Next Book Buzz
Need a thriller or a romping romance to take your mind off of the school year’s approach? How about losing yourself in an imagined world via Sci-fi or historical fiction? This month’s LibraryReads list has you covered. Here are the top 10 books being published in August that have librarians buzzing.
by Chelsea Cain
“Kick Lannigan survived being kidnapped as a child. Now, at 21, determined never to be a victim again, she has reinvented herself. Martial arts and weapons handling are just a few of the skills she has learned over the years. Kick catches the attention of John Bishop, a mystery man with access to unlimited funds, and together they go after a cabal of child pornographers. A read-in-one-sitting, edge-of-your-seat thriller.”
- Elizabeth Kanouse, Denville Public Library, Denville, NJ
by Amy Bloom
“Is a family the people you are born to or the people who you find along the way? That’s what Bloom explores in this novel set in pre- and post-WWII Ohio, Los Angeles, New York and Germany. The story follows resourceful Eva, who was abandoned by her mother at an early age, and her sister Iris, an aspiring actress who tries to find love at a time when her kind of love must be secretive. Every character is beautifully drawn, warm and believable.”
- Kathryn Hassert, Henrietta Hankin Branch Library, Chester Springs, PA
“Heroes Are My Weakness“
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
“Any Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel is going to make it onto my must-read list, but this one is particularly wonderful, and here’s why: she creates, then cheerfully destroys, the romance cliche of the brooding hero with a dark secret who lives in a crumbling mansion and captivates a plucky heroine. The hero is a horror novelist, and the heroine a failed actress-turned-puppeteer. This warm, witty, comedy-drama is a perfect summer read.”
- Donna Matturri, Pickerington Public Library, Pickerington, OH
And here is the rest of the list with links to the catalog for your hold-placing pleasure!
- “Lock In” by John Scalzi
- “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton
- “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty
- “The Truth about Leo” by Katie MacAlister
- “An Unwilling Accomplice” by Charles Todd
- “The Magician’s Land” by Lev Grossman
- “The Story Hour” by Thrity Umrigar
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The August 2014 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
Consecutively devouring ten books by the same author is not without its hazards. That such an undertaking insisted on itself proves it worthy, and surely being squarely in the grip of a master yarn-spinner is nothing to raise a fuss over. But might the immersion in such a distinct style cause a gentleman to subconsciously drift toward a foolish imitation unworthy of the inspiration? Might the constant brutality perpetrated by hill-folk not warp one’s perceptions until they find themselves cowering from anyone with a downhome drawl or countrified attire? Perhaps one would find themselves either desperately craving or spectacularly repulsed by squirrel meat.
Anyhow, at the risk of extending an unkindness to three, I’d venture that seven of Daniel Woodrell’s books are masterpieces. The three I’d omit from this designation make up “The Bayou Trilogy,” his first, third and fourth books. Focusing on the ex-boxer and current detective Rene Shade, these books are fun, fast reads and about as good of a character study as you’ll find filed in the crime section of a place that obsessively segregates their genres. They just don’t pack the wallop of his other works.
I’d judge his second book to pack a mighty punch. “Woe to Live On” is narrated by a Civil War rebel. Despite his allegiance and tendency to murder boys because “pups become hounds,” Woodrell, as great writers do, earns the reader’s empathy.
After completing “The Bayou Trilogy,” Woodrell began writing about the seedier, grislier aspects of his home, the Ozarks. “Give Us A Kiss: A Country Noir” is the blood and booze-soaked ride its subtitle implies. “Tomato Red” chronicles the hazards of vandalizing a golf course and a drifting, meth-dabbling lifestyle. “The Death of Sweet Mister” tells of a particularly troubled spell in a 12-year-old boy’s life, offers maybe my second favorite of Woodrell’s voices, and ends with a devastating sentence I’d like to talk about but for my aversion to goose-pimples. His most well-known book, “Winter’s Bone,” is such in large part because of the award-winning film adaptation. But I’d urge you to read it regardless of your familiarity with the movie. I reckon the dread conjured on its pages cannot be replicated by city-folk and their fancy lights and transparent plastics. “The Outlaw Album” is a collection of short, brutal stories.
His most recent book, the one with my favorite of his voices and the one that lead me down Woodrell’s backwater rabbit-hole, is “The Maid’s Version.” A fictionalized recounting of a real dance hall explosion in a small Missouri town, this novel attached me to characters in a matter of sentences before whisking them away and into pieces. If you’re the sort to deface books, there are sentences worthy of a highlighter. The perils of that act would be facing a dried-up highlighter and a thoroughly emphasized text.
Woodrell’s characters often behave downright ungentlemanly, what with the murder, spousal abuse, robberies and squirrel eating, but this grisliness is rendered in prose poetry so sharp you’ll have a gamy taste in your mouth, a hankering for mid-morning rum and a healthy suspicion of anyone from down Ozarks way. (I’ve read they’re apt to steal your prescriptions.)
If you missed Laura McHugh’s author talk in June, you’ll have a chance to catch her at the Columbia Public Library on September 18, when she’ll be leading a book discussion of this year’s One Read selection, “The Boys in the Boat.” Her own book, “The Weight of Blood” is hyper-local, much of it having been written in the Quiet Reading Room at the Columbia Public Library. The novel centers around two cases of missing persons, a generation apart.
