Staff Choices

Posted by jfreier on 01/22/15
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A new biography about the real founder of the Rolling Stones, Brian was the man who started the Stones and brought in Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. Brian Jones has almost been forgotten by most fans and unknown to those who weren't alive when the Stones started in 1963.
 
Jones has been much maligned by current Stones members except Charlie Watts and former member Bill Wyman. Keith Richards and Mick have almost erased the fact that Jones was the best musician by far and he was the biggest influence on their sound, filled with many interviews with others who knew who was the real driving force behind the band.
 
Interviews with Marianne Faithful, Pete Towndshend, Eric Burdon and others shed a different light on Jones as a troubled and difficult man but a brilliant musician and the trend setter for the band. I would say a must read for any Stones fan. Paul Trynka has done a service to Brian Jones legacy.
 
 
Posted by jmurrow on 01/18/15
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A stunningly ambitious and beautifully written novel, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is the story of Marie Laure, a girl living in Paris in the late 1930s  who at the ages of six goes blind, forcing her, and though a series of  beautifully intricate  descriptions, the reader, to experience the world through touch, sound, and memory.  It is also the story of Werner, an orphan living in Germany who becomes enchanted with a crude radio he finds.  Becoming a master radio operator, he is eventually drawn into the German military where he is sent to occupied Paris to track the resistance.  As the Second World War rages around them, the girl who cannot see and the boy who is forced to listen discover each other, and through each other love and hope, as they try to survive the horrors of war.
 
 
I thoroughly loved Doerr’s exquisite descriptions in which the drone of bombers, the smell of the sea, and the memory of a street become a world in which morally complex yet innately good characters can discovery hope, even in the middle of a world war.  From page one I fell in love with the Marie and Werner, characters who will keep readers turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending.  Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is fantastic novel that I can’t recommend enough!
 
 
Posted by Ultra Violet on 01/14/15
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XKCD is 'a web comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language' that has grown in popularity even with non-science types. It is sometimes too technical for me, but the iconic stick-figure drawings are always a delight and creator, Randall Munroe, manages to throw in enough easy ones to keep me interested.
 
XKCD has a section called, “What If?” to address crazy wonder questions. This book is a compilation of some of those questions and Munroe’s perfectly scientific answers along with some adorable stick-figure comics. Some of the pressing questions answered by this book are:
 
If we hooked turbines to people exercising in gyms, how much power could we produce?
What would happen if the moon went away?
What would happen if the Earth stopped turning but the atmosphere didn’t?
If your cells suddenly lost the power to divide, how long would you survive?
 
And my personal favorite:
What if I took a swim in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool? Would I need to dive to actually experience a fatal amount of radiation? How long could I stay safely at the surface?
 
If you already follow “What If?” on the web, there are new questions in the book so it is still worth a read. It’s a fun one to read with curious older kids, too. They aren’t going to want to read the former NASA scientist’s answers in great detail, but they will enjoy the cartoons and a condensed version of the answer.
 
Posted by Kelley M on 01/07/15
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A book about the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in history…  You know this is going to be interesting. 
 
The author, Malala Yousafzai, was shot by the Taliban due to her belief that women should be educated.  It is easy to forget, living in the United States, that the education of females, unfortunately, is not a right extended to all women in the world.  This book is about overcoming that obstacle and speaking up about it, despite the potentially fatal response.  Yousafzai has been an advocate for girls’ educational rights since the age of 11.  I found it so interesting to hear a Muslim family’s perspective on the Taliban takeover of the Swat Valley in Pashtun.  What a perspective-altering book.  I really think the Washington Post summed up this book best when it said, “Ask social scientists how to end global poverty, and they will tell you: Educate girls… and watch a community change.”  If you find it difficult to get through the memoir in paper-form, give the audiobook a try.  Definitely worth the read.
 
Biography, memoir
Posted by bweiner on 01/07/15
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People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished From the Streets of Tokyo--And the Evil That Swallowed Her Up is the vivid, detailed, affecting story of Lucie Blackman's disappearance from the streets of Tokyo, and the subsequent discovery of her dismembered body in a seaside cave in Japan. This sensational, true story of a young English girl and her gruesome murder by a man described as "unprecedented and extremely evil" will captivate you so completely that you will not want to put it down.

Yet, it is not only the tragic loss of a young life that makes this a compelling read. Award-winning, foreign correspondant Richard Lloyd Parry navigates us through Japanese society with an adroit hand, and we examine the culture through the eyes of the Eastern and the Western world.

Even more fascinating is the picture Parry paints of every person involved in Lucie's life and death. Lucie's family: her mother, father, sister and brother are all present and plugged into this story. Lucie's friends and acquaintances provide insight into her character and actions. Parry contributes painstaking detail about Japan's legal system and the people who represent it. Probably the most unsettling element of this tale is the intimate portrait of Joji Obara, the accused killer of Lucie Blackman. Parry guides us from his birth in Japan to his lengthy trial for the rape and murder of multiple young women. The key to this riveting book is the incredible detail Parry provides, and the depth of emotional intensity he packs into this sad story. Spellbinding indeed.

