Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles in fiction and nonfiction recently added to the library’s collection.
“Game of Thrones”
Season 1, Season 2, Season 3
Website / Reviews
This television drama series broadcast on HBO adapts the acclaimed series of fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin. This is a story of duplicity and treachery, nobility and honor, conquest and triumph. In the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.
“Who Is Dayani Cristal?”
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2013 and featuring reenactments by actor Gael García Bernal, this documentary tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of the Sonora Desert known as “the corridor of death” and shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration.
“The Walking Dead”
Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4
Website / Reviews
This television drama is based on the graphic novels of the same name by Robert Kirkman. Waking up in an empty hospital after weeks in a coma, County Sheriff Rick Grimes finds himself utterly alone. The world as he knows it is gone, ravaged by an epidemic. In the weeks and months that follow the apocalypse, Grimes will lead a group of survivors in a world overrun with zombies.
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown earlier this year at the 2014 True False Film Fest, this unusual film takes place entirely inside the narrow confines of a cable car, high above a jungle in Nepal that transports villagers to an ancient mountaintop temple. The film is an acute ethnographic investigation into culture, religion, technology and modernity.
“Sons of Anarchy”
Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6
Website / Reviews
This television drama takes you into the ruthless underworld of outlaw bikers. The Sons of Anarchy live, ride and die for brotherhood. But as the club’s leader (Ron Perlman) and his wife (Katey Sagal) steer them in an increasingly lawless direction, her son Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is torn between loyalty and the legacy.
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown earlier this year at Forum 8, this documentary is a glimpse of the face and co-founder of Burt’s Bees. The film shows the reclusive backwoods world of beekeeper Burt Shavitz, still committed to living off the land in Maine, as he has since the 1970s, in a renovated turkey coop with no running water. The film explores the peculiar relationship with the company he co-founded with Roxanne Quimby.
Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4
Website / Reviews
The short-based comedy series Portlandia was created, written by and stars Fred Armisen (SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (vocalist/guitarist, “Wild Flag,” “Sleater-Kinney“). Each episode’s character-based shorts draw viewers into “Portlandia,” the creators’ dreamy and absurd rendering of Portland, Oregon.
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown earlier this year at Forum 8, this documentary is a portrait of the late John Wojtowicz, whose attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank to finance his male lover’s sex-reassignment surgery was the real-life inspiration for the 1975 film “Dog Day Afternoon” starring Al Pacino.
Other notable releases:
- “Castle” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6 – Website / Reviews
- “K2: Siren of the Himalayas” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
- “Veep” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
- “Los Angeles Plays Itself” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
- “Under the Dome” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
- “Casting by” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
- “American Horror Story” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
- “Stripped” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
- “True Blood” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6, Season 7 – Website / Reviews
History! History! History!…and a little travel too! The 900s in nonfiction are a must for the history buff and the travel enthusiast. Did I mention history? In this section there is a wide variety of books including dictionaries, encyclopedias, ancient civilization, baby names, genealogy, geography, travel guides, world history, biographies and even local history! While browsing the aisles I found these curious titles tucked away on the bottom shelves.
- “Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania and Other States That Never Made It” by Michael J. Trinklein
This book was written to acknowledge these absurdly named territories that never made it to statehood for one reason or another. It’s a fun book with maps, stories and trivia to enhance any history buff’s knowledge!
- “Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing!” by Megan Smolenyak
Ms. Smolenyak has been call the “Indiana Jones” of genealogy. She is best know for revealing connections between famous people such as Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond, using DNA to solve crimes for the real NCIS and FBI and to locate family members of fallen soldiers as far back as the Civil War! This book is not a how-to book, but a novice genealogist could learn some pointers from this super sleuth.
- “London: Everything You Wanted to Know” (part of the Not for Parents series) by Klay Lamprell.
This is not a travel guide, rather it is an insider’s guide to the native’s life. The book is a collage of colorful, funky photos and drawings similar to those in the “Guinness World Records” books, with facts, true tales and trivia interspersed. You will see photos of weird cuisine (eels on a plate!) and punk style dress with mohawks. You’ll read about murdered kings, famous and infamous people such as Jack the Ripper, the Royals’ ancestral tree, creepy underground catacombs, a famous graffiti artist, how the streets in London were named and much, much more!
The post It Came From the Bottom Shelf! Books Not to Overlook in the 900s appeared first on DBRL Next.
Best books of the year lists are one of my favorite things about winter. Adding titles I’ve overlooked to my to-be-read list is a great pleasure, and I enjoy looking back at the year in publishing. However, time for reminiscing is short, because suddenly blogs and magazines are all atwitter over those books they can’t wait to read in the New Year. The buzz seems warranted, with forthcoming titles from heavy hitters like Toni Morrison (“God Help the Child,” April 2015) and Jonathan Franzen (“Purity,” September 2015), as well as a boatload of promising debuts. Neil Gaiman, Kazuo Ishiguro, Nick Hornby and many other big names also have books hitting the shelves in the next several months. I’m going to have to get a bigger night stand for all of these novels and learn to do with less sleep.
Here’s a sampling of recommended books. There is some overlap among the lists, but each has at least a handful of gems the others omit.
- “2015 Books We Can’t Wait to Read” from The Huffington Post
- “Most Anticipated: The Great 2015 Book Preview” from The Millions
- “Top 10 most anticipated novels of 2015” from The Washington Post
- “Anticipations: Coming in Early 2015” from Barnes & Noble
What book are you most looking forward to reading this year? Let us know in the comments!
Here’s my New Year’s resolution: spend more time in the passenger seat of my car. The student driver in my house is a little over half-way through the 40 practice hours he needs before he can get his license. So, another 20 hours of putting my life in the hands of a 16-year-old. No biggy. I’m sure I’ve done things that were more terrifying, even if they don’t come to mind immediately.
According to Missouri‘s graduated licensing laws, residents are eligible to test for a learner’s permit at 15 and an intermediate license at 16. Your library is here to help your family through this difficult exciting time. Drop by one of our three buildings to pick up your very own free copy of the “Missouri Driver’s Guide.” Or if the audio or DVD version would work better for you, those are available for check-out. A copy of the guide is also online.
