What a Difference a Year Makes

Jane Smiley

"The Pulitzer Prize--winning author of  A Thousand Acres gallops into territory she first explored in her acclaimed best-selling novel, Horse Heaven with this irresistible account of her lifelong love affair with horses. Smiley draws upon her firsthand knowledge of horses, as well as the wisdom of trainers, vets, jockeys, and even a real-life horse whisperer, to examine the horse on all levels-practical, theoretical, and emotional. She shares not only 'cute stories' about her own horses, but also fascinating and original insights into horse-and human-behavior. To all this she adds an element of drama and suspense as two of her own horses begin their careers at the racetrack. As the sexy black filly Waterwheel and the elegant gray colt Wowie aspire to the winner's circle, we are enchanted, enthralled-and informed about what it's really like to own, train, and root for a Thoroughbred."

Peter Mayle

They had been there often as tourists. They had cherished the dream of someday living all year under the Provencal sun. And suddenly it happened. Here is the month-by-month account of the charms and frustrations that Peter Mayle and his wife -- and their two large dogs -- experience their first year in the remote country of the Luberon restoring a two-centuries-old stone farmhouse that they bought on sight. From coping in January with the first mistral, which comes howling down from the Rhone Valley and wreaks havoc with the pipes, to dealing as the months go by with the disarming promises and procrastination of the local masons and plumbers, Peter Mayle delights us with his strategies for survival.

Bernd Heinrich
A professor of zoology and his pet raven spend a year in what we might call "minimalist" surroundings. His phone was in a neighbor's privy! We can enjoy a full and fascinating year outdoors in Maine without leaving the comforts of our living rooms!
Sara Bongiorni

On January 1, 2005, Sara Bongiorni's family embarked on a yearlong boycott of Chinese products. They wanted to see for themselves what it would take, in will power and creativity, to live without the world's fastest growing economy—and whether it could be done at all.

Barbara Kingsolver

When Kingsolver and her family move from suburban Arizona to rural Appalachia, they take on a new challenge: to spend a year on a locally produced diet, paying close attention to the provenance of all they consume. "Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we'd know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be ourselves as we learned to produce what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals, and enough sense to refrain from naming them."

Eric Brende

The author and his spouse spent 18 months in Amish country living without electricity and its dependent technologies. Here he recounts the experience, not only detailing the daily activities and frequent difficulties they found necessary to maintain existence without electricity, but also touting the benefits of such a life and exploring the culture of their adopted community.

Richard Esposito and Ted Gerstein

An unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the men who protect us from the most frightening prospect of life in the age of terrorism.

Tony Horwitz

"Propelled by his boyhood passion for the Civil War, Horwitz embarks on a search for places and people still held in thrall by America's greatest conflict. The result is an adventure into the soul of the unvanquished South, where the ghosts of the Lost Cause are resurrected through ritual and remembrance... . Written with Horwitz's signature blend of humor, history, and hard-nosed journalism, Confederates in the Attic brings alive old battlefields and new ones 'classrooms, courts, country bars' where the past and the present collide, often in explosive ways. Poignant and picaresque, haunting and hilarious, it speaks to anyone who has ever felt drawn to the mythic South and to the dark romance of the Civil War."

Susan Pohlman
"Tired, empty, and disillusioned with married life, Susan Pohlman was ready to call it quits. As soon as she and husband Tim wrap up a business trip in Italy, she planned to end their eighteen-year marriage. During their last day as they walked along the Italian Riviera, Tim fantasizes aloud that, perhaps, they could live there. Susan initially dismisses the notion as nonsense but is inexplicably overwhelmed with a desire to give the marriage another try. Defying all logic, the couple find a school for their children and sign a lease for an apartment. Maybe a life in such a charmed setting could help them find their way back to each other. Together with their children, they trade in their breakneck Los Angeles pace for adventure and a slower, more intimate lifestyle. This is the remarkable story of an ordinary American family that inspires and offers hope that all of us who find the courage to listen to our hearts and follow our dreams can experience a new beginning."
Simon David

"...the classic book about homicide investigation that became the basis for the hit television show The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. At the center of this hurricane of crime is the city's homicide unit, a small brotherhood of hard men who fight for whatever justice is possible in a deadly world. David Simon was the first reporter ever to gain unlimited access to a homicide unit, and this electrifying book tells the true story of a year on the violent streets of an American city. The narrative follows Donald Worden, a veteran investigator; Harry Edgerton, a black detective in a mostly white unit; and Tom Pellegrini, an earnest rookie who takes on the year's most difficult case, the brutal rape and murder of an eleven-year-old girl."

Julie Powell

Julie Powell is 30 years old, living in a rundown apartment in Queens, and working at a soul-sucking secretarial job that's going nowhere. She needs something to break the monotony of her life. So, she invents a deranged assignment: She will take her mother's dog-eared copy of Julia Child's 1961 classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and will cook all 524 recipes...in the span of just one year.

