We are living in an age of inequality and injustice, made worse by an increasingly divisive political atmosphere. Politics aside, some injustices are so ingrained in our society that we are desensitized to them. If they don’t directly affect our lives, we may forget they exist. But, as a society, we should not allow ourselves to forget that injustice is a part of our world and that we cannot sit idly by and allow it to continue.
“[T]he character of our society … cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation.” — Bryan Stevenson, “Just Mercy”
Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer dedicated to representing those on death row and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. He may be the best known advocate for compassion and reform within the American justice system. His book, “Just Mercy,” is a powerful examination of the injustice prevalent in our justice system. Stevenson humanizes prisoners, even those who have spent years on death row. He focuses on the case of Walter McMillan, a young black man on death row for a murder he did not commit. Stevenson relays, in heartbreaking detail, the obstacles and challenges in getting an innocent man off death row, a process that takes years. He reveals the biases that influence decisions and the convoluted workings of the courts which keep innocent people trapped in the system. Continue reading “Literary Links: An Age of Injustice”
Your Classics Maven is excited to share that I have a work in progress, titled* “Classics for Everyone: the Musical.” I’ll outline the concept here.
A group of late authors who have penned works of classic literature decide to check in on earth from the spirit world. They discover their books have been adapted into wildly popular musical theater productions.
Victor Hugo speaks first. “I hear the people sing. They’re songs related to my 1,200+ page novel.” “Les Miserables,” first published in 1862, follows the life of Jean Valjean, a man imprisoned for stealing bread. Later, his attempts to rebuild his life while raising an adopted daughter are complicated by the relentless pursuit of the singularly-focused Inspector Javer. It’s a story of poverty, wealth, justice, vengeance, revolution, redemption, and every other theme Victor Hugo could cram in, plus treatises on engineering. In my script, Hugo learns that readers found his central story so enthralling it has endured to be adapted into many different forms over the years, including a board book. The stage musical, by Claude-Michel Schӧnberg and Alain Boublil, has run continuously on London’s West End since 1985. The movie was released six years ago this month. Continue reading “Classics for Everyone: The Musical”
Here is a quick look at the most noteworthy nonfiction titles being released this December. Visit our catalog for a more extensive list.
“The Point of It All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors” by Charles Krauthammer
For longtime readers and newcomers alike, “The Point of It All” is a timely and much needed demonstration of what it means to cut through the noise of petty politics with clarity, integrity and intellectual fortitude. The book is a reminder of what made Charles Krauthammer the most celebrated American columnist and political thinker of his generation, a look at the man behind the words, and a lasting testament to his belief that anyone with an open and honest mind can grapple deeply with the most urgent questions in politics and life. Continue reading “Nonfiction Roundup: December 2018”
At the end of each year, LibraryReads asks librarians to pick their favorite book out of a pool of those that have been featured throughout the year. This year, we have a great mix, including a memoir, some romance, a little mythology and some suspense. Check out these librarian favorites of 2018.
2018’s Favorite of Favorites:
“Educated: A Memoir”
by Tara Westover
“In her memoir, Westover recounts her childhood growing up in a strict Mormon family, ruled by an erratic father and living off the grid in Idaho. Westover compellingly sketches her years growing up, her relationships with siblings, encounters in the town nearby, and the events that eventually drove her to leave and pursue formal education. For fans of Jeannette Walls’ ‘The Glass Castle.’”
~Andrea Gough, Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA Continue reading “Library Reads: Favorite of Favorites 2018”
“Ice,” a novel from 1967 by Anna Kavan, is both a tale of dystopian societies and of an impending apocalypse. It’s also a cryptic story that compels the reader to keep turning pages even though they might have the nagging feeling they aren’t one hundred percent sure what’s going on.
