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Staff Picks: Books

Monopoly and Musicals and Mysteries Oh My

Here are some books that have caught my eye over the past two months as I read reviews to decide what to purchase for the library:

The Monopolists by Mary Pilon
When an economics professor, Ralph Anspach, in the 1970s invented an anti-monopoly game, he is threatened by Parker Brothers, which leads to a lawsuit and research into the origins of the game. Anspach uncovers that the game goes back to the early 1900s and that it was invented by a woman, not the traditional story of the inventor being an unemployed man during the Great Depression. The reviewer in Booklist states, “The book abounds with interesting tidbits for board-game buffs but treats its subject seriously. After reading The Monopolists —part parable on the perils facing inventors, part legal odyssey, and part detective story —you'll never look at spry Mr. Monopoly in the same way again.”

Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by Allen Kurzweil
Kurzweil was bullied while at a Swiss boarding school by a twelve year old native of Manila named Cesar Augustus; once being whipped to the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar. Yes, truth is stranger than fiction. The reviewer in Library Journal wrote, “It moves like a thriller, is very funny, and in the right hands, would make a great movie.”

By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates
Former Harvard librarian, Lucy, finds her dream job in a lighthouse library on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and can’t believe her luck, until a priceless Jane Austen first edition is stolen and people start getting murdered. For some, I’m sure combining libraries and lighthouses in a mystery is like combining horses and mermaids in an adventure tale for my daughter. Can it get any better?


Every Day He Fought

For those of you who loved ESPN’s Stuart Scott, may I present to you his autobiography, finished shortly before he lost his battle with cancer in January of this year, at the age of 49. Scott's legacy included becoming the most popular and recognized sports anchor of his generation, coining terms such as "cool as the other side of the pillow" and of course, "Boo-yah!" 

Every Day I Fight chronicles Scott’s childhood, career, and his 8-year fight with cancer – fighting every day to stay alive because he could not leave his daughters. Through his memoir we learn that behind the face of SportsCenter was a true family man, who felt being a dad was the most important thing he’d ever done.


Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Here's a 2014 book that I probably would have passed by if I hadn't seen a review of it which told of the author's connection to Michigan. Subtitled 'A Memoir of Food & Love from an American Midwest Family,' it's a collection of brief stories and recipes by Kathleen Flinn, who grew up near Flint. The stories are about her rural upbringing as half Irish and half Swedish, but the food descriptions and recipes she includes would transcend several nationalities. Some of the recipes are for foods I grew up with as well, such as the apple crisp and oatmeal cookies. For a retrospective on Michigan rural culture and cuisine, try this one.


Night of the Gun

New York Times journalist David Carr died yesterday at the age of 58. His critically acclaimed 2008 memoir Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own shined a light upon his struggles with addiction. Even as he rose through the professional ranks as a feisty and hard-nosed reporter, Carr’s life spun out of control, leading to homelessness and eventually to recovery. Carr was also prominently featured in the 2011 documentary film Page One: Inside the New York Times, a portrait of a year in the life of several New York Times reporters.


What's Indie Next?

Based on how the books are flying off our Library Reads display at the Central Library, we gather that this has become a trusted place to find some great books to read. 

 
Librarians got the idea for the monthly Library Reads Top 10 list from independent booksellers who started putting together a monthly Top 20 list called Indie Next. Because of how much you love the Library Reads display, we decided to use another one of our display locations to feature books on the Indie Next list.


Check it out in the rotunda of the Central Library where you will find “inspired recommendations from independent booksellers.”


Lunch with a Master Storyteller/Faker

The larger than life personality and talent that was Orson Welles is on full display in last year’s My Lunches with Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles. The child prodigy (actor, writer, director) who was every bit the iconoclast he’s been generally labeled bluntly and without filters shares his thoughts on a variety of subjects, mainly in regards to his judgments and attitudes for or against fellow actors and filmmakers. Always brash, sometimes blatantly offensive and with a refreshing honesty (one might say narrow minded megalomania), Welles would seem to have known everyone and done everything first and better than others according to these precious and revealing conversations with friend, agent and fellow director Henry Jaglom. Welles had a brilliant mind to go along with his formidable personality. Striking both a gossipy and intellectual tone, the book’s unique format makes one feel as though the reader is present, a fly on the wall and witness to one of the 20th Century’s most fascinating artists tackling one topic after another with humor, intelligence and bravado.


