2014 National Book Awards

RedeploymentWednesday night we learned the 2014 winners of the National Book Award, and there are some terrific titles to explore.

Winner in the fiction category was debut novelist (and former marine) Phil Klay for Redeployment.  The nonfiction prize went to Evan Osnos for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in new China.

Prizes were also awarded for poAge_of_Ambitionetry and young people’s literature. You can see all the winners and nominees online, and the lists are worth viewing as there are many intriguing titles (by the way, I was rooting for Station Eleven in the fiction category).

Also worth mentioning: the amazing speech given by diminutive and delightful author Ursula K. Le Guin who was honored with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Included in her thought-provoking statements was this gem, contrasting authors of “realism” with those who write fantasy and science fiction:

“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being…”

You can watch her entire speech in the video below.  This was only the second time I’ve watched along as the awards were announced and I have to say it is becoming a favorite book event to “attend” – even if only virtually.  Always some new, great books to read!

Can You Keep a Secret?

There’s an ongoing fascination with those who protect our national leaders, but I’m not so sure they are pleased with their recent publicity. Here are four books for those interested in learning more about the Secret Service:

The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents by Ronald Kessler (363.283 KES)

Within Arm’s Length: A Secret Service Agent’s Definitive Inside Account of Protecting the President by Dan Emmett (363.283 EMM)

In the Secret Service: The True Story of the Man Who Saved President Reagan’s Life by Jerry Parr (363.283 PAR)

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill (973.922 HIL)

Banned Books, Get ‘em While You Still Can!

The Lovely Bones A Time to Kill Olive's Ocean Snow Falling on Cedars

This week (Sept. 21-27) is Banned Books Week which is not, in fact, a week we spend pulling books off the shelves and throwing them in a fire; it is a week of celebrating the freedom to read. So, hurry in and pick up a copy of a book that someone, somewhere in time, has challenged your right to read.

Leaves of Grass  To Kill a Mockingbird  The Great Gatsby  Lady Chatterley's Lover

We have classics such as Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in both print AND audio (hmm, is listening okay if reading is not?) also, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (most of his major works have been challenged, so take your pick), To Kill a Mockingbird (what’s not to like about Gregory Peck?), The Call of the Wild, The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Rings, The Grapes of Wrath, The Catcher in the Ryethe list goes on and on and we’ve got ‘em all!

Harry Potter  Captain Underpants  Goosebumps  Gossip Girl

Want something a little more current? There’s Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, Goosebumps and Gossip Girlall these series have been challenged.

Stop by the Library to learn more about Banned Books Week, pick up a bookmark or two and exercise your freedom to read (or listen or watch).

The Color Purple  Slaughterhouse-Five  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  The Hunger Games

What the Staff is Reading

inventionofwingsFor readers who love to be immersed in history, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is a great choice. Based on the life of abolitionist Sarah Grimke, the story begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given the gift of a slave to be her personal maid, Hetty “Handful” Grimke. Set mainly in South Carolina, the story follows thirty five years in the lives of these strong women and the choices they must make to be true to themselves, told from two totally different viewpoints.

A  thriller that one staff member can’t stop raving about is I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. This is a fast-paced, eerily-plausible modern-day spy vs. lone terrorist story that takes you all over the world. Set against a backdrop of international politics, this race against time takes you from New York to Afghanistan, with many stops between, and also includes some surprisingly detailed character studies.

In the political satire O, Democracy by Kathleen Rooney, 20-something Colleen is a staffer for the senior senator of Illinois during the elections of 2008. She really wants to “make a difference” but finds politics is not all that she thought it would be. Based on real Illinois politicians, this “insider” look at politics is fun and fascinating, and the character studies are great.forgivemeleonard

If you enjoy listening to books, the audio format of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick is “amazing.” This young adult book deals with a day in the life of a suicidal teen as he says good-bye to four people he cares deeply about.

For nonfiction fans, there are numerous memoirs worth your time. Grace: A Memoir is by Grace Coddington, the creative director of American Vogue and a former model. Fashionistas will delight in this interesting and very candid collection of tales and  anecedotes covering just about everyone in the society pages, as well as a great many personal details.

