Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Some people say we are living in a "pluralistic age." What does that mean? Religious pluralism is the view that all religions have some truth to them; that all religions are valid paths to the same transcendent reality. This is one position, among many, to the variety of religious experience.
John Hick's Interpretation of Religion is, in my experience, one of the best arguments for this position. Drawing on a vast knowledge of the major religious traditions and texts, and a relevant philosophical understanding of the distinction between the world of experience and the worldbeyond experience (via Kant), Hick suggests that because religious concepts are beyond experience, it makes sense that they are so different and varied and experienced in different ways.
On a more relevant note, KPL does not have this book; however, KPL does have this book because of the great service we have in MeLCat. See the director Ann's new blog to see how you can stand up for such a crucial service to Michigan libraries.
An Interpretation of Religion
Aug. 24, 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted in Italy. The cities Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried in tons of volcanic ash and pumice, and an estimated 20,000 people perished. The cities remained buried for centuries and were incredible archaeological time capsules when they were discovered.
Aug. 24, 2006 Pluto was declassified as a major planet by the International Astronomical Union, the authority on all matter planetary. According to a July 27, 2009 article by Steve Battersby in the NewScientist, after days of arguments at the general assembly of the IAU in Prague delegates voted for a new definition of the term “planet” that excluded Pluto. Pluto was downgraded to a new category of dwarf planet. The decision caused public outrage as astronomers pointed out that only 4 percent of the IAU’s 10,000 members took part in the vote! Many astronomers hope that future discoveries concerning our solar system as well as a better definition of the status of “planet” will bring about greater understanding and a reinstatement of Pluto as a planet.
Aug. 27, 1883 Mount Krakatoa an island volcano in what is now Indonesia erupted. The violent explosions from the eruption destroyed two thirds of the island and huge deadly tsunami waves that swept across the region killing an estimated 36,000 people. The Krakatoa volcanic eruption was one of the largest recorded in history and had a huge global effect. The explosion was heard in Australia and the shock wave was registered by barometers in England.
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, the 15th offering from author Janet Evanovich that features the less-than-proficient bond enforcement officer Stephanie Plum, is laugh-out-loud funny!
All of the familiars are back: Ranger, Lula, Grandma Mazer, Morelli, Connie, and Uncle Vinnie, plus the usual collection of parents, dogs, and others that make up the whirlwind around Stephanie Plum. Evanovich adds more characters, unique to this novel. Stanley Chipotle, of the Chipotle Barbecue Sauce fame, is the first of the unfortunate newbies to lose something important…his head! As in decapitated! Lula witnesses the deed, and becomes a target, a problem that plagues her throughout the story.
With Stanley out of commission, Grandma Mazer, Lula, and Connie band together to “create” their own prize-winning barbecue sauce so that they can enter the contest and WIN a lot of money! Expect the expected: disastrous results with the sauce experiment. Picture ribs cooked to within an inch of their “lives,” chicken broiled beyond recognition, even to someone with Cajun blackened cooking skills; a blown up barbecue grill…the list goes on!
Some of the review journals think that Evanovich has run her Stephanie Plum character way past her prime. I don’t happen to think so. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen is one of the best Plum tales so far. Be prepared to laugh long and hard at the antics in this one!
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
So, summer’s almost over, and you’ve given up on "beach reading," as the weather seems set on staying cool. Now, you say, you’re looking for some deeper, brain-challenging reads to get in the mind-set for “back to school?”
Have you noticed that you can access lists of award-winning books from KPL’s catalog? For example, you could find the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners, all the way back to The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington, published in 1918 (when this prize was named Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.) Or choose to place a hold on the most recent winner, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge.
To find your way to the lists, simply go to the catalog, see the lists of award-winners on the left, under “Recommended Reading,” and choose a category. We have all our holdings posted in reverse chronological order. At the bottom of the lists, you’ll see “More recommended reading lists.” Go ahead, click on it, and see how many more categories of award-winning books you can access at your local library!
Adventure on the high seas and action galore in the 18th Century await you. There is only one catch…Temeraire is a dragon. Naomi Novik has created an alternate reality where dragons are real. His Majesty’s Dragon introduces you to Temeraire and from there you are hooked. History buffs who enjoy the Napoleonic wars will love the tight plotting and believable characters with a slight twist – dragons as Air Corps. I can’t wait for the next in the series due out in October. The series in order includes: His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory, and Victory of Eagles: a novel of Temeraire.
