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Archive for For Adults

Food, Travel, and Introspection

Relish by Lucy KnisleyBy Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

Memoir graphic novels form a backbone of alternative comics, from Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Ellen Forney’s Marbles. The comics format is uniquely suited to detailing the inner thoughts of artists through the synthesis of words and images, making this a format well worth digging into. Among the many comics memoirists, thirty-one-year-old Lucy Knisley is one of my favorites. Knisley’s art style is simple and easily digestible, and her worries and anxieties resonate with new adults figuring out where they want to go in life and how best to get there.
Knisley’s memoirs begin with a trip to Paris as a twenty-three-year-old, lovingly detailed in French Milk. Knisley and her mother rent a flat for six weeks and take their time exploring Paris, visiting friends, and, for Knisley’s part, recording her thoughts in comics form. Knisley adds to the resulting travelogue with photos and later thoughts, but largely French Milk reads as a diary of her time in a foreign city. As always, food takes a front seat in this book, with not only descriptions that will make mouths water, but also Knisley declaring her love for delicious French milk.
Knisley develops her talent for food writing further in Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which is her love letter to food of all sorts. Growing up surrounded by chefs and bakers, Knisley has a deep appreciation for food and eagerly wants to share it. Relish is divided into chapters focusing on different foods, from pesto to huevos rancheros, and in each she explores the memories that connect her to food, as well as describing each food delectably. Best of all, she has recipes throughout the book. Trust me, try them—they’ve yielded the best chocolate chip cookies of my life!
In An Age of License, Knisley returns to the travelogue format and to Europe, on a travel-expenses-paid trip for a book tour. Despite the success of her professional life, Knisley’s personal life is in shambles, and she uses the trip to puzzle out her thoughts and try new experiences in hopes of moving on. Alongside the self-reflection, Knisley reminds readers of the pleasures of good food and foreign travel, even if traveling alone. An Age of License is a book for anyone who has wished they could shed their skin and become someone new, even if just for a few hours.
Displacement is a companion book to An Age of License, which document Knisley’s time on a cruise for the elderly with her grandparents. Where An Age of License lingers on the freedoms of being an untethered twenty-something, Displacement ponders the aging process and how the elderly fit into our society. As her grandparents’ sole caregiver on the cruise, Knisley grapples with their mortality and struggles to find a sense of who her grandparents are, despite the ravages of old age. By turns sobering and heartwarming, this book looks thoughtfully at how people age, and it will strike a chord with many younger adults.
If you, like me, have strong memories of pulling your hair out while wedding planning, you will relate to Knisley’s newest book, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride. Unexpectedly engaged and planning a wedding in under a year, Knisley details her exploits in creating the perfect-but-still-personal wedding. From picking a dress to fighting over the reception and DIY-ing everything, Knisley covers it all from the perspective of a bride blindsided by years of tradition and the bridal industry. Rest assured, this book is not all wedding doldrums—Knisley sprinkles in funny asides and bizarre trivia, like the real reason brides carry flowers down the aisle (to ward away trolls!), which make Something New a joy to read. Readers will root for Knisley and her fiancé and breathe a sigh of relief when everything works out in the end. After all, the most important part of a wedding is celebrating a new marriage, which Knisley reminds the reader (and herself) of throughout the book. Something New provides an informative look into the wedding-planning process, with a nice dose of levity to balance out the inherent chaos of weddings.
No matter which of Knisley’s books you pick up, you’ll find food to drool over and thoughtful observations on becoming an adult. If you’re interested in more memoir graphic novels, fill out a personalized reading list at www.mhklibrary.org or in person, or ask a librarian for a recommendation. Manhattan Public Library has a great selection to choose from!

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Books Reviewed by Our Summer Readers

by Rachael Schmidtlein, Teen and Tween Services Coordinator

Every summer a *magical* thing happens. Like the Monarchs that migrate to Mexico, crowds converge on the library in June and July to craft, to play video games, and to read. It’s a wonderful time of year that makes our librarian hearts expand with pride. However, summer is also a very busy time when our staff is giving out summer reading prizes, planning around 20 events a week and restocking the shelves as fast as humanly possible.

