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BOOK TALK: Literature in Kansas

By Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

HarborMark your 2017 calendars – This spring, Manhattan Library Association will partner with the Kansas Humanities Council to bring a series of  BOOK TALK discussions to Manhattan, with experts helping to immerse readers in captivating stories. This spring’s topic is “Contemporary Immigration.”

America is a nation of immigrants.  Each new wave of immigration brings their own traditions, cuisine, styles, artistic traditions, and cultural histories, all of which feed into the complex mosaic of American life.  New immigration has deeply enriched the range of American literature.

Our first selection is Caramelo, or, Puro Cuento by Sandra Cisneros, a semi-autobiographical novel describing the experience of a Mexican-American family.  Cisneros weaves themes of family and identity into a sweeping tale of American naturalization in which a young girl, Lala Reyes, navigates a web of family pride and practicality in the 1960s. The caramelo reboso – candy shawl – is Lala’s sole memento of her dead mother.  Like the weave of that shawl, Lala’s tale recounts the complex life of a family always striving to put its best foot forward.

Nicolas Shump will lead the discussion on Caramelo on February 23, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. in the Groesbeck Room at Manhattan Public Library.  Nicolas teaches history and English at the Barstow School in Kansas City, Missouri.  He received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of Kansas, where he has also taught courses on Humanities and Western Civilization and American Studies.  He was a volunteer coordinator of Adult Education in Lawrence.

Harbor, the stunning first novel by Pulitzer-winning journalist Lorraine Adams, is the March selection. Aziz Arkoun arrives in America as a stowaway aboard a tanker, swimming to shore in Boston harbor without money, English, or any connections, except the phone number of a shady cousin.  One illegality leads to another as Aziz finds himself caught in the web of an anti-terrorism investigation.

Gene T. Chavez will lead the discussion for Harbor on March 23, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. Gene is the founder and president of Chavez and Associates.  He received both his M.A. in cross-cultural counseling and his education degree focusing in the philosophical foundations of education from Arizona State University.  Gene consults with groups throughout the country on bilingual education and cultural diversity.

Our April choice is Typical American by Gish Jen. Jen’s delightful first novel follows the lives of three young Chinese immigrants. A great deal of humor and sympathy accompanies this tempestuous novel.  Yifeng (also known as Ralph), his older sister Theresa, and his friend Helen find themselves trapped in America by the rise of Communism back in China.  The three hopeful immigrants strive to build new lives that work in an unfamiliar land.  Their stories take them from rags to riches, from city to suburb, from academic ivory towers to “Ralph’s Chicken Palace.”

Michaeline Chance-Reay will be leading the discussion on “Typical American” on April 27, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.  Dr. Chance-Reay teaches women’s studies and education at Kansas State University, and received her PH.D. in Humanities Education and Master’s in Social Work from Ohio State University. In 1998, her research resulted in an exhibition at the Riley County Historical Museum and an accompanying book, Land Grant Ladies: Kansas State University Presidential Wives.

Our partner in providing these talks, The Kansas Humanities Council, is a non-profit organization promoting understanding of the history and ideas that shape our lives and strengthen our sense of community.

Everyone is welcome to attend these free discussions, and no registration ahead of time is required.  These books will be available for patrons to check-out in December at the Manhattan Public Library.

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Italian Mysteries

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

The Dogs of RomeSay Italy, and people think beautiful women (ala Sophia Loren), great food, and romance. Oh, and one more thing, mystery. Mysteries by Italian authors, or taking place in Italy, have all the pleasant things one associates with Italy, plus a healthy dose of murder. If you’re ready to experience the allure of Italy, while feeding your hunger for compelling mysteries, checkout some of the many Italian mystery novels available at Manhattan Public Library.

How does a police commissioner maintain law and order in a fascist state, especially if he possesses the uncanny ability to see dead people? This is the dilemma Commissario Ricciardi faces in the series by Maurizio De Giovanni. In “I will have Vengeance: the Winter of Commissario Ricciardi,” the title character investigates the brutal murder of a world famous tenor. Can the unrestful spirit of the tenor give Ricciardi a clue as to the identity of his killer? Ten titles in this series taking place in Naples have been translated into English.

