Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
12/20/2011 - 4:30am
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

In writing, and in life, it is incredibly difficult to deviate from the paths of least resistance. The established patterns seem so easy and inviting, and it takes amazing willpower and courage to do things a different way. As a writer, Jeffrey Eugenides gracefully avoids clichés and predictability. Both of his previous books, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, are memorable and unnerving. In his latest novel, The Marriage Plot, Eugenides is not alone in his avoidance of formulaic archetypes. The characters themselves are engaged in a meta-struggle to reject obvious and seemingly inexorable fates.

The Marriage Plot follows the intertwined lives of three central characters: Madeleine Hanna, Mitchell Grammaticus, and Leonard Bankhead. The novel opens in 1982, on the chaotic day that is supposed to send the three of them, and the rest of the graduating class, careening into adulthood. The collective mood is characterized by anticipation: professors have pulled out their dusty robes; parents have loaded new film into their cameras. But things are not as simple or inspiring for the young people who are supposed to leave the university’s protective cloister and fend for themselves in an uncertain world. 

12/19/2011 - 4:30am
The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss

The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss takes a look into the lives of middle-school girls and the cliques that can rule their relationships. This novel uncovers the world of bullying by presenting a first-person view from each of the five girls involved in the lost friendship. Throughout the text Koss digs deep into the workings of bullying and also gives hope to those that might experience bullying themselves.

Maya, Rene, Breanna, Darcy, and Candace have promised to be friends forever. But this all changes one day when Candace decides that Maya is no longer welcome to hang out with the girls. Maya is unaware of the girls’ change of heart. She calls to invite her friends to go to an amusement park with her, but for some reason none of the girls wants to go. She soon finds out that the others are having a party, and no one even thought to invite her. This wouldn't be such a big problem except for the fact that the five of them usually do everything together.

12/16/2011 - 9:24am
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

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 Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami: "Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II. In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria." (Book Summary)

If you like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, then you may like these selections:

Bharati Mukherjee's entire collection:
Wife, Desirable Daughters, Leave It to Me, and The Holder of the World.
All are excellent reads, dealing with Indian immigrants to the US, what they must go through to assimilate, or not, as the case may be, cultural differences and mysteries. Desirable Daughters is her best as far as place, character development and narrative.

 


The Tales of the Otori trilogy:
The first is Across the Nightingale Floor, then Grass for His Pillow and the final is Brilliance of the Moon. They are set in feudal Japan (or possibly a similar, fictitious country) during the time of the Samurai, when warlords ruled the countryside and battles for territory and women raged. The library owns the first two on audio as well as in print and they were fascinating to listen to, partly because the right reader was chosen.

 

12/15/2011 - 11:29am
The Muppet Christmas Carol

What a wonderful introduction to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the young (or a reminder of the message for the young at heart) to receive by watching A Muppet Christmas Carol with friends and family this holiday season.  Muppet Gonzo the Great, as author Charles Dickens, and his friend Rizzo the Rat, as himself, narrate and add some Muppet mayhem to this classic tale.  With music by Paul Williams and Michael Caine as a bemused Scrooge, this movie is sweet, funny, and heartwarming. I am a lifelong Muppet fan, and, like Jason Segal in his new Muppet Movie this year, want to save the Muppets from being forgotten. So suspend your disbelief and enjoy Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy as the Cratchits!

Jacob and Robert Marley (Muppets Statler and Waldorf) are the ghosts who haunt and heckle Scrooge in song about his avarice and greed. The chains Marley & Marley show Scrooge, which he has forged in his life, rattle his black soul and he starts his journey of self-discovery.  Scrooge, of course, is haunted by Muppet ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Gonzo and Rizzo go along for the ride and add a little slapstick humor. Mixing the classic Muppet repertoire with Charles Dickens’ story is done seamlessly, such as the party at Fozziwig’s (played by Fozzie Bear) Rubber Chicken Factory with Animal jamming on the drums--a delight.

12/15/2011 - 4:30am
Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem

Billy Twitters is your average, run-of-the-mill elementary school-age kid. Sometimes he doesn’t clean his room; sometimes he doesn’t brush his teeth and at times such as these his parents threaten him with punishment of the most unusual sort. “Billy, finish your baked peas…or we’re buying you a blue whale.”

The boy thinks his parents are bluffing. A blue whale? Impossible! It wouldn't fit in the house! But one should never underestimate the power of mom and dad. When Billy awakes the next morning, a ginormous fin blocks the front door. By this point, you’ll be more than consumed by the tale of Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem.

12/14/2011 - 4:31am
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed is the story of veteran journalist Barbara Ehrenreich’s investigation into low-wage America. Before she left her normal life to pursue this project, she already knew something of the problems that these workers endure because of her research into other social issues. Ehrenreich had suggested to the editor of Harper’s Magazine that someone should do an investigative piece about this group, but she never thought at the time that she would be the person to dig deep into the lives of the working poor in America.