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One More Lap: Docs About the Race Track

March 23, 2016
racing dreams photo

Not many people get to see the hours of practice and hard work put in by the racers in competitive motor-sports. These docs take a closer look at these drivers, both amateur and legendary, who’ve dedicated themselves to the race track.

racing dreamsRacing Dreams” (2009)

Chronicles a year in the life of three tweens who dream of becoming NASCAR drivers as they race in the World Karting Association’s National Pavement Series. This film is a humorous and heartbreaking portrait of racing, young love and family struggle.

sennaSenna” (2010)

Spanning his years as a Formula One racing driver from 1984 to his untimely death a decade later, Senna explores the life and work of the triple world champion, his physical and spiritual achievements on the track, his quest for perfection and the mythical status he has since attained.

petty blue

Petty Blue” (2010)

This documentary, narrated by Kevin Costner, charts four generations of the Petty family, all of whom became champion NASCAR drivers. The family shares their story of dedication, perseverance and tradition that provides a raw, behind-the-scenes look into NASCAR racing.

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Nowhere People: A Visit From Photojournalist Greg Constantine

March 21, 2016

Book cover for Nowhere PeopleI remember when the requirements changed regarding Missouri driver licenses. To get mine renewed, I had to find where I’d put my Social Security card for safekeeping and, for the first time in my life, acquire a raised-seal birth certificate. I’d been getting by with a copy of a birth certificate application up until then. Fortunately, the process took only a few dollars and a couple of weeks.

But what if I hadn’t been able to obtain the needed documents? What then? I would have experienced a small taste of the plight of millions of stateless people around the world.

Photojournalist Greg Constantine spent a decade documenting the lives of “non-persons,” human beings who are not recognized as citizens of any country. He shares their photos and stories in his book “Nowhere People.”

Without documentation or citizenship rights, this is a population that exists on the fringes of society, unable to find legal employment, enroll in school, open a bank account or even travel to a different country in search of a better life, since passports are unobtainable without personal identification. Some families have been stateless for generations, parents or grandparents having fled political turmoil and persecution, losing citizenship in the process. In some cases, the family has stayed in one place, but national borders have shifted.

Image by Greg Constantine. Dominican Republic, 2011“Nowhere People” is much more than a book. A website about the endeavor describes it this way: “a ten year project from photographer Greg Constantine. The project intends to give a small voice to people who for generations have had none. It aims to show the human toll the denial of citizenship has claimed on people and ethnic groups that find themselves excluded from society by forces beyond their control. More importantly, it hopes to provide tangible documentation of proof that millions of people hidden and forgotten all over the world actually exist.”

Constantine gave a presentation on the topic at a TEDx conference in London, available for viewing here.

Now, he’s bringing his presentation to Columbia. You can hear him in person at the Columbia Public Library on Thursday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The April 2016 List

March 18, 2016

Library Reads LogoThis month’s LibraryReads list of books publishing in April that librarians across the country recommend includes a nonfiction work that wins the award (an imaginary award bestowed by me) for best title ever: “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts.” How could scads of librarians NOT recommend this book? We also have works inspired by Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes, so get ready to be entertained and place some holds on these forthcoming books!

Book cover for Eligible by Curtis SittenfeldEligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld
“Love, sex, and relationships in contemporary Cincinnati provide an incisive social commentary set in the framework of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Sittenfeld’s inclusion of a Bachelor-like reality show is a brilliant parallel to the scrutiny placed on characters in the neighborhood balls of Jane Austen’s novel, and readers will have no question about the crass nature of the younger Bennets, or the pride – and prejudice – of the heroine.” – Leslie DeLooze, Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY

Book cover for The Obsession by Nora RobertsThe Obsession” by Nora Roberts
“Readers who love romantic thrillers will be mesmerized by the latest Roberts offering. The suspense kept me up all night! Naomi Carson, a successful young photographer, has moved across the country and fallen in love. She thinks she has escaped her past but instead finds that the sins of her father have become an obsession. The serial killer premise makes it a tough read for the faint-hearted, but sticking with it leads to a thrilling conclusion.” – Marilyn Sieb, L. D. Fargo Public Library, Lake Mills, WI

Book cover for The Murder of Mary RussellThe Murder of Mary Russell” by Laurie R. King
“Worried about Mary Russell? Well, you should be. She’s opened her door to the wrong man and deeply troubling secrets are set to tumble out, rewriting her history and putting herself and the people she loves in a dangerous spot. Once again, King spins a tantalizing tale of deception and misdirection for her readers’ delight and scores a direct hit in her latest Russell-Holmes mystery.” – Deborah Walsh, Geneva Public Library District, Geneva, IL

Here’s the rest of this month’s list with links to the library’s catalog for your holds-placing pleasure!

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Audiobooks for Your Spring Break Travel

March 16, 2016

CD cover art for The Road to Little DribblingReading while traveling in a car can be difficult. I had a friend who read magazines and books while we drove to bicycle races when I was a teenager. He was the driver.  Audiobooks didn’t exist then, but I wish they had because this would have avoided many hours of extreme anxiety for me. My daughter claims that the “barf monster comes” if she reads in the back seat of our subcompact Toyota. My wife can read for about .03 minutes in the car without feeling queasy. The answer is audiobooks, whether you are traveling this spring break as a family or alone with your phone and a backpack. Unless otherwise noted, all audiobooks reviewed below are available on CD and/or downloadable mp3 formats through OverDrive.

