Staff Choices

Posted by lsears on 08/20/14
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9780374214913
“What do you seek in these shelves?” This is the question asked of Clay Jannon when he first enters Mr. Penumbra’s 24–Hour Bookstore looking for a job. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines penumbra (noun) as a space of partial illumination (as in an eclipse) between the perfect shadow on all sides and the full light. By giving the proprietor this name, Robin Sloan gives us a hint as to the impending mystery surrounding this character.
 
Hired to work the night shift, Clay quickly begins to wonder how the bookstore makes enough money to stay in business.  Most of the customers he sees come not to buy books but to borrow them from a vast special collection. Curiosity leads him to try to understand the meaning these books may contain, these manuscripts of one’s life, these Codex Vitae. Not above using his friends at Google and Apple to pursue an answer he finds himself delving into in a cult-like fellowship called the Unbroken Spine. 
 
There is a playfulness and a humorous quality to this book that I enjoyed; even the book jacket glows with an eerie light in the dark. It doesn’t take itself too seriously even though it covers topics of old knowledge versus new technology, friendship and disappointment, adapting and rising to the occasion when warranted. These are subjects anyone can write about in their own Codex Vitae.
 
Fiction, humor
Posted by jmurrow on 08/19/14
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Michio Kaku’s ability to infuse his books with his infectious brand of “gee wiz” excitement, and the occasional reference to geek culture, have made his previous books, Physics of the Impossible and Physics of the Future,  New York Times best sellers, a rarity for works dedicated to examining high-level scientific concepts, and his newest title is no exception. 
 
The Future of the Mind examines current, cutting-edge research in the fields of neurobiology, psychology, and cognitive therapies, and imagines a future where we will be able to implant artificial memories into our brains, take a pill that will make us smarter, and even upload our brains into immortal artificial bodies.  Filled with interesting anecdotes, interviews with experts in various fields, and musings on the possibilities presented by new discoveries of how the brain works, I thoroughly enjoyed this preview of things to come!  
 
Posted by bweiner on 08/14/14
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Short Term 12 features something extraordinary in modern filmmaking; exceptionally believable characters who mirror our own frailties and limitations. There was never a moment in the film that was insincere or unconvincing.
 
This is the story of Grace and Mason, two caretakers at a short term foster care facility for at-risk teenagers. Brie Larson, as Grace, is tough and tender and runs the facility with a firm but loving hand. John Gallagher Jr., as Mason, is her sounding board and safe place. These two have barely passed their teenage years, and the weight of their difficult journeys raises their empathy while building their defenses. We come to recognize Grace as a survivor, and we are aware how acutely she feels the teenager’s pain.
 
This terrific movie alternates between light-hearted joy and painful darkness. The characters vacillate between strength and despair. Above all, there is courage and dignity in these truly authentic young people who fight for survival and a chance to reverse their predestined fate.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 08/06/14
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I was hoping that after reading this book, I would look more like Cameron Diaz…  Didn’t work.  All joking aside, I picked up this read, after having watched an interview with Cameron Diaz on Jimmy Fallon.  I was curious about a recipe she mentioned from the book – Shallot Gold, which she claims to put on top of her food all of the time.  I didn’t find this recipe anywhere in the book, sadly.  But, Cameron Diaz’s book did provide me with great reminders about my health & how to try to better my health. 
 
As I read the book, I tried to figure out how it was humanly possibly to do everything she mentioned in the book.  Then, I researched her staff: a cook, a makeup artist, martial arts professionals, etc.  I think I could look much better if I had that type of staff.  However, I’m sure I could look much better just following some of the tips in this book.  A read worth picking up, if not just for the healthy tips & re-education.
 
Fitness, Health
Posted by jkadus on 08/01/14
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This time of year is commonly referred to as the "Dog Days of Summer".  If you are so lucky as to have a dog, perhaps you would like to curl up with you pet as you devour your Summer Read in the hammock or under the air conditioning.  If not, curl up with one of these and enjoy your "Dog" Days of Summer.
Posted by jfreier on 07/31/14
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Secret Service agent Ethan Burke is sent to the small Idaho town of Wayward Pines to search for two missing agents, Ethan comes to in a hospital with amnesia. Ethan finds out he was in a car accident and his partner was killed, as his memory comes back he finds out this picture perfect town isn't what it appears to be.
 
Ethan is unable to get his personal belongings back and can't contact his family or boss. Outwardly everyone and everything looks perfect until he tries to leave and finds the whole town fenced in by a 30 foot electrified fence, keeping who out or who in.
 
Ethan starts to realize that it was not an accident ending up in this town and the closer he gets to the truth the stranger and more deadly it becomes for his survival, suspenseful, break neck pace and a touch of horror and sci fi, the first in the Wayward Pines Trilogy. Blake Crouch has wriiten several other horror books and is just fun to read.
Suspense
Posted by jdunc on 07/28/14
I first heard about Borgen through an NPR review and was immediately intrigued by the vivid description of Danish politics. It was Stephen King’s “favorite piece of pop culture in 2012” and hailed as the Danish West Wing……but better.
 
