If you grieve (as I do) at the end of a good mystery series, when the last mesmerizing page of the last book is turned, do I have a series for you! The Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries—a total of 20 novels, each a hefty 350-or-so pages—will delay that sad moment and keep you vastly entertained, possibly for the next decade.
Author Lindsey Davis has set her epic in first century AD Rome, where Falco, an informer (read “private detective”), plies his dangerous and not-very-lucrative trade. Falco is an enlightened rogue, occasionally employed by the Emperor Vespasian for cases no one else will take. One of the appeals of this series is Falco’s dry wit as he narrates his many adventures, both professional and personal (he also has an active love life and a large, drama-prone family.)
Another treat is the astounding amount of historically accurate detail crammed into every paragraph. You’ll read about Roman street vendor food (awful), the view from Falco’s seventh-floor Avantine tenement room (spectacular), first century urban firefighting (with fiber mats and brute strength), Roman bathing (with steam and olive oil) and countless other realities of daily Roman life. The effect is like time travel, or the most entertaining history course ever.
I’m not interested in the Roman Empire, and I rarely read historical fiction. Which makes it all the more remarkable that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed every single Falco novel. If you would like to do the same, here are the 15 titles available from DBRL. The five remaining titles* (which are not currently published in the US) are available through our interlibrary loan service.
Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries (in series order)
- “The Silver Pigs“
- “Shadows in Bronze“
- “Venus in Copper“
- “The Iron Hand of Mars“
- “Poseidon’s Gold”*
- “Last Act in Palmyra”*
- “Time to Depart“
- “A Dying Light in Corduba“
- “Three Hands in the Fountain“
- “Two for the Lions”*
- “One Virgin too Many”*
- “Ode to a Banker”*
- “A Body in the Bathhouse“
- “The Jupiter Myth“
- “The Accusers“
- “Scandal Takes a Holiday“
- “See Delphi and Die“
Biology is not necessarily destiny. The quickly evolving field of epigenetics is the branch of science that studies the regulation of genes and other genetic material, and recent research is raising many questions about nature versus nurture when it comes to disease and human behavior. (Very) simply stated, environmental factors – like stress, toxins and childhood trauma – can determine whether or not certain things programmed into a person’s genetic code get turned “on” or off. And extreme stress experienced by an individual can be so strong as to affect not only their genes but also the genes of their children.
A number of science writers in the last few years have published books trying to explain this complicated new field to the lay reader. One such book that terrified me personally is Annie Murphy Paul’s “Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.” As a mother of young children, the fact that I could have been screwing them up in a number of unrealized ways while they were in the womb is unsettling to say the least. But this book raises important concerns about how we think about pregnancy and support expecting mothers and calls into question commonly held assumptions about which aspects of our health are biologically determined and which are influenced by environmental factors.
Paul is just one of the speakers at this year’s MU Life Sciences & Society Symposium, “The Epigenetics Revolution: Nature, Nurture and What Lies Ahead,” being held March 13-15. The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. The symposium will explore what epigenetics means, discuss how epigenetic effects work and explore examples of how the environment can affect genetic expression in infants, children and adults. Several speakers will focus on the implications of epigenetics for human health and medicine, including the causes and treatments of diseases such as autism and cancer. See the full line-up of speakers and topics at the symposium’s website.
If you aren’t able to attend but want to learn more about this fascinating field, check out the very readable “Epigenetics: The Ultimate Mystery of Inheritance” by Richard C. Francis or Cary Nessa’s “The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance.”
The post The Epigenetics Revolution: Free MU Life Sciences & Society Symposium appeared first on DBRL Next.
It has been a while since I have helped readers to Better Know a Genre. What have I been doing instead of writing? Hibernating. But I’m back, and there are still a few weeks left until spring, so let us take these last days of winter to focus on the genre known as “cozy mysteries.”
Imagine the television show “Murder She Wrote” as a book. (Wait! You don’t have to imagine it.) Cozy mysteries, like all whodunits, begin with a crime. The crime usually takes place in a small town. Although the stories can contain murders or sexual activity, these are not explicitly described. There are not graphic depictions of violent crime. It is not usually the examination of forensic evidence from the crime scene that leads to the arrest of the perpetrator. Instead, there is a focus on solving the puzzle using knowledge of the town and its inhabitants.
The crime is often solved by a female amateur detective. The women tend to have a job that puts them into contact with the community, such as a teacher, author, librarian (hi!) or caterer. She might also have a hobby that serves as one of the themes of the book or series. Cooking and crafting are popular examples, and sometimes the books even contain recipes or patterns. She herself does not often work in law enforcement but will likely have unofficial help from someone on the police force. She is likable and engaging, not like the unfriendly Sherlock Holmes or the hard-drinking Philip Marlowe.
Also, cats. Lots of cats.
Check out some of these popular cozy mystery series from our collection!
These are just two of many many many cozy mystery themes. What is your favorite series?
The list of books publishing this month that librarians across the country love is nearly all fiction. And the one work of nonfiction — by the accomplished Erik Larson, author of the bestsellers “The Devil in the White City” and “In the Garden of Beasts” — is narrative nonfiction, its propulsive storytelling making it read much like a novel. Still, the selections are wide-ranging in terms of topic and appeal, with everything from the character-driven follow-up to the extremely popular “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” to a new steampunk fantasy spin-off from the writer of the Parasol Protectorate series. Here’s this month’s LibraryReads list.
