Staff Picks

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

February 10, 2014

Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black
by Setterfield, Diane

A long-awaited second novel by the author of The Thirteenth Tale, Bellman & Black is that very rare article: a second book that’s better than the first.

Will Bellman is ten years old when, out playing with his friends, he boasts that he can hit a rook with his slingshot. None of the boys seriously believe he’ll accomplish this feat - but they all watch the stone as it arcs through the sky, then falls and kills the bird. Will is extremely disturbed by his deed, but the incident soon fades from memory. The first half of the book follows his life: through childhood and then working his uncle's mill, through marriage and fatherhood. William Bellman is an ambitious man and it seems all he touches turns to gold. He lives an apparently charmed life - a successful business, loving marriage and four healthy and happy children. Yet, there is a price to be paid for this success. A dark shadow hangs over this seemingly ideal existence in the form of a sinister, mysterious man in black who appears whenever William attends the funeral of a loved one (in Victorian England, funerals occur with alarming frequency). When the funerals become more personal for William, he is forced to strike a bargain with the man in black to save the only precious thing left in his life. A new business venture is born: Bellman & Black.

This is a dark, atmospheric and strange Victorian tale depicting a man's glorious rise and tragic fall. Though it’s billed as a ghost story, it’s more accurately described as the story of a haunted man. Atmospheric, lyrical, and brilliantly written, it will haunt the reader for a long time.

— Recommended by Emily Talbott, Nora Library


February 3, 2014

King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village

King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village
by Bartels, Peggielene and Eleanor Herman
B Bartels, Peggielene BAR

In August 2008, on the cusp of the Presidential election for what would be the first Black President of the United States, Peggielene Bartels receives a phone call at 4am that changes her life. She is told that she has been selected to be the next King of Otuam, a small village on the western coast of Africa near the Atlantic Ocean. A list was drafted with 25 possible candidate names to become the successor to the throne. The successor had to be related to the former King, have characteristics of a great king and be approved through a sacred ritual of pouring libations to ensure that the chosen candidate was not only approved by the Council of Elders but also approved by ancestor spirits. Peggy possessed both relationship and characteristics of a king. She was unanimously approved by the ancestor spirits.

Peggy is beside herself with excitement and doubt. After all, she already has a job as the Secretary to the Ghana embassy in Washington D.C. How would she figure out how to be King of an African Village?

This book shares the journey that Peggielene Bartels encounters on her road to becoming King of Otuam. She chronicles many challenges such as learning the workings of being a king, working with her stubborn, chauvinistic Council of Elders, figuring out how to obtain running water, healthcare and education to make Otuam a sustainable and economically sound village, and finding out the mystery behind the former king’s death. This is King Peggy’s inspiring story of hard work and dedication to the people of Otuam and her goal to make Otuam a respected village in Ghana.

                               — Recommended by Kim Jones, African-American History Committee


January 27, 2014

Quirkology : How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things

Quirkology : How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things
by Wiseman, Richard

What is the best pick-up line? What’s the world’s funniest joke? Or, for that matter, what makes a joke funny to some people but not others? What kinds of drivers are most apt to break the law? Do cities with fast walkers have more crime? What causes the hairs on the back of your neck to raise when you’re in a spooky setting? What kinds of people take more than 10 items through the express lane at the supermarket? Believe it or not, there are quite a few scientists who study these questions and more, coming up with ingenious ways to research and quantify their findings. Quirkology doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive psychological study, but it does have a lot of fun examining the various quirks that make us who we are. Wiseman is a Professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England. He’s also a practicing magician. Perhaps a strange career combination, but who better to peek behind the smoke and mirrors of the self we present to the world, to discover the magic of who we really are?

                                 — Recommended by Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Library


January 13, 2014

The Best Film You’ve Never Seen: 35 Directors Champion the Forgotten or Critically Savaged Movies They Love

The Best Film You’ve Never Seen: 35 Directors Champion the Forgotten or Critically Savaged Movies They Love
by Elder, Robert K.
791.4375 ELD

“Movie Lover” has a different connotation for everyone. It means just that: a cineaste: a film enthusiast. For others it is something rather highbrow, requiring the ability to read subtitles and interpret Ingmar Bergman or enjoy only the tortured filmic outcries of obscurant and little appreciated artistes. This is not a book for that bunch. It is rather a book for the hardcore lover of the craft’s prime focus: to entertain.

Robert Elder interviews 35 directors to learn the unappreciated (or flatly disliked) movies that they love and why. Here you will find nuggets of brilliance such as Ugetsu (1953), directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and beloved of Kimberly Peirce who directed the devastating Boys Don't Cry (1999). There are disturbing picks, such as The Swimmer (1968) by Frank Perry and an uncredited Sydney Pollack, and starring Burt Lancaster in an unusual role, which won high praise from Alex Proyas who has directed such movies as The Crow (1994) and I, Robot (2004). And there is the weirdly wonderful, such as the great John Waters (he of Polyester (1981) and Hairspray (1988) fame) and his seemingly inexplicable love for Boom! (1968) directed by Joseph Losey and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

The Best Film You’ve Never Seen will allow readers to find a director whose work they like and discover a hidden classic that will entertain in new and interesting ways.

                                      --Recommended by Deanna Long, East Washington Library


December 30, 2013

The African-American Heritage Cookbook: Traditional Recipes and Fond Remembrances

The African-American Heritage Cookbook: Traditional Recipes and Fond Remembrances
by Tillery,Carolyn Quick

This cookbook not only has savory recipes from beverages to desserts but also takes the reader on a journey through history. Author Carolyn Tillery states, “The occasional observations and first-person anecdotes I have provided throughout the book are not intended to be a definitive history of Tuskegee, but an attempt to give a human dimension to Tuskegee’s great men and women through their relationship to food and its preparation.”

Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee Alabama was founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881. Booker T. Washington was concerned about the diet of the sharecroppers and one of the first things he taught was farming. Scientist Dr. George Washington Carver came to Tuskegee and demonstrated to the sharecroppers how to farm the land and shared recipes and preservation methods. The results were great recipes that are found throughout this book. Some of the recipes are Collard Greens with Cornmeal Dumplings, Buttermilk Biscuits, and Dr. Carver’s Sliced Sweet Potato Pie. Readers will enjoy these historical recipes.

                           Recommended by Denyce Malone, Flanner House Library