Staff Picks

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

September 29, 2014

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Mathis, Ayana

Go North was the cry for many African Americans in the south during the 1920’s.

North offered freedom from the Jim Crow Laws; the Ku Klux Klan and all manners of racial hatred and segregation. Fifteen year old Hattie Shepherd seizes the opportunity to escape the south by marriage. This is Hattie’s story as told through the lives of her eleven children and one grandchild. They are The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. Sickness; the death of her infant twins; insanity; infidelity, love; homosexuality and spirituality are the ingredients of a story of a mother’s faith and courage. You, the reader, can decide if Hattie’s life was one of success or failure.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and an audiobook on CD.

                          — Recommended by Millicent Jackson, recently retired from the E38th Street Library


September 22, 2014

The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting

The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting
by Parkes, Clara
B Parkes, Clara PAR

We have dog whisperers and horse whisperers, so why not a yarn whisperer? Clara Parkes, one of the stars of the yarn world, has written a lovely collection of small essays stitching together the story of her life and her passion for knitting. Biographical in nature, each chapter reveals not only incidents in Parkes’s life but different aspects of knitting, from casting on that first stitch to unraveling a great mess. In between we learn about brioche—both the bread and the stitch—sailing in Deadman’s Bay, her unhappy childhood move to Tucson, and her love of mysteries. Parkes’s writing style captivates the reader so that whatever the subject it is fresh and delightful. Known for her detailed works on yarn and knitting as well as a regular e-letter on knitting and a mostly food-oriented blog, Parkes here has demonstrated again her knitting knowledge and a beautiful grasp of the written language.

                            --Recommended by Miriam Guidero, Glendale Library


September 15, 2014

The Blue Cliff Record

The Blue Cliff Record
by Cleary, Thomas and J.C. Cleary, translators
294.3927 YUA 1992

A monk asked Chao Chou: "'The Ultimate Path has no difficulties--just avoid picking and choosing'--isn't this just another cliché for people of these times?"
Chou said, "Once someone asked me, and I really couldn't explain for five years."

Got that? Any questions? That was the 58th Case from the Blue Cliff Record, a book of 100 Zen kōans. Let's tie up loose knots with the 59th Case:
A monk asked Chao Chou, "'the Ultimate Path has no difficulties--just avoid picking and choosing. As soon as there are words and speech, this is picking and choosing.' So how do you help people, Teacher?"
Chou said, "Why don't you quote this saying in full?" The monk said, "I only remember up to here."
Chou said, "It's just this: This Ultimate Path has no difficulties;just avoid picking and choosing."

A kōan is a "public case," and these cases are meant to knock their readers off their mental rails. When reading one of these very brief cases, if you give it what the author of the Forward calls "a reality reading," you might be joggled from your ordinary means of thinking, into enlightenment. "In this mode, you yourself become the case . . . " This may sound frightening to you, but I've always been a case.

Laughing at the kōans is a permissible response, at least in the East 10th Street School of Zen. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, I was working for the library, and on Sundays (this is probably a sad thing to admit) I would walk from Woodruff Place to Central Library, sometimes in the snow. I would laugh my head off (while keeping it warm), thinking about Chao Chou. It's okay to laugh because you think these cases are nonsensical, but some readers may be laughing because they've been moved to where Chao Chou wanted them to go.

The Notes and Commentaries and Pointers can be helpful, but don't expect them to be rational explanations.

                                   --Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology


September 8, 2014

Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile

Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile
by Jackson, Nate
796.332 Jackson JAC

As the football season begins, we often think of some of the legendary players from yesterday and today – Jim Brown, “Mean” Joe Greene, Peyton Manning. However, we seldom think of some of their less-heralded teammates, some of the men who played, or sat on the bench, in relative anonymity. The men who were bruised and battered in practice at the bottoms of piles. The players who made all of the same sacrifices of their time, energy, and bodies that the superstars did, but with none of the glory.

Nate Jackson was one of those players. In his autobiography, Jackson recounts his six seasons in the NFL and takes us with him from small time football at Menlo College to becoming an undrafted rookie with the Denver Broncos to a stint in Germany for NFL Europe and finally through the deterioration of his body and career. On the journey, Jackson doesn’t pull any punches about the realities of his gruesome injuries, the off-the-field perks of being a professional athlete, and the moral dilemmas of using performance enhancing drugs.

While so much of our focus is often spent on the goings-on of the best known athletes in football, it is interesting and refreshing to read a detailed and honest account of the not-so-famous athlete.

Slow Getting Up is also available as a downloadable e-book.

                           --Recommended by Adam Todd, Spades Park Library


September 1, 2014


by Leonard, Elmore

Elmore Leonard has been one of my favorite authors since I read my first Leonard book, Killshot, in 1991. In this fast paced action story, two brothers, known as drug dealers, decide to get into the “body parts” business, specifically Kidneys. U. S. Marshall Raylan Givens is the man assigned to stop them in their tracks.

The book has a lot of characters and action going on at the same time. Layla, the nurse, removes and collects kidneys for a cool 10 grand. The executive of a Kentucky coal mine will stop at nothing to get what she wants; and Jackie Nevada, a cool-handed cheat and expert poker player, finds herself being tracked by U.S. Marshals.

Even if you’re not an Elmore Leonard fan, you will love this book!

  Raylan is also available as a downloadable audiobook and an audiobook on CD

                                    --Recommended by Gregory Hill, Decatur Library