“The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” by Rachel Joyce
“Miss Queenie Hennessy, who we met in Joyce’s first book, is in a hospice ruminating over her abundant life experiences. I loved the poignant passages and wise words peppered throughout. Readers of ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ will enjoy this book. There’s no fast-paced plot or exciting twists — it’s just a simple, sweet story of a life well-lived.” - Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA
“Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson
“In cinematic terms, this dramatic page-turner is Das Boot meets Titanic. Larson has a wonderful way of creating a very readable, accessible story of a time, place and event. We get three sides of the global story — the U-boat commander, British Admiralty and President Wilson — but what really elevates this book are the affecting stories of individual crew and passengers.” - Robert Schnell, Queens Library, Jamaica, NY
“Prudence” by Gail Carriger
“I was hoping we’d be seeing Prudence in her own series. Baby P — Rue to you — is all grown up and absolutely delightful. First-time readers will think it’s a wonderful book on its own merits. However, it becomes spectacular when we get to revisit some of the beloved characters from the Parasol Protectorate. Gail Carriger is always a delight!” - Lisa Sprague, Enfield Public Library, Enfield, CT
And here’s the rest of the list with links to the library’s catalog so you can place holds on these forthcoming titles!
“The Witch of Painted Sorrows” by M. J. Rose
“Cat Out of Hell” by Lynne Truss
“Vanishing Girls” by Lauren Oliver
“Delicious Foods” by James Hannaham
“The Fifth Gospel” by Ian Caldwell
“The Pocket Wife” by Susan Crawford
“Where All Light Tends to Go” by David Joy
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The March 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
The Studio is the new creative digital lab that will be opening next month on the first floor of the Columbia Public Library. We will use this space to host computer classes and special programs for all ages and to offer assistance to those working on their own creative projects. This new space will be evolving throughout the year, so be sure to like the library’s Facebook page for updates and photographs!
Studio Open House
Thursday, March 12, 4-7 p.m.
Saturday, March 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Take a tour and learn more about how the library can help you cultivate inspiration for your latest project. You can learn more about our digitization program, explore apps and other technology helpful for children and parents, test drive devices at the e-reader petting zoo and have fun with our green screen photo station. Open house demonstrations are geared toward teens and adults, but kids are welcome, too. Refreshments served.
This is our new series of children’s programs designed to spark creativity using technology and exploratory play. Our April 23 session will focus on colors while the May 7 session will focus on music and sound. Registration for these events will begin two weeks before the program.
At this revamped class, we’ll share tips for preserving photos, videos, digital files and social media accounts and then demonstrate the library’s new digitization equipment. This class will qualify attendees for further hands-on instruction in the use of the scanning and digitizing equipment. This class will be held on April 27; registration will begin two weeks before the program.
Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles in fiction and nonfiction, now available through your library.
Website / Reviews
As season five begins in 1924, the radio is the latest miracle, a new Labour government heralds changes through the land and Downton’s traditional ways are besieged on all fronts. Robert, Mary and Branson must navigate these shifting sands together to ensure the future of the estate.
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014, this modern-day Grapes of Wrath is an intimate portrait of job-seekers desperately chasing the broken American Dream to the tiny oil boom town of Williston, North Dakota. A local pastor starts the controversial “overnighters” program, allowing down-and-out workers a place to sleep at the church.
Website / Reviews
The Coen Brothers Best Picture Oscar Nominee transforms into the season’s most talked about TV debut. It features a new “true crime” story and new characters, all chilled in the trademark dry wit, murderous mayhem and “Minnesota nice” of the original classic film.
“To Be Takei”
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Take a hilarious, entertaining and moving look at the many roles played by eclectic 77-year-old actor/activist George Takei. Over seven decades, he boldly journeyed from a WWII internment camp, to the helm of the starship Enterprise, to the daily news feeds of five million Facebook fans. Join George in his profound trek for life, liberty and love.
Website / Reviews
The Bluths return for a fourth season as the series is brought back from the dead by Netflix. Featuring the entire original cast from the first three seasons, the fourth season incorporates a non-linear storyline that leaves the viewer wanting more from the ever-dysfunctional Bluth family.
Website / Reviews
Similar to the first season, this PBS series features a history of the modern women’s movement. This season’s themes include war, space, comedy, business, Hollywood and politics. Columbia, Missouri native filmmaker Grace Lee (“American Revolutionary“) directs the politics episode.
Season 1, Season 2
Website / Reviews
The TV show Newsroom takes a behind-the-scenes look at a high-rated cable-news program at the fictional ACN Network, focusing on the on and off camera lives of its acerbic anchor, a new executive producer and their newsroom staff.
Other notable releases:
- “Black Sails” – Season 1 – Website / Reviews
- “Art and Craft” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
- “Nurse Jackie” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3 – Website / Reviews
- “Cousin Jules” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
- “Shameless” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4 – Website / Reviews
- “The Internet’s Own Boy” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
- “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
- “Kids for Cash” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
- “Penny Dreadful” – Season 1 – Website / Reviews
- “Family Guy” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
- “Bob’s Burgers” – Season 1 – Website / Reviews
- “The Simpsons” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3 – Website / Reviews
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!
