In honor of Black History Month, here are some newer titles that explore the varied experience of being black in America, some from historical perspectives and others from a contemporary point of view.
“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson
In vivid poems that reflect the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, an award-winning author shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South.
“The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth” by Karen Branan
A provocative true account of the hanging of four black people by a white lynch mob in 1912 is written by a descendant of the sheriff charged with protecting them and draws on diaries and letters to piece together the events and motives that led up to the tragedy.
“Jam on the Vine” by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
A poor, African-American Muslim girl in rural, racially segregated turn-of-the-century Texas, Ivoe Williams discovers a passion for journalism while pilfering old newspapers from her mother’s white employer. Ivoe, together with her former teacher and lover, Ona, starts Jam! On the Vine, the nation’s first female-run African American newspaper. Loosely based on pioneering journalist Ida B. Wells and Charlotta Bass, this is a dramatic debut novel.
“The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae
These essays on the challenges of being black and introverted in a world that glorifies “cool” behavior, drawn from the author’s award-winning social media series, share self-deprecating perspectives on such topics as cybersexing, weight and self-acceptance.
“The Sellout” by Paul Beatty
In this satirical take on race, politics and culture in the U.S., a young black man grows up determined to resegregate a portion of an inner city, aided by a former Little Rascals star who volunteers to be his slave. This illegal activity brings him to the attention of the Supreme Court, who must consider the ramifications of this (and other) race-related cases. A provocative novel.
“The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace” by Jeff Hobbs
This work of nonfiction presents the life of Robert Peace, an African American who became a brilliant biochemistry student at Yale University but after graduation lived as drug dealer and was brutally murdered at the age of thirty.
“The Turner House” by Angela Flournoy
Learning after a half-century of family life that their house on Detroit’s East Side is worth only a fraction of its mortgage, the members of the Turner family gather to reckon with their pasts and decide the house’s fate. A powerful portrait of an American family.
For local events, history and research tools, visit our Black Culture and History subject guide.
My daughter, Samantha, and I joined a mother-daughter book club when she was in fourth grade. The club consisted of the two of us and Samantha’s best friend and her mother. That club lasted until we had to move just before the start of sixth grade. And even though we are now just a club of two, Samantha and I have continued reading books together. We are currently reading “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. (Samantha chooses the books even if I offer suggestions.)
When I ran across the title “Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More” by Lori Day, I couldn’t resist and requested that it be purchased for the library. I think we did fine with our book club, but now that I have read this one, I really wish we had had the benefit of its recommendations and insights from the beginning. The first part of the book gives tips on how and why to begin a mother-daughter book club and how to keep it running smoothly. Part two delves into topics such as gender stereotypes and sexism, the sexualization of childhood (and how to bypass it), body image, bullying and how to be allies, encouraging healthy relationships, how to be inclusive, female leadership and the welfare of girls and women around the world. Each topic chapter highlights one or two books, provides discussion questions, suggests activities and finishes with a list of recommended books, including some kid appropriate, adult level books, movies/TV and media with suggested age ranges.
Our club read books such as “The Giver,” “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” that led us into discussions about utopias/dystopias and how those societies reflect our own. We also had some deep discussions about race and racial violence when we read “Number the Stars,” and “If We Must Die: A Novel of Tulsa’s 1921 Greenwood Riot.” We even had discussions about about — shhhhh — s-e-x when we read “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Speak,” and “Fangirl.” And, of course, once you have read the books, who can resist seeing and comparing the movies?
I can’t overstate what our mother-daughter book club has meant to me. I’m sure that it would have meant a lot to us even if we had not moved, but it became so much more important because of the move. I miss having other members in our club if for no other reason than to help us narrow down book club selections! I also miss the camaraderie and support that we gained from our other mother-daughter pair, and I would love for our club to expand again someday. But I’m so glad that we had this partnership developed ahead of our move to help support us through the loss of friends, family, pets, our place in the world and, at times, our sanity. I hope we continue for a long, long time.
My iPad rarely leaves the kitchen. I use it to play podcasts or audiobooks while I do the dishes. I check Facebook while I’m waiting for the pasta water to boil. But the thing I use the device for the most is my daily meal preparation. No, I’m not like that German dad using the tablet as a cutting board in the YouTube video that made the rounds a few years ago. Through the library’s OverDrive eBook collection, I can download new cookbooks from some of my favorite foodies and make meal planning and cooking that much easier. Whether I want to consult the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman or the Food Network’s Rachael Ray, the library’s eBook collection has me covered. Here are just some of the new and popular cookbooks you can have at your fingertips in almost no time.
“NOPI: The Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully
Yotam Ottolenghi is beloved in the food world for his beautiful, inspirational cookbooks, as well as his Ottolenghi delis and his fine-dining restaurant, NOPI. In the NOPI cookbook, head chef Ramael Scully’s Asian-inspired pantry meets Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern influences and brings the restaurant’s favorite dishes within reach of the home cook.
“The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime” by Ree Drummond
The #1 bestselling author and Food Network personality at last answers that age-old question –“What’s for Dinner?”– bringing together more than 125 simple, scrumptious, step-by-step recipes for delicious dinners for the whole family. She includes her family’s favorites, like tomato soup with Parmesan croutons, buffalo chicken salad, baked ziti and shrimp scampi.
“The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” by J. Kenji López-Alt
As Serious Eats’s culinary nerd-in-residence, J. Kenji López-Alt has pondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that’s perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it and more. In this book, Kenji focuses on the science behind beloved American dishes, delving into the interactions between heat, energy and molecules that create great food. Kenji shows that often, conventional methods don’t work that well, and home cooks can achieve far better results using new — but simple — techniques
“100 Days of Real Food” by Lisa Leake
The creator of the 100 Days of Real Food blog draws from her hugely popular website to offer simple, affordable, family-friendly recipes and practical advice for eliminating processed foods from your family’s diet.
