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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Youth Non-fiction that Adults Will Love

I enjoy non-fiction books, but I also find that adult non-fiction can quickly become overly technical or bogged down in minutia beyond my level of interest.  I recall once reading a history of American guitar companies that would periodically list production of various models by year.  Fortunately, I’ve found the youth library has a number of fun non-fiction titles that I feel other adults may want to know about.  Because sometimes you might be only two-hundred pages interested in a subject.


Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg 
You’ve eaten it, you probably love it, but do you know where it comes from?  Frydenborg explains the history of chocolate consumption and production; and even meets the scientists inventing new varieties.



Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman  
Phineas Gage was a railroad construction foreman who in 1848 walked away from an accident with a thirteen-pound iron rod pushed through his skull.   The event understandably changed his life and our understanding of how the human brain affects personality.  A fascinating, informative read that never bogs down in medical minutiae.


The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Annie by Catherine Reef  
A secluded house, an eccentric father, and imaginary kingdoms complete with their own languages.  The Bronte sisters’ brief lives are as fascinating as the books they wrote.



Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman  
As a child, future Newberry medalist Fleischman was so fascinated by Harry Houdini he would eventually work professionally as a magician.   As a consequence, this excellent biography also touches on the author’s own relationship with this childhood hero as he figures out his secrets.


Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong 
The story of Ernest Shackelton’s daring, ill-fated 1914 attempt to cross Antarctica; and his even more daring expedition across the ice to rescue his crew.  Armstrong brings life to the story with archival photos and anecdotes of the crew members as they survived the cold, hunger and sometimes tedium.



Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy   
The bicycle’s invention in the tail-end of the 19th century was a fad and a phenomenon in the western world.   Women took to the new exercise, and for the first time found themselves traveling independently.  At fewer than one hundred illustrated pages, this is a fun afternoon read full of detours about subjects such as women inventors and early celebrity cyclists (Annie Oakley!).

Friday, January 4, 2019

You CAN Handle the Truth: January Nonfiction Book Picks

Posted by the Information Services Department (Gwen B., Emily W., Lisa E., & Joyce D.) 

Here's the latest list of our new nonfiction book picks! Listed below, along with their Dewey Decimal classification, are our top picks of the nonfiction books that looked most interesting, ultra-informative, or just plain fun. Many of these are so new that we're still working on getting them out on the shelf, but you can request them now by clicking on the titles and placing a hold.

181.112 SCH Confucius : and the world he created by Michael Schuman
Confucius is perhaps the most important philosopher in history. Today, his teachings shape the daily lives of more than 1.6 billion people. Throughout East Asia, Confucius's influence can be seen in everything from business practices and family relationships to educational standards and government policies. Even as western ideas from Christianity to Communism have bombarded the region, Confucius's doctrine has endured as the foundation of East Asian culture. It is impossible to understand East Asia, journalist Michael Schuman demonstrates, without first engaging with Confucius and his vast legacy.
Touching on philosophy, history, and current affairs, Confucius tells the vivid, dramatic story of the enigmatic philosopher whose ideas remain at the heart of East Asian civilization.


190 REE On the Future: Prospects for humanity by Martin Rees
Humanity has reached a critical moment. Our world is unsettled and rapidly changing, and we face existential risks over the next century. Various outcomes--good and bad--are possible. Yet our approach to the future is characterized by short-term thinking, polarizing debates, alarmist rhetoric, and pessimism. In this short, exhilarating book, renowned scientist and bestselling author Martin Rees argues that humanity's prospects depend on our taking a very different approach to planning for tomorrow.


284.4 RAY Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a discontented age by Erik Raymond
The biblical practice of contentment can seem like a lost art--something reserved for spiritual giants but out of reach for the rest of us. In our discontented age--characterized by impatience, overspending, grumbling, and unhappiness--it's hard to imagine what true contentment actually looks (and feels) like. But even the apostle Paul said that he learned to be content in any and every circumstance. Paul's remarkable contentment was something grown and developed over time.


294.342 HAG Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen
This book offers a clear, straightforward approach to Buddhism in general and awareness in particular. It is about being awake and in touch with what is going on here and now. When the Buddha was asked to sum up his teaching in a single word, he said, "Awareness." The Buddha taught how to see directly into the nature of experience. His observations and insights are plain, practical, and down-to-earth, and they deal exclusively with the present. In Buddhism Plain and Simple, Steve Hagen presents these uncluttered, original teachings in everyday, accessible language unencumbered by religious ritual, tradition, or belief. 