Donna Leon brings the serene city of Venice to life through the thoughts and actions of Commissario Guido Brunetti in a series that now encompasses 26 titles. In “Death at La Fenice,” Brunetti investigates the death of Maestro Helmut Wellauer, a world-renowned conductor, poisoned with cyanide during an intermission at the famous Venice opera house. As the investigation unfolds, a chilling picture of Nazi sympathies and revenge begins to take shape.

Travelling down the length of the boot, Sicily is the scene of the Inspector Salvo Montalbano mysteries by Andrea Camilleri. Over the course of 24 titles to date (20 translated into English), Inspector Montalbano polices the small fictitious town of Vigata. In “The Shape of Water,” a local politician has been found dead in his car with his pants down. The victim of a heart attack? The car was parked in a field frequented by prostitutes. While Montalbano’s superiors want a quick resolution to the case, Montalbano is cynical enough to smell a setup.

Michael Dibdin authored 11 titles in the Aurelio Zen series before his untimely death in 2007. In “Dead Lagoon,” Zen returns to his hometown of Venice to work on a minor case, while at the same time earning cash on a side job investigating the disappearance of a rich American. While in Venice, Zen observes changes in the town itself and in the people he knew as children. Being mistaken by old men for his father who vanished mysteriously years before is just one of the personal issues Zen has to deal with in solving the case of the missing American.

Returning to Rome, we can follow the exploits of Nic Costa, as reported by David Hewson. In “A Season for the Dead,” Costa, all of 27 years old and a connoisseur of the painter, Caravaggio, is hunting for a serial killer who uses his victims to create representations of famous martyr portraits. As if this wasn’t problem enough, Costa also has to contend with a corrupt cardinal, the Mafia, and the secrecy of the Vatican.

Also taking place in Rome are the Commissario Alec Blume mysteries by Conor Fitzgerald. In “The Dogs of Rome,” Blume, an American expatriate who has been living in Italy for over 20 years, investigates the murder of an animal-rights activist whose wife is an important politician and whose mistress has ties to the Mob.

If you’re in the mood for something a little different, try the Milano Quartet by Giorgio Scerbanenco. First published in 1966, “A Private Venus,” is an arresting noir novel whose antihero, Duca Lamberti, is a disbarred doctor who has just been released from prison for assisting a terminally ill woman to end her life. Lamberti is no stranger to making bad choices. His latest is accepting the proposal of a rich industrialist to babysit his son, a chronic alcoholic. Alcoholism, Lamberti discovers, is the least of the young man’s troubles.

Other authors of Italian mysteries you should sample include “Lost Girls of Rome,” by Donato Carrisi. There’s also the Inspector Bordelli mysteries by Marco Vichi, including “Death in August.” Don’t forget Magdalen Nabb, whose protagonist, Marshal Guarnaccia, features in such titles as “Vita Nuova, or Michele Giuttari, whose Michele Ferrara investigates murder in “A Death in Tuscany.”

 

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Romance with a Twist

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

Two AcrossI am an unabashed romance reader. In the midst of a crazy world, romance novels can offer a bit of escape, or even reassurance. I love how author Kristan Higgins put it in Publishers Weekly, “Our books affirm faith in humanity and preach the goodness and courage of the ordinary heart. We make our readers laugh, we make them cry, and we affirm our belief in the enduring, uplifting power of love.” Sometimes I find myself wanting something different, though. Fortunately I’ve found that there are some amazing genre crossovers that have eased me out of my comfort zone: still uplifting, but with a very different perspective than one typically gets in a romance novel. The following reads are good for a change of pace or for those romance doubters among you.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis mixes science fiction, intrigue, and humor with a dash of romance thrown in. Sometime in the near future, Briddey Flannigan and her boyfriend decide to get implants in their brains that allow them to sense what each other is feeling. Something goes wrong and Briddey is connected to the weird guy who works in the basement instead. A light-hearted exploration of the question of how connected and informed we really want to be, Crosstalk is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Two Across by Jeffrey Bartsch is about Stanley and Vera, two teens who meet when they tie for first place in the 1960 National Spelling Bee. Both of them are brilliant but have difficult homes and end up plotting a sham wedding to change the course of their lives. Years of awkward exchanges, missed opportunities, and crossword puzzle communication create a sometimes bittersweet but hopeful story.

