Shelf Life Blog

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This past weekend, the film adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story opened in theaters across the country. Vizzini’s book centers on a smart teenager named Craig Gilner, who has had growing issues of anxiety and depression since joining an extremely selective, intense private high school in Manhattan. After obsessively studying and getting a perfect score on the entrance exam, Craig finds himself in way over his head, drowning in a sea of labs and math equations. Partying and pining for his best friend’s girl doesn’t help matters either.

Craig can’t sleep or eat. During an especially fitful day, he makes a decision to call 1-800-SUICIDE. Their suggestion for him to check into an emergency room brings Craig to Six North, a Brooklyn psychiatric hospital...for adults. There Craig finds a collection of people at least twice his age with a variety of mental issues. Strangely enough, he finds it incredibly easy to make friends. Craig starts to compare his issues to his new peers, and finds life in Six North to be simultaneously simpler and more complicated than his regular life. His own evaluation of life, friendships, and his doctors help to push Craig in a better direction.

If you like "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen...

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 first place to start is to read all of Jane Austen’s novels. She only had six novels published, but no writer has ever surpassed her in writing the novel of manners, revealing the human heart through the minutiae of social interaction.

Emma. by Jane Austen - As daughter of the richest, most important man in the small provincial village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse is firmly convinced that it is her right--perhaps even her "duty"--to arrange the lives of others. Considered by most critics to be Austen's most technically brilliant achievement, "Emma" sparkles with ironic insights into self-deception, self-discovery, and the interplay of love and power.

Mansfield Park  by Jane Austen - Fanny is an impoverished young woman, snubbed by society, who earns the respect and love of her cousin in this classic set in 19th century England.



 
 

Oliver Nocturne: The Vampire's Photograph

Oliver Nocturne, hero of Kevin Emerson's The Vampire's Photograph, is your typical 13-year-old vampire. At least that’s what he always thought. He’s the youngest in his family, which consists of a businessman father, a sophisticated mother, and a bossy older brother.

Early one evening, while having trouble sleeping; Oliver hears a sound upstairs. Sneaking out of his coffin because his parents and brother are still asleep, he creeps upstairs into the decrepit human house that serves as a decoy above his families vampire crypt. There he encounters Emalie, a human girl around his age. She is snooping around the house and taking photographs. Oliver knows he should turn her in, but he's too enthralled by her presence to do more than watch her. When a careless misstep alerts Emalie to Oliver’s presence, she snaps a picture of him and runs off.

The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James

She killed his mother and kept him on a cheap allowance for decades, but James VI of Scotland learned to play the political game successfully and survived the Virgin Queen to become the supreme ruler of Britain and her fledgling colonies. Just the years-long strain of their relations would be enough in itself to create a satisfying novel for history fans. But George Garrett took it further in The Succession. He gives us the rulers’ views and often their exact correspondence, but he goes far deeper than most historical novelists in recreating the personalities of the age.

The Queen’s spying messenger riding hell-bent for leather; drunken and fearless border reivers; a condemned noble priest hiding in plain sight; an actor full of bluff and bravado; Elizabeth’s too-young, too-ambitious lover; and her brilliant, crookbacked secretary are all players on this stage of statecraft. This is no romance but rather a swirling journey back to a time when it meant something to be ruler of the realm. What’s at stake for these bit characters? Power, riches, adventure, sometimes freedom as well as their very lives. Some will perish by the Queen’s command on the rack or by the blade. The Succession is too intellectually and emotionally honest to pretend there are no losers when a crown’s at stake.

In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim

This title of this book, In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time intrigued me because I have very little contact with my neighbors and have often wondered if other neighborhoods are the same. Peter Lovenheim, the author, is prompted to better understand his neighbors and his neighborhood after one of his neighbors, Dr. Wills, murders his wife and then kills himself. Their two children, who were home at the time, ran to a neighbor’s house for assistance. Although they did not know their neighbors, the children’s mother had the foresight to tell the children if anything bad happened to run to the home across the street for help.

On the day of the murder, Wills’ wife was afraid of her husband and tried to contact her best friend who lived across town, but she was not home. Lovenheim was troubled by the fact that the woman had no one to turn to in her neighborhood for help. He also wants to understand how such a tragic event could have virtually no impact on the neighborhood.