To reinforce responsible driving behavior, the library has books addressing the issue of drunk driving. For a wider range of related topics, check out “The Driving Book,” which promises to cover “everything new drivers need to know but don’t know to ask.” “Real Life Teen: Teen Driving” is a DVD about important facets of driving that might not be on the test. While teens are conscientiously perusing these materials, parents can enlighten themselves with the book “Not So Fast, Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving.”
In addition to the online guide for the written test, the state of Missouri has a web page devoted to all things teen driving. Another valuable Internet resource is teendriversource.org, with a bevy of downloadable fact sheets for teens, parents, educators, legislators and other interested parties.
Let me finish on an encouraging note. The kid I’m teaching to drive right now – he’s my second student. I’ve already been through this once and can promise it’s not all fear and danger. I’ve spent many hours of my parenting life sitting in cars waiting for a child to emerge from a school, movie theater or other building. A lot of time gets freed up when your teen obtains a license. And then there’s the errand thing. When I’m in the middle of cooking dinner and realize I’m out of an ingredient, I find real joy in being able to hand someone else the car keys while saying, “I need you to run to the store for me.”
The post Resources for Teen Drivers (and Their Terrified Parents) appeared first on DBRL Next.
Another year completed, another year begun. This is when we look behind us and say, “What was that all about?” while looking forward saying, “This time it will be different!” If you’re like me, this is also the time of year you take a long look in the mirror and say, “Grandpa?” To paraphrase the band They Might Be Giants, “We’re older than we’ve ever been, and now we’re even older.” We can’t hit the brakes on this process, and we can’t hit the reset button. Time waits for no one while it marches on like sands through the hourglass, or something. So we find our resolve, and we make promises we don’t keep, and we say to ourselves, “This time it will be different. We will eat better and get in shape. We will get a hobby, learn a skill or at least finally paint the house. We will find the cause of our dissatisfaction and fix it.” Then, next thing we know, it’s another new year.
So how do we break free from this Sisyphean hamster wheel of broken New Year’s resolutions and take care of business? Books (obvs)! There are many useful books to help guide and inspire us on the path to self-improvement. It just so happens that I have written three manuscripts which fall under this category (totally crushed my resolutions for that year!): “Cooking, With Food,” “Find the Right Pilates Instructor for Your Blood Type” and “Being Fat Is Stupid, Stupid!” Unfortunately, I have yet to find a forward-thinking publisher who wants to purchase the rights to these books. Until then, here are some titles that have actually been published to help you achieve your goals for 2015, or at least keep the trials and tribulations of this annual ritual in perspective.
“Stretch” by Neal Pollack
Based on Neal Pollack’s earlier satirical work it’s difficult to believe this man has a sincere dedication to the practice of yoga, but it’s true. Finding his career at a crossroads, and his body aging, he gives yoga a shot. He now writes a column for Yoga Journal and is a yoga instructor. The book is in a part a memoir of his experience as well as a look at the different corners of the yoga world. Don’t worry – despite the sincere devotion to his practice, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor or skeptical eye. This is an excellent introduction to yoga for people who think it “isn’t for them,” or are allergic to the earnestness often associated with it.
“Drop Dead Healthy” by A.J. Jacobs
A.J. Jacobs has cut out a successful career as a writer of “stunt journalism.” He regularly immerses himself in a subject to see what it’s like, using himself as a guinea pig (in one case, literally). In this book he sets a two-year goal to become as a healthy as possible. The book’s combination of thorough research and humorous tone make it a great survey of various health fads. It’s nice of him to put himself through all this so we don’t have to.
“The Road to Wellville” by T.C. Boyle
T.C. Boyle’s comic historical novel is set in Dr John Harvey Kellog’s (yes, the Corn Flakes guy) Battle Creek Spa. The book pokes fun at the strange “cures,” pseudo-science and hucksterism of the time. The scary part is when you start wondering how much resemblance there is to present-day health fads.
“Helping Me Help Myself” by Beth Lisick
Beth Lisick wakes up on New Years Day to find she is tired of dealing with the same problems year after year. Despite her skepticism, she binges on the works of successful self-help gurus. In addition to reading their books she attends their seminars and starts to fear she might actually learn something from these “gurus.”
“Promise Land” by Jessica Lamb Shapiro
Jessica Lamb Shapiro’s book takes on a similar challenge to the one in “Helping Me Help Myself,” but her skepticism has a more personal source because her father was an author of self-help books. The book is part memoir and part exploration of self-help culture. With an irreverent tone, she points out some of the snake-oil salesman in the field and attempts to determine if self-help culture really can be helpful.
“The Will To Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life” by Eugene Mirman
Eugene Mirman is a writer and stand-up comedian. He also is the voice of Gene Belcher on the television show “Bob’s Burgers.” With a resume like that, why wouldn’t you accept his advice on life and act accordingly? His book contains advice on family, school, romance, money (to be exact, “The Money Lover’s Guide to Making Money”) and my favorite, “The Theory and Practice of Organizations Connected With Government, I think.” I’m pretty sure you could just read this book and throw all the others I’m recommending in the trash. (Wait! Forget that last part. Treat library books with kindness!)
“Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Principles for Delicious Living” by Nick Offerman
Nick Offerman is another comedian on another TV show (“Parks and Recreation” – watch it!). Messrs. Offerman and Mirman are making me me think the real answer to all our problems is to tell lots of jokes and get a TV show. Offerman’s character on “Parks and Rec” has taken on some of the traits of the man himself, most notably his appreciation of whiskey and his skills in the woodshop. Offerman’s book is part memoir, part manifesto for a life well lived, and all hilarious. It might even inspire you to dig your jigsaw out of that mess you call a workbench and start making something.