I can’t begin to explain my joy in discovering, with my little girls, the Harry Potter series of books by JK Rowling. (I know, I know, it is totally lame that I have not read/listened to them until now). I relish each book. If you are taking a road trip with your kids this spring break, I would highly recommend listening to the series. Narrated by the sublime Jim Dale, the audiobook version will quickly immerse you in the world of Hogwarts and Hagrid while you ply the dreary Kansas plains (or on that long flight to the East Coast).   Start with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” especially with younger readers in the car.  Perfect for families.

What better way to pass the time while traveling than listening to a travelogue? Bill Bryson’s new book “Road to Little Dribbling” examines the societal and cultural changes in Great Britain during our relatively young century, throwing in his trademark humor and wit.  A must-listen if you are traveling to the British Isles or, indeed, Europe during the upcoming break.

CD cover art for Meditation for BeginnersCar (or plane and bus travel) can be stressful, chaotic and tedious. A calm mind and Zen attitude can help. Jack Kornfield’s classic “Meditation for Beginners” is an excellent introduction to basic meditation practices.  The audiobook is also filled with relaxing music. Exploring breathing techniques and other basic tenets of the practice, Kornfield’s approach is not to overwhelm the listener with theory but to impart basic tips and techniques to make first attempts at meditation easier.

If you are traveling out West this Spring Break, I would highly recommend what some critics argue is the best book written about the American desert and the Southwest: “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey. The desert comes alive in Abbey’s prose: “Lavender clouds sail like a fleet of ships across the pale green dawn – each cloud, planed flat on the wind, has a base of fiery gold.”  Abbey also sends a clarion call out to the nascent environmentalist movement (the book was written in 1968), arguing that the protection of our native species and wild lands are in many ways the most pressing issues of our time.

Further, the audio version of this book also gives me a chance to mention another format that we have available here at DBRL. “Desert Solitaire” is only available through Hoopla, which is another great source for downloadable audiobooks as well as other media here at the library.

Cover art for Percy Jackson's Greek HeroesIn addition to the fourth or perhaps fifth rereading/re-listening of the first three Harry Potter books that is going on in my family, we have also started reading the fabulous Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. Riordan just put out an excellent companion to his books, called “Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes.” One of the real attributes of this series of books is that, written in Riordan’s entertaining style, they introduce my family to the wondrous world of Greek mythology. I needed a refresher, and my kids are getting a great education without the drudgery that oftentimes accompanies Greek mythology textbooks. “Greek Heroes” is meant to further our education and fills in the gaps that some of the books might have created. Again, highly recommended for family car trips!

What are your listening plans for this spring break?

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The Gentleman Recommends: Charlie Jane Anders

March 14, 2016

Book cover for All the Birds in the SkyIt feels like I’ve read millions of stories about smart and awesome children who are bullied by their peers and hated, or at least mistreated, by their parents (or, more likely, their legal guardian(s) or orphan master), but eventually they find the right mentor and/or peers and flourish. But when this template is used by a good writer, it remains satisfying no matter how many times it’s been slipped past my…head windows. And Charlie Jane Anders is, at least in this gentleman’s estimation, a great writer. And “All the Birds in the Sky” is a great novel, a new classic in the genre of “extra-special kid(s) with unfortunate upbringing(s) rise above their station and show the world their greatness.”

In order to judge the novel outside of the shadow of novels with similar conceits, I took the groundbreaking and head-breaking measure of attempting to induce amnesia. I tapped my noggin vigorously with all manner of mallets and took a number of tumbles down staircases, and in one regrettably memorable experience, sent myself plunging down my dumbwaiter, only to find that not only had my butler not been removing the now very rotten food scraps, but also one can earn a nasty infection from moldy silverware, and I don’t have a butler, and my dumbwaiter is just a second story window. Alas, the amnesia did not take. My mind, unfortunately, is still as sharp as…one of those, uh, sharp stabby things, the ones you use to affix pictures of your favorite monarchs to your dormitory walls…wallstabbers? Yes, wallstabbers.

Anyway, with my memory still as simultaneously boundless and confining as a prairie town, I am unable to judge “All the Birds in the Sky” without the knowledge of somewhat similar works coloring my perception. But, after further consideration, in what is a cruel twist given all I went through in order to provide a recommendation that would shatter all notions of what a recommendation could be and also my orbital bones, “All the Birds in the Sky” is a singular work.

For one, there are two protagonists. And the melding of science fiction, fantasy, comedy and action is so smooth, one would be forgiven for forgetting, even without a freshly battered head, to comment on its smoothness. Anders’ delivery and gift for jump-cutting to punchlines induce bountiful mirth.  Also, I can’t think of another novel that features a school for witches. The school, Eltisley Maze, is fantastically imagined, and I doubt another author could, even with, like, seven whole volumes, create as fascinating a setting as Anders has here in just a few pages. It’s so cool. Go read the book, which describes the school, which I will not do.

The story begins with a girl saving a bird and learning she can talk to it. Soon she meets a boy who has followed cryptic instructions from the Internet to build a time machine capable of propelling the wearer two seconds into the future. This is a small aid in his quest to avoid bully fists, but using it too much will give the user a tremendous headache, as will wrapping your entire body save for your head in blankets and rolling down the steps of an amphitheater.

Difficulties abound. In order to get witchy again, Patricia must resort to taking unheard of amounts of spice in her food. Laurence’s parents insist he must go outside more. The guidance counselor at their school is actually an assassin (from an ancient order, naturally) plotting the pair’s demise. (To his credit, he’s only doing so because of a vision of apocalyptic catastrophe that featured the two children as adults at its center.) The children drift apart, though Patricia still converses with the artificial intelligence that is devouring Laurence’s closet space.

