Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
12/17/2010 - 9:12am

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. 

If you liked "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini, you might enjoy these other titles that also offer lots of plot twists and turns and a sprinkling of history:

Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
This book is set in the Sri Lankan Civil War of the 1980s and 1990s. Anil Tissera is a native Sri Lankan who left her home at 18 and returned 15 years later as a forensic anthropologist working with an international human rights fact-finding mission. Although she had done similar work digging up victims of the killing squads in the Guatemalan Civil War, Anil finds that the work is quite different when it is in her own country.
 

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Set in 1935 England at the dysfunctional country estate of the Tallis family, it is the story of love, loss, and lies. Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis lets her formidable imagination and creative talent wander in the wrong direction and must later live with her guilt and attempt to atone for her sins. Plenty of World War II history. Also excellent on audio book.

 

12/16/2010 - 4:40pm

Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly, written by Carolyn Parkhust and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, is a culinary blast of imagination as two siblings present a cooking show. Henry is your host, and two-year-old Eleanor (Elliebelly is definitely a snappier stage name) helps out…sort of. They’ve got spatulas, they’ve got a theme song, and they know what they are cooking today. Henry instructs his viewers with a cool professional expertise that you just don’t always see on the Food Network: “There are two ways you can make barbecued banana bacon: you can start with bacon and add bananas, or you can start with bananas and add bacon. It’s really up to you.”

Elliebelly gets on Henry’s nerves at times, but for the most part he is incredibly flexible with this sister’s demands. When she insists that they wear pirate hats instead of chef hats, Henry agrees for the sake the show. Only when she throws her doll into the bowl (“Baby Anne go swimming!”) does Henry really lose his cool.
 
The children’s interpretation of television is satirical, but lacks any sort of cynicism due to Henry and Elliebelly’s positive energy. When it comes time for the commercials, they offer a rapid-fire sales pitch, hawking cars, giraffes, rockets, and pudding. Elliebelly demands that viewers buy these items, “Nownownownownow!!!”
12/15/2010 - 4:31am

If you enjoy character-driven novels, you will like Ruth Rendell’s Portobello. Fifty-year-old bachelor Eugene Wren finds an envelope with a large amount of cash in it in London’s Notting Hill area. Instead of keeping it or turning it over to the police, he decides to find the owner himself. This decision puts Wren and his long-time girl friend, Ella Cotswold, on a collision course with a cast of characters each with their own problems and obsessions.

There is Lance who is attempting to start a life of crime by getting information from his Uncle Gilbert, a reformed criminal, and Joel who has a dark secret that has caused him to be estranged from his father for years. Wren, dealing with his own obsessions and fears, must make decisions about his own life and his relationship with Ella. All of these characters come together in a fascinating novel that will keep you turning the pages.
12/15/2010 - 11:49am

 “This I Believe offers a simple, if difficult invitation: write a few hundred words expressing the core principles that guide your life - your personal credo. We issue that invitation to politicians, nurses, artists, construction workers, athletes, parents, students, the famous, and the unknown, everyone. All the essayists in this book accepted invitations.” –Jay Allison

From 1951-1955, The CBS Radio Network aired This I Believe, a five-minute program in which people from all walks of life, the famous and not-so-famous, read their responses to the question “What do you believe?”. From 2005-2009, NPR revived the idea with a similar broadcast, and subsequently published two volumes of "This I Believe" essays. In August of this year, my professor for English 307: The Writing Process gave us an assignment to write a This I Believe essay. We were given copies of the book’s Appendix B: “How to write your own This I Believe essay” and sample essays to read and give us an idea of the format, tone and length. It was a mind-opening assignment, let me tell you. 

12/13/2010 - 9:50am

What would YOUR life be like if you suddenly lost the past 4 years?

Imagine falling down the stairs of your high school with a heavy camera in your hands. If that isn't embarrassing enough, what if you lost the last four years of your life? For 16-year-old Naomi, falling down the stairs of her high school with a heavy camera in her hands causes some very interesting things to happen: like realizing that your best friend in the world just might be in love with you and that you and your mom haven’t spoken since she left your dad three years ago AND that you have a half- sister that you haven’t even met yet!   In Naomi's case, she was able to use this event to decide who she really wants to be, dealing with the difficult issues of her life with a whole new perspective, with grace, humor and intelligence.

12/10/2010 - 4:30am

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.

Let's Take the Long Way Home is Gail Caldwell's story about her friendship with the late Caroline Knapp, and how they loved each other, flaws and all.

If you liked "Let's Take the Long Way Home," you may like these recommendations:

If you haven't already, you should definitely read Knapp's two memoirs - Drinking: a Love Story and Pack of Two.

I would also recommend Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. Grealy was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma at age nine. The surgery which saved her life disfigured her face. As a counterpoint, Ann Patchett writes about her lifelong friendship with Grealy in the book Truth & Beauty: a Friendship.