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The Gentleman Recommends: Arthur Bradford

June 20, 2016

Book cover for Turtle Face and Beyond by Arthur BradfordWhile I’ll recommend the work of a rascal if that rascal’s work is great enough, there are enough brilliant and kind writers out there that I’ve rarely had to resort to that. How do I know if they’re kind? The same way you find out if anyone is kind – you google them, show a picture of them to your neighbor’s hounds, and then carefully observe the hounds’ reactions. With this month’s recommendation, I needn’t confirm the internet’s verdict with a hound test. Arthur Bradford’s gentlemanly nature shows in the big-hearted way he renders his characters and because the good sir is dedicated to helping people. In addition to some film work and two incredible collections of short stories, he’s worked at the Texas School for the Blind, been a co-director for Camp Jabberwocky (a camp for people with disabilities), and he’s currently working in a juvenile detention center. He’s not your typical literary superstar who spends all his time eating figs, drinking brandy and bidding for antique typewriters on eBay.

Bradford writes without the sort of fanciful verbiage, flowery descriptions and unnecessary addenda that this immaculately groomed (wearing the casual cummerbund, because it’s Friday) gentleman so vigorously gravitates toward. His sentences are direct, and they’re hilarious. His characters make mistakes, sometimes constantly, but they’re not trying to hurt anyone, and they’re often trying to help someone.

Turtleface and Beyond” is his most recent collection of short stories, and it’s awesome. The titular Turtleface is an unfortunate young man who, after drunkenly deciding to dive from a cliff to impress his canoeing companions, dives face first into a turtle. Both he and the turtle are in bad shape, but Georgie (the soft-hearted narrator of the entire collection) decides to slap some duct tape on the turtle and nurse it back to health.

There’s a story about an under-dressed man travelling with friend to a wedding. They find a man ailing at the side of the road. He’s been bitten by a snake. He convinces Georgie to suck the poison from his leg. George reluctantly attempts it and ruins an outfit that was already insufficiently formal. There’s one where a reluctant Georgie is cajoled into assisting a boss’s decline into total depravity. There’s one called “The LSD and the Baby.”

When “The Gentleman Recommends” blog post series was first conceived, my primary intent was to highlight books that I like, but I also wanted to further the agenda of the gentleman. That agenda: constant politeness, regular charity, enough hat-tipping/doffing to cause calluses on the fingers you use to tip/doff your hat, always bowing when introduced to someone or when someone you know does something worthy of a bow, and regular snack breaks. I didn’t know that what I really wanted was to recommend a writer who had written a story called “The LSD and the Baby.”

If you like “Turtleface and Beyond,” support the gentlemen’s agenda and buy Bradford’s first collection, “Dogwalker.”

The post The Gentleman Recommends: Arthur Bradford appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The July 2016 List

June 17, 2016

Library Reads Logo

It’s hot and humid, and the LibraryReads recommendations list for July is dripping with twisty, suspenseful and sometimes genre-blending thrillers! Kidnapping, murder on a cruise ship, a mysterious death in an Amish community and a reality show gone seriously awry – there are so many good stories to stow in your beach bag. Here are the top 10 titles publishing next month that librarians across the country love.

Book cover for Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter” by Blake Crouch

“Once on the fast-track to academic stardom, Jason Dessen finds his quiet family life and career upended when a stranger kidnaps him. Suddenly Jason’s idle “what-ifs” become panicked “what-nows,” as the humble quantum physics professor from a small Chicago college gets to explore the roads not taken with a mind-bending invention that opens doors to other worlds. This fun science fiction thriller is also a thoughtful page-turner with heart that should appeal to fans of Harlan Coben.” – Elizabeth Eastin, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY

Book cover for The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware

“An intruder in the middle of the night leaves Lo Blacklock feeling vulnerable. Trying to shake off her fears, she hopes her big break of covering the maiden voyage of the luxury cruise ship, the Aurora, will help. The first night of the voyage changes everything. What did she really see in the water and who was the woman in the cabin next door? The claustrophobic feeling of being on a ship and the twists and turns of who, and what, to believe keep you on the edge of your seat. Count on this being one of the hot reads this summer!” – Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH

Book cover for The Last OneThe Last One” by Alexandra Oliva

“The Last One tells the story of twelve contestants who are sent to the wilderness in a Survivor-like reality show. But while they’re away, the world changes completely and what is real and what is not begins to blur. It’s post-apocalyptic literary fiction at it’s best. With a fast pace and a wry sense of humor, this is the kind of book that will appeal to readers of literary fiction and genre fiction alike. It points out the absurdity of reality television without feeling condescending. As the readers wake up to the realities of a new world, it becomes difficult to put down.” – Leah White, Ela Area Public Library, Lake Zurich, IL

Here is the rest of the July list for your holds-placing pleasure:

The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The July 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Memoirs for Life’s Challenges and Changes

June 13, 2016

Book cover for A Homemade Life by Molly WizenbergI find that the first step in a new challenge for me is often to understand how someone else did it. When I wanted to start running (on purpose!), I didn’t consult a training plan. Instead, I read Haruki Murakami’s  “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” for inspiration. Similarly, when I wanted to cook at home more often, I didn’t check out a cookbook. I read “A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table” by Molly Wizenberg. Sometimes the inspiration works the other way – I read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver because it was a One Read finalist in 2008. It motivated me to eat locally-produced healthful food more often.

