Shelf Life Blog

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Lucia is furious with her father. As paterfamilias, head of his Roman household, gladiator-trainer Lucius has chosen her rich husband for her. Lucia fumes to herself that aged, grumpy Vitulus would do very well as a grandfather--but not as her bridegroom! Their loathsome, formal dinner together is cut short by the sounds of a cracking whip and the rumblings of the Earth. Somewhere nearby a slave is being punished, Mount Vesuvius is gathering strength to explode. Vicky Alvear Shecter’s romantic novel, Curses and Smoke, is set in Pompeii's dangerous last days when anything, even forbidden love, might be possible.

If You Like The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

If You Like The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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.

The Life of Pi is the winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. "Pi Patel is an unusual boy. The son of a zookeeper, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior, a fervent love of stories, and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional-but is it more true?" (Book Description)

If you liked The Life of Pi, here are a few titles that you may find equally thought-provoking:

Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will test the bonds that tie him to his people, and discover himself in the pagan past, in his father's wisdom, and in his mother's Catholicism. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world-and will nurture the birth of his soul.  (Catalog summary)

 

Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
Visualizing a village, a hotel or an apartment building as a microcosm of society is not a new concept to writers, but few have invested their fiction with such luminous language, insight into character and grasp of cultural construct as Suri does in his debut. The inhabitants of a small apartment building in Bombay are motivated by concerns ranging from social status to spiritual transcendence while their alcoholic houseboy, Vishnu, lies dying on the staircase landing. During a span of 24 hours, Vishnu's body becomes the fulcrum for a series of crises, some tragic, some farcical, that reflect both the folly and nobility of human conduct....By turns charming and funny, searing and poignant, dramatic and farcical, this fluid novel is an irresistible blend of realism, mysticism and religious metaphor, a parable of the universal conditions of human life. (Nicole Aragi, Publishers Weekly)

 

When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill and Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill and Illustrated by Theodore Taylor

When the Beat Was Born, by Laban Carrick Hill, is a stunning example of just how wonderfully diverse the world of children's biographies is getting. This picture book offers a look into the life of DJ Kool Herc, one of the founders and innovators of hip-hop music.

Hill's words, when combined with Theodore Taylor III's crisp, colorful illustrations, depict how a boy named Clive left Kingston, Jamaica, for the Bronx. Clive wanted to be a DJ, slinging an arsenal of records and getting crowds amped up at parties.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner is Herman Koch’s sixth novel. Set in Amsterdam, it is a story of two couples meeting for dinner. At first the dinner appears to be an ordinary meeting of two brothers and their wives. Soon, however, the true reason for the meeting emerges. Each of the couple’s 15-year-old sons participated in an incident that resulted in a police investigation. The boys have not been identified as the perpetrators. The couples have met for dinner to discuss the incident and its potential effect on their sons’ future.

Woodland Knits by Stephanie Dosen

Woodland Knits by Stephanie Dosen

Do you prefer knitting outside, surrounded by trees? Do woodland creatures inspire and delight you? If so, you will certainly enjoy Woodland Knits, by Stephanie Dosen. Stephanie has been designing patterns for many years under the name Tiny Owl Knits and filling the world with little woolly wonders. This new collection of patterns contains many favorite patterns as well as a handful of new ones.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Jack is plunked down on a rocky Maine beach straight from the wheat fields of Kansas. His father, a Navy captain, thinks that the nautical prep school is a good match to square away his son who seems to be adrift after his mother’s unexpected death. But Jack finds out in Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early that it’s going to take a lot more than a tightly-made bed or learning how to row to get him back on course.

If you like Ciao America! by Beppe Severgnini

Ciao America!

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.

Ciao America! by Beppe Severgnini: "In the wry but affectionate tradition of Bill Bryson,Ciao, America! is a delightful look at America through the eyes of a fiercely funny guest -- one of Italy's favorite authors who spent a year in Washington, D.C. When Beppe Severgnini and his wife rented a creaky house in Georgetown they were determined to see if they could adapt to a full four seasons in a country obsessed with ice cubes, air-conditioning, recliner chairs, and, of all things, after-dinner cappuccinos. From their first encounters with cryptic rental listings to their back-to-Europe yard sale twelve months later, Beppe explores this foreign land with the self-described patience of a mildly inappropriate beachcomber, holding up a mirror to America's signature manners and mores."

If you like Ciao America! by Beppe Severgnini, then you may also like these titles and authors.

I'm A Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after 20 Years Away by Bill Bryson
The master humorist and bestselling author of A Walk in the Woods now guides us on an affectionate, hysterically funny tour of America's most outrageous absurdities. After living in Britain for two decades, Bill Bryson recently moved back to the United States with his English wife and four children (he had read somewhere that nearly three million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens--as he later put it, "it was clear my people needed me"). They were greeted by a new-and-improved America that boasts microwave pancakes, twenty-four-hour dental-floss hotlines, and the staunch conviction that ice is not a luxury item. Delivering the brilliant comic musings that are a Bryson hallmark, I'm a Stranger Here Myself recounts his sometimes disconcerting reunion with the land of his birth.  (Catalog summary)

The Muse is Always Half-Dressed in New Orleans by Andrei Codrescu
These essays by the sharp and ingratiating Codrescu ( Road Scholar ) rove all over the place, and readers should be ready to do likewise. The author, a Transylvanian-born poet, a longtime resident of the U.S. and a commentator for National Public Radio, takes up subjects just as incongruously diverse as himself in his 26th book. As his fans will be glad to find, Codrescu stays in character: he is passionate, informal, maverick and ragingly funny, unwilling to behave.
(Publishers Weekly)
 

It's an Orange Aardvark! by Michael Hall

It's an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall

It's an Orange Aardvark! follows a few imaginative carpenter ants as they peer out of a soggy tree stump. Orange fills up the stump's interior. According to the insects, aardvarks always turn orange when they are hungry for ants. Judging by the intensity of the color, this one seems mighty famished. As one ant gnaws more holes in the stump, different colors stream in, and the colony lets their imaginations run wild.

Next they see blue, so the aardvark must be wearing blue pajamas! A splash of red leads them to suspect that their predator is wielding a gigantic bottle of ketchup! From there, things get even stranger.

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

Random Access Memories might have won Daft Punk their first Album-of-the-Year Grammy, but for fans of the group, the album seemed more like a victory lap than anything else. A demonstration that the French duo can do whatever and work with whomever they want.

Whom they apparently wanted to work with most was Nile Rodgers, the musician who revolutionized 1970s dance music with his band Chic and is at least partially responsible for hits by Diana Ross, David Bowie, and many more.

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

How can a man maintain stability and order in a city where volatile race relations are about to boil over? In Thud! an installment of Terry Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series, Commander Vimes of the City Watch must deal with the erupting tensions between trolls and dwarves following the unexplained death of Hamcrusher, a high-ranking dwarf. Like most of Pratchett’s entries in this series, the humor in Thud! is self-contained and does not require knowledge of prior novels. It offers a mixture of satire of fantasy tropes with real-world issues and conflicts. Reliant on verbal humor and character development, the book is a good choice for fans of British genre satire such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.