Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Why Architecture Matters

To me few subjects, perhaps with the exceptions of Haute Couture or Contemporary Art, lend themselves so seamlessly to a certain type of verbose and overinflated writing style more than architecture. Yet Paul Goldberger’s Why Architecture Matters, a book focused entirely on writing about buildings, avoids all of the bombast and self-consciousness affectation that can plague writing about architecture and yet passionately and eloquently discusses the subject in a very satisfying and readable way. Goldberg, who many may know from his role as the architecture critic for the New Yorker, clearly has a deep understanding of buildings and what makes them great, or not. But it’s his refusal to show any overt favoritism toward a particular architectural style or period and to instead use his engaging conversational style to discuss the subtle and ever shifting criteria that we use to discuss and judge a buildings worth that matters about Why Architecture Matters.


Why Architecture Matters

The Words of Gandhi

I've been meaning to read about Gandhi for a while now. And then I thought to myself: why read about Gandhi when I can read Gandhi himself? Isn't that funny how we do that all the time?--instead of reading a primary source, we read a longer, more confusing, interpretation of that source? Here Attenborough arranges Gandhi's sayings in a simple way, under the headings "daily life," "cooperation," "nonviolence," "faith," and "peace." Here are some of my favorite passages:

"Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice. But true nonviolence is an impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness."

"It is no nonviolence if we merely love those that love us. It is nonviolence only when we love those that hate us...[l]ove of the hater is the most difficult of all. But by the grace of God even this most difficult thing becomes easy to accomplish if we want to do it."

"All of your scholarship, all your study of Shakespeare and Wordsworth would be vain if at the same time you did not build your character and attain mastery over your thoughts and your actions."

"I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and nonviolence are as old as the hills."


The Words of Gandhi


Of all the sensory powers that humans share, the sense of sight has been most admired. In science, it has been studied much more than taste, or touch. In religion, spiritual sight is the preferred metaphor to use (have you ever heard of someone with spiritual touch, or taste?) Advertising needs to know how we see. Philosophers have been obsessed with the "problem" of how we see the external world. Art is largely visual, and the beautiful is mostly linked with the visual.

What is so special about sight? As I just finished writing a paper on a philosopher's theory of visual perception, I must admit that I too have been caught with the fascination of sight. If you haven't, read this book!


A Natural History of Seeing

People are Reading the Constitution

The Law Library has free copies of the United States Constitution, which, I'm happy to say, have lately been flying off the shelves. In fact, there seems to be a revived interest in our most cherished founding document, mostly known for its magnificent "add-ons" (the Bill of Rights). Whether this interest comes from new political issues or new social problems, we should all think about what the Constitution means at some point. It defined the birth of our nation; it set the conditions for the "American experiment"; it starts with the word "we." Martin Luther King called it a "check" that needs "cashing," a "promissory note" that needs to be performed:

"When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (read here).

Go to for commentary, great historical notes, and full text. Or drop by the Law Library and read our books on Constitutional Civil Rights, or First Amendment Law, or The State and Religion.


The Constitution of the United States of America



Rust Never Sleeps

I found Jennifer Egan’s new novel A Visit from the Goon Squad an engaging pleasurable read. Great prose mixed with a dash of postmodern structuring, for me, kept it flowing and interesting right to the end. Set against a backdrop of the rock music business with characters that, if not for Egan’s talent, might veer too far into indie rock cliché the novel handles its themes (ageing hipsters, fading glory, the corruption inherent in much of modern culture, & more) with such deft storytelling that they never really hit you until you've completed the novel, even though you've enjoyed it all the way. The book is in essence a series of related and interconnected chapter-long stories that are each great taken alone, but it is the way in which the whole story reveals itself bit by bit and the charecters become more fully formed as each chapter flashes forward and back through the collective timeline of the ensemble of characters that makes this such a great novel, and what marks Egan as such a talented writer.


A Visit from the Goon Squad

The Everything Pressure Cooker Cookbook

If a pressure cooker is now part of your kitchen equipment, you may be wondering what to do with it once canning season ends.

The same high pressure that tightly affixes lids to jars also shortens cooking time. That means time intensive ingredients such as beans and whole grains (say, whole berries of wheat, or brown rice).