True/False 2015 film: “Best of Enemies” (Robert Gordon co-director)
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”
True/False 2015 film: “Going Clear”
Past films as director: “The Armstrong Lie,” “We Steal Secrets,” “Mea Maxima Culpa,” “Catching Hell,” “Magic Trip,” “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” “Freakonomics,” “Casino Jack and the United States of Money,” “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson,” “Taxi to the Dark Side,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”
True False 2015 film: “What Happened, Miss Simone?”
Past films as director: “Love, Marilyn,” “Bobby Fischer Against the World,” “Yo Soy Boricua, Pa’que Tu Lo Sepas!, “The Execution of Wanda Jean”
To see more about the films showing at True False 2015, 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.
Alan Paton’s South African novel is full of lyrical phrasing like that. It’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. The action takes place in the late 1940s, amid apartheid practices and attitudes. There’s another sentence in the book I believe could be the title, as far as it describes the story: “All roads lead to Johannesburg.”
When Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo hears that his sister needs him, he leaves the small village of Ndotsheni for Johannesburg. Since he’s going anyway, he decides to try to find his only son, Absalom, who moved to the city and stopped writing home. Also, Stephen’s brother who went there several years ago. Oh, and one of the pastor’s friends has a relative there. Would he possibly be able to check on her as well? Kumalo finds his family members, one by one, but the reunions are not joyful occasions. People move to Johannesburg because it’s where the jobs are, but it is an overcrowded city full of corruption, vice and crime. Everyone lives in fear.
The wealthy white farmer who lives near the pastor’s village also has a son in Johannesburg, a son who has been working for racial justice, until he is shot dead by burglars who expected to find nobody home. Kumalo remembers him as “a small bright boy.” Paton’s wording is everything when it comes to capturing the emotion of a scene: “…he was silent again, for who is not silent when someone is dead, who was a small bright boy?” An even more tragic turn comes when Absalom Kumalo confesses to the crime, explaining how he fired the shot in panic.
The realities of apartheid are consistently woven into the fabric of the story. When a black man falls, a white man would like to help, but he finds himself at a loss, because “it is not the tradition” that people of different races should touch each other. The white churches are magnificent. The Ndotsheni church has multiple leaks when it rains. The children in the village have no milk.
But this book is not all pathos and tragedy. Though it is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of suffering.* As the two fathers cross paths and attempt to resume their lives, they both draw deep from the well of compassion to create meaning from their losses, to give the world a continuation of whatever positive they saw in the spirits of their respective sons.
If you are familiar with other book reviews I’ve written here, you know that I read mostly YA fiction. But about once every three months I get filled with the overwhelming desire to read adult fiction, usually a new adult fantasy.
A month ago this need came over me, and I started using one of our lovely online databases, NoveList Plus. This database is great if you are trying to find read-alikes to a title, author or series you loved, and it is free to use with your library card. I searched for “The Bone Doll’s Twin” by Lynn Flewelling, the first in a great fantasy trilogy that still stands out when I think about some of my favorite reads.
The first book recommended for me as a read-alike for “The Bone Doll’s Twin” was “The Queen of Tearling” by Erika Johansen. Another great and amazing thing about NoveList is that it tells you a reason WHY the book is recommended as a read-alike, so you aren’t flying blind. NoveList told me that, “Princesses cast off their disguises and return from exile in order to assert their claim to hotly contested thrones in these fantasy novels, which boast sympathetic characters, extensive world-building, and detailed political and magical systems.”
To me, that sounded like a pretty good reason for the recommendation, so I went ahead and put a copy on hold.
At first I found “The Queen of Tearling” slow. It isn’t action packed like the YA I’m used to reading. The pace is a slow, delicate climb, but the writing is so beautifully done, pace didn’t matter to me. I couldn’t put the book down.
A 19-year-old girl must take her role as queen and rule a country that desperately needs her. There’s just one problem. She’s never been told about the issues troubling her country, and every time she believes she’s figured something out, another new issue arises. As assassins try to end her life, she must find a way to stabilize her country and protect it from a threatening empire.
The characters are strongly developed and enchanting. Johansen makes the bad guys sympathetic, even as you hate them, and Kelsea, the main character and queen, is strong, powerful and, thankfully, not a cliché. Johansen makes a point of expressing how plain Kelsea is. She’s not the tall gorgeous princess we are so used to reading about. She is, well, human. The great thing is, she’s still an amazing character, and an amazing woman.
After finishing the book I was curious to see what type of response it had garnered and did some searching. I found out that “The Queen of Tearling” had earned some real hype, including a movie deal with Warner Bros. It seems actress Emma Watson was strongly drawn to the book too. Check out the information here, from the New York Post.
That’s right. Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame thought “The Queen of Tearling” was such a good book she decided to be the executive producer for its movie production and play the main character’s role. I’m excited to see such a well written book get the attention it deserves, and I probably will end up seeing the movie when it comes out, but I am left wondering how Kelsea, a plain and unattractive girl, is going to be played by the gorgeous Emma Watson. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, make sure to catch up on this read, and expect at least two more books. Johansen planned on “The Queen of Tearling” being the first of a trilogy.
The post Book Review: The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen appeared first on DBRL Next.