For historical romantic suspense, Lauren Willig serves up The Other Daughter. When her mother dies, governess Rachel Woodley stumbles across a magazine clipping dated only three months before with a picture of her supposedly long-deceased father. With the assistance of her cousin’s associate, Simon Montfort, she seeks revenge against the father she never knew and his replacement family. An insightful plunge into 1920s London and all of the social divisions of the time, The Other Daughter also reveals a woman forced to reevaluate who she is while playing a dangerous game of deception.

I am particularly a fan of modern retellings of classics. It amuses me to discover how the author weaves the original tale into something completely new. One of the better ones I’ve read lately is Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, a modern interpretation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Magazine writer Liz Bennett rushes home to Cincinnati to help her family during her father’s health crisis. In Sittenfeld’s version, Jane is a yoga instructor, Mary is addicted to online education, and Kitty and Lydia have an unhealthy obsession with CrossFit. They meet reality show star Chip Bingley and his friend the neurosurgeon, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Navigating the challenges of life at home and an uncertain future, Liz approaches the world with a biting wit and unfailing self-assurance. I have often been told that Pride and Prejudice is just about a bunch of women seeking husbands, but Eligible emphasizes that this is really about growing up enough to see the complexity of the world and the fascinating creatures we encounter in it.

Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler manages to hold onto the humor from the original but adds a more contemporary view of relationships. Kate is an exceptionally blunt preschool teacher who fills her days with gardening and taking care of her widowed father and teenaged sister. Her father comes up with a scheme for her to marry his lab assistant Pyotr to help him with a green card. Kate’s lack of tact, combined with Pyotr’s language limitations, lead to some hilarious scenes and a level of honesty not often achieved in contemporary relationships.

Come visit us at the library to find your next great read!

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Outstanding Autumn Reading

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Hillbilly ElegyFall is such a great time for discovering new book titles.  This season’s abundant offerings for adults present a wonderful assortment of debut authors, as well as a nice array of books from longtime favorites.  Here are some of the latest in nonfiction which I highly recommend.    I think you’ll enjoy them, too.

Ross King tells a wonderful story.  Perhaps you read Brunelleschi’s Dome, King’s account of the contest that inspired a 15th century masterful building of an enormous cathedral dome minus the usual flying buttresses.  Maybe you recall Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, a sometimes humorous account of rival artists and papal whims while the Sistine Chapel ceiling was being painted.  If you’ve read those books or other tales Mr. King has written, you know that he weaves historical events into dramatic narratives that captivate his readers.

King’s latest is another stirring account.  This one involves Claude Monet, but it neither a biography nor is it a retrospect of important paintings.  Instead, Mad Enchantment : Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies focuses on the paintings themselves, Monet’s indecision about the recipients of those paintings, and his long friendship with French Prime Minister George Clemenceau.

The story begins in the year 1914.  France was about to enter into World War I, while an elderly Monet mourned the recent death of a son and suffered from the beginnings of cataracts that would plague him the rest of his life.  Soon, however, he embarked on a huge project, his Nympheas (water lilies) that would outshine his earlier works.  As the war came to a close, he decided to express his gratitude to France with a great gift: the donation of his water lilies, his “Grande Decoration.”  Plans were made to build a special exhibition hall at the Orangerie in Paris for Monet’s Nympheas.   

But complications intervened.  Monet, always demanding and stubborn, decided he might not part with the paintings after all.  His buddy Clemenceau was outraged by this decision and chided him endlessly.  And both of the famous friends were now facing serious health problems.  You will find that King’s story of this time period is endlessly fascinating, chock-full of details you never heard before.

Here’s a revealing surprise from a debut author.  J. D. Vance is a successful attorney with a Silicon Valley investment firm.  He attended Ohio State University and then pursued an advanced degree from Yale Law School.  Many others have achieved such success, but few have grown up with a background similar to his.  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis details the incredible obstacles of his family life, as well as the current state of life for poor, white Americans.

Vance’s grandparents had grown up in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky in abject poverty.  Friends and relatives worked in the mines and learned early to do without the necessities that we take for granted.  In an effort to better their lives, they moved to Middletown, Ohio where mill work was the norm.  “Mamaw” and “Papaw” seemed to have made the climb to middle class.

But they brought with them the traits and behaviors that had always been part of their culture.  Mamaw had a tendency toward physical violence when she perceived an insult to her family.  Papaw developed a serious drinking problem.  Their daughter (Vance’s mother) had her own issues with drug dependency and poor choices in men.  Thus, Vance came to rely on Mamaw as a parent.

