Archive for Young Adult Dept

The Modern Face of Feminism

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

How to Be a WomanAccording to author Rebecca Solnit, women have a long way to go before they are treated as equals to men.

In her book Men Explain Things to Me, Solnit cites alarming statistics about violence against women that back up her claim. One such fact, confirmed by the Center for Disease Control, Women’s Health USA, WebMD, and other reliable sources, is that murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States today. This information shocked me and prompted me to investigate the topic of modern feminism.

Solnit’s book begins with a funny but frustratingly familiar anecdote about her experience at a social gathering in Aspen, Colorado. The male host of the party pulls Rebecca aside, asks her what she does for a living, then proceeds to educate her about a fascinating book he recently discovered. The book happens to be her own work, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West. But so convinced is he that a woman could not possibly have been the author that Rebecca’s friend has to interrupt him saying “That’s her book” five times before he will believe it.

The host is embarrassed when he learns he has been explaining something to the person who literally “wrote the book” on it. Rebecca leaves the party ready to dismiss the mistake, but instead she decides to delve a little deeper into the circumstances which created the all-too-familiar situation. Why was it so easy for the host to assume he knew more than she did? Why did she initially take the bait, reacting in a “typical female way” by failing to stand up for herself?

Solnit’s initial essay exploring those questions went viral in 2008, and is credited with inspiring the term “mansplaining.” She compiled several more essays about gender equality and released the collection as Men Explain Things to Me in 2014.

To continue my quest, I checked out How to Be a Woman by humorist Caitlin Moran. This was a lighter read and provided a bit of a break. Moran’s book is full of relatable stories and personal anecdotes which highlight some of the struggles women experience. She shared her memories honestly and with wit, and because of her openness, her book is likely to make you feel less alone in the world. I would not recommend it as a particularly “feminist text,” but it was insightful and personal, and I enjoyed the book.

Searching for another work which would embody feminist ideals, I picked up the classic Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and my socks were knocked off.

Friedan wrote this groundbreaking work in 1963 and is credited for igniting a revolution. She called the typical expectations and roles assigned to women “soft prisons (which) destroyed the human identity.” She advocated for women to stand up, fight for their own sense of humanity and importance, and not be silenced.

Friedan went on to found the National Organization for Women. She was adamant that women should find their own voice through self-actualization and empowerment. She wrote “Men are not the enemy, but fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.” I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It explores underlying issues still facing women and men today, such as personal fulfillment, career vs. family responsibilities, and identity.

If you have a young person in your life who may not be ready to take on the challenge of Feminine Mystique, a new book for young adult audiences has been flying off the shelves. Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen is a compilation of works by forty-four different artists; each contributor shares ideas and stories in a scrapbook format. The works encourage teens to explore identity and cultural norms by challenging perspectives. I appreciated that the book offered many different views, even some which contradicted each other, thus further encouraging readers to think critically.

One important point I want to stress about feminism and Women’s History Month is that stories by and about women are not relevant only to women. Each work I read has relevance for humans trying to live on the planet together, and I encourage people of all backgrounds to read them.

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Judging Books by Their Covers

By Jared Richards, Adult Services Librarian

The De-TextbookThe cover is bright blue and neon yellow with a bright pink spine. That is how Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal caught my eye. On the back she describes the cover of a book as being extra credit. The contents of a book are really what matter, but a cool cover can help.

You should never judge a book by its cover, as the old adage goes. I believe this is a good rule of thumb when it comes to not judging or underestimating people based on their appearance, but I find that judging literal books by their covers is a perfectly acceptable practice. According to the International Publishers Association’s annual report for 2015-2016, there were 338,986 new titles published in the United States in 2015. If you were to read a book a week, it would take you over 6,500 years to read all of those books, and more than 900 years even if you read a book each day. When faced with those sorts of numbers, you need strategies for finding a good book. If anyone wants to judge you for judging covers, just let them know that designing covers is a legitimate career that would not exist if people didn’t care about book covers. So let’s take a look at some extra credit.

The De-Textbook from the writers of Cracked.com is a book that gives you the truth about the things you learned in school that were often wrong. The cover shows an illustrated profile of a human head broken into compartments, occupied by various things like: King Tut, Shakespeare, and giant birds. A cleaning crew is spread throughout compartments cleaning out the myths, which are being piped from the back of the head via a spigot. It gets the point of the book across quite well.

