Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Light ON "The Good Lord Bird"

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

Ahhh, the panic-stricken moment when you realize you haven't read the winner of one of the highest writing awards around... If you're wondering how quickly I put The Good Lord Bird on hold after its big win was announced, the answer is "within a minute." I had heard the buzz mounting around McBride's pre-Civil War masterpiece for months, so when I finally tasted the honey, I wondered why I had waited so long, until I had been persuaded by a little golden sticker, to enjoy this amazing treat.

In The Good Lord Bird, Henry Shackleford, a slave boy, tells the story of how he was suddenly freed (or stolen, as he first puts it) after a saloon brawl between his master and famous abolitionist John Brown, who mistakes the small, young boy for a girl and nicknames him...er, her Onion. Or at least it's kind of about that. Though he constantly announces that he meant to run away from John Brown, Onion's story is so tightly linked with that of his liberator that it gradually becomes more and more about the man who freed him. Brown, a genuine historical figure, firmly believed that the best and only way to do away with slavery was through battle, not through impassioned, empty words. Furthermore, as a very religious man, he believed that his violent insurrection against "the infernal institution" was ordained by a higher power. His battle plans were chaotic, as often his band of warriors randomly ran into rebels or federal agents and fighting broke out, but in Onion's narration, we see that Brown was undeniably an effective and charismatic leader of his men. His battles broke out as often and randomly as his prayers, which through Onion's descriptions offer giggles as well as a true sense of awe at Brown's commitment to his cause. John Brown of course planned and led the ill-fated run on Harper's Ferry, so following history to a beautifully researched T, we know there is no other way for this novel to end than Brown's inevitable death. Despite that and the grief-fraught background of the full-swing slavery south, The Good Lord Bird was never a depressing read. Quite the contrary: With Onion's constant good humor and Brown's determined attitude, it was a really fun read, and McBride ends this novel on such a glowing, resounding, uplifting note that I have thought about it for days and days after finishing it.

With years of research, a knack for the vernacular, and an ability to infuse a terribly painful time in human history with joy and humor, McBride has created a winner in so many senses of the word, a novel sure to become an enduring classic in the years to come. Keep your eyes open for the February 13, 2014 release of this title on audiobook—it's sure to offer an excellent aural experience.

-Abby, Reference Librarian

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The 12 Days of Bookish: Nothing But the Truth

Finishing up our holiday book buying guides, we land a list of nonfiction titles that are captivating, interesting, and compulsively readable. Even those who profess to dislike nonfiction will find themselves drawn into the stories here, which include such a diverse range that you're bound to find a gift that appeals to that one person you can never figure out what to get for Christmas.

From left to right, top to bottom...
1. Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson // Follows the Arab Revolt and all the ensuing plots to control the Middle East toward the modern day make up of the region.
2. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan // A superbly researched biography of Jesus.
3. Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of Muder in My Family by David Berg // Did you know that Woody Harrelson's father is a murderer? This true-crime murder drama, told by trial lawyer and brother of the murdered man, tells the tale.
4. Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn // Through research and interviews, Guinn vividly fills in the background story and mysteries that have long surrounded Charles Manson.
5. After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story by Michael Hainey // A son, now a grown journalist, researches the cause and circumstances of his father's death.
6. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan // The town of Oak Ridge, TN, was top secret and did not appear on any maps, but for years, the young women who lived and worked there helped build the atomic bomb. Mind blowing.
7. Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia // A homesteading family who aren't as pure as they appear. A man vs. government fight over land. An engrossing look at power on its many scales.
8. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott // An inspirational title about finding balance in life and find ourselves in the face of infinite hardships.
9. Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell by Phil Lapsley // A highly original tale of the phone's rise to power and its huge flaw that allowed it to be exploited by "phone phreaks," mobsters, and more.
10. Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach // "America's funniest science writer" takes you on a journey that starts in your mouth and ends in your... digestive system.
11. The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart // The history of the plants that humans have turned into alcohol, complete with perfect cocktail recipes.
12. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed // When a woman loses everything, she hikes alone for 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself again. Powerful.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The 12 Days of Bookish: Honorable MENtion

What qualifications are there for "dude books"? Realistically, any book could be read by any man in the world and be the right book for that dude. But for our purposes, we've selected titles that are in demand when it comes to our male library guests and co-workers. Humor, sports, and some pretty serious nonfiction make this a compelling list with lots of possibility.

