Reading Room Blog
While some memoirs are incredibly complex and intrinsically difficult to categorize, most of the ones I’ve read tend to fit in one of two general groups: the experience-driven and the persona-driven. Avi Steinberg’s Running the Books exemplifies the experience-driven category. Steinberg was an unknown when his memoir was published, and that relative obscurity meant that most readers were not drawn to the book because of his persona or celebrity. It was the topic of the autobiography that caught the public’s attention--the fact that this young man had worked in a prison library and found a way to describe the disorienting experience with both clarity and depth.
In her stunning new novel, State of Wonder, Ann Patchett captures the claustrophobic nature of the dense jungle where danger--in the form of poisonous insects and snakes--is present at every turn and a person’s daily existence depends only upon a few bare essentials.
Dr. Annick Swenson has spent a major portion of her life in the Amazon researching potential medical cures. When she and her mentor discover a tribe whose women can regularly conceive children well into their seventies and beyond, Vogel Pharmaceuticals agrees to fund the ground-breaking study. But Dr. Swenson goes rogue, cutting off all communication with the company executives. To make matters infinitely worse, no outsider has the slightest idea where in the jungle the research compound is located.
It’s been said an army travels on its stomach, and though many of the starving Confederate troops at the war’s end were still willing to fight, ultimately it was a physically broken army returning to their devastated, burned out farms that sounded the death knell of the nascent nation, so contends gastronomical historian Andrew F. Smith in his recent book, Starving the South.
I decided to read this book because I’ve always been interested in the Dalai Lama. I really thought The Art of Happiness would be more focused on understanding Buddhist principles; instead, it’s a peculiar mix of Eastern religion meets Western medicine.
Co-author Dr. Howard Cutler is a psychiatrist with a private practice in Phoenix, and the Dalai Lama is a Buddhist monk. It’s amusing to see two very different approaches to achieving happiness. The Dalai Lama’s approach to achieving happiness is more of a holistic, spiritual system that focuses on improving oneself using the power of the mind. Dr. Howard Cutler takes more of a back-seat approach in which he listens to the Dalai Lama’s suggestions and gives input about modern psychological approaches used in the United States.
Most people know what it feels like to be stuck in limbo somewhere between departure and destination. Even if your journey was perfectly planned, there are so many things that can easily go awry and impede your progress. In Dear American Airlines, that agonizing stasis is symptomatic of much more than an airline’s incompetence or a missed connection. It characterizes the 53 years that Benjamin R. Ford has been living and drawing breath.
While en route from New York to Los Angeles, Bennie’s flight is abruptly canceled. Even though the sky is bright and the clouds look picturesque, rather than ominous, American Airlines claims foul weather has interfered with the scheduled flight. As a consequence, Bennie finds himself trapped in Chicago’s O’Hare airport with no way out. But he does have a pen, some paper, and the desire to complain to American Airlines.
The entirety of Jonathan Miles’s poignant and humorous novel is written in the form of a letter of complaint. At first, Bennie’s explicit goal is to write and get his ticket refunded. As the letter progresses, however, it becomes quite clear that a check from American Airlines will not resolve Bennie’s existential crisis.
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. See our other Book Matches.
The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Feeling like she does not fit in with the other members of her family,who are all thin, brilliant, and good-looking, fifteen-year-old Virginia tries to deal with her self-image, her first physical relationship, and her disillusionment with some of the people closest to her.
Alt Ed by Catherine Atkins
Participating in a special after-school counseling class with other troubled students, including a sensitive gay classmate, helps Susan, an overweight tenth grader, develop a better sense of herself.
Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
Presents the humorous journal of a year in the life of a fourteen-year-old British girl who tries to reduce the size of her nose, stop her mad cat from terrorizing the neighborhood animals, and win the love of handsome hunk Robbie.
Bras and Broomsticks by Sarah Mlynowski
Living in New York City with her mother and her younger sister, Miri, fourteen-year-old Rachel tries to persuade Miri, who has recently become a witch, to help her become popular at school and to try to stop their divorced father's wedding.
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
After spending her summer running the family farm and training the quarterback for her school's rival football team, sixteen-year-old D.J. decides to go out for the sport herself, not anticipating the reactions of those around her.
When I first saw Tina Fey co-anchor Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update with Jimmy Fallon on some lonely teenage evening, I couldn't stand her. The punchlines were marinated in a sense of overwhelming superiority, with a side of mean-spirited smarminess. Thankfully this is not the version of Tina Fey that came into focus as time passed.
When you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die. In George R.R. Martin’s rich fantasy, King Robert of the House of Baratheon wins the game by defeating the Old Dynasty, the House of Tagaryen, but as his best friend, Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell’s family motto states, Winter is Coming, and things are changing. Robert was a better soldier than king so the House of Lannister threatens his power, and a civil war breaks out. Jaime Lannister fights with his brawn, and his brother, the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, with his wit.
Martin’s characters are not black and white; he goes back to Sir Thomas Malory, where even Lancelot, the role model for chivalry, has deep, fatal flaws. Stark is an honest man, yet he does not know whom to trust and endangers himself and his family. If you love fantasy combined with the Arthurian legend of knights and chivalry and an added twist of Machiavellian political intrigue, this book is for you. The magical elements of the godswoods, the dragon eggs, and the evil beings lurking the wilds of the north add an air of mystery and the supernatural to the novel.
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. You can browse our book matches here.
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The summer following her father's death, Macy plans to work at the library and wait for her brainy boyfriend to return from camp, but instead she goes to work at a catering business where she makes new friends and finally faces her grief.
If you like The Truth About Forever you might like these books:
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
A Seattle fifteen-year-old explains some of the reasons for her recent panic attacks, including breaking up with her boyfriend, losing all her girlfriends, tensions between her performance-artist mother and her father, and more. Read the sequel, The Boy Book, too!
The Earth, My Butt, and Other, Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Feeling like she does not fit in with the other members of her family, who are all thin, brilliant, and good-looking, fifteen-year-old Virginia tries to deal with her self-image, her first physical relationship, and her disillusionment with some of the people closest to her.
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
To get away from her pregnant stepmother in New York City, fifteen-year-old Daisy goes to England to stay with her aunt and cousins, with whom she instantly bonds, but soon war breaks out and rips apart the family while devastating the land.
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. You can browse our book matches.
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy. Here hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets....After escaping from their cruel aunt and uncle, orphans Prosper and Bo meet a mysterious boy who calls himself the "Thief Lord." Clever and charming, the Thief Lord leads a band of street children who enjoy making mischief. But the Thief Lord also has a dark secret. And suddenly Prosper and Bo find themselves on a fantastical journey to a forgotten place. What they discover there will change the course of their destiny ... forever.
If you like The Thief Lord then you might like:
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
Nathaniel, a magician's apprentice, summons up the djinni Bartimaeus and instructs him to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from the powerful magician Simon Lovelace.
Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton
Having reluctantly accompanied his academic mother and pesky younger sister to Oxford, twelve-year-old Blake Winters is at loose ends until he stumbles across an ancient and magical book, secretly brought to England in 1453 by Gutenberg's mute apprentice to save it from evil forces, and which now draws Blake into a dangerous and life-threatening quest.
Troll Fell by Katherine Langrish
Forced to live with his evil identical-twin uncles after his father's death, Peer tries to find a way to stop their plan to sell the neighbor's children to the trolls.
Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
A young witch-to-be named Tiffany teams up with the Wee Free Men, a clan of six-inch-high blue men, to rescue her baby brother and ward off a sinister invasion from Fairyland.