Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
03/27/2012 - 3:31am
Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography by Errol Morri

“Our beliefs do not determine what is true or false. They do not determine objective reality. But they do determine what we see.”

In Believing Is Seeing, Errol Morris investigates the complex relationship between documentary photographs and the truth we assume they deliver. Best known as the gifted documentarian behind films such as The Fog of War, Standard Operating Procedure, and The Thin Blue Line, Morris has spent years pondering how authenticity, truth, and appearance converge and complicate one another. It is hardly surprising then that Morris’s analysis of documentary photography is insightful and accessible.

Errol Morris’s cinematic explorations often fixate on a specific figure or series of events. He then breathes life into the topic by artfully combining provocative interviews and extensive research. Believing is Seeing successfully incorporates this methodology while simultaneously deconstructing the very notion of documentary veracity. The book consists of essays, each one describing a case study in which documentary photographs created controversy, conflicting interpretations, or troubling implications. Morris elucidates both the context and reception of each image with interviews and archival research.

He also analyzes both contemporary and historical images, demonstrating that many of the same issues and questions have been recurring since the advent of photography. Whether the photograph was taken in 1855 during the Crimean War or in 2003 at Abu Ghraib, our collective tendency to equate an image with a finalized truth has been problematic. To borrow Morris’s succinct phrasing, “…photographs allow us to think we know more than we really do. We can imagine a context that isn’t really there.”

03/26/2012 - 3:30am
God Is in the Pancakes by Robin Epstein

Grace Manning is a fifteen-year-old candy striper at a local nursing home, Hanover House, with a spunky attitude. Her life has been in a free fall since her father recently left her mother, sister, and her to build a new life with a woman from the church where he used to take his daughters every Sunday. Grace's mother doesn't quite have a stance on her beliefs about God, but church was always the place Grace and her sister Sophie went with their father.  Now that their father is gone Grace has to come to terms with her religious beliefs. In God is in the Pancakes, by Robin Epstein, Grace must sort out life, love, friendship, and God. 

03/23/2012 - 8:31am
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

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.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg is a wonderful book. It's funny, it's southern, it has quirky characters, but a wonderful sense of family and place. "This classic and folksy novel takes readers back to the thirties, where a friendship blooms between two girls who run a homey, little cafe in Alabama. A story of food, love, laughter, and even murder unfolds as an elderly woman relates her life story to a middle-aged friend." (Book summary). 

If you like Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe here are similar titles that you may enjoy:

Clover by Dori Sanders
After her father dies within hours of being married to a white woman, a ten-year-old black girl learns with her new mother to overcome grief and to adjust to a new place in their rural black South Carolina community. (catalog summary)

 

 

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.
July 5, 1906...was the day E. Rucker Blakeslee, proprietor of the general store and barely three weeks a
widower, eloped with Miss Love Simpson - a woman half his age and, worse yet, a Yankee. (synopsis)

 

 

03/22/2012 - 3:31am
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl gets down to business right away. It starts with two friends, a mysterious crater, and a device that opens a portal to another dimension.

Meek Joseph is immediately captured by a tentacled being with a deep sea diver's helmet. Adventurous Zita, in a daring effort to save her friend, follows the creature through the portal. A strange alien planet exists on the other side, and Zita finds that she is not welcomed with open arms.

03/21/2012 - 3:31am
The Left Bank Gang by Jason

The Left Bank Gang opens with a dog shuffling down the streets of 1920's Paris, keeping mostly to himself. He ignores a panhandler, but then sees another dog that he recognizes. They shake hands. One dog's name is Ezra Pound. The other's is Ernest Hemingway.

Gang is a clever nugget of alternate history fiction. Rather than focusing on complex geopolitical questions like "What if the Germans won World War II?"  Norwegian cartoonist Jason turns to the zeitgeist of expatriate writers such as Pound, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Hemingway. His hypothesis is "What if all of these starving geniuses just got fed up and turned to crime?"

03/20/2012 - 8:35am
The Old Buzzard Had it Coming by Donis Casey

Harley Day was a mean, shiftless, good-for-nothing drunk. He regularly beat up on his wife and kids. So when he was found frozen to death in a snowbank outside his house, no one seemed to mourn. After all, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming--which is the title of the first Alafair Tucker mystery by Donis Casey.

Set in 1912, this book introduces Alafair Tucker, who lives with her husband and nine children on the Oklahoma frontier. It's an interesting look at frontier life at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the details seem so modern, but much of the day-to-day life for a frontier ranching family seems like unbelievable deprivation and hardship 100 years on.