The novel really hits its highest…springy wheel thing with teeth that attaches to its wheel siblings to produce movement…when it jumps ahead to their early adulthood. Patricia is a witch who spends her time fixing wrongs, from turning a very bad man into a turtle, to making a heroin addict’s skin impervious to needles. Laurence is working as part of a billionaire’s think tank to create a wormhole that will transport a portion of the earth’s population to a fresh planet before this one is irrevocably torched. Also, this portion of the novel is home to the coolest tablet computer anyone has ever imagined, even if it is shaped like a…thing you use to scrape sounds out of a guitar.

With the duo at the height of their powers, and Patricia and her coven keen to save the world, and Laurence and his think tank keen to save some of the people on the world, even if the wormhole ray blows this one up in the process, one sees how the assassin’s apocalyptic vision may come to pass. Read the book and see if it does. Now I’m going to see a…person that puts cold metal on you to check for sickness.

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Laugh Your Way to Winter’s Finish

March 11, 2016

Photo As you’ve heard before, laughter is one of the best medicines, having positive effects on us physically, mentally and socially. This seems like a pretty big deal, that something free and fun can be such a gold mine of therapeutic benefits. If winter has you down low and feeling cabin-fever-confined, then stock up on some books from the library’s wit and humor collection and get your laughter fix.

Book cover for Let's Explore Diabetes With OwlsNo list of suggested humor reads would be complete without books by David Sedaris.  I picked up his most recent title, “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Essays, Etc,” hoping for some comic relief. Within the first paragraph of his essay “Dentists Without Borders,” I started laughing, deep from the belly. I knew we were off to a great start! Sedaris is a gifted storyteller and uses his unique, quirky and twisted brand of humor in a quasi-autobiographical, non-fiction approach to recount tales of his odd-ball upbringing, job histories and ordinary daily life experiences. He tempers his humor with a dose of poignancy, lending insight to our human foibles.

Book cover for Zen ConfidentialAnother side-splitting set of essays (in my humble opinion) is “Zen Confidential: Confessions of a Wayward Monk” by Shozan Jack Haubner. In hilarious (and sometimes crude) essays, Haubner scripts his trajectory from Midwestern Catholic boy, to Los Angeles screenwriter and stand-up comic, to Zen Buddhist monk living contemplatively in a mountain monastery. In this honest spiritual memoir, he describes, with biting wit, the rigors and challenges of monastic life, which provide him a longed for pathway to understanding his true nature.

Book cover for That Should Be a WordFor short, pick-me-up chuckles, try this clever dictionary of neologisms, “That Should Be a Word: A Language Lover’s Guide to Choregasms, Povertunity, Brattling, and 250 Other Much-Needed Terms for the Modern World,” by Lizzie Skurnick. A clever wordsmith, Skurnick authored a column (“That Should Be a Word”) for the New York Times Magazine where many of her originally coined words first appeared. Each word includes pronunciation, definition and usage as illuminated in these three choice entries:

Figital (FIJ-ih-tul). adj. Excessively checking one’s devices. Example: “Victoria grew tired of watching her figital fiancé glance at his iPhone every five seconds.”

Pagita (PAH-ji-tuh), n. The stress of the unread. Example: “Roderick stared desperately at the stack of New Yorkers before he went on his business trip, trembling with pagita.”

Roogle (ROOG-ul), n. Regret of a search. Example: “Samir stepped away from the computer filled with roogle. He hadn’t needed to know his new boss was a Civil War reenactor.”

Book cover for the Pretty Good Joke BookAlso, in the vein of quick laughs, try perusing “A Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Joke Book,” with an introduction by Garrison KeillorMy family and friends have enjoyed many laughs from this title, thanks to my son, who brought it along on car trips or to parties to read aloud and entertain us.

Whatever the persuasion of humor that tickles your funny bone, we have it here at DBRL, so stop in and take advantage of this storehouse of humor. We want to help you scatter the last vestiges of winter with some hearty laughs.

photo credit: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter. via photopin (license)

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New DVD List: The Look of Silence & More

March 9, 2016

the look of silence

Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles recently added to the library’s collection.

look of silenceThe Look of Silence
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers. Playing last year at the True/False Film Fest, this unprecedented film initiates and bears witness to the collapse of 50 years of silence.

Season 2
Website / Reviews
Set in 1979, this all-new true crime saga kicks off with violent foul play at a South Dakota Waffle Hut. In a flash, the case ensnares a small-town beautician, a Minnesota state trooper and a local sheriff all set against the backdrop of an explosive Midwestern mob war.

captivatedCaptivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Another True/False Film Fest pick, this film examines a small-town murder in New England that became one of the highest-profile cases of the twentieth century. As the first fully televised court case, the Pamela Smart trial rattled the consciousness of America. But did the media circus surrounding the case prevent a fair trial?

Season 1
Website / Reviews
“UnREAL” gives a fictitious behind-the-scenes glimpse into the chaos surrounding the production of a dating competition program. A producer manipulates her relationships with, and among, the contestants to get the dramatic footage that the executive producer demands.

Other notable releases:
The Homestretch” –   Website / Reviews / Trailer
Girls – Season 4 – Website / Reviews
A Brave HeartWebsite / Reviews / Trailer
Thought CrimesWebsite / Reviews / Trailer
12 MonkeysSeason 1 – Website / Reviews
Welcome to LeithWebsite / Reviews / Trailer
Leftovers  – Season 2 – Website / Reviews
How to Dance in OhioWebsite / Reviews / Trailer
TogethernessSeason 1Website / Reviews
AlumbronesWebsite / Reviews / Trailer
Covert AffairsSeason 5 – Website / Reviews
UnbrandedWebsite / Reviews / Trailer

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The Sound of Gravel: Memoirs of Survival

March 7, 2016

Book cover for The Sound of GravelWhen asked about the best early training for a writer, Ernest Hemingway reportedly answered, “An unhappy childhood.” This snappy reply may hold more than a bit of truth if we take as evidence the number of captivating memoirs written about growing up in (and surviving) extraordinary circumstances.