We love reviewing and recommending books, we really do, but during June and July we sometimes have to put that duty on the back burner. Luckily, we have a really great community that helps us out with that!

When anyone turns in their summer reading minutes, they have the opportunity to review a book they read during that time frame. Incredibly, when we were reviewing the most recent submissions, we realized that over six hundred and fifty books have been reviewed this summer.

Without further ado, I give you five books reviewed by YOU, our incredible Manhattanites.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (Young Adult Fiction)

“New Twist on Sleeping Beauty”

This masterfully written reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White is another work of art from the whimsical mind of Neil Gaiman. In this retelling, Snow White is a queen on a journey to rescue Sleeping Beauty and Sleeping Beauty isn’t quite in need of rescuing. Told in his typical creepy and dark fashion, Gaiman gives these tired stories a reboot.

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline (Adult Fiction)

“Real page-turner. Couldn’t put it down!”

Christine and Marcus find themselves facing the difficult reality of being unable to conceive a child. After an incredibly difficult road, they decide to use a donor. Now happily pregnant, they are ready to move on with their family. That is until Christine sees a man on TV being arrested for a series of brutal murders. The man also happens to undeniably remember her donor. Scottoline take the reader through an emotional and fast-paced journey that poses the question: what decisions would you make if the biological father of your unborn child was a killer?

 

Stolen by Lucy Christopher (Young Adult Fiction)

“This book is very gripping and at times heart-wrenching. At first you see Ty as a monster and Emma as a victim but, will that change? Will Emma learn to love Ty or will she escape and turn Ty in? There is no way to know…”

Sixteen year old Gemma has been kidnapped and taken to the Australian outback. However, her captor Ty is nothing like you would expect. Written as a letter, this story explores the complicated and unsettling nature of love and reliance. The desolate but beautiful Australian outback acts as a silent character, and readers are constantly torn between reality and unreliable characters.

 

Gumption by Nick Offerman (Adult Non-Fiction)

“Nick Offerman makes me feel like there are butterflies in my stomach. #mancrush #mancandymondayeveryday”

A combination of serious history and light humor, Nick Offerman tells of those throughout history who inspired him. This books meanders through the topics of religion, politics, woodworking, agriculture, philosophy, fashion and meat in a seriously funny way.

 

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Young Adult Fiction)

“If you are any sort of a Sherlockian (that is, any fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his characters), you will love this new take on the amazing duo, Sherlock and Watson. This novel is told from the point of view of a teenage descendant of the original Dr. James Watson. He meets his counterpart, Charlotte Holmes at a Connecticut boarding school called Sherringford. This is the first book in a trilogy about the two and the cases they solve.

I love this book and I love that the author references the original cases Doyle wrote about. I also love the title’s play on words.”

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The Gorgeous Agony of Becoming a Better Person

By Danielle Schapaugh

I know a Canadian novelist who can take your heart places it never wanted to go, while still making you happy you took the journey.

The first book I read by Lori Lansens, simply called “The Girls,” is the story of conjoined twins, told alternately by each sister. As shocking and uncomfortable as the tale gets at times, detailing the struggles, heartaches, and yearnings of the two longest surviving craniopagus twins, Lansens never forgets to circle back to the joy of living. You’ll be hooked from the start. The book begins with a poem written by Rose, one of the sisters:

“I have never looked into my sister’s eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to the beguiling moon. I’ve never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I’ve never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk. I’ve never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I’ve never done, buy oh, how I’ve been loved. And, if such things were to be, I’d live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially.”

After being charmed and heartbroken by “The Girls,” I decided to keep exploring. Next, I picked up “The Wife’s Tale” by Lori Lansens.

The Wife’s Tale” features a minor character from “The Girls,” their neighbor, Mary Gooch. Mary is the depressed and morbidly obese wife of a gregarious high school football star. She is at the lowest point of her life when she is forced to confront her fears and begin an agonizing journey of self-discovery. This book is filled with so much awkwardness that it makes the entire tale feel like a big, cathartic release.

For example, at one point Mary steps on a shard of glass after locking herself out of the house, naked, in a thunderstorm and her body will not allow her to reach her foot to remove the glass or staunch the bleeding. You will breathe a giant sigh of relief when everything turns out ok. This story will remind you to be thankful for the little things that go right in your life, and thankful that the tale ends happily.