Book cover for Wave by Sonali DeraniyagalaOther times, memoirs help me understand an experience that I hope to never have. Sonali Deraniyagala’s “Wave” recounts the deaths of her parents, husband and children in Sri Lanka during the 2004 tsunami. It is unfathomable to me (and probably to most people) how one could survive such loss, and I have recalled Deraniyagala’s strength many times since I read her memoir. Jean-Dominique Bauby fell into a coma following a stroke, and when he awoke, he found that he suffered from locked-in syndrome. He composed “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death” by blinking his left eyelid – the only body part he could move.

Book cover for The Year of Living BiblicallyNot all memoirs are about such serious topics. A.J. Jacobs has made a career out of undergoing challenges and then writing humorously about such challenges. Jacobs has followed the proscriptions and tenets of the Bible (“The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible”), implemented rigorous health routines (“Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection”), volunteered as a subject of science (“The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as An Experiment”) and attempted to improve his intellect (“The Know-it-all: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World”).

There are plenty of memoirs to help you meet your life challenges – whether self-imposed or circumstantial – at your library. These are just a few.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Three Ways to Celebrate Audiobook Month

June 10, 2016

June is audiobook month, as well as the unofficial start of summer travel season. Spice up that long road trip with some good storytelling with a little help from your library!

1. Check out a 2016 Audie Award winner!

Audiobook cover for The Girl on the TrainNamed audiobook of the year, “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins (narrated by Clare Corbett) was last year’s “Gone Girl.” In this psychological thriller, a woman becomes emotionally entangled in a murder investigation because of something she witnesses on her daily commute. Or try the fiction winner, “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah (audiobook narrated by Polly Stone), which follows French sisters Viann and Isabelle as they resist German occupiers during WWII, each in her own way. If nonfiction is more your speed, pick up the winner in history/biography, “A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts” by Andrew Chaikin (narrated by Bronson Pinchot).

2. Entertain kids with audiobooks in the car.

Audiobook cover for Circus MirandusIf you have little ones in the backseat, check out some family-friendly audiobooks. “Circus Mirandus” by Cassie Beasley is reminiscent of Peter Pan and follows Micah Tuttle who, when he realizes that his grandfather’s stories of an enchanted circus are true, sets out to find the mysterious circus — and to use its magic to save his grandfather’s life. In Chris Grabenstein’s puzzle-filled “Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library,” 12-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero, the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello.

3. Suggest an audiobook selection for your book club. 

Hoopla is a service available from your library that allows you to stream and download audiobooks (as well as eBooks, comics, movies and television shows). Sign up for an account (this quick start guide shows you how), download the app and borrow up to 10 items per month. Everyone in your book club can borrow the same book on Hoopla – there’s no limit to how many people can borrow an item at once! Try Ben Fountain’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Haftime Walk,” Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” or “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown.

Whether you are a long-time fan of audiobooks or new to listening to books, take advantage of your library’s large collection of downloadable audiobooks, books on CD and playaways. Give a book a listen this summer!

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Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The June 2016 List

May 23, 2016

Library Reads LogoAh, June is coming! We can smell summer from here. Time to stuff our beach bags with a little romantic comedy, fantasy (featuring librarians, naturally), suspense, memoir and microhistory. Here are the books hitting shelves next month that librarians across the country recommend. Place your holds now to have them in hand for your upcoming vacations or staycations.

Book cover for Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler
“The newest entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare series brings The Taming of the Shrew into the modern world. Kate is stuck in a life taking care of her absent minded professor father and her sister, Bunny. When her father suggests a marriage of convenience in order to secure a green card for his lab assistant Pyotr, Kate is shocked. This is a sweet and humorous story about two people, who don’t quite fit in, finding each other. Tyler’s wonderful writing updates and improves on the original.” – Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Book cover for The Invisible LibraryThe Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman
“Directed by powerful librarians, agents roam alternate realities searching out special volumes for their mysterious library’s collections. Irene is a spy for the library but something is a little off about her current mission; there’s something strange about her new assistant that she can’t quite put her finger on and worse, the requested volume has already been stolen. Cogman’s engaging characters and a most intriguing imagined world are sure to delight readers, especially bibliophiles.” – Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

Book cover for Under the HarrowUnder the Harrow” by Flynn Berry
“Nora leaves London to visit her sister, Rachel, in the countryside often. But this trip is different – a silent house, a dead dog hanging from the railing and so much blood. Nora stays, trying to help the police solve the case. She thinks it might have something to do with the unsolved attack on Rachel when she was just a teen but it could be someone new. This story is thrilling and quietly gripping. We become as obsessed as Nora in finding her sister’s killer — what if he strikes again?” – Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

And here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure!

