Saturday, May 30, 2015

Passionate Quests

A quest is a journey in the course of which one advances spiritually and mentally, as well as physically travelling miles. The quester leaves the familiar for the unknown. The nature of the goal may not be clear at first and may only become fully apparent at the end of the quest.
~Robert Irwin
There are a lot of reasons to undertake a quest.  The thirst for knowledge and/or experience. Traveling in the footsteps of someone you admire. For spiritual advancement. To push yourself to your limits - to find out what your limits are. Discovery, or self-discovery.  Obsession, plain and simple.

The following are a list of books by and about ordinary people, explorers, naturalists, and adventurers who have pursued their dreams to the ends of the earth, and sometimes to the end of the line.

Meet Me in Atlantis: My Quest to Find the 2,500-Year-Old Sunken City by Mark Adams

Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific By Raft by Thor Heyerdahl

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Planetwalker by John Francis

South With the Sun: Roald Amundsen, His Polar Explorations, and the Quest for Discovery by Lynne Cox

Imperial Dreams: Tracking the Imperial Woodpecker Through the Wild Sierra Madre by Tim Gallagher

Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery - the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 by Nathaniel Philbrick

Called Again: A Story of Love and Triumph by Jennifer Pharr Davis

Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession That Got a Little Out of Hand by Kenn Kaufman

Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz

The Will to Climb: Obsession and Commitment and the Quest to Climb Annapurna--The World's Deadliest Peak by Ed Viesturs, with David Roberts

Travels With a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah by Tim Mackintosh-Smith

Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier

The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe For a New Kind of Heroine by Holly Morris

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander

In Search of King Solomon's Mines by Tahir Shah

Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson

Off the Map: Tales of Endurance and Exploration as told by Fergus Fleming   


11 Books About Obsessive Searches [New York Times]      

If You Loved 'Wild", Try Reading These 9 Books, Too [Bustle]


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Every Hero Has a Story!/¡Cada Heroé Tiene Una Historia!

Our Summer Reading Program begins on Saturday, May 30th, and runs until July 25th! There will be kick-off parties at many branches on the 30th - check our Summer Reading events tab for listings or call your local branch.

Even if you miss the kick-off, all ages can still sign up for Summer Reading any time during the program and get a reading log, collect weekly prizes, attend events, and fill out a "library passport" (visit different library branches and get entered to win a fantastic family prize).

Summer Reading is for everyone! Click on the links below for lists of events, prizes, and more.
In a nutshell, babies and kids, tweens and teens will receive a weekly incentive when they bring in their reading logs. Teens and tweens can earn grand prize drawing entries by attending special events held at library branches. Adults bring in their completed 10-hour logs to be entered in weekly prize drawings, and will be eligible to win one of the grand prizes at the end of the summer. Visit our Summer Reading guide for more information.

It's going to be a great summer! Please join us!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New and Novel: Shakespeare

The phrase "there is nothing new under the sun" comes from the Bible, but if it didn't, it might have come from the brain of William Shakespeare (or whomever you believe wrote Shakespeare's works) - he coined many words we use today and the plays are a minefield of turns of phrase that you'll recognize from other sources, because everybody quotes Shakespeare!

At any rate, there are some new things under the sun, because there are new books about Shakespeare and his world to be found in the library catalog, as well as some recent DVDs about his plays and/or performances of his works.  In April 2016, there will be a tribute to the poet and playwright on the event of his 400th death anniversary - interesting, in light of the fact that many prestigious U.S. universities no longer require English majors to study the Bard's works.

What do you think of Shakespeare? Do you have a favorite play, or sonnet? Does Shakespeare still deserve all the veneration he was once given?


