would not acknowledge what was happening as the crisis developed.

A Plague on All Our Houses by Bruce J. Hillman (Foreedge, $29.95), recommended by Suzanne at Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC.

By Josh Lieb
ISBN-13: 9781595142405
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Published: Razorbill, 10/01/2009

When you get a Jon Stewart quote on the cover of your book, you know you're doing something right (like producing The Daily Show with Jon Stewart). I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Stewart, though, and say that this book is not so much the wolf-raised offspring of a union between The Breakfast Club and War and Peace as it's a cross between The Tin Drum and Dexter's Lab.
Oliver Watson is a dim bulb who would certainly be the number one target for ridicule if he had enough personality to make fun of. He is also a the third-richest person in the world, a massive Captain Beefheart fan, a superb actor, and a self-admitted evil genius. When his distant, self-righteous father waxes poetic about his glory days in student council, Oliver decides to run for class president simply to ruin his father's happy memories. Of course, Oliver has considerable resources at his disposal, so the governments of small countries are overthrown, fighter jets are scrambled, presidential campaign consultants are hired, and hilarity and chaos ensue. Really, really funny and, ultimately, a little touching, too, because deep down, Oliver, like any other kid, just wants to make his dad proud. Perfect for middle-school geniuses, but not too smart for us adults.

By Stewart O'Nan
ISBN-13: 9780143116028
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Published: Penguin (Non-Classics), 08/01/2009

I love working in the bookstore, and not just for the obvious reason (but to answer your question, yes, the staff here is as cool as you think, if not cooler). See, when you work in a store like this, you get to read a lot of excellent stuff you otherwise might never have taken a chance on. Stewart O'Nan is probably the best example I have so far, and Songs for the Missing is certainly the most affecting novel I have read in many years. In it, Kim, a college-bound girl from a small town, goes missing and her family and friends try to find her. Simple enough, but O'Nan leaves no emotional stone unturned and his writing has so much truth to it you could almost believe he has some sort of magical device that unflinchingly transcribes reality into book form.

Oh, wait, he does- it's called a "typewriter."

By Meomi
ISBN-13: 9781597020190
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Published: Immedium, 11/01/2009

Meomi's intrepid underwater explorers are back, and this time.... they're on vacation! Well, at least until they get to their destination and find out that it's become a ghost town; then it's time to relocate a recalcitrant turtle and find out why the city's been bled white. A blend of amazing artwork, sly humor, and timeless messages about community and friendship (without clubbing you over the head with them), the Octonauts are among my favorite children's book characters of all time.

By Ben H. Winters, Jane Austen
ISBN-13: 9781594744426
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Published: Quirk Books, 09/01/2009

I liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as much as the next guy (or more), but I had to roll my eyes when I found out the next Quirk Classic would be another monster/Jane Austen mash-up. Fortunately, where PPaZ was a cover version of Austen's story, Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters is a complete remix, taking elements of the original and reconfiguring it into a darkly funny Gothic horror. If Quirk can maintain this level of quality, I think we might have a whole new generation of classics on our hands.

Incarceron (Hardcover)

By Catherine Fisher
ISBN-13: 9780803733961
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Published: Dial, 01/01/2010

Finn is a starseer, a young man given to fits of hallucinatory prescience, who lives in an endless, inescapable, living prison named Incarceron. Claudia, the daughter of Incarceron's warden, lives in a world dominated by Protocol, a rigidly-enforced veneer of Victorian society over an incredibly high-tech future put into place to prevent The Years of Rage from reoccurring. To the Claudia and the rest of the Outside world, Incarceron is place where malcontents have formed a utopia, but in reality the prison has become malevelont and life is a harsh cycle of violence and betrayal. Convinced by his lack of a past and aided by his visions, Finn attempts to leave Incarceron while Claudia, disgusted with Protocol and dreading her impending arranged marriage, tries to get in, and together they discover that there's a lot more- and a lot less- to Incarceron than they could ever imagine. A dystopic, sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk grown-up story for young adults.

Beat the Reaper (Paperback)

By Josh Bazell
ISBN-13: 9780316032216
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Published: Back Bay Books, 09/01/2009

You know that Beatles song "A Day in the Life"? Imagine that, except instead of reading the paper and catching a bus, you've got a doctor racing to get through the worst day ever and his past racing to catch up to him in one of the most bad-ass, bloody conclusions I've read in a long time. This smart, violent, and very funny book reads like a Tarantino medical drama- ReservoiE.R. Dogs, perhaps?

By Emma Bull
ISBN-13: 9780765321732
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Published: Orb Books, 07/01/2009
This is a weird book. Sparrow is an "antiques" dealer specializing in finding music and videos from before the Big Bang- that is, the nuclear war between North and South America. Sparrow does okay, but has a problem- lately, large chunks of time have passed by completely unaccounted for. Seeking help, Sparrow visits a voodoo priestess friend who reveals that there's something big going down that Sparrow is to play a major part in. It turns out that the last of the Horsemen- the extraordinarily powerful telepaths who caused the Big Bang- are in town and looking to settle old scores. Part Scanners, part Mad Max's Bartertown, and part The Serpent and the Rainbow, Bone Dance started off a little confusing, but as the disparate elements came together and Sparrow's story was revealed, I found myself racing to the end.