Lori has two more books, although I recommend taking a break rather than reading them back-to-back. As enjoyable as it is dive into these heartbreaking stories and discover new things about your inner world, devouring them back-to-back could be a little rough on your psyche. You might want to pause and read a little Jude Devereaux (romance) or maybe a book from the Agency series by Y.S. Lee (Y.A. mystery) before continuing.

When you’re ready, it’s time to read “Rush Home Road.” Images from this book will stay with you for the rest of your life. I still think about Mum Addy teaching Sharla how to clean out the bathtub or Sharla climbing up to steal cookies from the top shelf. This is actually Lansen’s first novel and tells the story of two women who become family. Sharla is a five-year-old who is abandoned at Addy’s trailer-park doorstep. Addy is a seventy year old woman who shut herself off from her past. Together, they provide the love and support each has needed in order to heal.

Lansens’ latest novel, “A Mountain Story” also carries the theme of personal discovery and healing, but this time with a heavy dose of adventure and suspense. A series of missteps strands a group of hikers together in the wilderness. They band together to survive, and as the story turns more desperate they form an inextricable bond.

Lansens’ writing transforms the scale of daily living and brings the small details into focus. You will not be able to tear your eyes away from the text and you’ll begin experiencing your days in more vivid detail. You can really taste that morning coffee, feel the humidity cling to your skin, pay attention to the way your feet slide in the bathtub. Lansens’ books have a wonderful, transformative power to make you stop and appreciate things. For that fact alone, I would recommend them.  However, her books also give insight and empathy that help make the reader a better person. You should add them to your list immediately.

 

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Valiant Ambition: Nathaniel Philbrick Brings History Alive

by Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Though it was published some fifteen years ago, Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea has remained a terrific account of 19th century whaling adventures, complete with day-to-day details of the hardship, cannibalism and the mayhem caused by a violent sperm whale.  In fact, Philbrick’s account of the true tale that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick netted the National Book Award that year for the quality of its dramatic recreation of that period in history.  That was but one bestselling historical account that Philbrick produced.  In 2007, he released yet another stirring tale, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.  Steeped in violence and treacherous relationships, this one presents an account of early colonization that is much more realistic than what some histories would have us believe.  This book, too, earned widespread attention for readers around the world, was a finalist for the Pulitzer, and made the New York Times Book Review top ten of the year.

If you consider Philbrick one of your favorite nonfiction authors as I do, you’ll love his latest account that just came out this May.  Valiant Ambition traces the events of the Revolutionary War with the author’s usual candor and painstaking research, and what a story it is. Here’s what you might like about the book:

First of all, Benedict Arnold is one of the key players.  Long considered a traitor and unscrupulous human being, Arnold was initially one of the better generals under Washington’s command.  He was a courageous fighter and a seasoned combat veteran who strongly believed in the American cause.  He was the victim of political maneuverings that he could not stomach, and he came to resent being passed over for the promotions which he deserved.  Thus, Philbrick’s Arnold is a flawed but skilled commander who could not accept the deceit of those in power.

Obviously, George Washington is the leading figure in the book, but the image of the dignified and courageous leader that history has often portrayed him is absent, at least in the early part of the book.  At first an unseasoned commander, Washington made horrendous mistakes in leadership that could have easily cost the American forces the war.  In fact, he once intercepted a letter, not intended for his eyes, in which one American leader was highly critical of his botched combat tactics.

There is the also the added drama of accounts of the many witnesses that brings the battles to life.  Included, for example, is John Greenwood’s account of the siege of Trenton during which he saw the horse pulling the Americans’ only artillery struck by a six-pound cannonball.   Greenwood also tells of the panic when the Americans realized their soaked weapons would not fire, so they were forced to mount a bayonet charge against the trained Hessians they feared so much.