The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The June 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Valeria Luiselli

May 16, 2016

Book cover for The Story of My TeethThe Story of My Teeth” came into existence the way most novels do: at the behest of a Mexican juice company. But rather than merely extol the virtues of juice while spinning a tale about juice bandits who turned to a life of juice thievery due to being criminally deprived nature’s finest nectar during their formative years, Valeria Luiselli chose to tell a better, stranger tale.

The novel, in addition to being a “collaborative translation” with Christina MacSweeney, was also workshopped with workers at a juice factory. She would send a chapter, factor in their feedback, then write the next chapter. The novel’s quality makes it clear that more writers should seek the feedback of factory workers. Indeed, I’m so inspired by her tactics that I’ve taken the liberty of mailing this post to a number of factories. As you can tell, I’ve yet to hear back, but I imagine their feedback will transform this post into something nearly as magical as her novel, at which point I will use their suggested changes for the 10th anniversary edition of this blog post (“Now in 3-D and edited by factory workers!’).

The Story of My Teeth” is mostly narrated by a man known as “Highway.” Highway opens the novel by declaring himself the world’s greatest auctioneer. He’s also capable, if given sufficient quantities of rum, of imitating Janis Joplin. Regardless of his rum levels, he’s able to balance an egg. Highway is also a fiend for collecting things. As a child, he collected over 10,000 of his father’s nail clippings, stored smartly in envelopes. If this wasn’t enough to have you hooked (I speed-read the novel hoping to find a scene featuring an upright egg), there’s also a scene in which four portraits of clowns menace poor Highway.

I may have opened the book expecting slow, laborious descriptions of teething, lost teeth and their corresponding visits from fairies, and dental procedures, but what I got was much more amusing and interesting, if significantly less fairy-laden. Highway was cursed with bad teeth, so once he has a little money in his pocket, he does what most of us would: buys Marilyn Monroe’s teeth and has them inserted. Soon after, he demonstrates his talents as an auctioneer by auctioning off his own freshly plucked and malformed teeth. He’s able to get a great price by claiming they’re from such famous mouths as Plato’s, Virginia Woolf’s or G.K. Chesterton’s. He gives each tooth its own flash fiction origin story, and the reader is left wishing he had more teeth to auction. Highway also wishes he had more stuff to auction, so he decides to auction off himself, with consequences that include paintings of clowns.

“The Story of My Teeth” does things that make book critics talk fancy. You’ll be questioning the narrator’s trustworthiness. There’s a section of the book that is a timeline. Photographs are included. Authors and philosophers are name-dropped. You’ll wonder whether G.K. Chesterton really damaged his teeth due to his affinity for chewing marbles. But ultimately, you’ll just enjoy this clever novel and redouble your efforts to keep your distance from paintings of clowns.

The post The Gentleman Recommends: Valeria Luiselli appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The May 2016 List

April 25, 2016

Library Reads LogoSupernatural thrillers, compelling historical fiction and a boatload of mysteries? Summer reading must be coming! Enjoy this month’s LibraryReads list of books publishing next month that librarians across the country recommend.

Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman
“Britt-Marie is a woman who is used to her life being organized. But when she leaves her cheating spouse and takes a temporary job as caretaker of the recreation center in the tiny town of Borg, her life changes in unpredictable ways. With its wonderful cast of oddball characters and sly sense of humor, this novel is sure to capture readers’ hearts. Highly recommended.” – Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA

Book cover for The Fireman by Joe HillThe Fireman” by Joe Hill
“’The Fireman’ is a novel that will keep you up reading all night. No one really knows where the deadly Dragonscale spore originated but many theories abound. The most likely is that as the planet heats up, the spore is released into the atmosphere. Harper Willowes is a young, pregnant nurse who risks her own health to tend to others.This is her story and I loved it! This is one of the most creative takes on apocalyptic literature that I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended for all Hill and King fans.” – Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven” by Chris Cleave
“Set during World War II and loosely based on the author’s own grandparents, this was a strikingly honest look at the changes that war creates on a country’s landscape and its people. These changes were so strongly shown by the progressive style of this novel. Bit by bit, we are privy to each character’s transformation. What a great tribute to what they endured. War gives birth to many endings, also to many beginnings. Bittersweet.” – Lori Elliott, Kershaw County Library, SC

Here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure:

The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The May 2016 List appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

400 Years Gone, Shakespeare Continues to Inspire

April 20, 2016

 Verily, A New Hope“Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears.” Thus speaketh Luke Skywalker during a rousing oratory in “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.”

