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Staff Picks: Books

Telephone by Mac Barnett

Whenever Mac Barnett comes out with a new picture book, it's best to put it on hold and look forward to it! His new book, Telephone, does not disappoint. With beautiful illustrations by Jen Corace, we see the story of birds on a wire trying to tell Peter to "fly home for dinner". But as usually happens in the game of telephone, the message gets re-interpreted many times in ways that will have the kids laughing. In the end, the owl knows best and Peter does indeed fly home for dinner. I can't wait to read this one with KPS First Graders when they come visit this school year!



There is a new display in the rotunda at the Central Library that we hope will become a regular fixture, helping you discover new books and find what to read next. 

LibraryReads is a project that a few librarians came up with around this time last year. They knew that librarians all over the country received books to read and review before they were published so they decided to ask these librarians to submit one title they loved that would be published in the upcoming month. They tallied up the votes and started displaying on their website, “the top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love.” 

The display will include the books that have appeared on these lists since September 2013. Use the two most recent lists that we have posted at the display to put holds on new, interesting titles that may not have even been published yet.

I find there to be an interesting mix in the books that end up on these lists: mystery, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance, literary fiction and nonfiction.

We hope this will become a regular stop on your trips to the library and that you will find books that you love just like librarians across the country.

The Bootlegger

Clive Cussler and Justin Scott have produced another Isaac Bell adventure. This time it is “The Bootlegger” a novel of prohibition and fast boats smuggling illegal booze in 1921. When Joseph Van Zorn the head of elite Van Zorn Detective agency is shot Issac Bell investigates and when a witness is killed in a method used by the Cominterns he discovers that the Russians are involved. I like how the authors include history and the technology discoveries that occurred in this time. Issac Bell uses what scientists have learned about topedoes during the war to fashion a bomb of his own. They have to use the library to get information and not just google it. I liked that for sure. Give it a read. We have it in regular print, Large Print and on CD Audio. We have other Isaac Bell adventures also.


The Bootlegger

Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013)

"Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished." - Nelson Mandela








Nelson Mandela related resources at KPL:

Adult books:

Teen books:

Kids books:


Nelson Mandela

This Is Not a Diet Book!

While reading two books, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Two Whole Cakes, I came across references to a movement called “Health at Every Size (HAES).”  Unfamiliar with the phrase, I did a little research and found a book called Health at Every Size: the Surprising Truth about Your Weight by Linda Bacon.  In her book, Bacon discusses obesity and dieting and concludes that humans have evolved to store fat well, but not to lose it.  She uses scientific studies (she herself is a scientist) to back up her argument that diets don’t work and that a number on scale does not determine a person’s health or wellbeing.  Bacon urges people not to look at food (any food) as good or bad, but to listen to their bodies and eat food that makes them feel their best—energized and  strong.  She also encourages readers to incorporate more activity into their daily lives, but to focus on activity that is enjoyable and not a chore. 

This is not a diet book; in fact it’s the opposite: Bacon advises people to pay attention the way their bodies feel in relation to food and movement to improve health, not to lose weight.  I really, really liked this book; it was incredibly refreshing to read a book talking about health that urges you to listen to your body, to trust it to tell you what you need—I’d rather trust myself with my health than a diet industry that makes a huge profit selling people one particular body ideal.


health at every size: the surprising truth about your weight

An unforgettable summer

The book A summer to die is one of KPL’s oldest titles by popular young adult author Lois Lowry. I read this book as a teen in the 80s, re-read when I worked in a school library, and now read for a 3rd time before I placed it on KPL’s new “I geek teen books” display, geared for not just teens. This book follows an unforgettable year in the life of 13 year old Meg, beginning when her family moves to the country so her college professor father can finish the book he’s been working on. As the harsh Maine winter turns into spring and then a flower-filled summer at their 1840s country rental house, Meg watches her beautiful older sister, Molly, wither away and eventually succumb to a mysterious disease that causes frequent nosebleeds. With Molly’s illness never fading from the foreground, Meg develops friendships with her few neighbors while following her passion for photography…photographing her elderly neighbor, Will, the home childbirth of her neighbors Ben and Maria, and the last pictures of her sister Molly.

Look for this book and lots of other great teen/adult crossover books in our new “I geek teen books” display – located near the self-checkouts at Central library.