In addition, there is this intriguing playing out of strategy throughout the book.  We learn, for example, that British General Howe didn’t really want to engage the American forces in battle in the early days of the war.  Because of the inexperience, the high death rates, and the heavy losses of cannons and cannonballs, the American cause was viewed as a failure from the beginning.  Howe felt that all he had to do was wait for the inevitable.  We discover that Washington learned to focus on maneuverings that were the least expected.  One prime example was his re-taking of Princeton.  That operation succeeded because he led his troops at night to the rear of the British forces, only to attack on slippery, frozen fields at the break of day.

What makes this book as much a resounding success as the other Philbrick books is its attention to the way events and personalities really were.  Philbrick is a master of research, (see the 28 pages of his bibliography), and this vivid tale gives us the personality flaws, the glaring mistakes, and the horrors of that long ago war.  Magnificent reading!

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Debut Authors to Freshen Up Your Reading List

by Rhonna Hargett – Adult Services Manager

We’ve put away the coats and sweaters and pulled out the sandals and shorts. It’s time to tuck winter away and breathe in the fresh air of spring. Along with the new leaves, flowers, and grass, this is a great time to freshen up your reading with new authors. At Manhattan Public Library we have some fantastic books by debut authors that will invigorate your transition into summer.

In Dodgers by Bill Beverly, East, 15-year-old gang member from LA is sent on a road-trip to kill a witness in Wisconsin. Traveling in a minivan with three other gang members, including his younger brother, he is unprepared for the lessons forced upon him about his own identity and how he fits into the world around him. This bildungsroman/crime/road novel will appeal to fans of HBO’s The Wire.

Julie McElwain delivers mystery and romance with A Murder in Time. While FBI agent Kendra Donovan attempts to wreak revenge upon the criminal who killed her fellow agents, she is accidentally transported to 1815. She attempts to adapt to her surroundings, jumping in to offer her assistance in solving a murder. Described by Library Journal as “absolutely captivating,” McElwain leaves us in anxious anticipation for sequel.

When a naked newborn girl is found in the snow, 8-year-old Aurelia Vennaway takes her home and insists that her wealthy and unkind parents take the baby in. As they grow, Aurelia and the newly named Amy Snow grow to be the best of friends. When Aurelia dies unexpectedly, she leaves a letter that sends Amy on a treasure hunt to unlock a long-held secret. Set in Victorian England, Amy Snow by Tracy Rees delivers a tale of friendship and intrigue.

On a lighter note, Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen shows how one little black dress brings a bit of magic to the lives of nine women. From a Bloomingdale’s sales clerk mooning over her ex to a Brown grad with no job but a fabulous fake life on social media, all their lives are touched in this laugh-out-loud delight of a book. A great read for those who adored the movie Love Actually.

In We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenridge, Laurel Freeman is recruited by the Toneybee Institute to use their sign language skills to teach a chimpanzee named Charlie to speak. She and her family welcome Charlie into their home, not realizing how the relationship will interfere or the questionable background of the institute. Exploring issues of race, religion and communication, Greenridge’s novel exhibits her deft storytelling skills.


Rush Oh!
by Shirley Barrett takes us back to 1908 in New South Wales, Australia. Mary Davidson is responsible for the care of her five younger siblings, as well as cooking for the members of her father’s whaling crew. In this view into the domestic side of whaling, Barrett shares some of the nitty-gritty details, humorous tales, and Mary’s romance with a former Methodist minister on her father’s crew.

Shelter by Jung Yun explores the dilemma of Kyung Cho, a college professor who is drowning in debt. He resists moving his family to live with his wealthy, abusive parents, but is beginning to accept this as his best option. When his parents are the victims of a brutal crime, they instead move in with him, creating a stew of resentment and tensions. Booklist calls Yun’s debut “a work of relentless psychological sleuthing and sensitive insight.”

Yaa Gyasi’s saga Homegoing covers seven generations in Ghana and the United States, starting with the half-sisters Effia and Esi. Alternating chapters tell the stories of Effia’s life married to a British colonizer and Esi’s captured into slavery in the American South and of the descendants that followed them. Reminiscent of Alex Haley’s Roots or Lalita Tademy’s Cane River, Homegoing is painful at times, but Gyasi’s beautiful use of language skillfully considers how individual lives can shape the fabric of a nation.

Find out more about these titles at www.mhklibrary.org. If you would like to get the scoop on upcoming titles, go to our Books page to sign up for newsletters that we email out each month.