The Shakespeare Book edited by Stanley Wells

Whether you are new to the poetry and prose of Shakespeare, and in need of a guide through the complex plots and unfamiliar language, or looking for a fresh perspective on his much-loved plays and sonnets, this book will shed light on the work of one of world literature's greatest figures.  The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright's Universe by Dan Falk   William Shakespeare lived at a remarkable time--a period we now recognize as the first phase of the Scientific Revolution. New ideas were transforming Western thought, the medieval was giving way to the modern, and the work of a few key figures hinted at the brave new world to come: The methodical and rational Galileo, the skeptical Montaigne, and--as Falk convincingly argues--Shakespeare, who observed human nature just as intently as the astronomers who studied the night sky.  The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer  ... this popular history explores daily life in Queen Elizabeth's England, taking us inside the homes and minds of ordinary citizens as well as luminaries of the period, including Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Francis Drake. Organized as a travel guide for the time-hopping tourist, Mortimer relates in delightful (and occasionally disturbing) detail everything from the sounds and smells of sixteenth-century England to the complex and contradictory Elizabethan attitudes toward violence, class, sex, and religion. Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects by Neil MacGregor  In this work of historical reconstruction Neil MacGregor and his team at the British Museum, working together in a landmark collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC, bring us twenty objects that capture the essence of Shakespeare's universe and the Tudor era of Elizabeth I. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig Outlines an engaging way to instill an understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare's classic works in children, outlining a family-friendly method that incorporates the history of Shakespearean theater and society.  Ideas of Order: A Close Reading of Shakespeare's Sonnets by Neil L. Rudenstine  An approachable and indispensable guide to Shakespeare's sonnets Shakespeare's sonnets are the greatest single work of lyric poetry in English, as passionate, daring, intimate, and moving as any love poems we may encounter.Along with his expert critical narrative, Ideas of Order includes all of Shakespeare's sonnets. This enlightening book is an invaluable companion for Shakespeare neophytes and experienced readers alike.   Shakespeare Insult Generator: Mix and Match More Than 150,000 Insults in the Bard's Own Words by Barry Kraft      Watch   Shakespeare Uncovered, Season 1 and Season 2  Romeo & Juliet   Cymbeline  The Hollow Crown   Much Ado About Nothing  Coriolanus   *all descriptions are taken from the library catalog   

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Great First Lines: Middle Grade Edition

The Summer Reading Program is coming, and one of my favorite things about this time of year is visiting elementary schools and talking to the students about books and reading. I love having elementary school students judge books by their covers and first lines. A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on great first lines in young adult fiction; today, I'm sharing the great first lines from the books I took to my elementary school visits, along with the students' reactions.

"The calendar said early March, but the smell in the air said late October."
--The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Not surprisingly, the kids didn't love that first line, but they did love the cover of the book.

"The way I see it, I stopped being a kid on April 12, 1951."
--Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi

This was another first line they didn't love, but the students asked me to keep reading, and by the time we got through the first four (short) paragraphs, they were hooked.

"There were so many dead bodies stuffed into Gram's freezer chest that it was kind of like wandering through a cryonics lab."
--Turn Left at the Cow by Lisa Bullard

The kids loved this line so much that they asked me to read it a second time.

"'Stay out of trouble.' Kids hear that all the time, and most of the time, we barely pay attention. But when an FBI agent says it, and it's the fourth time in two weeks that you've been to the federal building in Boston? You listen."
--Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting by Erin Dionne

This was actually the first three paragraphs of the book, and this was one book that had a variety of reactions. Some kids liked it, some didn't, and most were undecided.

"Rye and her two friends had never intended to steal the banned book from the Angry Poet--they'd just hoped to read it."
--The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

Most of the kids liked this line, and why not? I'm intrigued enough by characters stealing a banned book from an angry poet, and the kids were, too.

"I was on my tippy-toes, bouncing up and down on the first step of the bus, stuck behind my second cousin, Danisha, and her melon-sized butt."
--Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

This line got a ton of laughs, which was what I was going for. One class had me read it a second time just because they thought it was hilarious.

"Of all the items that can clog your plumbing, an overweight Arctic mammal is probably the worst."
--Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done by Stephan Pastis

Some of the kids liked this line, but most didn't, which surprised me.

"In the shadow of our apple tree, looking out across a river at a city full of glass and whispers, I take my dad's hand and watch our enemy fly toward us."
--The Dark Wild by Piers Torday

Everyone loved this line, which wasn't a surprise.

"'Elliot von Doppler, you come down here right now or I swear, I'll boil you in soup and serve you to your father'!"
--The Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston

I've used this book two years in a row at these events, and each time, almost everyone loved it.

