Readers’ Place

Readers Place: Good for a Laugh

A peacekeeping mission in Haiti, a job loss on top of several upheavals, fraught relationships between fathers and sons, unrequited love and a road trip with a rock star: only the last situation seems ripe for comic treatment, but these titles will surprise you.

were-all-damagedWe’re all damaged by Matthew Norman   2016. 
We’re All Damaged begins after Andy has lost his job, ruined his best friend’s wedding, and moved to New York City, where he lives in a tiny apartment with an angry cat named Jeter that isn’t technically his. But before long he needs to go back to Omaha, where he is confronted with his past, which includes his ex, his ex’s new boyfriend, his right-wing talk-radio-host mother, his parents’ crumbling marriage, and his still-angry best friend, and an entirely new complication: Daisy. She has fifteen tattoos, no job, and her own difficult past. But she claims she is the only person who can help Andy be happy again, if only she weren’t hiding a huge secret that will mess things up even more.

willful-disregardWillful disregard: a novel about love by Lena Andersson   2016.
Ester Nilsson is a sensible person in a sensible relationship. Until the day she is asked to give a lecture on famous artist Hugo Rask. The man himself is in the audience, intrigued and clearly delighted by her fascination with him. When the two meet afterward, she is spellbound. Ester leaves her boyfriend and throws herself into an imaginary relationship with Hugo. She falls deeply in love, and he consumes her thoughts; in her own mind she’s sure that she and Hugo are a couple. Slowly and painfully Ester comes to realize that her perception of the relationship is different from his.


peacekeepingPeacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski 2016.
In Haiti, intrigues surround the meteoric political career of Johel Celestin, a reform-minded judge with U.S. legal training and a soft but tough demeanor. With the encouragement and security detail of Terry White, a gruff-but-earnest Florida cop-turned-U.N. official, Celestin wages a populist senate campaign against a powerful incumbent, and for a time it looks like the impoverished coastal town of Jérémie may get the road its people need to sell their goods in the capital. But White falls hard for Celestin’s beautiful wife, Nadia, whose singing career in the States was cut short by domestic abuse and deportation, and Celestin’s rise to power is complicated by jealousy, corruption, and natural disaster. In Haiti there are always multiple versions of the truth, some we can bear to tell ourselves, and others we cannot.

inherited-disordersInherited disorders: stories, parables & problems by Adam Ehrlich Sachs 2016.
In a hundred and seventeen shrewd, surreal vignettes, Sachs lays bare the petty rivalries, thwarted affection, and mutual bafflement that have characterized the filial bond since the days of Davidic kings. A father bequeaths to his son his jacket, deodorant, and political beliefs. England’s most famous medium becomes possessed by the spirit of his skeptical father–who questions, in front of the nation, his son’s choice of career. In West Hollywood, an aspiring screenwriter must contend with the judgmental visage of his father, a respected public intellectual whose frozen head, clearly disappointed in him, he keeps in his freezer. Keenly inventive, but painfully familiar, these surprisingly tender stories signal the arrival of a brilliant new comic voice–and fresh hope for fathers and sons the world over.

vexation-lullabyeVexation lullaby by Justin Tussing     2016
When Peter Silver—his ex-girlfriend called him a “mama’s boy” and his best friend considers him a “homebody”- receives an unexpected request for a house call, he obliges, only to discover that his new patient is aging, chameleonic rock star Jimmy Cross. Soon Peter is compelled to join the mysteriously ailing celebrity, his band, and his entourage, on the road. The so-called “first physician embedded in a rock tour,” Peter is thrust into a way of life that embraces disorder and risk rather than order and discipline.

Compiled by Ina Rimpau

Posted by Barbara | 8 Nov 2016 | Comments Off on Readers Place: Good for a Laugh

Observations from the 2016 Adult Summer Reading Club Grand Prize Winner

eddie-korbichThe 2016 Adult Summer Reading Club Grand Prize winner was Eddie Korbich. The prize was a Fire HD tablet.

Each week, participants were asked to answer a question, and their answers served as their entry into the weekly raffle for a tote bag. All weekly entries were entered into the Grand Prize drawing. The Summer Reading Club was funded by the Friends of the Maplewood Library. 

Eddie enjoyed entering our drawings every week, and below we share his answers to our weekly questions.

Q: What books are on your “to read” list, and why are they on the list?

A:  Swiss Family Robinson (I just started it). Don Quixote (It’s loooong!!). Numerous “How-To’s”. Fun, trashy pulp stuff.  This summer is about finally catching up with classic books I have wanted to, but never, read. After, and sometimes during, reading the ‘heavy’ books I need to ‘cleanse the palate’ with lighter reading.

Q:What is your favorite genre, and what do you like about it?

A: Oh boy—this will take some thinking! Certainly fiction, but in my mind that category is so broad. I truly enjoy so many different genres but as far as a favorite? Most of my books fall into the Dickens novels and their ilk! Then a close second would be the Fantasy genre—not so much Sci Fi but Tolkein and C.S. Lewis.  Why? Escapism is one thing, but there is nothing like an excellent author leading you through a well-written story that, once you put the book down, you can’t wait to get back to it.

Q: What movie adaptation do you think did the most justice to a book you enjoyed?

A: It’s a toss-up—the Harry Potter movie adaptations—especially the last 4 were wonderfully faithful and true to the spirit.  Also The Lord of the Rings was an incredible adaptation.  And on the classic front—Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson—just fantastic!

Q:What elements do you look for in a book when deciding what to read?

