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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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Categories: Book Buzz

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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Categories: Book Buzz

Mother-Daughter Book Clubs

February 3, 2016

Book cover for Little WomenMy daughter, Samantha, and I joined a mother-daughter book club when she was in fourth grade. The club consisted of the two of us and Samantha’s best friend and her mother. That club lasted until we had to move just before the start of sixth grade. And even though we are now just a club of two, Samantha and I have continued reading books together. We are currently reading “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. (Samantha chooses the books even if I offer suggestions.)

When I ran across the title “Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More” by Lori Day, I couldn’t resist and requested that it be purchased for the library. I think we did fine with our book club, but now that I have read this one, I really wish we had had the benefit of its recommendations and insights from the beginning. The first part of the book gives tips on how and why to begin a mother-daughter book club and how to keep it running smoothly. Part two delves into topics such as gender stereotypes and sexism, the sexualization of childhood (and how to bypass it), body image, bullying and how to be allies, encouraging healthy relationships, how to be inclusive, female leadership and the welfare of girls and women around the world. Each topic chapter highlights one or two books, provides discussion questions, suggests activities and finishes with a list of recommended books, including some kid appropriate, adult level books, movies/TV and media with suggested age ranges.

Our club read books such as  “The Giver,” “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” that led us into discussions about utopias/dystopias and how those societies reflect our own. We also had some deep discussions about race and racial violence when we read “Number the Stars,” and “If We Must Die: A Novel of Tulsa’s 1921 Greenwood Riot.” We even had discussions about about — shhhhh — s-e-x when we read “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Speak,” and “Fangirl.” And, of course, once you have read the books, who can resist seeing and comparing the movies?

I can’t overstate what our mother-daughter book club has meant to me. I’m sure that it would have meant a lot to us even if we had not moved, but it became so much more important because of the move. I miss having other members in our club if for no other reason than to help us narrow down book club selections!  I also miss the camaraderie and support that we gained from our other mother-daughter pair, and I would love for our club to expand again someday. But I’m so glad that we had this partnership developed ahead of our move to help support us through the loss of friends, family, pets, our place in the world and, at times, our sanity. I hope we continue for a long, long time.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Cooking With eBooks

January 29, 2016

My iPad rarely leaves the kitchen. I use it to play podcasts or audiobooks while I do the dishes. I check Facebook while I’m waiting for the pasta water to boil. But the thing I use the device for the most is my daily meal preparation. No, I’m not like that German dad using the tablet as a cutting board in the YouTube video that made the rounds a few years ago. Through the library’s OverDrive eBook collection, I can download new cookbooks from some of my favorite foodies and make meal planning and cooking that much easier. Whether I want to consult the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten,  New York Times columnist Mark Bittman or the Food Network’s Rachael Ray, the library’s eBook collection has me covered. Here are just some of the new and popular cookbooks you can have at your fingertips in almost no time.

book cover for NOPI cookbook

NOPI: The Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully

Yotam Ottolenghi is beloved in the food world for his beautiful, inspirational cookbooks, as well as his Ottolenghi delis and his fine-dining restaurant, NOPI. In the NOPI cookbook, head chef Ramael Scully’s Asian-inspired pantry meets Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern influences and brings the restaurant’s favorite dishes within reach of the home cook.

 DinnertimeThe Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime” by Ree Drummond

The #1 bestselling author and Food Network personality at last answers that age-old question –“What’s for Dinner?”– bringing together more than 125 simple, scrumptious, step-by-step recipes for delicious dinners for the whole family. She includes her family’s favorites, like  tomato soup with Parmesan croutons, buffalo chicken salad, baked ziti and shrimp scampi. 

Book cover for The Food LabThe Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” by J. Kenji López-Alt

As Serious Eats’s culinary nerd-in-residence, J. Kenji López-Alt has pondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that’s perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it and more. In this book, Kenji focuses on the science behind beloved American dishes, delving into the interactions between heat, energy and molecules that create great food. Kenji shows that often, conventional methods don’t work that well, and home cooks can achieve far better results using new — but simple — techniques

Book cover for 100 Days of Real Food100 Days of Real Food” by Lisa Leake

The creator of the 100 Days of Real Food blog draws from her hugely popular website to offer simple, affordable, family-friendly recipes and practical advice for eliminating processed foods from your family’s diet.

Here are more popular eBooks for cooks!

OverDrive has a sizable selection of books on food and cooking, including food memoirs and cookbooks for kids – look for the “Cooking and Food” category under eBook nonfiction.  Finally, if keeping your tablet in the kitchen has the screen greasy and food-spattered, see tips for screen cleaning from Tablet PC Review. Happy cooking and eating!

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Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The February 2016 List

January 22, 2016

Library Reads LogoMy library coworkers’ reading tastes vary widely. Some are graphic novel and comics experts, others are sci-fi and fantasy aficionados and some kill it at every trivia night because they are voracious nonfiction readers. Many best-of lists in book-ish publications (both in print and online) offer recommendations that lean towards what you might call literary, which I personally love (I read a lot of contemporary fiction and memoirs). The LibraryReads monthly list, however, often offers up a list as diverse as the reading tastes of our patrons. The list of books publishing in February that librarians across the country recommend clearly reflects this diversity. What other list has a stunningly written historical fiction sharing space with a steamy romance? Enjoy this month’s picks!