MisterOwitaOn a different note, Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall is a sweet memoir about friendship. While coping with an empty nest, illness and aging parents, the author unburdens herself to a Kenyan gardener and they find themselves cultivating a deep relationship together, as well as a garden.





Pause to Read – with a Long Book

BigBooksbagOne of the enjoyments of a lazy summer weekend (or two, or three…)  is allowing yourself to spend a lot of time with a long book.  Yes, they will take up a bit more of your time, but we think you’ll find them so engrossing you’ll be sad when your realize your time with the characters is coming to an end. If this sounds up your alley, we’ve compiled a captivating list of such time-worthy tomes, including:

11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King (849 pages) Many patrons have commented on how much they enjoyed this alternate history/time travel look at the Kennedy assassination.

If a lush family saga is more your style, Leila Meacham’s Roses (609 pages) is sure to please.

Science Fiction readers are used to  incredible, world-building detail, but anyone who enjoys fast-paced suspense will like REAMDE  by Neal Stephenson (1,044 pages)as it hops around the globe and in and out of cyberspace.

And finally, don’t forget the “classics” such as Shogun by James Clavell (998 pages).

11-22-63    Roses   reamde    Shogun

Do you  have a favorite long read?

NextReads – Book Recommendations by Email

NextReadslogoThere are so many ways to find out about new books: from social media and newspaper reviews, to late night shows like The Colbert Report (check out their “books featured” page). And don’t forget browsing the shelves at the Library and our monthly “Sneak Peeks” at the new titles we’re purchasing!

Now we’re adding one more great resource:  “newsletters” conveniently sent to you in your email! Each one has five to ten new titles, plus some bonus titles (often older or “under the radar” books) to add to your TBR (to be read) list. It’s organized by topic/genre and covers everything from Mysteries and Romance to Armchair Travel and Nature and Science. It also has the weekly New York Times Bestseller lists! Start here and sign up for as many as you like or, if you prefer, you can subscribe by RSS feed.

You can also simply view the latest issue online.  Click on any topic in the list and a brief description will appear plus a link to the current issue (see example below).




What the Staff is Reading

AboveAllThingsIf you enjoy historical fiction and books about marriage relationships, you will enjoy Above All Things by Tanis Rideout. George Mallory is deeply committed to his young wife, Ruth, and their three young children. Yet he feels an overpowering pull to make one more attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1924. Masterfully told from the alternating viewpoints of Ruth and George, the reader is pulled into the tension. Rideout succeeds in conveying the harsh conditions and extreme physical demands of such a climb as well as the compelling personal need, but we can also empathize with Ruth’s trying–but not quite—coming to terms with it.

AstonishMeAstonish Me by Maggie Shipstead is also a domestic fiction story about relationships, but centering around the world of ballet. Joan leaves the ballet both knowing she’s not cut out for greatness and due to sudden pregnancy. She marries childhood sweetheart Jacob, despite her longtime desperate love for a Russian ballet dancer she helped defect. As we follow Joan and Jacob they have a son who also ends up becoming a dancer, and as his skill is noticed many people realize what secret Joan has been hiding. The story goes back and forth through time, has interesting characters, and peeks “behind the scenes” of the disciplined dance world.

LostLakeThe latest novel by Sarah Addison Allen, Lost Lake, is “right on.” Georgia’s Lost Lake was magical for Kate as a child, but now she returns as a widow with her eight-year-old daughter. The book is filled with quirky characters and a great sense of place, along with a thread of the supernatural. The end result is a deeply satisfying, happy read.

If you enjoy very odd stories, try the young adult book Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.  It’s a story combining the past, present, and the future, intricately linked in mysterious ways by an island with a very mysterious history. A little creepy at times, this story would appeal to both males and females.

DevotionDefianceIn nonfiction, a woman definitely worth knowing is Humaira Awais Shahid. In her book Devotion and Defiance: My Journey in Love, Faith and Politics, it’s as though you’re engaged in a conversation with a best friend, and the pages fly by. Raised in Kuwait, Humaira moves to her parents’ native Pakistan to finish high school and continue her studies in the university. After she falls in love and marries Ednan, she is drawn into his family’s newspaper business and eventually, politics. She becomes the country’s most prominent woman activist and legislator for women’s rights and is labeled “the most unmanageable woman in Pakistan,” all the while facing personal struggles and remaining devoted to her family and her Muslim religion. Her struggle to carry on despite many obstacles is inspiring.