Kenn Kaufman

"At sixteen, Kenn Kaufman dropped out of the high school where he was student council president and hit the road, hitching back and forth across America, from Alaska to Florida, Maine to Mexico. Maybe not all that unusual a thing to do in the seventies, but what Kenn was searching for was a little different: not sex, drugs, God, or even self, but birds. A report of a rare bird would send him hitching nonstop from Pacific to Atlantic and back again. When he was broke he would pick fruit or do odd jobs to earn the fifty dollars or so that would last him for weeks.

"His goal was to set a record - most North American species seen in a year - but along the way he began to realize that at this breakneck pace he was only looking, not seeing. What had been a game became a quest for a deeper understanding of the natural world. Kingbird Highway is a unique coming-of- age story, combining a lyrical celebration of nature with wild, and sometimes dangerous, adventures, starring a colorful cast of characters."

Rebekah Nathan

After more than fifteen years of teaching, Rebekah Nathan, a professor of anthropology at a large state university, realized that she no longer understood the behavior and attitudes of her students.... Nathan decided to put her wealth of experience in overseas ethnographic fieldwork to use closer to home and apply to her own university. Accepted on the strength of her high school transcript, she took a sabbatical and enrolled as a freshman for the academic year.

Judith Levine

"...a close look at our society's obsession with shopping and the cold turkey confession of a woman we can all identify with -- someone who can't live without French roast coffee andexpensive wool socks, but who has had enough of spending money for the sake of it. Without consumer goods and experiences, Levine and her partner Paul pursue their careers, nurture family relationships and try to keep their sanity and humour intact. Tracking their progress and lapses, she contemplates the meanings of need and desire, scarcity and security, consumerism and citizenship."

David Elliot Cohen

"With three children under the age of nine, the youngest still in diapers, the Cohens decide to do something many dream of, but few actually undertake: sell the house, the cars, and the belongings and take off for a year-long journey around the world. Demonstrating great creativity and tremendous tenacity, David, Devi, and their children create the adventure of a lifetime -- an inspiration to anyone who dreams of leaving it all behind."

David Yeadon

"The Outer Hebrides of Scotland epitomize the evocative beauty and remoteness of island life. The most dramatic of all the Hebrides is Harris, a tiny island formed from the oldest rocks on earth, a breathtaking landscape of soaring mountains, wild lunarlike moors, and vast Caribbean-hued beaches. This is where local crofters weave the legendary Harris Tweed-a hardy cloth reflecting the strength, durability, and integrity of the life there.

"In Seasons on Harris, David Yeadon, 'one of our best travel writers' (The Bloomsbury Review), captures, through elegant words and line drawings, life on Harris--the people, their folkways and humor, and their centuries-old Norse and Celtic traditions of crofting and fishing. Here Gaelic is still spoken in its purest form, music and poetry ceilidh evenings flourish in the local pubs, and Sabbath Sundays are observed with Calvinistic strictness. Yeadon's book makes us care deeply about these proud islanders, their folklore, their history, their challenges, and the imperiled future of their traditional island life and beloved tweed."

Suzanne Strempek Shea

"Two years ago, while recovering from radiation therapy, Shea heard from a friend who was looking for help at her bookstore. Shea volunteered, seeing it as nothing more than a way to get out of her pajamas and back into the world. But over next twelve months, from St. Patrick’s Day through Poetry Month, graduation/Father’s Day/summer reading/Christmas and back again to those shamrock displays, Shea lived and breathed books in a place she says sells 'ideas, stories, encouragement, answers, solace, validation, the basic ammunition for daily life.' Her work was briefly interrupted by an author tour that took her to other great bookstores. Descriptions of these and her memories of book-lined rooms reaching all the way back to childhood visits to the Bookmobile are scattered throughout this charming, humorous, and engrossing account of reading and rejuvenation."

Mark Obmascik

Three birding fanatics compete with each other and themselves to see the most number of birds in and around the U.S. in one year. Where they go, what they do, and how much they spend are almost unbelievable. Talk about obsessed!

Also available on audio.

Tahir Shah

"Tahir Shah shares a highly entertaining account of making an exotic dream come true when he and his family move from London to Casablanca where they buy Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion that once belonged to the city's caliph or spiritual leader."

Eric Weiner

"Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, this book takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of 'un-unhappiness.' The book uses a mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is.--From publisher description."

Tom Parker Bowles

"Fugu. Dog. Cobra. Bees. Spleen. A 600,000 SCU chili pepper. All considered foods by millions of people around the world. And all objects of great fascination to Tom Parker Bowles, a food journalist who grew up eating his mother's considerably safer roast chicken, shepherd's pie and mushy peas. Intrigued by the food phobias of two friends, Parker Bowles became inspired to examine the cultural divides that make some foods verboten or 'dangerous' in the culture he grew up with while being seen as lip-smacking delicacies in others. So began a year-long odyssey through Asia, Europe and America in search of the world's most thrilling, terrifying and odd foods. Parker Bowles is always witty and sometimes downright hilarious in recounting his quest for envelope-pushing meals, ranging from the potentially lethal to the outright disgusting to the merely gluttonous--and he proves in this book that an open mouth and an open mind are the only passports a man needs to truly discover the world."

