Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
10/12/2011 - 9:52am
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

In Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, we are introduced to a young, wild Louie Zamperini, who stole anything that wasn’t nailed down (especially food) and loved to play practical jokes that had a way of spinning out of control. There didn’t seem to be anyone or anything in his small California town that could rein him in. Based on Zamperini’s many encounters with local police officers, it appeared that he was headed for a life of lawlessness…until he discovered the joy of running.

Zamperini's older brother first recognized his talent and convinced him to start training as a runner in high school. Race after race Zamperini blew away the competition, breaking records and setting new ones right and left. Eventually, he ended up going to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where he performed well and even shook hands with Hitler. He had his sights set on a gold medal at the 1940 Olympics when something occurred that changed the course of his life forever: World War II.

10/10/2011 - 3:30am
The End of the Line

Robbie is in middle school and has a pretty typical life in The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito. His mom runs a day care business from their home, his dad goes to work, and his beloved Uncle Grant--almost ready for deployment to Iraq--trains with Robbie to run long distance. A new boy named Ryan comes to town and befriends Robbie, and Robbie reluctantly accepts Ryan's friendship. Ryan's home life is very different from Robbie's. His mother is in the "hospital," and he hasn't seen his younger sister in months. He lives with his grandparents in a dilapidated old house that is on the verge of being condemned-- so much so that his house is regarded by the other teens in town as a haunted house.  He rarely has any food available--certainly none to share when he has a friend over.

10/07/2011 - 3:31am
If you like The Shack by William P. Young

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.

The Shack by William P. Young: "Mackenzie Allen Phillips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever." (Book Description)

If you enjoyed "The Shack" by William Paul Young, you may enjoy these titles:

Dinner with a Perfect Stranger: an Invitation Worth Considering by David Gregory
The mysterious envelope arrives on Nick Cominsky's desk amid a stack of credit card applications and business-related junk mail. Although his seventy-hour workweek has already eaten into his limited family time, Nick can't pass up the opportunity to see what kind of plot his colleagues have hatched. The normally confident, cynical Nick soon finds himself thrown off-balance, drawn into an intriguing conversation with a baffling man who appears to be more than comfortable discussing everything from world religions to the existence of heaven and hell. And this man who calls himself Jesus also seems to know a disturbing amount about Nick's personal life.--catalog summary

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Pi Patel is an unusual boy. The son of a zookeeper, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior, a fervent love of stories, and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional-but is it more true? Life of Pi is at once a realistic, rousing adventure and a meta-tale of survival that explores the redemptive power of storytelling and the transformative nature of fiction. It's a story, as one character puts it, to make you believe in God.--catalog summary

10/06/2011 - 3:30am
When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Tom Bahti

They say
That every piece
Of clay
Is a piece of
Someone’s
Life.

In faraway times, the artisans of the Southwest peoples smoothed the clay they collected. They painted it with their symbols and heated it to make it strong. When these tribes left their homes, pieces of their past remained behind. When the shards are gathered together, the pictures they make seem to summon the spirits of the people who created them so long ago. When Clay Sings, by Byrd Baylor and illustrated by Tom Bahti, is a melding of archaeology and word craft that brings a unique and subtle sense of the past to today’s students.

10/05/2011 - 3:31am
Doc by Mary Doria Russell

Nothing came easy to John Henry “Doc” Holliday, not even his birth. Born with a cleft lip and palate, his odds for survival in 1851 were slim, and would have been slimmer still without the intervention of his amazing mother, Alice Holliday. Alice devoted herself to John Henry's care around the clock, feeding him with an eyedropper for eight weeks. His uncle, a noted surgeon, then repaired the cleft palate in an astounding surgery that the family kept secret to protect “family honor.” John Henry overcame his speech impediments with this mother’s therapy techniques and became proficient in the piano and several classical languages.

Tragically, Alice died a slow, agonizing death from tuberculosis when John Henry was 15 years old. John Henry also contracted tuberculosis as a young man and therefore knew exactly what kind of death was eventually promised him. Newly graduated as a Doctor of Dental Surgery, John Henry left Georgia and headed west in search of a dry climate where he could more successfully battle the disease slowly eating away at his lungs.  He ended up in Dodge City, Kansas, a wild frontier town, teetering eternally between chaos and burgeoning civility, and the main setting for Mary Doria Russell's new novel, Doc.

10/04/2011 - 9:19am
Long Gone by Alafair Burke

Alice Humphrey--daughter of a world famous film director and his movie star wife--has been unemployed for months yet refuses to ask her wealthy parents for help. When the ideal job as manager of a new NYC art gallery falls into her lap, Alice leaps at the opportunity…without considering the legitimacy of the offer. In Long Gone, by Alafair Burke, Alice has no clue her hasty decision will lead to a murder…or that she will be the main suspect!

At the opening of a new art exhibit, Alice meets Drew Campbell. Over the course of their conversation, Drew mentions he has an anonymous investor ready to open a gallery. He asks if Alice might be interested in managing the project. The only caveat is that the premiere show must feature the work of the investor’s boyfriend. The art in question turns out to be a series of hackneyed photographs which, from Alice’s perspective, display zero artistic merit. But she remains undaunted and looks forward to molding future shows.