On Feb 2, 2015, in the small northern Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, Phil the groundhog popped out of his hole to check his shadow. According to legend, spring may be less than six weeks away, depending on whether the sun is shining. Six weeks from February 2 brings us to the middle of March, which, in Missouri, is a time that often seems to be still stuck in winter. But there is an inherent hopefulness in this odd holiday that extends beyond the shadows and sunshine of the first season of the year.
A couple of weeks ago, browsing the library’s collection, I came across the self-help book “The Magic of Groundhog Day: Transform Your Life Day by Day” by Paul Hannam, and it made me think a bit further on the topic. Focusing on the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, Hannan states that the term “Groundhog Day” has entered the modern lexicon as a place or state of mind that represents repetition and drudgery. Finding meaning despite the humdrum is what is important (as Bill Murray did near the end of the movie). Hannan writes that mindfulness is the key: “Where you choose to consciously place your attention ultimately determines how happy you are.” He also noted: “You can change your personal reality but you cannot change reality itself, like the past or how other people think and act.”
As useful as mindfulness techniques are for many of us in dealing with the tedious components of daily life, sometimes we need to shake ourselves out of the physical reality of our existence and venture far beyond our comfort zone to find renewal. Jennifer Kingsley does this in her fine new book “Paddlenorth: Adventure, Resilience, and Renewal in the Arctic Wild.” Of the arctic, Kingsley writes “if you measure yourself against the Earth–to test perspective on life and distance–there is nowhere better. Our planet is about 10 percent tundra, but relatively few of us will ever set foot on it.” As Kingsley traveled up the Back River in the Northwest Territories with her six companions (she made the journey in 2005), a transformation occurred: “most of the people closest to me would never see me in the places I love most. When those letters arrived on the Back River, I felt both loved and forgotten. Both feelings gave me freedom. The letters snipped another thread between me and them, here and home.”
What does it mean when your familiar completely disappears? In his memoir “My Orleans, Gone Away: A Memoir of Loss and Renewal,” Peter Wolf sketches out a life mainly spent fleeing the confines of a privileged and stuffy upbringing as a Jewish boy in New Orleans, to life at Exeter and Yale and the far flung reaches of the academy. Flanked by harrowing accounts of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the book is filled with a longing for a childhood in a city that has long since vanished. The memoir was written partly to fill in the blanks for all that was lost during the hurricane. Wolf put it this way: “I decided that in my own way I will try to preserve what I can, and understand what I have not, by writing this memoir.”
On a final note, it is worth mentioning that contemporary ruminations about Groundhog Day and renewal are rooted in ancient European traditions. Societies lived and died depending on the weather during the Middle Ages and weather prognostication was part ritual, part art. See Don Yoder’s book “Groundhog Day” for history and trivia regarding this holiday and its ancient meanings. In the end of his book, Yoder writes, “Our ancestors were geared into the universe and linked with the natural environment in ways that we today have either completely forgotten or no longer fully accept.”
However you find meaning in this little holiday in the depths of a sometimes cruel month, remember that warm sunshine and the springing of new life are just around the corner.
Post-apocalyptic fiction is as popular and ubiquitous as this simile is confusing and ineffective. For some it is a gloomy respite from the constant barrage of good news, utopian grocers and complementary snacks. For others it is a chilling vision of events horrifyingly near at hand. For others still it is a genre of stories that they read for pleasure.
Unlike the supplies in these stories, there is a massive selection of such books to peruse. Readers know that one of the following, in order of likelihood, will be what brings civilization to its knees: zombies, super flu, war, aliens, weather or vampires. We know roughly how things will play out and that the most important people left will be attractive and/or magical. We know it will be nearly as excruciating to experience as it is fun to read about. But what we don’t know, and what has long been one of my chief concerns about life in a hellscape, is whether or not there will be traveling bands of actors and musicians, and if there are, whether or not they will eventually run into trouble. Emily St. John Mandel’s gnarly novel, “Station Eleven,” answers my questions while being really fun to read.
One of this novel’s nifty tricks is to jump around in time and among characters. It opens, just prior to the “Georgian Flu” outbreak it uses to decimate the population, with one of its main characters dying on stage, and then proceeds forward and backward in time to check on characters connected to the dead thespian. One connected character is the child actress that helped provide a twist to his production of “King Lear,” and twenty years later was one of the world’s foremost traveling actors. Another is a paparazzo that hounded the actor until switching careers to be a paramedic and attending the actor’s fateful play. Another, the dead actor’s agent, starts a “Museum of Civilization” (its most popular exhibits include stilettos and cell phones) in an airport where several people take refuge after the outbreak. (The airport is home to one of the novel’s best and most distressing images: a plane, landed safely on the runway but with its doors sealed to forever contain infected passengers.)
This novel quickly introduces a plethora of questions (like why is the nefarious prophet’s dog’s name taken from an extremely limited edition comic that happens to be another character’s most prized possession?), and as the answers start to come the book becomes extra-impossible to put down. “Station Eleven” bounces between post-apocalyptic suspense and pre-apocalyptic drama, but its characters and language are always well-crafted and immersive. It is doubtful the looming Armageddon will be anywhere near as enjoyable.
We got married on Valentine’s Day. My husband thought that it was romantic. (Well, he also figured that it would help him remember our future anniversaries.) I thought it was cute and also special, since there was no Valentine’s in my home country, Russia. Yet whatever our ideas about the joys and responsibilities of marriage were, our Valentine’s wedding turned out to be a true commitment.