303.5 DOD Deviced: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World by Doreen Dodgen-Magee
With current statistics suggesting that the average American over the age of 14 engages with screens upwards of 10 hours a day, the topic of our growing dependence upon technology applies to nearly everyone. While the effects differ at each point of development, real changes to the brain, relationships, and personal lives are well documented. Deviced! explores these alterations and offers a realistic look at how we can better use technology and break away from the bad habits we've formed.

325.73 SAL Melting Pot or Civil War? by Reihan Salam
For too long, liberals have suggested that only cruel, racist, or nativist bigots would want to restrict immigration. Anyone motivated by compassion and egalitarianism would choose open, or nearly-open, borders--or so the argument goes. Now, Reihan Salam, the son of Bangladeshi immigrants, turns this argument on its head.
In this deeply researched but also deeply personal book, Salam shows why uncontrolled immigration is bad for everyone, including people like his family. Our current system has intensified the isolation of our native poor, and risks ghettoizing the children of poor immigrants. It ignores the challenges posed by the declining demand for less-skilled labor, even as it exacerbates ethnic inequality and deepens our political divides.
If we continue on our current course, in which immigration policy serves wealthy insiders who profit from cheap labor, and cosmopolitan extremists attack the legitimacy of borders, the rise of a new ethnic underclass is inevitable. Even more so than now, class politics will be ethnic politics, and national unity will be impossible.

364.1060973 OLD Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America's original gangsters and the U.S. Postal detective who brought them to justice by William Oldfield and Victoria Bruce
The incredible true story of the US Post Office Inspector who took down the deadly Black Hand, a turn-of-the-century Italian-American secret society that preyed on immigrants across America’s industrial heartland—featuring fascinating and never-before-seen documents and photos from the Oldfield family’s private collection.

500 NOV The Skeptics Guide to the Universe by Steven Novella
It's intimidating to realize that we live in a world overflowing with misinformation, bias, myths, deception, and flawed knowledge. There really are no ultimate authority figures-no one has the secret and there is no place to look up the definitive answers to our questions (not even Google). But, by thinking skeptically and logically, we can combat sloppy reasoning, bad arguments and superstitious thinking. It's difficult, and takes a lot of vigilance, but it's worth the effort.
In this tie-in to their incredibly popular "The Skeptics Guide to the Universe" podcast, Steven Novella, MD along with "Skeptical Rogues" Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, and Evan Bernstein will explain the tenets of skeptical thinking and debunk some of the biggest scientific myths, fallacies and conspiracy theories (Anti-vaccines, homeopathy, UFO sightings, etc.) They'll help us try to make sense of what seems like an increasingly crazy world using powerful tools like science and philosophy.

636.7376 EGG Training your German Shepherd Dog by Brandy Eggeman and Joan Hustace Walker
Books in Barron's Training Your Dog series offer breed-specific advice on virtually every aspect of canine training, including housetraining, obedience to basic verbal commands and hand signals, and walking on a leash. Also covered are humane methods of breaking a dog's bad habits. The German Shepherd is intelligent and a quick learner, which makes him highly trainable. However, training this fine dog should begin early in life. German Shepherds are best suited to owners who can offer gentle, positive leadership and consistent training methods. Includes full color photos throughout, as well as some instructive step-by-step color photos.


641.591822 BAL The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Serena Ball and Deanna Segrave-Daly
Bowls of pasta, abundant seafood, roasted vegetables, bread dipped into olive oil, and even a glass of wine―the Mediterranean diet is easy to follow because it’s also a lifestyle. The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook makes it easier than ever to get your fill of the Mediterranean diet and all of its health benefits with quick, satisfying recipes for health and longevity.
Table-ready in 30 minutes or less, these classic Mediterranean diet meals combine easy-to-find ingredients with quick prep and cook times, so that you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your food. From Breakfast Bruschetta to Baked Chicken Caprese to Chilled Dark Chocolate Fruit, The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook makes the Mediterranean diet a staple for everyday schedules.

B TRAVIS The Challenge Culture: Why the best successful organizations run on Pushback by Nigel Travis

The executive chairman and former CEO of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins reflects on the unique, results-oriented discipline he's developed over decades of leadership, which provides a blueprint for any organization to achieve prosperity.

