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Remembering Martin

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Gospel of FreedomTomorrow, January 16, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A federal holiday since being signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, MLK Day is observed on the third Monday of January. King’s actual birthday is January 15.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech is included in most lists of the greatest speeches in American history. Clarence Jones gives the story behind the speech in “Behind the Dream: the Making of the Speech That Transformed a Nation.”  Jones, co-writer of the speech and close confidant of King, gives a behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, and reveals the collaboration leading to the speech that would shape the civil rights movement and inspire Americans for years to come.

King: a Biography,” by David Lewis is a foundational biography first published shortly after King’s death. Acclaimed by historians and critics alike, this updated edition includes a new preface, as well as additional photographs of King and his contemporaries.

For a more personal portrait of Dr. King, choose “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Edited by Clayborne Carson, this history-making autobiography portrays Dr. King in his own words. Carson has utilized published and unpublished writings by King, as well as his speeches, interviews, notes, and sermons. The result for the reader is an intimate sharing in the trials and triumphs of Dr. King, including the Montgomery Boycott, the “I Have a Dream” speech, the Selma March, and the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

On April 12, 1963, King was arrested in Birmingham for violating a court injunction against marching in the city’s street. In response to eight white clergymen who accused him of being a violent extremist, King addressed his famous letter from Birmingham jail. In “Gospel of Freedom; Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle that Changed a Nation,” Jonathan Rieder discusses the events that led up to King’s arrest, and addresses the letter’s importance during the struggle for civil rights.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed on April 4, 1968 while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine motel in Memphis, where he was supporting a strike of sanitation workers. “Death of a King: the Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year,” by Tavis Smiley chronicles the last year of Dr. King’s life. The bookends of this fateful year are April 4, 1967, when King made his first anti-war speech, and April 4, 1968. Throughout his book, Smiley raises the question, “What kind of man had Martin Luther King, Jr. become during the last year of his life?”

For a comprehensive examination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement, and its place in American history, select Taylor Branch’s three volume opus. The first volume in the series, “Parting the Waters,” covers the years 1954-1963, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Volume Two, “Pillar of Fire,’ looks at the years 1963-1965, while the third volume “At Canaan’s Edge,” concludes with the years 1965-1968.

There are several titles for young readers available at the library, including “I am Martin Luther King, Jr.,” by Brad Meltzer. This title is part of a series of biographies for children by an author better known for his political thrillers. In its pages, kids will learn that even as a child Martin Luther King, Jr. was shocked by unfair treatment of African-American people. So, when he grew up, he decided to do something about it, fighting injustice with powerful words.

Also for children, “What was your Dream, Dr. King?,” by Mary Kay Carson. This book is arranged in a question and answer format. In its pages curious readers will find the answers to their most burning questions about Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition to its sheer beauty, children will also learn from “I Have a Dream,” by Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifteen award-winning artists illustrate the words of Dr. King’s most famous speech. This title also includes a CD of the speech.

Remember to also checkout Hoopla for titles about Martin Luther King, Jr. in a variety of formats. With your Manhattan Public Library card, you can stream or download 5 titles from Hoopla every month at no charge.

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Heart-warming Reads

by Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

Last Bus to WisdomThese months after the bustle of the holidays, with a long wait for the warmth of spring, can feel a bit dreary. To ward off the winter blues, sitting down (preferably with an afghan and a cup of tea) to a heart-warming book can improve your outlook.

The author of the vastly popular A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman, has returned with another tale full of heart and hope, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. At seven years old, Elsa faces the loss of her beloved grandmother and her stories of the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, but she takes on the adventure of delivering her granny’s apology letters. Through her quest, Elsa learns that support can exist in surprising places and that sometimes fairy tales contain the truths of life.

In the delightful novel The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, Sara travels from Sweden to Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet her avid-reader pen pal, Amy. When she arrives to learn that Amy has just died, she hunkers down in Amy’s house full of books. She’s eventually inspired to open a book store to share her beloved friend’s love of books with her non-reading community, starting a series of subtle changes that will touch the town and Sara forever.

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore brings to life Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean. The life-long friends have met for years at their favorite local diner to eat the best food in town, gossip, and take care of one another. Full of humor and unforgettable characters, Moore’s novel affirms the value of friendship, community, humor, and a good piece of pie.