“How To Sharpen Pencils” by David Rees
For some, learning a new craft or honing a skill is simply a hobby. For others, the act of mastering that craft is transformative. Can mastering the art of pencil sharpening be transformative? The last chapter of this book is titled, “How to sharpen a pencil with your mind.” We’re talking about some serious Jedi-level pencil sharpening here. I doubt you come out of that experience the same way you entered into it.
“Simple Times” by Amy Sedaris
Not everyone’s New Year’s resolutions aspire to change their body, mind or entire way of life. Some people just want to get around to learning that craft they’ve never made the time for. Now is the time! Amy Sedaris has some excellent crafts to teach. Personally, I’m looking forward to watching squirrels get diabetes at the Donut Squirrel Feeder I’m going to construct. The perfect accompaniment to that scene will be the gentle clanging of the Rusty Nail Wind Chime I will also make. Very soon. Before 2015 is over. I swear.
“The best way to learn about a new country is to experience its native food and culture,” Tünde, our tour director, said before we left the bus. “We have the opportunity to have a traditional Hungarian dinner and see a folk performance afterwards. It’s optional, or course, but I highly recommend it.”
The dinner, which started with a shot of hard liquor offered to us before we even crossed the threshold of the large, brightly lit restaurant, was, let’s say, interesting. Since I left Russia in 1990, I hadn’t seen so much alcohol splashing around. There was a lot of food, too: goulash (meat stew in a thick, paprika-infused sauce), a dish called galuska (dumplings), and – for dessert – another galuska, this time with raisins, nuts and ice-cream.
Then the concert began. It was exactly what I had envisioned – lots of jumping and loud singing with several fiddlers accompanying the action. But, with help of plenty of wine, everybody seemed to enjoy it. In fact, several tourists joined the folk dancers, while my husband kept raising his eyebrows and rolling his eyes. (What can you expect from a guy who doesn’t drink? It’s a miracle that he can have fun at all!)
Our “official” introduction to Budapest started the next morning. A local tour guide told us that the name came about by joining the names of its twin cities: Buda, which is hilly and more historical, and Pest, flat and more commercial – with the Danube River dividing the two, and a series of bridges connecting them. We learned that the cultural fabric of the city had been woven by Hungarians, Slavs and Jews. We were shown the city’s major attractions: the Castle District, Heroes Square, the Hungarian Parliament, the Opera House and others. And, in the afternoon, we were left alone to shop and do other touristy things.
First, my husband and I had a lunch in an outdoor cafe, from where we enjoyed the view of St. Stephen’s Basilica and soaked up the atmosphere of the city. Then we continued our exploration. We walked for hours, passing by imposing buildings and statues, posters for upcoming concerts (it’s not for nothing that the Franz Liszt Museum is located in Budapest!), street vendors and restaurants, until our legs began to ache and the city began to grow on us.
It was cloudy, but the temperature was pleasant. For a while, I moaned about the lack of blue sky, but soon I stopped complaining and began enjoying the city. Budapest rewarded me grandly. From the hilly grounds of the Castle and the Royal Palace on the Buda side, we admired views of the Danube and its bridges, the Pest skyline across the river and busily shuttling tour boats. On the Pest side, we happened onto a qualifying race for the 2015 Ironman World Championship. At the beautiful Chain Bridge, we witnessed the arrival of a Viking Cruise boat. Once again, we circled the Parliament building and, finally, headed back along the Danube Promenade.
As we walked, I noticed some brown shoes sitting on the river bank – several people were taking pictures of them. What was that about? But then I remembered the tour guide’s story.
The shoes, 60 in all, were made of cast iron and set into the concrete of the embankment. They were a memorial to the people killed by the Hungarian Fascists in the winter of 1944-45. A vast majority of the victims were Jews, but there were some non-Jews, accused by the Fascists of “Jewish activities.” (The courageous efforts of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved almost 100,000 people. Still, some 600,000 Hungarian Jews died during the war.)
The war was in its final stage, and the Fascists had no means of deporting people to Auschwitz. The easiest way to get rid of them was to shoot them by the Danube and let the river carry their bodies away. Before the Fascists murdered their victims they ordered them to take off their shoes, for the shoes could still be used or sold on the black market. Then people – men, women and children – were positioned on the edge of the embankment and shot, and their bodies fell into the river. Sometimes the militiamen tied several Jews together and then shot one of them, so that the dead body would pull the living into the river. If any of them survived the fall, the militiamen used them for target practice. This didn’t happen often, though. Most of the people – especially the children – died quickly in the freezing water.
I, too, took some photos, then we headed back to our hotel – quiet and suddenly tired. Oh, humanity – I thought to myself – how can you be so inhuman?
Luckily, that wasn’t my last memory of Budapest. At dusk, the ever energetic Tünde brought our group back to the river. We boarded a dinner boat, and while we ate, we listened to yet another tour guide and stared at the darkening city through the windows.
By dessert, magic happened. All the prominent buildings along the Danube suddenly lit up, transforming the river into a vast, Christmas-like alley, and the city skyline into geometric formations of glimmering stars. It was drizzling, but nobody paid attention. Budapest stood out in the dark – golden, enchanted and unforgettable.
At 11 p.m., the lights were switched off, and night overtook the city once again. We boarded our bus and headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow we would travel to Salzburg.
I saw a wonderful film not long ago called “Kill the Messenger.” That phrase is an old saw about taking out one’s displeasure on the one who brings bad news. This particular messenger was the San Jose Mercury reporter Gary Webb, and the message was his work tying the explosion of crack cocaine in the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the 1980s to important leaders of Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras. The Contras were mercenaries who fought against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and who (believe it or not!) were supported by drug sales in Los Angeles and other cities after Congress voted down funding for Reagan’s war in Central America. Turns out they were protected by the CIA and the mainstream press, as well as functionaries close to the White House.
The film was a thriller with a bit of pathos thrown in to demonstrate what happened to a reporter who embarrassed the US “deep state.” It can be found online (if you have a credit card), but in any case, DBRL has Webb’s book “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion,” as well as a few other interesting titles on the subject.
