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Sunday, March 19, 2017

All-Time Favorite Books (Part 2): Staff Picks

Posted by Staff

We recently asked the staff here what their all-time favorite books were. Some of us had a hard time picking only one, but we did limit ourselves to five.  What is your all-time favorite book?   

Megan J.

Favorite Books OF ALL TIME! (not including Harry Potter)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I read this for the first time the summer after my freshmen year of high school while vacationing with my family in Hawai’i. I got lots of flak for reading a 19th century novel while the rest of my family was swimming with sea turtles and the like, but no regrets here. I think the reason this book still resonates with people even over 200 years after its first publication is because of the enduring characters. Everyone knows a Mrs. Bennet, or a Mr. Collins, or a Lydia in their life. And of course, we’d all like to be more like Elizabeth Bennet: smart, funny, and married to a ridiculously wealthy man.

Paper Towns by John Green

I’ve been a huge John Green fan since 2009, and while I adore the more well-known The Fault in Our Stars, his third novel is my favorite. The exploration of empathy and “imagining others complexly” in this story continues to resonate with me, especially as our world seems to become more divided and it gets harder to imagine our “enemies” as complete human beings who are as complicated as we are.

Yes Please
by Amy Poehler
If I could have a fairy godmother who I could call at anytime and receive sage advice from an older, smarter woman, it would be Amy Poehler. Reading her memoir is the next best thing. Amy’s memoir is hilarious and touching, and full of excellent advice for younger women (like me). If you can, try to listen to the audio book, which is read by Poehler herself, but also features the vocal talents of Seth Myers, Michael Schur, Patrick Stewart, and even Amy’s parents. 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

I read this book for two separate literature classes in college, and each time I was blown away by how a book meant for children can still be so relevant and powerful as an adult. This is a story about stories, about how language and both reflect and shape our world, as well as a political allegory about India. But it’s also about fathers and sons, and the magic that holds our families together.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I read this book my first year of teaching, and it was the first of Gaiman’s novels that I read in its entirety. I fell in love almost from page one. Gaiman’s writing is exactly the kind of fantasy that I loved as a child and still love—magical and dark and funny all at the same time. The Graveyard Book is playful enough for children to enjoy, but also full of dark, adult-sized questions, ultimately helping us understand the role that death plays in our lives. Recommended for both the growing up and the growing old.

Cary H.

IT by Stephen King (audiobook format) – read by Steven Weber
I have read such a variety of book genres over the years: historical fiction, classics, literary, crime series, and romance. I read Stephen King in high school and in my twenties, but I really got hooked on him in my forties. Why do I pick this unlikely book as my “favorite”? For those of you who don’t already love King, it may seem odd that a book about an evil clown could be anything but ridiculous. It’s not ridiculous and the story is about way more than a clown! Trust me on this. The paperback version has over 1,000 pages, and I’ve read it, but it’s the audio version with Steven Weber as the reader that makes the story come alive. I was doubtful too, when I put the first audio disc into my car CD player, but Wow. After hours and hours of listening, the first thing I wanted to do when the book was over was play it again from the beginning. Immediately. I did not want the story to end.

I have read more lyrical, subtle, beautifully written books, but for pure story, Stephen King is amazing. Don’t be afraid, I know clowns are scary, but just try it ………


Mary B.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman
A novel about an angry old man next door and the impact one life has on so many others. Quirky characters. Will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

Author takes various train trips from London to Tokyo. Shows how, despite plane travel and package tours, that travel can still be an unexpected adventure where you meet all sorts of interesting people and see some very interesting places. Great travel writing!

Inspector Armand Gamach series (Still Life) by Louise Penny
A mystery series where the Chief of Surete du Quebec digs beneath the idyllic life in small town of Three pines to find long buried secrets. Very unique characters, easy reads, with good stories. 

Gabriel Allon series (Kill Artist) by Daniel Silva
About a master art restorer and sometimes officer of Israeli intelligence. Stories move fast and have interesting characters.