Lucy Dane’s mother disappeared when Lucy was a small child. Rumors about Lila Dane, a mysterious outsider who married a local, have swirled around the tiny Ozarks town of Henbane ever since. Years later, when Lucy is in high school, her friend Cheri vanishes, as well. Unlike Lila, Cheri turns up eventually – dead. In a small town where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, nobody has answers for Lucy about what happened to either young woman. But she is determined to find out.
McHugh looks at parts of American life that many of us would be happy to ignore. The story is told from multiple viewpoints, both present and past. The tension builds as the two timelines draw together to reveal the scope of what has been, and still is, happening.
“Everyone Dies in the End” by Brian Katcher is equal parts dark and funny. Imagine if H.P. Lovecraft wrote a romantic comedy. This young adult novel relates what a student journalist finds when he digs too deep. And by deep, I mean think about undead creatures that dwell underground.
Sherman Andrews has goals, dreams, ambitions. And he packs them all along with him to the Missouri Scholars’ Academy the summer before his senior year of high school. There he becomes involved with an ace library assistant (the love interest) who helps him investigate a series of unsolved deaths and disappearances from the 1930s. There are obstacles, of course – threats from people who don’t want the truth uncovered, a source who might or might not be delusional, the occasional supernatural manifestation…
Both books contain a scare factor as the characters encounter evil in different forms, but both also have characters who stand up to the evil and shine a light into the darkness.
The post What’s New and Local at Your Library: Into the Dark Places appeared first on DBRL Next.
I always knew there were fiction and nonfiction books, but I did not know there were so many genres (and subgenres) beyond that until I started working at a library. Science fiction, slipstream, steampunk, graphic novels, anime, gentle fiction, poetry, memoirs – I could go on and on. And this categorization isn’t limited to books. There are music and film genres as well. So in a much less funny, but perhaps just as informative, homage to Stephen Colbert’s series “Better Know a District,” I will explore these classifications in a monthly blog series we’re calling “Better Know a Genre.”
The first genre I will tackle is a rather broad one: narrative, or creative, nonfiction. If a nonfiction book is described as “reading like fiction,” then it probably belongs to this genre. Narrative nonfiction gives the reader factual information in a storytelling format instead of presenting the information straightforwardly, such as in a cookbook or instruction manual. Authors employ the craft of fiction – such as dialogue, vivid descriptions and characterization – to make nonfiction tales into page turners.
In a public library, much of the collection consists of narrative or creative nonfiction, so chances are you have already read a book from this genre. If you haven’t, then celebrate our Summer of Science by checking out one of these fantastic narrative nonfiction books from our collection.
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
One of the most-acclaimed science books of recent years, this title was also our 2011 One Read selection. Skloot investigates how the cells taken from a woman in the 1950s have contributed to many medical advancements in the decades since. Skloot inserts herself into the story, so the book is as much about the process of writing as it is about medical ethics.
“The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York” by Deborah Blum
I don’t think it’s possible to top NPR’s Glen Weldon’s description of this book:
“Who knew that New York City experienced a surge in murders by poison during the 1910s and ’20s? Blum takes that odd historical footnote and produces a book of exhaustively researched science writing that reads like science fiction, complete with suspense, mystery and foolhardy guys in lab coats tipping test tubes of mysterious chemicals into their own mouths.”
“Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void” by Mary Roach
Roach is excellent at reducing complex ideas into manageable chunks of exposition, which alone is a valuable asset. But her books stand out because she combines that talent with a rich sense of humor and a willingness to use herself as a guinea pig. Roach takes on the subject of space travel in this outing – an examination of the lengths humans must take to attempt survival out of the earth’s atmosphere.
The post Better Know a Genre: Narrative Nonfiction (Summer of Science Edition) appeared first on DBRL Next.
I must admit, I’ve never read Anna Quindlen before. I knew that she is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling author, but I never got excited enough to pick up one of her books - until I came across Quindlen’s last: “Still Life With Bread Crumbs.” I didn’t have much time for reading then, but, once I started, I couldn’t stop reading. For one thing, the book was well written. For another, it felt true to life (most of the time, anyway ). In other words, the problems of its protagonist, a used-to-be-famous photographer, were something a woman of my age could relate to: aging, caring for feeble parents, a nasty ex-husband and (amazingly!) money trouble.
How often do you read about these subjects and not about depraved murderers, horrible abuse, amnesiacs and such? (By the way, I have never met anybody suffering from the amnesia that is so prevalent in books and movies. Have you?) The money thing, especially, blew my mind. I am used to books where the best way of healing women’s troubles is traveling to exotic places or, at least, to Paris. Which always leaves me with a question: how do people afford such travels? Don’t get me wrong. I have been to Paris, but I spent some time (a lot of time, actually) finding a budget place to stay and tickets I could afford.