A.J. Jacobs

"Raised in a secular family but interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to stone adulterers. The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history's most influential book with new eyes. Jacobs embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally: he tours a creationist museum and sings hymns with Amish; he dances with Hasidic Jews and does Scripture study with Jehovah's Witnesses. He wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the 21st-century brain, and he discovers ancient wisdom of startling relevance."

Margaret Hathaway

From Maine to Arizona and back again, Margaret and Karl and their dog, Godfrey, travel across America, visiting dairy farms and goat meat ranches. They meet a colorful cast of farmers, cheese makers, breeders, and chefs. They sample cheese from all over the country, learn how to make goat cheese themselves, keep a farm, care for the animals, and learn the protocols of participating in festivals and auctions. Once again back in Maine, they have a goat-themed wedding, and go on to purchase ten acres of pasture and their own herd of goats.

Maria Dahvana Headley

"Like many young people everywhere, playwright Maria Headley had had her fill of terrible dates. Discouraged and looking for love, she decided the time had come for her to eliminate her own (clearly not adequately discriminating) taste from the equation. Instead--as she vowed to her roommates one frustrated morning--she would date every person who asked her out for an entire year, regardless of circumstances. It would be her Year of Yes. Leaving her judgment and predispositions at the door, our heroine ventured into a world suddenly brimming with opportunity and found herself saying yes to:

  • The Microsoft Millionaire who still lived with his mom.
  • An actor she had previously sworn off as gay.
  • And finally the significantly older man, divorced with kids, whom she never would have looked at twice before the Year of Yes--and to whom she is now happily married.

"Hilariously funny and ultimately inspirational, The Year of Yes will appeal to every person who has turned down a date for the wrong reason."

Jon Ronson

"Islamic fundamentalists, Ku Klux Klansmen, Christian separatists, and certain members of British Parliament would seem to have very little in common, but they do in fact share one crucial belief: that the world is secretly controlled by an elite group -- in a word, Them. This shadowy elite starts the wars, elects heads of state, sets the price of oil and the flow of capital, conducts bizarre secret rituals, and controls the media. This group is incredibly powerful and will destroy any investigator who gets too close to the truth. Does this shadowy elite really exist? Jon Ronson wondered. As a journalist and a Jew, Ronson was often considered one of 'Them,' but he had no idea if their meetings actually took place and, if so, where. Was he the only one not invited?

"Ronson decided to settle the matter himself, seeking out the supposed secret rulers of the world by way of those who seem to know most about them: the extremists. The result is a riveting journey around the globe. Along the way Ronson meets Omar Bakri Mohammed, once considered to be the most dangerous man in Great Britain. This powerful Muslim fundamentalist -- who tricks Jon into chauffeuring him around town because he doesn't have a car -- seems harmless enough until he takes Jon to Jihad training camp where Ronson is unmasked as a Jew. Jon shoots guns with Ruby Ridge survivor Rachel Weaver and learns about black helicopters and the New World Order. While trying to monitor a meeting of the famous Bilderberg Group in Portugal, he is chased by men in dark glasses. With a group of other true believers, he breaks into the fabled Bohemian Grove in California and witnesses CEOs and politicians engaged in a bizarre pagan ritual. When he attends a KKK rally to interview a PR-conscious Grand Wizard who forbids use of the "N-word," Jon watches as Klan members confront a perpetual cross-burning problem: Do you raise it and then soak it or soak it and then raise it? But the more Ronson tries to expose the emptiness of these conspiracies, the less and less he's certain that the extremists are crazy."

Bruce Feiler

"Jewish author Feiler offers himself here as a pilgrim, walking through biblical lands and interviewing individuals from many religious traditions and walks of life. He reads the stories of the Pentateuch in the places they are thought to have happened, he records the latest archaeological understandings of the Bible, and he wrestles with his own faith. Of course, contemporary politics sneaks into the story, too; Arab-Israeli conflicts are hard to avoid when one is writing about the biblical Canaan. Feiler is an accomplished wordsmith. When he describes the 'smells of dawn cinnamon, cardamom, a whiff of burnt sugar,' the reader is transported to Turkey." (Publishers' Weekly)

The library also owns a video presentation of the book's information.

Christopher S. Wren

Newly-retired journalist encounters New England's gnarly nature as he treks far away from Times Square and into the Green Mountains.

From Chapter One:

It was not yet noon and hotter than a July bride in a feather bed when I trudged a half-dozen miles down the wooded northeastern flank of Mount Greylock, which is, at 3,491 feet, about as high as you can go in the state of Massachusetts. The descent, steep and muddy, made my footing precarious under the weight of a pack that felt stuffed with rocks. By the time I emerged from the spruce woods onto Phelps Avenue, a street of tidy wooden houses on the southern fringe of North Adams, I was hurting as hard as I was sweating.

Before I got bitten, I had planned to follow the white blazes marking the Appalachian Trail north across a green footbridge over some railroad tracks and the Hoosic River. Instead, I turned east on Main Street and caught a ride to the regional hospital on the other side of town.

Within minutes, I found myself stretched out on a white-sheeted bed in the hospital's emergency ward, feeling the soothing chill of saline solution dripping antibiotics into my vein through a long needle taped to the top of my hand.

It was not where I expected to be.