400 years after his death, on April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare continues to inspire new generations of writers. Arguably, everyone writing in English has been influenced by him, as he added so many new words and expressions to the language. Many authors have penned books in direct homage to his work.

Ian Doescher, for instance, has rendered the first six “Star Wars” movies into stories written in Shakespearean style. Iambic pentameter has never been more exciting. Action sequences are narrated by a chorus. Just as in the movies, many of the best lines go to C-3PO. “Fear has put its grip into my wires,” the droid laments. Each volume is a quick read and faithful to the related film’s plot.

Book cover for A Thousand Acres by Jane SmileyA Thousand Acres” by Jane Smiley, is a late twentieth-century retelling of “King Lear.” Smiley’s tale is set on an Iowa farm, where Larry Cook has decided to divide his estate among his three daughters. The story is told from the point of view of Cook’s oldest daughter, Ginny. Unlike Lear’s oldest, Ginny is a sympathetic, mostly non-treacherous character (with the exception of one notable episode.) But much like Lear, Larry seems to be losing his mind, perhaps to dementia, perhaps to long-held guilt. “A Thousand Acres” won multiple awards, including the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.

Any guesses as to which Shakespeare play inspired Matt Haig’s 2007 novel, “The Dead Father’s Club”? 11-year-old Phillip’s father recently died in a car accident. Or was it murder, as his dad’s ghost claims? Phillip is tasked with the job of exacting revenge against his uncle, who appears to be making moves on both Philip’s mom and the family business, a pub called the Castle and Falcon. Sounds a lot like “Hamlet” to me. Except contemporary, funny and — if possible — even more tragic in some ways.

Book cover for The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter PalmerIn “The Dream of Perpetual Motion,” Dexter C. Palmer presents a steampunk version of “The Tempest.” Like Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s play, Harry Winslow finds himself stranded with a character named Miranda. But instead of a desert island, the setting is a perpetually orbiting zeppelin. The zeppelin has been designed by Miranda’s father, Prospero Taligent, who mirrors Shakespeare’s Prospero in his possession of abilities beyond the ordinary, creating mechanical beasts and people to do his bidding.

Shouldst thou further wish to pursue literature inspired by the Bard of Avon, look to the reading list contained in yon catalog.

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: John Wray

April 18, 2016

Book cover for The Lost Time Accidents by John WrayJohn Wray’s latest awesome novel, “The Lost Time Accidents,” begins with its narrator declaring that he has been “excused from time.” Most readers will assume that he is waiting on a tardy chauffeur or a pizza delivery, but this statement is quickly clarified: Waldy Tolliver is literally outside of time. It’s 8:47 and he’s stuck in his aunt’s apartment, a shrine to the act of hoarding. Towers of newspapers threaten to crush careless occupants, and there are rooms divided into smaller rooms via walls of books with openings only large enough to barely crawl through. But this is more than a book about a man with a lot of a lack of time on his hands being stuck in a super cool house. It’s about his family, and their obsession with time, and the Holocaust, and a fairy that visits one half of a profoundly eccentric set of twins, and physics, and pickles, and the narrator’s doomed love affair with Mrs. Haven, and his father’s prolific career as a science fiction writer, and the powerful cult that his science fiction inadvertently spawned, and whether time is a sphere and other stuff too.

(While reviews for this novel are positive, some downright glowing, there are also a few that, while admiring Wray’s ambition and skill, don’t love its length (roughly 500 pages), nonlinear structure and tendency to meander. This gentleman enjoys a good meandering, though, and Wray’s meanderings are spectacular. Without them we wouldn’t get several hilarious summaries of Waldy’s father’s science fiction or the section written in the voice of Joan Didion. Besides, Wray’s genius needs the space to unfurl. The fellow writes sentences like someone that loves doing so and also owns a top-notch brain.)

The family’s obsession with time began with Waldy’s great-grandfather, Ottokar, an amateur physicist and proprietor of a thriving pickling business. He’d figured out the nature of time just prior to being killed by an automobile. His sons, amateur physicists and heirs to a thriving pickling business, search for clues to Ottokar’s discovery, but he’s left behind little more than some ambiguous and absolutely absurdly alliterative notes. (“FOOLS FROM FUTURE’S FETID FIEFDOMS FOLLOW FREELY IN MY FOOTSTEPS” — this reader thought maybe his sons should have thought about that a little longer.)

