Our blog about books, authors and reading

The Great War

ISBN: 
9780393088809

If you are a fan of graphic novels or comic book histories, Joe Sacco’s incredibly detailed book about the battle of the Somme is a keeper.  The accordion style of the book imparted a narrative push to this graphic history that has no text.

The folded-over 24 foot long drawing also gave Sacco a large expanse of space to record the planning for the war on the ramparts of Montreuil-sur-Mer, the gathering of horses, laden carts and howitzers before the battle, and the trenches, explosions and destruction of the battle itself.  

The artist also vividly captured the digging of graves and the field of white crosses after the bloodshed ended.  Sacco’s drawings are very accurate, expertly rendered, and they convey emotion. To get the full effect of this book, you should spread it out across a long table or even two tables.

The one-day battle had 60,000 British casualties—the largest of any battle Britain has been involved in before or since. Included in a separate booklet is Adam Hochschild’s narrative essay that places the art in context. Read more »

Difficult Men

ISBN: 
9781594204197

This is an interesting book detailing the rise of what the author terms the "Third Golden Age of Television". He provides in-depth details on the development, reaction, and impact of several critically acclaimed television shows (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men) and touches on others more peripherally (The Shield, Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad and various others). [Note: The Library may not, and probably will not, have the entirety of some of these shows, so check the catalog if you are inclined to (re-)watch any of them]. The author provides a context for how these new shows developed (going back to briefly recap the first two 'ages' on network television) and traces how this third Age was able to come about only on premium and basic cable stations. Read more »

The Yellow Birds

ISBN: 
9780316219365

I’m not one for war novels, but this little gem hooked me from the start. The writing is stellar and the characters speak and act with a naturalness that only comes from actual combat experience. 

Kevin Powers, the author, is an Iraq War veteran. The story he has written about his experiences is heart-breaking.  The narrator, 21 year old Private Bartle, had literary aspirations in school and received a lot of taunting from his friends, so he decided to prove his manhood by becoming a soldier. This mirrored the author’s life who enlisted at age seventeen.  At basic training, he meets, the pimple-faced newbie, Murph, whose mother begs Bartle to promise to bring him back from Iraq unharmed.

Of course, no experienced soldier would ever make such a promise but something about the woman reminds the private of his own mother, so he readily agrees. Big mistake. They soon get sent to Al Tafir where a series of bloody battles, including civilian deaths, jade both men.  Read more »

Little Jewels--Haiku

ISBN: 
9780393239478

If you like haiku or are merely curious about the art, dive into this book. It traces the origin of the form in English from Ezra Pound’s “In a Station at the Metro” through the effusive Beats (Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and Allen Ginsburg) to contemporary masters of these powerful small poems. In the introduction, Billy Collins describes his love for these small gems and unlike many of the other artists included here, he writes in the familiar 5-7-5 syllabic pattern. 

Here are a few of my favorite haiku included in the collection. But alas, there were so many good ones, it was hard to choose a small sample:


passport check

my shadow waits

across the border                            --George Swede Read more »

Fangirl

ISBN: 
9781250030955

Over Christmas after a Griffy walk, gift-giving and catching a new flick, I picked up this this YA book about a Nebraska college freshman obsessed with writing fan fiction. Now if you don’t know what that is—I didn’t until a patron explained it to me a couple of years ago--it’s a new trend where people (mostly young) write new endings, beginnings, and middles, sequels and prequels for books they love in the style of the author.

"Fan Fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker," Lev Grossman said in Time magazine. Cath loves the Simon Snow series--magical fantasty--and the book includes many postings from the invented FanFixx.net where her tag-name is Magicath.

But when Cather enters college, life gets complicated. First of all, her twin Wren decides not to room with her.  And Wren already abandoned fan fiction as too juvenile for a college student. Do you notice the wordplay in the twins’ names? Their parents had expected one child whom they planned to call Catherine. Read more »

Dear Lupin

ISBN: 
9781250038517

I’ve always loved collections of letters. Perhaps, it’s the draw of reading words meant for a specific person—a stranger that you will never meet.  Some books of letters are huge and it’s like tackling a life in a thousand plus episodes. But these letters, written by an apprehensive English father beginning during the rock and roll, drug days of the late 60s and 70s, are a more manageable 187 pages.

All the letters were penned by the father, Roger, a former military man, and POW who later became a racing columnist for the Sunday Times.  In them he offers tons of advice to his wild, drifter son, Charlie.  Providing much of the humor in this book are Charlie’s comments that describe his reactions to his Dad’s words at the time.

The letters begin with a young Charlie as he flunks out of elite Eton. Soon he leaves with a record of very bad grades for a lowly “crammer” school.  No “firsts” or “seconds” or even a degree for this young man. Soon Charlie embarks on a series of low-paying jobs in agriculture, oil, and real estate. Even when he lands a promising job, he can’t stick with it and bolts off for long vacations to Greece, Africa, and South America.  For his Greek trip his dad advises, don’t talk politics. Don’t do drugs; you may land in a gaol. Watch the alcoholic drinks there, they are incredibly strong. Later, when Charlie sets off for vagabonding through South America, his dad asks, have you ever considered a life in the church? Read more »

Dog Songs

ISBN: 
9781594204784

Who can resist a good dog book? OK so there are a few cat people out there (right here beside me in fact), and bird people, snake people, even for Heaven’s sake, skunk lovers and gerbil-groomers.  But what makes this book special is that it’s a book of poems that gives tribute to the special dogs in renowned nature poet Mary Oliver’s life.