The plot, such as it is, involves the narrator’s obsession with “the girl,” who he has known since they were young, and his pursuit of her across the globe through increasingly strange and frightening locations. Nation states are devolving into chaos, backsliding into tribalism or dictatorships as the ice engulfing the planet claims them one by one. The ice might be the symptom of a nuclear winter or something else. Continue reading “Know Your Dystopias: Ice”
Given humanity’s collective fondness for seminars on creative writing, we’re all aware that a story needs at least one character with at least one goal. It’s typical for this goal to be something that inspires interest in the reader. Some characters want to defuse a bomb or seduce a sea captain. Some may aim to become the world’s greatest barber or to perform a legendary heist. Others prefer to solve crimes with the aid of baked goods or house pets. Whatever their ambitions, they are usually something fun to read about. This is because reading something entertaining is more entertaining that reading something that isn’t entertaining.
Ottessa Moshfegh’s “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” features zero parakeets with investigative chops and omits even a single mention of a handsome sea captain, instead choosing to focus on its narrator’s goal of sleeping away most of a year. While many may chalk this up as a writer not knowing on which side her bread is buttered, others will realize it’s a Ottessa Moshfegh book, and anything she writes will certainly brim with delights. Certainly there are scores of those who identify with such a goal, and so will turn to the book for guidance on how to eschew a year of one’s waking life. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Ottessa Moshfegh (again)”
As we approach the end of the year, publishing slows down and the number of titles by debut authors starts to shrink, but there are still quite a few exciting books coming out in November. Take a look at the ones below, and then head over to our catalog to see a (slightly) longer list of titles coming this month.
“Empire of Sand” by Tasha Suri
In a land inspired by India lives a young woman descended from the desert spirits. Mehr inherited her power from her mother, one of the Amrithi, a people who are outcasts both desired and reviled for the magic of the desert spirits that runs through their blood. When Mehr draws the attention of the Emperor’s mystics, they coerce her into a marriage that binds her to the mystics’ leader and forces her into a conflict that could bring the wrath of the gods down upon them all.
“My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Ayoola has a very bad habit of killing her boyfriends, causing no end of trouble for her sister Korede, who by now has learned the best way to remove bloodstains and dispose of a body. But when her third boyfriend in a row turns up dead, Ayoola sets her sights on the doctor who just happens to be Korede’s crush. Now, Korede is forced to confront what her sister has become and decide if she can protect the man she loves and her sister at the same time.
Continue reading “Debut Author Spotlight: November 2018”
As another midterm election winds down in America, a bitter partisan spirit remains. Global politics are also in a general state of turmoil and flux, and the library has many books on that subject.
Let’s first take a look at that bastion of European and global stability — Germany. The country’s centrist party has won the vast majority of federal elections, and is considered a major player in European politics partly because of the party’s emphasis on a robust social safety net coupled with moderate cultural stances. “Angela Merkel, Europe’s Most Influential Leader” by Matthew Qvortrup discusses Merkel’s early life in East Germany and her later role as the leader of a unified country amidst a disintegrating European consensus. Continue reading “Literary Links: Global Politics in the 21st Century”
Here is a quick look at the most noteworthy nonfiction titles being released this November. Visit our catalog for a more extensive list.
In her memoir, “Becoming,” a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her — from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it — in her own words and on her own terms. Continue reading “Nonfiction Roundup: November 2018”
Ice caps have melted and most of the planet is submerged. The majority of the surviving human population has relocated to the Arctic, now a land of more moderate temperatures. In London only the tallest buildings rise out of the water and it is overrun with huge, overgrown plants and giant lizards. This is “The Drowned World” by J.G. Ballard, where a warming climate is either pulling life on Earth backwards into a more primitive state or triggering a new stage in evolution.
This book was written in 1962, before terms like global warming or climate change were commonplace, and the climate change in this book does not appear to be human caused. Regardless, the change has been devastating to humanity. What remains of civilization is primarily relegated to a state of survival. The plot follows Dr. Robert Kerans, part of a scientific and military team that has traveled to London to study the flora and fauna that have overtaken the city. It’s unclear how much progress he has made in studying the life populating the lagoons that were once city streets. When the book begins Kerans no longer resides on the research vessel the team arrived on but is staying by himself in one of the half-submerged skyscrapers. He spends the days there hiding from the oppressive heat and being haunted by strange dreams. Continue reading “Know Your Dystopias: The Drowned World”