Book cover for Salt to the Sea by Ruta SepetysSalt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys
“Titanic. Lusitania. Wilhelm Gustloff. All major maritime disasters, yet the last is virtually unknown. Ruta Sepetys changes that in her gripping historical novel. Told in short snippets, “Salt to the Sea” rotates among four narrators attempting to escape various tragedies in 1945 Europe. Powerful and haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful–a must read.” – Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL

Book cover for Black Rabbit HallBlack Rabbit Hall” by Eve Chase
“Young Amber Alton and her family adore Black Rabbit Hall and the joy and peace it brings to them all. That is, until a tragic accident changes everything. Three decades later, Lorna decides her wedding must be celebrated at the crumbling hall. As the book moves between these two time periods, secrets slowly unfold. Perfectly twisty with interesting characters and a compelling story that kept me up too late.” – Deborah Margeson, Douglas County Libraries, Parker, CO

Book cover for A Girl's Guide to Moving OnA Girl’s Guide to Moving On” by Debbie Macomber
“Leanne and her daughter-in-law Nichole both leave cheating husbands to start over. They learn that it is never easy and that hardships abound, but they meet many wonderful people on their way to happily-ever-after. Believable characters and an enjoyable story made this perfect for relaxing reading—definitely one of Macomber’s best. An excellent choice both for long-time fans of the author and for those who have never read her novels.” – Linda Tilden, Cherry Hill Public Library, Cherry Hill, NJ

And here is the rest of the February list for your hold-placing pleasure. 

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Categories: Book Buzz

Oscar Buzz for Book Adaptations

January 20, 2016

The Best Picture nominations for the 2016 Oscar’s were announced last week, and films based on books make up the majority of the list. If you are a read-it-before-you-watch-it kind of person, then your to-read pile just got much bigger.

Book cover for The Big Short by Michael LewisThe Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis
This nonfiction work investigates the 2008 stock market crash and economic crisis, citing such factors as expanded home ownership and risky derivative elections in the face of increasing shareholder demands, and profiles responsible parties in government, financial and private sectors. An unlikely basis for the plot of a riveting drama, but there you go.

The film is nominated for Best Picture, Director (Adam McKay), Supporting Actor (Christian Bale) and Adapted Screenplay.

Book cover for Brooklyn by Colm ToibinBrooklyn” by Colm Tóibín
Leaving her home in post-World War II Ireland to work as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn, Eilis Lacey discovers a new romance in America with a charming blond Italian man before devastating news threatens her happiness.

The film adaptation is nominated for Best Picture, Actress (Saoirse Ronan) and Adapted Screenplay.

Book cover for The MartianThe Martian” by Andy Weir
After a bad storm cuts his team’s Mars mission short, injured astronaut Mark Watley is stranded. Now he’s got to figure out how to survive without air, shelter, food or water on the harsh Martian landscape until the next manned mission in four years.

The film adaptation is nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Matt Damon) and Adapted Screenplay.

Book cover for The Revenant by Michael PunkeThe Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” by Michael Punke
A story of survival on the American frontier chronicles the exploits of fur trapper Hugh Glass. Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his fellow trappers but survives and treks through the wilderness to seek justice.

The movie adaptation is nominated for Best Picture, Director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy).

Book cover for Room by Emma DonoghueRoom” by Emma Donoghue
A five-year-old narrates a story about his life growing up in a single room where his mother aims to protect him from the man who kidnapped her when she was a teenager and has held her prisoner for seven years.

The film is nominated for Best Picture, Director (Lenny Abrahamson), Actress (Brie Larson) and Adapted Screenplay.

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Glenn Taylor

January 18, 2016

Book cover for A Hanging at Cinder BottomAs the old saying goes, “…judge a book by its cover.” The eye-catching cover of “A Hanging at Cinder Bottom” by Glenn Taylor caught my eyes, and the contents held them. If my team of editors, web developers, interns and chefs has done its job, the cover should be to the right. A keen eye will spot a monkey on a pedestal. Beware though: the monkey doesn’t show up until deep into the novel, and he doesn’t appear on a pedestal, but the wait and subterfuge about his standing gear is worth it. He’s a brave and loyal little rascal, and he wins his owner’s bets by being able to drink a bottle of beer and smoke a cigarette in under two minutes. Now, we’ve all seen our share of smoking, alcoholic monkeys, but this monkey is special. His owner, Tony Thumbs (he’s missing a thumb), loves him, and this gentleman reader was moved by the revelation that Tony, out of concern for the monkey’s health, only asked his little pal to pull the trick on occasion, when it might prove useful in making friends.

While it shouldn’t take more than a quality monkey to sell you on “A Hanging at Cinder Bottom,” it is a ripping yarn written with a poet’s dedication to word choice, and it is about much more than an awesome monkey. There is also a stage show featuring a man perfectly playing the tune “Yankee Doodle” with his farts.

The novel opens in 1910 with life-long loves Abe Baach, a card sharp and conman, and Goldie Toothman, a brothel madam capable of throwing a playing card with deadly precision, awaiting the gallows for murdering the mayor. With ropes around necks and Abe’s promise to “tell the truth before I die” or “walk out of hell in kerosene drawers and set the world on fire” ringing in the crowd’s ears, the evil sheriff collapses on the stage and lets loose some profound flatulence, and with that ringing in the crowd’s ears:

“The sun came free of the clouds then, and the people looked skyward, and there was only the north-born sound of the tardy noon train’s wheeze. The engine was not yet fully stopped at the station when men began to jump from inside the empty coal hoppers. They hit the hard dirt beside the railbed and rolled and got to their feet quick. They ran on wrenched ankles, headlong into the people staring at the heavens.”