Here are more popular eBooks for cooks!
- “The China Study Cookbook” by LeAnne Campbell
- “Forks over Knives – The Cookbook” by Del Sroufe
- “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi
- “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” by Deb Perelman
- “Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever” by Diane Phillips
OverDrive has a sizable selection of books on food and cooking, including food memoirs and cookbooks for kids – look for the “Cooking and Food” category under eBook nonfiction. Finally, if keeping your tablet in the kitchen has the screen greasy and food-spattered, see tips for screen cleaning from Tablet PC Review. Happy cooking and eating!
My library coworkers’ reading tastes vary widely. Some are graphic novel and comics experts, others are sci-fi and fantasy aficionados and some kill it at every trivia night because they are voracious nonfiction readers. Many best-of lists in book-ish publications (both in print and online) offer recommendations that lean towards what you might call literary, which I personally love (I read a lot of contemporary fiction and memoirs). The LibraryReads monthly list, however, often offers up a list as diverse as the reading tastes of our patrons. The list of books publishing in February that librarians across the country recommend clearly reflects this diversity. What other list has a stunningly written historical fiction sharing space with a steamy romance? Enjoy this month’s picks!
“Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys
“Titanic. Lusitania. Wilhelm Gustloff. All major maritime disasters, yet the last is virtually unknown. Ruta Sepetys changes that in her gripping historical novel. Told in short snippets, “Salt to the Sea” rotates among four narrators attempting to escape various tragedies in 1945 Europe. Powerful and haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful–a must read.” – Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL
“Black Rabbit Hall” by Eve Chase
“Young Amber Alton and her family adore Black Rabbit Hall and the joy and peace it brings to them all. That is, until a tragic accident changes everything. Three decades later, Lorna decides her wedding must be celebrated at the crumbling hall. As the book moves between these two time periods, secrets slowly unfold. Perfectly twisty with interesting characters and a compelling story that kept me up too late.” – Deborah Margeson, Douglas County Libraries, Parker, CO
“A Girl’s Guide to Moving On” by Debbie Macomber
“Leanne and her daughter-in-law Nichole both leave cheating husbands to start over. They learn that it is never easy and that hardships abound, but they meet many wonderful people on their way to happily-ever-after. Believable characters and an enjoyable story made this perfect for relaxing reading—definitely one of Macomber’s best. An excellent choice both for long-time fans of the author and for those who have never read her novels.” – Linda Tilden, Cherry Hill Public Library, Cherry Hill, NJ
And here is the rest of the February list for your hold-placing pleasure.
- “Be Frank With Me” by Julia Claiborne Johnson
- “Flight of Dreams” by Ariel Lawhon
- “13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl” by Mona Awad
- “Fighting Dirty: An Ultimate Novel” by Lori Foster
- “Find Her” by Lisa Gardner
- “The Opposite of Everyone” by Joshilyn Jackson
- “The Girl in the Red Coat” by Kate Hamer
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The February 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
The Best Picture nominations for the 2016 Oscar’s were announced last week, and films based on books make up the majority of the list. If you are a read-it-before-you-watch-it kind of person, then your to-read pile just got much bigger.
“The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis
This nonfiction work investigates the 2008 stock market crash and economic crisis, citing such factors as expanded home ownership and risky derivative elections in the face of increasing shareholder demands, and profiles responsible parties in government, financial and private sectors. An unlikely basis for the plot of a riveting drama, but there you go.
The film is nominated for Best Picture, Director (Adam McKay), Supporting Actor (Christian Bale) and Adapted Screenplay.
“Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín
Leaving her home in post-World War II Ireland to work as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn, Eilis Lacey discovers a new romance in America with a charming blond Italian man before devastating news threatens her happiness.
The film adaptation is nominated for Best Picture, Actress (Saoirse Ronan) and Adapted Screenplay.
“The Martian” by Andy Weir
After a bad storm cuts his team’s Mars mission short, injured astronaut Mark Watley is stranded. Now he’s got to figure out how to survive without air, shelter, food or water on the harsh Martian landscape until the next manned mission in four years.
The film adaptation is nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Matt Damon) and Adapted Screenplay.
“The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” by Michael Punke
A story of survival on the American frontier chronicles the exploits of fur trapper Hugh Glass. Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his fellow trappers but survives and treks through the wilderness to seek justice.
The movie adaptation is nominated for Best Picture, Director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy).
“Room” by Emma Donoghue
A five-year-old narrates a story about his life growing up in a single room where his mother aims to protect him from the man who kidnapped her when she was a teenager and has held her prisoner for seven years.
The film is nominated for Best Picture, Director (Lenny Abrahamson), Actress (Brie Larson) and Adapted Screenplay.
As the old saying goes, “…judge a book by its cover.” The eye-catching cover of “A Hanging at Cinder Bottom” by Glenn Taylor caught my eyes, and the contents held them. If my team of editors, web developers, interns and chefs has done its job, the cover should be to the right. A keen eye will spot a monkey on a pedestal. Beware though: the monkey doesn’t show up until deep into the novel, and he doesn’t appear on a pedestal, but the wait and subterfuge about his standing gear is worth it. He’s a brave and loyal little rascal, and he wins his owner’s bets by being able to drink a bottle of beer and smoke a cigarette in under two minutes. Now, we’ve all seen our share of smoking, alcoholic monkeys, but this monkey is special. His owner, Tony Thumbs (he’s missing a thumb), loves him, and this gentleman reader was moved by the revelation that Tony, out of concern for the monkey’s health, only asked his little pal to pull the trick on occasion, when it might prove useful in making friends.
