When I was in school, history was not my favorite subject, but Sarah Vowell has convinced me I didn’t give it a fair chance. Vowell’s chatty books about American history relate the stories of our country in a way that brings alive the figures involved and paints a vivid picture of the times in which they lived, with the bonus of showing how past events still affect our lives today.
“Unfamiliar Fishes,” a volume about Hawaii, opens with these words: “Why is there a glop of macaroni salad next to the Japanese chicken in my plate lunch? Because the ship Thaddeus left Boston Harbor with the first boatload of New England missionaries bound for Hawaii in 1819.” Vowell makes a pretty good case for giving Hawaii the ‘Most Multicultural State’ award. As she explains how this came to be, she examines the effects of 19th century missionaries plus vacationing sailors on the island culture. It wasn’t all roses and butter, we discover. The story of Queen Lili’uokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, makes for compelling – if heartbreaking – reading.
In “The Wordy Shipmates” Vowell shows us the Puritans as interesting, complex human beings with more layers than the earth’s core. Much of the narrative centers on John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, along with his best frenemy, Roger Williams. The ins and outs of their friendship proves junior high drama predates the existence of junior high and can present itself in the cloak of religious disputes. After Winthrop banished him from Massachusetts, Williams founded Rhode Island. He was soon joined there by the remarkable and also exiled upstart, Anne Hutchinson, who had convinced her husband to pack up their 15 children and follow the clergyman John Cotton across the ocean to the colonies.
Speaking of travel, what’s a dedicated historian’s dream vacation? Visiting landmarks associated with assassinations, of course. “Assassination Vacation” is a road trip book like no other, focusing on sites important in the lives and mostly the deaths of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Vowell speaks not only of the facts of the events, but explores how legends surrounding these political murders have been used to shape and sometimes exploit culture and politics. Also, a fascinating bit of trivia about Robert Todd Lincoln.
The future of history includes Vowell’s forthcoming book, “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States,” due out in October. I can’t wait to find out everything I don’t know about the French general who played such a large role in the American Revolution.
September is coming, and here at DBRL, that means One READ month! One READ is a community-wide reading program coordinated by the library and supported (and planned and promoted) by an incredible group of area organizations, media and educational institutions. Each year area readers help select a single book for exploration and discussion with the goal of creating community around this common reading experience.
This year’s selection, “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel, provides ample opportunity to investigate topics as diverse as Shakespeare, comic books, the nature of fame and how to survive an apocalypse. Here are just a few of the programs happening in Columbia and Fulton at the beginning of the month. See the full line-up at oneread.org.
“Station Eleven” Audiobook Broadcast
August 31 – September 30, 1-1:30 p.m.
Listen to the audiobook version of this year’s One Read selection and hear announcements on additional One Read programming every weekday August 31-September 30 (except Sept. 7, Labor Day).
Rambler’s Club Unplugged
Tuesday, September 1 › 7 p.m.
Columbia, Rose Music Hall (formerly Mojo’s), 1013 Park Ave
89.5 KOPN and DBRL present an evening of free music to kick off this year’s One Read program. The world of “Station Eleven” is postapocalyptic, unplugged and off the grid. Join local musicians as they play short sets with no amplification for this One Read edition of the Ramblers’ Club. (Doors open at 6 p.m.)
First Wednesday Book Discussion
Wednesday, September 2 › Noon-1 p.m.
Fulton, Callaway County Public Library
Join us as we discuss this year’s One Read selection, “Station Eleven,” by Emily St. John Mandel. Twenty years after a deadly flu outbreak kills most of the world’s population, what survives? What matters? This haunting novel threads together the connected stories of people living before and after the end of the world into a lyrical examination of the importance of art and what it means to be human.
One Read Discussion With George Hodgman
Wednesday, September 2 › 7-8 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
We’ll kick off our month of One Read programs by discussing “Station Eleven” with George Hodgman, the author of “Bettyville.” Mr. Hodgman, a former book editor, will share his insights about this year’s One Read novel and lead an informal discussion.