They were popular in the 1950s, but pressure cookers declined in use as convenience foods emerged on the scene and cooks prepared fewer meals from scratch.

The Everything Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Pamela Rice Hahn teaches you how to cook beans and grains, but also some other dishes that might surprise you: barbecue sauce, coq au vin and osso buco, to name a few. And there’s dessert, including coconut custard and molten fudge pudding cake.


The Everything Pressure Cooker Cookbook


Rosh Hashanah

In recognition of this week marking the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, allow me to point to several Jewish writers who have inspired and educated me with their engaging works of fiction, poetry and scholarly nonfiction.





Ill fares the land

Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer????

Yup. And, it appears, for a thirteen-year-old middle school 8th grader, a darn good one. Theo’s family are all lawyers. His Dad, real estate things. His Mom, abuse cases. His Uncle Ike, disbarred but doing income tax things. Theo’s classmates and schoolmates ask him questions about their brother’s getting arrested for marijuana, about which parent should a child live within a divorce case, about what can be done with an illegal immigrant who…

OOPS! I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot of John Grisham’s newest thriller titled Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer. Theo lives in a small town with many “real” lawyers, including his family as described above. He even fancies himself as an attorney, sort of. And, then, the unlikely happens. A murder is committed, and the defendant is being tried by a local judge, who just happens to be Theo’s friend. At least, as much of a friend as a sitting judge can be to a kid in the 8th grade. Theo’s favorite class in school is Government, and he finagles seats for his classmates so that they can attend the opening day of this murder trial. And, the excitement begins.

Author John Grisham’s titles for adults are known for their intrigue and suspense, a fact that has made him a #1 international best-selling author. He is certainly the master of the legal thriller. When I heard that he had written a book for younger readers (and I’d say late elementary age through middle school), I thought, “yeah, right”. John Grisham can’t write a book for children! Well, friends, guess what? He can, and he has.

Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer is for kids and it is every bit as exciting as the author’s adult novels. I started this book yesterday, and finished it today…it kept me guessing and kept me turning pages as I read (almost skimmed some parts, I was so interested) what certainly could become a best-seller for children, and maybe even an award winner!

Thanks, John Grisham! But, you didn’t finish the story. A sequel maybe?


Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer

Where to this time?

I do more with atlases than just use them. I read them. Kalamazoo Public Library owns lots of atlases for various purposes and users. My favorite road atlas is the Rand McNally Road Atlas that comes out every year in paperback edition. Here at the library we have copies for loan as well as for reference. I bought my own copy and keep it under my sofa so that when I read the newspaper I can refer to it when a location with which I am unfamiliar is mentioned. Then I get sidetracked by studying the atlas, and often a lot of time elapses before I get back to my newspaper. Even though I love web sites such as and and use them regularly, I still find that for browsing there is nothing like my Rand McNally. Check out an atlas and read it tonight!


Rand McNally, the road atlas, large scale 2011 : United States
David D.

Is Charlotte Brontё the New Jane Austen?

 Rumor has it that Jane Austen is falling out of vogue and that Charlotte Brontё and her sisters are the new literary IT women. With the recent economic downturn, it seems that readers have turned their interest towards the Brontё’s who were more materially and economically impoverished than Austen and did not have Austen’s social standing. I have been a longstanding Jane Austen fan so I was intrigued. Austen and Brontё have been under the comparison microscope for a long time. I can imagine many of you took a high school or college class where their works were part of the discussion and literary paper “fighting ring” of criticism.
Jane Austen was born in 1775 and died in 1817. She was the seventh child (second daughter), and her father was a Reverend. Charlotte Brontё was born in 1816 and died in 1854. She was the third child (third daughter) of six children, and her father was also a Reverend. Charlotte’s well-known sisters Emily and Anne were born in 1818 and 1820 respectively. Whether you have a preference or are now curious about one or all of these famous British women authors, KPL has a wonderful selection of their materials for you to check out and decide for yourself. Just click on these links to our library catalog to explore works by Jane Austen or works by the Brontё sisters to decide for yourself. Maybe you will enjoy reacquainting yourself with an old favorite of yours or perhaps you will find a new one. Who knows, maybe you will discover you are an Austen fan, a Brontё fan or maybe both. Happy Reading!


The Brontё Myth
Share RSS