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Staff Picks: Books

True Stories, Well Told

In commenting about his piece “Two on Two,” author Brian Doyle advises that writers take their ideas and feelings "out for canters on the open beach of the empty page and see what happens.” This seems to be just what Doyle did in writing about playing two-on-two basketball in the dining room with his children, then four and younger. He captures a precious moment in time, a moment of complete appreciation for his kids and his interactions with them. It’s one of my favorite pieces in this book.

I confess. It was the book cover that drew me in. Yes, I judged the book by its cover, even though we are warned not to do so. I was further intrigued by the title: True Stories, Well Told: from the first 20 years of Creative Nonfiction Magazine. I hadn’t considered the concept of ‘creative nonfiction’ much, though I can say now, after reading the book, that I find it quite compelling. This collection includes some of the magazine's best pieces.

If you, too, are drawn to creative nonfiction, there’s much at KPL to explore, as a reader and/or potential writer!

Remodeling Resources

Both home owners and those renting should browse our various interior decoration and architecture books if they're looking for ideas for renovations or room-specific make-overs. I am contemplating refreshing my kitchen's look and as I browsed our new books section on the first floor, I stumbled across this new book, My Cool Kitchen. There's plenty of applicable ideas jumping off the pages in this page turner of a book that features different approaches to organization, color and design.

The Series Series: Very Short Introductions

This is probably the most aptly named series ever published. Each book in the series is short (96-224 pages) and provides a brief introduction to a complex. These books are written to be very readable to those new to the topic and provides a balanced prospective. If you are looking to learn about a brand new topic, this is a great place to start.

Very Short Introductions include:
Indian philosophy
The Bible

Emmanuel's Dream

Emmanuel’s Dream, written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls, tells the true story of Ghanaian athlete Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who was born with only one healthy leg (the other was severely deformed). Where Emmanuel grew up, most kids with disabilities couldn’t go to school, but Emmanuel hopped back and forth two miles each way. He also played soccer and learned to ride a bike – in fact, he became famous after he cycled 400 miles across Ghana, raising awareness that people with disabilities can still greatly contribute to society. My 5 year-old daughter enjoyed this story and the illustrations very much. I highly recommend checking out the list of books in our catalog by illustrator Sean Qualls -- his artwork is exquisite!


Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed

“Why don’t you have kids?” That’s a question that not many people have to respond to. However, there are a few who have begun to be more vocal in providing, thoughtful, deeply considered perspectives on why they’ve chosen to not have children. Are they selfish and self-absorbed? Not likely. That’s a spun out media and cultural stereotype that has little substance according to most of the writers collected in this new anthology Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on the Decision to Not Have Kids. The childless are a diverse lot and so their reasons and motivations for not having a family are similarly varied. This is a nice grouping of cleverly conceived and intelligently executed essays that will function as a much needed corrective to the specious accusations that many childless people have had to endure.

Crusade for Justice

The Google Doodle that marks Ida B. Wells’ 153rd birthday today begins by reporting that the American journalist was a voracious reader, consuming all of Shakespeare and Dickens before she turned twenty. As a journalist and newspaper editor she was a prolific writer and truth teller even in the face of racial inequality and mob violence. When thugs destroyed her printing press because they opposed her newspaper’s message against segregation, Wells kept on. 

The library has several biographies of Ida B. Wells along with her memoir, Crusade for Justice. Wells was married to fellow journalist Ferdinand L. Barnett who went on to practice law and became the first black state's attorney in Illinois. Their daughter, Alfreda M. Duster, edited Crusade for Justice. At its publication in 1970, Elizabeth Kolmer wrote: "Besides being the story of an incredibly courageous and outspoken black woman in the face of innumerable odds, the book is a valuable contribution to the social history of the United States and to the literature of the women's movement as well."

A People's History of the Peculiar

One has only to look at the classification number of this book to know that it's going to be material more or less off-the-track. But, in my view, the early 000s hold some very appealing books. This 2014 volume of 'the peculiar' is subtitled A Freak Show of Facts, Random Obsessions, and Astounding Truths. Under the heading '25 Random Remedies': For blondes in chlorine pools whose hair has turned green, just add ketchup and cover with cling wrap for 30 minutes. In the category '25 Random Bridge Collapses': In May 1845, 79 people drowned after the Yarmouth Bridge in England collapsed from the shifting weight of people on the bridge watching as a circus clown floated downriver in a barrel pulled by geese. One more. Under 'Random Cemeteries for You to Haunt': In New Brunswick, New Jersey, Mary Ellis's grave has monopolized a parking space for the better part of the 20th century. Once situated outside a flea market, her grave now rests alone in the Loew's Theatre parking lot. All these, and more, can be found in A People's History of the Peculiar. Reserve it today!

Between the World and Me

The talk of the book world today will surely be Harper Lee's greatly anticipated Go Set a Watchman, a sequel to her beloved 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird. But another book released today, one that will certainly inspire a lot of conversation, also deserves your attention. Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog for the Atlantic magazine is where the best writing on American life today is happening and his new book, Between the World and Me, continues with that subject in a personal way. Written as a letter to his teenage son Samori, Between the World and Me lyrically describes Coates' experience living in a black, male body within the context of American history.

Coates will visit Kalamazoo in November to speak at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation's community meeting. The event is free and open to the public; find more information at the Community Foundation's website.

Biblio TECH

John Palfrey’s Biblio Tech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google adroitly and lucidly argues for the preservation of that most democratic of public institutions, the public library. Clearly I am the very definition of “preaching to the choir” when it comes to the premise of this book, but Palfrey’s clear perspective and the light he sheds on a path toward a public library model that keeps pace with technology and our digitally evolving society is well worth reading and thinking about.

The Examined Life

I’ve always been intrigued by what it would be like to be a psychiatrist, but not so drawn to the many years of schooling it requires. In fact, I think that’s why I enjoy reading so much. How often do people really open up and tell you their innermost thoughts? Not very often, but books are full of that stuff, especially if you are ok with the people not being real in the case of fiction. 

Stephen Grosz’s book, The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, let me in on the real stuff though. Each short chapter includes the story of the treatment of one of his patients and how they teased out the possible sources of anxiety, doubts, fears, and mysterious behaviors; almost like those three-minute mystery books I used to read as a kid. I have to say that some conclusions left me incredulous, but certainly not unentertained. 

I recommend reading this book while lying on a couch.