Next Book Buzz
(Review of the Inspector Montalbano mystery series, by Andrea Camilleri)
Salvo Montalbano is the world-weary but always upstanding Chief Inspector for the police force of Vigata, a smallish (and imaginary) town in Sicily. He’s a sensitive, ethical guy who struggles with the endemic Sicilian political corruption, superiors who can’t be bothered and subordinates who are eager but sometimes inept. Also problematic are the many attractive women who find him molto interessante – causing no end of conflict with Livia, his volatile out-of-town girlfriend.
This sounds like a standard backdrop for a police procedural mystery, international or otherwise. But this series, and Montalbano, rise above the standard. For starters, this is one well-read cop, given to Italian literary and historical references. He’s also a passionate gourmet: a steaming plate of pasta ‘ncasciata will always take precedence over police business.
Montalbano introspects fiercely, and the reader gets to spend quality time inside his head, getting to know this often melancholy and obsessive, but ultimately likable, character. In fact, all of Camilleri’s characters are worth knowing, from Ingrid Sjostrom, the beautiful six-foot-tall Swedish race-car driver (and Montalbano’s greatest temptation) to the creepy, sex-obsessed Judge Tommaseo. Add some dark Sicilian atmosphere and consistently elegant plotting, and you have a series that is just plain delizioso.
(Important disclaimer: The first book, “The Shape of Water,” begins with a single, nearly incomprehensible paragraph that goes on for a full five pages. It was so obtuse that I almost gave up. Fortunately I didn’t, because after page five things got much clearer and a whole lot more interesting – and stayed that way for 15 more books.)
For an appetizer, here are the first four books of the Inspector Montalbano series at DBRL:
- “The Shape of Water“ (2002)
- “The Terra-cotta Dog“ (2002)
- “The Snack Thief“ (2003)
- “Voice of the Violin“ (2004)
For the complete list of 16 titles, see our book list in the library’s online catalog.
LibraryReads is a monthly list of forthcoming books librarians across the country recommend. The March list is particularly awesome because local author Laura McHugh’s book (partly written at the Columbia Public Library) is the number one pick!
“The Weight of Blood“
by Laura McHugh
“The Dane family has been keeping secrets in the Ozark town of Henbane for years. An outsider steals the heart of one of the Dane brothers, and the secrets threaten to unravel. When 16-year-old Lucy’s friend is found murdered after being missing for a year, Lucy begins to ask questions–the answers to which may destroy her family. Atmospheric and visceral, McHugh’s story is vividly and effectively told.”
- Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ
by Chris Pavone
“Kudos to Pavone for coming through with another captivating international suspense novel. How ironic that I couldn’t put down a book about Isabel, a literary agent who stays up all night to finish an unsolicited manuscript that’s so explosive, some will kill to keep it from being published. During the 24 hours that Isabel is on the run, readers will be on the edge of their seats. Be prepared to lose some sleep!”
- Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI
“The Divorce Papers“
by Susan Rieger
“When Sophie, a loveable 29-year-old lawyer, gets roped into working on a divorce case, her life takes an unexpected turn. Though this gives her a new perspective on life, it also forces her to confront some unresolved childhood issues. Except for a few tearful, poignant moments, I had a smile on my face for the entire book. Engaging and humorous, this debut epistolary novel has become a favorite read.”
- Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL
Here is the rest of the list for your browsing and hold-placing pleasure!
- “The Outcast Dead“ by Elly Griffiths
- “Panic“ by Lauren Oliver
- “A Circle of Wives“ by Alice LaPlante
- “Gemini” by Carol Cassella
- “Precious Thing“ by Colette McBeth
- “Kill Fee: A Stevens and Windermere Novel“ by Owen Laukkanen
- “Show Your Work! 10 Things Nobody Told You about Getting Discovered“ by Austin Kleon
I recently stumbled across a BuzzFeed article that offers advice which is even more useful than tips on creative ways to use mason jars! “Twenty-Nine Books To Get You Through Your Quarter-Life Crisis” is a compilation of books about people in their 20s and issues that people face during this stage of their life. The list includes both fiction and nonfiction books, most of which we have in our collection (and the ones we don’t have you can get through our ILL service). As a 20-something, I enjoy learning about the various directions in which people choose to steer their lives and about the different ways people carve out their identities. Here are a few books I’ve found interesting:
- “Hyperbole and A Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened” by Allie Brosh. This collection of webcomics is funny, sometimes sad, and had me yelling, “I totally do that, too!” The book combines crudely drawn pictures with short writings to tell stories of the now 28-year-old’s wild childhood, life-long obsession with dogs, bouts of depression and attempts at becoming a “responsible adult”. If you’re still not sold on this book, check out the Hyperbole and a Half blog to get a taste of Brosh’s style.
- “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. The author’s collection of advice columns, “Tiny Beautiful Things,” made it on to the BuzzFeed list instead of this book, but “Wild” also tackles issues people in their 20s face. I’ve never been a fan of memoirs or books about nature, but this book completely won me over. At age 26 Strayed’s life was in shambles from her mother’s death four years earlier. With nothing left to lose, she impulsively decided to hike the entire 1,000+ mile Pacific Crest Trail. Armed with only a giant backpack, paperback books and no wilderness experience, the author treks through physical and emotional pain to ultimately become healed. Heart-wrenching, honest and totally inspiring.