We live in an era in which successful organizations can fail in a flash. But they can cope with change and thrive by creating a culture that supports positive pushback: questioning everything without disrespecting anyone.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Your Next Great Read? Amy and Irv's Book Reviews

Amy's Reviews

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
4 out of 5 stars

Heartstone is a fantastical retelling of the classic Pride & Prejudice. Elle Katharine White’s version takes place in the land of Arle, most specifically, in Hart’s Run. Aliza Bentaine is an aspiring artist who lives in a world plagued by the threat of the Tekari—lamias, banshees, gryphons, direwolves, and lindworms—creatures who hate humans. Those that fight to protect the humans, Riders, work/bond with the Shani—wyverns, dragons, beoryns—creatures that are friendly to humans.

Alastair Daired is part of the legendary House Pendragon. A contract commissioned by the Lord of Hart’s Run to help rid them of a problem with a gryphon horde brings Daired, among other Riders, to Aliza’s front door, where the two almost immediately butt heads. Besides their early animosity towards one another, it soon becomes apparent that something evil is awakening in Arle, something that will force everyone to stand up and fight. For Aliza, not a warrior herself, she’ll have to rely on her inner strength and the strength of her heart.

Right away, being a revamping of Pride & Prejudice, Heartstone presents itself as extremely accessible seeing as how many people are familiar with the source material.

However, I found this both a blessing and a curse for Heartstone. A blessing, obviously for the reason mentioned above. If you enjoyed Jane Austen’s classic, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’ll enjoy this updated version as well. I loved kind of having a stepping stone to follow, and I enjoyed the anticipation in seeing how beloved scenes played out in Elle Katharine White’s words.

So why a curse? Well, Elle Katharine White does a wonderful job in creating this awesomely original world with dragons and wyverns, Tekari and Shani. Heartstones, typically given as tokens of love and commitment, literally come from the hearts of the varying creatures. Where women can train and fight alongside men in battle. A place where you can befriend the hobgoblins living in your garden. I just felt like this awesome world was too constrained by the limits of the storyline it had to follow. I still immensely enjoyed Heartstone, but where it truly shined is when it steps out of the intended path, when Elle Katharine White slightly skews the expected motivations or actions of the characters.

Like Elizabeth Bennet, Aliza is strong. But it’s the addition of Alastair Daired in her life, as well as the impending doom on the horizon that forces her to reevaluate her own preconceptions of the notion of strength. The relationship that develops between Aliza and Alastair does mirror precisely that of Darcy and Elizabeth so I find it a little difficult to talk about it without feeling redundant. But the fact that it does mirror its predecessor means that their relationship is quite satisfactory in the end.
Heartstone is very entertaining, and will please readers of the classic as well as lovers of fantasy.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
4 out of 5 stars

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders. Where her grandfather is successful at moneylending, her father not so much. So Miryem takes it upon herself to collect the debt owed to her family, much to the chagrin of the debtors who flaunt their loaned wealth while Miryem’s family starves. However, Miryem’s tenacity draws the attention of the fey-like Staryk who ask Miryem to turn silver into gold, three times. After the third time, Miryem is unwittingly whisked away to the perpetually winter land of the Staryk to be their Queen.

Meanwhile, Wanda and her brother, on the run after a terrible accident at home, happen upon a seemingly deserted cottage in a snow-covered forest. Having nothing to go back to at home, and knowing they’d probably be hanged if they did, they decide to hide out in this seemingly deserted cottage in the woods that seems to anticipate and provide all their needs.

Then there’s Irina whose father, looking to elevate his status and power, marries her off to Tsar Mirnatius. Now Tsarina, Irina discovers her husband is hiding a scorcher of a secret. A secret that could mean Irina’s death.

What I loved most about Spinning Silver was the way Naomi Novik spun (see what I did there!) all these intersecting stories together into one cohesive whole. How these three, strong, different women move seamlessly through each other’s stories while also playing the hero in their own. Also, I loved seeing that they weren’t pitted against each other despite each one ultimately having a different end goal. Too many times, in life and in fiction, I feel like we see the competition between women instead of the support, and it was nice to see that while sometimes one would make a decision that negatively affected another–not out of spite, mind you–there wasn’t any revenge and/or retaliation. They each understood the name of the game, so to speak, and tried to do their best in their respective situations, placing no blame for what the others had to do to succeed.