If you find it difficult to believe that the government prioritizes the “War on Drugs” and at the same time elements within the state are supporting the importation of those drugs, check out Douglas Valentine’s “The Strength of the Wolf,” which elucidates the many connections between the “deep state” and drug trafficking as discovered by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics prior to 1968 when the FBN was dissolved.
We also have Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall’s “Cocaine Politics,” perhaps the first to document the drug trafficking of Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries (the Contras) and the complicity of mercenaries and US government leaders and institutions. Here I bow to another reviewer, Marilynn Larew, who reviewed the book for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (September 22, 1991, N9):
“Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall expand on revelations in the Iran-Contra scandal and the 1989 Kerry Committee Report. They assert persuasively that the CIA has long-standing alliances with men who deal drugs while doing dirty tricks for us in Latin America. The links go as far back as 1961 and the Bay of Pigs. Their story, however, is about the contra war, in which drug money paid for arms, the planes that carried ‘humanitarian aid’ in [and] flew drugs out, and Latin American colonels [who] made fortunes on drugs destined for American streets, all with our government’s connivance….The core of the book, the adventures of Jack Terrell…the soldier of fortune who tried to blow the whistle on the contra drug dealers, is taut as a thriller….The authors appear to evaluate the murky evidence in the government documents and news stories temperately. The thesis rings true.”
Alex believes she is going to die. The tumor growing in her brain, she expects it to be her end. When an electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, all of Alex’s expectations change. Suddenly, everyone in the age range of 20 to 60 is dead. Technology no longer works, and the world Alex knew no longer exists. Alex bands together with a little girl and a young soldier to survive, finding family and friends in them she never expected.
Obviously, by my description of “Ashes,” you can tell it’s apocalyptic fiction. I admit I’ve never been a big fan of apocalyptic fiction. For me, I find it a hard genre to read because reading about the world ending can be a pretty depressing topic. But Ilsa J. Bick is an amazing writer, and “Ashes” is easily in the top five best books I have read in the past two years.
It’s a fast read, and if you like the TV show “The Walking Dead,” I’m pretty sure you’ll love “Ashes” too. “Ashes” has the same feel as “The Walking Dead.” Odd characters come together, they fight together, create bonds, and then bad things happen. You’ll scream internally for the characters, root for them and cry for them, all because Bick creates them so beautifully. Before you know it, you’ll have finished the entire book in a few days.
Bick is an amazing writer, and although “Ashes” is considered YA, I would highly recommend it to the adult reader. Bick’s writing style is very honest. She’s got a unique take on action scenes, and I believe this is due to her background as an Air Force major. Her writing has a militaristic aspect, which happens to be perfect for apocalyptic fiction. Between this and her beautifully rendered characters, “Ashes” stands apart from the other reads in its genre.
The post Young Adult Books For Adults: Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick appeared first on DBRL Next.
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2014 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year.
“The Joy Luck Club” is a book about four Chinese immigrant families. It goes through the perspective of the mothers and daughters. The first story is about a character’s childhood, and the second story is about present times. The main character’s mother has just passed away, and she is about to embark on a journey to China to meet her mother’s twin girls from another marriage. I loved this book. It is so heartfelt and makes you want to go and hug your mother.
Four words that describe this book: mother, daughter, love, relationships
You might want to pick this book up if: You want a good cry. The stories in this book are so amazing and touching you will surely cry your eyes out. It is also an amazingly written book with so many life lessons.
December 24 and 25 our buildings are closed and the bookmobiles are parked in the garage, but the digital branch is always open. Visit dbrl.org and check out an eBook, research a purchase, watch a movie and more. Below are just a few of the ways you can use the library online this holiday or any day. All you need is Internet access and a library card.
- Entertain the kiddos with animated picture and chapter books from Tumblebooks or electronic books from StarWalk Kids Media.
- Watch a movie using Hoopla, including award-winners like “The King’s Speech,” “Billy Elliot” and “The Iron Lady.”
- Download an eBook.
- Spend your gift cards wisely and research your possible purchases using Consumer Reports.
- Browse our digital magazines available through Zino, and get some help with your holiday menu: download “Food Network Magazine,” “Bon Appetit,” “Saveur” and more popular titles.
- If your living relatives are making you crazy, try researching your dead ones.
- Get a book recommendation from our blogs: DBRL Kids, DBRL Teens and DBRL Next.
It’s cold and dark outside, so warm up with a recommended book from LibraryReads! The January list is full of thrills and mystery, just the thing to get your blood pumping. Here are the top 10 books librarians love that hit the shelves next month.
“As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” by Alan Bradley
“After the unexpected recovery of her mother’s body brings the de Luce’s family secrets to light, Flavia’s life is turned upside down. Now on her way to a Canadian boarding school, she must survive her first term – and more importantly, uncover the mystery of a corpse found in her dorm room chimney the night she arrives. A delightful installment in the series!” – Lizzie Gall, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI
“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 Magician’s Lie” by Greer Macallister
“Arden is a famous illusionist whose show involves sawing a man in half, but one night, she grabs an axe instead of a knife and her husband is found dead under the stage. Can Arden, an expert at deception, get away with murder – or is she really innocent? Recommended to anyone who likes historical fiction, strong women characters and surprisingly twisty plots.” - Paula Jones, Brockton Public Library, Brockton, MA
Here’s the rest of the January list with links to these on-order titles in our catalog for your hold-placing pleasure. Enjoy!
- “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
- “Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy” by Pierce Brown
- “The Dress Shop of Dreams” by Menna van Praag
- “The Bishop’s Wife” by Mette Ivie Harrison
- “Vanessa and Her Sister” by Priya Parmar
- “First Frost” by Sarah Addison Allen
- “Full Throttle” by Julie Ann Walker
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The January 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
For me, the mark of an especially good book is how firmly it grabs hold of me. It’s always a pleasure to stumble across a novel that captures my attention so tightly that it has me longing to get back to it during those moments I have to pause in my reading. Here are a few of my favorite thrilling finds from 2014 that I think other readers will also be captivated by:
- “Blood Work” by Michael Connelly. Readers may be familiar with Connelly’s two series featuring detective Harry Bosch and his half-brother, lawyer Mickey Haller. “Blood Work,” a novel set in the same “universe” as the books about Bosch and Haller, follows former FBI agent and recent heart recipient, Terry McCaleb. Upon learning that his heart donor may have been murdered, McCaleb becomes deeply troubled that his own life was saved at the cost of someone else’s. Despite doctor’s orders not to, he sets out to discover just what happened to his donor and soon finds himself in the web of an insidious killer. I could not put down this book and was unprepared for the story’s twist-filled conclusion.