What are your favorite first lines in middle grade fiction? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jewish American Heritage Month

President Bush proclaimed May to be Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) in 2006. In 2013, President Obama echoed the first proclamation, declaring that

Jewish immigrants from all over the world wove new threads into our cultural fabric with rich traditions and indomitable faith, and their descendants pioneered incredible advances in science and the arts. Teachings from the Torah lit the way toward a more perfect Union, from women's rights to workers' rights to the end of segregation... More than 350 years have passed since Jewish refugees first made landfall on American shores. We take this month to celebrate the progress that followed, and the bright future that lies ahead.

You can read more about New Mexico's Jewish heritage at the City of Albuquerque site,  and New Mexico is featured in 50 States/50 Stories, a collection of  "colorful, enlightening, and surprising stories about the accomplishments and contributions of American Jewish men and women who have helped to weave the fabric of American history, culture, and society."

Here are a few items on Jewish American heritage to consider:

To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico by Stanley M. Hordes

A History of the Jews in New Mexico by Henry J. Tobias

It's a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba: The Latin-Jewish Musical Story - 1940s-1980s [CD]

Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart 

The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America by Beth S. Wenger 

MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman

Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity by Lila Corwin Berman [eBook]

Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail: A History in the American West by Jeanne E. Abrams [eBook]


What To Read During Jewish American Heritage Month [Book Riot]

Essential Readings in American Jewish History [American Jewish Historical Society]

Jewish American Heritage Month 
Portal of the JAHM Coalition, convened by convened by United Jewish Communities (now The Jewish Federations of North America), The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) and the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS).

Jewish American Heritage Month [.gov]
 This Web portal is a collaborative project of the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Abq Jew
Your guide to Jewish Life in Albuquerque and beyond.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Make a Beautiful Mess!

Because I have trouble cutting a straight line with scissors, I am not much of a do-it-yourself-er, but I revere the art that it is and love looking at books on the subject!  I think it is so special to be able to personalize projects to be just how you want them, and then to make them yourself.  It's magic to me.

My current favorite in this vein is from the creators of A Beautiful Mess, which is comprised of two of the most adorable sisters you've ever seen - Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman.  They have created two books so far, but they were originally bloggers and do a ton of work online at their site, A Beautiful Mess.  They have also created two top selling apps in the iTunes store, their own product line, and their own company.  Whoa!  Not only are these women super cute, they are inspiring in a make-you-want-to-do-what-you-really-want-to-do-with-your-life sort of way.

Let me introduce you to their two books, if you haven't met (and maybe you have; I tend to be a little behind the times).  One is a fantastic photo-inspiration book, the kind that both novices and professionals can benefit from, and the other is a DIY for almost anything you can think of at home, from pillows to party ideas:

As a completely unofficial companion (maybe its subtitle should actually be A Not-So-Beautiful Mess?) there is this highly entertaining book about DIY gone wrong.  I recommend it for craft-lovers and the unskilled alike:

Anybody out there have any DIY stories of joy or horror?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Older Americans Month

When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs. Interest in older Americans and their concerns was growing. A meeting in April 1963 between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens led to designating May as “Senior Citizens Month,” the prelude to “Older Americans Month.”
~from the Administration for Community Living website

Happy Older Americans Month!  As President Obama, whose  Administration is hosting the 2015 White House Conference on Aging this summer, officially proclaimed,

After a lifetime of contributions, [older Americans] have earned our care and respect, and they deserve to live out their years with dignity and independence... This month, we celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices of our elders, and we reaffirm our belief that the promise of our Nation extends to Americans of all ages.

This year also marks several other anniversaries of note: 80 years of Social Security, and 50 years for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act. Why not celebrate Older Americans Month with some items from the library catalog, including:

Love, Again: The Wisdom of Unexpected Romance by Eve Pell

Unexpectedly Eighty: And Other Adaptations by Judith Viorst

Conscious Living, Conscious Aging: Embrace & Savor Your Next Chapter by Ron Pevny [Large Print]

Sex After--: Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes by Iris Krasnow

Gut Busters and Belly Laughs: Jokes For Seniors, Boomers, and Anyone Else Who Thinks Thirty-Somethings Are Just Kids by Steven D. Price

With a Little Help From Our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older by Beth Baker

The Wonder of Aging: A New Approach to Embracing Life After Fifty by Michael Gurian [Large Print]

Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities by Richard J. Leider, Alan M. Webber

For more books with issues affecting older Americans, try a subject search in the catalog of "older people".