 

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Cookies Anyone?

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Who doesn’t want a cookie right now? Children, adults, even big, blue, furry monsters love cookies. They can be round, square, flat, fat, soft, crisp, with nuts, chocolate, coconut, or fruit. The cookie combinations are endless. Everyone has their favorite, but the most popular cookie in the United States is the chocolate chip variety. Today, 25% of all the cookies baked in the United States are chocolate chip.

The library is the place to go for cookie cookbooks. “The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book,” by Carolyn Wyman offers a fun, historical perspective on this popular cookie. She traces the development of the chocolate chip cookie from its 1930 inception at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, and expands it to include recipes inspired by cookbooks, chefs, and businesses. She also profiles famous cookie makers such as Otis Spunkmeyer and Famous Amos.

 

Nothing says love like a warm, home-made cookie. In today’s busy world, however, we sometimes have to settle for store-bought. Not to worry. Christi Farr Johnstone shows how to jazz up those store-bought cookies in “Smart Cookie: Transform Store-Bought Cookies into Amazing Treats.” By following the 50 decorating designs included, readers of all ages can turn store-bought cookies into eye-catching custom creations. In each project, Johnstone presents easy techniques so that the recipes require minimal time and equipment and no baking.

For those of us short on time there is also “Slice and Bake Cookies: Fast Recipes from your Refrigerator or Freezer,” by Elinor Klivans. The author shares 50 recipes that are quick to mix up, stash in the refrigerator or freezer, and have ready when the cookie monster in your house raises his hungry head. Included are classics such as old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookies and Linzer hearts, and modern takes on savory cookies and crackers.

There’s a cookie recipe for every day of the year, and you can sample them all in “The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of your Life.” Blogger and Pillsbury Bake-Off grand prize-winner Anna Ginsberg includes recipes for cookies, brownies, and bars for celebrating major holidays and every-day events. Her categorical indexes make it easy for readers to browse recipes by type, pan size, or batch size.

 

Cookies can be plain or fancy. For those looking for a truly high class cookie, look no farther than “The Gourmet Cookie Book,” by the publishers of “Gourmet” magazine. This book includes the Gourmet Magazine’s best cookie recipe for every year from 1941 through 2009. The recipes reflect changes in American tastes, such as the prevalence of coconut in the 1960s, and espresso in the 1990s.

Whether you called their biscuits or biscottis, cookies are a world-wide phenomenon. Try out some of the many recipes included in “Cookies: 1,001 Mouthwatering Recipes from Around the World,” by the publishers of “Reader’s Digest.” All kinds of cookies are represented: drop cookies, rolled cookies, brownies, icebox cookies, tea cakes, macaroons and more. Following the recipes in this book, an ambitious baker could bake a different cookie every weekend for 19 years without repeating a recipe.

Sometimes it’s a challenge getting the cookies in the oven before the cookie dough is eaten, raw eggs and all. Lindsay Landis offers an egg-free alternative in her “The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook.” Using her cookie dough, you can make dozens of delicious cookie dough creations from cakes, pies, candies, and even cookies.

May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day. Ruth Graves Wakefield’s creation of the original chocolate chip cookie was a happy accident. Ruth intended to bake chocolate cookies for her guests, but she ran out of baker’s chocolate. When she substituted chopped up semi-sweet chocolate, she discovered that the pieces did not melt into the dough as she expected. Her cookies were an instant hit, and they still are today.

 

 

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Garden for Wildlife

Janet Ulrey, Adult Services Librarian

Gardens are a wonderful way of gaining joy from the outside world. The visual beauty of flowers and plants is pleasing to the eye, but when a butterfly drops in for a visit, another dimension is added to heighten your gratification. It doesn’t matter if you have an apartment balcony or a 20-acre farm, a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife and helps restore habitat can be created. The month of May is “Garden for Wildlife” month, so, it is a fitting time to plant your own wildlife-friendly garden. Find significant resources at the library to help you get started.

“Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” by Douglas Tallamy, will get you off to a great start. Tallamy indicates that the gardener plays an important role in the management of our nation’s wildlife. The plants in your garden attract insects which are necessary to attract wildlife. He tells us which particular insects are best to have in your garden and what particular plants will lure them. This is a comprehensive book that will also help you decide which native plants will work best for your area to draw in desired wildlife.