Ivan Doig takes us on a 1951 road trip in Last Bus to Wisdom. Eleven-year-old Donal Cameron is shipped off to an aunt in Wisconsin when the grandmother raising him in Montana has to have surgery. Aunt Kate is nothing like his sweet Gran, and he can’t seem to get on her good side. After Donal pushes Kate too far, she sends him back to the authorities in Montana and her hen-pecked husband, Herman the German, takes the opportunity to escape with the boy. Doig was known for his outstanding abilities as a storyteller and this humorous road novel demonstrates his mastery.

Lynne Cox was the first person to swim both the Straits of Magellan and around the Cape of Good Hope, but she faces completely new challenges in her memoir Swimming in the Sink: An Episode of the Heart. Following the deaths of her parents and her beloved dog, she is diagnosed with arterial fibrillation, which sets her back severely. Her book shares her struggle toward recovery and her recognition of the importance of her community.

Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway by Peter Zheutlin tells the story of Greg Mahle’s mission to bring dogs from Southern shelters and find loving homes for them in the North. The author traveled with Mahle and shares the tales of the road trip, including the awful conditions that some animals experience and the inspiring people who dedicate their lives to saving them.

Rabbi Susan Silverman examines the meaning of identity, faith, and family in her autobiography Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World. Silverman chronicles her childhood in a loving family that faced difficulties together. It also tells of the creation of her own family as she and her husband add to their three daughters by adopting two sons from Ethiopia. Her sharp sense of humor shines through this thoughtful perusal of a fascinating life.

Horace Mann once said “A house without books is like a room without windows.” A heartwarming read is the perfect way to open your mind and let some light into the long months of winter.

 

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After the Feast

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

The Mediterranean Diet for BeginnersFirst there was Thanksgiving with its turkey and pumpkin pie (and everything else), and a few short weeks later, here’s Christmas. And the feasting hasn’t let up for a moment between the two. But now it’s over. It is time to get back to reality. It’s time to start eating right again.

But what’s right? The dizzying array of healthy eating and weight loss options is confusing, to say the least. What’s best, Atkins, or Weight Watchers? Paleo or Glycemic Index? Macrobiotic, Mediterranean, Nutrisystem, South Beach, Volumetics, Blood Type, 3 Hour, how do we make sense of all the choices?

Start at the Manhattan Public Library. The library has an extensive collection of diet books in traditional paper format, and also available for free download through the Sunflower eLibrary and Hoopla.

Some diets preach a no or low carbohydrate lifestyle. In “The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You were Designed to Eat,” Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo movement, demonstrates how to prevent and treat heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and other illnesses. The key is a diet rich in lean meats and fish, fruit and non-starchy vegetables. No rice, potatoes, bread, or pasta on this diet.

Cardiologist Robert Atkins developed a high protein, low carbohydrate diet that is still popular. In his “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution,” Atkins returns 20 years after the original publication of his diet to insist that sugar, refined white flour, and carbohydrate-based junk food are far more harmful to our health than meat and fish, eggs and butter. Bacon for breakfast every day is OK with Atkins.

Sugar is the villain in many diets. In “The New Sugar Busters,” H. Leighton Stewart and co-authors, argue that cutting sugar from your diet, will also trim fat. They favor a diet of unrefined foods high in fiber and low on sugar. White foods, including potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta, and refined sugar are out. Keeping them out, the authors maintain, will result in weight loss and improved overall health.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the protein rich diets is “The 80/10/10 Diet: Balancing Your Health, Your Weight, and Your Life One Luscious Bite at a Time,” by Douglas N. Graham. Graham, an adviser to world-class athletes and an adherent of raw foods, espouses a diet of 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein, and 10% fat.  This diet of whole, fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables, he claims, will result in easy weight management, disease reversal, and optimum health.

Eating habits that work for one person may not be effective for someone else. According to weight loss specialist Dr. Scott Rigden, there is no miracle diet that works for everyone. In “The Ultimate Metabolism Diet: Eat Right for Your Metabolic Type,” Rigden explains that everyone has a unique body type with a corresponding metabolism. He identifies five metabolic types, provides questionnaires to assist people in identifying their own type, and offers specific dietary and lifestyle habits to ease the pain of weight loss.