Anyway, Quindlen’s heroine had ordinary problems, like many of us do. She was broke, increasingly lonely, and she had lost confidence in herself. It wasn’t a mid-life crisis, either. She was already 60 years old - not at the age when changing one’s life is easy. I know, this doesn’t sound like light summer reading, but Quindlen navigates the rough waters with a gentle but experienced hand, and, in the end, delivers her heroine to a new – and much happier – place. It’s not a quick journey, but it is brightened by the author’s eloquent style, understanding of grace and frailty in everyday life, and a little romance (who can object to that? ). All in all, “Still Life With Bread Crumbs” is a very satisfying book that proves that as long as we are alive, life is not still.
Summer Reading this year is all about science. But what’s science without a little fiction? Here are four of 2014’s notable science fiction picks to consider adding to your reading list.
“The Girl with All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey
First off, as many will warn you, don’t read anything about this book if you want to keep everything a surprise. It’s not that what is below is a huge spoiler or anything, but some readers like to not know anything when they begin reading this book.
Now, if you’ve decided you do want a little information, read on!
This book shocked me. When first reading the back cover, which talks about a girl named Melanie being strapped down and held at gunpoint, I thought, well, maybe she has some uncontrollable powers or something. I guess I was sort of right – “The Girl with All the Gifts” is a zombie.
Like any other zombie book, we have an infection, we have hordes of hungries, and we have a doctor who is searching for a cure. What M.R. Carey does to make his book stand out among all the rest is to make the reader feel sympathy for Melanie, a fully functional and cognizant zombie.
“The Girl with All the Gifts” takes an overdone genre and reworks it in a fresh and unique way.
“The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” by Claire North
Harry is considered immortal. He lives, dies and is reborn, always with the knowledge of the lives he has lived before. For him, living has become repetition. He has accomplished all he can think to accomplish. When a young girl tells him the world is ending, quicker than it should, Harry finds a new purpose and begins investigating the coming apocalypse. But Harry finds out more than he bargained for.
If you aren’t into space ships and aliens, then this might be the science fiction read for you. It’s more of a fiction book, with a side of science.
“The Martian” by Andy Weir
“The Martian” sounds like the book version of the movie Gravity to me, but I’m probably not the best person to ask. These types of books and movies scare the living daylights out of me. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think being stranded in space, alone and dying, is horrifying. It’s a very subtle, quiet scary, but scary all the same.
But hey, if quiet scary is your thing, then “The Martian” is for you. This book is one of the most popular science fiction books released in 2014, scary or not.
A dust storm puts a hole in Mark Watney’s space suit, and thinking him dead, his crew leaves him behind. Stranded in space, Mark uses his engineering skills in an attempt to survive, unwilling to simply give up and die.
“Red Rising” by Pierce Brown
“Red Rising” is similar to “The Hunger Games,” but where the “The Hunger Games” is written with teens in mind, “Red Rising” is more for adults. If you enjoy reading dystopias, then this would be a good read for you.
The book follows Darrow, a young miner on Mars. He is a Red, the lowest of the castes in the social hierarchy. He believes he is important, that he is helping to terraform Mars and prepare it for habitation. But Mars is already habitable and has been for some time.
The Golds, the highest caste, lied to the rest of humanity, keeping Mars for themselves. Darrow decides it’s time to take action, and with the help of friends and a good disguise, inserts himself into the Gold’s society, preparing to take down their system from the inside out.
Have other recent science fiction books to recommend? Let us know in the comments.
I love Tina Fey. I think she is smart and hilarious and a terrific writer. (There is a short chapter in her memoir “Bossypants” that made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t speak for nearly five minutes. The chapter is titled, “What Turning Forty Means to Me,” and she speaks THE TRUTH.) When I found out that Fey is starring in the movie adaptation of the very charming “This Is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper, I knew I needed to start looking for a babysitter now, even though the film won’t be released until September.
As long as movies based on books do well at the box office (heard of a little film called “The Fault in Our Stars“?), Hollywood will keep producing them. If you like to read the books before you see the movies, here are some to check out before you head to theaters later this summer. Save me some popcorn and an aisle seat, will you?
“Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn
Flynn likes her characters dark and her plots even darker. If creepy is your thing, read this thriller about Libby Day who, as a small child, witnessed the murder of her mother and sisters and sent her brother to jail with her testimony. Twenty five years later, Libby is confronted by the possibility that her brother may be innocent, and she must reconstruct what really happened the night of her family’s slaughter. In the film, Charlize Theron stars as Libby Day.
“If I Stay” by Gayle Forman
While in a coma following an automobile accident that killed her parents and younger brother, seventeen-year-old Mia must decide whether to live with her grief or join her family in death. Chloë Moretz will star as Mia in the film adaptation.
“The Hundred-foot Journey” by Richard Morais
A boy from Mumbai, Hassan Haji, ends up opening a restaurant in a quiet French village and triggering a culinary war with the fancy French restaurant across the street. Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal and Om Puri star in the film.
Looking for some hot new reads to take on your vacation later this summer? Look no further than the latest LibraryReads list. Here are the top 10 books librarians love that hit the shelves in July. Place your holds on these on-order titles now to have them in hand for your late summer getaway or your August staycation.
by Rainbow Rowell
“’Landline’ explores the delicate balance women make between work and family, considering the tradeoffs and pain. Rowell has a special gift for offering incredible insights into ordinary life. Never heavy-handed, Rowell’s writing is delivered with humor and grace. I finish all of her books wanting to laugh and cry at the same time – they are that moving. ‘Landline’ captured my heart.”