- “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now” by Meg Jay. This is definitely not a feel-good book, but rather a therapist’s argument for what people should be doing while they’re in their 20s. Reading it was frustrating at times, because I disagree with a lot of things Dr. Jay had to say. She assumes the reader has a certain amount of privilege, and also that people in their 20s feel like they have all the time in the world. (I don’t know anyone my age that feels that way!) I could go on and on about the ways this book is problematic, but that being said, I still felt like I was able to glean some valuable information from this book. The author uses real-life examples of her clients’ struggles, which are common issues to people in their 20s. This book also includes some solid advice on moving forward in your career. Check it out and decide for yourself!
If you’d like more advice on what to read to get you through your quarter-life crisis, be sure to take a look at Book Riot’s article on this subject.
Image credit: Artwork copyrighted by Allie Brosh, creator of Hyperbole and a Half, and used according to guidelines outlined on the Hyperbole and a Half website.
Books and movies provide the fuel for allowing a gentleman to reminisce of simpler times, even when he’s born long after whatever simpler time about which he wishes to reminisce. So it’s good for some of that fuel to remind the unscrupulous reminiscer that simpler times were terrible. One such time occasionally pined for is the gold-rush era, a time when a forward thinking person might be willing to spare a penny for a toothbrush, but a time when forward thinking people were often hunted for sport. Indeed, for every attractive aspect of the era (horse emissions pale when compared to an automobile, disagreements could be solved by a simple duel), there are significant drawbacks (horses age and poop and get attacked by bears and travel at a fraction of the speed of even the slowest autos, a duel ends in murder). Patrick deWitt’s hilarious, violent and gripping novel, “The Sisters Brothers,” is a potent reminder that even though cowboy hats are awesome and spurs make you sound really cool while you walk, now is a much better time to be alive, what with medicine and civil rights and whatnot. Remember, for every glass of whiskey only costing a penny there’s a gypsy keen to curse you or a little girl poisoning dogs, and both folks have terrible breath. (Because they don’t own a toothbrush.)
The novel is narrated by Eli Sisters, a sensitive and relatively kind-hearted killer with a penchant for giving his excess cash to friendly prostitutes and becoming attached to horses even when they’re unable to meet his robust travel needs. Eli’s voice is hilariously mannered and often poetic, and the book brims with brilliant movie-ready dialogue. One can easily imagine it as the next Coen Brothers masterpiece. The book joins, among others, ”Deadwood“ (fans of which should love this novel) as evidence that the western isn’t dead.
Eli accompanies his brother, the less sensitive and more cold-blooded killer Charlie Sisters, on a mission to hunt down Hermann Kermit Warm for a man called The Commodore. Until deep into the book the reader must presume the reason for the hunting is The Commodore’s jealousy over Warm’s spectacular name. Which the reader finds weird as it’s pretty neat to be addressed as “The Commodore” and must thus presume The Commodore is a terribly petty man and doesn’t want anyone else to have a cool name. The reveal of the real reason for the hunting leads to some brilliant images and devastating scenes.
“The Sisters Brothers” is even more impressive for being the follow-up to deWitt’s first novel, the also wickedly funny but decidedly less cowboy laden “Ablutions: Notes for a Novel.” It is told in second-person and concerns a man tending bar in Hollywood. The book is loaded with people getting loaded and all the hijinks and misery that often entails and will serve as a stern reminder to next century’s reminiscers to be satisfied with their cyborg bodies and talking furniture and not pine for a time when one had to drink alcohol rather than simply turn the virtual knob on their intoxicant interface.
“With the Union my best and dearest earthly hopes are entwined.”
- President Franklin Pierce, 1847
February is a month when we often reflect upon our presidents, celebrating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Washington’s birthday is now a federal holiday and in some areas of the country is referred to as “President’s Day.” The library has many books about the 44 presidents who have occupied the White House since George Washington took office.
First, let’s first turn back the clock thirty years to 1984. The United States legislative and executive branches looked very different than they do today. Democrats had an entrenched hold on both the House and Senate, while a very popular Republican president was running for his second term in office. However, while political ideology was trumpeted throughout Capitol Hill, gridlock was often averted because of the basic pragmatism of two figures: President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked,” written by Chris Matthews of MSNBC fame, investigates their relationship in detail. Matthew’s point is the following: that ultimately the good of the country seemed to be the overwhelming concern for both of them. “Their way of life comprised an ongoing series of alliances and antagonisms, but did not include personal analysis of themselves or others,” Matthews writes. And he continues: “In his own way, each was a true gentleman in a way we don’t ask our leaders to be anymore.” Civility has since vanished from much of our political discourse.
