Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

An RCA Television?

In this book we received last fall, Smithsonian Institution Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture Richard Kurin provides a wealth of information regarding 101 objects held by that museum. At 762 pages, this publication was no small effort, I am sure. Organized by historical era, the author provides photographs and commentary on such items as the Appomattox Court House furnishings, Abraham Lincoln's hat, a bugle from the U.S.S. Maine, Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, Thomas Edison's light bulb, a Ford Model T, Helen Keller's watch, Louis Armstrong's trumpet, a World War I gas mask, Dorothy's ruby slippers, a Berlin Wall fragment, Neil Armstrong's space suit, an RCA television set, and a door from one of the fire trucks that was at the scene of 9/11 in New York City. This is a quality publication from a very fine establishment.

Book

The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects
9781594205293
David D.

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

Recently I discovered a new author. Her name is Bich Minh Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who came to this country in 1975, when she was just a few months old, with her family on one of the last boats out of the country before the war really heated up. She has since taught at Purdue University in the area of fiction and creative non-fiction. Her book that I found most enjoyable is, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. It’s a memoir of her family eventually settling in Grand Rapids, and how each of them, a father, grandmother, sister, and a couple uncles adapt as outsiders and struggle to fit into a very Dutch community. The story takes the sisters from a young age through their school years and how they go off in different directions. The grandmother is the rock of the family as she hangs on to her Vietnamese customs. And the father is a hard worker, but often distances himself from the family.

This book was selected as the “Great Michigan Read” for 2009-2010. This is a program similar to our own “Reading Together” event held every year where a book is picked and the whole community reads it, but in this case there are many programs around the whole state connected with the chosen book. Not only was the story interesting, but you would like it if you are familiar with the Grand Rapids area as there are many references to the city. This book is available in print and audio at KPL.

Book

Stealing Buddha's Dinner : a memoir
9780670038329
MarybethS

Two Cool Cats

The World According to Bob is the sequel to the NYT bestseller A Street Cat Named Bob by author James Bowen. It is a well written and much anticipated book worthy of becoming another hit for the James and Bob duo.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with their tale, here is a quick recap. Two years prior to the writing of this second work, James Bowen was a down on his luck, recovering addict who happens to find a ginger/orange cat with open wounds on his legs and body. The two form an instant bond, and although James assumes that the cat he names Bob will return to the streets after he nurses him back to health, Bob has other plans. He steadfastly refuses to leave James’ side, following him wherever he goes about town.

As the saying goes “cats choose you and not the other way around”, and it was certainly true in this case.

The pair become inseparable, existing on the streets of London, each one helping the other heal the wounds of their mutually troubled past. James gives Bob companionship, food, and a place to crash, and in return Bob gives James new hope and a purpose in life. James learns to appreciate the minute things of life – his threadbare flat, his job selling a street magazine called “The Big Issue,” and now his newly arrived feline friend.

While the first book documents their first meeting and their lives in the early part of their relationship, this sequel delves further into what their life was like then, the people they met, (both good and evil), and the many experiences they shared along the way. It also goes into explaining how the first book came to be.

In September 2010, a reporter from the Islington Tribune interviewed James and took the famous photo of Bob perched on his shoulder. A few days later, there appeared a poignant article about James’ past and how he and Bob met, titled: “Two Cool Cats...the Big Issue Seller and a Stray Called Bob.”

Soon thereafter, a major London publisher approaches the duo about a possible book deal. James does not expect this book about himself and his stray cat to become a big hit. Rather, he thinks that it would end up being a nice little one-time windfall. But then events start indicating otherwise.

One day, completely unannounced, Sir Paul McCartney and his family stop by the street corner where they work selling the magazine to admire Bob. Instead of the little handful of people that James expected to be at the first book signing, over 300 show up, and all 200 copies available sell out in the first half hour. In addition, James and Bob are treated as celebrities with photographers and a television camera crew in attendance.

Having been translated into 26 languages, the book becomes an international bestseller. And for the first time in their lives, James and Bob become financially secure. No, Bob and James did not become millionaires, but they are able to live a comfortable existence with James enjoying having some money in the bank and even paying taxes like a true member of society. He also enjoys being able to give something back to Blue Cross, the animal charity that was so kind to both of them during their struggles in earlier years.

The first book also produced other positive windfalls. It greatly improved the relationship James had with his parents. And it also seems to have had an impact on people’s attitudes to London’s “Big Issue” sellers and the homeless in general. Many folks wrote to James to express their awareness of homeless people, and many others have stated that the book gave them an incentive to make a special point of engaging the homeless in a conversation instead of simply ignoring their plight.