- Andrea Larson, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL
“One Plus One“
by Jojo Moyes
“A single mom, her math genius daughter, her eye-shadow-wearing stepson, a wealthy computer geek and a smelly dog all get into a car…it sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s actually another charming novel from Jojo Moyes. It’s more of a traditional romance than ‘Me Before You’ but will also appeal to fans of quirky, hard-working characters. A quick read and perfect for summer.”
- Emily Wichman, Clermont County Public Library, Milford, OH
“The Black Hour“
by Lori Rader-Day
“This first novel about two broken people is a psychological thriller like the best of Alfred Hitchcock. Amelia Emmet is a professor desperately trying to recover from a gunshot wound, and Nathaniel Barber is a student struggling to come to grips with his mother’s death and a lost love. Their journey, told in alternating chapters, is riveting and full of surprising discoveries. Highly recommended.”
- Mattie Gustafson, Newport Public Library, Newport, RI
Here’s the rest of July’s best with links to our catalog for your hold-placing pleasure!
- “The Queen of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen
- “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands” by Chris Bohjalian
- “World of Trouble” by Ben H. Winters
- “California” by Edan Lepucki
- “Dollbaby” by Laura Lane McNeal
- “The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee” by Marja Mills
- “Dry Bones in the Valley” by Tom Bouman
Donna Tartt writes so well that the Pulitzer people were compelled to award their prize to her novel, “The Goldfinch.” An extra-impressive feat considering it’s an award so prestigious that some years the committee finds none among the billions of novels published every year worthy of their kiss of automatic bestseller-dom. But rather than stumble further into a tirade outlining my feud with this cabal of critical killjoys and their silent and invisible but no doubt existent and reciprocated animosity, I’ll add my voice to the chorus of praise bellowing about Donna Tartt, thereby giving you the gumption to read her work that a million glowing reviews and Stephen King and the Pulitzer couldn’t.
“The Goldfinch” is narrated by a boy who, due to a museum bombing, loses his mother and gains a painting. He loves the painting but is tremendously dissatisfied by the trade. The novel follows him and his grief-swaddled existence through time spent in New York and Las Vegas, and eventually, climactically, Amsterdam. I found it to be the sort of rollicking, stay-up-later-than-normal read usually associated with books featuring more than one explosion, or at least aliens or a pandemic or a comically massive red dog, rather than a coming-of-age tale suffused with grief and concerns about hiding a painting.
Like “The Goldfinch,” her first novel, “The Secret History,” is a finger-exhausting page-turner despite featuring little of the fanfare that typically propels those sorts of books. It does have some murder (on the first page even), and a horrifying and ancient ritual, but it’s mostly about ramifications, and it gallops along with a pace that surpasses its plot points. Her second novel, “The Little Friend,” is probably also great (though its reviews are less enthusiastic), but I must wait my turn to read it, and anyway it’s nice to save a little Tartt for the decade-long (and worth it) wait for her next book.
There has been some backlash against “The Goldfinch,” which tends to happen when something is popular and good, by critics that prefer their fiction to be non-fictional and mostly concern the ennui of professorships or lake houses or small, conventional dogs and to have plots revolving around getting old or being unhappy or, in certain ambitious cases, both. They dislike Tartt’s novel in part because of its “absurd” premise, what with its terrorist attack and orphaned child, things that fortunately are unrealistic and unheard of occurrences in the real world, outside of such “fantastical literature.” Though clearly I’m of the opinion that this is a great novel, it’s not that I’m unwilling to hear words against it. Rather, I find it absurd to be angry about its success and to believe it’s a “book for children” and somehow believe that reading it, because of its supposedly fanciful nature, will kill the public’s interest in literature. Which of course makes sense because what the public wants most are ultra-realistic examinations, scrubbed of even a hint of escapism, on what it’s like to be alive.
Anyway, Donna Tartt crafts her books carefully and with a passion that pays off for the reader. A book per decade is a wonderful rate when they’re this good.
Since our Summer Reading program this year centers around a science theme, your classics maven has elected to focus on one of the most influential science texts in history – Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” First published in 1859, it made an immediate and lasting impact on society. In my mind, one thing that makes a book a classic is if it’s frequently referenced even by people who haven’t read it. Almost everyone knows about this book.
Charles Darwin was 22 years old when he boarded the HMS Beagle in 1831. He’d signed on to work as a naturalist during the ship’s exploration of South America and the Pacific Islands. In the Galapagos, he found animals that existed nowhere else on earth, including enormous tortoises. He became intrigued by the variations he found among the animals on different islands. On one island finches had beaks suited to breaking nuts, while on another, their beaks were formed for optimal berry picking. These observations planted the seeds for his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Darwin didn’t originate the idea of evolution, a concept that dates back at least as far as ancient Greece, but he was the first one to develop an explanation for how the process might work, and he supplied more evidence than anyone before. He spent more than two decades researching, gathering evidence and refining his ideas before finally publishing “The Origin of Species” at age 50. In his day, interest was growing in fossils and the extinction of species. His book tipped the balance for evolution in the scientific world from being a highly debated idea to a largely accepted one.
