Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
09/07/2011 - 3:30am
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt

Not all stand-up comedians can translate their live energy and timing into textual representation. For Patton Oswalt, however, the transition from stage to page feels effortless and strangely appropriate. In Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Oswalt treats us to an engaging romp through a motley assortment of his personal experiences, pop-culture obsessions, and comedic experiments. Oswalt introduces the book with a very appropriate confession: “Comedy and terror and autobiography and comics and literature – they’re all the same thing. To me.” And, for once, he isn’t joking.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is extremely eclectic, which makes it difficult to relegate to a singular category.  There are sections that lean towards the autobiography/memoir side of the spectrum. But there are also humor pieces and miscellaneous experiments, such as an illustrated chapter that feels like a slightly zanier, compressed version of Dylan Dog. There is also an epic poem dedicated to Ulvaak, the last character Oswalt played in Dungeons and Dragons. While the sheer variety of Zombie’s vignettes might seem overwhelming, the book is actually compulsively readable. I found myself eagerly turning the pages, wondering what Oswalt’s fevered brain would churn out next.

09/06/2011 - 3:30am

In The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time, Laurie David offers some startling statistics about the importance – and scarcity – of the family dinner. Only “half of modern families eat together more than three to five times a week” and that time is usually spent in front of the television. The six o’clock family dinner of healthy, homecooked food enjoyed together over leisurely conversation seems to be a swiftly vanishing occurrence…and yet statistics have proven that the family dinner is a vital tool for improving grades and helping to fight obesity and drug abuse. Luckily, this book offers you a roadmap to family-dinner bliss, providing all the recipes and conversation topics you need to get started or enhance your current routine.

Recipes, authored by Kirstin Uhrenholdt, are grouped into “Fast Recipes,” “Cook it Together at the Table,” “Souper Dinners,” “Take it Slow,” “Meatless Mondays,” and “Kids in the Kitchen.” There are recipes here to appeal to all palates. I can’t wait to try “Soy Good Maple-Glazed Salmon with Edamame Succotash” and “Savory Sausage and White Bean Stew.” I can imagine the kids gobbling up the homemade “Mac n’ Cheese Please” or the “Thai Chicken Wraps.” Helpful recipes for vinaigrettes to dress your salad will have you eschewing bottled sauce forever. And don't forget to try one of the simple sweets in "Play with Your Dessert."

09/05/2011 - 12:55pm
Lost and Found by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan has created a book with visually stimulating pictures and rich text in Lost and Found.  This book is a compilation of four stories addressing the concepts of loss and hope.  The tale is enhanced through the vivid and inventive illustrations accompanying the stories.  Tan's muted tones create sometimes somber settings juxtaposed with the vivid introduction of a surprise element.  For example, in the first story “The Red Tree,” Tan takes the reader on a melancholy journey through sadness and despair with a stunning surprise in the simplicity of a red leaf.  The reader finds herself thrust into a hopeful and encouraging element that compels the character to smile.

09/02/2011 - 3:31am
Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of master mystery writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most accomplished stories. Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson confront one of their most difficult cases ever: is there truly a curse on the old Baskerville estate? Is there truly a ghostly beast lurking on the dark, eerie moors? A masterful concoction of plot and mood, this story is guaranteed to give you the shivers." (Book Summary)

If you like The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you may like these books:

First, read the other many Sherlock Holmes adventures by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
 

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Laurie R. King writes a series of books featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. So if you like this book, you'll have other titles to try!
"In 1915, long since retired from his observations of criminal humanity, Sherlock Holmes is engaged in a reclusive study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. Never did he think to meet an intellect to match his own-until his acquaintance with Miss Mary Russell, a very modern fifteen-year-old whose mental acuity is equaled only by her audacity, tenacity, and penchant for trousers and cloth caps. Under Holmes's tutelage, Russell hones her talent for deduction, disguises, and danger: in the chilling case of a landowner's mysterious fever and in a kidnapping in the wilds of Wales. But her ultimate challenge is yet to come. Soon the two sleuths are on the trail of a murderer whose machinations scatter meaningless clues...but whose objective is quite unequivocal: to end Russell and Holmes's partnership-and their lives." (catalog summary)
 

The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes by Caleb Carr
"Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are summoned to the aid of Queen Victoria in Scotland by a telegram from Holmes' brother, Mycroft, a royal advisor. Rushed northward on a royal train-and nearly murdered themselves en route-the pair are soon joined by Mycroft, and learn of the brutal killings of two of the Queen's servants, a renowned architect and his foreman, both of whom had been working on the renovation of the famous and forbidding Royal Palace of Holyrood, in Edinburgh. Mycroft has enlisted his brother to help solve the murders that may be key elements of a much more elaborate and pernicious plot on the Queen's life. But the circumstances of the two victims' deaths also call to Holmes' mind the terrible murder-in Holyrood-of "The Italian Secretary," David Rizzio. Only Rizzio, a music teacher and confidante of Mary, Queen of Scots, was murdered three centuries ago. Holmes proceeds to alarm Watson with the announcement that the Italian Secretary's vengeful spirit may have taken the lives of the two men as punishment for disturbing the scene of his assassination. Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Caleb Carr's brilliant new offering takes the Conan Doyle tradition to remarkable new heights with this spellbinding tale." (catalog summary)

09/01/2011 - 3:30am
The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball

I don’t know about you, but I’m always drawn to accounts of people who forgo traditional lives to pursue the unknown. Some make the move to remote locations; others choose to follow unusual career paths. In The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love, author Kristin Kimball leaves behind what many might label an enviable existence as a freelance writer in New York City to stake a claim on a 500-acre, ramshackle farm.

Kristin’s been assigned to write an article about Mark, who’s making a name for himself in the ever-changing world of farming. Rather than being able to interview her subject—who remains on a constant treadmill of chores—she finds herself hoeing broccoli and slaughtering pigs…all in her urban finest. The next day brings her no closer to Mark as she’s assigned to work the tomato fields. With time running out and only a few scribbles recorded, Kristin implores Mark to answer her questions. Their brief encounter will lead to a major life change for them both.

08/31/2011 - 10:20am
Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

“New folks coming!”

That’s the important news that the young rabbit, Little Georgie, has to share with all of his neighbors, from the stately deer to the excitable field mouse on Rabbit Hill. Will they be good providers or “slatternly” like the last batch? Most everyone hopes for a garden, but Phewie, the skunk, is hoping for some quality “garbidge.”  All of the residents of Robert Lawson’s Rabbit Hill have an opinion and a hope about what will come.

So many things could go wrong if the new folks that come aren’t nice. There might be vicious dogs. They might bring traps. They might even cut down and plow up the thicket where the burrow lies. Mother Rabbit is beside herself with worry, but Little Georgie and the rest are mostly just excited.