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The New Albany Public Library

The New Albany Public Library

Staff Picks -- see what the Library staff is reading

LaRee Bates:


Fiction-

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich's 13th novel, a multigenerational tour de force of sin, redemption, murder and vengeance, finds its roots in the 1911 slaughter of a farming family near Pluto, N.Dak. The family's infant daughter is spared, and a posse forms, incorrectly blames three Indians and lynches them. One, Mooshum Milk, miraculously survives. Over the next century, descendants of both the hanged men and the lynch mob develop relationships that become deeply entangled, and their disparate stories are held together via principal narrator Evelina, Mooshum Milk's granddaughter, who comes of age on an Indian reservation near Pluto in the 1960s and '70s and forms two fateful adolescent crushes: one on bad-boy schoolmate Corwin Peace and one on a nun. Though Evelina doesn't know it, both are descendants of lynch mob members. The plot splinters as Evelina enrolls in college and finds work at a mental asylum; Corwin spirals into a life of crime; and a long-lost violin (its backstory is another beautiful piece of the mosaic) takes on massive significance. Erdrich plays individual narratives off one another, dropping apparently insignificant clues that build to head-slapping revelations as fates intertwine and the person responsible for the 1911 killing is identified.


Nonfiction-

A Moveable Feast: the restored edition by Ernest Hemingway

This restored version of Hemingway's posthumously published memoir has been revised to reflect the author's original intentions. The result is less a fluid narrative than an academic exercise, with the bulk of the story—Hemingway's travels, escapades, encounters with other writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald—followed by material read by his son and grandson, and some additional sketches and fragments excluded from the final draft. John Bedford Lloyd is faced with the burden of providing a passable version of Hemingway's voice and largely succeeds, but it's much more satisfying to listen to Hemingway's son Patrick, and his grandson Se├ín, who, in addition to sharing their own reminiscences, offer a hint of what Papa himself might have sounded like.

John Burton:


I was amazed by Salt, A World History by Mark Kurlansky. We take salt for granted, but at one time the world economy and society was driven by salt much as today’s world is dependent on oil. Kurlansky drills into the history of salt and one can learn the history of the world. Along the same vein, and a personal favorite, is Bill Bryson’s At Home, a Short History of Private Life. Bryson is an engaging writer who can take the mundane, our ‘homes’, and write a social history of the world as it evolves from a one room dwelling into our contemporary mini-mansions. What started out as the ‘hall’, that was it, that was all there was ‘in the beginning’, has evolved. In learning about the ‘home’ you will learn about food, and its impact on the house. You will learn about home heating, no small matter. You will learn about the importance of whaling in terms of the candles necessary to light the ‘hall’, as well as the development of glass and what it meant to the industrial revolution. Hard to believe that candle wax, salt, glass, laundry, and fireplaces can be made interesting, but they can. Most histories of the world are political. The social history of the world is much more interesting as you will learn why we do what we do, live like we live, and happen to live in the homes we do. Pass the salt and pepper.


Ed Gallagher:

Book:

Tinkers by Paul Harding

Lyrical fictive meditation on dying, with clocks.

Harding's outstanding debut unfurls the history and final thoughts of a dying grandfather surrounded by his family in his New England home. George Washington Crosby repairs clocks for a living and on his deathbed revisits his turbulent childhood as the oldest son of an epileptic smalltime traveling salesman. The descriptions of the father's epilepsy and the "cold halo of chemical electricity that encircled him immediately before he was struck by a full seizure" are stunning, and the household's sadness permeates the narrative as George returns to more melancholy scenes. The real star is Harding's language, which dazzles whether he's describing the workings of clocks, sensory images of nature, the many engaging side characters who populate the book, or even a short passage on how to build a bird nest. This is an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship.

Music:

The Universe is Laughing Guggenheim Grotto

Warm, positive lyrics from the Irish/Scottish duo.



Lydia Hunter:

Fiction:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

One of the best YA novels I've read in a while is Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. It is a fast-paced, realistic, and laugh-out-loud funny story about Junior's life on the Spokane Indian Reservation and his internal and external struggle to achieve his potential. Basketball rivalries, racial tensions, and raging hormones all conspire against Junior reaching his goals, but with a sense of humor and the somewhat spotty support of his family and friends, he learns that there is no limit to what he can became.