I’m not talking about the everyday challenges of married life: suppressing your true feelings about endless football, basketball and what-ever-ball games, picking up things lying around the house (like his size-large gloves on our dining table), suffering through Chinese meals he loves so much and patiently repeating questions that he cannot hear because he’s watching some bloody thriller on TV. You expect these things after you say, “I do.” I’m talking about difficulties that are outside our control, like every year we want to celebrate our anniversary, we have to compete with a whole slew of people who go out on Valentine’s Day just for fun.
It took us a few years to realize what we had gotten ourselves into, since on our first anniversary we (meaning me) had to plan a long time in advance anyway. That year, Valentine’s happened to fall on Friday, so we drove to St. Louis (a two-hour drive) for an “Evening of Romantic Music,” performed by the St. Louis Symphony. Since we had to buy tickets a couple months earlier, it seemed only logical to reserve a hotel room and a dinner to go with it well in advance, too.
Everything worked like a charm that time. The orchestra was good, the music was beautiful and romantic (with the exception of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah, which I personally find erotic and not good PR for women ). And after the concert, every woman was given a piece of chocolate and a rose.
For our second anniversary we drove to Kansas City (also a two-hour drive) to see the Russian opera “Eugene Onegin.” That also had to be carefully arranged, since the opera seemed to have attracted every Russian living in a 100-mile-radius of Kansas City. (There were a few Americans there, too — probably spouses or companions of the Russians .)
Later, things began getting harder. For our third anniversary, I planned another out-of-town outing, which included visiting an art museum and other stuff like that. Yet the weather turned bad, and although the temperature was 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the roads were covered with sleet. (How rain can turn into ice when the temperature is above freezing is beyond me!) So, instead of enjoying the experience, all I could think about was whether we’d get home alive.
After that, I decided that February is not a good month for traveling, and we should celebrate our anniversary locally. There were other reasons for that, too. For one thing, Valentine’s Day rarely takes place on weekends, and unless you don’t have to work or you’re retired (which my husband now is, but I am not), next day you have to go to work. For another, sleeping in a strange bed has much less attraction for me now.
The thing is, I am a creature of habit. I eat the same cereal every day. I sleep on the same side of the bed. And when we go to the movies, I like to have my husband to the left of me, so I can lean on his shoulder if I feel sleepy, and when we attend concerts, he has to be on my right, so I can squeeze his hand with my right hand when I get excited.
I like going to the same restaurants, too, and I usually order the same dishes in each one of them. Yet, as soon as I get used to a particular restaurant, it closes down. If that is because I always order the same meal or because we don’t eat out often enough — or both — I cannot tell. All I know is that it’s getting harder and harder to make reservations at those few I like.
Some of them don’t even take reservations for two people. (How do they expect couples to celebrate Valentine’s? To my knowledge, communal living, which was so popular in the 1960s and 1970s, is long gone!) Some restaurants don’t take reservation for holidays, and some seem to be full even if you call them just after New Year’s! They first say that it is too early, but when you call them close to Valentine’s, it’s already to late . Of course, it’s all relative. A friend of ours, who once found himself stuck in Tokyo, feeling lonely, decided to go to a nice restaurant. Yet they wouldn’t serve him at all! The reason being that he went there alone.
Another thing about celebrating an anniversary on Valentine’s Day is that there is too much chocolate around, which is a terrible temptation for chocoholics like me . Once, during our Valentine’s dinner, I ate a whole flowerless chocolate cake (my husband doesn’t like chocolate)! It tasted great while I was eating it, but, for the rest of that day, I didn’t feel so good. Since then, I’ve ordered chocolate-covered strawberries, so I eat less chocolate and more vitamins.
And what about flowers? You’ve got to have roses for Valentine’s, right? Yet again, roses triple in price on that day, and I don’t even like them that well. One year, I told my husband that I like orchids much better (we had no orchids in Moscow, so they seem special to me, too). The problem with that is that I have a green thumb, and as soon as orchids appear in our house, they just stay there. And since my husband buys new orchids every year, recently, I looked around and realized that our house resembled a jungle, and I was spending all my free time watering orchids!
Well, once again, our anniversary is coming around, marking the eighteen years we have spent together. To tell the truth, despite all my complaints, I still like the fact that we got married on Valentine’s. I like talking about it and, more importantly, I still love my husband. And although the passion that brought us together all those years ago may not be as burning as it once was, there is no tragedy in that. For what really counts in people’s lives is mutual trust and respect, and also that hand you can squeeze in the moment of excitement and that shoulder on which you can lean in a moment of weariness or distress and feel valued and protected by the person by your side. And that is as good as it gets.
Happy Valentine’s to you all!
Creating documentaries can take a lot of time, but it can be even harder when you don’t shoot the footage yourself. Check out these documentaries that use old footage to tell a story from the past.
“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (2011)
Footage shot by a group of Swedish journalists documenting the Black Power Movement in the United States is edited together by a contemporary Swedish filmmaker. Includes footage of Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver.
“How to Survive a Plague” (2012)
The story of two coalitions whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. The activists bucked oppression, helping to identify promising new medication and treatments and move them through trials and into drugstores in record time.
