Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Faces of the American Farmer

I rarely borrow coffee-table books from the library---they’re just too clunky---but a great review of American Farmer: The Heart of our Country compelled me to lug it home and dig in.

Photographer Paul Mobley grew up in Michigan but has spent most of his career as a commercial photographer in New York City and other urban hubs. While hanging out at a coffee shop during an R and R visit to Glen Arbor, he got acquainted with some locals who, eventually, allowed him to take their pictures. These casual photo’s of northern Michigan farmers sparked the four-year project that followed.

American Farmer is the culmination of Mobly’s 100,000 mile journey through 37 states, visiting 200 farms and taking 30,000 photographs. It’s at once an artistic masterpiece and sociological treasure. Interviews with the featured farmers, transcribed into engaging narratives by Katrina Fried, accompany the stunning visuals---150 in total.

Mobley and Fried have captured the spirit of American men and women whose arduous work and devotion to the land are often overlooked or under-appreciated. The striking faces and remarkable stories of farmers old and young illuminate a way of life that is at the core and heart of the American fabric. This big, heavy book is truly worth its weight!

View the video: Experience the Making of "American Farmer" (


American Farmer:  The Heart of our Country

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

James and Eamon are going to have a whole week at Nature Camp!  What could be more fun than that?  This hilarious picture book tells two complementary stories . . one with words, the other with the energetic artwork.  Don't miss the penguins!  A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, by Marla Frazee, won a Caldecott Honor Award as one of the best-illustrated books for children for 2008. 



A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

A Visit to the Place of My Nativity

One of the privileges a library worker has is seeing the new books as they come in. This book of anecdotes about Bronson Methodist Hospital, by retired employee Dick Vander Molen, caught my eye recently. When I browsed through it I discovered an amusing story about the pediatrician who tended to me in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I took a copy to my dad to show him this story and he ended up wanting to read the whole book, which he did, saying he enjoyed the stories about many local people, some of whom are his acquaintances. Anyone interested in the history of Bronson or in the people who worked there in past years will enjoy this collection.


The Bronson I knew : gone but not forgotten
David D.

This Week in Science History

The world of science has always been amazing to me! I am constantly fascinated whenever I look at science from an historical perspective. There have been so many remarkable events, discoveries, and people in this subject area that I feel should be duly noted and are well worth reading more about. In an effort to bring more attention to the many, many science in history topics,  I am going to highlight a few each week that you may wish to learn more about from the library’s science collection. I hope they peak your interest and curiosity.

This week in science history:

January 27, 1851 John James Audubon died. Audubon, an ornithologist, artist, and naturalist made his goal, in 1820, the publication of an anthology of his life drawings. He traveled the Great Lakes as well as the Ohio River in his passion for exploring and drawing birds.

January 27, 1880 Thomas A. Edison received a patent (#223,895) for his electric incandescent lamp. The pattern of electron flow from one electrode to another which was discovered during the two years of research by Edison and his laboratory assistants, laid the groundwork for the electron tube.

January 30, 1948 Wilbur Wright died. Wright and his brother, Orville, were American pioneer aviators who invented the first powered airplane named Flyer. Their twelve second flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was the birth of American aviation.



The Wright Brothers: First in Flight



Giving and Getting

My curiosity was sparked, when One Red Paperclip fell off the shelf into my hand.  Blogger Kyle MacDonald documents how he traded one red paperclip on Craigslist--and later on his own blog—for something “bigger and better” each time he traded. Eventually, his trades earned him a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan.
MacDonald’s quest wasn’t just about gaining material goods, but also about linking people up with things and experiences that mattered to them--and meeting plenty of interesting folks along the way. 

If MacDonald’s story intrigues you, consider trades on the Kalamazoo area Craigslist, or you can join the local “reuse group,” Portage-Kalamazoo Freecycle™,” and simply give away what you don’t need.