The story of James and Bob seemed to connect with people who were facing difficult times in their own lives, while others expressed a newly gained strength from animals’ ability to heal human psyches.

With their account, these two cool cats touched the hearts, minds and lives of many, many others. And that may be the best windfall of all, for all of us.

Book

The World According to Bob
9781250046321
TeresaM-R

The Boy on the Wooden Box

Leon Leyson was number 289, the youngest on the list.  The list that would eventually mean life for more than a thousand Jews.  Leon was Number 289 on Schindler's list.  His powerful memoir, The Boy on the Wooden Box  tells his story to the young people of today what it was like surviving the Holocaust.  The reader sees this horrific time through the eyes of a child.  His youthful perspective brings a powerful message of survival and humanity.  Leon was only a boy during WWII, spending most of his years from 10-19 in Jewish ghettos, work, concentration and displaced persons camps.  The hunger, loss, pain and suffering are real.  Separated for months at a time from his family, Leon found the will to survive inside of him.  If you are a reader at 40 or a child at 10 reading this book, you will feel the struggle. You will hold your breath as the family is forced to separate.  You will wonder how evil can exist.  You will wonder if Leon ever sees the faces again of his brothers.  Share this book with your children or students. 

I think the dedication page is its own recommendation for reading this book:  "To my brothers, Tsalig and Hershel, and to all the sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents who perished in the Holocaust.  And to Oskar Schindler, whose noble actions did indeed save a "world entire." - Leon Leyson

Book

The Boy on the Wooden Box
9781442497818
Jill L

The Big Tiny

I first heard about Dee Williams and tiny houses in the fall of 2010, when I worked at a public library in New Hampshire. Because she knew I'd lived in housing cooperatives for several years and was interested in simplicity and sustainable living, one of my coworkers shared this article from Yes!, a magazine to which our library had recently subscribed. Though fascinated with the idea of tiny house living, I couldn't imagine what life in 84 square feet would actually be like. So when I read earlier this year that Williams wrote a book about her tiny house experience, I couldn't wait to read all about it.

After I learned about Dee and her tiny house, I read Little House on a Small Planet, the only small house book I could get my hands on back in 2010. More recently, information on and interest in tiny houses has exploded - a google search for 'tiny houses' yields over 20 million results! - and I've since spent possibly one thousand hours on the internet reading about tiny houses and the people who inhabit them. I've learned that tiny housers aren't unified in their reasons for tiny living. Some people are interested in living a more sustainable life, using fewer resources and decreasing their impact on the planet. Others are attracted to tiny house living for financial reasons - it's possible to live mortgage-free in a tiny house. Still others want to downsize and simplify their life, focusing on what is truly important to them. This was Dee's motivation, after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The Big Tiny chronicles her tiny building adventure and offers insight into day-to-day tiny living. The book's tone is charmingly conversational; I felt like I was sitting next to Dee on her porch, listening to her story straight from her mouth.

If, like me, you can't get enough of tiny houses, check out the new documentary, Tiny: A Story About Living Small, which follows the process of building a tiny house and features interviews with several tiny housers, including Dee Williams.

Book

The Big Tiny
9780399166174
AngelaF

Going Camping?

I’m going camping this summer, and I can’t wait to be outdoors 24/7 for a few days. If, like me, camping is in you and your family’s future this summer, take advantage of the resources KPL offers as you gather your gear, plan your meals, prep the kids and decide where to go.

We have books about cooking outdoors, camping and wilderness survival skills and stories to help children get over fears of camping and excited about sleeping under the stars. We have plenty of camping directories and even a movie for beginning campers.

Are you a district resident cardholder? You can go to Zinio and read digital magazines like Backpacker or check out shows on Hoopla. (Sign in, click on the Browse page, choose Television, scroll down and find the ‘Travel around the World’ topic.) Find titles such as Ken Burns: The National Parks, and Trekking the World.

What’s your next adventure?

Book

Camping Michigan : a comprehensive guide to public tent and RV campgrounds
9780762782505
Christine

The well-loved pet (or trophy)

The title of this post is mostly a joke; our taxidermy books are probably more useful for hunters.  Whatever your reason for wanting to preserve the bodies of animals, or if you are just interested in learning for its own sake and exploring a fairly esoteric topic, we have a few books that will make for an unconventional beach read.  The title pictured here (as yet unread by this blogger) does indeed explore pet memorials among other types of taxidermy. 

