Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

From Michigan City to Mackinaw City

KPL was one of the sites for last month's Art Hop. Among our guests were authors M. Christine Byron and Thomas R. Wilson, who have collaborated on several books about Michigan. Their latest is Vintage Views along the West Michigan Pike. By means of narrative and photographs of decades-old postcards, the authors take the reader on a historic trip along the Lake Michigan shoreline. This book is a quality publication -- the research, layout, photographs, and text are excellent. It is a joy to look at and hold this volume as well, since the binding, paper, and printing are all top grade. The previous time these authors were at KPL I bought the book they had just written about the Mackinac Straits region. Since their reputation precedes them, I knew I wanted my own copy of their latest effort also. Besides being gifted authors and compilers, Mr. Wilson and Ms. Byron are very pleasant people. Come take a look at this as well as their earlier books and appreciate anew the fascinating heritage of our great state of Michigan.


Vintage views along the West Michigan Pike : from sand trails to US-31
David D.

The perfect book, the perfect evening

There is often more than one correct way to do something.  Recently I was browsing the Facebook pages of other libraries (like us, please!) and this book popped up.  I like to make soup and share it with friends, but I sometimes worry that everything has to be perfect before issuing invitations, so this book title spoke to me.  I found it in the catalog, and since it was already checked out, I placed a hold on it, and it soon arrived.

This book is a charming tale of cooperation and negotiation, with a twist at the end that speaks powerfully to the importance of adjusting expectations (and also of challenging the authority of the printed word with the conviction of personal experience).  My adult dinner guests enjoyed flipping through the book as well (and philosophising).  We all agreed with the heartwarming conclusion about the importance of friendship.  The soup I served was delicious, but not what made the evening perfect.


Perfect soup

In Search of Lost Rembrandts and Leonardos

In preparation for a day when I would be spending a lot of time in the car, I took a short visit to the audiobook collection at Central Library.  For me, commutes or road trips become much more enjoyable when I have a good book to listen to.  I gathered up a few titles, including a favorite I have listened to a number of time, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, and headed to the self check-out.  At the last second, one more title caught my eye titled The Art Detective: fakes, frauds, and finds and the search for lost treasures by Philip Mould.  I quickly snatched up the title knowing it was right up my alley and could likely keep me intently listening for hours.

The author, Philip Mould, is an art dealer from London.  He has gained popularity through his dealings over the years and has been an appraiser on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.  He spends much of his time researching and examining paintings that are up for auction all over the world judging their worth by considering their subject, attribution, state of preservation, popularity, and provenance.  His book tells stories from during his career when lost paintings have been identified and forgeries uncovered.  Through art historical research in libraries and archives, and scientific innovations, art connoisseurs are able to learn more about how a work of art originally looked and functioned than ever before.  Mould, his colleagues, and his many friends in the art world painstakingly follow leads and try to trace back a painting's history to determine its' origins.

The six chapters each tell different stories of discoveries - identifications of "sleepers" (works by great masters who have somehow been forgotten or misidentified as belonging to a lesser artist), exposing forgeries of great works, and uncovering the greatness of a masterpiece by removing extensive overpainting or darkened varnish.  A great storyteller, Mould is able to keep your attention easily.  The audiobook is very enjoyable, however, I might recommend the book because it includes before and after restoration pictures of the paintings mentioned in the book.  The pictures of the Rembrandt Self-Portrait depict an especially delightful transformation (note: if you like Rembrandt, you don't want to miss the current exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts)!

If you are interested in art history mysteries, you may also enjoy the video titled The Da Vinci Detective about Maurizio Seracini, the director of the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego.  Seracini has done extensive research on Da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi and has been instrumental in leading the search for the possibly lost fresco, The Battle of Anghiari.  Though this search has been halted for a few years, it seems as though research has once again commenced using somewhat more invasive, but also more telling, procedures.  (Hopefully soon, this search for Da Vinci's lost fresco will be forever solved!)  I hope you'll enjoy these stories about the quest for lost art!


The Art Detective: fakes, frauds, and finds and the search for lost treasures
Elysha Cloyd

The Detroit Electric Scheme

Detroit in the early 1900s is the setting for a fast paced historical mystery, The Detroit Electric Scheme, written by Kalamazoo area author D.E. Johnson. The book was named one of Booklist’s Top Ten First Crime Novels of the year, and won a 2011 Michigan Notable Book Award.

Will Anderson is the son of the owner of Detroit Electric, the era’s leading manufacturer of electric cars. One night Will gets a call from a former college roommate, John Cooper, asking Will to meet him at the car factory. Will agrees, but when he arrives at the darkened factory, he finds Cooper dead, crushed by a huge press. Since Cooper was engaged to Elizabeth, Will’s former fiancé, Will becomes the police’s prime suspect in the murder, and they pursue him ruthlessly.

Will’s cat and mouse game with the police involves him in encounters with organized crime, and dealing with hooligans such as the Dodge brothers. Will also has friends in the upper echelons of society- Edsel Ford, for example.

I found the history of Detroit especially fascinating in this book—the beginnings of the automobile industry and the “players” come to life. It also gives a view of the everyday lives of Detroiters around 1910, the well off and immigrants alike.

You can come and hear author D.E. Johnson in person on Tuesday, February 7, 6:30 pm at the Washington Square Branch Library, 1244 Portage St. Books will be available for sale and signing.

Please join us!