Ottokar’s sons, Kaspar and Waldemar, take very different paths. Waldemar becomes an anti-Semite (it doesn’t help that Albert Einstein, forever referred to by the family only as “the patent clerk,” gathered the glory he felt was meant for their father) and just generally insane and evil. He eventually becomes known as “The Black Timekeeper” for his time travel-related experimentation on prisoners during the Holocaust. Waldemar believes time is a sphere, and that with enough willpower, one can transcend it. He vanishes just prior to the destruction of his concentration camp.

Kaspar’s path is loaded with love and heartbreak, continent swapping, fatherhood and eventually a lucrative career as a watchmaker. He raises a set of eccentric twins, who cultivate their own obsession with time, encouraged by the fairy that visits one of them every so often. Those twin girls raise Kaspar’s next child, Orson. Orson loves writing science fiction, and though it tends to the erotic because that’s what sells, he’s pleased to be free of his family’s obsession with time. So of course, one of his novels becomes the text that inspires a time-obsessed cult. Orson’s son, our narrator, is compelled to write the story of his family, in part to free himself from his evil uncle’s shadow. Then he gets “excused from time” and has all the time to write he could ever want. So he uses it to write a family history in the form of a very long letter to a Mrs. Haven. He begins by informing her that he has been excused from time.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Memoirs Without the Noir: A Reading List

April 4, 2016

I like reading about real people — what happens to them and how they feel about their experiences. But I don’t want to read harrowing tales of survival. I want something lighter. I’ve read a number of these types of books recently that I recommend.

Book cover for Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlinSome people write about making changes in their lives:

  • In “Hammer Head: the Making of a Carpenter,” journalist Nina MacLaughlen decides she needs a change and answers an advertisement for a carpenter’s apprentice. She discovers she enjoys working with tools like a hammer, a saw and a level.
  • Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” by Maya Van Wagenen was written for teens, but I think adults could learn from it. A middle school girl makes changes to the way she approaches people and how she presents herself to the world.
  • My Kitchen Year” by Ruth Reichl describes how the writer coped during the year following the loss of her job due to the closing of Gourmet magazine. Reichl includes recipes of the foods she cooked during this time.

Book cover for Pardon My French by Allen JohnsonSome people write about experiencing other cultures:

Then there are memoirs from people who entertain us on television or in the movies:

  • In “Wildflower,” Drew Barrymore tells about her life after she met the mentors and role models who helped her become a responsible adult.
  • In “Melissa Explains It All,” Melissa Joan Hart tells about growing up working in the acting business. She knows a lot of other celebrities and reveals some behind-the-scenes moments from “Clarissa Explains it All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”
  • In “You’re Never Weird on the Internet,” Felicia Day tells about being homeschooled and having little interaction with her peers. The Internet was one way she could connect with people. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet also led to problems once she got older.
  • In “Bossypants” by Tina Fey and “Yes, Please” by Amy Pohler, both comedy writers use humor to relate some of their experiences.

Do you have a favorite celebrity? Maybe they’ve written a book. Need inspiration to make a change in your life? Read about other people who tried something different. And yes, we even have memoirs about surviving horrible circumstances if that’s your thing. The library has something for everyone.

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Categories: Book Buzz

What to Read if You Have Hamilton Fever

April 1, 2016

Album cover for the Broadway musical HamiltonA hip-hop-inspired Broadway musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton seems as unlikely as Hamilton’s own historic rise. Born out of wedlock and orphaned as a young child, he struggled out of poverty and became one of our nation’s most powerful political leaders. “Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry,” Hamilton sings in “Hamilton: An American Musical,” created by Lin-Manuel Miranda (composer, writer, lyricist, actor and all-around genius). This show is a smash hit, with even terrible seats going for hundreds of dollars. And just a couple of weeks ago President Obama hosted local students and the cast of “Hamilton” for a daylong celebration of the arts in America.

I came a little late to the “Hamilton” party, but once I heard the soundtrack this spring, I couldn’t stop listening. Or singing. Or rapping. I randomly shout “Lafayette!” or “I am not throwing away my shot!” at my kids, and they grin and dance around because, of course, they’ve heard the soundtrack multiple times by now. Mama cannot get enough. If you haven’t listened to “Hamilton” yet, and you live in Boone or Callaway County and have a library card, you can stream or download the whole thing through Hoopla. Right now! So, go ahead and take a listen. I’ll wait.

book cover for Hamilton by Ron ChernowYou back? Amazing, right? If you want to read the book that inspired this phenomenon, check out the biography “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow, which is as much a story of the birth of our nation as it is an in-depth look at George Washington’s right-hand man, author of the majority of The Federalist Papers and the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.

