Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
01/16/2012 - 4:30am
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

In the dark of night, a monster approaches Conor’s bedroom window. The massive, human-like gnarl of branches with its thunderous voice fails to frighten the boy. You see, Conor has already glimpsed the source of his personal terror. It lives in his nightmares.

A Monster Calls was written after Patrick Ness used outlines and ideas from the British writer Siobhan Dowd, a Carnegie Medal-winning author who died of cancer in 2007. The final product is a taut, suspenseful reflection on losing a loved one, accompanied by the message to be honest with one’s self.

01/13/2012 - 9:23am

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin: New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake--orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying. Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and beseiged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.

If you enjoyed "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin, you may enjoy these titles for the great writing, the philosophical undertones and a dash of romance:

The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen
"In the fall of 1900, Dr. Gustav Uyterhoeven left the chess garden that he and his wife, Sonja, had created together in Dayton, Ohio, and journeyed to South Africa to serve as a doctor in the British concentration camps of the Boer War. Over the next ten months he sent twelve chess pieces and twelve letters back to Sonja. She set out her husband's gifts as they arrived and welcomed all the most faithful guests of the garden to come and hear what he had written - letters which told nothing of his experience of the camps but described an imagined land called the Antipodes, where all the game pieces that cluttered the sets and drawers of the garden collection came to life to guide the doctor through his fateful and wondrous last adventure."-catalog summary

Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
"Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, 'Corelli's Mandolin' is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad.  Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army.  Caught in the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island.  Rich with loyalties and betrayals, and set against a landscape where the factual blends seamlessly with the fantastic, 'Corelli's Mandolin' is a passionate novel as rich in ideas as it is genuinely moving."-catalog summary

01/12/2012 - 4:30am
Liesl and Po

"Coincidences; mix-ups; harmless mistakes and switches.  And so a story is born."  Imagine Cinderella with a really, really wicked stepmother and a lonely, yet helpful ghost. 

In Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, 11- year-old Liesl is confined to a tiny attic bedroom, locked away and totally isolated by her cruel stepmother while her father falls ill and dies.  Her only friends are the shadows and the mice -- until one night two shadows move and speak.

01/11/2012 - 4:31am
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

"When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die." -Cersei Lannister

I think epic fantasy literature offers the best kind of escape. In a well-constructed fantasy you can lose yourself in mastering the intricacies of plotlines, character charts, and the physical environment of the world. George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first in the Song of Fire and Ice series, is the perfect book to hook you and then submerge you in its rich, imaginative prose peppered with bravery, cowardice, betrayal, loyalty, violence, lust, and death. In other words, it's great fun all around.

A Game of Thrones follows three main storylines, each populated with a complex number of characters and sub-plots. In the Seven Kingdoms we have the plotting Lannisters, ever eager for power and riches; and the duty-bound, severe Starks, proud to the last. Along the Wall in the north there is John Snow, Eddard Stark’s illegitimate son and part of the Brotherhood of the Knights Watch, who guards the Seven Kingdoms from the savage barbarians, undead, and beasts in the wild beyond the Wall. And in the East there is young Daenerys Targaryen, an exiled princess now wed to a Dothraki horse lord, dreaming of reclaiming the Iron Throne.

01/10/2012 - 8:30am
The Children of Men by P.D. James

T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” ends with a description of anticlimactic destruction: “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” In The Children of Men, the world is facing a similarly unspectacular, silent annihilation. P.D. James’s novel explores a dystopia that is not dominated by a totalitarian regime. The sky has not been blackened, nor has nuclear fallout rendered the world unlivable. The collapse of human society is being expedited by the simple fact that a child has not been born in 25 years.

01/09/2012 - 4:30am
Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engel

Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engel is a historical novel in verse about holocaust refugees in Cuba. Daniel is a thirteen year old Jewish boy. His parents can only afford one ticket out of Germany and they give it to their child in hope that he will be able to escape Nazi Germany. They send him on a ship out of Germany, hoping that they will be able to meet him in New York City one day once they have saved enough money to pay for their tickets.