Franklin Pierce, quoted above, is perhaps an obscure president, but he led the country during an important time. The 1850s were perhaps one of the most divisive points in American history, and Pierce’s efficacy as president was questionable. The book “Don’t Know Much about the American Presidents” by Kenneth Davis covers the lives, loves and frailties of American presidents. Speaking of Pierce, Davis says, “He was among a trio of pre-war presidents whose uninspired, shortsighted, and even cowardly administrations did nothing to avert the Civil War.” “Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents” also includes helpful timelines and a research guide.
During his three years as president, John Kennedy was a familiar figure in the press. “The Kennedy Years: From the Pages of the New York Times” retells the Kennedy story through the pages of the Times. As Richard Reeves points out in the introduction to the chapter about 1962, “An astonishing series of events punctuated the Kennedy years. In 1962 alone, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, Jacqueline Kennedy became a beloved, style-setting public advocate of high culture, and a walled-off, fearful West Berlin was suddenly isolated from the American sector by a Communist regime in East Germany that could no longer face the international embarrassment of a rising river of fleeing refugees.” Sadly, the November 23rd, 1963 issue heralded the end of Kennedy’s presidency and his life.
Most of us know George Washington as one of the country’s founding fathers and as a diplomat; less is known about his military service, which prepared him for those greater roles. Stephen Brumwell’s book “George Washington: Gentleman Warrior” describes in rich detail his beginnings as a military commander and his ultimate triumph as Commander in Chief during the Revolutionary War. His career did not begin auspiciously. Washington was a commander for British forces during the French and Indian War, and his initial foray (called Braddock’s Defeat) ended terribly. Of his first time as a commander, Brumwell reports that the mission “had failed at all levels” and that “Washington himself bore a large share of responsibility.” However, as history shows, Washington was a quick study. Despite this inauspicious start, Washington’s early history did mold his future. Brumwell says, “Without his youthful hankering after military fame, kindled by his half-brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon and the Fairfaxes at Belvoir, Washington would, in all probability, have remained a footnote in history; a respectable, if unremarkable, surveyor and planter.”
No current review of books about American presidents would be complete without a title about President Obama. Dozens of books have been printed about our 44th president since he came into office in 2008. Last year, Jonathan Alter, a correspondent for NBC news, sketched Obama’s incumbency in the book “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies.” A book ostensibly about the run-up to the 2012 election, it is also about how the embrace of social media might have won the election for Obama. “While Romney lumbered through his convention, Obama was on Reddit, a crowdsourced social news site known by few of the Tampa delegates, though popular with many of their children . . . The Reddit appearance was another sign that Obama’s dominance of the digital campaign was not only not bad, it was a pretty good indicator that he was on the winning track.”
Find these books about American presidents (and many more!) here at the Daniel Boone Regional Library.
Did you ever wonder how priceless art objects survived World War II in devastated Europe? Frankly, I never did – not until I came across Robert Edsel’s book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.” Obviously, I wasn’t the only one struck by this subject. So was George Clooney, and as a result, a new movie, “The Monuments Men,” starring George Clooney (no surprise here ), Cate Blanchett and Matt Damon is coming to the big screen starting February 7. (The author, Robert Edsel, is also given a movie credit – at the end of the screenwriters list ).
So, what made this book worth turning into a movie? Lots of books (and movies) take place during WWII, right? Well, for one thing, the main characters are not soldiers, generals or suffering civilians, but middle-aged people from art-related backgrounds: architects, sculptors, museum curators, archivists and others. For another, these people, drawn from 13 nations (most of them from the U.S. and UK), were not assigned any military duties. Their tasks were first to advise on how to limit combat damage to the historic structures of northwest Europe (thus the name: the monuments men) and later to recover cultural treasures that had been looted by top Nazis, especially Hitler and Göring. This wasn’t an easy assignment by any means. As the Allied armies moved deeper inside Europe, the monuments men (there were women, too, but, apparently, only one appears in the movie ) moved onto the front lines, working fiercely and tirelessly, often at personal risk, to protect and restore art damaged by the ravages of war.
Readers who want to learn more about that period may consider checking out “The Rape of Europa” by Lynn Nicholas, too. This book covers largely the same territory, and its cast of characters includes Hitler, Göring, Marc Chagall and Gertrude Stein.
If straight history is not your thing, consider reading the novel “Shadowed by Grace: A Story of Monuments Men“ by Cara Putman. Here destruction, art and whodunit are combined into a war-time love story.
And last but not least, don’t miss Robert Edsel’s latest book: “Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis,” which is devoted to saving European artistic treasure in Italy.
Also, remember that you don’t have to wait for George Clooney to turn these books into movies. All you need to do to learn fascinating facts about WWII (or any other subject, for that matter) is check out library books .
I moved to Columbia to attend university and never left. I love the trails, and living in a college town affords me opportunities that might not be present in a city of similar size. This week, I have two such opportunities. Columbia will be visited by two popular authors: Piper Kerman and Colson Whitehead. Both events are free and open to the public.
Editor’s note: due to weather, Piper Kerman’s talk is being rescheduled. She will not appear at the Missouri Theatre on February 5 as previously advertised. We will provide an update when we have one.