If an 800-page book is a little more than you want to commit to, how about learning more about Hamilton’s friend and Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette? Miranda has Lafayette rapping at about 100 miles an hour – in a French accent – in his musical, but Sarah Vowell makes him just as entertaining in “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.” With her signature voice and wit, Vowell discusses Lafayette’s nonpartisan influence on a fledgling United States, his relationships with the Founding Fathers and his contributions during the contentious 1824 presidential election.

If your Hamilton fever has given you the history bug, Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph J. Ellis has authored a number of lyrically written books that explore the birth of America. “Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation” analyzes the intertwined careers of the founders of the American republic and documents the lives of John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. The text doesn’t rhyme, though. Sorry. “American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic,” and “His Excellency: George Washington” (“Here Comes the General!”) are other works by Ellis worth exploring.

If all of this revolutionary reading only has you more excited about the musical, starting in September a travelling company will perform the show in Chicago. Road trip?

The post What to Read if You Have Hamilton Fever appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Her Beloved World: Sonia Sotomayor

March 25, 2016

Book cover for My Beloved World by Sonia SotomayorAs we celebrate Women’s History Month and the many women trailblazers who changed our country and the world, the name of an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, stands prominently in my mind. This is not only because she’s the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the highest court of the land, but also because to reach such a position, she had to overcome a lot of hardship and prejudice. In 2013, Sotomayor published her memoir “My Beloved World,” which quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

Born in the South Bronx to a poor Puerto Rican family, little Sonya began showing the strength of her character at the age of nine, when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and had to learn to give herself insulin shots. Despite being raised in a family that hardly spoke English, Sotomayor was an excellent student – she was her high school valedictorian, graduated summa cum laude (the highest of three special honors for grades above the average) from Princeton and, while at Yale, was editor of the Yale Law Review. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice (2009), Sotomayor held a variety of positions: a district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, a partner in a private law firm, a justice of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York and, later, of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

A large part of Sotomayor’s memoir is dedicated to her family – her alcoholic father, her somewhat distant mother, her domineering but loving grandmother, her brother, aunts, uncles and cousins – as well as the island of Puerto Rico, which she first visited as a child and later as an adult.

Sotomayor doesn’t shy away from her difficulties either, as she describes her complicated feelings toward her parents and her unsuccessful marriage. The author’s recollections are clear-eyed and honest, and her American dream story is inspiring not just for women and minorities but for everyone in the country.

The Columbia Public Library will host a book discussion of “My Beloved World” on April 7 at noon, so bring a lunch and join us as we discuss the life of Justice Sotomayor.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The April 2016 List

March 18, 2016

Library Reads LogoThis month’s LibraryReads list of books publishing in April that librarians across the country recommend includes a nonfiction work that wins the award (an imaginary award bestowed by me) for best title ever: “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts.” How could scads of librarians NOT recommend this book? We also have works inspired by Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes, so get ready to be entertained and place some holds on these forthcoming books!

Book cover for Eligible by Curtis SittenfeldEligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld
“Love, sex, and relationships in contemporary Cincinnati provide an incisive social commentary set in the framework of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Sittenfeld’s inclusion of a Bachelor-like reality show is a brilliant parallel to the scrutiny placed on characters in the neighborhood balls of Jane Austen’s novel, and readers will have no question about the crass nature of the younger Bennets, or the pride – and prejudice – of the heroine.” – Leslie DeLooze, Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, NY

Book cover for The Obsession by Nora RobertsThe Obsession” by Nora Roberts
“Readers who love romantic thrillers will be mesmerized by the latest Roberts offering. The suspense kept me up all night! Naomi Carson, a successful young photographer, has moved across the country and fallen in love. She thinks she has escaped her past but instead finds that the sins of her father have become an obsession. The serial killer premise makes it a tough read for the faint-hearted, but sticking with it leads to a thrilling conclusion.” – Marilyn Sieb, L. D. Fargo Public Library, Lake Mills, WI

Book cover for The Murder of Mary RussellThe Murder of Mary Russell” by Laurie R. King
“Worried about Mary Russell? Well, you should be. She’s opened her door to the wrong man and deeply troubling secrets are set to tumble out, rewriting her history and putting herself and the people she loves in a dangerous spot. Once again, King spins a tantalizing tale of deception and misdirection for her readers’ delight and scores a direct hit in her latest Russell-Holmes mystery.” – Deborah Walsh, Geneva Public Library District, Geneva, IL

Here’s the rest of this month’s list with links to the library’s catalog for your holds-placing pleasure!

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Categories: Book Buzz

Audiobooks for Your Spring Break Travel

March 16, 2016

CD cover art for The Road to Little DribblingReading while traveling in a car can be difficult. I had a friend who read magazines and books while we drove to bicycle races when I was a teenager. He was the driver.  Audiobooks didn’t exist then, but I wish they had because this would have avoided many hours of extreme anxiety for me. My daughter claims that the “barf monster comes” if she reads in the back seat of our subcompact Toyota. My wife can read for about .03 minutes in the car without feeling queasy. The answer is audiobooks, whether you are traveling this spring break as a family or alone with your phone and a backpack. Unless otherwise noted, all audiobooks reviewed below are available on CD and/or downloadable mp3 formats through OverDrive.