While it shouldn’t take more than a quality monkey to sell you on “A Hanging at Cinder Bottom,” it is a ripping yarn written with a poet’s dedication to word choice, and it is about much more than an awesome monkey. There is also a stage show featuring a man perfectly playing the tune “Yankee Doodle” with his farts.
The novel opens in 1910 with life-long loves Abe Baach, a card sharp and conman, and Goldie Toothman, a brothel madam capable of throwing a playing card with deadly precision, awaiting the gallows for murdering the mayor. With ropes around necks and Abe’s promise to “tell the truth before I die” or “walk out of hell in kerosene drawers and set the world on fire” ringing in the crowd’s ears, the evil sheriff collapses on the stage and lets loose some profound flatulence, and with that ringing in the crowd’s ears:
“The sun came free of the clouds then, and the people looked skyward, and there was only the north-born sound of the tardy noon train’s wheeze. The engine was not yet fully stopped at the station when men began to jump from inside the empty coal hoppers. They hit the hard dirt beside the railbed and rolled and got to their feet quick. They ran on wrenched ankles, headlong into the people staring at the heavens.”
And there, as we hope those men are injuring their ankles in an effort to save our charming heroes, the novel leaps back to 1877, and then to 1897, so that we might better understand why our protagonists would run afoul of the most powerful people in the county. Then the novel returns to 1910 and the months leading up to the hanging, where the bulk of our time is spent, and we get the story of the long con that puts them in the nooses we find them in at the beginning. While you might guess the general thrust of the ending, the specifics will delight you. Someone will eventually film the closing sequence, and while it will be impossible to improve on the novel and a reader’s imagination, it will be great fun to see someone try. Here’s hoping they cast the right monkey.
Kids these days, with their “Hunger Games” and “Divergent.” The millennial generation thinks they’re the first ones to discover futuristic dystopian literature? I’ll show them futuristic dystopian literature. Aldous Huxley was writing it before their grandparents were born.
His 1932 book, “Brave New World,” presents a society where lives are created by cloning and controlled through technology and drugs. Fulfillment is meant to be found in consumer goods, and Henry Ford is worshiped. A caste system is enforced through genetic engineering. There are no families, no personal attachments. Or at least there aren’t supposed to be.
Enter John, aka “the Savage.” Through happenstance, he has grown up removed from the World State, raised by a mother, even, albeit not a stable one. His development was largely influenced by an old volume of the works of William Shakespeare, and it provides his frame of reference as he tries to understand what passes for the civilized world, once he is dropped into its midst. He repeatedly speaks of the “brave new world,” a quote from Miranda in Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest.” But each time he utters the phrase, it takes on a different meaning.
John’s three main companions in his new life are Bernard Marx, who oversees psychological sleep training at the (human) Hatchery and Conditioning Center, Bernard’s friend Helmholtz Watson, a university lecturer and Lenina Crowne, a giver of vaccines at the Hatchery. All three are, in their own ways, discontent with life in their supposed Utopia, though Lenina tries her best to find happiness, or failing that, at least numbness.
“Brave New World” tackles questions that are still relevant today, issues about the role of technology and medical ethics. To what extent should we meddle with nature? How much can we improve life and health by doing so, and what do we risk losing? Is complacency the same as happiness? How much social engineering is acceptable in order to maintain a stable society?
Kids these days. Do they think they’re the first one to ask those questions? They’re not. Every generation asks them. Aldous Huxley saw this.
I rarely make resolutions. I do like the notion of the coming year as a clean slate, a calendar full of possibilities, and I’m a proponent of self-improvement. However, I bristle at the typical resolution’s focus on weight loss or basis in dissatisfaction, what I don’t have or don’t do but should. And because they are so often abandoned, making resolutions feels like I’m setting myself up for failure.
This year I bucked my own trend and made some resolutions. Why? Maybe it’s because I’m in my 40s now and feel like I need to make some lifestyle adjustments for my future health. (Calcium supplements! Weight training!) Maybe it’s because I really like checking items off of to-do lists. (Session with personal trainer scheduled? Check! Best calcium supplements researched – I am a librarian, after all – and purchased? check!) Whatever the reason, I’ve started off 2016 as a goal-setter. If you want to join me and need some inspiration for shaking up your status quo, finding work-life balance or otherwise becoming a better version of yourself, pick up one of these books.
“10% Happier” by Dan Harris
Subtitled, “How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-help That Actually Works – a True Story,” this often funny narrative winds up a convincing argument for meditation and mindfulness. While I haven’t read it yet, a woman in my book club quietly asserted that this book changed her life. Endorsement enough for me.
“Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes
Chronicles of the year a writer spent conducting some sort of personal experiment – strictly living according to the bible, only eating food grown within 100 miles of home, etc. – are not new. However, Rhimes’ fresh and personal voice keeps her memoir from feeling like it’s something we’ve already heard. On her sister’s challenge, Rhimes embarks on a year of saying yes to things that scare her, from public speaking engagements to promotional opportunities. The outcomes are pretty dramatic, and Rhimes’ journey inspires.
“Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time” by Brigid Schulte
I often think that if I added up all of those little chunks of time I spend at the end of my day scrolling through Facebook posts, I could get a whole lot more novel reading done. Or at least some laundry. Schulte investigates why modern workers (particularly women with kids) have so little leisure time. She looks to European countries for alternative models and makes some practical suggestions for time-management and reclaiming time we waste attempting to multitask or spend on manufactured busyness.
Happy New Year!