The book is a sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking account of Vance’s growing up, but it also something altogether different.  It’s a cultural revelation of his impoverished background, complete with all kinds of depressing statistics and colorful side stories.  Absolutely mesmerizing.

My last suggestion for you is a highly colorful tale about Paris.  During the 1920s, the streets of Paris hosted an amazing cast of famous characters.  Of course, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein resided there, but newcomers also arrived and quickly became known personalities.  Sylvia Beach had recently opened Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore that encouraged and promoted writers like James Joyce.   Josephine Baker danced her way into fame, often appearing nearly nude.  Coco Chanel established her own empire, creating a line of clothing and perfume in high demand.

When Paris Sizzled by Mary Sperling McAuliffe does not follow a single story line.  Instead it weaves its way through encounters and connections among the numerous players of that fascinating decade.  If you are curious about Isadora Duncan’s tragic end, Charles de Gaulle’s shy courtship, or Cole Porter’s luxurious lifestyle abroad, this is the book for you.  Memorable tales of creativity from another time.

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Dehumanized Dystopias

By Brian Ingalsbe, Children’s Library Assistant

UgliesOctober is – in my humble opinion – one of the best months of the year. The weather is consistently cool, the leaves are changing colors, and the full anticipation of Halloween is in the air. For me, enjoying this month means snuggling up with a pumpkin spice chai and reading a great book. With Halloween so close, what better way to prepare than with a YA staple: the dystopia?

Dystopias are some of my favorite reads because they are fast-paced, action-oriented, and feature a skewed world, alarmingly similar to our own. Beyond The Hunger Games, The Giver, and The Maze Runner, the young adult collection has hundreds of other dystopian novels, just waiting to be discovered!

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

In a world where higher education is a privilege, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale dreams of being chosen for “the testing” – a program geared at further educating the best and the brightest of the Five Lakes Colony. Cia is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate, eager to prove her worthiness as a future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies: trust no one. Can she trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? To survive, Cia must choose love without truth or life without trust. In this thrilling story, Joelle Charbonneau tells a tale that is as enticing as it is flawed, begging readers to turn page after page. Anyone who enjoyed the Books of Ember or The Maze Runner trilogy is sure to love this book.

Legend by Marie Lu

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Fifteen-year-old June is an elite – born with the highest family status, groomed for success in the Republic’s most prestigious military circles. Day is the Republic’s most wanted criminal. They are polar opposites in every way. But when Metias – June’s brother – is found murdered, and Day is named the main suspect, all bets are off. Forming an unlikely duo, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its terrible secrets. In this exhilarating story – much like The Hunger Games – Marie Lu transforms two “average” characters through the most terrifying experience imaginable. The result will not disappoint!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In the not-so-distant future, the Second Civil War – fought over reproductive rights – has left a country that is fearful and rash. As a result, life is deemed sacred, but only from birth to age thirteen. For the next five years, parents can choose to have their children “unwound” by which their organs are harvested for alternative use, therefore deemed “a continuation of life.” During this horrific age, three children face being unwound: Connor, an out of control child, Risa, a ward of the state, and Lev, a tithe –a child conceived only to be unwound. Separate, they are powerless, but together they may be able to survive. In Unwind, Neal Shusterman creates a chilling world dominated by the effects of population control. Readers who enjoyed The Giver or the Shadow Children are sure to devour this series.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

What can be wrong with a world full of pretty people? Wouldn’t you want to be pretty? For sixteen-year-old Tally, becoming pretty is the end all. In the weeks preceding her operation, Tally can think of little else besides the carefree pretty lifestyle, in which her only real job is to have fun. But when Tally’s new best friend – Shay – rebels from society and flees, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty lifestyle, and it isn’t very pretty. Now Tally must make a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty herself. What will she choose? Her choice will change her world forever. In this well-crafted novel, Scott Westerfeld expertly creates a shallow world of external beauty. Ridden with its own vernacular and relatable characters, Uglies is a story that is sure to hit close to home. Readers who enjoy the writing style of Lauren Oliver will definitely love these books.

No matter what resources you are looking for, Manhattan Public Library has them. Our staff is always willing to help you find your next great dystopia and answer any questions you may have. You can contact the Youth Services Department at (785) 776-4741 ext. 400 or kidstaff@mhklibrary.org.

