Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
Fri, 02/01/2013 - 8:14am
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry: "A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier: Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Augustus McCrae and W. F. Call are former Texas rangers--partners and friends--who have shared hardship and danger without ever quite understanding each other. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women. Call is driven and demanding, a natural authority figure with no patience for weakness. The two could hardly be more different, but both are tough, redoubtable fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else." 

If you enjoyed this western epic and are looking for similar novels, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
Fictional reminiscences of an 111-year-old man telling of his checkered career as plainsman, Indian scout, and squaw man and of his colorful acquaintances. (




The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
 A cowboy is unable to prevent three wandering travellers from being unjustly lynched for murder. (




Wed, 07/22/2015 - 4:38pm
"Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket

There was a town, and there was a girl, and there was a theft. I was living in the town, and I was hired to investigate the theft, and I thought the girl had nothing to do with it. I was almost thirteen and I was wrong.

Lemony Snicket is back in action. "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" is the first volume of a new four-book series known as All the Wrong Questions.

Wed, 01/30/2013 - 3:32am
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

In When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka uses a sparse, lyrical writing style to illuminate the psychological effects of one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. The novel opens with a portrait of an ordinary woman going about her daily chores in Berkeley, California. While en route to her local library, she sees something troubling: Evacuation Order No. 19. After reading the notice, she abandons her errands and begins preparing for life in an unfamiliar locale.

At first, the sequence of events feels dystopian or apocalyptic – the world is ending and a family is forced to prepare to face the unknown. But this narrative is a dramatization of history, not a speculative tale of the future. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government began to suspect that American citizens of Japanese ancestry might harbor allegiance to Japan. In 1942, these paranoid fantasies lead to the forcible internment of Japanese-Americans announced in Evacuation Order No. 19.  

Tue, 07/07/2015 - 2:12pm
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Seventeen-year-old Alex has had a rough time lately in Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. First her parents tragically pass away in a helicopter accident, and then she is diagnosed with a brain tumor, which she dubs “the monster.” Fed up with managing the monster and all of its side effects like losing her sense of smell, she escapes to a campsite for a few days to think about her options. And then the whole world is turned upside down by an electromagnetic pulse that leaves much of the population dead or changed into flesh-eating zombies.

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 6:18am
The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized Ame

The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff.  Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization.  Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.

Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role.  At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged.  Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.

Wed, 01/23/2013 - 4:37pm
Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insec
The amateur naturalist in me was piqued when this book came up in my Goodreads list. I was certainly not disappointed. Wicked Bugs is a fascinating presentation of the darker side of our relationship with bugs. Amy Stewart presents a small sampling the most dangerous, painful, destructive and horrible ones that humans have encountered. 
Bugs have indeed changed the course of history from the louse that wiped out Napoleon’s army during the French Invasion of Russia to the locust that wiped out crops in the Great Plains. You cannot read this book without developing a deeper respect for nature or learning something new.