Anna Pigeon series (Track of the Cat) by Nevada Barr
Mystery novels written by law enforcement agent with US Park service that take place in various National Parks. Each book teaches you something about the various national parks!


Gerry B. 

Mastery by Robert Greene
This is my favorite book because I love the in-depth analysis Greene takes when looking at how historical figures such as Mozart or Einstein became masters at their craft. This book is both inspiring and very useful. I recommend this book to anyone who has a passion for a craft they are wanting to perfect.


Devin G.

The Harry Potter Series (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) by J.K. Rowling
A cultural phenomenon, Harry Potter is about a boy wizard training at a magical school and battling for his life with the Dark Lord who murdered his parents. When I was eight years old, my mom brought the first of this series home and began reading it aloud to me and my siblings. I was immediately hooked and still reread them every couple of years. While they are well written and have exceptional world building, what really makes me love this series are the multifaceted characters and their motivations.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Yet another book introduced to me by my mom! She and I would watch the movie adaptation with Keira Knightley on a frequent basis, so it was only natural that I read Austen’s novels. Lizzie Bennet is one of my favorite protagonists of all time and the Bennet family as a whole reminds me quite a bit of my own. It’s a cozy read for me, so I keep coming back to it again and again.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Frodo Baggins must destroy the One Ring of Power that will enable the Dark Lord Sauron to destroy all that is good in Middle-earth. This one isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you love detailed histories, epic adventures, and exhaustive world building, you might like it! It’s a classic that has stuck with me since childhood. 


Evan E.

Halo: The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund

This was my first dive into the deeper lore of Halo game franchise. It helped me gain a better understanding of the of how the game universe works and empathize with its characters.    

Monday, March 13, 2017

Patron Book Reviews - March 2017

Book reviews provided by EPL Patrons

Lenin's Roller Coaster by David Downing
Worth Reading. First time I've read Jack McColl, I noticed many names dropped, Innessa Armano, for instance. Book reminds me of two Herman Wook's works; Winds of War and War and Rememberance. Again, worth reading.

The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance into a Hopeful Future by Joselin Linder
Interesting account of a very rare genetic abnormality in her family, and many scientists' efforts to identify, understand, and treat it. The writing is only so-so but the story if of interest. (Not for hypochondriacs!)

August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones
Very, very good. Likeable characters. Believable enough action. Great Story.

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin
An intriguing story of the power of love, friendship, and sacrifice. It follows a young girl and her transformation from an insecure pre-teen into someone willing to give up herself for others.

Living Dead Boy by Rhiannon Frater
Enjoyable zombie read for kids from 13-90! Classic zombie action from a young survivor's perspective. A good quick read for zombie fans!

Sea Change by Karen White
Captiviating! Past and present are combined in an intriguing plot - well done!

An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

I love all the books written by Charlaine Harris. An Ice Cold Grave is an installment in her Harper Connelley Series. A bit intense with gruesome details - but a great story.

Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb
If familiarity breeds contentment, then you'll like the "In Death" series. Celebrity in Death has a unique plot twist to it that pulls you into the story where you then then settle in with familiar characters.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
This is an interesting story told from the point of view of an autistic teenager. As he faces challenges others don't even consider, you keep rooting for him to succeed. A great read.

10 Buildings that Changed America by Dan Protess
I saw the end of this "book" on PBS - the book is based on the program. From what I saw I was not impressed, but after a few sentences of the book I was hooked. This book is an easy read and should be a must read for anyone studying American history - it's not an architecture book but a history book. It helps to explain why we are what we are today.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

All-Time Favorite Books (Part 1): Staff Picks

Posted by Staff

We recently asked the staff here what their all-time favorite books were. Some of us had a hard time picking only one, but we did limit ourselves to five.  What is your all-time favorite book?

Tirzah D.  

It’s been some time since I read this, but I remember that it left an emotional impact. I like how the characters are very real and relatable as so are the situations they face. I also like the message it conveys, which is how hope and true friendship can strengthen us during difficult times.