The Sound of Gravel” by Ruth Wariner is one such memoir. In this intense and moving account of the author’s coming-of-age in a polygamist Mormon colony-bordering-on-cult, Wariner describes living on a rural Mexican farm as one of her father’s more than 40 welfare-dependent children. She recounts the extreme religious beliefs that haunted her daily life, the abuse she and her siblings suffered and her escape after a devastating tragedy.

At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 19,  Wariner will talk about her book at the Columbia Public Library. Copies of “The Sound of Gravel” will be available for purchase and signing.

Want more memoirs of survival? Read on!

Book cover for Look Me in the Eye by John Elder RobisonLook Me in the Eye” by John Robison details an abusive childhood made more complicated by undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. This memoir describes Robison’s difficulties communicating and the resulting social isolation, his discovery of his mechanical aptitude, his struggle to live a “normal” life, his diagnosis at the age of 40 with Asperger’s and the dramatic changes that have occurred since that diagnosis. Robison’s understated humor and fascinating journey (he designed flaming guitars for the band Kiss and founded a successful high-end car repair business) make this an enjoyable, moving and memorable read.

Book cover for A House in the SkyTo mentally escape abuse, young Amanda Lindhout lost herself in the pages of National Geographic magazine. When she turned 18, she left home, determined to see the world. Lindhout became an experienced backpacker, and her memoir “A House in the Sky” (co-written by Sara Corbett) details a harrowing story centered around Lindhout’s kidnapping, along with an Australian photographer, by Somali Islamist rebels. The two were held prisoner for more than 15 months, and Lindhout’s account of the ordeal is compelling, dramatic, disturbing and ultimately an incredible testament to her will to survive and how the worst imaginable circumstances can inspire something good.

Book cover for The Tender Bar by J.R. MoehringerThe Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer details his relationships with the father stand-ins he found at Publicans, a local bar and his uncle’s favorite haunt. Poor, and living with his single mother, he bonds with the bar’s regulars who form “one enormous male eye looking over my shoulder” as Moehringer grows up, taking him on outings, teaching life lessons and providing a refuge when relationships fail. This reflective, heart-warming book reminds us that home can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

For even more memoirs about survival and resilience, check out our book list in the library’s catalog.

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Columbia’s Unbound Book Festival: A Reading List (Part Two)

March 4, 2016

Unbound book fest logoOn April 23, Columbia will welcome an impressive list of writers to the inaugural Unbound Book Festival. We’ve already highlighted the writers of fiction and nonfiction appearing at various venues on the Stephen’s College campus, and here are the poets who will be sharing their work. (Author information courtesy of Unbound Book Festival.)

  • book cover for Elegy by Mary Jo BangMary Jo Bang is known as a poet of “gorgeous phrasing and imaginative leaps” (Washington Post) and as “an ingenious phrase maker, startling English out of its idiomatic slumber” (New York Times Book Review). Her poems are products and portrayals of our fractured twenty-first century world, yet timeless, whether concerning silent movie star Louise Brooks or of the tragic death of her son. She is the author of six poetry collections, including “The Last Two Seconds” and “Elegy,” which won the 2009 Nation Book Critics Circle Award, and the translator of a groundbreaking rendition of “Dante’s Inferno.”
  • David Clewell is the author of 10 collections of poems and two book-length poems. His work has appeared regularly in a wide variety of national magazines and journals – including Harper’s, Poetry, The Georgia Review, Kenyon Review and New Letters – and is represented in more than fifty anthologies. Among his honors are several book awards: two Four Lakes Poetry Prizes (for “Taken Somehow By Surprise” and “Almost Nothing to Be Scared Of”), the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize (for “Now We’re Getting Somewhere”), and a National Poetry Series selection (“Blessings in Disguise“). He served as Poet Laureate of Missouri from 2010-2012.
  • Book cover for Trouble by Walter BargenWalter Bargen has published 18 books of poetry. Some of his most recent books are: “Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems” (2009), “Endearing Ruins” (2012), “Trouble Behind Glass Doors” (2013) and “Gone West” (2014). He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009). His awards include a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship (1991), Prose Award from Quarter After Eight (1996), the Hanks Prize (1996), the Chester H. Jones Foundation prize (1997), the William Rockhill Nelson Award (2005) and the Short Fiction Award – A cappella Zoo (2011).

  • Mark Doty is one of America’s most acclaimed and beloved poets. His gorgeous, colloquial verse touches movingly on matters personal, natural and political, oftentimes weaving together these realms with wisdom and grace. Doty is the author of nine poetry collections, including “Deep Lane,” recently published, and “Fire to Fire: New & Selected Poems,” which won the 2010 National Book Award. Doty’s additional honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize.
  • book cover for Incorrect Merciful Impulses by Camille RankineCamille Rankine has been featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, New York Daily News and American Poet as one of the country’s most impressive emerging poets. Her debut collection, “Incorrect Merciful Impulses,” is among the most anticipated first books of 2015; incisive, lyrical and intimate, it establishes her instantly as a literary force to be reckoned with.
  • Patrick Rosal is one of America’s most dynamic poets of the immigrant experience, his poems ringing with the music of a multicultural existence. A writer of fierce conscience and big heart, Rosal is known internationally for his captivating recitations, his poems written to be performed and heard as much as read. He is the author of four poetry collections, including “Boneshepherds” and “My American Kundiman,” which won the 2006 Book Award in Poetry from the Association of Asian American Studies and the 2007 Global Filipino Literary Award.
  • William Trowbridge is currently Poet Laureate of Missouri. His latest collection is “Put This On, Please: New and Selected Poems” (Red Hen Press, 2014). His poems have appeared in more than 35 anthologies and textbooks, as well as on The Writer’s Almanac and in such periodicals as Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, TriQuarterly, The Georgia Review, Boulevard, The Southern Review, Columbia, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Epoch and New Letters. He teaches in the University of Nebraska Low-residency MFA in Writing Program.