“Let the Fire Burn” (2013)
A found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller. In 1985, a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial Black Power group MOVE came to a deadly climax. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated, resulting in the tragic deaths of 11 people.
The post Images of the Past: Docs Featuring Archival Footage appeared first on DBRL Next.
“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins follows the mundane life of down-and-out Rachel who commutes daily into London by train. Before long she realizes she has been observing a couple every morning as they enjoy breakfast up on their roof top. Rachel begins to fantasize about their life, creating names for the couple while wishing their life was all hers. Then one day she notices a stranger in the garden, and the woman she fondly named Jess is no longer there! Written in the same vein as “Rear Window,” you will soon find yourself entangled in this psychological thriller. Place a hold on this popular best-seller, then pick up one of these similar books that draw in the curious observer.
“A Pleasure and a Calling” by Phil Hogan
Mr. Hemming, such a nice man. He is a real estate agent for a small community and likes to spy on his clients. He does this by keeping keys to the homes he has sold — all of them. Then his creepy little secret life gets put on hold when they find a dead body in one of his homes.
“Death Match” by Lincoln Child
Eden Incorporated — surveillance, artificial intelligence, state of the art matchmaking. It’s a perfect company. They create the perfect couple, the perfect match. Young, attractive, they have everything — it’s perfect. Now, a double suicide on their perfect living room floor. How is it that if everything was so perfect, they are dead? Isn’t Eden perfect?
“The Other Woman’s House“ by Sophia Hannah
Unable to sleep, Connie Bowskill uses her husband’s laptop to log on to an Internet real estate site to view a home she has become obsessed with. While taking the virtual tour, she is witness to a woman lying face down in a pool of blood! Flustered by what she sees, she awakens her husband to show him, but when they return to site the photo is no longer there!
Have other similar titles to recommend to your fellow readers? Let us know in the comments!
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If you’re a Denis Johnson fan, part of the excitement about a forthcoming book is anticipating where he will take you this time. He is not an author to be pigeonholed. His wonderful novella, “Train Dreams,” was originally serialized in “The Paris Review” and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. (Nobody won that year — the Pulitzer Committee couldn’t come to a final decision.) The story follows a day laborer’s travels in the American West during the early 20th century. Before that Johnson published another novella, “Nobody Move,” this time serialized in Playboy. It tells an archetypal noir story about a group of shady characters in pursuit of a bag of cash. You can get an idea of the diverse subjects he is interested in through his nonfiction collection, “Seek.” There he writes about hippies, militia groups, gold mining in Alaska, Christian biker gangs and war-ravaged Liberia.
Some of his experiences in Liberia were inspiration for his newest book, “The Laughing Monsters.” This book treads some similar territory to a previous one, “Tree of Smoke.” That was Johnson’s “Big Novel,” which won the 2007 National Book Award. It focuses on a spy-in-training during the Vietnam War engaged in psychological operations against the Vietcong, but its scope is broad. Covering a span of 20 years, it is as much about the character of America as the war in Vietnam. “The Laughing Monsters,” on the other hand, is a novella with a small cast of characters, set in the present day, and covers a short period of time. Like “Tree of Smoke,” it concerns intelligence operatives who have represented western governments, although their original countries of origin are convoluted, and their loyalties/allegiances are dubious. These operatives are also traveling through damaged and war-torn countries on missions, and maybe counter-missions, while opportunistically pursuing personal profit. It might be the closest thing to a comedy Johnson has written, although there aren’t many belly laughs to be had. The New York Times picked the book as one of it’s 100 notable books for 2014 and described it as “cheerfully nihilistic.”
Two of the main characters in “Tree of Smoke” are soldiers in the Vietnam War, the brothers Bill and James Houston. Bill Houston is also one of the central characters in Johnson’s first novel, “Angels.” Bill meets a wife running away with her two kids on a Greyhound bus. Together they bounce around the fringes of America through bus stations, bars and cheap motels. They encounter lots of dispossessed, strange and dangerous people. They inevitably get into trouble and make bad decisions, which get them into even more trouble. The book’s bleak subject matter could come off as exploitative in another author’s hands, but Johnson’s deft characterization and artful sentences make this story of marginal characters about something bigger than them. While it isn’t necessary to read “Angels” before reading “Tree of Smoke,” there is an added poignancy to reading about Bill Houston’s past when you already know his future.
The setting, time period and character types of Johnson’s stories can vary greatly from book to book, but there are shared characteristics within his body of work. Like most writers, he returns to certain themes and fascinations. You can see his interest in the spy genre in “The Laughing Monsters,” and “Tree of Smoke.” They are more like the spy stories of Graham Greene or John LeCarre than Ian Fleming, but the trappings of spycraft are there, as is the thrill of reading about it. He’s also a fan of crime, noir and hard-boiled fiction. (He adapted the Jim Thompson novel, “A Swell Looking Dame” for the screen.) His novel “Already Dead” is a complex noir about a descendant of a wealthy family who’s at risk of losing what remains of his fortune. After crossing a member of a drug syndicate, he’s on the run from two of his goons, including one who likes to punctuate punches to the face with quotes from Nietzsche.