What is more native to the garden than the bee? “The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity” by Kate Frey, is filled with beautiful photos. Frey tells us that spending time in a bee garden can be a source of pleasure, as well as therapy in your own backyard. Bee-friendly gardens also attract butterflies, moths, bats, and hummingbirds. It’s important to remember that bees provide many benefits, and they only sting when provoked.

Wildlife that you expect to see in the backyard are birds. “Backyard Birding: Using Natural Gardening to Attract Birds” by Julie Zickefoose, explains what type of plants you’ll need for different types of birds. The plants invite birds to the yard because of the food or shelter that they provide. Water is especially important to keep birds coming back, and Zickefoose shares some creative ways for you to supply the water they need. No matter which birds frequent your backyard, the experience of sharing your plot of earth with them will be rewarding.

Whether you want to attract birds, bats, or butterflies, “Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden: Creating Backyard and Balcony Habitats for Wildlife” by Catherine Johnson is an impressive asset. She not only shares which plants you should grow to entice the wildlife of your choice, but also gives simple instructions for building feeders, nesting boxes, and arbors.

The garden is an awe-inspiring place for children to discover nature. In April Pulley Sayre’s book “Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife Gardening with Kids”, simple steps are given that families can follow to create their own wildlife habitat. April reminds us that sound is often the first clue to the presence of wildlife. Children learn to listen, then look for the creatures that have tickled their ears. She also points out that the winter garden is a place of discovery; footprints in the snow give substantial clues to the wildlife that visit and can be a magnificent source of entertainment. Sharing life in a garden with children is sure to be lots of fun.

In this book, “Nature-Friendly Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Plants, Wildlife, and People” by Marlene Condon, the author not only gives insight on how to attract the right kind of insects, but also gives guidance in selecting the right binoculars for up-close viewing. Ms. Condon likes to use nesting boxes in her garden. As a result, she has seen eastern screech-owls, southern flying squirrels, and opossum take-up residency in them. She tells us that a gardener must plan to coexist with wildlife as well as their predators to make gardens imitative of the natural world.

There are many other selections available at the library to help you attract and enjoy wildlife in your own backyard. Why not get started today?

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All That Jazz @ the Library

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Celebrate International Jazz Day this April 30. In 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), designated April 30 as International Jazz Day. Its purpose was to bring communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts from all over the world together to celebrate and learn about jazz. This year’s global host city for International Jazz Day is Washington, D.C.

But you don’t have to travel to D.C. to learn about and experience jazz. Manhattan Public Library has an extensive collection of jazz music cds, as well as books and dvds, and thousands of items in the genre for streaming.

Experience jazz through film by checking out “Jazz,” by documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns. The ten dvd set presents the history of jazz from its birth in New Orleans, through the Big Band era, modern jazz, and the fusion of jazz and rock and roll. Along the way, you’ll hear selections from about 500 pieces of music. “Jazz: a History of America’s Music,” by Geoffrey C. Ward, is the companion volume to Burns’ film.

In the same vein, “Jazz,” by music critic Gary Giddings and historian Scott Deveaux has traced the development of jazz from its nineteenth-century precursors to the present. The authors present the story of jazz in the broader cultural, political, social, and economic factors of the times. The book includes a detailed glossary, as well as a list of recommended jazz recordings and jazz-related motion pictures and documentaries.

Don’t know your be bop from your downbeat? Beginners to the world of America’s quintessential music will benefit from reading “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Jazz,” by Loren Schoenberg. This is a concise history of jazz highlighting noteworthy composers and musicians, including a list of the most influential jazz recordings. Also a complete guide to jazz terminology.

If you need something a little simpler, there is always “Jazz for Dummies,” by Dirk Sutro. An informative reference to the music and its musicians, it also includes tips for building your own jazz collection and a list of more than 100 recommended recordings.

When we think of jazz, certain American cities come to mind. New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz; Chicago, where Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke set the standard in the 1920s; New York, where bebop was born in the 1940s; Los Angeles and San Francisco, with the development of the West Coast sound; and, of course, Kansas City.