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Horror 101

By Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

PoppetIt’s the right time of year for a good scare, and I happen to work with some serious connoisseurs of horror. When I asked my coworkers, they were happy to give frightening recommendations.

Naturally, Stephen King was mentioned the most often, and everyone agreed that his older works were the scariest by far. As a talented writer, King’s startling tales will draw you in and leave you breathless while also making you care about the characters and marvel at the beauty that exists even in a cruel world.

“Above, the stars shone hard and bright, sparks struck off the dark skin of the universe.” – Stephen King, The Stand

If you haven’t read the complete and uncut version of King’s The Stand, you should start there. This 1,153-page epic is considered one of King’s finest works and will take you on a nightmarish journey into a bleak new world which just lost 99% of its human population to a super virus. This gripping tale of good vs evil is full of gore, violence, and horror, and it’s also packed with depth and character. For an extra bit of fright, wait and read this one when you’re home with the flu.

If you’re already a fan of Stephen King, and you’ve read The Shining, It, and all of his other major works, try something by King’s son, Joseph Hillstrom King, under the pen name Joe Hill.

Hill obviously has big shoes to fill, but all of his books have reached the New York Times Bestseller list, so it looks like he’s filling them. His works have been praised by authors such as Neil Gaiman and Harlan Coben, and his third book, a supernatural thriller NOS4A2, might be his best so far.

NOS4A2 is creepy to the max. The villain, Charlie Manx, is a Peter Pan character who cruises around in a Rolls Royce Wraith with vanity license plate NOS4A2, looking for children to capture.  When he finds an interesting prospect, he takes the child to a magical theme park called “Christmasland.”

For some reason, the children Manx brings to Christmasland become evil, so he is never satisfied and continues searching for more. Manx becomes obsessed with the only child who ever escaped. He finds her as an adult, and decides her son might be his very best prospect so far.

As you may have noticed, all the symbols in this book pack a serious emotional punch. It will tap into your deep-seated fears and keep you turning pages long past your bedtime.

For fans of major adrenaline who really don’t care about sleep, I recommend author Mo Hayder. Her books are psychological crime thrillers full of gore and action. Also, since there are seven books in her popular Jack Caffery series, you won’t run out of material anytime soon.

Hayder’s first book, Birdman, introduces the character Jack Caffery, lead investigator in the Major Crime Investigation Unit in Bristol, UK. Caffrey is new on the job and tasked with solving crimes of unspeakable horror. The first involves the brutal, ritualistic murder of a woman who is mutilated beyond recognition. As Jack delves into the details of the crime, you will squirm, close your eyes, and beg for it to end. As he gets ever closer to the killer, you’ll find yourself unable to tear your eyes away.

The seven books in this series are 1. Birdman  2. The Treatment  3. Ritual 4. Skin  5. Gone 6. Poppet (which is the Circulation Manager’s favorite) 7. Wolf.  The entire series is available at the public library along with several “stand-alone” novels by Hayder.

Books are fantastic, but sometimes what you really need is a good scary movie. The library has thousands of DVDs and Blu-rays to choose from, but my coworkers agreed hands-down that only one movie sits at the top of the horror genre. Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002) might be the scariest movie ever made. It brings the audience genuine, pit-of-the-stomach, bone-chilling fear without relying on cheap tricks or excessive gore.

Diehard fans who have already seen The Ring might want to try the original Japanese version of the film by Hideo Nakata, available online, or the novel by Koji Suzuki.

If you’re interested in exploring other recommendations, stop by the library’s Reference Desk on the second floor. A librarian would be happy to help you find a book or movie that is just the right fit.

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Lifelong Learning and Hobbies

By Jared Richards, Adult Services Librarian

Wool PetsOne of the main goals of a public library is the promotion of lifelong learning. I am sure there are many highbrow reasons for why people should engage in lifelong learning and, if you are interested in those, come on down to the second floor of the Manhattan Public Library and we will look them up for you. For the purposes of this article, however, I am going to focus on the two most important aspects of lifelong learning to me. First, learning can be fun, especially when it is not followed by a test or a grade on a permanent record. And second, learning something new not only makes your life more interesting, it makes you more interesting to other people. The world can never have enough interesting people.

My favorite way to learn something new is to find a new hobby. I’ve dabbled in more hobbies than I have fingers to count them on, and I have the usual suspects when it comes to fingers, so that is a decent number of hobbies. Despite this, I am always looking for something new, and a great way to do that is by wandering through the shelves on the second floor of the Manhattan Public Library—the 600s and 700s, in particular.

