Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
10/18/2011 - 2:30am
Dear American Airlines

Most people know what it feels like to be stuck in limbo somewhere between departure and destination. Even if your journey was perfectly planned, there are so many things that can easily go awry and impede your progress. In Dear American Airlines, that agonizing stasis is symptomatic of much more than an airline’s incompetence or a missed connection. It characterizes the 53 years that Benjamin R. Ford has been living and drawing breath.

While en route from New York to Los Angeles, Bennie’s flight is abruptly canceled. Even though the sky is bright and the clouds look picturesque, rather than ominous, American Airlines claims foul weather has interfered with the scheduled flight. As a consequence, Bennie finds himself trapped in Chicago’s O’Hare airport with no way out. But he does have a pen, some paper, and the desire to complain to American Airlines.

The entirety of Jonathan Miles’s poignant and humorous novel is written in the form of a letter of complaint. At first, Bennie’s explicit goal is to write and get his ticket refunded. As the letter progresses, however, it becomes quite clear that a check from American Airlines will not resolve Bennie’s existential crisis.

10/17/2011 - 2:30am
The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

In Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s The Pull of the Ocean, Yann Doutreleau, youngest of seven brothers and the only one not a twin, whispered to the rest that it was time to go. The wind and rain were beating down in the November night outside their farm house in French countryside, but it was still time to go. Their parents, he said, were going to harm them.

10/14/2011 - 2:31am
If you like Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

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.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill: "Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can't help but reach for his wallet. I will "sell" my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder. . . . For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn't afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts-of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What's one more? But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. It's the real thing. And suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored vintage Mustang . . . standing outside his window . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting-with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand. . . ." (Book Description)

If you liked Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, here are some other books that are really scary:

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
One of the scariest books I've ever read! "One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall, the residence of the Ayres family for more than two centuries. Its owners, mother, son and daughter, are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as conflicts of their own.
But the Ayreses are haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life."--catalog summary

 

Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker
This bone-chilling novel, in which a medieval devil speaks directly to the reader, claims to be a never-before-published demonic memoir penned in the year 1438. The sole copy was, so the story goes, created by the inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg himself. But this historic piece of writing immediately vanished without a trace. Until now... A demon known as Jakabok has embedded his very self inside each word of this meticulously printed tale of autobiographical terror. The reader is taunted and teased by his pleas for release from the confines of the very ink and paper that provide the vehicle for his life story.
Little do they know, the depths of horror they hold in their hands.
Reader beware, indeed, as Jakabok (aka Mister B.) escorts you on an unforgettable journey into the ultimate origins of good and evil.--catalog summary

10/13/2011 - 2:31am
Everything on a Waffle

Haven't you ever known something deep in your heart without reason? Primrose Squarp is an eleven-year-old girl living in Coal Harbour, British Columbia, where the only big businesses are fishing, whaling, and the Navy.  Everything on a Waffle is a story about what happened to Primrose after the loss of her parents. One day, her father is out on a fishing boat when a big storm hits the area. Mrs. Squarp puts on her rain gear and proceeds to take Primrose to the local babysitter so that she can go look for her husband. Primrose's parents don't return, but she knows that they will return someday.

Meanwhile, Primrose must navigate her life without her parents. Her babysitter, Mrs. Perfidy, agrees to babysit her. The town pays Mrs. Perfidy for her duties by using Primrose's parents' bank account. However, when money runs short the town must find someone that she can live with. They find her only known relative, Uncle Jack, to take on the responsibility of watching her. They have an interesting relationship that leaves them mutually satisfied with each others' company.

10/12/2011 - 7:37am
Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz

Her wit is as dry as a whisper in a mummy’s tomb when she describes the life of a citizen of old Egypt from the squalling dawn of his existence to his final preparation for the afterlife.  But for all her panache, in penning Red Land, Black Land Barbara Mertz has created no gripping historical romantic suspense novel—although she’s written many of those, too.

You may know this author better as Elizabeth Peters, she of the Amelia Peabody mystery series, or by her other nom de plume--Barbara Michaels. Yet Barbara Mertz is her real name, and it’s under that identity that she earned a doctorate in Egyptology from Chicago’s famed Oriental Institute some decades ago.

10/12/2011 - 8:52am
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.