And there, as we hope those men are injuring their ankles in an effort to save our charming heroes, the novel leaps back to 1877, and then to 1897, so that we might better understand why our protagonists would run afoul of the most powerful people in the county. Then the novel returns to 1910 and the months leading up to the hanging, where the bulk of our time is spent, and we get the story of the long con that puts them in the nooses we find them in at the beginning. While you might guess the general thrust of the ending, the specifics will delight you. Someone will eventually film the closing sequence, and while it will be impossible to improve on the novel and a reader’s imagination, it will be great fun to see someone try. Here’s hoping they cast the right monkey.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Classics For Everyone: Brave New World

January 11, 2016

Book cover for Brave New WorldKids these days, with their “Hunger Games” and “Divergent.” The millennial generation thinks they’re the first ones to discover futuristic dystopian literature? I’ll show them futuristic dystopian literature. Aldous Huxley was writing it before their grandparents were born.

His 1932 book, “Brave New World,” presents a society where lives are created by cloning and controlled through technology and drugs. Fulfillment is meant to be found in consumer goods, and Henry Ford is worshiped. A caste system is enforced through genetic engineering. There are no families, no personal attachments. Or at least there aren’t supposed to be.

Enter John, aka “the Savage.” Through happenstance, he has grown up removed from the World State, raised by a mother, even, albeit not a stable one. His development was largely influenced by an old volume of the works of William Shakespeare, and it provides his frame of reference as he tries to understand what passes for the civilized world, once he is dropped into its midst. He repeatedly speaks of the “brave new world,” a quote from Miranda in Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest.” But each time he utters the phrase, it takes on a different meaning.

John’s three main companions in his new life are Bernard Marx, who oversees psychological sleep training at the (human) Hatchery and Conditioning Center, Bernard’s friend Helmholtz Watson, a university lecturer and Lenina Crowne, a giver of vaccines at the Hatchery. All three are, in their own ways, discontent with life in their supposed Utopia, though Lenina tries her best to find happiness, or failing that, at least numbness.

“Brave New World” tackles questions that are still relevant today, issues about the role of technology and medical ethics. To what extent should we meddle with nature? How much can we improve life and health by doing so, and what do we risk losing? Is complacency the same as happiness? How much social engineering is acceptable in order to maintain a stable society?

Kids these days. Do they think they’re the first one to ask those questions? They’re not. Every generation asks them. Aldous Huxley saw this.

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Categories: Book Buzz

New Year, New You? Three Books for Your Best Self

January 8, 2016

Year of Yes book coverI rarely make resolutions. I do like the notion of the coming year as a clean slate, a calendar full of possibilities, and I’m a proponent of self-improvement. However, I bristle at the typical resolution’s focus on weight loss or basis in dissatisfaction, what I don’t have or don’t do but should. And because they are so often abandoned, making resolutions feels like I’m setting myself up for failure.

This year I bucked my own trend and made some resolutions. Why? Maybe it’s because I’m in my 40s now and feel like I need to make some lifestyle adjustments for my future health. (Calcium supplements! Weight training!) Maybe it’s because I really like checking items off of to-do lists. (Session with personal trainer scheduled? Check! Best calcium supplements researched – I am a librarian, after all – and purchased? check!) Whatever the reason, I’ve started off 2016 as a goal-setter. If you want to join me and need some inspiration for shaking up your status quo, finding work-life balance or otherwise becoming a better version of yourself, pick up one of these books.

Book cover for 10% Happier10% Happier” by Dan Harris

Subtitled, “How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-help That Actually Works – a True Story,” this often funny narrative winds up a convincing argument for meditation and mindfulness. While I haven’t read it yet, a woman in my book club quietly asserted that this book changed her life. Endorsement enough for me.

Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes

Chronicles of the year a writer spent conducting some sort of personal experiment – strictly living according to the bible, only eating food grown within 100 miles of home, etc. – are not new. However, Rhimes’ fresh and personal voice keeps her memoir from feeling like it’s something we’ve already heard. On her sister’s challenge, Rhimes embarks on a year of saying yes to things that scare her, from public speaking engagements to promotional opportunities. The outcomes are pretty dramatic, and Rhimes’ journey inspires.

Book cover for OverwhelmedOverwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time” by Brigid Schulte

I often think that if I added up all of those little chunks of time I spend at the end of my day scrolling through Facebook posts, I could get a whole lot more novel reading done. Or at least some laundry. Schulte investigates why modern workers (particularly women with kids) have so little leisure time. She looks to European countries for alternative models and makes some practical suggestions for time-management and reclaiming time we waste attempting to multitask or spend on manufactured busyness.

Happy New Year!

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Categories: Book Buzz

Audiobooks for Book Clubs on Hoopla

January 6, 2016

Hoopla logoDo you love listening to audiobooks? Have you ever run all over town trying to find the book for your book club’s next meeting, only to discover that the slightly faster members of your book club already grabbed every copy available within a 50-mile radius? Hoopla can help! Hoopla is a media service that allows you to stream and download audiobooks, eBooks, comics, movies and television shows. Sign up for an account (this quick start guide shows you how), and borrow up to 10 items per month. The best part? Everyone in your book club can borrow the same book on Hoopla – there’s no limit to how many people can borrow an item at once!