By Steven Johnson
ISBN-13: 9781594484018
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Published: Riverhead Trade, 09/01/2009

Who is the most important scientist you've never heard of? Trick question- back in the 1700s, they called them "natural philosophers," not scientists, and the man you're not thinking of is Joseph Priestly. Steven Johnson's introduction says a lot- in their famous 165 letter, fourteen-year correspondence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams mention Benjamin Franklin five times, George Washington twice, and Alexander Hamilton twice. Priestly? Fifty-two. Clearly, this man's historical footnote status is an injustice. In The Invention of Air, Johnson shows us how technological advances, changing social systems, coffee, and some rebellious colonies inspired a man whose contributions to science compare to Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci. Truly enlightening.

Shades of Grey (Hardcover)

By Jasper Fforde
ISBN-13: 9780670019632
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Published: Viking Adult, 01/01/2010

The Something That Happened has left us with a world where a strictly-ordered Collective is based on color perception and Leapbacks in technology are used to enforce Stasis. Enter Eddie Russet, a young Red who, despite having an above-normal level of curiousity, wishes for nothing more than to marry the wealthy Constance Oxblood and stay as far as possible from rocking the societal boat. All this changes, however, when Eddie and his father are sent to
East Carmine, a small city on the fringes of civilization, where adherence to The Rules isn't quite what they're used to....

Shades of Grey starts of almost whimsically, but as the story progresses, the bureaucracy of Head Office shows its teeth, the unfairness of the Colortacracy becomes apparent, and the differences between the Previous (us, of course) and humans become more pronounced, things take a turn for the serious (while remaining seriously funny). Fforde gives us some great characters, an intriguing setting, and enough bits and pieces of our own future
to make me really anxious to find out what's going on.

Fforde brings so much to the table that it's difficult to summarize, but I can easily say that Shades of Grey is one of the best books I've read in the past year.

By James W. Loewen
ISBN-13: 9780743296281
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Published: Touchstone, 10/01/2007
Concerned about how little his incoming freshman knew about American history, college professor James Loewen took it upon himself to figure out why. By surveying the most commonly used high school US history textbooks at the time, he discovered that students are, quite simply, being lied to. While the reasons for these lies are not necessarily simple (politicized textbook adoption committees, lazy authors, and blind patriotism, to name a few), the result is: we are getting it wrong. Instead of just being a laundry list of misinformation, though, Loewen explains not only how these lies came to be facts, but why it is so important that we get them right- "students are simply not learning even those details of American history they should know. Still less do they learn what caused the major developments in our past. Therefore, they cannot apply lessons from the past to current issues. Unfortunately, students are left with no resources to understand, accept, or rebut historical referents used in arguments by candidates for office, sociology professors, or newspaper journalists. If knowledge is power, ignorance cannot be bliss." Unlike the texts it dissects, Lies My Teacher Told Me is an engrossing book and an important addition to every library.

Skeleton Crew (Mass Market Paperback)

By Stephen King
ISBN-13: 9780451168610
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Published: Signet, 06/01/1986

People (you know, "people") like to bag on Uncle Steve and say he's not a great writer, but dude must be doing something right, because he's sold at least 300 million books. Honestly, I think he's only occasionally a great writer, but he is definitely a consistently great storyteller, and Skeleton Crew collects a number of what I feel are his best short stories- The Mist, The Jaunt, The Raft, and (the) Survivor Type among them- and a few that scared the absolute bejeezus out of a far-too-young-to-read-them me (The Monkey and The Reaper's Image, I'm looking at you ((but only for a split second))). An excellent Halloween read or a perfect entry point for King neophytes.

The Gathering Storm (Hardcover)

By Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson
ISBN-13: 9780765302304
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Published: Tor Books, 10/01/2009

Death is many things- eternal sleep, an end, a tragedy, a lonely affair- but it also, on occasion, a fine editor.
Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is certainly among the most epic of epic fantasy stories, but most of the last few volumes were spent exploring often tedious secondary and tertiary plot-lines and ignoring the series' ultimate conclusion. Sadly, Jordan passed away before completing his opus, but the copious notes have fallen into the capable hands of one Brandon Sanderson. Fortunately, he does not try to ape Jordan's style, instead focusing on the looming Last Battle and the rush of events leading up to it. Sanderson clearly has a great love of Jordan's world, and even if he doesn't have quite the same ear for dialogue, fans of the series should not be disappointed. For those who might have quit after books nine or ten (the nadir of the series), please reconsider- there's a Light at the end of the tunnel, and it's really quite bright.

By David Eagleman
ISBN-13: 9780307389930
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Published: Vintage, 01/01/2010
"In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together. You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years straight without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet."

So begins Sum, a collection of 40 compelling views of what we face after our Earthly bodies cease to function. God is a well-meaning but befuddled bureaucrat; God envies our mortality; God's favorite novel is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Often, our creators end up having nothing to do with God at all- we are computers designed by another race to determine the meaning of life; our creators are microorganisms unaware of our unwieldy existence. Some stories are funny, some are quite sad, and most are not recommended for those with a lot of anxiety about life after death, but this book is difficult to put down once opened.