- “Trouble in Mind” by Jeffery Deaver. I am a big fan of Deaver’s Lincoln Rhymes books, which follow a quadriplegic former NYPD detective who uses logic and science to find the solution to mind-boggling puzzles. This collection of short stories proves that Deaver can venture outside of the world of Rhymes and still produce a whopper of a tale. I enjoyed each of these short stories, but a few stood out for me. Rhymes makes two appearances in the book, including one that begins with the disturbing revelation that he has passed away – or has he? In another tale, a man returns to his hometown where he learns his long dead father was not what he seemed. The book concludes with a fantastic novella that follows a crime statistician who believes a series of deaths are not as random as they appear. Even readers who do not normally read short stories should consider this exciting collection of thrillers.
- “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks. This is probably my favorite read of the past year. Brooks’ fabulous novel begins with scholars examining the bits of materials found in between the pages of an illustrated Jewish manuscript called the Haggadah, in the hopes of determining the book’s history. Chapter by chapter the story unfolds in reverse, introducing the book’s previous owners and through this, revealing how the materials found their way into the book’s pages over the centuries. Although not a traditional mystery, this story unwinds in a way that will keep readers guessing as to the exact journey the Haggadah took through the centuries. I know readers will be as enthralled as I was by Brooks’ moving novel.
It’s hard to find a good subject for a book column in December. It’s not a good time for serious subjects. (Who has the time to concentrate at the height of a shopping season?) It’s too early for books about reinventing yourself (wait till January) or humor (better for April ). So, after contemplating my options, I decided to write about books that revolve around food. (We do eat a lot this time of the year .) These are not plain cookbooks, mind you, but books that describe places many of us would love to travel to and lives that have been marked by memories of food.
The first book I’d like to feature (also my personal favorite) is “The Language of Baklava” by Diana Abu-Jaber. It is a touching memoir of a girl coming of age in two worlds: the American world of her mother and the Jordanian world of her father. Growing up without a clear sense of belonging is very disorienting for Diana, but she is not the only one who feels disoriented. So does her immigrant father, who doesn’t seem to be able to decide where he – and his family – should live. He tries to hold on to his identity by cooking his native dishes, and for his daughter, that food becomes a trail she can follow down memory lane. With recipes for all occasions – festive and sorrowful – Abu-Jaber’s book is a joy to read and a joy to use in the kitchen.
“There is something to be done at this season,” begins Nina Mukerjee Furstenau in her book “Biting Through the Skin,” as she contemplates which holiday or festival she – a person born into a family of Bengali immigrants and a raised in the American Midwest – should celebrate. Like Diana Abu-Jaber, Furstenau struggles to define her identity and her culture and to bring order to her life. She solves her longing by cooking, and – later in her life – by embracing the faith and traditions of her ancestral country. Filled with the flavors and aromas of India and peppered with recipes, Furstenau’s book is a pure sensory pleasure, as well as an eloquent meditation on one person’s life.
Would you like to go to dinner with a New York Times food critic? If you said, “Yes,” then let me introduce “Garlic and Sapphires,” by Ruth Reichl. Reichl, a Los Angeles restaurant critic, takes a similar job at the New York Times. Now in New York, she finds herself in a position that can make or break a restaurant reputation, which means that many fashionable restaurants try to prepare for her visit. To make sure that she is not recognized, Reichl decides to wear disguises: wigs, fake jewelry, etc. This allows her to see restaurants through the eyes of their average customers. Unobserved, she witnesses the rudeness of the staff, notices different portion sizes (higher-status customers get bigger portions) and even different menus (unimportant customers are offered fewer dishes). Sincere and entertaining, Reichl’s book is an eye-opener on the world of New York restaurateurs.
No food column can be complete without mentioning French cuisine, and Ann Mah’s “Mastering the Art of French Eating” is just the book to show it off. Food writer Mah comes to France with her American diplomat husband, but she soon finds herself in Paris alone, for her husband is called to Iraq. To quell her loneliness, Mah travels around the country researching its iconic dishes like cassoulet, steak, andouillette sausage and crepes – ten in all. Mah talks to butchers, restaurant owners, chefs and other food aficionados, and she learns how the history of different regions of France is reflected in the evolution of their food. Liberally peppered with French expressions and recipes (I tried her steak recipe and it worked very well!), Mah’s book is a true ode to French food.
If you like spicing your food with stories, try “Secrets of the Tsil Café” by Thomas Fox Averill or “Cinnamon and Gunpowder” by Eli Brown. And, if you want to add a little mystery to your plate, don’t forget about experienced literary chefs like Diane Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke and Tamar Myers. Whatever your food preference, you can always find a taste of it at your public library. As they say in the restaurants, “We’re here to serve you!”
The best way to read a book is to read it without knowing anything about it. But of course there’s only so much time to read, so it’s nice that there are gentlemen out there recommending awesome books. A gentleman doesn’t review a book, he merely recommends it and maybe adds some details about the book so his posts aren’t just absurd rambles or thinly veiled political rants or pointless introductions. But the book review industry is, in large part, in the business of summarizing works and spoiling as much fun as possible. And the book review industry is an unstoppable behemoth that eats books and poops cash and then doubles back to grab some of the cash. Yes, I’ve got a finger or two clasping at the beast’s tail. How else would I be able to afford the tremendous amount of pancakes a gentleman requires to start and end his day?
