Reading Room Blog

10/27/2011 - 12:42pm
Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War, by Andrew F. Smith

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.

10/19/2011 - 8:16am
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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.

10/18/2011 - 3:30am
Dear American Airlines

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.

07/22/2015 - 3:55pm
Bossypants

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.

07/27/2011 - 11:21am
A Game of Thrones

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.

04/29/2011 - 7:27am
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

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.

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: "The story concerns rather implausibly a friendship begun when Caitlin and Vix (for Victoria) are 12. Caitlin, daughter of wealthy, divorced parents, declares that Vix, eldest daughter in a blue-collar family, will be her best friend. Caitlin invites Vix to spend the summer at the family home on Martha's Vineyard. Vix is taken in by Caitlin's family, who arrange for her scholarship to private school and then support her Harvard education. Summers on the Vineyard are filled with sun and adolescent sexual encounters. The girls' friendship endures betrayal, love for the same man, and diverging career paths." (Library Journal)

If you enjoyed Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, these stories about women and friendship may appeal to you:

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish
“For Katherine Givens and the four women about to become her best friends, the adventure begins with a UPS package. Inside is a pair of red sneakers filled with ashes and a note that will forever change their lives. Katherine's oldest and dearest friend, the irrepressible Annie Freeman, left one final request - a traveling funeral - and she wants the most important women in her life as ‘pallbearers’."—summary from book jacket


Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes.
Anna Walsh returns to her Dublin family after a serious and disfiguring accident. She wants to return to her life in New York City, but she has more than physical healing to do.





 

03/22/2012 - 2:57pm
The Alienist by Caleb Carr

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.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr: "The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend and former Harvard classmate Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist, or "alienist." On the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, they view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan's infamous brothels. The newly appointed police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, in a highly unorthodox move, enlists the two men in the murder investigation, counting on the reserved Kreizler's intellect and Moore's knowledge of New York's vast criminal underworld. They are joined by Sara Howard, a brave and determined woman who works as a secretary in the police department. Laboring in secret (for alienists, and the emerging discipline of psychology, are viewed by the public with skepticism at best), the unlikely team embarks on what is a revolutionary effort in criminology-- amassing a psychological profile of the man they're looking for based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before. and will kill again before the hunt is over." (Book description)
 
These titles are literary, well-written and match the mood of Caleb Carr's The Alienist.
 
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
Sarah Dunant's gorgeous and mesmerizing novel, Birth of Venus, draws readers into a turbulent 15th-century Florence, a time when the lavish city, steeped in years of Medici family luxury, is suddenly besieged by plague, threat of invasion, and the righteous wrath of a fundamentalist monk. Dunant masterfully blends fact and fiction, seamlessly interweaving Florentine history with the coming-of-age story of a spirited 14-year-old girl. As Florence struggles in Savonarola's grip, a serial killer stalks the streets, the French invaders creep closer, and young Alessandra Cecchi must surrender her "childish" dreams andnavigate her way into womanhood. (amazon.com)
 
Buckskin Line by Elmer Kelton
”From a six-time Spur Award winner comes the story of a Texas Ranger who carries heavy burdens. The father and brother of the woman he loves have been lynched, and he is fated to meet the Comanche warrior whose band killed his family.”—catalog summary
 
 
 
 
07/28/2016 - 11:39am
If you like The Giver by Lois Lowry

This readalike is in response to a customer'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 our book matches here.

The Giver by Lois Lowry: Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. (catalog summary)

 



If you like The Giver, you might also enjoy the companion books Lois Lowry has written:

Gathering Blue


Gathering Blue
by Lois Lowry
Lame and suddenly orphaned, Kira is mysteriously removed from her squalid village to live in the palatial Council Edifice, where she is expected to use her gifts as a weaver to do the bidding of the all-powerful Guardians. (catalog summary)



 

Messenger
 

Messenger by Lois Lowry
In this novel that unites characters from "The Giver" and "Gathering Blue," Matty, a young member of a utopian community that values honesty, conceals an emerging healing power that he cannot explain or understand. (catalog summary)


 

 




Son
by Lois Lowry
Unlike the other Birthmothers in her utopian community, teenaged Claire forms an attachment to her baby, feeling a great loss when he is taken to the Nurturing Center to be adopted by a family unit. (catalog summary)
 

 

 

If you like these books, you might also enjoy:

Among the Hidden


Among the Hidden
by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Book One of the Shadow Children series)
In a future where the Population Police enforce the law limiting a family to only two children, Luke has lived all his twelve years in isolation and fear on his family's farm, until another "third" convinces him that the government is wrong. (catalog summary)

 

 

07/22/2015 - 3:40pm
A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea

We’ve probably all had the fantasy of seeing a Pig Parade flicker in our mind at one time or another. Don’t deny it. The orchestra of oinks matched up with little hooves marching down the street, it all just sounds so fun. Well…forget about it.

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea, by Michael Ian Black, is a point by point dismissal of what at first seems like an incredibly delightful idea. Pigs are whimsical, funny, and intelligent creatures, but Black, a comedian best known for his commentary on VH1 shows, has found his niche in the picture book world by being the ultimate bearer of bad news.

04/13/2011 - 11:33am
Claudia Emerson

Claudia Emerson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and English professor at the University of Mary Washington, will be inducted into the prestigious Fellowship of Southern Writers during its biennial meeting at the Conference on Southern Literature.  Emerson won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Late Wife. She has written five books of poetry, with a sixth forthcoming, and has won numerous other honors.  We are fortunate that each April she has helped our library system by judging  the Teen Poetry Contest and acting as presenter for Teen Poetry Night.

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