I can’t begin to explain my joy in discovering, with my little girls, the Harry Potter series of books by JK Rowling. (I know, I know, it is totally lame that I have not read/listened to them until now). I relish each book. If you are taking a road trip with your kids this spring break, I would highly recommend listening to the series. Narrated by the sublime Jim Dale, the audiobook version will quickly immerse you in the world of Hogwarts and Hagrid while you ply the dreary Kansas plains (or on that long flight to the East Coast).   Start with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” especially with younger readers in the car.  Perfect for families.

What better way to pass the time while traveling than listening to a travelogue? Bill Bryson’s new book “Road to Little Dribbling” examines the societal and cultural changes in Great Britain during our relatively young century, throwing in his trademark humor and wit.  A must-listen if you are traveling to the British Isles or, indeed, Europe during the upcoming break.

CD cover art for Meditation for BeginnersCar (or plane and bus travel) can be stressful, chaotic and tedious. A calm mind and Zen attitude can help. Jack Kornfield’s classic “Meditation for Beginners” is an excellent introduction to basic meditation practices.  The audiobook is also filled with relaxing music. Exploring breathing techniques and other basic tenets of the practice, Kornfield’s approach is not to overwhelm the listener with theory but to impart basic tips and techniques to make first attempts at meditation easier.

If you are traveling out West this Spring Break, I would highly recommend what some critics argue is the best book written about the American desert and the Southwest: “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey. The desert comes alive in Abbey’s prose: “Lavender clouds sail like a fleet of ships across the pale green dawn – each cloud, planed flat on the wind, has a base of fiery gold.”  Abbey also sends a clarion call out to the nascent environmentalist movement (the book was written in 1968), arguing that the protection of our native species and wild lands are in many ways the most pressing issues of our time.

Further, the audio version of this book also gives me a chance to mention another format that we have available here at DBRL. “Desert Solitaire” is only available through Hoopla, which is another great source for downloadable audiobooks as well as other media here at the library.

Cover art for Percy Jackson's Greek HeroesIn addition to the fourth or perhaps fifth rereading/re-listening of the first three Harry Potter books that is going on in my family, we have also started reading the fabulous Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. Riordan just put out an excellent companion to his books, called “Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes.” One of the real attributes of this series of books is that, written in Riordan’s entertaining style, they introduce my family to the wondrous world of Greek mythology. I needed a refresher, and my kids are getting a great education without the drudgery that oftentimes accompanies Greek mythology textbooks. “Greek Heroes” is meant to further our education and fills in the gaps that some of the books might have created. Again, highly recommended for family car trips!

What are your listening plans for this spring break?

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Charlie Jane Anders

March 14, 2016

Book cover for All the Birds in the SkyIt feels like I’ve read millions of stories about smart and awesome children who are bullied by their peers and hated, or at least mistreated, by their parents (or, more likely, their legal guardian(s) or orphan master), but eventually they find the right mentor and/or peers and flourish. But when this template is used by a good writer, it remains satisfying no matter how many times it’s been slipped past my…head windows. And Charlie Jane Anders is, at least in this gentleman’s estimation, a great writer. And “All the Birds in the Sky” is a great novel, a new classic in the genre of “extra-special kid(s) with unfortunate upbringing(s) rise above their station and show the world their greatness.”

In order to judge the novel outside of the shadow of novels with similar conceits, I took the groundbreaking and head-breaking measure of attempting to induce amnesia. I tapped my noggin vigorously with all manner of mallets and took a number of tumbles down staircases, and in one regrettably memorable experience, sent myself plunging down my dumbwaiter, only to find that not only had my butler not been removing the now very rotten food scraps, but also one can earn a nasty infection from moldy silverware, and I don’t have a butler, and my dumbwaiter is just a second story window. Alas, the amnesia did not take. My mind, unfortunately, is still as sharp as…one of those, uh, sharp stabby things, the ones you use to affix pictures of your favorite monarchs to your dormitory walls…wallstabbers? Yes, wallstabbers.

Anyway, with my memory still as simultaneously boundless and confining as a prairie town, I am unable to judge “All the Birds in the Sky” without the knowledge of somewhat similar works coloring my perception. But, after further consideration, in what is a cruel twist given all I went through in order to provide a recommendation that would shatter all notions of what a recommendation could be and also my orbital bones, “All the Birds in the Sky” is a singular work.