Here are just a few of the book club-worthy titles available as audiobooks on Hoopla:

Book cover for My Brilliant Friend by Elena FerranteMy Brilliant Friend” is the first novel in the popular Neapolitan series by Italian author Elena Ferrante. Set in a downtrodden neighborhood, this story of female friendship is told in luscious prose. Book clubs will find lots to talk about in the forces that shape Elena and Lila’s evolving friendship.

Need a thriller that will keep you guessing? Try “The Good Girl” by Mary Kubica. Told in “before” and “after” and by multiple characters, this novel keeps the tension high as readers piece together the story.

Book cover for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpIf your book club is approaching the new year with resolution-mindedness, then try “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. This small book contains the tenets of the KonMari method, including a clothes-folding technique that turns messy dresser drawers into expanses of true beauty. Take before and after pics for a spirited discussion!

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Categories: Book Buzz

What a Year! My 2015 in Books

January 4, 2016

Book cover for Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Book cover for Being Mortal by Atul GawandeBook cover for Still AliceI am one of those crazy, weird, super geeky people that actually tracks what they read. Not only that, but I have participated in a reading challenge for the past five years. This year, I originally set a reading goal of 75 books and then increased it to 100 when it became apparent that I was going to blow right past the original goal. I have reached and surpassed my revised goal by reading 125 books! I had someone tell me that a personally difficult year translates into a fruitful reading year, and this seems to be true. Looking over my list, there are several stand-out books, some that I have already written about and others that deserve a mention. There are also a few stinkers, but why dwell on that? I also discovered some interesting trends in my reading.

A member of our family is struggling with the end stages of Alzheimer’s and bladder cancer, which is reflected in many of the books I read in 2015, including “Can’t We Please Talk About Something More Pleasant,” “Being Mortal” and “Still Alice.” All three of these books gave me comfort, courage and an expanded perspective.

Book cover for All the Light We Cannot SeeI found several incredible books that allowed me a few moments of pure escapism. “All the Light We Cannot See” is probably one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. “Good Lord Bird,” “Furiously Happy” and “Hyperbole and a Half” kept me laughing even about things that are not supposed to be funny. I really needed to find reasons to laugh this year.

There were nonfiction titles that kept my mind active during long periods of just waiting.  And waiting. And waiting. “The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements,” “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” and “Knowledge is Beautiful: Impossible Ideas, Invisible Patterns, Hidden Connections – Visualized” all fed the geek in me.

Book cover for My Life on the RoadFor pure inspiration, I discovered a few role models. “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem – I just want to HUG her! But I’m an introvert, and that would be creepy and weird, but still…I just want to HUG her! Or maybe I could be like her, except that I’m a horrible homebody. This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I had actually read Steinem’s classic, “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,” earlier in the year before I even knew that she had another book coming out. Oddly enough, her books dovetailed nicely with Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.” Okay, so Amanda Palmer can still make me very uncomfortable (blame it on my age, environment, introvertedness, whatever) but I also think I really love her. I mean really. Love her.

There are so many more great books that I probably should mention, but it’s time to look forward. My reading goal for next year is once again 75 books. I know that having read 125 I should try to keep that up, right? But I’m hoping for a happier and healthier year spent doing more things with family and friends. And hey, 75 is still a highly respectable goal!

Happy New Reading Year!

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Categories: Book Buzz

Your New Year’s Reading Resolution: Read Harder Book Challenge

December 30, 2015

My reading stack photo by Chris Chapman, FlickrSure, you can resolve to make 2016 the year to lose 10 pounds, run a marathon or learn to speak Spanish. Those are all fine goals. But here at the library we like our resolutions literary, and book challenges fit the bill quite nicely.

What’s a book challenge? Basically, you read books according to a certain set of guidelines and share your reviews of those books with other readers. There are food writing challenges, debut author challenges and “to be read pile” challenges, just to name a few.

This year I’ve got my eye on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. The idea is to read a book in each of 24 categories, many of which will require you to sample new genres and stretch your usual reading boundaries. Read a play! Read a collection of essays! Read a nonfiction book about science! Join this book challenge and be a better person. (Or at least get way better at trivia night and cocktail party small talk.) If you want to join this challenge, you can download a pdf of the reading task list. Not sure where to start? I’ve got recommendations for each of the categories below. Enjoy!

Book cover for Broken MonstersRead a horror book
Shining Girls” or “Broken Monsters” by Lauren Beukes or “Revival” by Stephen King

Read a nonfiction book about science
The Nurture Effect” by Anthony Biglan or anything by Mary Roach (“Gulp,” “Packing for Mars“)

Read a collection of essays
The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison or “Our Only World” by Wendell Berry

Book cover for To Kill a MockingbirdRead a book out loud to someone else
To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster or “The Book With no Pictures” by B. J. Novak

Read a middle grade novel
Wonder” by R.J. Palacio or “My Diary From the Edge of the World” by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Read a biography (not a memoir or autobiography)
Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill” by Sonia Purnell, “E.E. Cummings: A Life” by Susan Cheever or “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough

Book cover for Zone OneRead a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel
The Road” by Cormac McCarthy (obvious choice), “Zone One” by Colson Whitehead (zombies!) or “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel (no zombies! Shakespeare!)