DASH Out to Good Health and a Youthful Look

The DASH Diet Younger You: Shed 20 Years - and Pounds - in Just 10 Weeks, was published in November, 2014. It’s the fourth in a series of health/nutrition books written by registered dietitian Marla Heller, which also includes the ever popular DASH Diet Action Plan, The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution, and The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook.  All can be found in the KPL collection.

 

This latest version is more of the same winning formula; a sensible diet book urging readers to return to basic, real food eating. It particularly promotes plant-based intake and the elimination of over processed foods. Other no-no’s include sugars and sodium. By combining all the suggestions together, the author claims that adherents will reclaim their youth and lose some weight in the process. 

 

The theory is that this long-term diet regimen let’s the body undergo a natural, ongoing detox. This helps lower the risks of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and will result in adding , “...years to your life and life to your years”. 

 

She especially endorses purchasing foods grown organically at local farmer’s markets. Luckily, Kalamazoo has an outstanding Farmer’s Market that is open all year round!

 

The book includes many menu ideas for breakfast, lunch, in between meal snacks, and dinner. Some of the recipes truly sound delicious and easy to make.

 

The author also maintains the idea that in addition to a beneficially nutritious diet, regular exercise, effective stress management and quality sleep are also essential for overall health. Now who can argue with such great commonsense advice? 

 

 

All in all, this is a useful volume with fine guidance that is easy to understand and follow.


From A to Z

One of my co-workers recommended this book to me, thinking it would be a good match for my tastes. He was right. Subtitled 'How Every Letter Tells a Story,' the premise of the book is quite simple in that it has a chapter on the history of each letter of the alphabet. To start, I arbitrarily chose to look at the twenty-fourth chapter which is about the letter X. There I read that, according to author Rosen, the English language doesn't really need that letter, since any word that starts with an X has the sound of a Z, and elsewhere in a word one could use KS instead. Some of the high-level linguistics in this book can be quite complex, but the average reader will be able to find enough material to enjoy as well.

 


Don't Write In Library Books

Ander Monson is the most bizarre, versatile, prize-winningest writer who hails from Michigan that you have never heard about. He won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award for Other Electricities, the Tupelo Press Editor’s Prize for his poetry collection Vacationland, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for his book of criticism called Vanishing Point. If not for that last one, I would have had to add that the prizes he has won are just as unheard of as he is. 

 
I read Other Electricities several years ago which left me with a vivid impression of the mix of tenacious survivalism and self-destructiveness of the residents of the Upper Peninsula and the image of snowmobiles jumping snow banks out on to frozen Lake Superior; occasionally breaking through the ice and disappearing. 

 
His newest book, a collection of essays titled Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries, comes out on February 3rd. Check it out and see what you think of Ander Monson and if you can resist writing in a library book about people writing in library books.


Reading About the 60’s

I wrote a few days ago about my unplanned reading emphasis for 2014 on books about World War I and II, generally with a European setting, and both fiction and nonfiction.

I enjoy looking back over the list of books I read during the year and see another unplanned emphasis: the 1960’s. It is not surprising that there have been many books published about that decade as we “celebrate” the 50th anniversary of the mid-point of that decade AND a formative time for me.

I read and would recommend

Ready for a Brand New Beat: How “Dancing in the Streets” Became the Anthem for a Changing America by Mark Kurlansky

The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America by James T. Patterson

Tomorrow-land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America by Joseph Tirella

1963: The Year of the Revolution by Robin Morgan

You don’t have to have grown up in the 60’s to appreciate these titles, but it helps! I’m betting we’ll see more titles about this decade published in 2015.