Outside of science, there has been more resistance to the idea of evolution. Only a few months after the book’s publication, the “Great Oxford Debate” took place, with hundreds of spectators arriving to witness the Bishop of Oxford exchange barbs with Thomas Henry Huxley, who defended Darwin and his theory. Then there was the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 in Tennessee, in which a teacher was tried for violating state law by teaching about evolution in the public schools. With the controversy continuing to the present day – within American culture at large, at least, if not within the scientific community – it’s probably a good idea for more people to read the actual book itself.
It’s worth the time, even if you’re pretty sure you already know what you need to. “The Origin of Species” is far from a compilation of dry, technical jargon. Darwin says, “We see beautiful adaptations everywhere and in every part of the organic world,” and he details many of them with exquisite descriptions of the natural world. His passages about the connectedness of all living creatures are downright inspirational. And his observation about what trouble will come to us humans if the bee population should decline is chillingly prescient.
Just in time for your summer travels, the Audio Publishers Association (APA) has announced this year’s awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. Nothing makes the miles fly by like listening to a professional read an engrossing story, so check out one of these titles on CD or downloadable audio before you hit the road.
Audiobook of the Year: “Still Foolin’ ‘Em” by Billy Crystal; Read by Billy Crystal
The judges praised this work calling it “a seamless blend of single voice narration and live performances that does for the audiobook medium what Billy Crystal’s opening acts have done for the Oscars, which is to bring in a larger audience. From Mickey Mantle to Muhammad Ali, with the inside story on Meg Ryan’s infamous scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ thrown in for good measure, Crystal’s life story will have listeners hanging on every word.”
Distinguished Achievement in Production: “Pete Seeger: The Storm King” by Pete Seeger, edited by Jeff Haynes (read by Pete Seeger)
Publisher’s description: “The Storm king audio collection presents Pete Seeger’s spoken words as he recounts his most engaging stories, narratives and poems, set to new music created by over 70 musicians from traditions as diverse as African Music, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic Music, Classical Guitar, Folk, Israeli Music, Jazz, Native American Music and Tuvan Throat Singing.”
Nonfiction: “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell (read by Malcolm Gladwell)
Publisher’s description: “Malcolm Gladwell, with his unparalleled ability to grasp connections others miss, uncovers the hidden rules that shape the balance between the weak and the mighty, the powerful and the dispossessed.”
History: “Devil in the Grove” by Gilbert King (read by Peter Francis James)
Publisher’s description: “Chronicles a little-known court case in which Thurgood Marshall successfully saved a black citrus worker from the electric chair after the worker was accused of raping a white woman with three other black men.”
Fiction: “Doctor Sleep” by Stephen King (read by Will Patton)
Publisher’s description: “Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, ‘The Shining,’ in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of ‘The Shining’) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.”
Literary Fiction: “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (read by David Pittu)
Publisher’s description: “A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend’s family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother – a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.”
See the full list of Audie winners at APA’s website.
The post Best Audiobooks for Your Road Trip: 2014 Audie Winners appeared first on DBRL Next.
I generally follow the advice to never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes the cover is what attracts me to a book. When I was a child, I read the book “National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe,“ by Roy A. Gallant, because there was a cool-looking spaceship on the cover. The book was about astronomy and physics, of course, but it also had mythological stories about each planet and about the universe as a whole. There were illustrations and charts that helped my puny mind begin to grasp the complex ideas of space and time. But what I most clearly remember about the book was the section in which the author imagined what characteristics life would have to survive the heat of Venus of the atmosphere of Jupiter.
My attraction to coffee table books continues through the present day. They are convenient to browse when you are waiting 15 minutes for the oven timer to sound but are equally suited to intensive investigation on the back porch with a cup of coffee. Here are some of my more recent favorites.
“The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe”
by Theodore Gray
The author describes this book as containing “Everything you need to know. Nothing you don’t.” Gray lays out the requisite structural information for each element, but he also shows you what each element looks like. He also shares examples of how each element is used, both in nature and by humans. Learning about atomic weights and density might not seem immediately thrilling, but this book is fun enough to have inspired puzzles and posters.
“The Oldest Living Things in the World”
by Rachel Sussman
This book is the culmination of 10 years of Sussman’s work. She traveled to every continent and even learned to scuba dive so she could photograph organisms that are all at least 2,000 years old. The pictures are exceptional, of course, but what distinguishes this book are the stories that Sussman shares about her process.
“Science: The Definitive Visual Guide”
edited by Adam Hart-Davis
If you can’t decide which scientific discipline you want to learn about, then this book is the place to start. It is organized chronologically and covers biology, medicine, astronomy, math, chemistry, life, the universe and everything. Parents (or anybody who likes awesome juvenile books) might recognize DK Publishing as the publisher of the Eyewitness book series. This science book has a similarly pleasing aesthetic, breaking down complicated ideas into simpler and manageable elements.