The Detroit Electric Scheme

Books Not Just for the Coffee Table

On a recent trip to Chicago, I had the pleasure of visiting both the Art Institute of Chicago (for the first time!) and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Having never been to this venerable depository of some of the most esteemed pieces of art and sculpture, I wanted to do some pre-trip research on the Art Institute’s wonderful collection. Their web site was very helpful at highlighting some of their permanent collection’s genuine treasures but I also supplemented my knowledge by browsing our wonderful collection of art books (located on the second floor). We have several titles directly about the Institute’s collection as well as many biographies and critical monographs covering the lives of individual artists and their works. After several hours of wandering the galleries, I returned to the library’s nonfiction shelves with an even greater appreciation for our diverse assortment of art books and have subsequently jumped into several titles about the artists whose work really struck a chord with me. And if we don’t own the book, there’s always a chance that I may be able to have it sent here via our Melcat Services. It’s a win, win!


Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting

Award Winning Books

Every year around this time we're excited to learn which titles have won American Library Association Youth Media Awards. The 2012 winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, and other prestigious medals in the world of Children's Literature, were announced on Monday.

Jack Gantos was awarded the Newbery medal for Dead End in Norvelt.

Chris Raschka's A Ball for Daisy is the 2012 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, is the King Author Book winner for that fine work.

Shane W. Evans, illustrator and author of Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom, is the King Illustrator Book winner.

Check them all out at here at the library!


A Ball for Daisy


“Stars are everywhere. Not just in the sky. Look . . .” Beginning and ending with looking for stars in the night sky, in between are other times and places to find stars. You can cut out a star and put it in your pocket, you can put it on the end of a wand and hope to see a wish come true, there are stars in dandelions and moss and snowflakes.

In Stars, Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee have created a beautiful, thoughtful, poignant picture book. Even if you don’t have preschoolers in your life, you should take a look at this book.



World Without Fish

For a fast-moving look at the crisis of the oceans, check out Mark Kurlansky’s World Without Fish, a 2011 release geared to readers aged nine and up. Kurlansky, a former commercial fisherman, explains how overfishing, pollution, and global warming are a triple threat to ocean eco-systems. He argues that these threats must be resolved by the generation of people that are not yet adults. I appreciated the nuanced explanation of the problems and the potential solutions that are available to us. Punctuated by a multi-part comic strip narrative and other illustrations by Frank Stockton, World Without Fish is fascinating for its design alone. Mark Kurlansky is the author of the bestselling Cod, among other books.


World Without Fish

Warm Hearts and Cold Noses

Those of you who have read my previous posts here, will be well aware of my weakness when it comes to cats. We currently live with three domestic felines, and I have had the pleasure of the company of quite a few others over the years, all of whom I dearly love. However, this does not mean that I am indifferent to, much less prejudiced against, those of the canine persuasion. In fact, my affection for all animals began with dogs.

It started when as a small child living in the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Parma, I laid eyes upon my first hound. I don’t really recall it’s looks, just the fact that I was instantly drawn to it and it to me. All dogs were now officially identified by me in my naïve way of thinking as my best friends ever. And there was nothing more important in my life at that time than to make friends with each and every one as soon as I saw it. By the time I was six, I was often never to be found anywhere around our house, since I was out chasing dogs of all breeds and sizes in the neighborhood. They led and I followed. Not being able to locate me and growing somewhat desperate, my mother would often resort to calling my seventeen year old cousin who had just attained his driver’s license to track me down in his ‘55 Oldsmobile. His task was to bring me home in one piece, preferably without any motley mutts in tow. My behavior never resulted in my family actually getting a dog of our own, since my mother was dead set against the idea, and her veto power was absolute. But still I was on affable terms with each and every pooch in a four block radius around our house. And to this day at family get-togethers, my childhood obsession with dogs is rich material for nostalgic anecdotes that are always good for a chuckle or two.

Just as much as I am attracted to dogs, so too am I attracted to fiction about them. As a result, I very much looked forward to reading A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. Sometimes hilarious, and oftentimes heartrending, this is a rather unique work of fiction since it’s told from the dog’s perspective and is a search for the true meaning of life. While this task may be too much for most humans to contemplate, much less to seriously consider undertaking, the book proposes that it can be that much more daunting for canines. The story follows a dog who finds himself reincarnated over the course of several lives. As a result it tries to weave together a common purpose for these lives and discover how best to fulfill that purpose.

Somewhat reminiscent of Garth Stein’s 2009 novel The Art of Racing in the Rain, where a lab terrier mix narrates his experiences as a canine and observes what makes human beings “human,” Cameron’s work similarly produces a wealth of insight and emotions. As a bonus for Michiganders, Cameron, being a Michigan native himself, sets the story in various state locations.

So, if you have ever gazed into the eyes of a dog and wondered what that creature in front of you was capable of thinking, this book might help answer that question. It certainly suggests that there might be much more than just walks, sniffs, supper and squirrels on the agenda.


A Dog’s Purpose

Are you an AFOL?

I haven’t always been an AFOL.  Thanks to my children’s obsession with LEGO though, I have become an Adult Fan Of LEGO.  If you have ever played with LEGO bricks, (which according to the LEGO Group’s website, the toys are found in more than 75 percent of Western homes), you should check out the book The Cult of LEGO.  Amazing facts, photos and a look into the LEGO subculture fill this fascinating book.  Learn about the Minifig controversy, ApocaLEGO, political LEGO, video games, robotics, the LEGO role in Autism therapy, conventions, Brick Cliques and more!  If you are an AFOL, KFOL, or TFOL, you will want to grab some bricks and build!  KPL offers LEGO Clubs for children of all ages, check the calendar for details 


The Cult of LEGO
Jill L
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