Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
This week marks another observing of Banned Book Week, an annual American Library Association program that draws attention to historical and contemporary efforts to outlaw, burn or otherwise restrict the free and democratic flow of information, ideas and artistic imagination. Read or listen to such an attempt to ban The Grapes of Wrath from libraries during the 1930’s at National Public Radio and how in the wake of such restrictions, the ALA established the Library Bill of Rights.
Obscene in the extreme : the burning and banning of John Steinbeck's The grapes of wrath
This is a wonderful memoir of a daughter recounting her mother’s life as she knew her growing up, and then piecing together the mother’s many secrets before being married, which ultimately led to the mother’s downfall.
Annie Farrell was a beautiful woman growing up in rural Maine during the Depression era, in a poverty stricken family of six other children, an alcoholic father, and a mother who died young. The children many times had to fend for themselves and Annie’s dream was to leave Maine and go to New York City and become a model. The journey the daughter takes to learn about her mother starts with finding her birth certificate and realizing her name wasn’t Annie afterall. She then relies on the memories of the other surviving children who help her understand the mother she thought she knew. She also needs to delve into her father’s background, who was a decorated World War II hero, by tracing his roots back to Ireland. It ‘s great story of a family coming together to provide the needed information for the author, Beth Harpaz, to write this book about her mother she finally understands.
Finding Annie Farrell
The first topic of conversation at my dinner table is now, What did you read today? I just love seeing the pride and excitement in my son's eyes as he fills me in on the hot titles in his kindergarten classroom. Here are his top picks from the first month of school. Check them out to read with your child: Stellaluna, If I Ran the Zoo, Wemberly Worried, The Tiny Seed, Corduroy, and There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.
I love the old Dick Francis books. He centers his mysteries around some sort of horse racing theme in England, probably because Dick Francis is an ex-jockey turned author. What Dick Francis does well is describe injuries, the pain, the aches, the hard to stand or sit down. It’s not like in the movies where Bruce Willis jumps out of a car and lands on pavement tearing himself up, gets patched up by the hospital and a few hours later removes the sling and performs impossible physical action. Dick Francis characters do try and ignore the pain but he also has them hobble about with a walker or have to get a ride as they can no longer drive a car with a broken foot. I guess growing up with a father who became crippled and suffered through a lot of the same rehabilitation trails and tribulation as described it makes the book feel more real. In this book Come to Grief we have Sid Halley, ex-jockey who turned detective after a bad fall in which a horse landed on his hand rendering it useless. Sid has to find who has been cutting off the hoofs of horses. We get a glimpse into the life of one who has to cope with a prosthetic hand, learn of his nightmares from his own accident as horse after horse loses his limb, a feeling that Sid can easily relate to.
Come to Grief
Do you ski, hike, bike, fish, hunt or camp in Michigan? We have the guides for you! Scenic drives, harbors and wildlife viewing are included. Dividing the state north and south, we have two new reference atlases that include in maps, text and pictures, the pleasures of outdoor life in Michigan.
Southern Michigan all outdoors atlas & field guide and Northern Michigan all outdoors atlas & field guide are two books which can be found on the atlas cases on the second floor of the Central Library.
Northern Michigan all-outdoors atlas & field guide
NOVA’s program on black holes last night was absolutely fantastic! The world’s foremost experts on the subject of black holes employed an array of flashy visual models, theoretical prognosticating and simplified analogies to describe a very complex phenomenon for the viewers. I was struck by how much information scientists have compiled on this mysterious yet incredibly powerful occurrence as well as the kinds of advanced technological devices experts use in amassing their data. NOVA has yet again proven that science can be presented in an entertaining and informational manner without losing any of its power to astonish and build knowledge for the everyday viewer.
Death by black hole : and other cosmic quandaries
… check out the teen novel My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park, by Steve Kluger. The story’s perspective switches among three main characters, TC, Augie and Ale, who narrate the tale through letters to special people and transcripts of instant messaging conversations.
I especially appreciated two aspects of the story. TC befriends a 6-year old orphaned boy, and in doing so, he comes to grips with the loss of his own mother at a similar age. Meanwhile, Augie freaks out about falling in love with another boy in his school – well, mainly about being in love, period – but his family and friends don’t freak out about it, and show him gentle teasing, love and acceptance instead. All along, there are plenty of funny and touching moments, and each of the three characters grows and changes as a result of their friendships with each other and their connections with family and the larger world.
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park
Author William P Young originally wrote The Shack as a gift for his six children. The family had recently experienced a period during which his brother, mother-in-law, and niece died within a six month period, and this book was meant to help them understand and cope with unexpected loss from a faith persepective.
In it, a father grieving his murdered daughter, meets God in the form of a jolly African-American woman, Jesus as a Jewish workman, and the Holy Spirit as an Asian Woman. The author eventually gave 15 copies of the book to his friends, who all encouraged him to publish it. However, unable to find a publisher, he formed Windblown Media, expressly to publish the book.
Now over one million copies have been sold, and it even debuted at # 1 on the New York Times trade paperback bestseller list.
This is an unusual book, but it has all the elements of suspense, interest and a novel ending to keep you reading until the last page.
When, through a review, I discovered the premise of this square-shaped volume by James Lileks, I was offended. The 1950s is one of my favorite historical periods to study, and I simply could not countenance someone making fun of the well-intentioned people who lived during that time. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist picking it up and looking at it. I ended up reading the whole thing during my dinner hours here at the library (of all times!). From the cover: "WARNING: This is not a cookbook. You’ll find no tongue-tempting treats within – unless, of course, you consider Boiled Cow Elbow with Plaid Sauce to be your idea of a tasty meal. You too will look at these products of post-war cuisine and ask: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?” I laughed all the way through this book, sometimes out loud, as did my Ohio sister and her husband, to whom I loaned this literary and photographic tour de force.
Gallery of Regrettable Food
Vladimir Mayakovsky’s titanic voice made him the first Soviet “rap star” and “literary bad boy” to emerge after the Russian revolution of 1917. His avant garde experimentations with futurist poetics, his hyperbolic style of emotionally charged verse, his romantically intense yet doomed love affairs, and his descent from “poet laureate of the revolution” to disillusioned apologist for a flawed social experiment have all been lovingly compiled in “Night Wraps the Sky”, a book of writings about his life and work in addition to newly translated versions of his prose. For those of us who discovered and were drawn to Mayakovsky’s electrically charged verse that gave voice to both lyric heartache and the spirit of revolutionary possibilities while in the midst of our angst-filled college years, this is the book we’ve been waiting for. This eclectic compilation of his work and chronicles of his life serves as a wonderful companion to lovers of poetry who gaze across their book shelves and see inscribed upon the spines of books the names Rimbaud, Ginsberg, O’Hara, Rexroth, Pasternak, Akhmatova, Plath, and Brodsky.
Night wraps the sky : writings by and about Mayakovsky