Month: February 2017

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Reading the Oscars

Reading the Oscars

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

Every 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 Beastscovers 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.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

The House that Healed

The House that Healed

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

New to the library is a nonfiction book that speaks of unbelievable determination and courage.  Author Cara Brookins wrote the book to chronicle an experience she shared with her four children.  Rise: How a House Built a Family is an inspirational story that you won’t want to miss.

Brookins, the mother of three children, met and married a man who appeared to be an ideal partner.  He seemed to care deeply about her children, and the couple had another child sometime later.  But things began to go very badly.  Her husband scheduled and paid for a conference room for a presentation to which no one was invited.  He repeatedly threatened his wife with murder.  The children learned early to flee to their rooms and lock the doors to avoid irrational confrontations.  Fearing the increasingly frightening outbursts resulting from her husband’s schizophrenia and worried about her children’s safety, Cara filed for divorce.

The dissolution of her marriage left Cara with one troublesome problem: at some point soon, she and her children would have no place to live.  While the mother had a productive career, she didn’t have many resources and she also had a family for which to provide.  That’s when a seemingly impossible solution occurred to her.

Why not take out a small loan and begin building a house?  Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?  But her plans entailed much more thought.  She decided that she and the kids (ages 2-15) could do the actual building, if they had access to advice from building supply staff and if they studied YouTube videos that demonstrated techniques.

And so, the long process began.  She bought a small piece of land, and she and the kids began marking off rooms.  They ordered foundation materials and enlisted help from others.  This after-work and after-school project became a lasting commitment in which each had designated parts.  Their projected deadlines for completion were delayed by rainy weather, warping boards, defective plumbing and routine exhaustion, but they kept struggling to complete necessary steps.

And there were other unsettling setbacks.  Despite the finalization of the divorce, her husband continued to appear at the house the family would soon have to vacate and he would make eerie threats.  Several times, he stalked the family until the police were called.  A restraining order had little effect on his bizarre visits.

There were also other obstacles.  The youngest child, who was a two-year-old, had to be kept safe around the many dangers of the family’s construction zone.  The oldest son, a fifteen-year-old, lost his best friend in a car accident.  Cara had the pressures of her job that had to take precedence over the construction.

In fact, one of the lowest points occurred when Cara suffered a nasty puncture wound to her leg.  Shortly after that, she was struck by some falling lumber which left a serious gash over one eye.  Her son took her to the emergency room where the attending physician believed Cara to be the victim of domestic abuse.  When he told her his suspicions, she replied that she knew all about domestic abuse, but this instance certainly wasn’t such.

As the work continued, something remarkable began to happen.  Mom and kids, all pulling together, began to get past the abuse of earlier times.  In fact, they became quite independent.  Any time they stumbled upon a new home-building task, they did quick studies, and each developed special talents, whether that be putting up wall board, staining cabinetry or running water lines.  Perhaps the oldest son explained it best when he reflected that if you can build your own damn house, you can do anything.

Why read this book?  It’s a testament to individual fortitude you won’t want to miss.  Plus, the start-to-finish photographs of the project are unbelievable.   You’ll want to spend some time reading about this amazing mother and her equally determined children.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Books to Read if You Like The Walking Dead

Books to Read if You Like The Walking Dead

By Amber Johnson, Youth Services Library Assistant

A 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.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Self-Help for Non-Gurus

Self-Help for Non-Gurus

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

I 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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