Also, consider checking out these feature films with mature characters and themes of interest to older people:

Last Tango in Halifax

Unfinished Song

Still Mine

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Something's Gotta Give

Young at Heart

It's Complicated

Le Week-End


Administration for Community Living

Older Americans Month on Pinterest

AARP Bulletin: Get Into the Act

Presidential Proclamation - Older Americans Month 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Literary Links: Libraries in the news

This April 26th marked the 114th anniversary of steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie's gift of 60 library branch buildings to the New York Public Library. Carnegie donated 1,679 library buildings throughout the United States. We feel honored to be part of the library tradition in this country!  Here's some links to recent articles about libraries:

At This Fashion Library, You Check out Clothes Instead of Buying Them [Co.Exist]
"The library currently has 1,200 items in stock at any moment, and another 500 checked out to customers. Eventually, they hope to expand to other cities around the world. 'Our dream is to go on holidays with some hand luggage and your library card, and have access to a big LENA wardrobe wherever you are,' says Smulders."

Baltimore Libraries Stay Open Through Riots, Because 'The Community Needs Us' [MTV]
"With a state of emergency declared and schools closed citywide Tuesday morning, the Enoch Pratt Free Library has chosen to stay open, providing a hub of comfort and community to all Baltimore neighborhoods, including the ones most affected by the mayhem."

A Long Way From Wax Cylinders, Library of Congress Slowly Joins the Digital Age [NPR]
"The Library of Congress has a trove of online content. You can hear Louise Bogan recite a poem... Or listen to a recording of a former slave, Fountain Hughes, recalling his life."

Libraries Make Space for 3-D Printers; Rules are Sure to Follow [NPR]
"And in an age where digital and technical literacy is stressed alongside traditional reading and writing, libraries are setting up plenty of space for the unexpected."

Denying New York Libraries The Fuel They Need [New York Times]
"So the city’s libraries have more users than major professional sports, performing arts, museums, gardens and zoos — combined. No one who has set foot in the libraries — crowded at all hours with adults learning languages, using computers, borrowing books, hunting for jobs, and schoolchildren researching projects or discovering stories — can mistake them for anything other than power plants of intellect and opportunity. They are distributed without regard to wealth."

'Improbable Libraries' Beautifully Depicts the Fun Side of Libraries [Huffington Post]
"Whether it's a bicycle delivering books or a serene literary retreat, these institutions remind us of the ineffable power of holding a book in your hands and seeing the signs left by previous attentive readers -- a power digital texts can never replicate."

Libraries help close the digital divide [Washington Post]
"The people in the 25 million households without Internet access may not know they can get online at their local library. Books are important, but computers are necessary. For people without Internet access at home, libraries fill the gap."

Unusual Library Collections Around the World [Flavorwire]
Includes the Cornell University Witchcraft Collection, the New York Public Library's collection of vintage Valentines, the Betsy Brown Puppetry Collection, and more!

Librarians Versus the NSA [The Nation]
"By 2003, librarians around the country had launched a revolt. Librarians in Paulding County, Ohio, among other places, posted signs warning computer users that 'due to national security concerns,' their 'Internet surfing habits, passwords and e-mail content' might be monitored by law enforcement. Others distributed informational handouts or organized community hearings about the government’s new surveillance powers. Libraries began to destroy computer-use wait-lists, hard- drive caches, and other records."

In the Memory Ward [New Yorker]
"It is a library like no other in Europe—in its cross-disciplinary reference, its peculiarities, its originality, its strange depths and unexpected shallows. Magic and science, evil eyes and saints’ lives: these things repose side by side in a labyrinth of imagery and icons and memory."