While the protagonist in “Already Dead” might already be dead, the protagonist in “The Name of The World” is living a “posthumous life,” or so he has felt since his wife and child were killed in a car crash. An excellent addition to the genre I’m going to call “University Novels,” “The Name of The World” is about an academic in a small college town who finds himself forced to “act like somebody who cares what happens to him” despite his tentativeness about re-engaging with life. It is another short, poignant and beautifully written novel by Johnson.
Denis Johnson started his writing career as a poet. His first book of poetry was published when he was 19. I think this is the reason so many of his novels are short, but they never suffer for it. The books are as long as they need to be and crafted as precisely as his sentences. Sometimes he illuminates the emotional weight of his stories with language and images that are borderline hallucinogenic. There are always elements that surprise in his work and a consistency of quality, whether it’s short stories or plays, fiction or nonfiction. Despite some of his awards and critical acclaim, he remains an underappreciated writer in many ways. Just as he deserves the accolades he has received, he deserves to be read widely.
February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans in our nation’s history and our local communities. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) was founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, and in celebration of this organization’s 100th anniversary, this year’s Black History Month theme is “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.”
Perhaps no book illustrates how African Americans shaped the past 100 years better than “The African-American Century” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cornel West. From authors to politicians, activists to artists, this book profiles the rich variety of black Americans’ contributions to this nation’s development.
Similarly grand in scope is “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson. This sweeping narrative follows the movement of black citizens, looking for a better life, from the South to cities in both the north and west over a period of more than 50 years.
“Black America: A Photographic Journey” by Marcia A. Smith surveys the black experience throughout the past century and earlier, using powerful visuals to accompany written narratives about the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Depression, the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement and more.
Want to know more about black history in Missouri? Educator and writer John A. Wright, with the assistance of his wife Sylvia Wright, has published a number of books on the history of African Americans in Missouri, particularly in the St. Louis area. Their most recent book is “Extraordinary Black Missourians: Pioneers, Leaders, Performers, Athletes, and Other Notables Who’ve Made History.” For more local history, check out Gary Kremer’s “Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri” and Rose Nolen’s “African Americans in Mid-Missouri: From Pioneers to Ragtimers.”
More resources from DBRL
- Browse our Black Culture and History subject guide with links to library research databases and the best web links for learning about African Americans in Missouri and nationwide.
- Discover our African-American History Online database (free with your library card) and find expansive and in-depth information – including primary source documents – on the people, events and topics important to the study of African-American history.
The post Books to Celebrate a Century of Black Life, History and Culture appeared first on DBRL Next.
This month’s LibraryReads list definitely has something for every reading taste (just like the library itself)! The list of books publishing in February that librarians across the country recommend includes an entertaining historical fiction set in Hollywood during filming of “Gone With the Wind,” as well as a Regency romance, fantasy and plenty of mysteries to keep you and your cup of tea company. Top of the list is the latest penetrating look at a family’s inner life from Anne Tyler. Enjoy this month’s selections!
“A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler
“In this book, we come to know three generations of Whitshanks — a family with secrets and memories that are sometimes different than what others observe. The book’s timeline moves back and forth with overlapping stories, just like thread on a spool. Most readers will find themselves in the story. Once again, Tyler has written an enchanting tale.”
- Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
“A Touch of Stardust” by Kate Alcott
“With the background of the making of ‘Gone with the Wind,’ this is a delightful read that combines historical events with the fictional career of an aspiring screenwriter. Julie is a wide-eyed Indiana girl who, through a series of lucky breaks, advances from studio go-fer and assistant to Carole Lombard to contract writer at MGM. A fun, engaging page-turner!”
- Lois Gross, Hoboken Public Library, Hoboken, NJ
“My Sunshine Away” by M.O. Walsh
“A crime against a 15-year-old girl is examined through the eyes of one of her friends — a friend who admits to being a possible suspect in the crime. This is a wonderful debut novel full of suspense, angst, loyalty, deceit and, most of all, love.”
- Alison Nadvornik, Worthington Libraries, Columbus, OH
And here is the rest of the list with links to these on-order books in our catalog.
- “The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy” by Julia Quinn
- “Half the World” by Joe Abercrombie
- “Finding Jake” by Bryan Reardon
- “A Darker Shade of Magic” by V. E. Schwab
- “A Murder of Magpies” by Judith Flanders
- “The Siege Winter” by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman
- “Dreaming Spies: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes” by Laurie R. King
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The February 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
My tea drinking habit goes way back. I recall developing a tea drinking routine as a university undergraduate. Tea was cheaper than coffee (which I adored). At that time, I was pinching every single penny, so that might be the reason for my pronounced commitment to the way of tea. I’m hardly alone in my predilection — worldwide, tea is the most consumed beverage after water.
Although the tea plant originated in ancient China, over the centuries it traveled around the globe, leaving a rich historical trail, and it is now cultivated on five continents. It derives from the evergreen tree Camellia sinensis, and only the leaves of the plant are used in making the beverage. All tea starts as freshly plucked leaves, but it is transformed into six classes depending on manufacturing processes, which yield either green, yellow, white, oolong, black or Pu-erh style tea, each with a distinctive taste and appearance. It’s possible to become quite a connoisseur of this aromatic plant, given the varieties and diverse terroirs of its evergreen leaves.