His Majesty's Dragon
For me, Siddhartha is one of those books that had a profound effect on me the first time I read it. Hesse is a master of philosophy and religion, both East and West; a master of putting a world-view into a character; and a master at condensed, meaningful prose--he includes everything essential, and leaves out the rest. Siddhartha is the story of a man devoted to seeking truth and wisdom at all costs. He becomes a wanderer. He finds himself contemplating, challenging, and encorporating the eastern philosophy and religion that he is born into; he learns from every mode of life and every person that he comes across. About the human potential, Siddhartha says:
"...the potential Buddha already exists in the sinner; his future is already there. The potential hidden Buddha must be recognized in him, in you, in everybody."
And after all of his searching, we find this lesson:
"Here is a doctrine at which you will laugh. It seems to me, Govinda, that Love is the most important thing in the world. It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect."
Many incredibly unique and special places in the United States have been preserved through our national parks. The Library currently has a great display about our national parks on the first floor to pique your curiosity. Did you know that there are 58 national parks and 333 national monuments and historic sites in the U.S. (wow)? The birth of the idea of our national parks to preserve, manage, and protect these places and the evolution of the parks system is fascinating to read about, and the Library has many wonderful materials and resources available for you to explore. For instance, check out the library catalog for more information on President Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Gifford Pinchot who were all instrumental in the creation of the national parks. Want some travel information to visit the parks? Check out KPL’s travel collection. Oh, and the Library also has guides and pamphlets for various Michigan National Parks and Forests as well as handbooks and pamphlets for many U.S. National Parks and Forests up in the second floor’s reference shelves. We have the magazine National Parks, too. Maybe once you look into our national parks and reserves, you want to learn more about conservation, environmentalism, or the United States National Parks Service. Yes, we have information on those topics as well. Oh and FYI, well-known film director Ken Burns has completed a documentary on our national parks titled The National Parks: America’s Best Idea which will be airing in September on PBS and the KPL has an order in place for this also. It looks like a fabulous series. Happy Exploring!
The National Parks: Our American Landscape
I'm a big fan of the TV show "World's Deadliest Catch" - about crab fishing in the Bering Sea.
I love the show for many reasons, not the least of which is that my son is a salmon fisherman in Alaska, fishing in the Bering Sea! While salmon fishing is not as hazardous as crab fishing, he has still had his brushes with death.
Time Bandit: Two brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs is a fascinating look at the industry from the fisherman of one of the boats profiled on the TV series. If you have watched the show, than you have seen the authors - Andy and Jonathan Hillstrand - at work.
As he says in the book "On the Bering Sea, every fisherman knows what kills. We understand that, for whatever reason, if we enter the water unprotected, we are dead. A crewman will be irretrievably wounded by hypothermia in four or five minutes,,, the cold will numb his extremities....we are not afraid of the sea; we are terrified of the water."
So if you want to live vicariously the life of a Bering Sea fisherman - than delve into this book and enjoy!
Time Bandit: Two brothers, the Bering Sea, and one of the worlds deadliest jobs
Fans of the TV series Lost are fanatical not only because the show keeps you constantly guessing and hungry to watch the next episode, but because there are deep philosophical themes peppered throughout. Who is John Locke, and how does he relate to the 17th century philosopher that heavily influenced our constitution? And then he becomes Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarianism, which makes more sense insofar as the character will do anything that the island demands ("Boone was a sacrifice the island demanded"). My favorite, however, is the character Desmond Hume representing David Hume's idea that the self is nothing but a loose connection of memories and sensations. Further, what does Rousseau have to do with the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau? And of course you can't have an epic drama without the age-old struggle between fate and free will, the relationship between faith and reason, and...smoke monsters coming from the forest.
Lost and Philosophy
Alice Hoffman’s new book, The Story Sisters, is true to form for the author – mystical and strange with compelling characters and complicated relationships. Their “stories” bump up against reality and the author’s imagery creates a beautiful, haunting, sad tale, but the reader ultimately recognizes the possibility of redemption through love.
Although I found The Story Sisters a little more difficult to read than some of Hoffman’s other books, it was worth the effort. If you are not familiar with her work and want to try her out you might want to read one of her earlier novels first, try Practical Magic (made into a movie in 1998, starring Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock and Stockard Channing) or Turtle Moon. They are also beautifully written and also intriguing with elements of magic, but are not so dark.