Piper Kerman, author of the memoir “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” will speak at the Missouri Theatre on Wednesday, February 5 at 7:30 p.m. Kerman served time in federal prison for a crime she had committed a decade prior to incarceration. As viewers of the Netflix series based on her memoir can attest, Kerman’s experience ranges from funny to tragic. Kerman will talk about both her experience specifically and the prison system in general.
The following night, Colson Whitehead, author of the New York Times bestselling zombie survival tale “Zone One,” will be the latest speaker in the Department of English Creative Writing Visiting Writers Series. The event will take place Thursday, February 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Reynolds Alumni Center on the University of Missouri campus. Whitehead writes everything from autobiographical essays to post-apocalyptic novels and has won loads of awards. His latest book, “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Death,” is about the World Series of Poker and will be published in May.
The post Prison Reform and Zombie Pandemics: This Week in Community Events appeared first on DBRL Next.
Last year I encouraged you to read like a librarian and use the newly launched Library Reads list to find out what about-to-be-published books we library folks across the country are most abuzz about. Well, get ready to add more titles to your holds list – the February edition of Library Reads is here.
by Pierce Brown
“The next great read for those who loved The Hunger Games. This story has so much action, intrigue, social commentary and character development that the reader who never reads science fiction will happily overlook the fact that the story takes place on Mars far in the future. The characters are perfectly flawed, causing the reader to feel compassion and revulsion for both sides. Can’t wait for the next installment!”
- Cindy Stevens, Pioneer Library System, Norman, OK
“The Good Luck of Right Now“
by Matthew Quick
“Socially-awkward 40-year-old Bartholomew has lived with his mother all his life and has never held a job. When she succumbs to cancer, he channels her favorite actor, Richard Gere, to make her happy during her last days. Funny and sad, with moving, unsentimental prose and a quick, satisfying pace. Highly recommended.”
- Michael Colford, Boston Public Library, Boston, MA
“This Dark Road to Mercy: A Novel“
by Wiley Cash
“Cash’s second novel is as good as his first. In this story, we meet Easter and her sister Ruby, who have been shuffled around the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina. Then their ne’er-do-well father whisks them away in the middle of the night. I was on the edge of my seat as I followed the girls’ tale and hoping for a safe outcome. Fans of ‘A Land More Kind Than Home’ will enjoy this book as well.”
- Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, OH
Here are the remaining titles on February’s list that are on order and ready for you to place on hold. Be the first among your friends to get your hands on these great reads!
- “The Martian” by Andy Weir
- “After I’m Gone“ by Laura Lippman
- “Ripper“ by Isabel Allende
- “The Ghost of the Mary Celeste” by Valerie Martin
- “The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress” by Ariel Lawhon
- “The Winter People” by Jennifer McMahon
- “E.E. Cummings: A Life” by Susan Cheever
If what we read is awesome enough it will contribute to who we are. “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is exceedingly awesome and about magic and magicians and an era when gentlemen were commonplace. So it will not surprise the reader to learn of my affinity for the novel and that I was both drawn to it by what I already was and shaped by it into what I currently am: a wearer of tophats and caster of the occasional spell. One cannot spend 850 often breathtaking pages in the company of gentlemen and gentlewomen without absorbing their delightful (and, increasingly in my view, mandatory) manners. The book’s influence extended beyond making suits and kerchiefs compulsory and replacing ibuprofen with laudanum as the tonic for headaches and chills*; it also provided much of the origin for my immense fear of faeries.
“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is overflowing with ideas. There are footnotes throughout relaying stories other writers would have been thrilled to settle on for the course of a book but that Susanna Clarke uses as spice to deepen the flavor of a work so savory and rich that if it were food it would be impolite to serve to the book’s characters and their stiff English palates without stern warnings of its decidedly un-pudding like flavors.
Clarke created a history so persuasive that one is given to wonder if she did not simply unearth England’s true history and that the country was shaped by magic, both literally in the sense of magically altered coastlines, and figuratively in the sense of magicians aiding them in their wars and inspiring their limericks. She tells, with a voice made to illicit chuckles and wry appreciative nods, the story of the titular magicians and their plight to reassert magic to its lofty and rightful heights. At the book’s onset magic is studied by a society of gentleman but never performed as they are unable. Soon Mr Norrell emerges,** desiring to disband the “theoretical magicians” and succeeding by showing that magic can be done. His spell provides the first of hundreds of the book’s mind-searing images: he causes the statues of a great church to come alive for a short while. Magic begins its ascent in esteem. Jonathan Strange, a career-less young man, accidentally discovers his aptitude for it. The two magicians join forces. Mr Norrell brings a young woman back to life with the aid of a faerie.*** The faerie, referred to only as “the man with the thistle-down hair,” has rather disagreeable terms. In addition to taking one of Lady Pole’s fingers, he bargains for domain over half her life. Mr Norrell accepts the terms, foolishly believing the faerie will take the last half of the lady’s life. Instead the resurrected finds her nights occupied by a perpetual ball taking place in the eerie bone-strewn semi-ruins of the faerie’s castle, a place called Lost-Hope. Lady Pole and her butler, Stephen Black, to whom the faerie has taken an unfortunate liking, find when trying to speak of their predicament and thereby exercise themselves from it they can only relate arcane bits of faerie history.