First Thursday One Read Discussion
Thursday, September 3, 2015 › Noon-1 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
Join us as Daniel Regional Library Board member Julie Baka leads us in a discussion of “Station Eleven.” Bring a sack lunch if you wish!
One Read Film: “The Giver”
Thursday, September 3, 2015 › 6 p.m.
Fulton, William Woods University Library Auditorium
Based on Lois Lowry’s iconic and influential Newbery Award-winning science fiction novel, visionary director Phillip Noyce’s 2014 film explores weighty and provocative themes similar to those in “Station Eleven.” Dr. Greg Smith, WWU associate professor of English and film, will lead a discussion following the film. (Rated PG-13)
The kids are back in school, and the September LibraryReads list is here! Time to brew a cup of tea and enjoy a freshly published book. Here are the books hitting shelves next month that librarians across the country recommend, including the latest from the hilarious, refreshingly honest, irreverent, library-loving Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess. “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” has gone immediately on to my personal holds list. Add a few of these forthcoming titles to your list, and enjoy!
“The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa DeCarlo
“At once tragic and hilarious, this book is a roller coaster of a read. You’ll find yourself rooting for the snarky and impulsive but ultimately lovable Mattie. At the heart of this tale is a beautifully unraveled mystery that has led Mattie to her current circumstances, ultimately bringing her to her first real home.” – Patricia Kline-Millard, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH
“Make Me” by Lee Child
“Jack Reacher is back. Jack gets off a train at an isolated town. Soon, he is learning much more about the town, and its residents are learning not to mess around with Jack Reacher. Readers new to this series will find this book a good starting point, and fans will be pleased to see Jack again.” – Jenna Persick, Chester County Library, Exton, PA
“House of Thieves” by Charles Belfoure
“Belfoure’s intriguing novel is set in Gilded Age New York City. John Cross, head of the family, finds an unexpected talent for planning robberies, while his wife and children also discover their inner criminals. The historical details and setting evoke old New York. I enjoyed every minute of their escapades.” – Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton Public Library, Groton, CT
And here is the rest of this list with links to the catalog for your holds-placing pleasure.
- “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff
- “Did You Ever Have A Family” by Bill Clegg
- “The Gates of Evangeline” by Hester Young
- “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
- “This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!” by Jonathan Evison
- “Girl Waits With Gun” by Amy Stewart
- “The Scribe” by Matthew Guinn
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The September 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
Congratulations to Michelle from Columbia on winning our ninth and final Adult Summer Reading 2015 prize drawing. She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.
That wraps up our Adult Summer Reading program for this year. If you didn’t win a prize, we hope you will try again next year. A big thank you to everyone who signed up and submitted book reviews. Make sure to come back to DBRL Next to see what other patrons have recommended. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our upcoming One Read program. This year’s selection is “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel.
While making for the nearest suitable reading cubby, I hold my chosen novel aloft as a means of recommending it without the need for electricity or wires (though, to be fair, I often employ a complicated series of large wires and pulleys to ease the burden of its weight upon my musculature and indeed have been researching the possibility of adding an electric motor to my contraption). This month’s recommendation did cause me some consternation, though. Fine book though it is, “A Cure for Suicide” is a title apt to raise eyebrows among those that don’t wish to see you dead. I bypassed this conundrum by merely regularly exclaiming, “Fear not for my well-being – this is a novel. I do not intend to curtail my glorious traversal through this magnificent existence!” My calls, in addition to allaying concerns and dispelling confusion as to why such a distinguished gentleman might consider cutting short his glorious traversals, earned me wide, respectful berths, providing me expedited arrival to the nearest cozy chair or nest of pillows and wigs (wigs are soft) that I’ve secreted around town so that I might recline comfortably with my reading material.