Great Reads for the Great Men in Your Life

A recent request got staff brainstorming about audiobook recommendations for a man of “The Greatest Generation.” The end result is definitely worth sharing, whether you prefer to read or listen, especially with Father’s Day right around the corner! There’s a mix of nonfiction listed, including some really enjoyable WWII historical reads:

Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel Brown

One Summer, America 1927 by Bill Bryson

Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Vanished: The Sixty-year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton

A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos

John Adams by David McCullough

Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly

In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton

Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival, and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

Drop In – Discuss Books!

Just wanted to send out a friendly reminder that all patrons are invited to drop in to either/both of the two book discussions Reader Services offers every month!  To make it even easier, for June and July of this year, we’ve picked titles that we know many of you have already read:

The morning discussion starts at 10:00 am, and the evening discussion begins at 7:00 pm. Both generally last about an hour. We hope you will consider joining us whenever a title we’re discussing catches your interest – and, of course, please let us know if we can help you obtain a copy of the book!

What the Staff is Reading

As April ends and May begins, a new roundup of titles the Library staff have enjoyed!

TheSonIf you love a long family saga to get involved in, try The Son by Philipp Meyer. The story of the McCullough family starts with the kidnapping in 1849 of Eli, a 13-year-old white boy, who is carried off by Comanche Native Americans. Though he adapts well, times are changing and as the Comanche become unable to maintain their lifestyle, Eli finds himself back in the white man’s world but no longer fully feeling a part of it. Eli’s telling of the story is interspersed with his son Pete’s voice, centering in the late 1910’s, and his great-granddaughter’s, Jeannie, who carries the family’s story to the present.  The morals and choices needed to become a wealthy ranching-and-oil dynasty are set against the background of Texas history. I found the descriptions of Comanche life and customs particularly fascinating.

TheKeptAnother historical novel is The Kept by  James Scott. Set in the 19th century in upstate New York, this is a deeply atmospheric book with finely-drawn characters that will linger in your memory long after the last sentence has been read. In the harsh winter of 1897, Elspeth returns home to a grisly crime scene that only her 12-year-old son Caleb survived. Together they seek revenge and as secrets are unfolded, ultimately, they are able to form a new bond.

TrainsandLoversOn a much lighter note, Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith makes a great vacation read, especially for someone lucky enough to be traveling by train from Edinburgh to London, where it takes place. The pace of the story itself conjures up the feel of the train’s rhythm, as each character shares his/her own experiences involving trains and their personal relationships. There’s the comfort of anonymity here, similar to sitting next to strangers on an airplane for hours and discussing life’s little details with no concern for future ramifications.

thisisIn nonfiction, there is something for almost everyone in Ann Patchett’s collection of essays,  This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. She is so wise, and these essays and previously-published articles cover everything from the controversy surrounding her commencement address at Clemson University to how she got started in the business of writing, to opening her bookstore, to training to be a member of the LAPD.

Pat and DickAlso in nonficion,  Pat & Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage by Will Swift concentrates on the relationship rather than the politics. For everyone who thought the President and First Lady were America’s original odd couple, Swift’s revelations about a kinder, gentler Nixon and his tougher, more independent wife will open some eyes to the private story behind a very public relationship.

realityboyAnd last, some fiction for those who enjoy Young Adult books.  Reality Boy by A. S. King is one messed up book about one very messed up family. Sixteen year old Gerald Faust is trying to live a normal life after having been featured on a reality TV show. Network Nanny, similar to Super Nanny, tried to “fix” the problem children of the household but failed to address the real problems- a violent psychotic sister and an emotionally detached mother, leaving a very resentful Gerald, who acted out the only way he knew how. Gerald is now sixteen and still trying to emotionally cope with his anger, hurt and resentment about what he has to deal with in his crazy, dysfunctional home. The characters are amazing in this book, and King does a fine job of making you hate this family and reality TV. Relevant, uncomfortable, difficult, heartbreaking and shocking all describe this book.