The novel builds to a climax worthy of its bulk. Readers will be sad to leave it and find themselves tempted to summon a faerie that might enchant them into the book’s pages permanently. Take heed though – a reread is a better idea; unlike a faerie’s bargain it won’t leave you missing a digit and with your house, which you can never leave, made from the pages of a novel. Great novel though it may be, weather will not do it any favors.
*Also contributed to my fondness for footnotes.
**Figuratively. Norrell much prefers to remain cloistered in his library where he’s hoarded every book of magic, thereby effectively preventing anyone from practicing.
***A creature he detests but needs for such lofty magic.
What happens when a 39-year-old brilliant genetics professor with Asperger’s and, therefore, few social skills sets out to find a wife? He approaches that task the way he approaches all his tasks, i.e. like a scientific project. First, Don Tillman develops a double-sided, 16-page questionnaire, whose purpose is to screen out unsuitable candidates: smokers, the mathematically illiterate, those with body mass index over 26, vegetarians, the perpetually tardy, etc. He then pursues his task with robotic precision (and, not surprisingly, very little luck) – until the most unsuitable candidate walks into his life and turns it upside down. This candidate, sent to Don as a joke, is Rosie, a volatile bartender and a graduate student of psychology. Rosie has a project of her own – she’s trying to find her biological father.
As the story unfolds, Don, a guy who cannot stand being touched, who can barely read social clues or understand people’s reactions, puts his project on the back burner and begins helping Rosie with hers. In the process, an unpredictable thing happens (kind of unpredictable, mind you, it is a romantic comedy after all ) – Don’s Asperger’s gradually gives way to affection and, ultimately, love. And these newly awakened emotions help Don learn how to sympathize with people around him and discover the things that really make him happy.
Graeme Simsion’s “The Rosie Project,” a clever and laugh-out-loud celebration of our individual differences, is a great read for those who like happy endings and also for those who want to start their New Year on an optimistic note. Readers who enjoyed Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and Toni Jordan’s “Addition” (as well as fans of the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”) will enjoy it, too.
The post Looking for a New Project to Start 2014? Take on The Rosie Project! appeared first on DBRL Next.
The changing of the year always prompts me to note the swift passage of time. And the realization that we now have fewer than 50 years to wait until first contact with an alien species, as established in the Star Trek canon, makes me think of space. So what better book to highlight this month than Stephen Hawking’s non-fiction classic, “A Brief History of Time”?
In his acknowledgments for the book, first published in 1988, Hawking writes: “…the basic ideas about the origin and fate of the universe can be stated without mathematics in a form that people without a scientific education can understand. This is what I have attempted to do in this book.” More than almost any other modern-day scientist, Hawking helped the average person get a grasp on what physicists mean when they discuss the big bang or quantum mechanics or black holes, and why they now refer to space-time as one single term rather than two separate things. In “A Brief History of Time” he provides an historical overview of beliefs about the workings of the universe, beginning with Aristotle. Then he moves into current (at the time) knowledge and theories.
In 2005, Hawking published “A Briefer History of Time,” an updated and even more simplified version of his earlier work, for those of us whose brains move at a pace considerably slower than the speed of light. He followed this in 2010 with “The Grand Design,” co-authored by Leonard Mlodinow, which discusses further recent developments in cosmology, including something called M-theory.
Hawking’s life is as interesting as the subjects he explores, and he shares some of the details in his new autobiography, “My Brief History.” He just celebrated his 72nd birthday on January 8, over 50 years after being diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21 and told he didn’t have many years to live. But he spends more time discussing his research and education than his physical condition. Late bloomers take heart – he did not learn to read until he was 8 years old.
For those who can’t get enough Stephen Hawking in their lives, he maintains a website with up-to-date information about himself and his work: http://www.hawking.org.uk.
We’ve had a great year of reviewing and recommending books, community events and library programs here at DBRL Next, and we thank you for your readership and contributing to our success. To ring in the New Year, here is a recap of our most popular posts from 2013. Read on for some great book recommendations from staff, patrons and around the Web.
- As part of this year’s Summer Reading program, we asked our readers to share books they had found personally groundbreaking. Read the comments at the end of this post to see the results.
- Celebrate strong women and check out these titles with not one damsel in distress.
- If you haven’t been following the recommendations of the library’s resident gentleman, you are missing out on some great books as well as some pretty hilarious writing from the gentleman himself. His profile of Lauren Beukes, thanks in part to a tweet from that author about his review, was his most-read piece this year.
- 2013 saw the launch of LibraryReads, a monthly top ten book list identifying those titles librarians nationwide identify as their favorites publishing that month. You, too, can read like a librarian!
- Read about the book one of our writers considers the most beautiful novel he has ever read.