Do you love listening to audiobooks? Have you ever run all over town trying to find the book for your book club’s next meeting, only to discover that the slightly faster members of your book club already grabbed every copy available within a 50-mile radius? Hoopla can help! Hoopla is a media service that allows you to stream and download audiobooks, eBooks, comics, movies and television shows. Sign up for an account (this quick start guide shows you how), and borrow up to 10 items per month. The best part? Everyone in your book club can borrow the same book on Hoopla – there’s no limit to how many people can borrow an item at once!
Here are just a few of the book club-worthy titles available as audiobooks on Hoopla:
“My Brilliant Friend” is the first novel in the popular Neapolitan series by Italian author Elena Ferrante. Set in a downtrodden neighborhood, this story of female friendship is told in luscious prose. Book clubs will find lots to talk about in the forces that shape Elena and Lila’s evolving friendship.
Need a thriller that will keep you guessing? Try “The Good Girl” by Mary Kubica. Told in “before” and “after” and by multiple characters, this novel keeps the tension high as readers piece together the story.
If your book club is approaching the new year with resolution-mindedness, then try “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. This small book contains the tenets of the KonMari method, including a clothes-folding technique that turns messy dresser drawers into expanses of true beauty. Take before and after pics for a spirited discussion!
I am one of those crazy, weird, super geeky people that actually tracks what they read. Not only that, but I have participated in a reading challenge for the past five years. This year, I originally set a reading goal of 75 books and then increased it to 100 when it became apparent that I was going to blow right past the original goal. I have reached and surpassed my revised goal by reading 125 books! I had someone tell me that a personally difficult year translates into a fruitful reading year, and this seems to be true. Looking over my list, there are several stand-out books, some that I have already written about and others that deserve a mention. There are also a few stinkers, but why dwell on that? I also discovered some interesting trends in my reading.
A member of our family is struggling with the end stages of Alzheimer’s and bladder cancer, which is reflected in many of the books I read in 2015, including “Can’t We Please Talk About Something More Pleasant,” “Being Mortal” and “Still Alice.” All three of these books gave me comfort, courage and an expanded perspective.
I found several incredible books that allowed me a few moments of pure escapism. “All the Light We Cannot See” is probably one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. “Good Lord Bird,” “Furiously Happy” and “Hyperbole and a Half” kept me laughing even about things that are not supposed to be funny. I really needed to find reasons to laugh this year.
There were nonfiction titles that kept my mind active during long periods of just waiting. And waiting. And waiting. “The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements,” “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” and “Knowledge is Beautiful: Impossible Ideas, Invisible Patterns, Hidden Connections – Visualized” all fed the geek in me.
For pure inspiration, I discovered a few role models. “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem – I just want to HUG her! But I’m an introvert, and that would be creepy and weird, but still…I just want to HUG her! Or maybe I could be like her, except that I’m a horrible homebody. This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I had actually read Steinem’s classic, “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,” earlier in the year before I even knew that she had another book coming out. Oddly enough, her books dovetailed nicely with Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.” Okay, so Amanda Palmer can still make me very uncomfortable (blame it on my age, environment, introvertedness, whatever) but I also think I really love her. I mean really. Love her.
There are so many more great books that I probably should mention, but it’s time to look forward. My reading goal for next year is once again 75 books. I know that having read 125 I should try to keep that up, right? But I’m hoping for a happier and healthier year spent doing more things with family and friends. And hey, 75 is still a highly respectable goal!
Happy New Reading Year!
Sure, you can resolve to make 2016 the year to lose 10 pounds, run a marathon or learn to speak Spanish. Those are all fine goals. But here at the library we like our resolutions literary, and book challenges fit the bill quite nicely.
What’s a book challenge? Basically, you read books according to a certain set of guidelines and share your reviews of those books with other readers. There are food writing challenges, debut author challenges and “to be read pile” challenges, just to name a few.
This year I’ve got my eye on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. The idea is to read a book in each of 24 categories, many of which will require you to sample new genres and stretch your usual reading boundaries. Read a play! Read a collection of essays! Read a nonfiction book about science! Join this book challenge and be a better person. (Or at least get way better at trivia night and cocktail party small talk.) If you want to join this challenge, you can download a pdf of the reading task list. Not sure where to start? I’ve got recommendations for each of the categories below. Enjoy!
Read a biography (not a memoir or autobiography)
“Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill” by Sonia Purnell, “E.E. Cummings: A Life” by Susan Cheever or “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough
Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel
“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy (obvious choice), “Zone One” by Colson Whitehead (zombies!) or “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel (no zombies! Shakespeare!)
Read a book originally published in the decade you were born
1960s: “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson
1970s: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” by John Le Carré
1980s: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
1990s: “Paradise” by Toni Morrison
Read the first book in a series by a person of color
“Devil in A Blue Dress” (first in a mystery series) by Walter Mosley or “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” (first in a sci-fi trilogy) by N.K. Jemisin
Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
“Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin or “Double Down” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
Have other books you’d like to suggest in any of these categories? Let us know in the comments.
The post Your New Year’s Reading Resolution: Read Harder Book Challenge appeared first on DBRL Next.
New books for the New Year! Here is the latest LibraryReads list, the top 10 books publishing in January 2016 that librarians across the country recommend. The list includes new novels from Elizabeth Strout (“Olive Kitteridge“) and Melanie Benjamin (“The Aviator’s Wife“), as well as nonfiction from the incomparable Bill Bryson (“A Walk in the Woods“)!