The post Judging a Book by Its Cover: Science Coffee Table Books appeared first on DBRL Next.
Librarians clearly have summer on their minds. The June edition of LibraryReads – the monthly list of forthcoming titles librarians across the country recommend – is full of books set near water – cities on the ocean, summer homes with pools, sandy beaches. From thrillers to family dramas, many of these books would make fantastic vacation reads.
by Lisa See
“Set in 1938 San Francisco, this book follows the lives of three young women up through WWII. Grace travels to California seeking stardom, where she meets Helen, a young woman from Chinatown, and the two find jobs as nightclub dancers. While auditioning, they cross paths with Ruby, and the book alternates between all three viewpoints. Lisa See is one of my favorite authors, and her newest title doesn’t disappoint.”
- Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
“The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street“
by Susan Jane Gilman
“In the tenements of old New York, a young Russian Jewish immigrant woman is taken in by an Italian family who sells ice. Through sheer persistence and strong will, she manages to build an ice cream empire. Lillian Dunkle is a complex character who will make you cheer even as you are dismayed. Have ice cream on hand when you read this book!”
- Marika Zemke, Commerce Township Public Library, Commerce Twp, MI
“I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You“
by Courtney Maum
“Set mainly in Paris, this love story for grown-ups tells the story of a decent man who almost ruins his life and then goes to great lengths to restore his marriage. If your path to a happy marriage has been straightforward, you may not appreciate this book – but it’s perfect for the rest of us!”
- Laurel Best, Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, Huntsville, AL
Here is the rest of the list, with links to the library’s catalog so you can place holds on these on-order books!
- “The Matchmaker” by Elin Hilderbrand
- “Summer House With Swimming Pool” by Herman Koch
- “The Lobster Kings” by Alexi Zentner
- “The Hurricane Sisters” by Dorothea Benton Frank
- “The Quick” by Lauren Owen
- “Rogues” edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
- “Elizabeth is Missing” by Emma Healey
A modern gentleman buys his monocles fair-trade, extends his habits of refined discourse to the Internet and understands that literature sometimes pulls the curtain back on acts of marital intimacy that are often neither preceded nor followed by nuptials. Even so, I was unable to prevent the frequent dropping of my monocles during the course of reading Bill Cotter’s “The Parallel Apartments.” But not all droppings were related to the artfully depicted acts of often artless intimacy. Indeed, the monocle carnage extended past the reading of the novel and to the reading of reactions to it. I ruined one when I read a review focusing on the ribald aspects rather than the myriad less scandalous reasons to recommend the book. As Cotter alludes to in this charming interview, the Puritanism regarding a few scenes of bodily congress is surprising given erotica’s stranglehold on bestseller lists.
But now I’m guilty of focusing on the tawdry when I should be trying to convince fans of tragicomedy and exquisite writing to check out this book. “The Parallel Apartments” aims most of its focus on three generations of mothers and most of the remaining on assorted inhabitants of the titular complex. One character has $400,000 of credit card debt, and when she inherits enough to pay it off, she instead decides to invest in a robot gigolo and start a brothel in her home, which is both a good business plan and an aid in avoiding her greatest fear: becoming pregnant. Another’s desire to become pregnant is intense enough to require the reader have several backup monocles at the ready. Another character yearns to be a serial killer but thwarts himself, among other ways, by tipping his darts with harmless frog juice rather than deadly frog poison. A retired prostitute hopes to defeat AIDS by having a guru and his unfortunate raccoon clean her blood. She’s accompanied back to Austin by a man that fled it for reasons, revealed brilliantly and late in the novel, that will again have your monocle in shocked descent. Eventually the characters converge to form an ending I’d love to prattle on endlessly about.
The author says his focus was on the sentence level, and the attention to pretty and amusing sentences shows. Cotter’s plot is also worthy of praise, though. The story’s timeline weaves back and forth through decades in a way orchestrated to maximize the impact of various alarming bits of back story and have your eyewear flying off your face. “The Parallel Apartments” is a unique novel, and it gave me a unique feeling (that has nothing to do with the aforementioned scenes of fleshy goings-on). I was heartbroken, delighted, awed and some other stuff there’s probably words for in German. This emotional cocktail caused both a special breed of the weird melancholic elation that often accompanies the finishing of great books and also the need to replace several shattered and/or irreparably moistened monocles.
I hate to tell Charles Dickens, but one of his contemporaries is a rival for my literary heart. “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins has been collecting dust on my “to read” list for years. When I discovered the book is one of J.K. Rowling’s favorites, it moved up the list, but didn’t make it to the top until a few weeks ago. Then, wowza! I stayed up late several nights in a row, reading “just a few more pages.”
“The Woman in White” is a story of mysterious characters and devious plots, assumed identities and international intrigue, family scandals and thwarted love. We see the full range of human character – greed, devotion, manipulation, love, hate, duty, evasion of duty, cheating, honesty – as different parts of the story are related by various characters involved.