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

Let’s face it, people--this vampire craze might just be on its way out. Passé. Gone from undead to dead again. A new kind of hero has been taking their place. A powerful being with brains, creativity, and money on his side.  This is a new kind of hero for the ages: The Super-villain.

Josh Lieb’s new book, “I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President,” does not deal with a Lex Luthor from Superman or a Gru from Despicable Me. His main character, Oliver Watson, is still in the seventh grade, but his secret criminal empire is so strong that by the time he turns 18, world domination will be no big deal. In the meantime, he’s playing dumb….really dumb. From his peers to his parents, no one suspects that the class moron has been acting this whole time.

If you like books by Lee Child...

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 are a fan of Lee Child's books, try these titles and authors:

The General's Daughter
by Nelson DeMille.
West Point graduate and daughter of legendary General "Fighting Joe" Campbell, Ann Campbell is the pride of Fort Hadley, until one morning when her lifeless body is found naked and bound on the firing range. Paul Brenner is a member of the army's elite undercover investigative unit and the man in charge of this politically explosive case. Teamed with rape specialist Cynthia Sunhill, Brenner is about to learn just how many people were sexually, emotionally, and dangerously involved with the Army's "golden girl".
 

Separation of Power by Vince Flynn
Newly appointed CIA Director Dr. Irene Kennedy is the target of an inside plot to destroy her and end the American President's term. Even worse, Israel uncovers an Iraqi plan to enter the nuclear arms race. Now, Rapp has two weeks to beat the clock--or watch the world go up in flames. (Catalog description)

 
 
 

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

In Peter McCarty's Henry in Love, magic can be found in the simplest pleasures of an ordinary school day. The main character gets ready for school and decides that this is the day that he is going to talk to the loveliest girl in the class. Perfect cartwheels, games of tag, and the sharing of afternoon snacks follow. 

The look of McCarty's characters is quite special. The illustrations are reminiscent of two children's classics. Henry and his classmates, all animals, recall the characters from Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby books, but with smaller eyes and a less cartoony demeanor. They look sweet without treading into cutesy territory. The wide margins and very selective use of color reminds one of Ian Falconer's Olivia books. 

The Collector’s Garden: Designing With Extraordinary Plants by Ken Druse

One of the gardening goals I find most elusive is to create a garden that is more than just a collection of plants but actually a cohesive whole. The Collector’s Garden: Designing With Extraordinary Plants by Ken Druse demonstrates that even obsessed collectors can also create gardens that are beautifully designed.

Druse, a noted garden writer and photographer, takes a look at the various kinds of plant collectors: aesthetes, specialists, missionaries and hunters, as he styles them. Some specialize in old roses, others in trilliums or desert plants, others in finding plants new to commerce by traveling to Asia or South America and bringing back specimens.  An overview of the gardens and gardeners is accompanied by gorgeous photos, including many close-ups of plants as well as the sweeps and drifts of a successfully designed garden. The gardens are as extraordinary as the obsessed gardeners. I was particularly struck by three of them.

The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer hailing from Mississippi’s Delta region, authored The Robber Bridegroom, a steamy and chaotic story set during her home state’s antebellum years. Although loosely based on a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, this Robber Bridegroom is no murderous Bluebeard. Jamie Lockhart is, however, a handsome scoundrel with no more compunction against relieving pretty ladies of their virtue than their jewels. He meets his match in beautiful Rosamond Musgrove, who goes on everyday errands wearing her one silk gown while singing love ballads.

The Robber Bridegroom is the kind of yarn that gifted story-spinners can make out of loose threads of myth and folk tale wound together with a peculiar variety of language-rich Southern humor. She somehow binds together a jealous and mildly-murderous stepmother, a band of untrustworthy robbers (imagine that!), true love—with flaws, and raucous Mike Fink, legendary bully and “King of the Keel-boaters.”  The story is larger than life—a fantasy, really—and made it onto the Broadway stage as a musical in the 1970s. It’s still showing on the playbills of colleges and dinner theaters around the country.