Onlookers’ dismay aside, reading Jesse Ball’s newest novel was a pleasure. Not only was it a fancy book, indicated clearly by the significant amount of blank space between most of the paragraphs, but it was also good. And that blank space wasn’t just indicative of fanciness and the author’s and publisher’s contempt for trees but was actually a useful style choice that emphasized the elegiac tone of the work and its fable-like qualities. And, as time passes, this novel continues to provide fodder for my mind monkeys to vigorously pull their various levers and add coal to their various furnaces. (Editor’s note: this book made the gentleman think.)
The premise is: a man, known initially only as the “claimant,” awakens with no memories. His “examiner” is at his side. Her task: to teach him the names of objects, how to interact with people and generally how to exist. We watch the claimant improve and regress and some twisty psychological drama enters the stage: there are injections, creepily idyllic villages and villagers, the claimant goes to sleep in one house and village and wakes up in a different house and village, etc. There is a great deal of discussion about the “whys” of things, sure to please the philosophy buffs that, as I understand it, make up much of our modern civilization. Then we come to perhaps the novel’s best section, the one that explains why our claimant is here, why he was driven to spoiler alert seek a cure for suicide. This relatively lengthy chapter foregoes the lovely blank space that dominates the rest of the novel, the better with which to gently bludgeon you with heartbreak. Later we return to the previous format and tone and are left with a doozy of a closing section and a complex query that might have the reader lingering in their nest of pillows and wigs, contemplating several facets of existence while they conceal the title from onlookers (as the reader is too deep in thought to be capable of calling out an explanation for the title of the work they hold, and so must hide it to ensure no one is concerned for their well-being).
A fun, sprawling sci-fi comic book series about a forbidden love between children of two warring factions. The story is told using the humorous voice of the two lovers’ (not yet born) daughter. A heavy dose of humor, fantasy, violence and a little more nudity than necessary makes up this series. The universe in which the story is set contains some very imaginative characters, alien races, technologies and socio-political structure. It is probably the most entertaining fictional universe I have encountered since Star Wars. The story itself is ok, but the characters that fit into the story are the best part. My favorite pair of characters is a bounty hunter and his pet that looks like a lion, hired to track down these forbidden lovers. The cat has a special power where it is compelled to purr the word “lyyyyying” whenever someone is not telling the truth. This, among other quirks, keeps the reader on their toes while the story takes tremendous twists and turns. Note, the story is not finished yet, but at least the first four volumes are available from the DBRL.
Three words that describe this book: Cosmic, imaginitive, humorous
You might want to pick this book up if:
- You are ok with HBO-type mature themes.
- You enjoy large space operas with fun new universes.
- You want to see one of the most exciting new comics currently out there.
- You are ok with not having the complete story available yet, as new issues are still being created.
Small children are naturally curious about what goes on around them, and this extends to what is going on in their kitchens at home. After all, they see their parents make what may seem mysterious efforts to prepare meals and snacks, as they orchestrate over counters, the stove and in the oven. Most wee ones get started in the kitchen when they crawl to a lower cabinet door and pull out pots and pans with which to play. (I believe this is where their first music lessons happen as well – bang, bang, bang!) I know my two boys spent plenty of happy time on the kitchen floor with pots, wooden spoons and measuring cups, to name a few of the culinary tools they got to try early on.
Four or five years of age is not too young to allow children into the kitchen to help out in some capacity, even if it’s just mixing pancake batter in a bowl or adding sugar to hot chocolate. There are benefits to children helping in the kitchen, beyond the reward of preparing and eating their own meals. My mother gifted us “Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes,“ delightfully written and illustrated by Molly Katzen, when my boys were early elementary school age. It provided a pleasant entrée into the world of cooking together as a family. Favorite recipes were: Green Spaghetti (can you guess what makes it green?), Carrot Pennies and Hide and Seek Muffins. Here at your library there is a wide assortment of cookbooks calibrated for young chefs at various age levels with adult supervision factored in, so check them out if you’re in the need of a little inspiration. And there’s even a cookbook that lines up with our summer reading theme of superheroes: “The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook” by Matthew Mead.