America ranks number 12 among the most obese countries in the world (http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/29-most-obese-countries-in-the-world.html). It’s no secret, we aren’t eating right. But are there places in the world where people are eating right, that we can learn from? In “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People,” Dan Buettner writes about the places in the world where people eat and live right. Included in the blue zones are Okinawa, Sardinia, the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece, and Loma Linda, California.  In addition to diet, Buettner stresses the importance of social networks, daily rituals, physical environment, and the sense of purpose enjoyed by these populations.

The Mediterranean diet is another popular way of eating. In titles including “The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners,” and “The Mediterranean Diet for Everyday,” this heart-healthy eating lifestyle features fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, lean meats and fish, and good fats like avocado and olive oil.

If you want to ring in the New Year by starting to eat right, or by losing a few of those holiday pounds, there’s no shortage of books claiming to have the answers. Whether you want to try “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” or “The Shangri-la Diet: the No Hunger, Eat Anything Weight Loss Plan,” or even “The Fat Flush Plan,” you’ll find them all at the library.

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Library Staff Favorite Reads in 2016

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

The War that Saved My LifeWhat makes a great reading experience?  Is the author, the subject matter, the style?  For most of us, it’s some combination of factors that makes a book truly memorable.  We all have favorites, and while others may not understand our enthusiasm for a particular book, we recall that certain title that really touched us.

I spoke with several staff members at the library, asking for their 2016 picks for top book.  Some suggested newer titles, but others found choices among some of the older titles in our collections.  What follows are their picks and their reasons for their selections.  With a little luck, you might find your own next treasure among their favorites.

Here are ten titles the staff encourage you to read:

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was a first choice.  This work is children’s historical fiction that takes place in London during World War II.  Young Ada, who has a twisted foot, is neglected by her mother, but the girl flees her mother and follows her brother to a safe home outside the town.  Our reader notes that the girl had to go through a lot of different stuff before the book turns toward a more hopeful ending.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado is an adult nonfiction title that forces the reader to think in a different perspective.  Author Tirado experienced poverty first hand, but she also developed a sense of humor that is admirable.  Our reader noted that the author made some wrong decisions, but they were not always a personal choice.

Feel like some science fiction?  One reader spoke highly of The Golden Son by Pierce Brown, the second volume in the Red Rising Trilogy.  Why a favorite?  It is something of a Hunger Games tale for adults, a story that demonstrates how a singular event can affect so much.  Then, too, there is so much action that makes this book appealing.

And that wasn’t the only science fiction title.  Another reader had warm praise for Iain Banks’s Consider PhlebasThis tale concerns a galactic war in which ships are creations of artificial intelligence.  The reader describes the book as a very different take on humanity.

Another reader is an admirer of Patti Smith and had the great fortune of seeing her perform in Kansas City in the 1980s.  Her choice of title?  Smith’s M Train, an adult biographical meditation.  Our reader noted that Smith in a unique thinker who very creatively discussed her own life throughout the book.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper is another favorite.  This fiction title is an adult story of an elderly Canadian woman who has never seen the ocean. And so, she decides to walk across the country to see it, a trip which husband Otto comprehends because he, too, once traveled a great distance.  Our reader enjoyed the great prose the book offered, the way the language flowed.

One of our readers highly praises Small Great Things by perennial favorite Jodi Picoult.  This well written tale concerns a fictional encounter between a white supremacist and an African American nurse.  What follows is a tragedy during which the reader sees both complex points of view.

Another newer favorite is Paulette Jiles’s News of the WorldOne reader described the story as another take on True Grit by Charles Portis.  In fictional 19th century Texas, an older gentleman accompanies a young girl on her return to relatives after she was kidnapped some years earlier by the Kiowa.  Despite the fact that the girl speaks no English, the two travelers bond during a perilous journey that leads to an uplifting finish.

A young adult selection that gained great praise from a reader is David Levithan’s Two Boys KissingThe book is about gay teenagers, but it is also about so much more.  Our reader said the book had an incredible impact and left her with a sense of raw emotions.