Read a book originally published in the decade you were born
1960s: “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson
1970s: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” by John Le Carré
1980s: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
1990s: “Paradise” by Toni Morrison

Book cover for Still Foolin' Em by Billy CrystalListen to an audiobook that has won an Audie award
Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith (Read by Robert Glenister) or “Still Foolin’ ‘Em” by Billy Crystal (Read by Billy Crystal)

Read a book over 500 pages long
All the Light we Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr or “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

Read a book under 100 pages
The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka or “Turn of the Screw” by Henry James

Book cover for George by Alex GinoRead a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender
George” by Alex Gino or “She’s Not There” by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Read a book that is set in the Middle East
The Ruins of Us” by Keija Parssinen or “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi

Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia
In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner or “Sightseeing: Stories” by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Book cover for The White QueenRead a book of historical fiction set before 1900
Caleb’s Crossing” by Geraldine Brooks or  “The White Queen” by Philippa Gregory

Read the first book in a series by a person of color
Devil in A Blue Dress” (first in a mystery series) by Walter Mosley or “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” (first in a sci-fi trilogy) by N.K. Jemisin

Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years
Descender” by Jeff Lemire or “The Woods” by James Tynion

Book cover for Brooklyn by Colm ToibinRead a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better
Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín, “The Martian” by Andy Weir or “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews

Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes
How to Be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran or “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay

Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction)
Learning to Walk in the Dark” by Barbara Brown Taylor or “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty” by Mustafa Akyol

Book cover for Team of RivalsRead a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin or “Double Down” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann

Read a food memoir
Blood, Bones, and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton or “Tender at the Bone” by Ruth Reichl

Read a play
Wit” by Margaret Edson or “The Piano Lesson” by August Wilson

Book cover for furiously happyRead a book with a main character that has a mental illness
Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson, “I Know This Much is True” by Wally Lamb or “Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See” by Juliann Garey

Have other books you’d like to suggest in any of these categories? Let us know in the comments.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Top 10 Books Librarians Love: The January 2016 List

December 28, 2015

Library Reads LogoNew books for the New Year! Here is the latest LibraryReads list, the top 10 books publishing in January 2016 that librarians across the country recommend. The list includes new novels from Elizabeth Strout (“Olive Kitteridge“) and Melanie Benjamin (“The Aviator’s Wife“), as well as nonfiction from the incomparable Bill Bryson (“A Walk in the Woods“)!

Book cover for My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth StroutMy Name Is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout
“Set in the mid-1980s, Lucy Barton, hospitalized for nine weeks, is surprised when her estranged mother shows up at her bedside. Her mother talks of local gossip, but underneath the banalities, Lucy senses the love that cannot be expressed. This is the story that Lucy must write about, the one story that has shaped her entire life. A beautiful lyrical story of a mother and daughter and the love they share.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Book cover for The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katarina Bivald
“Sara arrives in the small town of Broken Wheel to visit her pen pal Amy, only to discover Amy has just died. The tale of how she brings the love of books and reading that she shared with Amy to the residents of Broken Wheel is just a lovely read. Any book lover will enjoy Sara’s story and that of the friends she makes in Broken Wheel. If ever a town needed a bookstore, it is Broken Wheel; the healing power of books and reading is made evident by this heartwarming book.” – Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton Public Library, Groton, CT

Book cover for The Swans of Fifth AvenueThe Swans of Fifth Avenue” by Melanie Benjamin
“Benjamin transports readers to 1960s Manhattan. This story gives us the chance to spy on Truman Capote’s close friendship with Babe Paley and his society “swans,” and the betrayal and scandal that drove them apart. I loved the description of the Black and White Ball.” – Emily Weiss, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH

And here is the rest of the list with links to the catalog for your holds-placing pleasure.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Celebrate Short Fiction

December 21, 2015

“The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.” – Terri Guillemets

Winter reading is vital to my well-being, a respite from what can feel like eternal night. I was happy to discover December 21, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, is Celebrate Short Fiction Day. If you’d like to join the festivities, I can give you a few book suggestions:

Book cover for Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron RashNothing Gold Can Stay” by Ron Rash. This collection of stories centers around the people of Appalachia. “The Trusty” is the kind of tale that can haunt you long after you finish reading it. Set in Depression-era North Carolina, it follows the efforts of a prisoner to escape his chain gang by enlisting the help of a young farm wife who supplies water to the laborers. But all is not as it seems. “Cherokee,” a contemporary story of a young couple trying to win enough money at the casino to pay off their truck, had me holding my breath several times. Rash uses concrete words to explore spiritual and emotional depths, providing vivid mental images of the landscapes and people.

Book cover for The Real and the Unreal by Ursula Le GuinThe Real and the Unreal” is a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin stories in two volumes. The first book contains tales all set on earth, though often in fictional locales. One of them is even titled “Imaginary Countries.” It’s a story of children creating their own world, as children do. “The Direction of the Road” is narrated by an old tree, one that has witnessed the path of human progress, from travelers on horseback resting in its shade to the fatal crashes of speedsters in sports cars. The second volume presents Le Guin’s visions of other worlds. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is often assigned by high school teachers who want their students to ponder how much each of us is willing to allow another to suffer for our own gain.

Book cover for 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories100 Years of the Best American Short Stories.” Judging by the selections I’ve read, the title of this anthology isn’t hyperbole. Many excellent writers are represented here, from Edna Ferber to Lauren Groff. Seeing George Saunders’ “The Semplica-girl Diaries” – a satirical look at consumer culture as expressed in the competition of children’s birthday parties – listed in the table of contents was enough to prompt me to pick it up. This compilation provides a chance to revisit some old literary favorites and discover new ones.