As kids grow up they can take on more complicated cooking tasks. When my boys were in junior high they began planning dinner menus (yes, with prodding from me but they seemed very interested) so they could have more say-so in what appeared on the dinner table. It was gratifying to see them ratchet up their culinary skill levels. Planning to be relaxed and not in a hurry while supervising their efforts made for better family-time experiences. Their recipe choices certainly livened up our eating prospects (as in this recipe for Sweet Corn Cheddar Pancakes – so delish!).
If you struggle with picky eaters, take heart. That challenge has been addressed, and here are some cookbooks to help. We want our children to enjoy their food and to be well-nourished by it and then, once they are on their own, to be inspired to provide well-prepared and nutritious foods for themselves.
Photos used via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
“The Little Paris Bookshop” is about the book seller, Jean Perdu, who sells only the correct books to his customers at his literary pharmacy. (This is a book shop on a barge on the Seine River in Paris.) Monsieur Perdu is able to “transperceive” each of his customers (and others) to prescribe the correct book to fix what ails them. He generously gives books away, but he is equally stern in refusing to sell the wrong book to a particular client. Success in his work life is juxtaposed against the anguish, loneliness and pain in his private life resulting from a severely unmendable broken heart. The mood is magical, the characters profound, the sensual presentation of the story causes one’s heart to move along the story line as if it were on a roller coaster. To accompany Jean Perdu on his life journey is a sublime experience.
Being a translation from French, I want to brush up on my French and read it in the original language because I cannot imagine how it could possibly be better than this marvelous translation. I am not sure how to do it, but this book would be a perfect candidate to nominate for a future One Read! Yes, I liked it!
Three words that describe this book: patient, tragic, literature
You might want to pick this book up if: you want to read an amazing book, you like books set in France or foreign countries, or you have known the power of a certain book on your life.
“Traitor’s Blade” by Sebastien De Castell
Why I Checked It Out: Three best friends, roaming the kingdom, looking for justice and purpose? With swords? I’m in.
What It’s About: In the European-esque, medieval setting, the Greatcoats greatly resemble Jedi Knights. These men and women are skilled warriors, but they are more concerned with upholding the King’s Law and keeping peace among all the ambitious dukes and duchesses of the land. Or at least they were, until the death of the King and the end of his enlightened law.
Now Falcio, Kest, Brasti and the rest of the Greatcoats are disgraced and scattered, taking what work they can and struggling to finish the enigmatic final tasks left to them by the King.
Why I Recommend It: I read this book in a day. And then I could not start another book because I was convinced nothing would be as good.
The story begins by launching the reader directly into the action and never really lets up. The reader learns of the rise of the King, the formation of the Greatcoats and their subsequent fall, all through flashbacks that span the entirely of the book. These flashbacks are well-timed and an excellent device. By the time you learn how the King died, you care for him as much as Falcio did, and his loss is all the more heartbreaking.
While there is plenty of death and loss in “Traitor’s Blade,” and Falcio and the others have definitely been shaped by tragedy, the book is not dark. De Castell has crafted a fun read, filled with smart humor and likeable characters. There are intricate political intrigues and swashbuckling adventures. The action scenes are incredibly descriptive, owing to the author’s training as a fight choreographer.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure with well-rounded characters and hint of magic, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Warning: This is the first book in a quartet, but luckily for us all, the second book is already out.
What To Read Next:
“Theft of Swords” by Michael J. Sullivan
“The Three Musketeers” by Alexander Dumas
“Storm Front” by Jim Butcher
Congratulations to Jessica C., a Columbia patron, for winning our eighth Adult Summer Reading prize drawing of the summer. She is the recipient of a $25 gift card from Barnes & Noble.
There is only one more drawing left this summer, so keep your fingers crossed. You can still submit book reviews to increase your chances of winning.