One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achievd His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office Supply

History Through Art

“Explore the history of America—its discovery and exploration, its social and economic upheavals, its life in times of war and peace—through the works of its most accomplished artists.”—From the book jacket

This wonderful, coffee table-sized book will introduce you to both our national history as well as the great art that colorfully echoed its time and provided meaning and voice to a nation and its evolutionary trajectory.


America, a history in art : the American journey told by painters, sculptors, photographers, and architects

Eat your vegetables!


Are you an adventurous eater or a fussy eater? Do you welcome new flavors or analyze what’s before you? Do you drive past that fast food restaurant and think how much easier it would be to get a bucket to go than try to fix a healthy chicken dish? Children from about age two try to assert their independence in various ways including rejecting foods they think they don’t like. What’s a parent to do? Puree squash and add it to macaroni and cheese, cauliflower puree with scrambled eggs, broccoli puree in chicken nuggets are all ideas shared by Jessica Seinfield in Deceptively delicious: simple secrets to get your kids eating good food. Annabel Karmel shares recipes that are quick and tasty for kids in The fussy eaters’ recipe book. Michael van Straten and Barbara Griggs write about Super foods for children introduces children to healthy eating for life. These and others are just some books that may give you ideas for more enjoyable meals.


Deceptively delicious
Joanna L

Man in the Dark

“It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.” From City of Glass 

The novels of Paul Auster have been described as Hitchcock-like in their capacity to elicit within a reader, feelings of haunting dread and suspense. Auster’s mysterious and deeply philosophical books work toward rupturing the notion that a reader can faithfully know both the author’s creative intent or that of his enigmatic characters' search for meaning. Auster’s characters tend to be persons caught up within a conflicted situation (some of whom have the name of Paul Auster) where no one is who they say they are and where even the objectives or motivating factors of the main character are often as insecurely known. Terms like ‘postmodernist noir’ have been called upon to describe many of his works and while each book takes on a special life of its own (a dog as narrator), there does exist an Auster-like quality or tone found only in his dark and highly stylized vision. For those looking to delve into his work for the first time, may I suggest trying the New York Trilogy, composed of three unrelated novellas that can be read as individual works but which were later published in a single volume.

But don't just stop with his novels. The Art of Hunger is a wonderful collection of essays (on Knut HamsunWilliam BronkSamuel Beckett, and more), interviews and prefaces.


Man in the Dark

Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

As a librarian, I love it when a patron recommends a book they found particularly interesting.  At the recent Oshtemo Library Book Group, we were discussing The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls.  One of the ladies in the group commented that it reminded her of The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio: How my mother raised 10 kids on 25 words or less – a book the group had done several years ago.

This book, published in 2001 and authored by one of the woman’s 10 kids is a great read! It tells the story of the hardscrabble life this family led in the 1950’s  and 60’s, and the story of how their mother entered and won many of the contests offered by companies for jingles, advertising slogans or poems. The book was also made into a movie, which KPL also owns.

 It’s a story of optimism, and luck in the face of  circumstances that might turn others to despair.  The author does not look for pity, but in fact is proud that she and all her brothers and sisters have turned out to be happy, productive members of society. And the story of how her mother won so many contests – often just in the nick of time – makes for a really fun book!


Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio




That Book Woman

Written by Heather Henson, this new David Small illustrated picture book tells the story of the Pack Horse Librarians who served the people of Kentucky's Appalachia beginning in the 1930s. Through the rain, through the snow, up the side of the mountain – she comes in all weather every two weeks to lend books. Unlike his sister, big brother doesn’t see the value in the “chicken scratch” the librarian brings until, recognizing all the effort “that book woman” goes through to bring books to the family and the joy the books bring his sister, he takes a look himself. While a packhorse bookmobile may seem antiquated compared to KPL's bookmobile service, mules in Venezuela and camels in Northeastern Kenya are used to convey books to more remote communities in the present day. Check out Masha Hamilton's The Camel Bookmobile, a novel based around library service via camel in Kenya.


That Book Woman
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