I’m going to tell you some stuff about a great book, but really you should just close this page, then open and close it several more times, electronically mail the link to all your friends (encourage them to open and close it several times), regular mail it to all your enemies, post the link on your social medias, shave the URL into your hair and read “The Book of Strange New Things” by Michel Faber. Really, one of the most satisfying things about this novel is the way details and plot are slowly released. If you prefer blog posts to novels or you like to know more about a book before you read it or you’re my mom, then keep reading. Might as well grab a snack. The gentleman recommends pancakes.
Michel Faber wrote this book, about a man and wife separated by immense distance, while his wife was dying of cancer. Pretty intense. Here’s a nice article if you want more details about Mr. Faber and the creation of his book.
“The Book of Strange New Things” begins with a husband and wife on the way to an airport. The husband will be whisked away for a substantial time, and though both parties see it as a necessary (glorious even) whisking, they are terribly sad to be separated. Then, matter of factly, we learn the man is going away because he’s to do some missionary work on a distant planet. Peter gets into one of those moist bed things that helps science fiction characters sleep whenever they must travel incredible distances. Bea goes home to their cat and their church. Peter arrives on Oasis (named by a contest held by the corporation that owns it) to minister to the aliens. Turns out he’s the third pastor they’ve had.
Since I didn’t read a bunch of reviews I had no idea whether the aliens were friendly or disturbingly hungry or basically just a bunch of pasta that some corporate bigwig thought it would be funny to have a pastor talk at. I also didn’t know what happened back on earth while Peter was ministering to the Jesus-loving aliens (whose faces resemble something like a walnut crossed with a couple of fetuses). I also didn’t know how Peter would acclimate to his new planet while natural disasters and human cruelty made a devastating mess of life on earth. The book is haunting and sad, but not hopeless. Kinda like eating a pancake without an absurd amount of toppings, except much more fun to consume.
I never wanted the book to end, but great things must. Also, as much as I’d like to mention pancakes again, this post must end. Have a great day, Mom!
One extremely popular title on the New York Times best seller list this fall is the legal thriller “Gray Mountain” by John Grisham. Like in all great thrillers, there is a hero pitted against a villain. Grisham’s hero is Samantha Kofer, third year associate with the prestigious Lehman Brothers law firm in New York until the financial crisis of 2008 upends her life and transplants her to the Appalachian coal country of Brandy, Virginia. There she works as an intern for the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic. While defending the citizens of the county and meeting the handsome litigator, Donovan Gary, she stumbles onto deadly secrets surrounding Big Coal mining!
This highly sought after title has created a rather lengthy waiting list at the library. So, if you are currently on this list, you might like to try these titles! (Publisher’s descriptions included)
“Raylan” by Elmore Leonard
When Federal Marshall Raylan Givens squares off against a known offender, he will warn the man, “If I have to pull my gun I’ll shoot to kill.” Except this time he finds the offender naked in a bathtub, doped up and missing his kidneys. Raylan knows there’s big money in body parts, but by the time he finds out who is making the cuts, he is lying naked in a bathtub himself, Layla, the cool transplant nurse, about to go for his kidneys. It turns out all the bad guys Raylan is after are girls this time.
“Stand Up that Mountain” by Jay Erskine Leutze
This is the true story of an outdoorsman living alone in Western North Carolina who teams up with his neighbors and environmental lawyers to save a treasured mountain peak from the mining company. One day the author got a call from a young woman, Ashley, and her Aunt Ollie. Ashley and Ollie said they had evidence that Clark Stone Company was violating the Mining Act of 1971 up on Belview Mountain, one of the most remote and wildest places in the eastern United States. They wanted Jay, a non-practicing attorney, to sue the company to put a stop to their mining operation. This is an underdog David vs. Goliath story with lots of good guys you love, and bad guys you love to hate. Not only did the case against the Clark Stone Company set groundbreaking legal precedent, but also the good guys won a complete victory. How they did it is chronicled in this book.
“The Perfect Witness” by Iris Johansen
She had the perfect life. She had the perfect cover. She was the perfect witness, until they found her. From the blockbuster bestselling author of the Eve Duncan novels comes a new, stand-alone thriller about a woman with a photographic memory who has lived her life in the Witness Protection Program. What she once saw put her entire family in jeopardy and now, years later, her cover is blown. She’s on the run, and the lives of those she holds dear hang in the balance.
“The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses” by Kevin Birmingham tells the story of how one of the great novels of the 20th century almost didn’t come to be. Birmingham provides a look at Joyce’s life and work in the larger social context of the early 1900s. Though the contents of “Ulysses” would hardly cause an eye to bat in the present day, during the time the Irish author was writing the book censorship was thriving in the United States and Europe. In the U.S., the Comstock Act prohibited the circulation of obscene materials through the mail. Only a small handful of men were charged with defining obscenity, and their definitions tended to be broad. In addition, “Ulysses” was challenged under the Sedition Act, with the accusation that it promoted anarchy.
Portions of “Ulysses” first appeared in a Chicago-based literary magazine, The Little Review. The periodical was publishing the book in installments, right up until the editors were arrested for doing so. Fortunately for literature, Joyce had many supporters who were determined to make his novel available to the world. Ezra Pound, who called Joyce “probably the most significant prose writer of my generation,” coordinated efforts on both sides of the Atlantic.
Your Classics Maven admits that “Ulysses” can be a difficult work of literature. But she urges interested parties not to shy away from the book without at least trying. She herself has enjoyed it in the way you might enjoy being around an eccentric relative you don’t always understand, yet who supplies enough golden moments to make the occasional confusion worthwhile.
Everyone who reads fiction should know why “Ulysses” is considered important. Birmingham says the book “changed people’s ideas about what a novel is and what it can do.” The title is taken from the main character in Homer’s ancient Greek classic “The Odyssey,” and different sections of the story mirror bits of that epic. But instead of taking place over a period of decades, all of the action happens in one day. This was a new idea at the time, although it’s a familiar framing device today. Also new was Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness narration, reflecting the way people actually think, instead of tidy summations. Some passages aren’t intended to be understood so much as experienced; the Sirens’ song from Homer is represented by a string of words chosen for sound rather than meaning.