Let’s end on another science fiction title.  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is the story of a character kidnapped by his alternative self from a parallel universe.  His task becomes the struggle to return to his home.  Why the appeal?  Our reader said it was a story like he’d never encountered before.

Whatever your choices, please visit the library.  All of the staff wish you years of fulfilling reading.

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Cooking Christmas

By Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

Real Simple: CelebrationsWe’ve all learned that the holidays have their share of hectic preparations and unexpected disasters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring new discoveries and moments of joy to our gatherings with friends and family.  Manhattan Public Library invites you to browse among the following cooking and entertaining books that just might lighten your already busy schedules.

For openers, “Everything Christmascompiled by David Bordon and Tom Winters will set the mood.  This lovely book of Christmas stories, mouthwatering recipes, and holiday carols and poems is just an opener.  Also included are Christmas trivia and humorous details.

Need some lighthearted humor in your days?  “Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Get Festiveby Jen Yates will surely do the trick.  This holiday cookbook is guaranteed to “bring confectionary hilarity and horror” (according to Library Journal reviews) into your life with its less-than-happy Hanukkah horrors, Christmas conundrums, and New Year’s meltdowns.  How?  There’s an icing-smeared disaster cake for every possible occasion.

Perhaps you just need some good cheer to boost your enthusiasm.  If that’s the case, “Debbie Macomber’s Christmas Cookbook” or “Christmas with Paula Deen: Recipes and Stories from My Favorite Holiday” are two special volumes with much to offer.  Both books delight with their unique personal memories, tantalizing recipes, and creative decorating and gift wrapping tips.

The holidays wouldn’t be complete without an array of special sweet desserts. How about forgoing the usual decorated sugar cookies for something with an international flair?  “Festive Baking: Holiday Classics in the Swiss, German and Austrian Tradition” by Sarah Kelly Iaia is exquisite.  The German table, famous for its rich heavily-spiced desserts, coaxes you to experiment with specialty breads and pungent spices.  The book promises that your home will comfort all who enter with its delightful aromas.

If you’re still convinced that traditional holiday cooking is the best, “Beatrice Ojakangas’ Great Holiday Baking Book” is a safe bet.  This book offers a wide selection of international treats specially gathered for Passover and Christmas.  Best of all, the book advises the busy cook with mouth-watering desserts that can be made ahead and frozen.

The holidays would not be complete without vegan offerings.  “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” is perfect for some.  Author Nava Atlas has gathered some 200 beautiful recipes, many of which are ideal for Christmas and Hanukkah.

Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook” is a compilation of some 400 recipes, personal comments, and culinary history passed down from generations of Jewish cooks.  For those who yearn for traditional recipes, modern adaptations help ease the difficulty of gathering ingredients and determining portions.

Angela Shelf Medearis offers a wealth of festive ideas for the celebration of Kwanzaa in “Ideas for Entertaining from the African-American Kitchen.”  Included in this excellent book are recipes, party planning tips, and other ideas, as well as historical information relevant for the holidays.

Let’s get serious about home decorating.  What if you’re looking for a something other than the traditional red and green for your home decoration?  “White Christmas: Decorating and Entertaining for the Holiday Season” may be what you’re missing.  Best-selling home decorator Tricia Foley has reinterpreted time-honored customs and simple yet stunning design with her combination of rich evergreen touches on a white-on-white decorating style.

Nervous about entertaining your guests this season?  Don’t be!  “Daisy’s Holiday Cooking, Delicious Latin Recipes for Effortless Entertaining by Daisy Martinez opens to you a world of Latin-themed events.  Especially inviting is her Christmas Eve dinner for six that incudes Tamarind Margaritas, Roasted Duck, and Arroz Con Pato.  If ease is a main concern for you, “Real Simple: Celebrations” by Valerie Rains is just what you need.  This handy book guides you through amazingly easy-to-arrange parties, and it includes hints on terrific hors d’oeuvres and hassle-free cleanup.

There’s no reason for you to miss out on the fun of gatherings this holiday season.  Come browse the unique selections of holiday cooking and decorating books that Manhattan Public Library has to offer.  You’re bound to find something that will help you create a memorable celebration for all your guests.

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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.

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

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