“Kansas City Jazz,” by Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, gives the history of Kaycee jazz from ragtime to bebop. The Kansas City style of jazz developed during the 1930s, and marked the transition from big band orchestration to the improvisation of bebop. Kansas City is considered one of the “cradles of jazz.” Considered one of the most influential jazz saxophone players of all time, Charlie Parker, the Bird, was born in Kansas City. Future band leader, Count Basie played in Kansas City for several years, influencing the development of jazz.

Kansas City is also home to the American Jazz Museum. “Kansas City and All That’s Jazz,” published by the museum is full of historical photographs, and includes several articles about Kansas City jazz in its heyday.

The library has a diverse collection of jazz music cds available for checkout. But you don’t even have to leave your living room to access the more than 14,000 jazz recordings available for streaming through the library’s hoopla service. All you need to access the hoopla collection is a library card. Click the Digital Library link on the library’s web page, go to http://www.hoopladigital.com, or ask a librarian.

For more information about International Jazz Day, go to http://jazzday.com/. For all things jazz, visit the All about Jazz website at http://www.allaboutjazz.com. Next time you’re in the Kansas City area, don’t forget to visit the American Jazz Museum. Go to http://americanjazzmuseum.org for more information.

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 “Weirdo Fiction with a Shot of Southern Gothic Influence”

By Danielle Schapaugh

Not often will you find a witty, southern gothic, heartfelt, fiercely-loving, mystery story featuring Hindu mythology, but that’s just what Joshilyn Jackson’s latest novel “The Opposite of Everyone” has to offer.

Jackson is one of my favorite writers, always surprising readers with plot twists and engaging us with the kind of irreverent humor it takes to overcome hardship.  Her characters are authentic and original, and if you like to get wrapped up in a good story, she is a perfect author for you to explore.

“The Opposite of Everyone,” published in 2016, is the story of Paula Vauss, a smart and smart-mouthed divorce attorney who transformed herself after getting her gypsy-spirited mother arrested and imprisoned. Paula was only ten at the time and she was left to finish growing up in foster care with a new identity shaped by regret.  Her emotional armor expresses itself as sarcasm and outlandish behavior, but never does she seem crass or uncaring.  She’s someone you’ll want to meet. Paula’s mother has many secrets, but her love for her daughter and her unique approach to life and storytelling leave a deep imprint.

Then one day, her mother’s most treasured secret arrives on Paula’s doorstep and she is forced to crack open her armor to search for clues to her past and discover her mother’s whereabouts. This touching story has sharp edges, strong bonds, and a big heart. Paula is actually one of the minor characters from one of Jackson’s earlier novels “Someone Else’s Love Story,” which brings me to my next recommendation.

“Someone Else’s Love Story” is focused on Shandi Pierce and William Ashe.  Shandi is a young woman trying to raise a three-year-old genius, finish college, and keep her complicated life from jumping the rails—when she falls for William, an older man she meets at a gas station hold-up. As funny and “meet cute” as that sounds, this touching story is full of heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness, as well as humor.

None of Jackson’s characters is a flat stereotype, and that might be what I like most about her work. William Ashe, the hot, older-guy-hero Shandi falls for in “Someone Else’s Love Story,” is not just a good looking guy. William is a genetic scientist with Asperger’s. With the help of his best friend from high school (Paula Vauss from “The Opposite of Everyone”) he has learned to adjust. The chapters told from his perspective are full of the mental calculations he performs in order to read social situations, and they are never boring.

Jackson cares about her characters, and never does them the disservice of making even the minor players one-dimensional. In fact, she has another pair of novels that swap characters, and I think you will be interested to read them. Just between us, you should start with these if you are new to Jackson’s work.

The book that made me fall in love with Joshilyn Jackson’s writing is actually her very first novel, “Gods in Alabama.” This is a whopper of a story full of southern charm, grit, and sincerity.

godsThe tale begins with pressure. Arlene Fleet vowed never to return to Alabama, in fact, she made a deal with God about it. If He kept that dead body hidden, she would never again set foot in her hometown, never again see her family, and never again do the things that landed her in the predicament in the first place. Arlene goes about living a good life in Chicago, but unfortunately, neither party is able to hold up their end of the bargain.