Even if you only read about Joyce’s “Ulysses” instead of working your way through its text, you’ll see its influence in other novels. Some contemporary authors dispense with quotations marks. Joyce has been there, done that. David Mitchell experiments with structure in a Joycean way. Jenny Offill’s “Dept. of Speculation” changes format several times as scenes shift, which we completely accept because Joyce first showed it could be done. So even if you haven’t read “Ulysses,” by reading contemporary fiction, you’ve read “Ulysses.”
The post Classics for Everyone: Starring “Ulysses” as “The Most Dangerous Book” appeared first on DBRL Next.
In 2002, the Daniel Boone Regional Library decided to start the community-wide reading program we now know as One Read. I was excited when it was announced that the first book selection was “Plainsong” by Kent Haruf. Kent Haruf was a former teacher of mine. This connection allowed me the opportunity to interview him for the library and to chauffeur him between readings and other events. Essentially, I was paid to spend time with the man. It was the best job I’ve been given in my time working for the library.
In every class I had with him he’d start the semester with a short speech to give the class an idea of the kind of writing he did. He told us about the town of Holt, Colorado, which existed only in his books. He said Holt was the kind of small town where everyone knew each other, “from the town drunk to the town mayor.” When he said that before a One Read event in Columbia, he got a little flustered. Columbia’s mayor at the time, Darwin Hindman, was there. Kent said he realized this was the first time he’d delivered that line with an actual mayor in the audience. Before a reading in Fulton, an elderly farmer and his wife approached Kent to tell him how much they liked his book. The farmer could especially relate to a scene where a cow gallops into the character Bobby and knocks the wind out of him. He’d had that exact experience many times himself.
Now I understand the true feat Kent accomplished in the classroom. We’re talking about short stories written by people in their late teens and early twenties. (I hope I’ve burned all evidence of mine.) Class after class. And he never seemed tired of us. He never made us feel like we didn’t have the potential, and he never made us think it could be easy.
For one of his classes we read Melville’s “Bartleby The Scrivener.” After we had all shared our impressions, he told us his. He told us about a former student at another college who was very isolated. The character Bartleby reminded him of that student. The last time he had heard about the student he was working at a bakery, living in an apartment above it, and spending very little time outside of those two places. I don’t know how many years it had been since he’d had that student in class, but you could hear the concern in his voice. You could tell he felt some regret that he wasn’t able to help the young man more.
That capacity for empathy made him such a good teacher, and a great writer. He cared about all his characters deeply, and he worked hard to bring them to life. Holt was based on the different small towns in Eastern Colorado he’d grown up in. Reading his books you can tell he had a real affection for the people in those towns. His writing focused on the small moments, the ordinary. His prose was spare but illuminated the moments he described. I think reading one of his novels makes our ordinary lives feel as significant as the lives in an epic or fantastic story. Maybe more so, for their being so familiar to us.
I was a little surprised by my reaction when I found out he had died. I admire him. I value the time I got to be around him, but I had only been in touch a handful of times since I graduated, and the last time was almost seven years ago. I haven’t become a published writer. I don’t teach English. I thought he was a part of my life that had passed. But the news was a real gut punch. Despite the lack of contact, I felt this sudden hole where he used to be. I realized the lasting impression he made. Then I felt sadder for not being able to tell him that. These kinds of common experiences – unexpected loss, small regrets – are what he wrote about so eloquently. I can’t help thinking as I try to put them into words, “Kent could have said it better.”
Kent Haruf wrote his seventh novel, “Our Souls At Night” before he passed away. It’s scheduled to be published in June.
Remember those good old childhood days of playing card games in a pretty old house while drinking hot chocolate and looking out the window at the limestone wall of a prison? Well, that might not be a typical childhood memory, but it gave local author Marlene Lee plenty of inspiration for her latest book, aptly titled “Limestone Wall.” The house that overlooked the prison, which happens to be the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, belonged to one of Lee’s father’s patients, and he would take her with him to visit the woman who lived there. In “Limestone Wall,” the main character, Evelyn Grant, moves into this very house in Jefferson City.
DBRL: Your most recent book, “Limestone Wall,” is about a recently widowed woman who goes to find her estranged mother, who is in jail for murdering twin babies. It seems like there are some pretty heavy themes in this book. Could you talk about your inspiration? I know that before becoming a full-time writer you worked as a court room reporter. Did that influence your work?
ML: I should make clear that my mother never killed anyone or went to prison! When I was a girl in Jefferson City, however, she died, and I’ve always wished I could see her again. This novel was a fictional way to think about what it is like to remember the past and to bring someone back to life and then to find firm footing between reality and wish-fulfillment.
My 30 years as a court reporter no doubt influenced the novel. The scene with Evelyn in the courtroom was easy to write because I’ve been in so many courtrooms. I also sat in that empty courtroom in the Cole County Courthouse so that I could describe it accurately and better imagine what it felt like for Evelyn to sit there, lost in thought about her mother’s trial.
DBRL: The excerpt from the book on your website describes a prison waiting room in vivid detail. Did you visit any prisons as research?
ML: The prison waiting room is not based on a real waiting room. I took a private tour of the Missouri State Prison with two people who are knowledgeable about the old penitentiary and life behind the walls. At the time it was being emptied out because the prison was moving to its new site; thus, the prison in “Limestone Wall” is nearly empty of inmates because that was its condition when I saw it. I’ve visited several other prisons in other locations. Once in the state of Washington I reported the deposition of a prisoner who was going through an appeal process. I don’t pretend to know very much about prisons. I used the setting of the Missouri State Penitentiary to help build my story rather than to inform readers about the prison.
DBRL: I heard that you’re a regular at Lakota Coffee. Do you have a favorite drink there?
ML: My drink at the Lakota is the same every morning: a single-shot, skim-milk latte. It never fails to satisfy!
DBRL: Have you read any good books recently which you would like to recommend to our readers?