- There are many reasons to pick up a book – to escape, to be entertained, to explore new topics, to expand our understanding of other people and places. Another popular post this year was this list of fiction for understanding mental illness.
- The crafting and upcycling craze of recent years continues, and we shared one librarian’s list of ideas for transforming your stacks of t-shirts into something new.
- It’s cold outside, but you can warm up by revisiting this list of recommended summer vacation reads.
- If your New Year’s resolutions include a radical reduction of your carbon footprint or a commitment to living with less, read this post about “living tiny.”
- Finally, at DBRL Next we enjoy digging up overlooked gems from the bottom shelves of nonfiction. Here are some bottom shelf books from the 600s that are sure to make your mouth water.
Happy New Year to all of our readers!
Everybody watches it, including Prince William and Kate Middleton. The royal couple, of course, has an advantage over us regular Americans (well, not just one, mind you ). They reside in Britain, where the fourth season of Downton Abbey was …
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‘Tis the season for giving to others, but we suggest giving a little gift to yourself and registering to win a free audiobook from your library. Register today for a chance to receive a copy of one of the following books on CD, courtesy of the Daniel Boone Regional Library and Books on Tape.
“The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker
A gripping and unique coming-of-age at the end of the world story. 11-year-old Julia wakes up one morning to the news that the rotation of the earth has begun to slow, throwing the environment into disarray. Julia is also coping with the fissures in her family, the loss of friends, the hopeful anguish of love and other normal disasters of everyday life. The audiobook is read by Emily Janice Card.
“The Future” by Al Gore
This audiobook, read by the former Vice President himself, offers a frank assessment of six critical drivers of global change in the decades to come – economic globalization, worldwide digital communications, a growing balance of global power, unsustainable population growth, scientific revolution and disruption of ecosystems. A sobering but important and smart discussion of our actions and their implications for the future.
Photo credit: Gift by Flickr user Gift by asenat29
I’m sure the majority of you, dear readers, are spending your quiet December evenings sipping hot cocoa by the fire, comforted by the knowledge that your holiday presents are wrapped, cards written and mailed, cookies baked, and lists not only made but also checked twice. For the few of you who may be a wee bit behind on the shopping, here are some suggestions for the bookish types for whom you still need gifts. All of these books were nominated by area readers for the 2014 One Read program, so they come with a local stamp of approval!
For historical fiction lovers, “The Maid’s Version” by Daniel Woodrell has particular appeal. This lyrical novel is set in Missouri, and at just 176 pages, it is a quick read – perfect for the busy holiday season.
For those who prefer their fiction quirky or offbeat, try “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple. The story follows precocious eighth-grader Bee and her quest to find her missing mother – the notorious, temperamental, talented, troubled and agoraphobic Bernadette.
For readers of nonfiction, and particularly for those readers who are also writers, I recommend Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.” Patchett reflects on advice received from writing teachers and mentors and reveals the people, places and ideals that have shaped her work.
None of these titles seem quite right? Check out other nominations for One Read 2014 for more ideas.
Finally, for the young readers on your list, check out this post from DBRL Kids about the best books of 2013. Happy shopping – and reading!
As an artist as well as a recreation-enthusiast, I end up in the 700s (Arts & Recreation) almost every time I browse the library’s collection, regardless of what I originally set out to find. There are a wide variety of books in this section, everything from books on art history to Calvin and Hobbes to NASCAR. Here are a few interesting books I found tucked away on the bottom shelf.
- H.O.U.S.E. by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. H.O.U.S.E stands for Homes that are Outrageous, Unbelievable, Spectacular and Extraordinary – all of which the architecture in this illustrated book definitely is. HOUSE is so colorful and playful and bursting with imagination I thought it was a misshelved children’s book at first – but it’s for adults! The architecture explored in this book is just as out-of-the-box as the illustrations. Discover everything from houses shaped like UFOs, to a giant tree house to an entire home that hangs outside of an apartment window. This book is a fun introduction to innovative architecture.
- “Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s” by Hunter Drohojowska-Philip. Set in 1960s Los Angeles, this book captures the rebellious spirit of the time and place and chronicles the West Coast explosion of contemporary art. In 1960 LA had few art galleries, and no modern art museums, which opened the door for artists with more avant-garde ideas, including: David Hockey, Ed Ruscha, Judy Chicago and many others. Andy Warhol, though today he is known for the Factory and the artwork he created in New York City, got his first big break in L.A. By the end of the decade the city had blossomed into a thriving art hub in the US.
- “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. For those who haven’t heard of this book with a cult-like following: no, this book is not about Bruce Springsteen. It actually has a lot more to do with those toe shoes, which kind of look like gloves for your feet, that you have probably seen people jaunting around in (also called minimalist running shoes). In “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,” McDougall journeys to Copper Canyon, Mexico to discover the secrets of Tarahumara Indians – a group whose members have spent centuries mastering techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest. Yes, you read that correctly - hundreds! That’s like running several marathons in a row! And they do it without injury (enter toe shoes), which has a lot to do with the minimalist sandals they wear while running. Regardless of your stance on running footwear, this book is definitely worth picking up!