Walter Hartright has no idea the turns his life will take after he accepts a position as drawing teacher for the Fairlie family. He has two pupils, Marian and Laura, who are half-sisters. The head of the estate is Laura’s uncle, who provides much of the humor in the book. He suffers from nerves, poor thing, and can’t tolerate sunlight, conversation, decision-making or servants who fail to mind-read. Before Hartright reaches the Fairlie home, he encounters and assists a strange young woman in white during a late-night walk. As it turns out, she has some connection to the family who has employed him. And some mysterious, less-than-desirable connection to Laura’s fiancé, Sir Percival Glyde. (Even his name sounds oily and corrupt.) Assisted by his friend Count Fosco, who is Laura’s uncle by marriage, it’s obvious early on that Glyde is up to something nefarious. But what could it be?
I feel it is my duty, dear reader, to warn you that there is a fainting couch and it is swooned upon. You will also encounter some gender stereotyping typical of the mid-19th century. However, the plot and strong characterizations (Marian, in particular, is an intelligent and active female character) make these deficiencies forgivable. A bonus for me, as a Harry Potter fan, was discovering where J.K. Rowling found inspiration for a certain trademark of a cohort of villains.
Are you intrigued enough to want your very own copy of “The Woman in White?” Fill out the following form, including the answer to this trivia question for a chance to win:
Wilkie Collins’ book “The Moonstone” involves the theft of a jewel. What type of jewel is it?
One winner will be selected at random from among correct entries.
The post Classics For Everyone, and a Book Giveaway: Wilkie Collins appeared first on DBRL Next.
My wife and I have found parenting small children to be one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. While our children are little, we see it as a way to relive our own childhoods in some ways: watching the old Muppet Movies again, flying kites, enjoying Fruit Loops guilt-free, playing board games that involve colorful shiny plastic objects and lots of rudimentary counting.
Along with the fun it can get difficult. And dirty. And tiring. And also incredibly funny. The moments of laughter spent with our own daughters account for some of the most hilarious times in my life so far. Much of it is unintentional – just moments of pure joy wrapped in semi-ridiculous situations. In celebration of Mother’s Day, let’s take a look at some of the more recent humorous parenting and mothering titles out there. (Think Gen-X’s answer to Erma Bombeck – a little more irony, a few more swear words.)
How about “Parenting Illustrated with Crappy Pictures,” a book of cartoons by Amber Dusick. Amber’s experiences are universal – toddlers who create constant chaos and havoc, misuse common phrases (and swear words, with the expected results), treat the cats badly and display affection and sweetness with sincere deliveries of flowers, pronounced “fowlers.” The sleeplessness and chaos that come with parenting young children are fleshed out in (very poorly) drawn cartoons, but the humor is very real. Why cry when you can laugh? My favorite chapter, “The Good Stuff,” includes this classic two year-old knock knock joke: “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Cookie. Cookie Who? BIG COOKIE!!”
“Don’t Lick the Minivan, and Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids” by blogger and humorist Leanne Shirtliffe examines raising baby twins in the international city of Bangkok, Thailand and returning to the suburbs of Canada, where absurdities continue, such as a barbie funeral. Anecdotes from the Shirtliffe family’s time in Bangkok are profoundly funny: “As we left the village . . . our driver navigated around an accident, likely caused by our screaming child – and he maneuvered around other developing world obstacles, like a family of five on a motorbike and a 1960s truck filled with jingling propane bottles.” The book is also spiced with sidebars that include advice such as “Parenting Tip: When you’re arguing with your spouse over parenting issues, imitate a cartoon character to defuse the situation.”
Julia Sweeney is best known for her stint on Saturday Night Live, but she is also an author, speaker and mother, having adopted a Chinese child, Mulan. In her new book “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother,” she recounts the adoption process, all the while balancing her career. “It took so long to assemble my lovely family. I did it all a bit backward: first a delightful daughter, then a beloved husband.”
Sweeney eventually ends up in Wilmette, Illinois (near the college town of Evanston, IL) which she describes as “like living in Logan, Utah, six blocks from Berkeley, California.” Coming from California was a change, she writes. “The entire city of Wilmette is set up to accommodate families. While I appreciate this, it can be mind-numbing. Also, I should add that I live in a city of blond ponytails; one might describe it as a sea of blond ponytails.” However, she does find her own domestic bliss in her new circumstances: “Thinking through this whole family experience has made me feel less attached to places and things, and more invested in experiencing being with people I love.”
Lastly, although only available in audiobook format, let us not forget Garrison Keillor’s wonderful tribute to the mothers of the world: “Motherhood.” Prairie Home Companion is, above all else, a true celebration of family and community. Listen to the cast from the show present humorous skits that showcase the joys, travails, and delightful moments encapsulated in being a Mom.
Please see these books (and many more!) for a humorous explorations of what it means to be a parent and most especially a Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms out there!
Somewhere along our educational paths, some of us became convinced that poetry, by definition, must be hard, esoteric, incomprehensible. Others believe poetry is boring, the word conjuring up memories of a too-warm classroom and a lecture about syllables and iambic pentameter. If you believe you are not a poetry person, in honor of the last few days of National Poetry Month, I’m going to attempt to convince you otherwise.
Exhibit A: Billy Collins
Collins’ poetry is conversational, approachable and often gently humorous. He writes about love, loss, growing older, teenagers, camp lanyards, his kitchen and a whole host of other everyday topics, using elegant phrasing, surprising images and even wit to make what is common seem new.
