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Staff Picks

Don't forget to check out our staff picks for kids!

September 19, 2016

When Fraser Met Billy: An Autistic Boy, a Rescue Cat, and the Transformative Power of Animal Connections

When Fraser Met Billy: An Autistic Boy, a Rescue Cat, and the Transformative Power of Animal Connections
by Booth, Louise
616.891658 BOO

Billy is a magic cat, although Louis Booth does not usually say this out loud. Dogs have a long and storied history as sometimes miraculous service animals, while cats – not so much.

Even Louise’s husband was initially skeptical. Yet from the moment Billy the Rescue Cat met their three-year-old severely autistic son, Fraser, he set about transforming this beyond stressed-to-the-limit household into a happier home for everyone.

Fraser has a meltdown? Billy sits down quietly in front of him or circles around him until Fraser gradually becomes calmer.

Hair-washing causing the outbreak of World War III? Magically, Billy appears, stretching his head as far as he can over the side of the tub to Fraser, getting soaked to the skin in the process, calmly wiping bubble bath off his whiskers with his paw: “Look, Billy doesn’t mind getting his hair wet, so why don’t you let me wet yours?” suggests Fraser’s father.

Fraser and his pal Billy have a mystical bond. They create their own language. They share their own world. And over time, this bond helps Fraser – who also suffers from dystonia, a rare muscle condition that makes his joints loose and floppy – to overcome the devastating prognosis doctors gave him at eighteen months old: Fraser would never attend a normal, mainstream school. He might never be able to walk.

Years later, after his first day of normal, mainstream school, six-year-old Frasier tells Billy – but not his Mum! – all about it: “Fraser sat with Zara … Then Miss told a story …” Then as Fraser realizes Mum is listening at the door, he moves in closer to his cat with a disapproving frown: “Sshh, Fraser is talking to Billy.”

--Recommended by Deborah Jones, Franklin Road Branch

 

September 12, 2016

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
by Albright, Madeleine
B Albright, M.K. ALB

Prague Winter is written by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This book is very well-written and surprisingly touching. It gives an excellent history of Czechoslovakia, of its fighting for and losing democracy 1937-1945. From an insider’s view, it provides an incisive account of how human nature, political and economic situations, the characteristics of leaders and the regional/ethnical history resulted in the tragedies to which the Czech people were subjected from Hitler’s occupation to the loss of their sovereignty to communism right after Nazi occupation.

This book is thought-provoking in many ways, particularly in the context of current unsettling global and domestic  events. It prompts thoughts about characteristics in leaders, and how circumstances create them; the weight of a leader’s action can move humanity to a higher plateau or, conversely, bring a country's people to a dark abyss and unimaginable suffering.

This book is an intimate family story of Madame Albright, of her upbringing and her father’s passionate pursuit of democracy for his country and his family. The richness of the Bohemian culture, history, legends and literature is deftly woven in. Readers come to appreciate the beauty of this country where castles have stood for thousands of years and where the peaceful Vltava river winds. Such beauty can only be fully rendered by the melody in Bedřich Smetana’s Vltava.

This book also would be excellent for people who are traveling to central Europe, particularly Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. With the background knowledge from it, they will have a deeper appreciation of the culture, the food and the way things are.

Prague Winter is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, and in large print

Recommended by Sailan Liang, Glendale Branch

 

August 29, 2016

Office Girl

Office Girl
by Meno, Joe
FIC MEN

There are novels that tell epic tales of battlefield glory or high seas adventure or exploring outer space. And then there are novels that tell small, sad love stories that are seemingly of consequence only to their characters and readers. Office Girl by Joe Meno is the latter.

In the winter of 1999, Odile and Jack, two twenty-somethings in Chicago, find themselves creating what can alternately be called an awkward friendship, a rebellious art movement, and an apprehensive romance. They meet while working in adjoining cubicles at a business that sells Muzak for office waiting rooms and become fast friends, riding their bikes around the city and performing small acts of vandalism. As with most good fiction, the specifics of the characters may not exactly reflect your life experience, but the emotions are authentic and relatable. I imagine that most readers can relate to Odile and Jack’s feelings of loneliness, lack of direction, and unrequited love as they explore young adulthood. That isn’t to say, however, that Office Girl is an entirely dreary affair. There are many moments that elicit smiles and the book is peppered with sweet sentiments, odd little illustrations, and strange photographs.

Office Girl is also available as an eAudiobook.

           --Recommended by Adam Todd, Decatur Branch

 

August 22, 2016

Dark Thirst

Dark Thirst
by Allen, Angela C., editor
eBook

Dark Thirst contains six short stories (by The Urban Griot (aka Omar Tyree), Donna Hill, Monica Jackson, Linda Addison, Kevin S. Brockenbrough, and Angela C. Allen) featuring urban vampires in colorful settings such as Brooklyn and New Orleans. Not your typical vampire fare, these creatures of the night are susceptible to the same seven deadly sins that have plagued humankind for centuries: lust, gluttony, wrath, envy, avarice, pride and sloth are manifested within the pages of Dark Thirst.

My favorite story by far is “The Ultimate Diet”. Keeshia, an obese computer programmer, envies her svelte, sensual new neighbor who has many lovers and the ability to eat anything she wants without gaining a pound. What’s her secret, and will Keeshia risk everything to find out?

                    — Recommended by Vanessa Jamerson, East 38th Street Branch

 

August 8, 2016

Navel Gazing: True Tales of Bodies, Mostly Mine (but Also My Mom's, Which I Know Sounds Weird)

Navel Gazing: True Tales of Bodies, Mostly Mine (but Also My Mom's, Which I Know Sounds Weird)
by Black, Michael Ian
792.7 Black BLA

Fans of comedian Michael Ian Black (of Wet Hot American Summer and the short-lived sketch comedy series Stella) should check out his newest endeavor. Once you finish reading the title, you just might enjoy this collection of autobiographical vignettes. While humor is subjective, the subject matter here is pretty universal: everybody has a body and we all have things we don’t like about it. I had to be sure to read this one in the privacy of my own home because I was laughing out loud. But laughter often swiftly shifts to sorrow when Black ventures into stories of his mother, who has been battling cancer and illness for years. Though you could read this book quickly--most essays are no longer than 10 pages and the book has a distinct narrative flow-–I didn’t want it to end.

Navel Gazing is also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook.

           --Recommended by Mikayla Kinley, College Avenue Branch