“My Name Is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout
“Set in the mid-1980s, Lucy Barton, hospitalized for nine weeks, is surprised when her estranged mother shows up at her bedside. Her mother talks of local gossip, but underneath the banalities, Lucy senses the love that cannot be expressed. This is the story that Lucy must write about, the one story that has shaped her entire life. A beautiful lyrical story of a mother and daughter and the love they share.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
“The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katarina Bivald
“Sara arrives in the small town of Broken Wheel to visit her pen pal Amy, only to discover Amy has just died. The tale of how she brings the love of books and reading that she shared with Amy to the residents of Broken Wheel is just a lovely read. Any book lover will enjoy Sara’s story and that of the friends she makes in Broken Wheel. If ever a town needed a bookstore, it is Broken Wheel; the healing power of books and reading is made evident by this heartwarming book.” – Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton Public Library, Groton, CT
“The Swans of Fifth Avenue” by Melanie Benjamin
“Benjamin transports readers to 1960s Manhattan. This story gives us the chance to spy on Truman Capote’s close friendship with Babe Paley and his society “swans,” and the betrayal and scandal that drove them apart. I loved the description of the Black and White Ball.” – Emily Weiss, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH
And here is the rest of the list with links to the catalog for your holds-placing pleasure.
- “Ashley Bell” by Dean Koontz
- “American Housewife” by Helen Ellis
- “The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain” by Bill Bryson
- “The Things We Keep” by Sally Hepworth
- “Ornaments of Death: A Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery” by Jane K. Cleland
- “Even Dogs in the Wild” by Ian Rankin
- “What She Knew” by Gilly Macmillan
The post Top 10 Books Librarians Love: The January 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
“The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.” – Terri Guillemets
Winter reading is vital to my well-being, a respite from what can feel like eternal night. I was happy to discover December 21, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, is Celebrate Short Fiction Day. If you’d like to join the festivities, I can give you a few book suggestions:
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Ron Rash. This collection of stories centers around the people of Appalachia. “The Trusty” is the kind of tale that can haunt you long after you finish reading it. Set in Depression-era North Carolina, it follows the efforts of a prisoner to escape his chain gang by enlisting the help of a young farm wife who supplies water to the laborers. But all is not as it seems. “Cherokee,” a contemporary story of a young couple trying to win enough money at the casino to pay off their truck, had me holding my breath several times. Rash uses concrete words to explore spiritual and emotional depths, providing vivid mental images of the landscapes and people.
“The Real and the Unreal” is a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin stories in two volumes. The first book contains tales all set on earth, though often in fictional locales. One of them is even titled “Imaginary Countries.” It’s a story of children creating their own world, as children do. “The Direction of the Road” is narrated by an old tree, one that has witnessed the path of human progress, from travelers on horseback resting in its shade to the fatal crashes of speedsters in sports cars. The second volume presents Le Guin’s visions of other worlds. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is often assigned by high school teachers who want their students to ponder how much each of us is willing to allow another to suffer for our own gain.
“100 Years of the Best American Short Stories.” Judging by the selections I’ve read, the title of this anthology isn’t hyperbole. Many excellent writers are represented here, from Edna Ferber to Lauren Groff. Seeing George Saunders’ “The Semplica-girl Diaries” – a satirical look at consumer culture as expressed in the competition of children’s birthday parties – listed in the table of contents was enough to prompt me to pick it up. This compilation provides a chance to revisit some old literary favorites and discover new ones.
“Flash Fiction International.” If you’re really pressed for time, this collection is for you. Here are stories you can read in less than five minutes. Every continent is represented, with the exception of Antarctica. Some of the authors amaze me with their ability to portray a character’s entire life in under 1,000 words. Two of my favorite pieces, “Barnes” by Edmundo Paz Soldán and “Idolatry” by Sherman Alexie, are each only one page long. Both authors explore the human craving for recognition, but in different ways.
Welcome to the latest entry in the sporadically occurring series Better Know a Genre. Like many people, I find the holiday season to be more stressful than festive. I have to cook, shop, wrap and plan the order in which I will see all the branches of family (which always means somebody feels disappointed). It doesn’t help my mood that there are about 30 minutes of sunlight in the winter. So, to help lift my spirits, I try to keep my pre-solstice reading light-hearted and funny. Humor is a genre that is both easily defined and broad. It can be fiction or nonfiction. It can run the spectrum from gentle to raunchy (brown chicken brown cow). What one person finds witty, another person can find offensive (that’s the title of my autobiography). Laughter can be intended or unintended, but to be included in the humor genre, the author must be actually attempting to amuse the readers of the work. Here are some funny titles to get through the month:
When you can’t focus because of all the noise: Flip through “Awkward Family Holiday Photos” by Mike Bender. It is a collection of the most ridiculous family pictures taken during the holiday season, and it is spectacular.
When you want to inject some sci-fi into your celebration: “A Very Klingon Khristmas,” by Paul Ruditis, is a heart-warming tale of the warrior race in the Star Trek Universe. It’s probably the only Christmas story that includes tribbles.
When you’ve been watching holiday cartoons on a loop and you need to feel like a grown-up: “Christmas at the New Yorker: Stories, Poems, Humor, and Art” doesn’t only contain humor, but it’s sprinkled throughout this anthology. Also, John Cheever! Alice Munro! Vladimir Nabakov!
When you need your hands free to wrap, but you also need that holiday humor RIGHT NOW: Log in to your hoopla account and download “NPR Holiday Favorites.” David Sedaris is, of course, a master of the humorous essay (holiday and otherwise), but there are seasonal works by other great NPR contributors, too.