Thanks Lydia--I second that!! What an unlikely hero, plus basketball! Ed G.



Lynn Kaufman:


Nonfiction: Growing up Amish by Ira Wagler

In his memoir, Wagler chronicles growing up in an Iowa Amish community and eventually leaving it. First written on his blog at http://www.irawagler.com/, the narrative unfolds well for a first book. Wagler's writing portrays the conflicting emotions of breaking away from the family and faith he loves because of his need to break free from a life that didn't suit him. The distinct feature of this story is that through all of his teen angst and turmoil, during which he left the Amish, he did not lose his faith in God. He was able to find another faith community to identify with. This engaging memoir doesn't lag but keeps the reader interested all the way through. (Library Journal, vol 136, issue 16, p83)


Fiction: Frederica by Georgette Heyer

When the jaded Marquis of Alverstoke reluctantly agrees to sponsor Frederica Merriville's beautiful young sister, Charis, for a London season, he has no idea how much the irrepressible Merriville family (all five of them) will change his life—or that Frederica will be the one to win his heart. Overflowing with fun and family, this warm, joyful Regency is one of Heyer's later novels. (Library Journal, vol 133, issue 20, p107)


Fiction: City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell

Caldwell returns to China in her second novel, inspired by the story of her missionary grandparents. Her fictionalized version begins in 1906 when Will, 21, and Katherine, a year older, join a group of Mennonite missionaries on their journey from Seattle to China––he an enraptured recruit, she a nursing student whose sister is married to the group’s charismatic leader. Several years later Will and Katherine marry, and are sent to Kuang P’ing Ch’eng, or the City of Tranquil Light, on the North China Plain, where they stay for nearly 25 years. Caldwell masterfully interweaves their remarkable sojourn—during which they run an ever-expanding church, establish an orphanage, and struggle with their faith when their cherished daughter dies of dysentery at 11 months—with China’s tumultuous history during those years marked by civil war. Caldwell perceptively explores the deepening faith shared by her grandparents while at the same time painting a vivid portrait of the country they came to love more deeply than their own. (Booklist, vol 107, number 2, p36)


Scott Keeney:

Music Review:

Brian Vogan and His Good Buddies: “Sing a Little Song.”

Satisfying rock arrangements seem rare in children’s music; only a few kids’ music groups really rock: The Boogers, They Might Be Giants, Trout Fishing in America. Add this group to the short list of little kid’s rock bands: tight, rocking songs with guitar solos and harmony vocals, crisp drums and bass. Songs celebrate vehicles, outer space, handwashing, even crossing streets safely. A time machine travels off the couch to visit carnosuars and the ancient painted sky. Only the final song, aptly, a lullaby, stoops to generic kid-cutesy music.


Boogers: “Let’s Go!”

The Ramones always seemed childlike: repetitive, busy, bratty. Kids dance like the Ramones. Kids talk like the Ramones. The Boogers, Sticky on drums, Crusty on vocals and guitar, and Greenie on bass, rock kids with “Eat Your Vegetables,” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and a ripping, Clash-like “London Bridge” that will get little heads bangin’. With a parental advisory label, too: “Get Ready to Rock.”

DVD: "Departures"

Filled with scenes to make you laugh and cry, with insight into life and death, young love, redemption, thankfulness, and rich details of Japanese funereal rites (!), this wonderful sleeper--an Academy Award best foreign film winner--is a solid four star film. With cello music on top.


Books:

How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee

Surprises abound in this carefully-researched study of the carbon footprints—the cost in energy, materials, pollution, time, and transport—of a hundred common products and activities, ranging from buying jeans to cremation to nuclear war. Paper bags, for example, have a carbon footprint four times as large as plastic bags.

Smallest carbon footprints? A text message, a cup of tap water, a web search. Most expensive? A volcano, the World Cup, the world’s data centers, a forest fire.

And it’s fun too: “Unless you will ever contemplate lighting a forest fire, the decision to reproduce is probably the biggest carbon choice you will ever make.”


Chris Norma took his Albany Library book to China

Chris Norman took his Albany Public Library book on the Great Wall of China to the Great Wall of China. Chris was checking the book for accuracy and kicking up his own travel experience with more information.

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