Do We Really Need Libraries? [NPR]
"Today's libraries still lend books, he says. But they also provide other services to communities, such as free access to computers and Wi-Fi, story times to children, language classes to immigrants and technology training to everyone."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Beautiful Science

Inspired by an article called "The Art of Science" on Amazon's Omnivoracious blog, we go microcosmic, cosmic, and everything in between with some book suggestions for the science-minded. The following books walk the line between art and science with their painstaking illustrations and detailed photography, taking readers on a fantastic voyage from the black dunes of Noachis Terra on Mars to the fragile mysteries of marine invertebrates, from living organisms 2,000 years and older to the “bumblebee bat”—the world’s smallest mammal.

The Oldest Living Things in the World by Rachel Sussman

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything by Theodore Gray

Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, the Backbone of Life by Susan Middleton

Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time by Michael Benson.

Animal Architecture by Ingo Arndt

This Is Mars: Photographs by NASA/MRO by Alfred S. McEwen, Francis Rocard, Xavier Barral

Auroras: Fire in the Sky by Dan Bortolotti

Bats: A World of Science and Mystery by M. Brock Fenton, Nancy B. Simmons     

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Great First Lines

With the summer reading program quickly approaching, I've been visiting elementary schools to talk about the program with students. One thing I do during these visits is have the students judge books by their covers and by their first lines. Some books get great reactions and others don't, and it's always interesting to see what the kids like and don't like.

I love judging books by the covers, and even more by their first lines, so much that I've also done two different displays of young adult books with great first lines in the past. Today, I'm sharing some of my favorite first lines from young adult books.

"We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck."
--Feed by M.T. Anderson

"So in order to understand everything that happened, you have to start from the premise that high school sucks."
--Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

"I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged. Now, if you please."
--Chime by Frannie Billingsley

"The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World."
--Going Bovine by Libba Bray

"The afternoon my parents died, I was out shoplifting with Irene Klauson."
--The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

"I'm a sweating fat kid standing on the edge of the subway platform staring at the tracks."
--Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

"One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone."
--Gone by Michael Grant

"It is impossible to know who you really are until you spend time alone in a cemetery."
--Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

"The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath."
--An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

"I was buried alive."
--Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

"A couple things that made that day stand out more than any other: it was my sixth birthday, and my mother was wielding a knife."
--Switched by Amanda Hocking

"The entire world had gone dark, and I had no idea why."
--Arise by Tara Hudson

"In order to tell you what really happened, what you don't know, what the journalists didn't report, I have to start at Mother's annual Christmas Eve party."
--The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

"There's no such thing as a secret in this town."
--Golden by Jessi Kirby

"I wake up. Immediately, I have to figure out who I am."
--Every Day by David Levithan

"Maybe getting drunk and dressing up like a pirate for the masquerade was a bad idea."
--Timepiece by Myra McEntire

"This whole enormous deal wouldn't have happened, none of it, if Dad hadn't messed up his hip moving the manure spreader."
--Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

"It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since scientists perfected a cure."
--Delirium by Lauren Oliver

"Her email didn't move or disappear or do any of the creepy things I'd expect an email from a ghost to do."
--The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

"Maggot said we should go to Times Square to watch the ball drop and pick some pockets, but we never got around to it."
--Can't Get There From Here by Todd Stasser

"Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day."
--Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

"I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body."
--Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

"On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton's Laws of Motions in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road."
--Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

What are your favorite first lines from books? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Books to Look Forward to in 2015: Non-Fiction

For your convenience, we've compiled a list of the most highly anticipated reads of this year - some recently published, some to be published - from lists on Buzzfeed, the Seattle Times, Flavorwire, the Washington Post, BookPage, and The Millions which links directly to the library catalog! Is there a title you think we should add to the list?  Let us know in the comments!