Book cover for Flash Fiction InternationalFlash Fiction International.” If you’re really pressed for time, this collection is for you. Here are stories you can read in less than five minutes. Every continent is represented, with the exception of Antarctica. Some of the authors amaze me with their ability to portray a character’s entire life in under 1,000 words. Two of my favorite pieces, “Barnes” by Edmundo Paz Soldán and “Idolatry” by Sherman Alexie, are each only one page long. Both authors explore the human craving for recognition, but in different ways.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Better Know a Genre: Holiday Humor

December 16, 2015

Stack of books by Thomas Galvez via FlickrWelcome to the latest entry in the sporadically occurring series Better Know a Genre. Like many people, I find the holiday season to be more stressful than festive. I have to cook, shop, wrap and plan the order in which I will see all the branches of family (which always means somebody feels disappointed). It doesn’t help my mood that there are about 30 minutes of sunlight in the winter. So, to help lift my spirits, I try to keep my pre-solstice reading light-hearted and funny. Humor is a genre that is both easily defined and broad. It can be fiction or nonfiction. It can run the spectrum from gentle to raunchy (brown chicken brown cow). What one person finds witty, another person can find offensive (that’s the title of my autobiography). Laughter can be intended or unintended, but to be included in the humor genre, the author must be actually attempting to amuse the readers of the work. Here are some funny titles to get through the month:

Book cover for Awkward Family Holiday PhotosWhen you can’t focus because of all the noise: Flip through “Awkward Family Holiday Photos” by Mike Bender. It is a collection of the most ridiculous family pictures taken during the holiday season, and it is spectacular.

When you want to inject some sci-fi into your celebration:A Very Klingon Khristmas,” by Paul Ruditis, is a heart-warming tale of the warrior race in the Star Trek Universe. It’s probably the only Christmas story that includes tribbles.

Book cover for Christmas at the New YorkerWhen you’ve been watching holiday cartoons on a loop and you need to feel like a grown-up:Christmas at the New Yorker: Stories, Poems, Humor, and Art” doesn’t only contain humor, but it’s sprinkled throughout this anthology. Also, John Cheever! Alice Munro! Vladimir Nabakov!

When you need your hands free to wrap, but you also need that holiday humor RIGHT NOW: Log in to your hoopla account and download “NPR Holiday Favorites.” David Sedaris is, of course, a master of the humorous essay (holiday and otherwise), but there are seasonal works by other great NPR contributors, too.

Happy Reading!

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Zachary Thomas Dodson

December 14, 2015

Like most people, I find new books by reading library blogs, or visiting askjeeves.com and typing “please show me a good book,” or perusing the shelves at my local library until I find a book with a cover that seems sufficiently gravy resistant. Occasionally though, a human will recommend a book. Such is the case with this month’s recommendation: a colleague said “Bats of the Republic” sounded like one of the weird books I like. I tipped my hat, gave my monocle a friendly shake and asked Jeeves about this weird book. (I’m compelled to note that while I do often enjoy literary oddities, in general my tastes lean to the conventional, and I have the crystal decanter collection to prove it.) Jeeves obliged and showed me a picture of the author’s tremendous mustache (or perhaps the mustache’s tremendous author?). I swooned, such was my joy at finding a novel so presumably suited to my tastes. After a quick trip to the market for a crystal decanter or two, I eagerly set to reading the words birthed by such an inspiring swatch of follicles.

Bats of the Republic” is subtitled “an Illuminated Novel,” which, rather than meaning it is self-lit, perhaps by a series of small magic candles, means that it is fancy. This fanciness includes handwritten correspondence, maps, illustrations from a character’s burgeoning field guide and there being a book within the book (though that is not exactly accurate, but to explain it entirely, to make this sentence make some sense, would subtract from the book’s delights). “Bats of the Republic” is set in a future where most of society has crumbled,  steam has replaced electricity, and the freedom to live where you want if you can afford it is replaced by a government-mandated life cycle (young, single people live in Port Land, the elderly live in Chicago, gay people live in Atlanta, couples and crazy sheriffs live in Texas, etc). The novel opens with Zachary Thomas (the character, not the author after having shed the final third of his name) slashing a steam tube with his sabre in an effort to vent his emotions and some steam. Zachary finds a letter labeled “Do Not Open.” The letter goes missing. Someone or something is murdering people. It is illegal to possess a pencil or a document that hasn’t been carboned and entered into the vault. Laudanum is plentiful.

The book within a book is called “The Sisters Gray,” and it is the sort of 19th century novel of manners you would expect from a man with magnificently cultivated facial hair. Its pages are marked by a hole, which we eventually discover is the result of its having stopped a bullet on behalf of a character that exists within the world of “The Sisters Gray.” (Indeed, this may prove a most confounding reading experience.)

The stories within “Bats of the Republic” twist and meet in ways that may compel the reader to sit for a spell and think, their hands running idly over the nearly imperceptible imperfections in their newest decanter. A final bit of fancy: The book ends with a sealed envelope labeled “Do Not Open.” I did not abide, and neither should you. Here’s hoping the letter is always returned with the book. If you enjoy being confounded, my recommendation is to read the novel soon, before the letter is lost or ruined by gravy stains.

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Art of Letter Writing

December 7, 2015

Photo of a letter and pen by Ryan BlandingMy brother Michael and I were born about 16 months apart and have always been very close. When we started our adventures away from home, in the early 1990s, we began a series of correspondence by letter that has continued to this day. Back in the early days, we wrote each other once or even twice a week. We continue to correspond by pen and paper, although less frequently than in our youth, as we still live half a continent apart. Considered a “lost art” by many, both of us uphold the art of letter writing as communication, solace and even therapy. The library has many books about letter writing, and what better time to celebrate than December 7 – National Letter Writing Day!