Exhibit B: Mary Oliver
Oliver’s most recent collection of poems is all about the dogs she has owned. The verses in “Dog Songs” are unashamedly celebratory, as is much of her work. Nature is often the subject of her writing, and while not overtly religious, there is a quality of thanksgiving in her poems, an open wonder at the world and gratitude for her place in it.
Exhibit C: Sharon Olds
There is a sharpness to Olds, and even a harshness at times, like she is shining a bright spotlight on her subjects. She writes fearlessly about death, sexuality, brutality and makes even the hardest truths beautiful through words and images.
What other poets would you recommend to reluctant poetry readers?
The days are getting warmer and longer, and summer reading is on the horizon! Here is the monthly list from LibraryReads, highlighting forthcoming titles librarians across the country recommend, including family dramas, suspense, literary fiction, and a memoir. Get ready to pack your beach bag with some great new books.
“We Were Liars“
by E. Lockhart
“This brilliant and heartbreaking novel tells the story of a prestigious family living on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Full of love, lies, secrets, no shortage of family dysfunction and a shocking twist that you won’t see coming. Though this book is written for teens, it shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone looking for a fantastic read.”
- Susan Balla, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT
“All the Light We Cannot See“
by Anthony Doerr
“Set during World War II Europe, this novel is sobering without being sentimental. The tension builds as the alternating, parallel stories of Werner and Marie-Laure unfold, and their paths cross. I highly recommend this beautiful and compelling story.”
- Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN
“The Bees: A Novel“
by Laline Paull
“This book is set entirely in a beehive, but the novel and its characters are so beautifully rendered that it could have been set anywhere. Societal codes and social mores combine with the ancient behavior rituals of bees, bringing forth a remarkable story that is sure to be a book club favorite.”
- Ilene Lefkowitz, Denville Public Library, Denville, NJ
Here is the rest of the list, with links to the library’s catalog so you can place holds on these on-order books!
- “Delicious!” by Ruth Reichl
- “The Forgotten Seamstress” by Liz Trenow
- “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman
- “Bittersweet” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
- “Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage” by Molly Wizenberg
- “Sixth Grave on the Edge” by Darynda Jones
- “The Blessings” by Elise Juska
The most important thing I can tell you about Flann O’Brien is: you should not read the introduction to “The Complete Novels” until after you’ve read the complete novels. Perhaps the introducer believed he was writing an afterword, or perhaps he believes he lives in a surreal utopia where everyone has read Flann O’Brien. Regardless, he drops spoilers like race cars during a bolt shortage, including a huge one that will change the way you read “The Third Policeman.” Fortunately, I long ago developed a suspicion of introductions and always save them for last, so it was with a self-satisfied smirk, wagged finger of admonishment and chest-puffed entreaty of “don’t be a monster that spoils stuff” that I greeted the introducer’s ghastly act of revealing the end of the “The Third Policeman,” where the reader should discover for themselves that [spoiler removed by editor].
Flann O’Brien, much like Batman or a rapper, has more than one name. His realest name is Brian O’Nolan, and, in addition to Flann, he also wrote as Myles na gCopaleen, which I presume is the result of several typos and an urge to be the most inscrutable superhero ever. Unlike my previous recommendations whose recommending came at least partially in the service of bribing them to be my friends, any relationship with O’Brien would be awkward and one-sided as the man died on April Fools’ Day in 1966. (Which, if one has to die, must be the best day to do so. Think of the incredulous responses when his friends and loved ones were notified!)
“The Third Policeman” begins with the narrator confessing to murder. From there it is a whirlwind consisting of a plot to obtain the deceased’s fortune; asides concerning the ludicrous theories of the philosopher de Selby (whom the narrator is obsessed with and had been planning to write a book on), such as his belief that night is an illusion caused by an accretion of black gases, that the earth is sausage-shaped and that with a large enough series of mirrors one is capable of seeing into the past; and absurd policemen whose fixations on bicycles, high-fallutin’ rhetoric and incomprehensible mathematics provide much of the fuel for this spectacular comedy.
There’s also some spectacular horror. In addition to murder, there is a conversation with a ghost, a journey into a surreal landscape where a police station looks two-dimensional, as if “it was painted on the sky,” an alliance with an army of one-legged men, some incomprehensible mathematics and a bicycle painted a color that drives anyone who sees it mad. There’s a chest of drawers so flawless that the only thing the policeman found worthy of putting in it was a smaller replica, which presented the same problem, which meant it must contain a smaller replica and so on until there’s a chest so small it can’t be spotted with a magnifying glass. This is a rare book that is creepy, hilarious and uncanny within the same sentence. Also, the ending is neat.
April elections aren’t just about school boards and city councils. Each year the Daniel Boone Regional Library asks area readers to help choose that year’s One Read book. One Read is a community-wide reading program that invites adults in Mid-Missouri to read the same book over the summer and then attend programs based on that book during the month of September.
Between now and May 2, cast your vote for either “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain or “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel Brown.
Learn more about these titles and cast your vote at oneread.org!