There are not many hobbies that allow a person to create something and then destroy it, while also leaving behind a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. If you are angry, pottery might be that hobby, and we have books about pottery, but I am referring to cooking. Our collection of cookbooks covers methods, diets, and cuisines from all over the world. Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee contains over 100 recipes that blend his Korean heritage with his adopted Kentucky home. We also have seven shelves devoted to vegan and vegetarian cookbooks. Contrary to popular belief, most vegans and vegetarians enjoy food beyond the popular raw vegetable platter found at most gatherings. Before your next get together, do them a favor and consider checking out Meatless in Cowtown by Laura Samuel Meyn or Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin, and give partygoers more to eat than baby carrots and cauliflower.

Taking up woodworking as a hobby allows you to build everything from small toys to large houses. Learning how to recognize different types of wood will go a long way in woodworking endeavors, so check out Wood: Identification and Use by Terry Porter. Restoring old furniture can be calming, especially if pottery was previously chosen as a hobby, and The Furniture Bible by Christophe Pourny is a great place to start learning about furniture restoration. From there, I would suggest moving on to small projects with Woodworking from the Scrap Pile by Derek Jones before advancing to The Complete Guide to Treehouses by Philip Schmidt.

Adult coloring books have been all the rage lately, but why not take it a step further and learn how to color outside the lines? We have a large collection of drawing books, including Drawing School by Ian Simpson. Or stick with coloring because it is fun, and check out The New Colored Pencil by Kristy Ann Kutch or Colored Pencil Drawing Techniques by Iain Hutton-Jamieson.

Having a pet is a huge responsibility and a decision that should not be taken lightly. For those not ready for such a commitment, I suggest one of the yarn hobbies.  With Wool Pets by Laurie Sharp and Knit Your Own Zoo by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne, pets can be created that do not need to be walked, fed, or cleaned up after, unless you count the scraps of leftover yarn that fall on the floor as the animals are made.  Once mastered, move on to a hobby that requires a little more care with The Tao of Vegetable Gardening by Carol Deppe.  In no time at all, you can move from leafy green creators of oxygen to furry friends that consume it with the help of Top Tips from Top Trainers by members of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

The Manhattan Public Library also has programming that may lead to your next hobby. For example, every third Thursday we have Library Lab in the Groesbeck Room. At 7:00 p.m. Thursday, October 20, 2016, we will be painting mandala rocks. If nothing else, I encourage you to come to the second floor of the Manhattan Public Library to browse, find a new hobby, and join the ranks of the world’s most interesting people.

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Lights Out, Film Noir

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Film Noir: 10-Movie Spotlight CollectionAutumn is here, and with the nights growing longer it is the perfect time to explore the darker side of film. The term film noir, or dark film, was coined by a French movie critic in 1946. As a genre, film noir had its heyday in the mystery and crime dramas of the 1940s and 1950s.

Critics haven’t always agreed on whether a film can be classified as noir, what elements films in the genre share, or if film noir can even be defined as a genre. Some critics determine films in the genre by their tragic conclusions, while other critics point to a distinctive visual style. Still others emphasize plot and character type, or mood and attitude.

Manhattan Public Library has an extensive collection of DVDs and Blu-rays, including many film noir classics. There are several collections that are excellent choices if you are new to the genre. “Film Noir: 10-Movie Spotlight Collection,” for example, includes ten classic films on six discs. Titles include “Double Indemnity,” “Black Dahlia,” and “Touch of Evil” to name a few.

5 Film Noir Killer Classics,” is another six disc set. In addition to the five movies, the sixth disc includes the special feature “What is film noir?,” as well as 38 classic film noir trailers. Movies included in this collection are “D.O.A,” “Detour,” “Stranger,” “Scarlet Street,” and “Killer Bait.”

Lists of the most popular film noir titles include a mix of classic examples from the 1940s and 1950s, along with more contemporary titles. “The Big Sleep,” from 1946, features on most lists of the best film noir. Humphrey Bogart stars as private eye Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall portrays the older sister of a woman being blackmailed. Along with blackmailers, there are plenty of other unsavory characters in this film, including murderers, pornographers, night club rogues, and the spoiled rich.