There’s Luke, the junkyard dog, Benjamin, the canine that is always dragging a chewed-through rope,  Bear the small curly-haired who hates to stay overnight at boarding, Bazougey “that dark little dog/ who used to come down the road barking and shining,” Ricky, the talker, and Percy named  after the famous poet Shelley. Oliver penned a tribute to this hound mischievously patterned after Christopher Smart’s “For I will Consider My Cat Jeoffrey.”

Luke was “born in a junkyard, / not even on a bundle of rags/ or the seat of an old wrecked car/ but the dust below.”  This beautiful German Shepherd loved flowers:  “her dark head// and her wet nose/ touching/ the face/ of everyone.”  In the poem’s closing Oliver expresses one thing dogs show us about the world: “we long to be--/ that happy/ in the heaven of earth--/ that wild, that loving.” Read more »

While you're waiting for Bill O'Reilly's new book.....

The holiday season seems like an appropriate time to read about the historical Jesus.  While you are waiting for the best selling book by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly - Killing Jesus (Main Library and Ellettsville Adult Nonfiction 232.96 Ore) - the latest in his "Killing..." series; you might want to check out some of these books on the life of Jesus by some award winning authors and respected historians  ....

 

Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History by Dale C. Allison (Main Library and Ellettsville Adult Nonfiction 232.908 All) --- What did Jesus think of himself? How did he face death? What were his expectations of the future? In this volume, now in paperback, internationally renowned Jesus scholar Dale Allison Jr. addresses such perennially fascinating questions about Jesus. The acclaimed hardcover edition received the Biblical Archaeology Society's "Best Book Relating to the New Testament" award in 2011.

The Historical Jesus: Five Views by James K. Beilby (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232.908 His) --- 2011 Christianity Today Book Award winner! The scholarly quest for the historical Jesus has a distinguished pedigree in modern Western religious and historical scholarship, with names such as Strauss, Schweitzer and Bultmann highlighting the story. Since the early 1990s, when the Jesus quest was reawakened for a third run, numerous significant books have emerged. And the public's attention has been regularly arrested by media coverage, with the Jesus Seminar or the James ossuary headlining the marquee. The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides a venue for readers to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus.

The Challenge of Jesus : Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is by N.T. Wright. (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232 Wr) --- Today a renewed and vigorous scholarly quest for the historical Jesus is underway. In the midst of well publicized and controversial books on Jesus, N. T. Wright's lectures and writings have been widely recognized for providing a fresh, provocative and historically credible portrait. Out of his own commitment to both historical scholarship and Christian ministry, Wright challenges us to roll up our sleeves and take seriously the study of the historical Jesus.

The Jesus Quest : The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth by Ben Witherington III. (Main Library Adult Nonfiction 232.9 Wi) --- Voted one of Christianity Today's 1996 Books of the Year! In recent years Jesus' time, place and social setting have received renewed scholarly attention. New research on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish and Hellenistic texts has resulted in a surge of new images of Jesus and new ideas about his ministry. Dubbed the Third Quest for the historical Jesus, this recent effort is a transformation of the first quest, memorialized and chronicled by Albert Schweitzer, and the second quest, carried out in the 1950s and 1960s in the wake of extreme Bultmannian skepticism.


--- Annotations courtesy Amazon.com


Recommended Reads from Library Staff

ISBN: 
9780670026470

It's that time of year again when lots of publications and websites publish their recommended books of the year. This year I polled library staff to see what some savvy readers had discovered in 2013. MCPL folks had lots of nifty recommendations. So whether you are looking for books to help you through the long dark nights of winter or searching for that perfect gift for a loved one or friend, here are some suggestions from some local book people. We do have paper copies of this list and other 2013 favorite book lists available at the Information Desk at the main lLibrary.

FICTION

And Everyday Was Overcast by Paul Kwiatkowski    FICTION Kwiatkow

Described on the cover as an illustrated novel, this work is more a scrapbook interspersed with stories detailing the author's coming of age in southern Florida. The photos don't match the stories exactly and are stronger as a result. They cover drug use, adolescent violence, and teenage sexuality.

The Bookman’s Tale: a novel of obsession by Charles C. Lovett    FICTION Lovett

Anyone who loves the hunting, buying and selling of rare and old books should read this. Filled with emotion, intrigue, mystery, suspense, and tragedy, it also covers love lost and gained as well as the quest for Shakespeare and his writings. Very well written and hard to put down! Read more »

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

ISBN: 
9780307378415

In the bustle and tensions of the holiday season, it was great to take a couple of nights off and travel to Botswana in Alexander McCall Smith’s latest book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series. As usual the mysteries--there are two of them here--are interwoven with descriptions and a philosophy of living a moral life in Africa.  Grace Makutsi, who scored an amazing 97% on her secretarial school final exam, is married now and expecting a baby yet she has not yet talked to Precious Ramotswe about taking any leave. Before she does, her little son arrives along with a pesky aunt, the matriarch of the family who swoops in to take charge of Grace’s household.

While Grace is gone, giving birth and settling into motherhood, Mma Ramotswe faces two problems: an acquaintance has opened a new beauty salon, the one of the title, but she is receiving daily threats from an anonymous source. Whoever is doing it is scaring away all her customers and this threatens the business. Also, a female lawyer has contacted the “traditionally built” detective about an inheritance issue: a nephew is supposed to inherit a farm from a famous politician, but is Liso the actual nephew or someone posing as him? Precious discovers that if Liso is not who he claims to be, the lawyer will inherit the bulk of the estate.  Coincidentally--or maybe not--this lawyer was having an affair with the politician Mma Ramotswe discovers. Read more »

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