ML: I love the writing of Edward St. Aubyn. His semi-autobiographical novels about the character Patrick Melrose are magnificent. He has mastered the ability to make the reader feel as if she or he is living the life of the main character, both in the small details and the large events. Patrick’s life is troubled, courageous, and he fights the good fight for self-control and self-knowledge. I love Marilynne Robinson‘s wise and compassionate novels. William Styron has always been a favorite of mine. All three of these writers have a sensitive, insightful writing style that I admire. There are too many wonderful writers to include in one short list!
Marlene Lee, along with other local authors, will be speaking on a panel at the Columbia Public Library on December 13th at 1 p.m. in the Friends Room. These authors (including David Collins, Ida Fogle, Elaine Stewart, Lori Younker, Nidhi Khosla, William A. Wolff and Wayne Anderson) will be talking about their contributions to the recently published anthology of fiction and non-fiction, “Uncertain Promise.” To check out Marlene’s other events and to keep up-to-date on her writing, please visit her website.
I love chocolate chip cookies, especially fresh out of the oven. Two of my younger sisters remember baking cookies with me when they were kids. When I got married 34 years ago, they (ages 14 and 16) gave me and my husband a cookie jar shaped like Noah’s Ark to remind me of all the times I had baked cookies with them. Two years ago my older son said, “Mom, I remember baking cookies with you every Christmas. Will you continue the tradition with my son?” That year he and his wife gave me a Disney Cinderella cookie jar. (I am a Disney princess fan.) Since then my grandson and I have baked cookies together twice, and I look forward to doing it more often as he gets older. (He’s only 2 years old.) When I asked my younger son if he remembered baking cookies as a child he said, “Sure. I think that was the beginning of my enjoyment of cooking.” He now cooks for himself and loves to invite friends to his home for meals.
I always used the recipe on the back of the bag of chocolate chips until I discovered “Chocolate Chip Cookies: Dozens of Recipes for Reinterpreted Favorites” by Carey Jones. My goal is to try them all. It’s going to take some time (there are more than 40 recipes), but I don’t think my coworkers will mind being tasters!
My niece discovered a recipe that adds bacon to the cookie dough. Bacon! The cookies have a salty, sweet flavor. Just cook up 12 ounces of bacon, dice it, and add it to your favorite recipe. Or do a Google search for “Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies.” There are many variations.
For a summer reading program one year I served chocolate chip cookies with mealworms. You freeze the mealworms (you can get them at a bait shop or pet store – they are food for some animals), then you toast them in the oven, like nuts. The majority of kids at the program were willing to taste them – the cookies were surprisingly good. The mealworms add a texture to the cookies that is similar to Rice Krispies. The University of Kentucky has an article about insects as food if you’d like to learn more.
My daughter-in-law loves chocolate chip cookie dough. I discovered a great recipe for cookie dough bonbons. Use the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. Omit the leavening agent (baking soda) and instead of using eggs in your recipe, use sweetened condensed milk to get the right consistency. Roll the dough into balls, freeze for about 15 minutes, then dip the balls in melted chocolate. “The Cookie Dough Lovers Cookbook” by Lindsay Landis has a wide variety of ways to make and use edible, safe (egg-free) dough. The “Chocolate Chip Cookies” book I’m baking my way through also has an edible cookie dough recipe.
For more cookie ideas check out:
I am looking forward to filling up at least one cookie jar with cookies this weekend. Happy baking!
The post Chocolate Chip Cookies: New Ideas for an Old Favorite appeared first on DBRL Next.
I’m happy to report that the first week of December has been designated National Cookie Cutter Week – who knew? It makes perfect sense to claim this week as such since the winter holidays are approaching and so many folks take up baking. Okay, and who knew there was a museum housing a collection of cookie cutters in Missouri? Well, if you didn’t, I can fill you in – I just found out recently myself. It’s in Joplin, and it’s officially called the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum.
Maybe you’ve guessed that I’m a little partial to cookie cutters. I’ve amassed my own small collection over the years, including an aluminum Santa Claus from my early childhood. It’s a sweet relic from a past life in which my mother baked a huge assortment of holiday cookies – between eight and 10 mouth-watering kinds. I don’t know how she did that year after year between singlehandedly raising four children and working full time. (The homemade, rum-spiked eggnog must have helped!)
I could never keep up with my mother’s high gear production, but I do like to crank out a few batches to enjoy with friends and family during this time. There is a little more work involved in making rolled cookies, but it’s worth the effort, whether you have kids involved (most love doing this) or not. Depending on your time and inclination, you can decorate them simply, extravagantly or not at all. One of the all-time easiest recipes to make is Scottish shortbread, with just three ingredients. I like to make this recipe, roll the dough rather thickly and use my heart-shaped cutter to make lots of little hearts, stack them in jars or boxes and give them as gifts. No one has ever complained.
By the way, you don’t have to have a rolling pin to roll out dough. You can actually roll it out with a round, quart-sized glass jar (e.g., a mayonnaise jar). I know because I’ve done this in a pinch when finding myself in someone else’s kitchen without the real tool. A nice wooden rolling pin, though, feels good in the hands and speeds the whole process. I have a beautiful one, a gift from my father, made of pecan wood. I’ve also seen them made from marble, aluminum and hand-blown glass (functional art, yes!).
We are ready here at DBRL to assist you in your holiday cookie making with an ample collection of cookie recipe books from which to choose. For those folks dealing with gluten intolerance, we also have some gluten-free cookie baking books. With a little pre-planning you can make the cookie baking a time of relaxed enjoyment, perhaps selecting just a few recipes and not overdoing it (quality, not quantity). It’s a satisfying feeling to store freshly baked cookies away in jars and tins, but it’s even more satisfying to share them while drinking coffee, tea or hot chocolate and visiting with family and friends.
If you feel sorry that your cookie cutters languish unused too much of the year, take a gander at these alternative uses for them. You might just find new ways to employ them year round, and that will surely make your life more fun and interesting.
Wishing you good cheer this holiday season!