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Confronting Climate Change: Free MU Life Sciences & Society Symposium

March 2, 2016

 MU Life Sciences SymposiumAccording to NASA and NOAA, 2015 was the hottest year on record. While some still argue about whether climate change is real, most scientists agree that it is and are studying its effects and ways to slow or reverse the damage.

MU’s 12th Annual Life Sciences & Society Symposium, held March 12 and 17-19, 2016, addresses the complex and controversial topic of how we should confront climate change by gathering seven expert speakers in search of answers to a few key questions. How and why is climate change happening? What are its consequences likely to be for weather, agriculture, health and society? And what can and should be done – in terms of energy, technology and policy – to mitigate it? All events are free and open to the public. See the full schedule and event locations at the symposium’s website.

 The Operator's ManualFeatured speakers include Richard Alley (Saturday, March 12, 10:30 a.m.), a professor at The Pennsylvania State University, an environmental scientist, author and one of the contributors to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He hosted the recent PBS miniseries “Earth: The Operators’ Manual,” (the companion book is available for check-out from DBRL) and has been called a cross between Woody Allen and Carl Sagan for his enthusiastic efforts to communicate the excitement and importance of science to everyone.

Book cover for Consulting the Genius of PlaceWes Jackson, the founder and president of The Land Institute, will speak about natural systems agriculture (Saturday, March 19, 9:00 a.m.). He was a Pew Conservation Scholar in 1990, a MacArthur Fellow in 1992 and received the Right Livelihood Award in 2000. His books include, “Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to A New Agriculture” and “Nature as Measure,” a collection of essays.

Naomi Oreskes is a professor at Harvard University, as well as a respected essayist and author. Her 2010 book, “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming,” co-authored with Erik M. Conway, was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Time Book Prize and received the 2011 Watson-Davis Prize from the History of Science Society. She’ll be speaking about climate change denial on Saturday, March 19 at 3:30 p.m. You can be super prepared for her talk by making time on Monday, March 14 to see a 5:30 p.m. screening of “Merchants of Doubt” at Ragtag Cinema. This documentary film is inspired by Oreskes’ book and will be followed by a discussion with Mike Urban (MU Department of Geography) and Sara Shipley Hiles (MU School of Journalism).

For additional reading on climate change, its causes and what we can do about it, check out these books in our catalog.

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HerStory – In Government and Public Service

February 29, 2016

Book cover for Sisters in LawMarch is National Women’s History Month and the theme for 2016 is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”

What perfect timing for me! I have just finished reading two wonderful books about the first two women on the Supreme Court who have worked tirelessly to make this a “more perfect union.”

In “Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World,” Linda Hirshman alternates between these two amazing women’s stories. Sandra Day O’Connor, as the first woman of the Supreme court, said that it was great to be the first, but she didn’t want to be the last. She was a product of the West, growing up on a ranch.  She was a Christian and a Goldwater Republican, whereas Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a liberal, Jewish ACLU lawyer. But, with all their differences, their experiences in the world trying to make it as women were very much the same. The pair truly transformed the courts – and America in the process – to make it a more hospitable place for women.

Book cover for Notorious RBGI loved “The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Erin Carmon even more than “Sisters in Law.” Ginsburg has a plan for gender equality that she has been building on, brick by brick, case by case, since her early days as an ACLU lawyer. Did you know that she also has a rap song written about her? She truly has become an icon.

While we are knee deep in the primaries, this might also be a good time to reflect on the first ladies who were swept into service – often whether they liked it or not. My favorites are Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt, but I should probably also read about our current first lady, Michelle Obama. And then, of course, there is also our current female candidate and first lady, Hillary Clinton.

There are so many wonderful women leaders whose stories deserve to be read and told: the first female governor, the first female representatives, the first female senator. I’m excited to read about the first female Cabinet member, Francis Perkins, who was the “The Woman Behind the New Deal.”  There are so many!  So I did what I always do and made a list. I invite you to read along and celebrate National Women’s History Month with me.

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“Bad Feminist” Writer Roxane Gay to Speak in Columbia March 3 (NEW LOCATION)

February 26, 2016

Book cover for Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay“I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.” – Roxane Gay, “Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay, a Purdue University associate professor of English, will visit MU on March 3 as part of the Creative Writing Program’s Visiting Writers Series. The reading, with a reception and book signing to follow, begins at 7:30 p.m. at 22 Tate Hall (auditorium on the lower level of the building). Note that this is a change from the originally publicized location.

Gay’s essays tackle culture and politics, and are sometimes funny, sometimes sharp, but always insightful, honest and engaging. Her debut novel, “An Untamed State,” is similar in its unflinching look at a brutal world. The book follows a woman kidnapped for ransom in Haiti, her captivity as her father refuses to pay and her husband fights for her release over thirteen days, and her struggle to come to terms with the ordeal in its aftermath.

