Staff Picks

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

January 11, 2016

How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity

How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity
by Stark, Rodney
909.09821 STA

Western society originating in Europe has dominated the world for more than half a millennium, providing its people with the highest living standards and the greatest individual freedom to be found anywhere. Military and economic power founded on relatively advanced technology has enabled this dominance, but there is no agreed explanation for how the west achieved this.

Professor Stark rejects the claim that Europe’s river network and natural resources ordained this, arguing that the democratic governments of ancient Greece – abetted by the harsh geography –forced people to work harder at agriculture and defense against huge enemy (Persian) forces.

He notes that great empires – Egypt, Persia, China, and even Rome – consumed their treasure in monuments and luxuries for the few while leaving their people at a subsistence level. Medieval Christian Europe was fragmented as Greece had been, so the competition and the plethora of smaller governments drove the innovation that, in dominating the world, improved living standards everywhere. His story, though out of step with modern revisionism, is a fascinating one.

          --Recommended by Melinda Mullican, Wayne Library


January 4, 2016

Glamping with MaryJane

Glamping with MaryJane
by Butters, MaryJane
796.54 BUT

I have fond memories of outdoor camping as a Girl Scout. Sleeping bags, canoes, backpacks and sit-upons are all camping accoutrements that I recall. The most vivid memory that I have is of the primitive camping that 7 of us campers did when I attended CYO camp as a youth. Seven middle school girls and our teenage camp counselor rode horses to our camp site in Brown County, Indiana. No tents for us campers – we slept in the very dark woods, on the ground, under the stars. Dried leaves cushioned our sleeping bags, scurrying spiders kept us up all night, and the fire provided some warmth and sense of security. Boy, were we scared to death! But we loved it.

The book, Glamping with Mary Jane, does away with the old notion that camping has to be dirty, hard, and primitive, and the purview of strapping young boys and hardy men. This book shows women and girls how to buy the trailer, glam it up, back it into position, unhitch, and then how to do traditional camp activities – all with feminine style. In a warm and conversational style the author includes chapters on how to select a trailer, what gear to pack, safety, glamping eats, and entertainment. Although primarily an informative how-to book; the author uses humor to illustrate the practical side of camping life particular to females (read the page on the “can’t live without” FUD). The author's own years of personal experience as a ranger in the Forest Service makes her a trusted “glamping” advisor.

--Recommended by Rhonda Oliver, Brightwood Library


December 28, 2015

Beech Grove

Beech Grove
by Hillman, Jim & John Murphy & the Beech Grove Public Library
977.252 HIL

Images of America: Beech Grove is part of the Arcadia publisher’s series of local history books which shows the history of the area through their photographs.

This book begins in 1904, with the New York Central Railroad buying 2,400 acres of land just 6 miles from downtown Indianapolis to build a new locomotive shop. When the New York Central Railroad laid out the plans for this new shop complex they only allocated ¼ of the land to the shop. The rest of the land was platted by the Beech Grove Improvement Company and became the town of Beech Grove.

This book contains many pictures of the New York Central Beech Grove shops which in the 1970’s would become the Amtrak shops, but it also contains many pictures of the original building and inhabitants of the city, including the Churchmans and the Fletchers. It also follows the development of the area businesses, schools and churches, including St. Francis Hospital and Holy Name Catholic Church.

Beech Grove is also available as a downloadable e-book.

            --Recommended by Judy Gray, Garfield Park Library


December 21, 2015

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride
by Elwes, Cary
CD 791.4372 ELW

Fans of the movie The Princess Bride will be charmed by this audiobook version of As You Wish. Cary Elwes wrote and narrates his memories of the making of the movie, starting with the difficulty of getting it made at all (most studios thought it was “unmakeable”) and ending with the slowly growing international acclaim it has garnered. Cary was only 23 when he was cast as Westley, and his wonderment at being part of such a life-changing endeavor is apparent in his words and voice. He is also a fair mimic, and he often “interprets” the voices of others, two of his favorites being Rob Reiner and Andre the Giant. However, others associated with the film add comments and recollections in their own voices, as well; among them are Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal and most of the rest of the surviving cast. As the listener immerses him or herself in the back stories, s/he will hear tidbits like which particularly graceful move in the movie was really just someone trying to protect their broken toe; how hard it was to wrestle with a R.O.U.S (rodent of unusual size), who was obsessed with Danny DeVito and why, and how hard it was to learn to fence with one hand, let alone two! S/he will discover that some scenes are more real than realistic because a bop on the head with a sword is harder than an actor might expect, and will learn that someone who does nearly all his own stunts is injured only when he bruises a rib trying to stifle his laughter while playing a scene with a wildly ad-libbing Billy Crystal. In fact, laughter on the set seems to be one of the biggest obstacles to getting through many of the scenes!

It must be noted that there is a print version of this book as well. But surely, listening in on the actual voices of those who remember this time so fondly is more magical that just reading the words. It puts the listener in a situation similar to a reunion of longtime friends chatting and recalling the good old days, and makes one anxious to revisit those times by watching the movie all over again.

In addition to the print version and the audiobook on CD, As You Wish is also available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook.

--Recommended by Doriene Smither, East Washington Library


December 14, 2015

Road Fever: A High-Speed Travelogue

Road Fever: A High-Speed Travelogue
by Cahill, Tim

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the Americas from one end to the other? Travelogue writer and adventurer Tim Cahill, and his teammate, Garry Sowerby, challenge themselves to drive a fifteen thousand mile journey from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay in less than twenty-four days. Travel on the edge of your seat, flying down the roads with the author as he navigates country to country through weather conditions, cultures and zany customs. The ad lib problem-solving techniques the team muster create suspense and add hilarity to the narrative!

Road Fever is also available in print.

Recommended by Tracy McDorr, Fountain Square Library