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Recommendations

I used to think that I only liked stories.  Give me a good novel any day, but if a book was found in the nonfiction section, then I wanted nothing to do with it.

Now, with the authors of narrative nonfiction telling so many crazy facts in a wide range of styles, I’ve had to change my mind.  Nonfiction done well is just as entertaining as a novel, and you can even impress your friends with some new facts when you’re done reading.

devilErik Larson introduced me to narrative nonfiction with his The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America.  Fascinating… and creepy! This is a tough story about a serial killer on the loose during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair —I wanted to think it was fiction, but Larson’s meticulous research proves otherwise.  Don’t try this one if you are easily rattled.  Considering Larson’s other subjects include devastating hurricanes, sinking ships, and the rise of Nazi Germany, if you don’t like a serious subject with some dark themes, you’d best stay away.

Try Mary Roach instead.  She tackles a variety of science subjects—gulpspace travel, digestion, human cadavers—with a witty and irreverent tone that makes strange topics accessible and appealing.  Start with Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.

Travel writing has long been a mainstay of narrative nonfiction, and one of my favorite authors is John Steinbeck.  How wonderful for me that he decided to write about one of his road trips!  Travels with Charley: In travelsSearch of America is the story of Steinbeck’s 1960 road trip through almost 40 states in his pickup truck with his dog Charley.  While not light subject matter—Steinbeck witnessed firsthand the difficulties of desegregation in the South, for example—this book paints a fascinating picture of America and of the author himself.

So if you’ve been stuck on novels, give one of these a try.  I’m glad I did.

 

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Jul 13 2015

Criminal History

by Hope L

echoesI got excited when my co-worker Camille wrote a review about the true crime book The Stranger She Loved.  True crime stories are some of my favorite, and now I have someone else at DCPL who may be sharing some interesting finds.

My new favorite true crime author is Jerry Bledsoe. His book Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage and Murder is available through DCPL.  He has written about several true crimes from his home state of North Carolina, and his books are  filled with very detailed facts, which must take years of research to write.

I have read many of Ann Rule’s books, but my favorite of hers will probably always be The Stranger Beside Me, her true account of serial killer Ted Bundy. Rule discovered she had known Bundy years ago when they both worked at a crisis center.  Reading about Ted Bundy scared the daylights out of me!

Another book that terrified me (no doubt these books scared me so much because I was living alone when I was reading them) was Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders  by Vincent Bugliosi.

Ancareergirlsother book I recently ran across is Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Echoes of  My Soul,which is sending chills down my spine, but in a different way.  You see, it tells the story of  ‘The Career-Girls Murders’  in New York on August 28, 1963, which,  ironically, occurred on the day of  Martin Luther King’s  iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  I say ironically because a black man named George Whitmore was bullied by police into confessing to the murders.  This case reminds me of some of the news stories that have been front and center in our country over the past couple of  years.

 

 

 

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Jun 15 2015

Kid Got Your Goat?

by Hope L

Benjimage

This summer, the kids are out of school and underfoot at home. May I suggest Benjamin, the pygmy goat, as a babysitter with the best kick around? Take a look at this video about Benji.

Now, unfortunately, the little guy does live overseas and is currently doing time in a field in Yorkshire, so the next best thing for the kids to do this summer is to visit DCPL–because Every Hero Has a Story, this summer’s Vacation Reading Program, is fully underway  (as is Unmask! for teens and Escape the Ordinary, the Vacation Reading Program for those old goats).

Benji has given us his summer reading picks, which are available at DCPL:

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, retold and illustrated by Janet Stevens, and The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco.

For adults, Benji recommends The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Self-Sufficient Living by Jerome D. Belanger.

DCPL’s Vacation Reading Program runs through July 31.

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Apr 13 2015

I Challenge You!

by Jencey G

Are you up for a challenge? Are you tired of reading the same types of books all the time and interested in a change? A reading challenge is a great way to do that. There are no prizes, but there are opportunities for you to try something different. Who is ready for something new or different?

Reading challenges, such as Pop Sugar, have tasks to help you pick books that you the reader would not ordinarily read. Since summer reading is coming up soon, this challenge would be a great way to keep track of books for the summer reading program at your local library. This year, Pop Sugar came out with a reading challenge that offers many opportunities for you to grow as a reader.  The challenge offers up tasks such as:

What book can you read in one sitting?

What is the first book that came out by your favorite author?

Read a book that has a number in the title.

Read a nonfiction book.

The Library has all kinds of resources to help you pick a great read.  Take a look at our Shelf Help page, DCPL on Pinterest, or use our online resource Novelist. For other reading challenges to participate in visit Goodreads or Book Riot. See how one of these challenges might fit into your summer reading!  You never know where a good book might take you!

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Dec 3 2014

Spirituality with a Heap of Humor

by Hope L

Anne2I feel like I have a new best friend.

When I saw that Anne Lamott had spoken for the Georgia Center for the Book about her new book Small Victories:  Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, I decided to look into some of her work.