Book

The authentic animal
9780312643713
EleanoreC

What does spiritual but not religious mean?

According to Pew, there is a growing number of young Americans that are not affiliated with any particular religion, a.k.a. "nones." This book, a sort of spiritual memoir by Roger Housden, is one example of a "none" trying to keep his faith. Or rather redefine it.

A very short book, almost an extended poem, his faith amounts to this: beauty, nature, kindness and love. Read poetry; look at art; walk in the woods; love people. The book is more like a memoir, a Whitman nature poem, a reflection on faith as solitary, personal, open-ended - a life-journey.

Now, I sympathize with his faith and applaud his ideals, but we must admit that this kind of faith is drastically different from the faith of many other people. That's okay. (disclaimer: I didn't read the entire book so I have no room to comment, but yet here I am commenting). Is Housden merely describing his own happy, privileged, care-free life and calling it faith? Going to Starbucks, writing best sellers, enjoying art and peotry, watching the waves through his window. Sounds great to me! But what happens when you reduce faith into a few ideals? Is anything lost? Perhaps not. Where's the pot-lucks? Mr Housden has redefined faith into a solitary pursuit of truth and beauty (nothing wrong with that, he comes from a long tradition), but let’s be honest - he is getting rid of something here. Or, another way to put it: he probably got rid of his faith, kept a few things from it (truth, beauty, love, awe), and started something new and different.

If you are spiritual-but-not-religious, and you like poetry, you will like this book.

book

Keeping the faith without a religion
9781622030927
MattS

Designed in Cupertino

It’s difficult to imagine now but during the late 1980s and into the 90s, Apple Inc. was a struggling, poorly managed computer company trying unsuccessfully to compete with the Windows based PC that was quickly dominating the exploding computer market and putting Apple at deaths door. Also hard to believe is the fact that during most of that time, a time distinguished by uninspired mac models and failed device launches, Apple had Jony Ive, the industrial designer credited for the much imitated Apple “look and feel”, working in their design department. Much of the credit for Apple’s remarkable turnaround gets assigned to Steve Jobs; and rightly so. But it is specifically Job’s decision to move Apple from engineering based to a design-driven company and put his faith in the very talented Jony Ive that would lead to the string of industry changing products that eventually made Apple the most valuable company in the world. Not since Dieter Rams and the Braun Company in the 1950s has a designer’s ethos aligned so successfully with a corporation and not surprisingly Ive sights Rams (and his famous 10 principles of good design) as a strong influence on his work. But unlike Dieter Rams, for someone who’s designs have become cultural icons (just think about those white headphones alone!) next to nothing is known about the quiet and very private Jony Ive. But that has now changed a bit with the publication of Leander Kahney’s bio of Ive, Jony Ive : the genius behind Apple's greatest products. While the book doesn’t dive too terribly deeply into Ive’s personal life, it does a good job detailing his design career and outlining his close relationship with Jobs and the hard work and minute attention to each and every detail that has marked his, and Apple’s, success.

Book

Jony Ive: the genius behind Apple's greatest products
9781591846178
mykyl

This is ridiculous, this is amazing

I am not much of a laugh-out-louder, but I found myself doubled-over with tears in my eyes more than once while reading This is ridiculous, this is amazing : parenthood in 71 lists by comedic blogger Jason Good, of JasonGood.net. Here Good compiles lists that many parents can relate to, including “Reasons your toddler might be freaking out” (he jumped off the sofa and we weren’t watching) and my personal favorite, “Oh, the new and wonderful new things you’ll get to do” (put someone in a Bob the Builder costume while fighting off diarrhea). There are actually some good tips that can be gleaned from several of his lists, like “Games you can play while lying down,” which if done correctly, will allow you to catch a quick nap (Put all the sunglasses and hats on Daddy) (Put Daddy in ‘sofa jail’) (Vacuum Daddy). I can particularly relate to the list “Love hurts : especially my shoulder” where Good details various injuries he’s sustained playing with and chasing around kids…brought me back to two summers ago when I injured my knee jumping on a trampoline with my daughter, then re-injured it a few months later while doing a side slide on the kitchen floor to Don’t stop believin’. I was forced to wear a knee brace for four months until the knee finally healed. Ahhhhh…parenthood has its struggles. But thanks, Jason Good, for making me see the humor in them.

Book

This is ridiculous, this is amazing

9781452129211

 

KristenL
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