Book cover for If you Find This LetterFor the author Hannah Brencher, letter writing was found to be an elixir for melancholy, leading her to pen the book “If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers.”  The premise is especially captivating: Brencher started a website called “The World Needs More Letters” so that she might reach out beyond herself and connect with others, while attempting to recover from her bouts with serious depression. Thus began a campaign to spread love and well-wishes to strangers throughout the world. Brencher writes, after getting the project off the ground: “The stories kept coming. They keep coming very day. And with each one I read, there is less urgency to tie the thing up with a white bow or look for the happy ending.” You can find her website here: www.moreloveletters.com.

Uncertainty about engaging in this seemingly lost art might keep some people from writing. For encouragement, look no further than the book “The Art of the Personal Letter” by Margaret Shepherd. In chapters like “The Tools of the Trade,” Shepherd helps guide readers toward rewarding letter writing experiences. “Once you see how much easier it is to write with a roller-ball pen or marker, and how much better the script looks, you might be inspired to go one step further and explore the traditional look and feel of a fountain pen,” she writes. Included in the book are examples of real letters, samples of good penmanship and formats for “better document design.”

Book cover for The Love of LettersFor the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication,” written in 2012 by John O’Connell, is an exuberant celebration of the art. Using historical examples of the form from dozens of famous and not so famous Englishmen (O’Connell is British himself), he goes on to say, “letters shape and define lives. They also encapsulate them much more effectively than biography because they show rather than tell us what a person was like.”  O’Connell also takes a long look at the letters produced during wartime, and how these particular letters often were the “only way to stay in touch with fathers, sons and brothers who had been posted abroad.”

Speaking of war – please see “Conkrite’s War: His World War II Letters Home.” Compiled by Walter Conkrite IV and Maurice Isserman, the book is a collection of correspondence by the then obscure 23-year-old United Press wire service reporter. His grandson, Conkrite IV, says in the introduction to the book, “The effect that World War II had on my grandfather was profound – and provided the foundation for the rest of his illustrious career.” Attached as a reporter to the 8th Air Force, Cronkite’s letters are at times filled with loneliness and longing for his life in America. Cronkite writes in January of 1944: “My precious Betsy,  Here it is Betsymas Eve (referring to his wife’s upcoming birthday) and we are still apart and I am very lonely and unhappy. How much I would like to be with you on your birthday . . .” Interestingly, because of the sensitive nature of many of his assignments, most of his correspondence did not disclose his location or exact whereabouts.

Finally, one must not forget love letters. An especially touching volume, “The Love Letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning,” is found on our shelves. Browning writes in an early epistle: “Your letter made me so happy, dear Miss Barrett, that I have kept quiet this while: is it too great a shame if I begin to want more good news of you, and to say so?” Their letters are filled with longing but also with practical concerns as they were written in secret, mainly because of her demonstrative and abusive father.  Elizabeth eventually married Browning and was subsequently disinherited.

Write a letter or two this month – to a loved one or even a stranger. You will feel better for it and help uphold this meaningful and very personal form of communication that has survived the centuries.

photo credit: Studio V2 via photopin (license)

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Categories: Book Buzz

Librarian Favorites of 2015

December 2, 2015

Book cover for Girl on the TrainLibraryReads is a monthly top-ten list of forthcoming books librarians across the country recommend. This December, the organizers compiled a “favorite of favorites” list, asking librarians to vote on their top picks from the more than 100 titles appearing on LibraryReads lists over the past year. If you didn’t read these books the first time they were recommended, now is your chance! Check them out to read over the holidays, or use the list for gift ideas when shopping for the readers among your friends and family.

Topping the list is “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – no surprise there. The holds list at the library for this book was miles long, and everyone seems to be seeking the next “Gone Girl.” This dark, psychological thriller fits the bill.

Here’s the rest of the best – happy reading!

Book cover for Dead WakeDead 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

Book cover for The Rosie EffectThe Rosie Effect” by Graeme Simsion
“Don Tillman and Rosie are back again, and they’ve relocated to New York. Rosie is continuing her studies, while Don is teaching and even adding to his small circle of friends. But when Rosie announces that she is pregnant, Don is once again out of his depth. What follows are crazy situations that could only happen when Don is involved. Funny and heartwarming.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Book cover for The Nature of the BeastThe Nature of the Beast” (A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny 
“Louise Penny set the bar high with her last two books, but she had no trouble clearing it with this one. All our old friends are back in Three Pines where a young boy with a compulsion to tell tall tales tells one true story with disastrous results. But which story is the truth and why is it so threatening? Exquisitely suspenseful, emotionally wrenching and thoroughly satisfying.” – Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

Book cover for A Spool of Blue ThreadA 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

Book cover for Circling the SunCircling the Sun” by Paula McLain
“I couldn’t stop reading this fascinating portrayal of Beryl Markham, a complex and strong-willed woman who fought to make her way in the world on her terms. McLain paints a captivating portrait of Africa in the 1920s and the life of expats making their home there. Highly, highly recommended.” – Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC

Book cover for Furiously HappyFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
“Lawson’s hilarious memoir is a romp between absurdity and despondency. Passages alternate from ridiculously funny stories of her life to episodes of her sometimes debilitating depression. Lawson embraces living life, rather than merely surviving it. Why be just happy when you can be furiously so? Recommended to fans of David Sedaris and Sloane Crosley.” – PJ Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Book cover for The Little Paris BookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George
“Quirky and delightful, Nina George’s book focuses on Jean Perdu, owner of the Literary Apothecary, a floating bookshop. When a new tenant in his apartment building sets in motion events that force Jean to re-evaluate his past, he finds himself floating off down the rivers of France in search of lost love, new love and friends he didn’t know he needed.” – Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

Book cover for Kitchens of the Great MidwestKitchens of the Great Midwest” by J. Ryan Stradal
“This novel is quirky and colorful. The story revolves around chef Eva Thorvald and the people who influence her life and her cooking. With well-drawn characters and mouthwatering descriptions of meals, Kitchens of the Great Midwest will appeal to readers who like vivid storytelling. Foodies will also enjoy this delicious tale.” – Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ

Book cover for A God in Ruins by Kate AtkinsonA God in Ruins” by Kate Atkinson
“In A God in Ruins, we become reacquainted with Teddy Todd, the beloved little brother of Ursula from Atkinson’s last book. As with Life After Life, this novel skims back and forth in time, and we see the last half of the 20th century through Ted’s eyes and the eyes of his loved ones. At times funny and at others heartbreaking, Atkinson revels in the beauty and horror of life in all its messiness.” – Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, Darien, CT

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Categories: Book Buzz

Three Books (and One Film) to Mark World AIDS Day

November 30, 2015

Book cover for And the Band Played OnWorld AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

This annual event also raises awareness about HIV/AIDS and promotes prevention and the search for a cure. Much misinformation still exists about who has the disease and how it is spread.

The following brief list of books (and one film) is an effort to provide good information about the history and impact of HIV/AIDS on both a personal and a global level.

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the Aids Epidemic” by Randy Shilts
Published in 1987, this riveting and important work of investigative journalism details how AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked in the early ’80s, virtually ignored by government institutions. Widely lauded as a “modern classic,” Shilts’ account reads like a medical thriller.

Book cover for The Invisible CureThe Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the fight against AIDS” by Helen Epstein
The majority of HIV-positive people worldwide live in Africa. “The Invisible Cure” is a provocative analysis of the AIDS epidemic that looks at the social, economic and political factors that have caused and exacerbated the situation, its impact on gender relations and the spread of HIV. In addition to presenting the devastating effects of the disease on entire countries on that continent, Epstein offers possible solutions to the crisis.

Visions and Revisions: Coming of Age in the Age of Aids” by Dale Peck
Part memoir, part extended essay, this book is a foray into what the author calls “the second half of the first half of the AIDS epidemic,” i.e., the period between 1987, when the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was founded, and 1996, when the advent of combination therapy transformed AIDS from a virtual death sentence into a chronic manageable illness. Gritty, powerful and raw.

How to Survive a Plague,” directed by David France
This documentary, shown at the 2012 True/False Film Festival, tells the story of the brave young men and women who successfully reversed the tide of an epidemic, demanded the attention of a fearful nation and stopped AIDS from becoming a death sentence. This improbable group of activists infiltrated government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry, helping to identify promising new medication and treatments and move them through trials and into drugstores in record time.

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Gift of Inspiration: Books for the Readers on Your List

November 27, 2015

Book cover for Big Magic by Elizabeth GilbertWhatever your feelings about Black Friday, today kicks off the holiday shopping season. Personally, I like to spend the day after Thanksgiving in my pajamas, reading and recovering from a hefty pie hangover. However, I realize others enjoy that bargain-hunting buzz. Here are some books that can help us all.

For the readers on your list, give them the gift of inspiration and pick up one of these uplifting titles. Or, if you are staying home the Friday after Thanksgiving (or visiting the library – we’re open), check out one of these books for yourself. These moving and motivating books provide stories of perseverance and advice for living – both serious and humorous – and may just inspire you to write that play or start that business. Or at least get up off of the couch. (Book descriptions provided by their publishers.)

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.

Book cover for Find a Way by Diana NyadFind a Way” by Diana Nyad
On September 2, 2013, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad emerged onto the shores of Key West after completing a 110 mile, 53 hour, record-breaking swim through shark-infested waters from Cuba to Florida. Her memoir shows why, at 64, she was able to achieve what she couldn’t at 30 and how her repeated failures contributed to her success.

Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living” by Jason Gay
Little Victories is a life guide for people who hate life guides. Whether the subject is rules for raising the perfect child without infuriating all of your friends, rules for how to be cool (related: Why do you want to be cool?) or rules of thumb to tell the difference between real depression and just eating five cupcakes in a row, Gay’s essays – whimsical, practical and occasionally poignant – will make you laugh and then think, “You know, he’s kind of right.”

Rising Strong” by Brené Brown
The physics of vulnerability is simple: If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. The author of the bestsellers “Daring Greatly” and “The Gifts of Imperfection” tells us what it takes to get back up and how owning our stories of disappointment, failure, and heartbreak gives us the power to write a daring new ending. Struggle, Brown writes, can be our greatest call to courage, and rising strong our clearest path to a wholehearted life.

Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes
In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” and executive producer of “How to Get Away with Murder” reveals how saying “yes” changed her life – and how it can change yours too.

Have inspirational books of your own to recommend? Let us know in the comments.

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Categories: Book Buzz
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