In addition to her printed work, Gay is a prolific blogger and – if I can use the word – tweeter, often live-tweeting television shows or the event she is attending. (Warning: if you are allergic to curse words, maybe don’t read her Twitter feed.) Her bio on Twitter is charming: “I write. I want a tiny baby elephant. I love Ina Garten. If you clap, I clap back.” She proclaims to have both great confidence and low self-esteem. She’s critical of society’s deeply entrenched misogyny, but she also enjoys Vogue magazine and rap music. Gay is complicated, but so are the issues of body image, race and sexuality, all of which she addresses with refreshing honesty and wit. Read her work, and see her in person on March 3.

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Previous Docs From True/False 2016 Directors

February 24, 2016


We’ve compiled a list of previous documentaries available at DBRL from the directors who are presenting films at the upcoming True/False Film Fest. Check out their old films before you attend the fest for their new films!

David Sington
True/False 2016 film: “The Fear of 13
Past films as director: “The Flaw,” “In the Shadow of the Moon

Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady
True/False 2016 film:  “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
Past films as directors: “Detropia,” “The Boys of Baraka,” “Freakonomics

Ido Haar
True/False 2016 film: “Presenting Princess Shaw
Past film as director: “9 Star Hotel

Jeff Feuerzeig
True/False 2016 film: “Author: The JT LeRoy Story
Past films as director: “The Real Rocky,” “The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe
True/False 2016 film: “The Bad Kids
Past film as director: “Lost in La Mancha

Kirsten Johnson
True/False 2016 film: “Cameraperson
Past film as director: “Deadline

Morgan Neville
True/False 2016 film:  “The Music of Strangers
Past films as director: “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” “Troubadours,” “Respect Yourself” (Robert Gordon co-director), “Muddy Waters” (Robert Gordon co-director), “Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan” (Robert Gordon co-director), “Iggy and the Stooges

Ramona Diaz
True/False 2016 film:  “Untitled Ramona Diaz Project
Past films as director: “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Imelda

Robert Greene
True/False 2016 film: “Kate Plays Christine
Past films as director: “Actress,” “Katie with an i

Roger Ross Williams
True/False 2016 film: “Life, Animated
Past film as director: “God Loves Uganda

To see more about the films showing at True/False 2016, check out the list of films on the True/False website. Be sure to check out our True/False Film Fest films at DBRL to see lists of past True/False films available from your library.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The March 2016 List

February 22, 2016

The March LibraryReads list is here! This month we have historical fiction, a smart thriller, an urban fantasy and even Jane Eyre re-imagined as a gutsy serial killer. Place your holds now on these 10 titles recommended by librarians across the country.

Book cover for The Summer Before the WarThe Summer Before the War” by Helen Simonson
“Fans of Simonson’s ‘Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand‘ have reason to rejoice. She has created another engaging novel full of winsome characters, this time set during the summer before the outbreak of World War I. Follow the story of headstrong, independent Beatrice Nash and kind but stuffy surgeon-in-training Hugh Grange along with his formidable Aunt Agatha. Make a cup of tea, and prepare to savor every page!” – Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

Book cover for Jane Steele by Lyndsay FayeJane Steele” by Lyndsay Faye
“Jane Steele is a great read for lovers of Victorian literature who especially love their characters to have a lot of pluck! Jane Steele is the adventurous, irreverent, foul-mouthed broad that I so often loved about Jane Eyre, but in more wily circumstances. Remember that fabulous scene in Jane Eyre when she stands up to her aunt for the first time, and how you wanted to stand up from your comfy reading chair and cheer for her? Imagine an entire book just of those sorts of scenes. Absolutely fabulous fun!” – Abbey Stroop, Herrick District Library, Holland, MI

Book cover for The Passenger by Lisa LutzThe Passenger” by Lisa Lutz
“This is a compulsively readable story of a young woman who has to keep switching identities and stay on the run. Is she a reliable narrator or not? What was the original event that sent her on the run? There is a lot of action and suspense as she tries to survive and evade the law while trying to keep her moral center intact. Unlike Lutz’s Spellman books, this reads more like a Charles Portis road novel, though considerably more serious and dangerous. Highly recommended.” – Beth DeGeer, Bartlesville Public Library, Bartlesville, OK

And the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure:

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Columbia’s Unbound Book Festival: A Reading List (Part One)

February 19, 2016

Unbound book fest logoBook lovers and festival goers! Please mark your calendars immediately because Saturday, April 23 will be a celebration of books and writing not to be missed. The Unbound Book Festival is a brand-new event in Columbia, celebrating literature of all kinds. Nationally-recognized and bestselling authors across many different genres will be on hand to discuss their work and participate in a variety of stimulating events and environments. The inaugural event will take place on the campus of Stephens College, and all of the events are FREE! Here are just some of the writers who will be at the fest along with links to their works here at the library. Look for another post in two weeks for the poets who will be a part of Unbound. (Author information courtesy of Unbound Book Festival.)