The post It Came From the Bottom Shelf! Three Books not to Overlook in the 700s appeared first on DBRL Next.
December, the month famously associated with people not wanting stuff, has wrapped its icy claws around our throats and screamed, “You sure you don’t want a scarf now, good sir?! Doesn’t the chill in the air render your topcoat an insufficient barricade?!” We answer with a choked “nay,” for despite the frigid talons even now questing for exposed, wind-burnable flesh, this is the month of not wanting stuff, of casting off the shackles imposed by capitalism, that foul creature whose pungent exhalations and blank eyes, indifferent if not blind to suffering, haunt our dreams before jostling us awake so that we may desperately exchange legal tender for goods and services and vice versa. This is the month when upon waking from nightmares of far away children cobbling together smart phones and sneakers between furtive sips of the murky contents of their hamster-cage-water-bottle-thingies (careful not to be unproductive but for a moment lest the Dobermans’ snarls intensify, tears stifled because they tend to rile up the Rottweilers), we hop from our beds and roam the bitterly cold streets while not wanting stuff and distributing candy canes to the less fortunate before going inside somewhere and decking the halls with much needed fire-retardant materials. December is truly the jolliest of months.
This month’s recommendation pairs perfectly with this annual festival of generosity-and-contentment-with-current-allotment-of-goods-owned-or-leased. “Want Not” by Jonathan Miles is a beautifully written encapsulation of all that we cherish about this month: the foraging through dumpsters for food in a tiny hopeless effort to stem the awe-inspiring amount of waste we generate on a daily basis, the lengthy meetings wherein we try to agree on the best way to warn future civilizations on the dangers of the huge radioactive dump we’ve left behind for them, the struggle to hide a teen pregnancy from both our parents and ourselves, the witnessing of a fiery crash and taking it as a sign from God that we should abscond to the wilderness for a simple biblical life in which to raise our still-gestating daughter, the constant reminders to our Alzheimer’s stricken father that his wife is dead, and the coiled majesty of what we’ve just left in the toilet, flushed only after a picture is taken to document its grandeur and then be lorded over our IBS afflicted step-daughter. Short of an appearance by Santa in a department store specializing in mangers and colorful lights, I’m not sure how this novel could be more Christmassy.
Miles’ other novel, “Dear American Airlines,” is a book in the form of a letter demanding a refund for a plane ticket, though given that I’m not sure how one could possibly tie frustrations with travel to the holidays, I will not mention it further save to say it is enthusiastically recommended.
There, now why not take a break from hungrily eyeing that unmanned donations bucket outside your grocery store to read some holly jolly fiction from Jonathan Miles? Unless, of course, you’d rather give me stuff. That would be great.
“I have come to the conclusion that life in the Antarctic Regions can be very pleasant” – Robert Falcon Scott.
December 14th marks the 102nd anniversary of one of the greatest milestones in all of polar exploration; on that day in 1911, Roald Amundsen and his fast and small team of Norwegian adventurers and sled-dogs reached the geographic South Pole. Beating Brit Robert Scott and his men (who, doomed from the beginning, used archaic methods such as man-hauling and ponies to transport supplies over the ice), Amundsen won the pole for Norway because of his speed, experience on cross-country skis and command of sled dogs.
Scott, however, left us with a formidable legacy—picture his men bitterly weeping when coming across the Norwegian flag at 90 degrees South. And to his credit, Scott did not give up on his horrific journey to the South Pole. New photographs from Scott’s expedition and journey have only recently emerged, and you can see many of these spectacular images in the book “The Lost photographs of Captain Scott: unseen photographs from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition” by D.M. Wilson.
On the ice simultaneously with Scott and Amundsen was Douglas Mawson’s obscure Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911-1914. David Robert’s “Alone on the Ice” recounts this expedition. AAE’s base was in a place called Cape Denison, which had the unenviable distinction of being at one of the windiest points on earth. Gusts off the Antarctic ice sheet created unreal conditions at Cape Denison. The landscape was one of unceasing white-outs, and daily wind speeds sometimes reached 120 miles per hour. The Australasian Antarctic expedition was unusual, also, for the following fact: “Mawson was completely uninterested in reaching the South Pole. What mattered to the man instead—and what drove the vast ambitions of the AAE—was the urge to explore land that had never before been seen by human eyes, and to bring back from the Southern continent the best science that men in the field might be capable of.” 12 months after landing, Mawson barely survived a three man reconnaissance mission onto King George V Land. That he lived to tell his story is a paean to the human will to survive.
If you would like to read about some of the modern-day explorers, adventures and scientists found in the Southern continent, please see: “Antarctica: an Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent,” by Gabrielle Walker. Contemporary Antarctic bases are staffed by a wacky crew of misfits, men and women alike, who, during the Antarctic winter, party like it’s, well, like it’s 2014. Amidst intense deprivation, incredible hard work and even winter psychosis, scientists and laborers on the Southern continent still soldier on and seem to maintain a healthy sense of humor. And as Walker points out, it is all for a very noble cause: “Antarctica turns out to be a fantastic place to do science; over the years it has yielded extraordinary insights into our world.”
