Staff Picks

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

February 18, 2013

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from Privileged Son

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from Privileged Son
by Wise, Tim
305.8 WIS 2008

No matter your race or your feelings about the current state of race relations, Wise’s book will challenge your assumptions and turn your view of society on its head. Well written, not overly scholarly, filled with personal insights and stories, we find out about Wise’s own personal journey dealing with race and the effects white privilege on his family history and upbringing. He writes with insight about institutionalized white supremacy—so pervasive and ingrained as the status quo that most do not question it or even realize that there is such a bias. Two points I found particularly intriguing and that he elucidates very well are that of the “profound denial…and willed ignorance” of this privilege on the part of most whites and about the psychological, social and personal costs to whites because of this privilege—ideas I’ve not heard expressed anywhere else and that are really eye-opening. Find out why Wise so passionately fights racism and why, in this ongoing battle, it’s important for everyone to stand up to racism, in its many shapes and forms, in daily life. Wise gives the reader some tools to do so.

— Recommended by Nicole James, College Avenue Library


February 11, 2013

A Beginner's Guide to Rakes

A Beginner's Guide to Rakes
by Enoch, Suzanne, read by Anne Flosnik

This is the first book in Scandalous Brides, a regency romance series. On the CD audiobook and the downloadable audiobook, Anne Flosnik does a great job of giving the men distinct voices. Diane Benchley, a young widow, returns to London and turns her husband’s family home into an exclusive gentleman's gaming club. The twist is that all the employees will be women. Diane knows nothing about running a club, so she enlists the aid of the rakish and successful gambler the Marquis of Haybury, Oliver Warren. Technically, she blackmailed him, but he remembers their brief affair fondly and hopes to rekindle the flame. What I liked best about this book is that the female characters were women who survived despite being left alone in the world to fend for themselves. And yes, this title is available as a book.

— Recommended by Debbie Overshiner, Eagle Library


February 4, 2013


by Sapphire

Claireece Precious Jones is a 16-year-old African American girl being raised in the projects of Harlem by her habitually abusive, single mother. Precious has been told all her life she’s “stupid” and that she’s nothing. She speaks with very broken English from being passed along in school; and to escape her miserable life she tends to live out her fantasy life in her head. She has a daughter who has Down Syndrome whom she calls “Little Mongo” and she is currently pregnant . . . both by her own father. Because of her “delicate situation” Precious has been transferred to an alternative school. In this new school Precious meets a teacher who helps her find her voice, worth and reason to “push” toward a better future for her and her children. She begins to learn she’s more than her dire circumstances.

— Recommended by Claudine Polley, African-American History Committee


January 28, 2013

The Debba

The Debba
by Mandelman, Avner

I tried to read The Debba earlier this month, while I was watching the first season of Homeland, but something deep within me cried out NO NO NO I CAN'T DO THIS. I couldn't deal with more than one suspense story embedded in dark political machinations. I'm glad that I picked the book back up, when the season was over, and my thanks go to Curt in the Booksale for recommending it.

David Starkman has been living in Canada. He is called back to his homeland, Israel, when his father is murdered, and the father's will contains a provision that David finds ridiculous. His father had written a play called The Debba, which had been staged only once,  decades earlier, and had caused a riot. The will states that David must stage the play within 45 days of his father's death. David refuses, at first, but then agrees to do it, in part because there are obviously forces around him that don't want the play to be staged.

I wasn't always sure that I was keeping the story lines straight, but emerging from the Raymond-Chandler-in-Israel plot is a vision of the confused relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel. David has been living with nightmares about the dreck, the dirty work, that he had been called upon to perform as an Israeli soldier; and now, enmeshed in the production of this provocative play, he finds himself donning his espionage gear once again. His ideas about his father, and literature, and the past, are forever being pulled inside out.

Side note: Author Mandelman has written, in a little essay called "Necessary Evil and Necessary Hypocrisy,"  about how he felt "electric shock" when he first encountered John LeCarré's master spy George Smiley. If you click on the link, scroll down on the Amazon page to see the essay.

This novel is also available as a downloadable e-book

Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology


January 21, 2013

A Celtic Miscellany: Translations from the Celtic Literatures

A Celtic Miscellany: Translations from the Celtic Literatures
edited by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson
891.6 CEL 1971

The word "Celtic" is thrown around almost as loosely as "organic" or, in my professional sphere, the phrase "Web 2.0." According to this volume's editor, though, the slipshod usage of the term is nothing new. Even in 1951 and the second edition in 1971, Jackson was weighing in against "the fashion to think of the Celtic mind as something mysterious, magical, filled with dark broodings over a mighty past; and the Irish, Welsh, and the rest as a people who by right of birth alone were in some strange way in direct contact with a mystical supernatural twilight world which they would rarely reveal to the outsider.."

His solution to the problem was this anthology, spanning twelve centuries, with sections on nature, Celtic magic, religion, love, bardic poetry, epigrams, elegies and satire. I contacted the publisher a year or two ago, to ask if I could reprint some passages in our Reader's Connection blog, and Penguin referred me to some other group who owned the rights, and who wove a band of Celtic flame around the book. They don't want passages to appear on the Web, even for a fee.

The flame-band, however, affects only my efforts to mine the Miscellany for the Web. You can open the library's copy without suffering injury. Have you ever tried to read The Cattle-Raid of Cooley? It may sound like a western, but it is, as Jackson puts it, "the Iliad of Irish story," and if its combination of violence and boredom reminded you of A Fistful of Dollars, try some of the excerpts in the Miscellany's Hero-Tales and Adventure section. You might see the work in a new light.

I'm looking out my dining room window on Martin Luther King Day. The flurries seem to have stopped, and the sun is shining. I don't have a problem with January, myself, but for those of you who do, I wish I could reprint "To May and January" from the Nature section. It closes by hurling a curse at this chilly month, and you might feel some kinship. Rath oraibh go léir.

Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology