Staff Picks

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

March 7, 2016

Jade Mountain Dragon

Jade Dragon Mountain
by Hart, Elsa

Settings long ago and far away allow us to immerse ourselves in another culture and time, to become the proverbial armchair traveler. Jade Dragon Mountain, a first novel by Elsa Hart, takes place in a backwater city in southwest China near the Tibetan border. The time is late eighteenth century. Lyrical descriptions help set the tone. Vivid characters populate the novel. Li Du, the sleuth of the novel, is a librarian exiled for political reasons, a travelling scholar. There are also delightful passages in which Hamza, an itinerant Arabian storyteller, spins his tales. Tulishen, the magistrate of the city of Dayan, provides a bureaucratic counterpoint. The action takes place just before and during the Emperor’s visit during which he is expected to predict the eclipse of the sun.

To top it all off, there is a mystery. Clues are given throughout the novel, but it was difficult to figure out who might have killed an aging Jesuit astronomer. Clues are interspersed with false leads providing intriguing twists in the plot. Curiosity kept me reading. This is a thoroughly satisfying read from 1st page to last, quite an accomplishment for a first novel. Expect to hear more from this author.

Jade Dragon Mountain  is also available as a downloadable e-book.

--Recommended by Janice Swan, Glendale Library


February 29, 2016

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by King, Stephen
808.02 KIN

I have been a fan of Stephen King's fiction for years. So, in high school my parents gave me On Writing as a Christmas gift. I didn't get it. "But, I’m not a writer!" I thought. Now I realize that they knew me better than I knew myself. Recently I drafted a novel, and reread this book again.

King starts out with what he calls his CV, an autobiography that provides a rich background into his character and upbringing. You can see his evolution, with the help of his single mom and older brother into a voracious reader and tentative writer. He describes the trials and tribulations of perfecting his craft while working odd jobs to support a growing family. And then, he gets down to the nitty gritty, practical tips on writing. King is both self-deprecating in his suggestions and critical of others. He doesn’t pull punches for anyone.

On Writing is currently helping me get through the long slog of revisions and "What was I thinking?" moments. It is a must have for writers and King fans alike, reminding us of the commandment to be honest in our writing.

For instance he suggests: If you curse in real life, then don't have your characters substitute curse words, unless it is for a good reason. If your character is the type to yell "Sugar!" when hitting her thumb with a hammer, that is characterization in and of itself. His advice is invaluable to aid writers in ego and anxiety checks alike.

On Writing is also available as a downloadable e-book and in large print.

--Recommended by Kasey Panighetti, Franklin Road Library


February 22, 2016

We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy

We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy
by Gaines, Caseen
791.4375 GAI

Back to the Future is one of those movies that keeps you guessing. It’s good clean 80s fantastic movie-going entertainment. No matter how many times you see the film, even 30 years after it was first released, the film’s depiction of time travel is still fascinating.

I found We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy to be incredible and mesmerizing. The book, by Caseen Gaines, perfectly captures the fundamentals of what made the Back To The Future films such iconic films in movie history. From the very first chapter, the author takes the reader on a gripping incremental journey, delivering behind the scenes facts on casting changes, pitching, script revisions, stunts, special effects – yes, the Hover Board is finally explained! - and other eye-opening aspects about the production process. The attention to detail concerning the preproduction, casting decisions, creative flexibility, studio involvement and salary negotiations make this book, indubitably, one of the best behind-the-scenes books I’ve ever read.

We Don’t Need Roads is also available as an audiobook on CD.

        --Recommended by Montoya Barker, Lawrence Library


February 15, 2016

Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time - and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything

Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time - and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything
by Musser, George
530.11 MUS

The first part of that title is from Albert Einstein. He was uncomfortable with the idea of two particles influencing one another without coming into contact. It was the logical result of theories he was working on, but he didn't like it, and called it "spooky action at a distance."

George Musser has now written a witty history of the concept of "nonlocality," and the way physicists are always challenging their past ideas about how the universe works. There are subject headings like "Farewell to Fields" and "Parting with Particles" and, a few pages earlier, "Space is Toast No Matter What."

No mathematical equations appear in the book, which makes it easier for shnooks like me to read this narrative about how thinkers--philosophers and physicists--have viewed the world.

Does matter in the universe consist of billiard ball-like objects bouncing off one another, causing reactions? That's a popular age-old view; but the way magnets pull on other objects, and the way static electricity messes with your hair, didn't quite fit the billiard-ball picture. As George Musser says, "Aristotle dealt with the problem by the time-honored strategy of ignoring it."

glenn_blurry-yuk.jpgAnd "entanglement," as it's sometimes called, the way objects in different parts of the universe may be acting in harmony, is quirkier than magnetism. This photograph of a Web Content Specialist was taken using infrared heavy-iron sensoring--many lives were at risk--but do you see how the atoms on either side of his head are "as one," despite the vast empty space between them?

To be honest, I don't follow everything Musser says, even though he's skipping the math. But Spooky Action is still a lot of fun.

— Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Web Content Specialist


February 8, 2016

A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction

A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction
by Kennedy, Patrick J. & Stephen Fried
362.29 KEN

The Kennedy family has been larger than life in the history of our country and we have looked to them with admiration and intrigue. They have had many accomplishments, politically and socially, often putting their name behind causes close to their hearts. With Steven Fried, Patrick Kennedy has co-authored the book “A Common Struggle,” in which he opens up about many of the struggles his family has endured and that were kept secret for many years.

He details his immediate family’s battles with alcoholism, and mentions his Aunt Rosemary 's mental illness, which was exacerbated when she was given a lobotomy as a “cure.” Patrick writes of his own mental illness that was not diagnosed properly for many years. He describes his life path of overcoming drug addiction and trying to control his illness.

Having had these experiences, and with his political family background, Patrick has set out to fight the stigma of mental illness for all. He has been an advocate in mental health legislation--as were his Uncle, John F. Kennedy, and his father, Ted--trying to make health care available for those who have not been considered ill due to the definition of an illness in the eyes of the medical community. The Kennedy family has really put mental illness in the forefront, by creating legislation that has helped with insuring the mentally ill and by creating events like The Special Olympics that offer a sporting event for the mentally challenged.

Patrick shows us just how far health care for the mentally ill has come and how far it still has to go. “A Common Struggle” is an intriguing read that is concluded with the information for supporting different mental illness organizations that Patrick Kennedy supports and promotes with all of his heart.

A Common Struggle is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and an audiobook on CD.

           --Recommended by Kris Gould, Nora Library