Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
04/03/2012 - 3:31am
From Baghdad, With Love by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman

It's November 2004, and a group of Marines called the Lava Dogs of the First Battalion,Third Marine Regiment, stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, are about to clear a room in an abandoned home when they hear a suspicious sound. Instead of immediately shooting, which could save their lives if an enemy were in the other room, the Marines just listen. They hear something small sniffing and clicking around the old home. Before anyone can shoot, they notice what it is: a puppy. From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman is the story of what happens to a puppy who attaches himself to a group of Marines.

04/02/2012 - 8:40am
The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl by David Kherdian

There was more than one wide-scale genocide in the 20th century. In 1916, the Turkish Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha sent a letter to the government of Aleppo in Syria reminding them that all Armenians living in Turkey were be destroyed completely: “An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex nor to conscientious scruples.”  It was an order that was to be echoed by Adolph Hitler in 1939 in pursuing the end of “the Polish-speaking race.” Hitler added, “After all, who remembers today the extermination of the Armenians?”

03/29/2012 - 3:30am
Cold Cereal by Adam Rex

Just what makes those Lucky Charms so "magically delicious™?" Why, the imprisonment of leprechauns, unicorns, uni…cats and other fantastic creatures.

At least, that’s according to Cold Cereal, the new fantasy novel by Adam Rex.

Goodborough, New Jersey, is the home of Goodco, a sugary cereal company that dominates millions of breakfast tables with an iron spoon—er…fist. The town is also the new home of Scottish Play Doe and his family. His mother has just accepted a job there. Scott’s absent dad is a famous actor whose latest claim to fame is punching the Queen of England in the face.

Making friends at a new school is pretty hard when you have a name as strange as Scott’s. Thankfully, he finds some pretty weird friends. Erno and Emily Utz are genius twins who look nothing alike. Their foster father, Mr. Wilson, also works for Goodco and is constantly challenging them with games of coded logic. Like when he suddenly stops using the letter E.

03/28/2012 - 8:43am
River Marked

I used to have an old Volvo that broke down frequently. The problem was a hose that would fly off of the engine. I always carried a screwdriver which I would use to reattach the hose and go on my way. One morning I was rushing in the door to work after one of these episodes when my supervisor stopped me. “What happened to you?” she asked with concern. I had no idea what she was talking about until I followed her eyes down to my arms and realized that my forearms were covered with black dirt and grease.

I explained about having to fix my car on the way to work, and she just stood and stared at me silently for a very awkward minute. Suddenly she burst into song! “I am woman. Hear me roar. With numbers too big to ignore. And I’ve come too far to turn back and pretend.” She turned to walk away but kept on singing at the top of her lungs. Her song only died away when she turned the corner and went down the other hall. 

Right then and there I decided to get a new car.

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.