Indeed, 2011-2013 was the 100th anniversary of the first wave of scientific exploration of Antarctica from a large assortment of teams from across the globe. Science (or at least nationalistic ambitions in the name of science) were the main reasons these teams were there. Chris Turney, in his book “1912, The Year the World Discovered Antarctica,“ discusses the five different expeditions that came across the continent during that eventful year: Scott’s British expedition, Amundsen from Norway, Nobu Shirase and his Japanese contingent, a German expedition, and finally Mawson’s attempt. “By 1912 five national teams, representing the old and new worlds, were diligently venturing beyond the edge of the known world . . . Their discoveries not only enthralled the world: they changed our understanding of the planet.”
Back to Amundsen. Stephen R. Bowen’s “The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen,” sketches his tumultuous but successful early career as an explorer, which was book-ended by a tragic end; death on a perilous and ill-advised aircraft rescue mission to the Arctic in 1928. Amundsen never truly enjoyed the spoils of victory: “There was actually a time when British schoolchildren were taught that Scott the Briton was the first person to reach the South Pole, and that Amundsen had cheated in ‘the great race.’ Amundsen’s legacy certainly raised questions about our knowledge of the past.”
Please check out these books (and many more!) if you would like to learn more about Antarctica and the people who have braved this magnificent and unforgiving continent.
“The two women were alone in the London flat.” The opening sentence of Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” let readers know this novel would be something different from much of the literature that preceded its 1962 publication. Here is a story showing women as they see themselves and each other, rather than filtered through the lens of male perspective.
When the British author passed away last month, her best-known book gained renewed attention. “The Golden Notebook” broke new ground with the way it focused on its female protagonists, and also in its structure. Before Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” and David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” Lessing showed how a story-within-a-story motif could work in contemporary literature.
Her book contains a story, “Free Women,” that follows the lives of author Anna Wulf and her best friend, Molly Jacobs, both single mothers approaching mid-life. Interweaved with this narrative are sections from Anna’s various notebooks, each reflecting a different area of her life. The yellow one contains her novel-in-progress, or perhaps novel-in-stasis would be more accurate, as Anna suffers from writer’s block. The black notebook chronicles her thoughts about the time she spent living in Southern Rhodesia in her early twenties, prior to World War II. In the appropriately-colored red notebook she reflects on her involvement with the Communist Party. And she uses the blue one for her personal diary, a recording of day-to-day events. Finally, there’s the golden notebook, in which she tries to piece together her sanity by piecing together the contents of all of the other notebooks into an integrated whole.
“The Golden Notebook” isn’t action-packed. It’s short on car chases and long on conversations between the characters, often frank discussions about the intimate details of their lives. If this sounds uninteresting, I suggest watching the movie “My Dinner With Andre” to see how riveting a couple of hours of conversation can be. Then pick up Lessing’s book and get to know Anna Wulf. Her central struggle is one most of us can relate to, even if we aren’t authors or single parents or members of the Communist Party in the 1950s. The real struggle is how to live authentically, how to bridge the divide between ideals and actions while meeting the practical demands of everyday life.
For me, Thanksgiving has always meant dinner with family and friends. When my husband was in the military, we couldn’t always visit our parents for the Thanksgiving feast, but we always spent it with other people either at our house or theirs. There is something comforting about sharing a meal and connecting with the other people gathered at the table, not just at the holidays but at any time of year.
In “Dinner With the Smileys” by Sarah Smiley, a military wife invited numerous people to take the place of her husband at the dinner table while he was deployed for a year. She invited different people each week and documented these dinners with photos and stories. She started out carefully planning everything but eventually realized mealtime didn’t have to be formal or elaborate. She and her children gained friendships, support and awareness of new concepts, activities and ideas from these experiences. The people who attended the dinners not only experienced a good meal but benefited from good company and conversation. A wonderful community support system was built.
I could relate to the dinner where Sarah’s oldest son was looking forward to asking questions and having a debate with one of their guests who had certain political views. He was excited about carrying on an adult conversation. Fortunately, his questions were welcomed by the adult, and both sides benefited from the conversation. When my sons were younger, they looked forward to being able to join in the adult conversations at Sunday dinners at my parents’ home. They enjoyed the talk while we ate, but they were so proud when they were old enough to contribute their thoughts to the discussions that took place after the children left the table to go play and the adults continued to sit at the table. They learned about current events and what their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles thought about different subjects. Sharing thoughts around the dinner table was fun as well as informative.
Get ideas for strengthening your own family’s ties through talk by picking up “Dinner With the Smileys” or one of these other books that discuss the importance of dinnertime conversation.
- “The Family Dinner” by Laurie David
- “The Secrets of Happy Families” by Bruce Feiler
- “Slow Family Living” by Bernadette Noll
- “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Le Billon
For more information about Sarah Smiley and her family, visit the website www.sarahsmiley.com
The post Bringing Back the Family Dinner: Books to Inspire Home Cooks and Conversation appeared first on DBRL Next.