Shelf Life Blog

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Long Winter

The constant beating of the winds against the house, the roaring, shrieking, howling of the storm, made it hard even to think. It was possible only to wait for the storm to stop. All the time, while they ground wheat, twisted hay, kept the fire burning in the stove, and huddled over it to thaw their chapped, numb hands and their itching, burning, chilblained feet, and while they chewed and swallowed the coarse bread, they were all waiting until the storm stopped.

It did not stop during the third day or the third night. In the fourth morning it was still blowing fiercely.
“No sign of a letup,” Pa said when he came in from the stable. “This is the worst yet.”
 
On the television series Little House on the Prairie, the sun is almost always shining—not surprising since it was filmed in Simi Valley, California. On television, the weather was hardly ever a problem. The TV stories are usually about how people interact with each other. But in the books, the Ingalls family was up against much more than that mean Nellie Oleson. The Long Winter of 1880-1881 begins with family on their South Dakota homestead, bringing in the hay crop on a lazy August day when all seems well.

One Amazing Thing by C. B. Divakaruni

One Amazing Thing by C. B. Divakaruni

Do you ever wonder how you might react under extreme duress? Would you rise to the occasion and become an example to those struggling around you or would you withdraw and cower in fear? In One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, nine everyday men and women are put to that exact test as their lives change over the course of one disastrous event.

In advance of a planned trip to India, the above-mentioned people—most solo, but several in pairs—have all chosen this day to go to the consulate in California to obtain a travel visa. As with many bureaucratic departments, the wait is interminable. Graduate student Uma is preparing to visit her parents who have recently moved back to India. In her irritation with the long delay, she ignores the first slight rumble. The second quake, however, rips apart what was only seconds earlier a solid building.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Alternating from biography to science, Rebecca Skloot in writing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks avoids sentimentality and making judgments.

Skloot, a science journalist, tells the story of Henrietta and her DNA.  The subject was born Loretta Pleasant—nobody knows how her name became Henrietta—Lacks, in a family known to marry their first cousins in the now-razed town of slave cabins and tobacco farms named Clover near Roanoke, Virginia. She married her first cousin, David ‘Day’ Lacks, moved to Baltimore to work in a plant riddled with asbestos.  Her husband's  unfaithfulness gave her both neurosyphilis and gonorrhea. Her environment, poverty and lack of education made her the tragic heroine of a great scientific experiment. Henrietta Lack's deadly cervical cancer cells—taken without her consent—were the first to be grown and then thrive in a lab. HeLa cells, still growing today sixty years after her death, would weigh in total more than 50 metric tons.

The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen

The Gardener

High-school junior Mason suffered severe facial scarring from a dog attack as a child. People tend to avoid the intimidating six feet three, 230-pound football player. But Mason’s gruff exterior hides a character that is a smart, quiet hero in S.A. Bodeen’s latest bestseller, The Gardener.

Having grown up never knowing his father – except for a DVD of the faceless man reading a children’s book – Mason longs for answers. When he plays the video for a group of comatose teens at the nursing home where his mother works, the inexplicable happens–a beautiful girl wakes up. Mason learns that the teens are part of a hideous experiment designed to create autotrophs—genetically engineered, self-sustaining life-forms who don’t need food or water to survive. The discovery sparks Mason’s heroism, sending him and Laila on the run for their lives as they try to learn who the mastermind behind the gruesome plan is.

If you like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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 Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a "simple, yet eloquent parable [that] celebrates the richness of the human spirit. A young Spanish shepherd seeking his destiny travels to Egypt where he learns many lessons, particularly from a wise old alchemist. The real alchemy here, however, is the transmuting of youthful idealism into mature wisdom. The blending of conventional ideas with an exotic setting makes old truths seem new again. This shepherd takes the advice Hamlet did not heed, learning to trust his heart and commune with it as a treasured friend. " (School Library Journal)

If you like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, you may also like these titles:
 

All Over the Map by Laura Fraser.
In following up An Italian Affair, Fraser takes a closer look at her own wanderlust and examines the positive and negative effects it has had on her life, particularly over the past 10 years. For example, the author finds a glorious waterfall in Samoa. "The water is so clear light blue it's possible to see all the way to the bottom, and the bottom is a long way down. I dive in for a swim. this is why I love to travel." But she questions the notion of having it all, or having it all at once, and worries that her desire to explore and her professional success have come at the expense of stability and family. She challenges the ideals of happiness and home she had previously held, adding a layer of depth to a memoir that will excite travelers of the world and the armchair alike. (From Publishers Weekly)
 