For one, there are two protagonists. And the melding of science fiction, fantasy, comedy and action is so smooth, one would be forgiven for forgetting, even without a freshly battered head, to comment on its smoothness. Anders’ delivery and gift for jump-cutting to punchlines induce bountiful mirth.  Also, I can’t think of another novel that features a school for witches. The school, Eltisley Maze, is fantastically imagined, and I doubt another author could, even with, like, seven whole volumes, create as fascinating a setting as Anders has here in just a few pages. It’s so cool. Go read the book, which describes the school, which I will not do.

The story begins with a girl saving a bird and learning she can talk to it. Soon she meets a boy who has followed cryptic instructions from the Internet to build a time machine capable of propelling the wearer two seconds into the future. This is a small aid in his quest to avoid bully fists, but using it too much will give the user a tremendous headache, as will wrapping your entire body save for your head in blankets and rolling down the steps of an amphitheater.

Difficulties abound. In order to get witchy again, Patricia must resort to taking unheard of amounts of spice in her food. Laurence’s parents insist he must go outside more. The guidance counselor at their school is actually an assassin (from an ancient order, naturally) plotting the pair’s demise. (To his credit, he’s only doing so because of a vision of apocalyptic catastrophe that featured the two children as adults at its center.) The children drift apart, though Patricia still converses with the artificial intelligence that is devouring Laurence’s closet space.

The novel really hits its highest…springy wheel thing with teeth that attaches to its wheel siblings to produce movement…when it jumps ahead to their early adulthood. Patricia is a witch who spends her time fixing wrongs, from turning a very bad man into a turtle, to making a heroin addict’s skin impervious to needles. Laurence is working as part of a billionaire’s think tank to create a wormhole that will transport a portion of the earth’s population to a fresh planet before this one is irrevocably torched. Also, this portion of the novel is home to the coolest tablet computer anyone has ever imagined, even if it is shaped like a…thing you use to scrape sounds out of a guitar.

With the duo at the height of their powers, and Patricia and her coven keen to save the world, and Laurence and his think tank keen to save some of the people on the world, even if the wormhole ray blows this one up in the process, one sees how the assassin’s apocalyptic vision may come to pass. Read the book and see if it does. Now I’m going to see a…person that puts cold metal on you to check for sickness.

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Sound of Gravel: Memoirs of Survival

March 7, 2016

Book cover for The Sound of GravelWhen asked about the best early training for a writer, Ernest Hemingway reportedly answered, “An unhappy childhood.” This snappy reply may hold more than a bit of truth if we take as evidence the number of captivating memoirs written about growing up in (and surviving) extraordinary circumstances.

The Sound of Gravel” by Ruth Wariner is one such memoir. In this intense and moving account of the author’s coming-of-age in a polygamist Mormon colony-bordering-on-cult, Wariner describes living on a rural Mexican farm as one of her father’s more than 40 welfare-dependent children. She recounts the extreme religious beliefs that haunted her daily life, the abuse she and her siblings suffered and her escape after a devastating tragedy.

At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 19,  Wariner will talk about her book at the Columbia Public Library. Copies of “The Sound of Gravel” will be available for purchase and signing.

Want more memoirs of survival? Read on!

Book cover for Look Me in the Eye by John Elder RobisonLook Me in the Eye” by John Robison details an abusive childhood made more complicated by undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. This memoir describes Robison’s difficulties communicating and the resulting social isolation, his discovery of his mechanical aptitude, his struggle to live a “normal” life, his diagnosis at the age of 40 with Asperger’s and the dramatic changes that have occurred since that diagnosis. Robison’s understated humor and fascinating journey (he designed flaming guitars for the band Kiss and founded a successful high-end car repair business) make this an enjoyable, moving and memorable read.

Book cover for A House in the SkyTo mentally escape abuse, young Amanda Lindhout lost herself in the pages of National Geographic magazine. When she turned 18, she left home, determined to see the world. Lindhout became an experienced backpacker, and her memoir “A House in the Sky” (co-written by Sara Corbett) details a harrowing story centered around Lindhout’s kidnapping, along with an Australian photographer, by Somali Islamist rebels. The two were held prisoner for more than 15 months, and Lindhout’s account of the ordeal is compelling, dramatic, disturbing and ultimately an incredible testament to her will to survive and how the worst imaginable circumstances can inspire something good.

Book cover for The Tender Bar by J.R. MoehringerThe Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer details his relationships with the father stand-ins he found at Publicans, a local bar and his uncle’s favorite haunt. Poor, and living with his single mother, he bonds with the bar’s regulars who form “one enormous male eye looking over my shoulder” as Moehringer grows up, taking him on outings, teaching life lessons and providing a refuge when relationships fail. This reflective, heart-warming book reminds us that home can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

For even more memoirs about survival and resilience, check out our book list in the library’s catalog.

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Categories: Book Buzz
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