A: Well, the first thing is a good story told in an interesting way. How do you do that? Book jacket summaries? Google reviews? NY Times suggestions? Friends? And lastly, cover art that catches your eye? Unfortunately, I have a compulsion to finish a book once I start it, it happened with Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I actually slogged through it—glad I read it, but enjoyable? Not for me, and it won’t be soon that I’ll read Faulkner again—too bad.  Life is short and there’s not enough time to read everything. I’m still learning but for now it’s a pleasant surprise when I find a good book—and a quick slog to the end when I don’t!

Q: What book (or books) would you recommend to a friend right now?

A: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, followed by anything by John Steinbeck—unbelievable prose and so rich with imagery!  Also The Emerald Atlas series. Fantastic Young Adult fantasy!

Q: What author (alive or not) would you like to have dinner with, and what would you talk about?

A: L. Frank Baum. I would like to ask the inspiration for the Wizard of Oz and if he knew that he had created one of the most evil and despicable characters in literature in the Wizard. To send a child of 9 on a death mission with no brains, heart or courage, under the pretext of proving yourself ‘worthy’ is beyond anything I can imagine.  Then we would discuss whether it was truly meant as an allegory or whether he was just a deeply disturbed human being. Hah!

Q: What is the last book that made you cry or laugh (or both)?

A: A Bridge for Passing by Pearl S. Buck. Her sensitivity in writing about the trials of filming a movie of her novel The Wave in Japan, juxtaposed with her family and imminent death of her husband back in Pennsylvania, is wonderful and really insightful. I love all her books.

Q:What (for you) makes a book a satisfying read?

A: I want a good story, well written characters that actually change, and to learn something. I like old-fashioned good guys triumphing—the Harry Potter books are like that, and Lord of the Rings.  Please don’t do any more major stories where a ‘Christ-like’ figure is killed by the masses and only then do the people realize what they did. Billy Budd– Red Badge of Courage—they did it brilliantly. Enough! Try something new. (Not too much to ask.)

Q: Write a short review of the best book you read this summer.

A: Boy, by Roald Dahl. What a fantastic insight into the man who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and The Twits, among many others. We see him from birth through young adulthood. The early years, marked with enormous love, loss of a father and horrendously torturous schooling, first in Wales and then boarding school in England, completely reveal where all the unfair torment of children comes from in most of his novels—beatings, whippings from sadistically gleeful headmasters! Is it any wonder his novels are ones that champion children and their worth?  That’s not all of course—along the way we get insight into a world of the 1940s and WWII, and Dahl’s love of aviation, literally sailing and soaring into his adulthood and his career. A great read!


Posted by Barbara | 14 Sep 2016 | Comments Off on Observations from the 2016 Adult Summer Reading Club Grand Prize Winner

Out Into the Wild!

It’s summer! Let these titles inspire you to go out into the wild!

wild by natureWild by nature: from Siberia to Australia, three years alone in the wilderness on foot  by Sarah Marquis                 613.69 MAR
Marquis’ 2010-13 trek from Siberia to Australia, described here, took two and half years and covered over 10,000 miles. Though she encounters many dangers including dehydration, harassment, illness, and in one hair-raising sequence, machine gun-toting drug smugglers in Laos-Marquis also experiences deep communion with nature. Marquis’s revelations of the size and beauty of the least-populated and most vast spaces of our planet convey a sense of wonder and gratitude.

Hidden half of natureThe hidden half of nature: the microbial roots of life and health   by David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé             579.175 MON
A geologist and a biologist and environmental planner chronicle the transformation of their desolate Seattle backyard into a fertile garden and how they learned about the importance of beneficial microbes in their newly revived soil. The authors’ blending of science and history, combined with personal insights, keeps the balanced narrative moving at a rapid pace, while simultaneously integrating the dark story of American agriculture’s co-option by the chemical industry, the result of which is depleted soil with fewer microbes and an unsustainable food production system. Biklé describes her bout with cancer and the resulting changes she made to her garden and dietary habits.

invention of natureThe invention of nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s new world by Andrea Wulf  509.2WUL
Humboldt, writes the author “saw the earth as a great living organism where everything was connected, conceiving a bold new vision of nature that still affects how we understand the world.” His insights marked the end of the universal view (at least among scientists) of animals as soulless automatons and the belief that humans were lords of the Earth. The son of a wealthy Prussian aristocrat, he used his money to finance his iconic, grueling 1799-1804 expedition through the jungles and mountains of Latin America, ending with a long visit to President Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong correspondent. He eventually returned to Europe, wrote of his experiences in 34 bestselling volumes, and continued to travel, lecture, write, and excite artists, poets, scholars, and scientists for the remainder of a very long life.

Into the heart of our worldInto the heart of our world: a journey to the center of the Earth: a remarkable voyage of scientific discovery  by David Whitehouse  551.11WHI 
Guided by the most up-to-date scientific findings, British science journalist Whitehouse commands an imagined voyage into Earth’s interior, presenting a quick synopsis of our current understanding of the Earth’s layers and then descending into the Earth’s crust as far as he is physically able. Filling his pages with curious facts, brief biographies, and scientific theories about Earth’s inner structure, Whitehouse proffers explanations of Earth’s formation, the origin of the Moon, and more. Whitehouse surveys the baffling nature of Earth’s solid core and concludes his work, fittingly, with discussions of the planet’s possible demise as well as that of other planets near and far.


Compiled by Ina Rimpau


Posted by Barbara | 9 Aug 2016 | Comments Off on Out Into the Wild!

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