Several film noir classics feature the femme fatale, or fatal woman. This mysterious and seductive woman charms her lovers, and leads them into compromising, dangerous, and even deadly situations. Jane Greer is a murderous femme fatale using her wiles against Robert Mitchum in “Out of the Past.” Mitchum plays private detective Jeff Bailey, hired to find Kathie Moffat by the man from whom she had stolen $40,000 dollars in addition to shooting him. Of course once Bailey finds Kathie, the sparks fly.

Contemporary movies made in the film noir tradition are often referred to as neo-noir. “L.A. Confidential,” (1997) is one example. Three detectives in the L.A. police force of the 1950s uncover a conspiracy behind the shotgun slaying of customers at an all-night diner.

Chinatown,” (1974) is another neo-noir film. Jack Nicholson is private investigator Jack Gittes, hired to trail a Los Angeles Water Department engineer by his wife. Soon Gittes is in over his head, stumbling into a web of intrigue involving a water diversion scheme, murder, and more than he can handle in Chinatown.

Alfed Hitchcock directed several classic film noir pictures. “Greatest Classic Films Collection. Hitchcock Thrillers,” features four of them. In “Suspicion,” rich socialite Joan Fontaine falls in love with dashing Cary Grant, and slowly comes to suspect that he is out to murder her for her inheritance.

Orson Welles is another director of classic film noir. In “The Third Man,” an American novelist in Vienna learns that an old friend has been killed in an accident, and discovers that his friend was more than he appeared.

Many of the classic noir movies have literary connections, being based on novels or stories by Raymond Chandler (“The Big Sleep”), James M. Cain (“The Postman Always Rings Twice”), and  Cornell Woolrich. Woolrich’s published works provided the basis of thirteen films in the genre, including “Black Angel,” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.”

In addition to titles on DVD and Blu-Ray, MPL’s streaming service, Hoopla, also features several film noir titles, including “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “Scarlet Street,” “Pitfall,” and “Mulholland Falls.” Your library card is good for 5 checkouts every month on Hoopla.

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Ties of Blood and Love: Memoirs of Childhood and Parenthood

By Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and LossRecently I picked up Nadja Spiegelman’s I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This, a memoir about generations of mothers and daughters, and it immediately pulled me in. Now, for readers of alternative comics, Nadja Spiegelman is famous as the daughter of Art Spiegelman, whose brilliant memoir Maus told of his father’s experiences during the Holocaust. For Nadja Spiegelman, though, her mother Françoise Mouly looms larger in her own life, casting a shadow she still struggles to understand and fully escape. In an effort to better understand herself and her mother, Spiegelman baldly detailed her own childhood in I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This. Quickly, Spiegelman discovered that, as much as her mother shaped her, her grandmother shaped her mother, and so on, spiraling back through the generations in inevitable cycles of love and hurt. As Spiegelman researched the matriarchs of her family, I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This became a memoir of generations, analyzing the different circumstances that shaped the women of Spiegelman’s life.

I don’t normally read nonfiction, but something in Spiegelman’s work connected with me, and that connection made me curious about other memoirs. Which other authors, I wondered, have spilt their own blood on the page in an effort to better understand themselves and their families? Here are the fruits of my research, a handful of recent memoirs that explore various aspects of childhood and parenthood.

In her memoir Where the Light Gets In, Kimberly Williams-Paisley also wrote about her relationship with her mother, which irrevocably changed when her mother, Linda, was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a rare form of dementia. All too quickly, the bright, supportive mother of her childhood began to change, as Linda physically deteriorated and eventually lost the ability to recognize her own family. Despite the enormity of Linda’s illness, Williams-Paisley’s family forged ahead, supporting each other and working to find the best in a difficult situation. In rare moments, Williams-Paisley could still recognize her mother’s spirit and sharp intelligence, and she learned to live in the present instead of mourning the loss of the mother she always knew.

Instead of a traditional memoir, The Rainbow Comes and Goes presents a year’s worth of correspondence between Anderson Cooper and his mother Gloria Vanderbilt. Near her ninety-first birthday, Vanderbilt fell seriously ill; though she recovered, her sudden illness prompted Cooper to stop waiting and begin writing to her, asking everything he’d ever wanted to know about her life. In alternating emails, mother and son reflected on every aspect of their lives, from their greatest losses to their most personal hopes and dreams. The deep connection between mother and son can be felt through the pages, and the book’s advice and musings will stay with you beyond the last page.