There are twenty-nine small figures in red tank-tops and black shorts, most with a basketball, aligned in five rows on the cover of Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson. There is also a lone gorilla, a reference to the now famous experiment on inattentional blindness by Daniel Simons. The experiment involved a video in which participants were asked to focus on one specific thing, causing half of them to miss the gorilla walking through the middle of the scene. Davidson’s book is about rethinking education and business in the age of modern technology with a focus on attention studies and anecdotal evidence – an interesting idea with an intriguing cover.

Few covers have lived up to the title of a book more completely than the cover of Incredibly Decadent Desserts by Deb Wise. Imagine a single piece of the best chocolate pie you have ever had, piled high with whipped topping, and accompanied by a gold fork because it’s decadent. This cover sets the stage perfectly and whets the reader’s appetite for the rest of the book, which is filled with mouthwatering food photography and recipes, each tastier than the last.

The cover of The Butterflies of North American: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript shows one half of a butterfly. The other half is on the back of the book, which is bound in such a way that it can be opened completely, allowing the front and back covers to touch, creating a whole butterfly. This little touch shows the attention to detail put into this book, which collects the full color plates of notes and numerous butterflies and caterpillars illustrated by Peale, an artist and naturalist from the 1800s.

A woman in a red coat and ruby high heels, holding a red umbrella in the rain, and seeming to defy gravity as she hangs in mid-air doing the splits on a city street. That is on the cover of Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter, a book inspired by watching his young son create an imaginary play world. It captures photographs of dancers in regular clothes, engaged in often mundane tasks, but expressing the joy and fantastical nature of a child’s imagination, through feats of athleticism.

This article has come to an end, but a picture is worth a thousand words, so come on down to the Manhattan Public Library and judge these covers for yourselves. As an added bonus, if you happen to judge covers based on their color, you’re in luck. This month we have a display devoted to books with green covers. A famous frog once said “It’s not easy being green,” but it is easy finding green books at the library.

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Reading the Oscars

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

ArrivalEvery year the buzz around the Oscars focuses on the gowns and the gossip, but this long-standing American tradition is really about telling stories. The 2017 Oscars offers the usual spectrum of brilliantly-told tales, with many of them based on books you can find at your library. Let’s start with the biggies, the nominees for best picture.

Arrival is based on a short story in Ted Chiang’s collection The Stories of Your Life and Others. In this thought-provoking short story, a linguist is asked to help communicate with alien lifeforms that have come to Earth. Her interactions with them expose her to a different way of looking at time, allowing her to remember the past and the future. Chiang forces readers to re-evaluate their assumptions of social constructs and see the world in a new way.

Fences, the play by August Wilson, has already won a Tony Award for Best Play and a Pulitzer Prize for drama. The story of an African-American family in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, Fences forces us to take a closer look at disappointed hopes and the legacy they can create. Troy, the head of the family, was a talented player in Negro League baseball in his younger years but is now a trash collector. His disappointed hopes affect his relationship with his sons.

Hidden Figures is based on the nonfiction book by Margo Lee Shetterly about the black women mathematicians who helped the United States move ahead in the space race. During World War 2, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics sought out talented individuals to support the work of their engineers. Due to the labor shortages, these African-American math teachers from the South were able to use their skills to become important contributors to history, even if no one knew about them.

Lion is based on the true story A Long Way from Home by Saroo Brierley. When he was four years old in India, he ended up on the wrong train and was separated from his brother. After wandering lost, he was eventually adopted by a couple in Australia. Even with the love he received from his parents, he was never able to forget his original family. In his late 20’s he was able to use Google Earth and the slight cues from his memory to finally locate his home.

In the foreign language film category, there’s a title that’s had its share of buzz even without a movie, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. A grumpy old man has his orderly world upended when a friendly family moves in next door and promptly runs over his mailbox. In this heartwarming tale, Ove thinks he is done with life, but his meddling neighbors, with their baked goods and sweet daughters, might be able to convince him otherwise.

With words that inspire costume design nominations, J.K. Rowling has come through again in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A guide that no self-respecting wizard home would be seen without, Fantastic Beasts covers magical creatures, along with their habitats and habits. Although the filmmakers created a gripping story, keep in mind that the book is an encyclopedia. Rowling’s imagination and humor still shine through, even with the different format.

The film based on Ron Suskind’s book Life, Animated is nominated in the documentary category. Suskind’s son Owen is autistic, but he was able to communicate and his family could communicate with him using the songs and dialogue of Disney movies. This is a beautiful memoir of a family using stories to help a boy make sense of the world.

Pairing books with movies is an excellent way to experience more of the world and to go further into the story. When the glamour of the Oscars has faded away, you can continue to enjoy the delight of a good tale, and the library will be here to guide the way.

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Books to Read if You Like The Walking Dead

By Amber Johnson, Youth Services Library Assistant

Rot & RuinA post-apocalyptic story at its finest, The Walking Dead tells the story of sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, after he wakes from a coma to find the world infested with “walkers.” Survival becomes tantamount to Rick and the people he meets along the way, as they try to avoid the ever-growing zombie population. This show, for some, has become more than just a story with zombies.  It has become a commentary on the nature of violence and the lengths to which we go to survive and thrive. As the second part of season seven begins tonight, here are some books that might pique your interest.

Feed by Mira Grant

The zombie apocalypse has happened, but information regarding it doesn’t seem to be very widespread.  Mainstream news has yet to reveal what the infected are actually doing, but bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are shouting the truth loud for all to hear.  When they are asked to be a part of the presidential campaign, they find out that the zombies themselves might not be their worst enemies.

Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The only world Mary has ever known has been inside the walls of her community.  The Guardians serve to protect the community from the Unconsecrated, who live beyond the wall and seek to turn people into their own, into the undead.  In this softer, less violent story, Mary seeks to understand her world and the limitations that have been set before her, wondering what kind of threat the Unconsecrated actually hold for her.

Partials by Dan Wells

The human race has been ravaged by a weaponized virus, and the survivors are currently hiding out on Long Island.  Living under mandatory pregnancy laws and in such close quarters, the community is finding it hard to maintain sanity and composure.  Sixteen-year-old Kira is doing everything in her power as a medic not only to reclaim immunity for humans, but also to keep those still living from taking each other out.

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Benny Imura wants more out of life than following in his brother’s footsteps as a zombie hunter.  Tom, his brother, is respected, revered and just insanely good at what he does.  In a post-apocalyptic world in which “zoms” run rampant, the job of bounty hunter has become even more important.  As Benny wrestles with his animosity towards his brother, the threat of zombies, and the truth about his family, he might just discover more about his own identity in the meantime.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Nailer is a “ship breaker,” meaning he salvages parts and pieces from old ships, in hopes of finding something to build a life on.  While fortunate enough to have the opportunity to salvage, Nailer goes home to a shanty town and a deadbeat dad.  The idea of rising above this life of poverty and hopelessness is beyond his imagination.  When he discovers a survivor on one of the boats, a wealthy girl named Nita, he has to decide what to do next. Kill her and take all her wealth? Or help her out, trusting his chance at a better life will come soon?

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

The end of the world has arrived, and six students are hiding out in their school, listening to the sounds of zombies trying to get in.  The situation seems dire, but to Sloane, the world collapsed before the apocalypse happened.  With not much left to live for, Sloane gets to watch her classmates struggle to understand their new reality and learn how to interact with each other.

After you’ve hunkered down to watch the beginning of the second part of this season, be sure to stop by the library to check out these titles. Or if you’re new to The Walking Dead series, use your library card to check out the seasons on DVD.

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Self-Help for Non-Gurus

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

The Miracle of MindfulnessI am an unabashed fan of self-help books. What better way to spend your time than by improving yourself and your life? Someone once told me that Ghandi said “be the change you wish to see in the world.” So, let’s go! Here are a few of my favorite self-helpers that are guaranteed not to bore you with platitudes.

The title of Jen Sincero’s book You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life gives the first clue about how funny, irreverent, and straight-talking she is. Sincero is the tough-loving best friend who can be blunt without ever hurting your feelings. Chapters like “My Subconscious Made Me Do It” and “Fear is for Suckers” will share good tips, teach you how to find the courage to change your life, and keep you laughing all at the same time.

What I love most about this book is that Sincero never gets preachy. Her words are always loving and often hilarious. Her main advice, which she repeats at the end of each chapter, is to love yourself and everything else will fall into place.  Plus, she isn’t snooty. Sincero uses the word “ain’t,” and phrases such as “break out the booze,” which keep her from sounding “holier than thou.”

You are a Badass has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than a year, and Jen Sincero professes to have helped “even the most skeptical self-helpers change their lives.” It’s definitely worth checking out.