  • Book cover for The Weird Sisters by Eleanor BrownEleanor Brown is the New York Times and international bestselling author of “The Weird Sisters,” which was an Amazon Best Book of the Month, Barnes and Noble Discover Selection, Indie Next pick and winner of the Colorado Book Award.
  • Laura McBride is the author of the 2014 debut novel “We Are Called to Rise,” which was a #1 Indie Next pick and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer’s choice in the United States, and both a Simon Mayo BBCRadio2 Book Club selection and a Waterstones Book Club pick in the UK.
  • Laura McHugh is the bestselling author of “The Weight of Blood,” winner of an International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. “The Weight of Blood” was named a best book of the year by BookPage, the Kansas City Star and the Sunday Times (UK), and has been nominated for a Barry Award, Alex Award, Silver Falchion Award and GoodReads Choice Award.
  • Book cover for American Copper by Shann RayShann Ray is the author of the debut novel “American Copper,” an Indie Next Pick that has garnered acclaim from Esquire, Kirkus Reviews and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. His collection of short stories, “American Masculine,” received the American Book Award and the Bakeless Prize.
  • Bob Shacochis is a novelist, essayist, journalist and educator. His work has received a National Book Award for First Fiction, the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He graduated from the University of Missouri Journalism School in 1973 and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1982. “The Immaculate Invasion,” about the 1994 military intervention in Haiti, was a finalist for the New Yorker Magazine Literary Awards for best nonfiction book of the year and was named a Notable Book of 1999 by the New York Times. His most recent work, the novel “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul,” was published in 2013.


  • Book cover for The River of Doubt by Candice MillardCandice Millard is a former writer and editor for National Geographic magazine. Her first book, “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey,” was a New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by, among others, the New York Times, Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor. Millard’s second book, “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine & the Murder of a President,” rose to number five on the New York Times bestseller list and was named a best book of the year by the New York Times, Washington Post, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. “Destiny of the Republic” won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime, the PEN Center USA award for Research Nonfiction, the One Book-One Lincoln Award, the Ohioana Award and the Kansas Notable Book Award.
  • Nina Mukerjee Furstenau’s writing is “lush and lyrical” (Kansas City Star) and her memoir, “Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland,” won the Grand Prize as well as the 2014 MFK Fisher Book Award from Les Dames d’Esscoffier International for food and culture writing.
  • Book cover for Blue Highways by William Least Heat-MoonWilliam Least Heat-Moon was born of English-Irish-Osage ancestry in Kansas City, Missouri. He holds a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism and a doctorate in English from the University of Missouri. Among his writing credits, he is the author of “Blue Highways,” which spent 42 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 1982-83.
  • George Hodgman is a veteran magazine and book editor who has worked at Simon & Schuster, Vanity Fair and Talk magazine. His writing has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Interview, W and Harper’s Bazaar, among other publications. His memoir, “Bettyville,” is a New York Times bestseller, the Amazon spotlight pick for March 2015 and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
  • Kayt Sukel is passionate traveler and science writer, and she has no problem tackling interesting (and often taboo) subjects spanning love, sex, neuroscience, travel and politics. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Scientist, USA Today, Pacific Standard, the Washington Post, ISLANDS and National Geographic Traveler. Her first book, “Dirty Minds/This is Your Brain on Sex,” is an irreverent and funny tome that takes on the age-old question, “What is love?” from a neurobiological perspective.

Check out Unbound Book Festival’s website for more information on these and other writers coming to mid-Missouri in April.

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Bit by Bit: Docs About Gaming Culture

February 17, 2016

king of kongIn recent years, video games have risen to prominence as a storytelling medium, engaging people young and old. These documentaries take a look at video games and how we deal with them in the real world.

king of kongKing of Kong” (2007)

Unprecedented rivalry rocks the electronic world to its core. This film follows novice gamer Steve Wiebe on his quest to destroy the top score of gaming legend Billy Mitchell, the uncontested champion of the Donkey Kong world for over 20 years. Only one can truly claim the title King of Kong.

second skinSecond Skin” (2008)

“Second Skin” takes an intimate, fascinating look at computer gamers whose lives have been transformed by the emerging, hugely popular genre of computer games like World of Warcraft, Second Live and Everquest, which allow millions of users to simultaneously interact in virtual spaces.

reformat the planet

Reformat the Planet” (2008)

A feature length documentary which delves into the movement known as ChipTunes, a vibrant underground scene based around creating new, original music using old video game hardware. The film also explores the genesis of the first annual Blip Festival, a four day celebration of ChipTune music.

game playGameplay” (2013)

A feature documentary on the history of video games. From Pong, Pac Man and Mario to Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and everything in between, it tells the story of how this industry was created, by whom and where it is headed.

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The Gentleman Recommends: Austin Grossman

February 15, 2016

Book cover for Crooked by Austin GrossmanAs Valentine’s Day approached, I, like most red-blooded Americans probably, found my thoughts turning to Richard Nixon. Coincidentally, I was absorbed by Austin Grossman’s latest novel, “Crooked.” “Crooked” is the first-person account of Richard Nixon’s rise to power and fall from power, and subsequent rise to power and fall from power. While others have chronicled Nixon’s life, none before have touched on the terrifying truth: Nixon was one of the few that knew the U.S. and U.S.S.R. had moved beyond the mutually assured destruction via mundane nuclear weaponry and were onto mutually assured destruction via weaponized monsters and pacts made with the elder gods that walked the earth before being banished below the surface.

It’s no surprise that Henry Kissinger was a thousand-year-old sorcerer, but the reader won’t expect to learn that Dwight Eisenhower could stop a bullet with magic, or that the British had long been allies with a miles-long krakken, and that the monster had plucked German planes out of the sky during World War II. These sorts of treats are abundant in the novel, as are fantastic sentences such as follows:

I had, I realized, lost track of whether I was a centrist Republican stalwart, a right-wing anti-Communist demagogue, a mole for Soviet intelligence, the proxy candidate for a Bavarian sorcerer, or the West’s last hope against an onrushing tide of insane chthonic forces.

Near the beginning of the novel we get a glimpse of Nixon’s fabled romantic streak and a taste of what is to come:

This is a tale of espionage and betrayal and the dark secrets of a decades-long cold war. It is a story of otherworldly horror, of strange nameless forces that lie beneath the reality we know. In other words, it is the story of a marriage.