The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips, Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings - J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski, Carol Zaleski 

Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It's a Long Story My Life by Willie Nelson

The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom by Blaine Harden

The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam

All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Phillip Connors 

Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II by Richard Reeves

Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick

Michelle Obama: A Life by by Peter B. Slevin

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett

Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy by Masha Gessen

All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West by David Gessner

B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal by J. C. Hallman 

Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence by Bryan Burrough     

Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer

Reagan: The Life by H.W. Brands 

God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican by Gerald Posner

Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being by Christiane Northrup, M.D  

Discontent and its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London by Mohsin Hamid 

The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon

If you are looking for more recommended reads, have you checked out our email newsletter service? There are plenty of fiction options,  and non-fiction readers can get book suggestions about Biography and Memoir, Business and Personal Finance, History and Current Events, Nature and Science, and more!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Books to Look Forward to in 2015: Fiction

For your convenience, we've compiled a list of the most highly anticipated reads of this year - some recently published, some to be published - from lists on Buzzfeed, the Seattle Times, Flavorwire, the Washington Post, and The Millions, with links directly to the library catalog! We've tried to keep our focus on some less famous titles - we figure you've heard about the latest from Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Sara Gruen, Kate Atkinson, Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, Harper Lee, etc. Apart from those, are there more titles that you think we should add to the list?  Let us know in the comments!

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

The Infernal by Mark Doten

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi

Hall of Small Mammals: Stories by Thomas Pierce

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A History of Loneliness by John Boyne

Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

Binary Star by Sarah Gerard

Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

There's Something I Want You To Do: Stories by Charles Baxter

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows  

Glow by Ned Beauman

Frog by Mo Yan

A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor

Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski

Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda

The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James

Young Skins by Colin Barrett

The Last Word by Hanif Kureishi

Aquarium by David Vann

The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday

My Struggle: Book 4 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Academy Street by Mary Costello

Mislaid by Nell Zink

A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me by David Gates  

Did you know that Goodreads has a Hurry Up and Release It!!! list for "books we just can't wait to come out"?  (We're looking at you, George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss!)A good resource if you're following a series - includes expected publication dates.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Pleasures of Re-reading and the Bibliomemoir

I have been indulging in my annual re-reading of Jane Austen and it has struck me — strangely, for the first time — that not one of her five heroines has a satisfactory mother... But in leaving her heroines without the wisdom, affection and guidance of a sensible mother, Jane Austen was artistically right. A book can only have one heroine and each of the novels has the same basic plot, the story of a virtuous and attractive woman who overcomes difficulties, including the lack of a mother, to win the husband of her choice. In other words, Mills & Boon written by a genius.
~P.D. James

A few years ago, I got rid of a lot of books. My place is really small, and I thought, "I love these books, but I will never re-read them."  I work in a library, after all - there's hardly a better place on earth to learn about new books coming out, my hold list is always full, and if I want to re-read, say, Beloved, I can always borrow it from the library, right?

I wasn't always this way.  In my teens, I can remember deciding to re-read one of my favorite novels, The Color Purple, every year (this lasted about 3 years, I think). I also re-read The Bone People and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit several times during my late teens. In my twenties, I liked Bastard Out of Carolina so much that immediately after I finished it, I turned back to the first page and started again. Not so long ago, I was haunting library book sales, looking for copies of Ngaio Marsh, my favorite mystery writer - I would re-read those as "comfort reading".

But, I'm middle-aged now, with a lot more reading under my belt, and new books coming up on my radar every day, it seems. So, though I will read everything that an author I like publishes, I find myself less likely to go back and revisit the books I've loved before.

Until I picked up Rebecca. I've been carrying it around in my car for ages and I'm not sure where I got it from.  I like the edition - it's the same cover as the paperback copy I read back in my teens, when I read it for the first time.  Then, I was closer in age to du Maurier's nameless heroine at the beginning of her story; now I'm older than Maxim, described by Mrs. Danvers in the book as "not yet forty-five".