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It's a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his 'meaningless' life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: 'Why was I here?' (Catalog description)

Lad, a Dog by Albert Terhune

Lad, A Dog

“He was a big and incredibly powerful collie, with a massive coat of burnished mahogany-and-snow and with absurdly small forepaws (which he spent at least an hour a day in washing) and with deep-set dark eyes that seemed to have a soul behind them. So much for the outer dog. For the inner: he had a heart that did not know the meaning of fear or disloyalty or of meanness.” – Albert Terhune

Think of a famous collie dog, and you’ll probably imagine clever Lassie or maybe motherly Fly from the movie/book Babe. But before these smart collies became known everywhere, there was a real-life dog named Lad who was as famous as either of them. He lived almost one hundred years ago, yet his adventures still make for good reading today.
 

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

When Smithy Ide was a teenager, his beloved older sister Bethany was diagnosed with schizophrenia and began running away in Ron McLarty's The Memory of Running. Smithy would ride his bike all over town to find her and bring her home. He always found her, until one day, she stayed lost. 

 Now, at 40, Smithy is a loser. He’s fat. He has a crap job – quality control in a Rhode Island factory that makes cheap plastic action figures. He eats junk food and smokes too much and drinks himself into oblivion every night. 

Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook by Nicholas Thomas

Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook by Nicholas Thomas

As my cotton-gloved hands examined the woven fabric, I felt the thrill of encountering a link to the age of discovery. Over a hundred years old and probably unseen and untouched for decades, this artifact of the Cook Islands was being carefully prepared by us technicians to be moved to the Smithsonian Institution’s storage facility. Some twenty years later, Professor Nicholas Thomas’ Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James A. Cook has given me much better perspective on these pieces of the past.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

All of us have had that sense, at one time or another, of seeing something inexplicable out of the corner of our eyes. It may be a flash of light, a reflective glint, or just a shimmery difference in the air around us. And then it usually goes away. But for Aislinn in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, it’s a different story. She has always been able to see faeries around her, and they aren’t cute and precious like Tinkerbell. The fey are at times hideous or breathtakingly beautiful, cruel or mocking, and always a danger. They often pinch and mock the humans that they follow and then don glamours to blend in with humans (and often lead them astray) when it suits the faeries’ needs.

Aislinn’s grandmother shares this gift of sight and she has helped Aislinn cope by drilling firm rules into her: #3. Don’t stare at invisible faeries. #2. Don’t speak to invisible faeries. And #1. Don’t ever attract their attention. The only way that Aislinn can survive being in a world shared by both faeries and humans is to never, ever let them know that she can see them. She keeps her head down and spends most of her time at her friend Seth’s house – a converted railway car – where she feels strangely protected. Unfortunately, she has attracted the attention of a new, strikingly handsome student at school, Keenan, who doggedly pursues her.

If you like The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

If you like The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

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.

If you liked The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, you may also like:

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
This inspirational fable...has been a runaway bestseller....The charming tale of Santiago, a shepherd boy, who dreams of seeing the world, is compelling in its own right, but gains resonance through the many lessons Santiago learns during his adventures. He journeys from Spain to Morocco in search of worldly success, and eventually to Egypt, where a fateful encounter with an alchemist brings him at last to self-understanding and spiritual enlightenment. The story has the comic charm, dramatic tension and psychological intensity of a fairy tale, but it's full of specific wisdom as well, about becoming self-empowered, overcoming depression, and believing in dreams. The cumulative effect is
like hearing a wonderful bedtime story from an inspirational psychiatrist. (from Publishers Weekly)

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven, by Fannie Flagg
Octogenarian Elner Shimfissle falls off a ladder after accidentally disturbing a hornets' nest while picking figs. After she dies at the hospital, the novel's bite-size chapters alternate between funny and touching vignettes showing how Elner's death and life has affected dozens of people in town, interspersed with scenes of Elner's laugh-out-loud assent into the hereafter. From there, the plot offers readers a series of delightful surprises...Flagg is an expert at balancing pathos with plenty of Southern sass, and this could very well be the feel-good read of the summer. (Publishers Weekly)