Borgen, the seat of Danish government, opens with an election and the surprise appointment of Birgitte Nyborg as Prime Minister. Birgitte and her family are thrown into the political spotlight and struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy. Other characters include Kasper Juhl, Birgitte’s cutthroat spin doctor with a dark past, and Katrine Fonsmark, the young news journalist pushing to get ahead while trying to maintain integrity. What is somewhat surprising, is the familiarity you will feel as Denmark addresses similar issues as the US—environment, youth crimes, immigration, and taxes. One of my favorite episodes addressed the issue of Denmark’s relationship with Greenland.
 
I binge watched all three seasons of this remarkable drama. As the characters’ lives develop and change you see the personal cost of politics and power. The critically acclaimed Danish drama is from the creators of the Danish versions of “The Killing” and “The Bridge” both of which have been remade for American television.
 
 
 
politics
Posted by lsears on 07/27/14
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Fans of Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella may enjoy listening to Have a Nice Guilt Trip on audiobook, as I did, especially because it is read by the authors themselves. Who better knows where to place the right inflection and emphasis on words than the person(s) who wrote the book? 
 
This mother and daughter team takes turns narrating essays they have penned; each one is on a different topic.  Lisa has more chapters, of course, because she has lived longer and has more to say. Their musings are about the mundane and the profound and are a little Andy Rooney-esque but uniquely told from their perspective.  Women will know what the authors are talking about and men, well, they can listen in and enjoy the writing style. Lisa does not disparage feeling guilty but embraces it.  Francesca marvels at some of her good fortune, which prompts her to feel guilty – proving she is her mother’s daughter.
 
Humorous, poignant, big-hearted, self-critical and honest; each chapter is a look at life, odd situations, living near a nuclear power plant, the call of jury duty, trying to trim your dog’s toenails, new beginnings in New York City, vitamins, politics, puppies, auditioning swimsuits to take on vacation, celebrating friendships and relationships, and how we get through some of our ordinary and not-so-ordinary days.  This is what our lives are full of, the big and the little, the mix of it all.  I recognize myself in some of the stories, can relate to others, wish I could write a fraction as well as they do, and can feel the love in Francesca’s essay about her crusty but beloved grandmother, Mother Mary, who taught her that family is the heart of everything.
 
This title is available as a print book and an audiobook.
 
humor
Posted by bpardue on 07/24/14
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So, the World Cup is over and many of us are going through a bit of withdrawal. Maybe it's a good time for a quick read about some previous tournaments! George Vecsey of the New York Times is considered one of the first US journalists to start covering soccer seriously, and he's logged a lot of miles covering the eight tournaments (both men's and women's) of the title. The book is part travelogue, part memoir and fully enjoyable. There's enough soccer name-dropping (Maradonna, Zidane, Donovan!)  to engage the enthusiast, but it's not overly technical, so it's fun for those who only pay attention when the World Cup rolls around. He also covers the various intrigues and controversies surrounding FIFA and the World Cup, such as a New Zealand delegate's sudden disappearance on the eve of the election that allowed Germany's bid for the 2006 tournament to win by a single vote over South Africa (which did go on to host 2010). Still, it's really the joy of the sport that comes shining through and Vecsey shows how he became more fond and knowledgeable of it as he trotted the globe to follow "the beautiful game."
Posted by Ultra Violet on 07/22/14
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Imagine losing one of your senses. Now imagine losing all except one. Now imagine that you lost all but the sense of touch when you were only two years old.
That was the unimaginable circumstance of the life of Laura Bridgman. What is Visible by Kimberly Elkins is a heart-rending, thought-provoking novel based on Laura Bridgman’s life and the lives of the many fascinating people who surrounded her. Laura Bridgman was taught to communicate at the age of seven by the use of alphabetical sign language pressed into the palm of the other person. Her teacher was Samuel Gridley Howe, husband of the poet and activist, Julia Ward Howe. Charles Dickens was a personal friend of the Howe’s along with Longfellow and Senator Charles Sumner.
Laura Bridgman was world-famous in her lifetime and was the teacher of Annie Sullivan. And although her fame for having no sense of sight, sound, taste or smell was soon eclipsed by Helen Keller learning to speak, Bridgman was no less an amazing woman for her lack of speech.
Elkins uses this phenomenal historical figure to craft a novel that is much more about isolation, love, and communication than it is about the individual in question. Her writing is lyrical but also a bit stark at times.
As Laura muses over her relationships she says, “Love, I think, is by necessity constructed of a ladder of lies you climb together.”
To learn more about the true Laura Bridgman visit the Perkins Institute’s website.
And to read about Laura Bridgman and Dickens’ other impressions of the United States check out American Notes: And, Picture from Italy by Charles Dickens.
 
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