Tea is soothing; tea is invigorating. Served hot, it can warm you on a cold day, or it can quench your thirst and cool you down when served iced on a hot day. Either way, it’s hard to deny the joy its flavor and caffeine infusion can bring. In fact, I’ve claimed strong black tea dosed with heavy cream to be my first line of defense in fending off the blues. In order to enjoy a cup of tea to its utmost, it is important to brew it correctly. Here are the basic instructions, but know that depending on the class of tea, the brewing instructions can be tweaked to enhance the outcome. Is it possible to brew a bad cup of tea? You bet! The worst cup of tea I ever had was served in a tavern where the server ran lukewarm tap water into the mug with a tea bag and delivered it to me. It was undrinkable and truly a disappointment on that cold and clammy day.
Your favorite tea can change over time. (And so can your favorite teacup and teapot — I’ve broken many!) Earl Gray, a black tea flavored with oil of bergamot, was my first favorite. Later, I went on a serious binge of drinking mango-scented black tea, complete with little pale orange mango blossoms in the mix. Nowadays, my preference is English Breakfast, a blend containing a few types of black tea. It has a rich, full-bodied, robust flavor that calls me back again, day after day and year after year.
The British have a deep appreciation for tea, and the wealthy classes developed a formal ritual of “afternoon tea” that dates back to the 1800s. It was a light meal usually eaten between 4 and 6 p.m., and it began as a means to stave off hunger until the evening meal (which could be 8 p.m. or later). Along with cups of tea with milk and sugar added, small sandwiches, cakes and pastries were served. In modern times, most folks are working at this time of day, so this formal tea meal is reserved as a treat for those visiting fancy tea houses or hotels, or as a way to celebrate a special occasion. Still, taking a less formal afternoon tea break with a little confection is a deeply embedded cultural habit, and this little batch of books attests to that fact.
With the winter dark bearing down, I’ve decided it’s time to have an afternoon tea party chez moi. I’ll invite my girlfriends, and we will visit over our cups of hot tea served with sweets and savories. Then we will retire to the living room where we will read aloud to each other our favorite inspirational poems and enhance the boost from the tea and camaraderie. Ahhhh…
Tea cups by naama via photopin cc
Tea by Gloria García via photopin cc
Macarons by ajagendorf25 via photopin cc
Capturing the ambiance of a specific restaurant on film can be tricky. Check out these films that try to serve you up the sights and sounds associated with some exceptional restaurants from around the world.
“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (2012)
The 85-year-old Jiro Ono is the proprietor of a 10-seat sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimages, shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.
“El Bulli: Cooking in Progress” (2011)
For six months of the year, renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adrià closes his restaurant El Bulli – repeatedly voted the world’s best – and works with his culinary team to prepare the menu for the next season. An elegant, detailed study of food as avant-garde art.
“I Like Killing Flies” (2007)
With more than 900 items on its menu all made from scratch, Shopsin’s has long been a quirky gem of New York food culture. The film follows Kenny Shopsin, his family and customers as the restaurant looks for a new place to move to in New York.
Lewis Carroll introduced the world to Alice, a young girl who stumbles out of her dull reality into Wonderland, an absurd world of talking cats, mad hatters and a croquet-playing queen. Carroll was also an accomplished poet, turning the art of poetry on its head (check out his “Jabberwocky,” a personal favorite of mine that manages to make sense out of gibberish — “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”). His sense of humor and tales of the absurd have engaged readers of all ages for over a century.
Lewis Carroll, born Charles L. Dodgson on January 27, 1832, was the third of 11 children born to a country parson. As an adult, he taught and published material on math and logic in Oxford. His vivid imagination was visible even in his teaching. “Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical Life” explores Carroll’s body of mathematical publications, with a special focus on the fascinating (and fun!) puzzles, riddles and ciphers he created to use in his teaching.
Carroll spent his time outside of the classroom engaged in photography, and he was particularly interested in portrait photography. This hobby introduced him to Alice Liddell, the girl many believe inspired his most famous character (although he denied that Alice was based on any one person). “The Alice Behind Wonderland” explains the technology and techniques involved in Carroll’s photography and offers a glimpse at the life of the “true” Alice.
Due to his private nature, Carroll remains a bit of a mystery. Many of his private diaries have been lost. Fortunately, he was a prolific writer of letters to friends and family and much of that correspondence remains. Both “Very Truly Yours, Charles L. Dodgson, Alias Lewis Carroll: A Biography” and “The Letters of Lewis Carroll” draw on Carroll’s letters, photos and writings to construct engaging and insightful biographies. Carroll was considered a bit odd and that certainly inspires many questions about him that cannot be answered due to lack of access to his private writings. “The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created ‘Alice in Wonderland’” draws on Carroll’s personal bank records and correspondence from his family and the Liddell family in an attempt to explain just who he was and whether he was as odd as he seemed.
At his death in 1898, Carroll was a beloved, best-selling children’s author. His stories remain popular to this day. People are still drawn to him and his work because they are fun stories, but also because of the questions they raise. For example, “Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser” looks at Carroll’s stories from a philosophical point of view and ponders the deeper meanings behind them, relating them back to different philosophical ideas. Lewis Carroll was a fascinating man, both in his writing and in his life. Understanding him is certainly not an easy task, but there are many wonderful books in the library that offer insight into who he was and how he created those imaginative tales.Source of Carroll’s photo of Alice Liddell: serenity_now via photopin cc