New and popular titles at Juniata County Library

You can find all of these titles at the Juniata County Library.

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“We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel” by Karen Joy Fowler

In chaotic times, novels are a way to find peace and keep that flicker of vulnerability alive and nurtured. I found this strange novel about a 1970s family who raised a chimp like it was a human. A young, grieving woman named Rosemary narrates the book about her lost sister, Fern, who happens to be a chimpanzee. Bizarre, right? Stick with me. Fowler writes about the human/animal dynamic and the boundary between human and animal beings, showing us what happens when that boundary is blurred and too many questions are raised. Beyond that, we see the memories that shake loose from a childhood in an emotionally gripping fashion. Readers will forgive Fowler’s occasional didacticism about animal experimentation since Rosemary’s voice–vulnerable, angry, and shockingly honest–is so compelling and the cast of characters, including Fern, irresistible. The story is funny, heartbreaking–like literally will make you cry heartbreaking, especially if you have children–and beautifully written. You can find this book in the Adult Large Type Fiction section.

“The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” by Michael Finkel

What a strange book and strange story. A quiet, troubled man named Christopher Knight one day gets into his car, drives into the woods of Northern Maine and decides never to return to society. He spends the next 30 years living off the land (in a tent) and surviving through what he pilfers from his neighbors. Because of the stealing, they all knew he existed, but no one saw him and indeed, he had not spoken another word to a human being since he walked into those woods. The author finds out about Knight while scanning the news online. Police officers had arrested Knight for burglary, but when they questioned him further, they discovered that their suspect had been living alone in the wild for 27 years. Fascinated, the author sought out the “North Pond hermit” to learn why he had turned his back on society and understand the challenges he now faced with reintegration. Knight’s boyhood and adolescence had been ordinary; his most outstanding traits were his shyness and penchant for solitude. Then, when he was 20, he suddenly quit his job. Without saying a word to friends or family, he went on a road trip that eventually led him to the shores of Moosehead Lake in Maine. There, he parked his car and, carrying only a backpack and a tent “stepped into the trees and walked away.” Knight built a shelter deep in the woods, where he camped outdoors even during the bitterest of Maine winters. He broke into nearby cottages, where he stole only what he needed to survive, including food, clothing and magazines. His burglaries–for which he admitted feeling “ashamed”–frightened residents at first. However, over time, many became used to his “visits” and even tried to leave out supplies for him to take. Through interviews conducted with the elusive Knight and those who knew him, Finkel creates a sympathetic portrait of a gentle yet quietly troubled man who willingly chose a Spartan existence in nature as a way to find the peace and freedom that eluded him in society. The narrative that emerges from Finkel’s compassionate research not only probes the nature of the relationship between the individual and society, but also ponders the meaning of happiness and fulfillment in the modern world. That this guy is still alive is insanity. You can find this book in the New Adult Nonfiction section.


Vince Giordano has been the director of the Juniata County Library since 2015.