From left to right, top to bottom...
1. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown // The true story of the nine-man rowing crew (including their coxswain, of course) who stunned the world by winning gold at Hitler's 1936 Olympics.
2. Let me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings by Ron Burgundy // "Anchorman" and Will Ferrell fans will kiss you for buying them this, so be prepared.
3. William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher // Every guy ever loves "Star Wars," not as many love Shakespeare, so consider this a culture infusion.
4. League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada // An exploration of the shocking injuries that continue to rack the NFL and decommission key players.
5. Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel // Pulitzer Prize winner Finkel takes a hard look at the veteran's experience of what life is like after the grueling intensity of war.
6. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan // Comedian Gaffigan's absolutely hilarious account of fatherhood. Seriously buy one for every dad you know.
7. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell // Another must-read from Gladwell, who explores how to fight the good fight and take down the big guy.
8. I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman // Chuck explores the rise of the anti-hero.
9. Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities by Chris Kluwe // Kluwe, a longtime NFL punter, speaks freely (and pretty verbosely) on pretty much everything. His open letters are legendary.
10. Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman // Manliest man Nick Offerman offers anecdotes and advice on being awesome and manly.
11. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New American by George Packer // Packer's National Book Award winning nonfiction profile of America shows the strained bonds that hold the country together.
12. Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke by Rob Sheffield // Rolling Stone writer Sheffield explores love and loss to the background music of karaoke.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The 12 Days of Bookish: Ladies' Night

Before we launch into our women vs. men book lists, let us be super clear that gender isn't a very legit predictor of a person's reading preferences. The best way to guess what your friend or loved one will want to read is by knowing what they already like to read and predicting a hit based off that knowledge. Having said that, these are good, well-received books that just might suit your mom or sister or aunt. Give 'em a try!

From left to right, top to botom...
1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson // The amazing tale of a woman's life from start to end, the twist being she dies and is reborn again and again....and again.
2. Longbourn by Jo Baker // In the "Upstairs, Downstairs" world of Pride and Prejudice, this is a peek into the downstairs.
3. Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt // When a family starts coming rapidly apart, one headstrong woman tries endlessly to keep it together.
4. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell // The true story of how a Gilded Age daughter hid herself away and spent her family's fortune not on opulence, but on charity.
5. Someone by Alice McDermott // Crowd favorite McDermott's newest follows a woman through her very ordinary life. She didn't win a National Book Award for nothin'.
6. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud // A sweet, kind schoolteacher is drawn into a thrilling new family's lives until a shocking betrayal leaves readers wondering who the real monster is.
7. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett // Beloved author Patchett shares nonfiction essays about life, love, friendship, and art.
8. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple // A beautiful, touching novel about a daughter's search for her missing, agoraphobic mother.
9. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion // A brilliant, socially awkard professor tries to use science to find a wife, meets an intriguing woman who fits none of his criteria, and we all know where this is going but we want to be there when it happens.
10. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt // Everyone loves Donna Tartt, so this story of fate will not disappoint.
11. The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls // A story about sisterhood, finding oneself, and triumph over adversity, all told in Walls's shining prose.
12. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter // A story that's a little bit about Hollywood's golden age, a little more about love, and a lot about the crazy coincidences that propel life forward.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The 12 Days of Bookish: Smart Art

Often we get the impression that some people consider graphic novels (or more commonly referred to as "comics") to not be "real books" or to be in some way watered down. We beg to differ! It's really a unique format that combines literary devices and art to tell stories, engaging your brain in decoding information in two ways simultaneously. When we say it like that, I bet they sound pretty intense—and anyone who has read Art Spiegelman's tremendous Maus series or Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis can tell you how awe-inspiring a graphic novel can really be. We've selected some parts of series and some stand-alones to illustrate the clever complexities of this visually stunning format.