George and Martha by James Marshall  
Growing up, George and Martha was a regular library check-out. My mom eventually realized it was an all-time favorite for us three kids and she purchased a copy. The adventures these two hippos encounter are hilarious. The illustrations are adorable and the friendship portrayed is unforgettable. George and Martha brings such happy memories of my fun, book-filled childhood. 

The Viking Quest Series by Lois Walfrid Johnson
I first read this series in high school and since then, I have reread it many times. It is just one of those books that are full of important lessons and beautiful characters that stay with you.

Amanda E.

I have to clarify that these are my top fives as of this very moment. If I were to respond to this prompt tomorrow the list may be 5 completely different titles.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 
I’m a sucker for an orphan story and Anne’s is my favorite.  Every few years I reread the whole series and watch the Megan Fellows movies and just immerse myself in Anne’s wholesome and engaging universe. 
Persuasion by Jane Austen  
I love all of Austen’s novels but Persuasion is my favorite.  Anne Elliot is persuaded by her family not to marry the man she really loves.  Many years later she is a spinster and the man she loves comes back into her life.  Anne reflects on the choices of her youth in a way that is very appealing.  Anne’s family is silly and not quite as loveable as the Bennetts and Anne isn’t quite as acerbic as Elizabeth.  The tone of the novel is much more contemplative compared to Pride and Prejudice and I think that is why I prefer it.
DragonSinger by Anne McCaffrey  
This is the first of the Harper Hall Trilogy set in the universe of Pern books.  The main character, Menolly is a young girl who loves music above all else but is told by her traditional father that women can’t be Harpers (musicians).  Menolly runs away and has a series of adventures.  Also, there are tiny dragons called fire lizards.  I love all of the Pern books but this trilogy, originally aimed at young adults, is my favorite of the lot.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle  
Math,  science, a bit of magic, and a strong and imperfect female main character.  Those are the reasons I love this book.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss  
An epic Fantasy.  Eminently rereadable.  Music, magic, and a mystery.  The Name of the Wind is the first in a trilogy and I feel you should be warned that the third hasn’t been published yet and the date of its publication is the subject of many internet debates.  Some have lost hope that it will ever come.  I still highly recommend the first and second books.

Mary H. 

I read this the summer before I started college. I found it by chance for sale at my public library, and the story of a young woman trying to become an artist was very relevant to me. As the characters life went more awry the more confident and self-assured she became. It was a message I had really needed when I read it.

Jacob S.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley 
This book is my all time favorite. It is a dramatic and sweeping retelling of the King Arthur legend. You really care about the characters & their struggles. You weep at some moments of pure heartbreaking emotion. A wonderful book that will fill you with awe & wonder.

The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George 
This book is a fantastic retelling of the story of the legendary Cleopatra as through her own eyes. The language is deeply descriptive and sensual. Every sense is appealed to in the descriptions of sights, sounds, scents, tastes, & touch. Her triumphs and ultimate tragedies tug at the heartstrings.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell 

This book is legendary for a reason. It's characters are timeless and it's story even more gripping than that of the legendary film of the same name. It's the decline & fall of an empire in it's last days as well as the story of the survivors of that empire.

The Normandie Affair by Elizabeth Villars 

This book is very difficult to define. It is neither romance nor mystery nor historical fiction but encompasses all three. Set aboard the most famous of all luxury liners the book reveals the tensions of those last few years before WWII. It reveals the human struggles of people trying to live their lives as the world slips irrevocably towards destruction. Its the last glimpse of a world that will be forever lost with the coming war. Not to be missed.

Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block 
This hyper-linguistic book defies description. It's a collection of short novels about love, fear, danger, passion, growing up, and all of the experiences that make up life. The language is utterly unique and indescribable. Each character is alive and you feel for all of them. The joy & sorrow contained within this book will make you feel alive as nothing else will.