Many of her quotes are so awesome, I’m placing a few throughout this post, like:

““Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”

First, I checked out an audiobook recording of Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, which I saw at my branch.  I put it in the CD player in my car and have been listening to it instead of the hateful talk radio I had been tuning into and which had fomented within me within me nothing but anger and frustration. (Plan B is also available in print at DCPL.)

Now, in Atlanta traffic, one does not need an added level of anger and frustration.  So Anne’s soothing voice has been a welcome addition to my commutes.

Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak sh*t anyone can throw at us.

When this Catholic girl (my name is Hope Anne Mary) heard Lamott tell her “Ham of God” story whilst I was cruising down Memorial Drive the other day, I almost lost control of my Toyota SUV.  “Why, the nerve of her! What sacrilege!” I thought initially.  But when I listened and learned the true meaning of her story, I chuckled to myself: “That Anne!”

Her spiritual tidbits, sandwiched in humor and irony, are a welcome oasis to the stress and often helpless feelings of our modern age.

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.”

Traveling Mercies:  Some Thoughts on Faith chronicles Lamott’s journeys though alcoholism, motherhood, and just plain life.  I listen to her talk about motherhood, and I think about some of my friends who have kids.  Anne writes that one of her friends had once said:

“My husband and I are either going to buy a dog or have a child.  We can’t decide whether to ruin our carpets or ruin our lives.”

In that case, I definitely decided to ruin my carpets by having loads of cats and dogs and no children.

Now, given that I believe myself to be on something of a spiritual journey, it sure is nice to have a friend like Anne Lamott along for the ride.

“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.”

You’re right there, Anne.  And some good books.

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Jun 26 2014

Under the Radar Summer Reads

by Jesse M

TS Spivet coverSearching for something good to read this summer? Look no further than this post! NPR’s “books guru” (librarian Nancy Pearl) has a list of under the radar reads that she thinks deserve more attention than they’re getting. While we don’t have every title she recommends available in our catalog, we do have several of them, including Astoria by Peter Stark, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, and The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove.

If that doesn’t satisfy your desire for book recommendations, check out another recent NPR summer reading list–All Aboard! A Reading List For Riding The Rails focuses on the journey, not the destination, featuring books involving transport by plane, train, car, boat, horse, balloon, rocketship, and even a giant peach!

Still need more reading lists? Take a look at Nancy Pearl’s trio of guides to what to read next: Book Lust, More Book Lust, and Book Lust To Go. Happy reading!

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As readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of science fiction.  And as I’ve discussed in a previous post, I also enjoy reading flash fiction, which is usually defined as “fiction of extreme brevity.” In today’s post, I’ll be highlighting not one but two flash science fiction blogs, 30 Second Sci Fi and 365 Tomorrows.

The stories on 30 Second Sci Fi are all courtesy of a single author who began the project as a personal challenge. The rules are that the author must write one new story every day for a year, no longer than 250 words, that is complete in its own right (thus no multi-part stories). A look at the site’s archives shows that the project began back in November of last year.

Unlike 30 Second Sci Fi, 365 Tomorrows is a collaborative project involving multiple authors. The remarkable longevity of the site is probably attributable to this difference; like its fellow flash science fiction blog, it aims to present a new work of science fiction every single day, but it has been doing so since August of 2005. The stories are also a bit longer in terms of word count, with the maximum length set at 600. Another cool feature of 365 Tomorrows is that you can submit your own story for publication on the site.

If you are a fan of science fiction short stories you might also like one of these anthologies available through DCPL!New space opera
The New Space Opera

The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction

The Best of the Best. Volume 2, 20 Years of the Best Short Science Fiction Novels

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Feb 10 2014

Laura’s world

by Dea Anne M

Getting snowed in the week before last  reminded me of a much-beloved book from my childhood. I’m thinking of course of  The Long Winter which is part of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series of books. Set in the later 1800’s and forward and based on the Ingalls family’s peripetatic life (Wilder changed some things – most notably some of the chronology and the age of the main character whom she based on herself) the series begins with Little House in the Big Woods and ends with The First Four Years (which was published after Wilder’s death). The Long Winter is a fictionalized account of an actual event which took place in De Smet, South Dakota. Blizzards began in the early fall of 1880 and continued through the late spring of 1881 and attacked the area with such frequency that trains were snowed in on the tracks and the townspeople faced lack of fuel and near starvation. I don’t know about you, but that puts some aspects about our recent snow storm into perspective for me.

It’s difficult for me to exaggerate how much I loved these books as a child. That isn’t to say that there weren’t some aspects of the stories that bothered me. Some of the characters express very unpleasant racial attitudes (especially Ma Ingalls) and I was always vaguely troubled by Pa’s insistence on uprooting his family so dramatically and so often. In the books, the Ingalls family moves from Wisconsin to Kansas then back to Wisconsin then to Minnesota and finally to South Dakota. Of course, by the time I turned ten my own family had moved at least that many times, and always for my father’s work, so make of that what you will.