From left to right, top to bottom...
1. Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach by Brian Azzarello, J.G. Jones, and Lee Burmejo // This prequel cracks into two of the most intense characters of Alan Moore's groundbreaking Watchmen graphic novel. One of four Watchmen prequels released this year!
2. The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice by Mike Carey and Peter Gross // If you know someone who loved Harry Potter and they're NOT reading The Unwritten, you need to change that ASAP.
3. Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm // A nonfiction graphic novel about momentous decisions that led to the dropping of the first A bomb.
4. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg // A collection of an imagined civilization's early history. Or maybe the stories are myths. Whatever they are, they're lovely to behold.
5. The Walking Dead Vol. 19: March to War by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Cliff Rathburn // Anyone who has been keeping up with The Walking Dead series will surely have this on their Christmas list.
6. Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters // An idyllic day at the beach becomes a nightmare when the body of a young woman is found floating in the waters. Then everyone starts aging rapidly and no one can leave. Haunting and totally original.
7. March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell // Congressman John Lewis uses the graphic novel format to tell the true story of his struggle for civil rights. Powerful.
8. Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fedrego // Fans of the ongoing Hellboy and B.P.R.D. series will love this prequel.
9. The Property by Rutu Modan // Reminiscent of so many Holocaust homecoming tales, Modan explores the deep rifts between Poles and Jews that still exist to this day.
10. Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger // A dark, fairy-tale-esque story reminiscent of selkie myths created by master storyteller Niffenegger.
11. Genius by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen // A quantum physicist turns to his father-in-law, who claims Einstein entrusted him with his final secret, to save his job.
12. The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, Kyle Baker, and Philip Simon // The true story of Brian Epstein, the manager who discovered and lead the Beatles to their greatest successes only to die tragically before his time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The 12 Days of Bookish: Business Time

Not everyone is a fan of fiction. Some readers feel pretty firmly that what they select for their reading material should be actionable and beneficial to their success in life and business. If you know one of these readers, help them further their improvement goals by selecting one of the titles below. They all relate in some way to furthering the career goals of your loved one, a gift that will surely keep on giving.

From left to right, top to bottom...
1. Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters by Jon Acuff // Real, usable ideas to work past mediocrity and let nothing get in the way of being awesome.
2. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger // Berger explains the 6 steps that make ideas or products "contagious."
3. The Map and the Territory: Risk, Human Nature, and the Future of Forecasting by Allan Greenspan // Years of rigorous research lead Greenspan to new economic forecasting conclusions.
4. The 80/20 Manager: The Secret to Working Less and Achieving More by Richard Koch // Get 80% results with 20% effort in business? Sign us up!
5. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin // Using a series of guideline questions, Lafley and Martin show how any business can become a winner.
6. Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Raj Sissodia // Co-founder of Whole Foods explains how four tenets can propel a business to its highest potential.
7. Sometimes You Win -- Sometimes You Learn: Life's Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses by John C. Maxwell // The title says it all; help others learn from their losses.
8. Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut // This book teaches its readers how to be charismatic, magnetic, and influential.
9. From the Ground Up: A Food-grower's Education in Life, Love, and the Movement That's Changing the Nation by Jeanne Nolan // An inspiring read for anyone considering a future in food growing.
10. Without Their Permission: How the 20th Century Will Be Made, Not Managed by Alexis Ohanian // Reddit co-founder Ohanian shares tips and tricks for harnessing the power of the Internet.
11. Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg // Sandberg encourages women to break the glass ceiling with actionable, practical ideas.
12. The Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's for Meaning and Authenticity by August Turak // An exploration of applying the principles of the Trappist monks to business practices.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The 12 Days of Bookish: Word Nerds

We say "word nerds" in the most endearing sense possible (and with the full knowledge that many of us would qualify as such). These readers have favorite authors you've never heard of and always have a great book recommendation up their sleeve for slipping out at a cocktail party. They've read everything, so what books do you get for them? We humbly offer up the titles below, ones that have won awards, blown away their readers, and gained their authors instant praise and attention in the literary world. But wrap these with a gift receipt; who knows if your word nerd has already devoured them.

From left to right, top to bottom...
1. In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell // A haunting, shockingly beautiful, surreal fairy tale of a novel.
2. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo // A Man Booker shortlist title that explores an Zimbabwean emigrants quest for identity in America.
3. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton // A no brainer. It won the Man Booker, for crying out loud!
4. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent // The guardians of a young woman charged with murder find there's more to her story than everyone thinks.
5. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri // Jhumpa Lahiri is just brilliant.
6. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra // Beautifully fleshed out characters brought together by the Chechen war discover the coincidences that have brought them together.
7. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride // With the flair of Mark Twain, McBride tells the story of the failed raid on Harper's Ferry. Impressive research makes this an excellent read.
9. The Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon // The darling of the English department, Pynchon, gives creative writing students something to envy and enjoy.
10. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karin Russell // A writerly short story collection with brilliant moments.
11. The Tenth of December by George Saunders // National Book Award finalist and refreshingly original short story collection from a master of the medium.
8. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld // A masterfully told story about family ties.
12. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward // Award-winner Ward's heart-wrenching memoir about loss and circumstances.