The final three memoirs I found all focus on grief and loss from the perspective of a parent, though each parent struggles with a different circumstance. In Falling: A Daughter, a Father, and a Journey Back, Elisha Cooper detailed his daughter’s diagnosis with kidney cancer and told how he grappled to come to terms with the uncertainty and lack of control he had over his life. Rosalie Lightning, a memoir graphic novel by Tom Hart, depicts his daughter’s sudden, heartbreaking death and the journey he and his wife went through coming to terms with their loss. This book benefits greatly from its graphic novel format, as the images help convey the depth of feelings Hart dealt with following Rosalie’s death. Finally, Cards for Brianna is a memoir from the other side of the equation, written by a terminally-ill mother for her young daughter. Once Heather McManamy realized her breast cancer was terminal, she decided to write cards to her daughter for various life events; this book presents snippets of them, along with vignettes about McManamy’s life, motherhood, and the gifts you can receive by accepting death.

All of these memoirs were published in 2016 alone; if you would like to look into older familial memoirs, Manhattan Public Library has a great selection of those, too. You might start with Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Are You My Mother?, Alan Cumming’s Not My Father’s Son, or Susanne Antonetta’s Make Me a Mother, just to name a few. For even more biography and memoir reading suggestions, you can sign up for our emailed book lists or request a personalized reading list online.

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, Mercury Column, News, Uncategorized

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Follow Your Whim to a Great Book

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of DistractionNot surprisingly, in my work as a librarian, I spend a lot of time in discussion about books: what people are reading, how people select books, and how they experience books. Reading is one of the few activities that has stood the test of time, persisting through centuries of distractions that have fallen to the wayside. So I always cringe when I hear someone say, “I should read more” in the same way they might say “I should eat more kale.” When an individual has stopped reading, I don’t think less of them. I just mourn for everything they are missing.

I am not exaggerating when I say that reading has made my life better and I know I’m not the only one. In the Pew Research Center’s recent study, Book Reading 2016, they reported that Americans read an average of 12 books per year. They read for work or school, to keep up with current events, to research topics of interest, and 80% read for pleasure. In direct contrast to the widely held view of younger generations being distracted by technological devices, 18 to 29 year olds are reading just as much as older age groups, and 83% of them read for pleasure. People don’t read because there’s nothing else to do or because of moral superiority; they read because they want to. Books can provide a window into worlds we would otherwise be unaware of, expose us to new ideas and different perspectives, and they can also bring comfort or escape, or even give us a hearty laugh.

So it was with great delight that I stumbled upon Alan Jacobs’ book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.  The primary theme that Jacobs presents is “Read at Whim.” He encourages readers to read what will give them delight. This can be classic literature, but it can also be a romance novel. All he asks of the reader is to examine the part of our nature that “knows itself and therefore seeks what is really good.” Therefore, he encourages those reading the substantial tome from the list of “100 books you must read” to quit reading if you’ve gotten a good ways into a book and still find it to be a trudge. He also challenges those who stick to a genre with almost identical plots to examine if their reading is still bringing them delight or if finding something a little different might bring a spark back to reading.

The challenge can sometimes be how to find the next book, the one that will fill you with delight. We have lots of tools to explore on the library website, www.mhklibrary.org, but there is something to be said for seeking out the recommendations of fellow readers, whether you find them in the pages of your local newspaper or a chat with friends. A list of recommendations gives you a good place to start. From there you can pick up the ones that grab your interest and feel free to ignore those that don’t appeal.

One downside of reading is that it is such a solitary endeavor. As beneficial as reading is, we humans also require community. Manhattan Public Library is hoping to help you meet both needs. Join us at 8 p.m. Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at Arrow Coffee Co. for our first Silent Book Club. We will gather with fellow book lovers to discuss books, read, and create community. Despite the word “silent,” there will be no shushing involved. We encourage talking with each other about your favorite books. Gigi, our adept librarian, will be on-hand for book recommendations, tips on what the library can do for you, or just to chat about the world of reading.

So, don’t look at reading as an obligation or a moral directive; instead let yourself be open to the advantages that books can bring to your life. Jacobs summarizes his ideas best with a quote from writer Randall Jarrell, “He read it . . . just because he liked to, wanted to, couldn’t help himself.” We wish you all the best in finding such a book and would be delighted to help in your search.

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, Mercury Column, News

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