Like most people, I find new books by reading library blogs, or visiting askjeeves.com and typing “please show me a good book,” or perusing the shelves at my local library until I find a book with a cover that seems sufficiently gravy resistant. Occasionally though, a human will recommend a book. Such is the case with this month’s recommendation: a colleague said “Bats of the Republic” sounded like one of the weird books I like. I tipped my hat, gave my monocle a friendly shake and asked Jeeves about this weird book. (I’m compelled to note that while I do often enjoy literary oddities, in general my tastes lean to the conventional, and I have the crystal decanter collection to prove it.) Jeeves obliged and showed me a picture of the author’s tremendous mustache (or perhaps the mustache’s tremendous author?). I swooned, such was my joy at finding a novel so presumably suited to my tastes. After a quick trip to the market for a crystal decanter or two, I eagerly set to reading the words birthed by such an inspiring swatch of follicles.
“Bats of the Republic” is subtitled “an Illuminated Novel,” which, rather than meaning it is self-lit, perhaps by a series of small magic candles, means that it is fancy. This fanciness includes handwritten correspondence, maps, illustrations from a character’s burgeoning field guide and there being a book within the book (though that is not exactly accurate, but to explain it entirely, to make this sentence make some sense, would subtract from the book’s delights). “Bats of the Republic” is set in a future where most of society has crumbled, steam has replaced electricity, and the freedom to live where you want if you can afford it is replaced by a government-mandated life cycle (young, single people live in Port Land, the elderly live in Chicago, gay people live in Atlanta, couples and crazy sheriffs live in Texas, etc). The novel opens with Zachary Thomas (the character, not the author after having shed the final third of his name) slashing a steam tube with his sabre in an effort to vent his emotions and some steam. Zachary finds a letter labeled “Do Not Open.” The letter goes missing. Someone or something is murdering people. It is illegal to possess a pencil or a document that hasn’t been carboned and entered into the vault. Laudanum is plentiful.
The book within a book is called “The Sisters Gray,” and it is the sort of 19th century novel of manners you would expect from a man with magnificently cultivated facial hair. Its pages are marked by a hole, which we eventually discover is the result of its having stopped a bullet on behalf of a character that exists within the world of “The Sisters Gray.” (Indeed, this may prove a most confounding reading experience.)
The stories within “Bats of the Republic” twist and meet in ways that may compel the reader to sit for a spell and think, their hands running idly over the nearly imperceptible imperfections in their newest decanter. A final bit of fancy: The book ends with a sealed envelope labeled “Do Not Open.” I did not abide, and neither should you. Here’s hoping the letter is always returned with the book. If you enjoy being confounded, my recommendation is to read the novel soon, before the letter is lost or ruined by gravy stains.
My brother Michael and I were born about 16 months apart and have always been very close. When we started our adventures away from home, in the early 1990s, we began a series of correspondence by letter that has continued to this day. Back in the early days, we wrote each other once or even twice a week. We continue to correspond by pen and paper, although less frequently than in our youth, as we still live half a continent apart. Considered a “lost art” by many, both of us uphold the art of letter writing as communication, solace and even therapy. The library has many books about letter writing, and what better time to celebrate than December 7 – National Letter Writing Day!
For the author Hannah Brencher, letter writing was found to be an elixir for melancholy, leading her to pen the book “If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers.” The premise is especially captivating: Brencher started a website called “The World Needs More Letters” so that she might reach out beyond herself and connect with others, while attempting to recover from her bouts with serious depression. Thus began a campaign to spread love and well-wishes to strangers throughout the world. Brencher writes, after getting the project off the ground: “The stories kept coming. They keep coming very day. And with each one I read, there is less urgency to tie the thing up with a white bow or look for the happy ending.” You can find her website here: www.moreloveletters.com.
Uncertainty about engaging in this seemingly lost art might keep some people from writing. For encouragement, look no further than the book “The Art of the Personal Letter” by Margaret Shepherd. In chapters like “The Tools of the Trade,” Shepherd helps guide readers toward rewarding letter writing experiences. “Once you see how much easier it is to write with a roller-ball pen or marker, and how much better the script looks, you might be inspired to go one step further and explore the traditional look and feel of a fountain pen,” she writes. Included in the book are examples of real letters, samples of good penmanship and formats for “better document design.”
“For the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication,” written in 2012 by John O’Connell, is an exuberant celebration of the art. Using historical examples of the form from dozens of famous and not so famous Englishmen (O’Connell is British himself), he goes on to say, “letters shape and define lives. They also encapsulate them much more effectively than biography because they show rather than tell us what a person was like.” O’Connell also takes a long look at the letters produced during wartime, and how these particular letters often were the “only way to stay in touch with fathers, sons and brothers who had been posted abroad.”
Speaking of war – please see “Conkrite’s War: His World War II Letters Home.” Compiled by Walter Conkrite IV and Maurice Isserman, the book is a collection of correspondence by the then obscure 23-year-old United Press wire service reporter. His grandson, Conkrite IV, says in the introduction to the book, “The effect that World War II had on my grandfather was profound – and provided the foundation for the rest of his illustrious career.” Attached as a reporter to the 8th Air Force, Cronkite’s letters are at times filled with loneliness and longing for his life in America. Cronkite writes in January of 1944: “My precious Betsy, Here it is Betsymas Eve (referring to his wife’s upcoming birthday) and we are still apart and I am very lonely and unhappy. How much I would like to be with you on your birthday . . .” Interestingly, because of the sensitive nature of many of his assignments, most of his correspondence did not disclose his location or exact whereabouts.
Finally, one must not forget love letters. An especially touching volume, “The Love Letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning,” is found on our shelves. Browning writes in an early epistle: “Your letter made me so happy, dear Miss Barrett, that I have kept quiet this while: is it too great a shame if I begin to want more good news of you, and to say so?” Their letters are filled with longing but also with practical concerns as they were written in secret, mainly because of her demonstrative and abusive father. Elizabeth eventually married Browning and was subsequently disinherited.