A summer to die

Her : a memoir

Like most identical twins, Christa and Cara Parravani shared a deep bond that went beyond being sisters or best friends…until Cara turned to drugs after a traumatic experience and died suddenly of an overdose at the age of 28. Her : a memoir describes Christa’s years of struggle after losing her beloved twin and while writing this memoir, which in parts was as if her sister was writing through her. Writing this memoir is what made her able to continue living.

KPL’s collection has many fascinating memoirs of twins. These include Divided minds, about twin schizophrenics, Identical strangers, about twins separated as infants and reunited as adults, and Twin : a memoir, about a twin sister who was separated from her brother and institutionalized at age 8 (and much later diagnosed with autism). To find other books on this topic, search the catalog under subject : Twins Biography.



Beyond Boundaries

Teaming with potential for medical breakthrough, Beyond Boundaries by neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis discusses research in neurophysiology and "brain-machine interfaces" (BMIs). The book starts out by explaining how single neurons do not intrinsically process brain activity such as a thought or action, but how brain processes consist of many neurons working as a functional unit. For example, there is no single neuron contains the memory of a Grandmother’s face; one's memories emerge from fields of neurons firing in unified patterns. In addition, the author explains how most brain functions (like memory) are not located in specific anatomical regions, but rather in dynamic patterns of functional activity spread across various regions the brain.

By developing methods for recording and computing detailed patterns of large scale neuronal activity, Nicolelis and other researchers have trained animals to articulately control machine limbs through brain activity alone, i.e. without moving their physical bodies. This BMI research has exciting implications, for example in cases where individuals have lost the function of their legs due to spinal cord damage. Soon they may be equipped with wearable, exoskeleton suits that drive their legs in locomotion by directly reading their brain's neuronal firings. Ideally, such an interface would not require brain implants to record the high-resolution neural activity necessary for tasks like balancing and walking. The author concludes with fascinating speculations on where brain interface technology may lead us and how it might transform our society in centuries to come.

I found Beyond Boundaries to be comprehensive and engaging, but I occasionally had to push myself through the many research details until I approached the more exciting results and conclusions. While reading, I conjured ideas about how such advances might be used in conjunction with virtual worlds and virtual instruments. I imagined people training themselves to control many-limbed digital avatars, or playing virtual instruments with new and unimagined levels of control and articulation. In truth, some of the ideas illustrated in this book are so immense that I have yet to finish digesting them, and I might have to re-read a few chapters to gain a complete picture. But the book is fairly accessible to the general reader, and I would recommend it anyone interested in neuroscience, engineering, or future interfaces.


Beyond boundaries : the new neuroscience of connecting brains with machines--and how it will change our lives

American Idol fans, check this book out!

I have been a loyal follower of American Idol since season 2, despite my annoyance with how the show in general treats some of the contestants. So, when I saw the book Elimination night come across my desk, I could absolutely not resist it. The book is a parody of American Idol (or “Icon” in the book), and is supposedly written by someone with insider knowledge of the show (author = “Anonymous”). The main character is a stand-in assistant producer on the show (Sasha, a female who is called “Bill” because it is easier for the higher-ups to continue to call her the name of the person she is filling in for). The plot mirrors season 10, when judge Simon Cowell (“Nigel Crowther”) left the show to pursue X Factor (“The Talent Machine”) and was replaced by Jennifer Lopez (“Bibi Vasquez”) and Steven Tyler (“Joey Lovecraft”). If you know your Idol, you will be able to recognize every character in the book immediately. One warning, though…the book is less than flattering to basically every single person affiliated with the show, with the exception of Randy Jackson (“DJ Coolz”). I didn’t mind this, but it made me absolutely squirm when I read some of the details and didn’t know how much was accurate and how much was exaggerated for good storytelling. Read it, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.


Elimination night

The Feast in Southwest Michigan

I’ve read a number of books, such as Plenty or Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that extol the virtues of eating local foods and supporting small family farms, but it wasn’t until I picked up Robin Mather’s The Feast Nearby that I felt I was truly reading about local food; that is, food from West Michigan.  Mather, former food editor for Detroit News and writer for Cooking Light magazine, moved to her retirement cottage on Stewart Lake (Barry County, MI) shortly after the break-up of her marriage and the loss of her job.  Financially strapped but determined to eat well and support her local economy, she afforded good, local food by buying seasonally and preserving food to stock her pantry year-round.  Mather shares tips for shifting to a local diet and includes numerous recipes for creating a tasty, seasonal menu.  It was a quick, pleasurable read, and I was delighted every time she mentioned the Kalamazoo Farmer’s Market or the name of a local business or farm I recognized.


The Feast Nearby