 
Posted by lsears on 01/06/15
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An incongruous image of a porcupine on the cover of Dear Committee Members humorously hints at the prickly nature of the main character before the book is even opened.

The story unfolds through correspondence penned entirely by one person, Jason T. Fitger, a Professor of Creative Writing and English at fictional Payne University.  His beloved English Department is being squeezed both financially and by a construction project which puts him at odds with another more favored department in the same building.  A great deal of Fitger’s time is mired in bureaucratic paperwork, politics, and writing endless letters of recommendations for students.  Some are written with such biting honesty that certain requesters will regret asking him to write anything at all, especially when it is required to be done online.

Each letter is tailored to the recipient with varying degrees of Fitger’s unbridled and unfiltered manner of speaking.  The level of praise, ire, disdain, explanation or pleading is dependent on how much he cares about that particular topic. His professional and personal lives are intertwined and, oblivious to decorum, he often reveals too much to the wrong people through what he writes.

Fitger is a bit prone to gossip, perhaps a little naïve, selfish yet likeable, articulate yet socially dense, and passionate. I found the way in which author Julie Schumacher presented these elements of his personality very entertaining.  I think the book is a tribute to epistolary and imaginative writing.

And, yes, I had to read the story with a dictionary close at hand.

 
Posted by crossin on 01/06/15
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This month, Park City, Utah, will host the 31st annual Sundance Film Festival. Sundance is one of the largest independent film festivals in the United States.  Last year, more than 12,000 films were submitted for consideration; less than 200 were selected.  Besides the juried competition, several Audience Awards are bestowed on films voted as favorites by the festivalgoers.  AHML has many of the fans’ picks from over the years.
 
Posted by bpardue on 01/02/15
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The successful test launch and return of the Orion space capsule in late 2014 reminded me that I'd yet to read Mary Roach's 2010 book about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting humans into space and (fingers crossed) to Mars one day. Keep in mind that sending probes and landers the many millions of miles to the red planet is certainly a feat of science an engineering, but it's almost trivial compared to the task of creating a spacecraft that can actually get humans there (and back, if they're lucky) in a way that leaves them both alive and sane. Roach describes the kinds of earthbound testing done on human research subjects to see who'll best be able to live for months in close quarters, dealing with exacting routines and massive amounts of boredom (hint: it's not the "Right Stuff" space-cowboy types). There's also an awful lot of discussion of discussion about various...er...personal hygiene issues, and even the requisite reflection upon space romance. What you quickly learn is that space travel will not be for those who expect to maintain a great deal of privacy and dignity. Roach's tone is often humorous, especially when she describes her own experiences in various testing/training tools, such as the  "vomit comet" (the jet on which would-be astronauts first experience zero-gravity). She nicely focuses on the personalities of the people behind the projects, not just the science and technology. The has a lot of diversionary footnotes, which I found interesting and enjoyable, but that others might think bothersome. This is a quick, entertaining and enlightening read.
Posted by Uncle Will on 12/31/14
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Here's a teaser.  What is the greatest coming of age book that you have ever read? Some will argue J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Some will argue Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Other readers that are not part of the Baby Boom Generation might choose Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being a Wallflower. All sound choices. Each profound and still relevant. This probably explains why we still have 6 copies of each in our collection. However, there is another classic that never seems to get its fair amount of attention.
 
Attend to this: William Goldman is a two-time Academy Award winning American novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. Author of 16 novels, many of which have been adapted to film; today Goldman might best remembered for Princess Bride (1973) or Marathon Man (1974). In 1957 he published his first novel, Temple of Gold - and for over 50 years, I still recommend it to reader's of all ages.
 
This novel is only about 200 pages long. The setting is in the Midwest during late '50's.  Some of the fashions are a bit dated, but there's no doubt that in chapter one when Ray Trevitt begins his story:  " . . . My father was a stuffy man . . " a young person is about to come of age and his story still needs to be heard. . .even today.
 
 
 
 
 
Posted by jdunc on 12/29/14
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The best way to take in Amy Poehler’s new book, Yes Please, is via audio. I’m sure the print book contains lots of pictures, but the audio is really a pleasure to listen to. It is like listening to a conversation between friends. Poehler has her parents in to read their life lessons and has records candid conversations with Seth Myers and Mike Schur about her time at Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. A special treat is a live reading of the last chapter at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Poehler’s improv theater in Los Angeles.  It is amazing how different a reading sounds with a live audience responding with loud laughs.
 
Poehler covers a wide range of topics including the sadness after her divorce, her intense love for her kids, her childhood, and her experience in the “biz”. It was much more reflective and insightful than I had anticipated. However, I found the organization a little disjointed. As opposed to being divided up into distinct sections (work, family, friends or childhood, young adult, adult) it is compilation of somewhat unrelated short stories. Fans of Poehler will appreciate this deeper, introspective look into her life.
 
humorous, memoir
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