Arlene’s family begs her to return. Her long-time boyfriend demands to meet her family.  Then Miss Rose Mae Lolly, who happens to be the former girlfriend of the dead body, shows up at Arlene’s doorstep looking for her lost love.

When you’ve finished “Gods in Alabama,” it’s time to pick up “Backseat Saints” and learn about the life of Miss Rose Mae Lolly. Rose is a hero in her own right, and Jackson will also show you another side of the dead quarterback. She proves, once again, that humans are more complicated and fascinating than we like to assume.

I can’t say enough about Joshilyn Jackson and I want to sum up my esteem for her saying, she’s just a great storyteller and I think you should start exploring her books immediately. Look for her books on the first floor of the Manhattan Public Library in the fiction section or find them at your local bookstore.

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The Growth of an American Icon:  Georgia O’Keefe in Fiction

By Marcia Allen, Manhattan Public Library

I’ve always been fond of fictional books like Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank, the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney’s affair with and influence on Frank Lloyd Wright.  Equally appealing to me was Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, which vividly conveyed the early marriage and the fractured relationship between Ernest and Hadley Hemingway.  What is it about such books?  Probably the intertwining of fact and fiction in telling the lives of famous artists.

And now I’ve discovered another jewel of a book.  Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe by Dawn Tripp is a masterful retelling of the love affair between O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, the famed American photographer who promoted O’Keeffe’s art and eventually married her.  I would highly recommend this new title to readers who are also drawn to similar tales for a variety of convincing reasons.

First, the author does an incredible job of developing O’Keeffe’s style.  Those familiar with her stark New Mexico landscapes and striking flower paintings will note the development of her talent throughout the story.   Her initial efforts promised talent, but her gradual creation of a totally new modern art form didn’t come until later.  Stieglitz recognized her potential early on, and encouraged her work, showing and selling it in his gallery.  The novel conveys this through vivid descriptions of settings that compelled the painter, as well as her frustration with pieces of art that she felt were unsuccessful. Vivid colors and open spaces are key throughout the book.

O’Keefe’s character is equally well rendered.  Always a very independent woman, she fought for her own style.  Extended stays in New Mexico gave her the opportunity to experiment with color and light, and she began collecting bones and rocks that inspired her.  A gradual realization that that landscape was essential to her work led to her many lengthening trips to the area and also to the most famous landscape paintings of her career.  Author Tripp’s descriptions of journeys to the Southwest and her lovely references to O’Keeffe’s favorite sites help us better see her creativity in progress.

More important to the book is O’Keefe’s relationship with Stieglitz.  Following a brief correspondence with him, the painter traveled to New York to show him her work.  The two formed an instant bond, and soon they became lovers, despite his marriage and the wide age gap between them.  A very messy divorce allowed the two to marry later.   As their relationship strengthened, Stieglitz arranged displays of her work and encouraged her to explore different mediums.  He also took the famous photographs of O’Keefe, both clothed and nude, that are still considered classics.  Because of Tripp’s careful research and her talent with the writing, we readers witness the intimacy and complexity in the relationship of two very talented and strong-willed individuals.O'Keeffe photographic portrait by Halsman

Tripp’s account of O’Keeffe’s mental breakdown is heartrending.  This collapse took place in the 1930s when a series of events became unbearable.   A contract to paint a mural in Radio City Music Hall fell through when the construction failed to meet deadlines. Stieglitz’s ongoing love affairs became blatant, and O’Keefe could no longer accept his assurances that she was the love of his life.  She found, too, that his insistence on dominating the direction of her career stifled her independence.  The passages in the book that convey this turmoil are fraught with helplessness and despair.  O’Keeffe experienced a grief that became a physical one, because of the death of her long relationship with Stieglitz.  There’s a sad healing realization toward the end that she had to be alone to fulfill her talent.

Like all books that are so well written and so revealing, this one has sparked my curiosity about the life of O’Keeffe.  I plan to re-read Roxana Robinson’s memorable Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life in the near future.  Author Tripp cites it as one of her research sources for this lovely fictional rendition.  You just might wish to do the same.

 

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