Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
10/27/2011 - 3:30am
Saving the Baghdad Zoo

When the war in Iraq started, there were more than 600 animals being kept in public zoos and on private premises in and near Baghdad. Lions and tigers and bears…oh, no; were they safe?  Were they being cared for? Were they hurt and in need of medical attention? Were they scared and hungry?  Saving the Baghdad Zoo, by Kelly Milner Halls and Major William Sumner, is a wonderful story of the animals and those people who stepped up to the challenge of caring for them.

10/26/2011 - 3:30am
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

If you’re in the mood for a harrowing reality check, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death is the antidote to your craving. Postman’s revelatory book was initially published in the 1980s, but his exploration of America’s preoccupation with entertainment is still sharp and pertinent. And it has retained its power to make us re-think the role of technology in our everyday lives.

Throughout Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman questions how the content of our culture has been radically altered by the emergence of new media. As he states, “our notions of truth and our ideas of intelligence have changed as a result of new media displacing the old.” The assertion that cultural practices and technologies constantly influence and respond to one another might seem like a value neutral observation, but as Postman delves deeper into his analysis, it becomes obvious that he views the shift from the Age of Exposition (text-based communication) to the Age of Show Business (image-based communication) as a profoundly problematic and troubling phenomenon.

10/25/2011 - 3:30am
Mayada: Daughter of Iraq by Jean Sasson

She was an educated daughter of the privileged class—granddaughter of two of Iraq’s heroes from its pre-Saddam era. A successful journalist and later owner of a printing business, she seemed to live a more charmed life than most of Iraq’s citizens. But as the door of the women’s prison closed behind her, leaving her virtually entombed, she realized that her sense of security had been nothing more than an illusion, and as one prisoner after another was dragged away to be tortured, she understood the true horror that underlay her world. Mayada: Daughter of Iraq: One Woman’s Survival Under Saddam Hussein is her story as shared with fellow writer Jean Sasson.

10/24/2011 - 3:30am
Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Libba Bray’s Going Bovine is the story of 16-year-old Cameron who has always dealt with life in a standoff manner, trying to avoid social contact with his peers. Things start to get interesting for him when he begins seeing objects that others seem to miss. While alone at home he hears a noise and discovers a feather, which leads him on a roller coaster of events and introduces him to some unlikely folks.

Cameron’s parents fear that drugs must be a factor so they send him to doctors and psychologists to figure out exactly what’s going on with their son, as he is still seeing things that others can't possibly be seeing. Finally, they find a doctor who unveils the mystery of what’s happening to him--Mad Cow Disease…and he’s going to die.

10/20/2011 - 9:45am
Jumpy Jack and Googily

Jumpy Jack and Googily, by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall, is about the very special friendship of Jumpy Jack the snail and his pal, Googily. Jumpy Jack thinks there could be a monster behind every nook and cranny. Good thing he’s got Googily, who bravely investigates Jumpy Jack’s every fearful suspicion and reassures his friend that no monster could be lurking near. The humor in this sweet account of the exchange between two friends is that Googily himself is a monster, matching the exact description Jumpy Jack provides when he expresses the frightful possibilities his wild imagination creates.

10/19/2011 - 8:16am
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I decided to read this book because I’ve always been interested in the Dalai Lama. I really thought The Art of Happiness would be more focused on understanding Buddhist principles; instead, it’s a peculiar mix of Eastern religion meets Western medicine.

Co-author Dr. Howard Cutler is a psychiatrist with a private practice in Phoenix, and the Dalai Lama is a Buddhist monk. It’s amusing to see two very different approaches to achieving happiness. The Dalai Lama’s approach to achieving happiness is more of a holistic, spiritual system that focuses on improving oneself using the power of the mind. Dr. Howard Cutler takes more of a back-seat approach in which he listens to the Dalai Lama’s suggestions and gives input about modern psychological approaches used in the United States.