Also, the reader learns why Nixon sweated so much during that one debate, and what was up with that Watergate debacle.

Book cover for You by Austin GrossmanGrossman’s experiences as a video game designer provided fodder for his previous novel, “You.” The tale of a successful video game studio whose co-founder died and left behind a bug that threatened to break their gaming engine, much of the novel is spent watching the narrator play video games as he searches for the bug, which is more exciting than it sounds, unless you love watching people play video games, in which case it is approximately as exciting as it sounds.

Those weary of superheroes being confined to movie theaters, televisions, comics, Halloweens, lunchboxes and underwear will devour Grossman’s first novel, “Soon I Will Be Invincible.” A story of superheroes and a super-villain, it alternates chapters between their perspectives, and while it is funny, it’s an homage to the genre rather than a spoof. Even those who don’t wish for constant immersion in comic book universes should find the novel to be a well-written romp with a big heart. The reader will learn that sometimes superheroes have tremendous trouble in their personal lives, that they often rely on painkillers and sometimes super-villains are reduced to stealing away into the night with an entire ATM in order to pay the rent.

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What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s

February 12, 2016

Book cover for Still Alice by Lisa GenovaLast year, Alzheimer’s was much discussed in popular media, as Julianne Moore won all of the awards for her portrayal of a 50-year-old linguistics professor with the early onset form of the disease, in the movie “Still Alice.” The movie was based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same title. Genova, a neuroscientist as well as an author, knew what she was about in portraying the effects of a condition that strips away your memory.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can seem overwhelming for the patient and family members. But support and information are available. Below are some helpful resources for those coping with dementia, as well as their caregivers.

What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s
Thursday, Feb. 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Friends Room, Columbia Public Library
Learn basic information about memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at this interactive workshop with videos featuring researchers, caregivers and people with Alzheimer’s disease. Presented by the Greater Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association as part of a continuing series.

Are the Keys in the Freezer?” by Patricia Woodell
This book is subtitled “An Advocate’s Guide for Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias.” Along with her sisters/co-authors, Jeri Warner and Brenda Niblock, Woodell shares lessons learned by her family as they helped her mother live with advanced dementia. It’s a mix of personal anecdotes and practical advice from experts in medicine, law and elder care.

I’ll Be Me
Country music star Glen Campbell could no longer remember the month or season, but he could remember how to play guitar. In 2011, he set out on a goodbye concert tour, shortly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This documentary follows him for the year and a half he continued to perform, showing that even as every area of his life became increasingly difficult, there was still joy to be found in music.

The Validation Breakthrough” by Naomi Fell
This practical guide focuses on tips and techniques for improving communication with those who have dementia.

For more resources, see our catalog list.

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Getting to Know Thomas Edison

February 8, 2016

Book cove for Edison and the Rise of InnovationFebruary 11 marks the 169th birthday of Thomas Edison. Known for holding over 1,000 patents, Edison’s work left a huge impact on the world. He helped usher in the era of electric light and gave the world a way to capture both sound and motion pictures. There are those who believe that Edison was a ruthless businessman, his iconic image more myth than reality, and that many of his great ideas should in fact be attributed to others. So what is the truth? The library offers several interesting items that explore different perspectives on Edison and the stories behind his many creations.

Readers interested in Edison’s many inventions may want to check out Leonard DeGraaf’s book, “Edison and the Rise of Innovation.” DeGraaf serves as the archivist for the Thomas Edison National Historical Park and draws from the collection he oversees to give readers an image-filled guide to Edison’s life and work. From photos of Edison’s workplace in Menlo Park, to drawings and diagrams of his many creations, DeGraaf illustrates the broad scope of Edison’s creativity.

book cover for The Wizard of Menlo ParkOf all of his creations, Edison’s fame may have been his most incredible undertaking. Randall Stross’ book, “The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World” examines the fame Edison experienced during his lifetime and how he built his larger-than-life image. Stross’ book focuses more on Edison’s celebrity than his technical achievements, even downplaying them as less impressive than the public persona he created. By the end of his life, Edison held not only multiple patents, but also the title of the most well-known American in the world.

Book cover for Empires of LightEdison not only seemed to crave fame, but he also was highly competitive. As the idea of electric power became a reality, Edison found himself drawn into the race to capture it for public consumption. “Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World” by Jill Jonnes explores the exciting race between Edison (who was pushing for DC power) and the eccentric Nikola Tesla and businessman George Westinghouse (who both were pushing for AC power). Jonnes’ book illustrates the challenges they faced as they worked to take their ideas from the drawing board to reality, as well as the somewhat ruthless methods Edison employed to ensure he would win the race.

Audiobook cover art for Camping With Henry and TomOne thing that is certain of Edison is that a big part of his success came from his ability to work with the other great minds of his day, particularly those in the financial and political worlds. Mark St. Germain’s play, “Camping with Henry and Tom: A Comedy,” offers a funny and entertaining take on a real-life meeting between Edison, President Harding and Henry Ford. Imagine the discussions the three may have had! The library offers both the print edition and the audiobook version of St. Germain’s play. (It is a great listen for a road trip!)

Whatever his exact role in shaping the technology of the 20th century, Edison certainly was an unforgettable character. Happy reading!

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Books for Black History Month

February 5, 2016

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.

Book cover for Brown Girl DreamingBrown 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.

Book cover for Jam on the VineJam 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.

Book cover for The SelloutThe 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.

Book cover for The Turner HouseThe 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.

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