However, Naomi Novik goes beyond just our three female leads as point-of-view characters. This, if nothing else, made me feel like the story was too jam-packed and brought down a lot of the momentum of the narrative. While I thought she did a good job of making each voice distinctive, I would have liked it better if there weren’t so many.

While I felt like I overall enjoyed Uprooted more than Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik never fails to draw me into her stories with wonderful writing and interestingly unique worlds.

The Lady Traveler’s Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl by Victoria Alexander
4.5 out of 5 stars

Harry Armstrong spent years in Egypt at first relishing the adventure of the exotic locale, then later, realizing the sanctity of preserving and protecting the history and art of the relics he was uncovering from those who would sell such artifacts for personal gain. If anything, Harry knows how unforgiving the deserts of Egypt can be, that's why, after the death of a friend about a year ago, Harry left Egypt with no intention of ever going back. Instead, he plans to focus his efforts on writing about his time in Egypt focusing on truth and accuracy, that's why, when he discovers Miss Sidney Honeywell - writing as the widowed Mrs. Gordon - has been regularly penning her Egyptian adventures for a local newspaper, Harry is outraged. Right away he spots inaccuracies in the fanciful way Mrs. Gordon describes her adventures in Egypt. So, Harry does the only thing he can think of, he challenges her to a bet.

Sidney never planned to mislead anyone, she didn't realize that people were actually taking her stories - based upon the journals her grandmother kept of her own adventures in Egypt - as fact, but once she did it was too late to change anything. If it gets out now she'll face great public humiliation as well as possibly losing her writing career, which she loves. That's why she can't ignore Harry Armstrong's challenge to accompany her to Egypt to see for himself how well-acquainted she is with the country. Now, as both Harry and Sidney embark on this journey, they'll both have to keep the secrets they carry from one another.

Whenever I read a historical fiction / romance book that has a strong Egyptian element to it, it's difficult for me not to make comparisons to and / or see the similarities between whatever book I'm reading and the Amelia Peabody series by one Elizabeth Peters. Maybe it's the fact that even in this day and age there are still so many mysteries surrounding things like the pyramids and there's such a vastness to the desert, but the sense of adventure still resonates. And I felt like Victoria Alexander, even unintentionally and probably more so than others I've read, lives up to Peters's precedent.

Although there were times where I thought the plot played it a little too "safe" with how it proceeded, but it does kind of tie into the fact that Sidney would want to keep things down to basics, so to speak, in order to keep herself from being exposed as a fraud. So the storyline follows a very touristy look at Egypt in the 1800's, but it truly excels when it breaks out towards adventure a bit more. I just wish we got a bit more of the adventure.

I loved the contrast between Harry and Sidney and how, in being thrown together on this journey, they bring out of each other what the other was missing. Case in point: the reason that Harry's writing was rejected is not because Sidney’s was already on the market, but because he was a bit too literal and dry with his information as opposed to Sidney being fanciful and descriptive and also leaving out a few of the more unsavory aspects of time in the desert. On Sidney's side: everything she writes is only what she knows through her grandmother's journal as well as what she's studied in classes and lectures. She's never even been out of London. So Harry helps Sidney bring out a more adventurous, risk-taking side giving her true experiences she can write about and Sidney helps Harry see that if you look deep enough you can find beauty in anything and that it's ok to express it as such, it's ok to be entertaining.

Irv's Review

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

The Fifth Risk is not Michael Lewis' best work but is, nevertheless, better than most of its genre and an enlightening and enjoyable read. Lewis explores and explains the missions and workings of several federal agencies and the consequences of the appointment of recent department heads.  He can be (and is) brutally frank where he finds leaders who are incompetent--or worse--and gives appropriate praise to those conscientious public servants who indeed serve the public.

Lewis describes the significant and largely unappreciated work of the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Each provides vital services  to the taxpayers, much of which is unknown to the great majority of us. He also describes the unfortunate choices of their new leaders, e.g., Scott Pruitt whose goal seemed to be the destruction of EPA. 

Significant attention is given to the lack of transition efforts following the 2016 presidential election.  The new administration largely ignored the thick binders prepared by department heads which explained operations and procedures.

The book gives one an appreciation of dedicated public servants and a distaste for those who would  through malice or ignorance dismantle our government.  It is recommended reading for anyone who is genuinely interested in the public welfare--and also for those who question the value and competence of our federal agencies.