Write a letter or two this month – to a loved one or even a stranger. You will feel better for it and help uphold this meaningful and very personal form of communication that has survived the centuries.
Voting for this year’s Teens’ Top Ten took place from mid-August through Teen Read Week, Oct. 18-24, with more than 27,000 votes cast. There were 24 nominees that competed for the “top ten” list. Below are this year’s winning titles.
The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, with teens nominating and choosing their favorite books of the previous year. Nominators are members of teen book groups in 16 school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on “Celebrate Teen Literature Day” during “National Library Week” and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles between August and October.
“The Shadow Throne” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
War is on the horizon in Carthya, and Jaron needs to protect his country. However, the ruler of Avenia has also captured Jaron’s best friend and love, Imogen. Jaron needs to save both his friend and his country, but everything that possibly could go wrong, does go wrong.
“I Become Shadow” by Joe Shine
Ren Sharpe was abducted at fourteen, chosen by the mysterious F.A.T.E. Center to become a Shadow: an unstoppable guardian of a future leader/world changer. After four years of training, she is assigned to protect Gareth Young, one of these future beings, an easy assignment, until a team of trained and armed professionals attempt to abduct him in broad daylight. With nowhere else to turn, Ren breaks F.A.T.E. rules and tracks down the only person she can trust; a fellow Shadow named Junie Miller, and decides that her kidnappers may be able to see the future, but they are unprepared for the killing machines they’ve created.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han
Lara Jean has a teal hatbox under her bed filled with all her precious things, old feelings, and memories that should be buried forever. In that box, there are letters Lara has written to all the boys she has ever loved with no intention of ever sending them. One day, the hat box goes missing, marking the beginning of a series of confrontations she never thought she’d have to face.
“My Life with the Walter Boys” by Ali Novak
As the perfect girl who had everything scheduled, always looked nice and studied hard, Jackie couldn’t predict her parents’ accident. She also didn’t see her future consisting of moving from New York to Colorado and living with twelve boys. How can she cope with her parents’ death, a dramatic change in lifestyle while still being the perfect girl she was?
“Heir of Fire” by Sarah J. Maas
Celaena, the King’s Champion, has faced many challenges throughout her life, but none compare to what she must now face. As the King of Adarlan seeks to destroy all that she cares about, Celaena must learn to control her powers while deciding who should fight back: Celaena the assassin or Aelin the Fae princess.
“The Bane Chronicles” by Cassandra Clare
Magnus Bane, the mysterious High Warlock of New York, has been alive for a long time and has a mysterious past unknown to most of his companions. In this thrilling novel, secrets and stories are revealed, of lovers, of adventures, and of friendships.
“The Young Elites” by Marie Lu
Adelina Amounteru is a survivor of the plague, a Malfetto, a freak to the rest of society. The treatment of abuse over the years has caused a darkness to brew inside her. She believes there is hope for her yet as there is a group of other Malfettos, called the Young Elites. The Young Elites have not only survived the plague, but have developed unexplainable abilities. Is refuge with these people what Adelina always wanted, or are they just going to end up using her like everyone else?
“The Kiss of Deception” by Mary E. Pearson
As Lia tries to run from her bounty hunters, she begins uncovering one of her kingdoms deceptive secrets, hidden by the years passed. Meanwhile, she begins falling in love with two men who are not who they seem to be…
“Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Matson
Emily and Sloane are the bestest friends having an amazing summer, until one day Sloane disappears. Sloane leaves behind a to-do list of 13 tasks Emily would normally never try without Sloane by her side. With the help of Frank Porter, and a few other friends, will Emily finish the list?
“The Geography of You and Me” by Jennifer E. Smith
Lucy and Owen get stuck in an elevator in a New York City blackout. When they finally get out of the elevator, they spend the night looking at the stars. Soon after the blackout, Lucy moves away to Scotland while Owen heads out west. With that night in-grained into their minds, they try to stay in touch with each other while trying to figure out what that night truly meant for both of them.
Originally published at 2015 “Teens’ Top Ten” Winners Announced.
LibraryReads is a monthly top-ten list of forthcoming books librarians across the country recommend. This December, the organizers compiled a “favorite of favorites” list, asking librarians to vote on their top picks from the more than 100 titles appearing on LibraryReads lists over the past year. If you didn’t read these books the first time they were recommended, now is your chance! Check them out to read over the holidays, or use the list for gift ideas when shopping for the readers among your friends and family.
Topping the list is “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – no surprise there. The holds list at the library for this book was miles long, and everyone seems to be seeking the next “Gone Girl.” This dark, psychological thriller fits the bill.
Here’s the rest of the best – happy reading!
“Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson
“In cinematic terms, this dramatic page-turner is Das Boot meets Titanic. Larson has a wonderful way of creating a very readable, accessible story of a time, place and event. We get three sides of the global story – the U-boat commander, British Admiralty and President Wilson – but what really elevates this book are the affecting stories of individual crew and passengers.” – Robert Schnell, Queens Library, Jamaica, NY
“The Rosie Effect” by Graeme Simsion
“Don Tillman and Rosie are back again, and they’ve relocated to New York. Rosie is continuing her studies, while Don is teaching and even adding to his small circle of friends. But when Rosie announces that she is pregnant, Don is once again out of his depth. What follows are crazy situations that could only happen when Don is involved. Funny and heartwarming.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
“The Nature of the Beast” (A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny
“Louise Penny set the bar high with her last two books, but she had no trouble clearing it with this one. All our old friends are back in Three Pines where a young boy with a compulsion to tell tall tales tells one true story with disastrous results. But which story is the truth and why is it so threatening? Exquisitely suspenseful, emotionally wrenching and thoroughly satisfying.” – Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY
“A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler
“In this book, we come to know three generations of Whitshanks – a family with secrets and memories that are sometimes different than what others observe. The book’s timeline moves back and forth with overlapping stories, just like thread on a spool. Most readers will find themselves in the story. Once again, Tyler has written an enchanting tale.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
“Circling the Sun” by Paula McLain
“I couldn’t stop reading this fascinating portrayal of Beryl Markham, a complex and strong-willed woman who fought to make her way in the world on her terms. McLain paints a captivating portrait of Africa in the 1920s and the life of expats making their home there. Highly, highly recommended.” – Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC
“Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
“Lawson’s hilarious memoir is a romp between absurdity and despondency. Passages alternate from ridiculously funny stories of her life to episodes of her sometimes debilitating depression. Lawson embraces living life, rather than merely surviving it. Why be just happy when you can be furiously so? Recommended to fans of David Sedaris and Sloane Crosley.” – PJ Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC
“The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George
“Quirky and delightful, Nina George’s book focuses on Jean Perdu, owner of the Literary Apothecary, a floating bookshop. When a new tenant in his apartment building sets in motion events that force Jean to re-evaluate his past, he finds himself floating off down the rivers of France in search of lost love, new love and friends he didn’t know he needed.” – Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY
“Kitchens of the Great Midwest” by J. Ryan Stradal
“This novel is quirky and colorful. The story revolves around chef Eva Thorvald and the people who influence her life and her cooking. With well-drawn characters and mouthwatering descriptions of meals, Kitchens of the Great Midwest will appeal to readers who like vivid storytelling. Foodies will also enjoy this delicious tale.” – Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ
“A God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson
“In A God in Ruins, we become reacquainted with Teddy Todd, the beloved little brother of Ursula from Atkinson’s last book. As with Life After Life, this novel skims back and forth in time, and we see the last half of the 20th century through Ted’s eyes and the eyes of his loved ones. At times funny and at others heartbreaking, Atkinson revels in the beauty and horror of life in all its messiness.” – Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, Darien, CT
World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
This annual event also raises awareness about HIV/AIDS and promotes prevention and the search for a cure. Much misinformation still exists about who has the disease and how it is spread.
The following brief list of books (and one film) is an effort to provide good information about the history and impact of HIV/AIDS on both a personal and a global level.
“And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the Aids Epidemic” by Randy Shilts
Published in 1987, this riveting and important work of investigative journalism details how AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked in the early ’80s, virtually ignored by government institutions. Widely lauded as a “modern classic,” Shilts’ account reads like a medical thriller.
“The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the fight against AIDS” by Helen Epstein
The majority of HIV-positive people worldwide live in Africa. “The Invisible Cure” is a provocative analysis of the AIDS epidemic that looks at the social, economic and political factors that have caused and exacerbated the situation, its impact on gender relations and the spread of HIV. In addition to presenting the devastating effects of the disease on entire countries on that continent, Epstein offers possible solutions to the crisis.
“Visions and Revisions: Coming of Age in the Age of Aids” by Dale Peck
Part memoir, part extended essay, this book is a foray into what the author calls “the second half of the first half of the AIDS epidemic,” i.e., the period between 1987, when the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was founded, and 1996, when the advent of combination therapy transformed AIDS from a virtual death sentence into a chronic manageable illness. Gritty, powerful and raw.
“How to Survive a Plague,” directed by David France
This documentary, shown at the 2012 True/False Film Festival, tells the story of the brave young men and women who successfully reversed the tide of an epidemic, demanded the attention of a fearful nation and stopped AIDS from becoming a death sentence. This improbable group of activists infiltrated government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry, helping to identify promising new medication and treatments and move them through trials and into drugstores in record time.
Whatever your feelings about Black Friday, today kicks off the holiday shopping season. Personally, I like to spend the day after Thanksgiving in my pajamas, reading and recovering from a hefty pie hangover. However, I realize others enjoy that bargain-hunting buzz. Here are some books that can help us all.
For the readers on your list, give them the gift of inspiration and pick up one of these uplifting titles. Or, if you are staying home the Friday after Thanksgiving (or visiting the library – we’re open), check out one of these books for yourself. These moving and motivating books provide stories of perseverance and advice for living – both serious and humorous – and may just inspire you to write that play or start that business. Or at least get up off of the couch. (Book descriptions provided by their publishers.)
“Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.
“Find a Way” by Diana Nyad
On September 2, 2013, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad emerged onto the shores of Key West after completing a 110 mile, 53 hour, record-breaking swim through shark-infested waters from Cuba to Florida. Her memoir shows why, at 64, she was able to achieve what she couldn’t at 30 and how her repeated failures contributed to her success.
“Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living” by Jason Gay
Little Victories is a life guide for people who hate life guides. Whether the subject is rules for raising the perfect child without infuriating all of your friends, rules for how to be cool (related: Why do you want to be cool?) or rules of thumb to tell the difference between real depression and just eating five cupcakes in a row, Gay’s essays – whimsical, practical and occasionally poignant – will make you laugh and then think, “You know, he’s kind of right.”
“Rising Strong” by Brené Brown
The physics of vulnerability is simple: If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. The author of the bestsellers “Daring Greatly” and “The Gifts of Imperfection” tells us what it takes to get back up and how owning our stories of disappointment, failure, and heartbreak gives us the power to write a daring new ending. Struggle, Brown writes, can be our greatest call to courage, and rising strong our clearest path to a wholehearted life.
“Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes
In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” and executive producer of “How to Get Away with Murder” reveals how saying “yes” changed her life – and how it can change yours too.
Have inspirational books of your own to recommend? Let us know in the comments.
The post The Gift of Inspiration: Books for the Readers on Your List appeared first on DBRL Next.