Sincero also has a new book coming out in April. You are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth promises to be “a refreshingly frank and entertaining step-by-step guide.” From what I’ve read so far, it’s probably going to be another bestseller so you should keep it on your radar.

Another book which has helped me greatly, and I believe has changed my life, is called The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. Mindfulness describes a state of being aware and awake for even the small moments in our lives. Have you ever arrived at work without being able to remember the drive? Do you sometimes look up from your Facebook feed to realize that hours have passed? It’s easy to get caught up in tasks and forget to enjoy the experience of being alive, but this unfortunately means that we also miss out on the joys of living.

In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Hahn shares stories and practical advice which remind us to pay attention. He gives readers practice skills which can be as simple as not reaching for the next bite of food until you finish chewing. His teaching style is loving and gentle, and after you read his book you will find yourself breathing deeper and noticing things you used to take for granted.

Finally, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler, is the best resource I’ve found for making difficult conversations end well. The book is well-researched, backed up with both practical advice and statistical information, and will give you concrete examples of how to check your emotions and speak respectfully even in heated situations.

Crucial Conversations will set you up for communication success. By taking a moment to decide what you want out of a conversation and acknowledging the needs of the other person, you can create safe space for everyone involved. Most importantly, you will learn how to speak honestly and directly without damaging your relationships. The techniques are easy to remember, and this would be a good book to study as a group. I’ve noticed immediate results from the skills I learned in Crucial Conversations and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know.

Even though it’s a catchy phrase for bumper stickers, Ghandi did not actually say “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” He did, however, say that “if we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Working on yourself can have widespread effects in your family and in all of your relationships. Now is always the perfect time to take small steps to improve your life. For more recommendations, or to check out any of these books, visit the Manhattan Public Library.

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Don’t Ditch Those Resolutions

By Gigi Holman, Adult Services Librarian

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy LivingEvery year on January 1, a large percentage of Americans resolve to better themselves. And then a couple of weeks into the new year, they have returned to our old routines, and these goals have gone by the wayside. In fact, this happens so often that there is an official holiday for it called “Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day.” If you are one of those people who are on the edge of “ditching your resolution,” never fear! The library has inspiring books that will help you get back on track to achieving your resolutions.

If your resolution is to get healthy, start with If Our Bodies Could Talk: A Guide to Operating and Maintaining a Human Body by James Hamblin. A basic understanding of how our bodies operate can lead to better health. Hamblin explores the many health questions that we all have about our bodies including sleep, aging, nutrition, and much more. He presents facts in an engaging and entertaining way. One great thing about this book is that it sparks your curiosity. You can jump from topic to topic as if you were a kid who is reading through the encyclopedia set for the first time.

Getting organized can be overwhelming. Marie Kondo, who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and a companion book, Spark Joy, will help you find joy in decluttering your home. Her famous KonMari Method guides you to declutter your home by arming you with techniques that will help you determine if an item in your house sparks joy. Her technique changes your view of decluttering by helping you see what to keep instead of what you should throw away.

We all talk about slowing down and enjoying the simple things, but how do we find time to do that? Hygge, pronounced hue-gah, is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes from taking pleasure in the simple things in our life: cuddling up under the blankets, lighting candles, taking in the morning light, and enjoying every sip of your first cup of coffee. It is taking a good moment and making it special. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking is your “guide to all things Hygge.” It offers suggestions and advice on finding Hygge in your own life from choosing lighting in your home to bringing light to the unexpected moments in your life.

Learning a new craft can be rewarding and frustrating at the same time. You research on Pinterest what you want to do, buy the supplies, then go home, and your new project sits on the kitchen table or in the bag for the next few months. Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman by Peter Korn is an inspiring book that explores why we craft and the rewards of creative practice. In this moving memoir, the author recounts his spiritual and personal journey as a furniture architect and teacher. This book reveals how crafting is an important part of our lives and how it can shape us and connect us with others.

Finally, we would all love to read more! Find your inspiration by delving into Books for Living by Will Schwalbe, which explores why we read. In each chapter, he tells a story about a particular book that he has read, tells why he read it, and explains how it has shaped his life. Warning: this book can add to your “To Be Read” pile.

There are many other opportunities to find success at the library. Take a technology class, participate in a craft program, explore our databases, read in a comfy corner, or just come and explore our shelves. The library can offer inspiration to your resolution list. You just have to find it in the right place.

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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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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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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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