Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
08/16/2011 - 6:58am
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

In Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, 23-year-old veterinary student, Jacob Jankowski, is looking forward to graduating with a degree from Cornell University and joining his father’s veterinary practice. Unfortunately, fate intervenes and Jacob’s parents are killed in an automobile accident. Jacob learns that his parents have no savings and plenty of debt, having bartered for veterinary payments from cash-poor farmers (it is the Depression, after all) and mortgaged their house to the teeth in order to pay his tuition.

Bereft of both parents and financial future, Jacob despairs and jumps a train moving through the town. It happens to belong to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a poor cousin to Ringling Brothers. Once it’s discovered that he has veterinary experience, he is put in charge of the animals, a task that is at once heartwarming, thankless, and distressing. The circus is run by the greedy Uncle Al and the brilliant but mercurial August, the animal trainer who keeps the circus afloat. August, a paranoid schizophrenic, alters between warmly welcoming Jacob and trying to kill him.

08/15/2011 - 9:01am
You Wish by Amanda Hubbard

Kayla McHenry turned sixteen, and her Mom threw her a huge birthday party. That is what Kayla's mom does for a living --she puts together parties for people.  The only problem is that Kayla's mom never asked her what kind of party she wanted or if she even wanted one at all.  She didn't.  Besides all that, her best friend Nicole has become cute and popular and she is dating the guy Kayla is madly in love with ...Ben McKenzie.  In the book You Wish, by Amanda Hubbard, Kayla McHenry is 16 and miserable.  After the disappointing birthday party (the one that her best friend completely missed because she was on a date with her boyfriend), Kayla reminisces on the day and cavalierly wishes that all of her birthday wishes that she has ever made would come true. The next morning there is a bright pink pony in her yard. The next day her bedroom is full of gumballs.  After that her Raggedy Ann doll comes to life and wants to go everywhere with her, even to school. But wait there is more.  Did I mention that Ken shows up to take her out on a date? This brings to mind the phrase "be careful what you wish for."

08/12/2011 - 2:30am

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 Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck: Though more than sixty years have passed since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer Prize, it has retained its popularity and become one of the great modern classics. "I can only write what I know, and I know nothing but China, having always lived there," wrote Pearl Buck. In The Good Earth she presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during this century. Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions and rewards.

Read more about The Good Earth  on our Shelf Life blog. If you like The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, you may also like these books:

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
This "piercing study of childhood innocence lost" mirrors the growing pains of modern India. Twin sister and brother Rahel and Estha are at the center of a family in crisis and at the heart of this "moving and compactly written book." (Library Journal review) More symbolism, more cultural diversity, another classic! This book won the Booker Prize.

 

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One of the most influential literary works of our time, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a dazzling and original achievement by the masterful Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women -- brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul -- this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction. (product description, Amazon.com) Talk about symbolism! This book is packed with it! Beautifully written, here's a literary classic from yet another culture and continent - the Americas.
 

08/11/2011 - 2:30am
The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s enduring classic, The Little Prince, explores topics of great importance such as art, friendship, space travel, responsibility, proud flowers, and what a boa constrictor looks like after it has eaten an elephant. This cherished fable is narrated by a pilot whose plane crashed in the Sahara. After meeting the little prince in the desert, miles and miles from any inhabited place, our narrator gradually learns about the little prince’s travels and world view.

The little prince comes from Asteroid B-612, a very small planet where he dutifully cleaned out the miniature volcanoes and tended to his beloved flower. His flower had many demands, and her haughty manner made the little prince feel confused and manipulated. As a consequence, he decided to leave his home and go exploring.

08/10/2011 - 3:01am
Alex & Me cover

Years ago when researchers were in heated debates about whether or not animals can think, I could have told them that they do.  When I was first married I had an incredible dog named Doctor. One day when I was young and stupid, I had a knock on my door.  There was a man standing outside my door whom I didn’t recognize, so I locked my screen door to keep my dog in and stepped outside to see what this man wanted.  He began to ask me some very bizarre questions about the neighborhood. He kept stepping back to draw me away from my front door. Suddenly I found that I had gone into my front yard to talk to this strange young man. Red flags were going off in my brain at this point. He was about to ask me another odd question when he suddenly stopped and said, “I have to go.” He turned around and walked quickly away. I thought, “What a strange man that was!”  When I turned around I discovered that Doctor had jumped up, unhooked the screen door, and was sitting behind me with his lips curled back in a silent growl. Evidently, he thought that the man was odd also.

 When my husband bought me Alex & Me, by Irene Pepperberg, last year and gently said, “I think that you would like this," I politely thanked him and stubbornly put it on the shelf.  A year later I picked it up and now I grudgingly have to admit that he was correct.  I do love this book!

08/09/2011 - 2:30am
Bossypants

When I first saw Tina Fey co-anchor Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update with Jimmy Fallon on some lonely teenage evening, I couldn't stand her. The punchlines were marinated in a sense of overwhelming superiority, with a side of mean-spirited smarminess. Thankfully this is not the version of Tina Fey that came into focus as time passed.