I started reading Rebecca again while I was in my car, waiting for something.  Now I'm starting to think of it as my car reading, because I'm enjoying it so much I want to savor the re-reading - unheard of for me. I usually gobble books up in haste, and forget the whole plot just as fast. This re-reading is giving me time to appreciate du Maurier's language as she sets the scene:
This was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the grey stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and the terrace.  Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, not the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand. The terrace sloped to the lawns, and the lawns stretched to the sea, and turning I could see the sheet of silver, placid under the moon, like a lake undisturbed by wind or storm.  No waves would come to ruffle this dream water, and no bulk of cloud, wind-driven from the west, obscure the clarity of this pale sky.
Re-reading also gives me the chance to focus on details. While they are still in Monte Carlo, Maxim "took an emery board out of his pocket and began filing his nails" while the nameless narrator is trying to tell him she has to leave to return with her employer to New York. I'm still trying to figure out the meaning of this gesture, but hands in general seem to be important signifiers to du Maurier - when the narrator meets Mrs. Danvers, the latter is described as having a hand "limp and heavy, deathly a lifeless thing", whereas Maxim's sister's Beatrice "shook hands very firmly". Later, when Maxim and his new wife have returned to Manderley and are having an uncomfortable conversation about broken china, she polishes her nails - "They were scrubby, like a schoolboy's bails. The cuticles grew up over the half moon. The thumb was bitten nearly to the quick."

In that same conversation, Maxim worries he is too old to be with the new Mrs. de Winter; he thinks she has gotten thinner since they returned from their honeymoon, and is not happy.  His concern is tempered with a parental scolding - he berates her for hiding the broken object "[j]ust like a between-maid...and not the mistress of a house" and for her tone, telling her "It was not a particularly attractive thing to say, was it?" Meanwhile, her feelings for him are feverishly devotional: "You are my father and my brother and my son. All those things."

Sigh. I haven't yet finished my re-reading of Rebecca.  Even though I already know how it ends, the journey of reading, the Gothic atmosphere and the suspenseful buildup, still holds me spellbound. Yet, when I picked up a book called The Rebecca Notebooks and Other Memories, du Maurier has this to say about her creation:
It is now over forty years since my novel Rebecca was first published. Although I had then written four previous novels, The Loving Spirit, I'll Never Be Young Again, The Progress of Julius and Jamaica Inn, as well as two biographies, Gerald: A Portrait and The du Mauriers, the story of Rebecca became a instant favourite with readers in the United Kingdom, North America and Europe. Why, I have never understood!
The Rebecca Notebooks contain the notebook du Maurier kept while writing Rebecca, full of the changing details of the story - Mrs. Danvers was called Mrs. Danvers from the start, but Maxim was at one point called Henry, for instance - along with "The Rebecca Epilogue", with which du Maurier originally intended to end the novel, and "The House of Secrets", an article she wrote to contribute to a book called Countryside Character. The "...and Other Memories" part of the book appears to be early stories.  I've read du Maurier's introduction to The Rebecca Notebooks, but not much more...yet. After I'm done taking in the novel again, maybe I'll go back with du Maurier's notebook entries and compare and contrast.

Are you also a fan of Rebecca? If you are interested in further immersing yourself in Rebecca, we also have the eBook, the book on CD, and the movie and PBS special (starring Game of Thrones' Charles Dance as Maxim de Winter).  There are also no less than 3 re-imaginings of du Maurier's classic in the library catalog - Alena by Rachel Pastan, Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman, and Mrs. de Winter by Susan Hill - in addition to other titles by Daphne herself and a delightful biography of the author, Daphne du Maurier: The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller by Margaret Forster.  And while you're at it, why not try a mystery or two by Joanna Challis featuring a young du Maurier as a sleuth?

The idea of re-reading Rebecca was in part inspired by reading Rebecca Mead's delightful bibliomemoir, My Life in Middlemarch. Here are some other bibliomemoirs from the library catalog:

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz

How To Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned From Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis

How to Live, or, A Life of Montaigne: In One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller

How Literature Saved My Life by David Shields

What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Jo Walton

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity by Prue Shaw

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Nick Hornby

Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence by  Geoff Dyer

The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time by Phyllis Rose

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch   

What about you? Are there books you re-read again and again? Do you write about what you've read? Let us know in the comments!


P.D. James on Jane Austen [Washington Post, video]

Re-reading: The ultimate guilty pleasure?  [BBC]

Rereading as Rebirth: Young Susan Sontag on Personal Growth, The Pleasures of Revisiting Beloved Books, and Her Rereading List [Brain Pickings]

Are Rereadings Better Readings? [New Yorker]

Re-reading books is good for your health [Stylist]

The top 10  books about reading [Guardian]