Now you shouldn’t think that I actually wanted to be a pioneer girl myself what with all the stampeding oxen, creeks filled with leeches and grasshopper invasions but it was delicious to read about such exotic things. It was also comforting to recognize things that Laura’s world and mine had in common – sibling love and combat, strong parental affection, animals, school and, of course, mean girls like Nellie Oleson. I especially loved reading about the clothes the characters wore and how they fed themselves (or couldn’t as in The Long Winter ) and to this day I love books that describe fashion and food in detail (like the books in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series).

Would you like to explore the world of “Little House yourself or rediscover its pleasures? If so, DCPL has what you need. Here’s a list of the books and all are available from DCPL.big woods

cookbookAfter reading about such exotic foodstuffs as prairie chicken and maple sugar on snow you might get the urge to try out some frontier cooking of your own. If so, Barbara M. Walker’s Little House Cookbook: frontier foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic stories will be just what you need. I can’t promise that you’ll care for blackbird pie (Little Town on the Prairie) or stewed jack rabbit and dumplings (Little House on the Prairie) but you might very well love fried apples and onions (Farmer Boy) or vanity cakes (On the Banks of Plum Creek). All in all, this is a charming companion to the series.

wilderIf you really develop a fascination with all things Laura, don’t miss The Wilder Life : my adventures in the lost world of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure. A lifelong devotee of the books, McClure begins to delve deeper into the world of the series. She even goes so far as to buy a churn on eBay. She sets up the churn, works the churn for about twenty-five minutes, and when she looks inside she discovers…butter. Butter which tastes remarkably like regular butter. McClure reports that “…I felt like a genius and a complete idiot at the same time.” McClure is an engaging writer – both sincere and hilarious. I’ve only just started the book and I’ve laughed out loud at least a dozen times. Highly recommended.

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Dec 2 2013

The Know-it-All

by Hope L

The book of general ignoranceOkay, I’ll just admit it:  I vacillate between two extremes:  either I feel like I know everything about everything, or I feel like I know absolutely nothing about anything.  And as annoying as I know it must be, you could call me a ‘Know-It-All’ most days.

But after reading The Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know is Wrong by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, I’m convinced that I’m a ‘Know-Nothing.’

Here are a few examples that perhaps you don’t know either:

“No ostrich has ever been observed to bury its head in the sand.  It would suffocate if it did.  When danger threatens, ostriches run away like any other sensible animal.”

And

“What killed most sailors in an eighteenth-century sea battle?  A nasty splinter.  Cannon balls fired from men o- war didn’t actually explode (no matter what Hollywood thinks), they just tore through the hull of the ship, causing huge splinters of wood to fly around the decks at high speed, lacerating anyone within range.”

Or

“Whips were invented in China seven thousand years ago but it wasn’t until the invention of high-speed photography in 1927 that the crack of the whip was seen to be a mini sonic boom and not the leather hitting the handle.”

Say what?!!!  I had noooo idea!  This last one, however, some of us knew in the back of our minds …

“Work is a bigger killer than alcohol, drugs, or war.  Around two million people die every year from work-related accidents and diseases, as opposed to a mere 650,000 who are killed in wars.  …Worldwide, the most dangerous jobs are in agriculture, mining and construction.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the year 2000, 5,915 people died at work – including those who had a heart attack at their desks.”

I’ll remember that next time someone says their job is killing them!  And if I say it aloud, youll  just have to call me a know-it-all.

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commandEric Schlosser’s new book keeps me up at night.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser, that is.   He scared the willies out of me with Fast Food Nation and now this.   I do appreciate the way nuclear fission is explained fairly clearly for laypeople like me.  The book gives a brief history of the Manhattan Project and the events leading up to the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it relates frightening  tales of what has occurred since.

Here is Publisher’s Weekly‘s summary:

“In 1980 in rural Damascus, Ark., two young Air Force technicians (one was 21 years old, the other 19) began a routine maintenance procedure on a 103-foot-tall Titan II nuclear warhead-armed intercontinental ballistic missile. All was going according to plan until one of the men dropped a wrench, which fell 70 feet before hitting the rocket and setting off a chain reaction with alarming consequences. After that nail-biting opening, investigative reporter Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) goes on to tell the thrilling story of the heroism, ingenuity, mistakes, and destruction that followed. At intervals, he steps back to deliver an equally captivating history of the development and maintenance of America’s nuclear arsenal from WWII to the present. Though the Cold War has ended and concerns over nuclear warfare have mostly been eclipsed by the recent preoccupation with terrorist threats, Schlosser makes it abundantly clear that nukes don’t need to be launched to still be mind-bogglingly dangerous. Mixing expert commentary with hair-raising details of a variety of mishaps, the author makes the convincing case that our best control systems are no match for human error, bad luck, and ever-increasing technological complexity. “Mutually assured destruction” is a terrifying prospect, but Schlosser points out that there may be an even more frightening possibility: self-assured destruction.”

Mind-boggingly dangerous, indeed!  What is suprising to me is that we have been so lucky thus far.

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