Staff Picks

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

June 30, 2014

The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums
by Kerouac, Jack

Jack Kerouac’s 1958 publication of The Dharma Bums is his much anticipated follow up to his groundbreaking 1957 book On the Road. Many consider the these two works companion pieces due to their detailed description of Kerouac’s journey across America and his eventful relations with some of America’s most influential “Beatniks” of the Beat Generation Era. However, where Dharma Bums separates itself from On the Road is in its vivid spirituality and Kerouac’s crazed infatuated search for the eternal soul.

The peripatetic Ray Smith, the main character sitting in for Kerouac, takes epic and spiritual journeys through the rugged American wilderness with his companions Japhy Ryder, a fictional version of naturalist Gary Snyder, and Alvah Goldbook, standing in for famed poet Allen Ginsberg. These three men’s presence in this book is truly pivotal because it shows the diversified lifestyles and outlooks held by the three mad Beat Generation giants,  and because their roles in this book exemplify the vision and dream of the “Beat Movement.” This book is centered on the idea of returning humanitarianism to an uncultured and disconnected 1950s America.

Kerouac has prophetic visions and vibrations of future generations abandoning their television sets and so-called idealistic lifestyles, and seeing and feeling everyone packing up their rucksacks for a spiritual enlightening journey through the crossroads of America.

Kerouac’s Christian background comes to the forefront in some manner throughout the course of the book by him showing extreme compassion for individuals not only in his circle but also to those who are on the outside looking in. Kerouac’s search for spiritual enlightenment and eternal soul is powered for his search for Zen, a term Kerouac embraced in 1950s America before many even know what it actually was. Kerouac’s epic journey us and down the west coast with his rucksack on his back containing nothing but the bare essentials are laced with midnight meditations under the desert and woodland stars. The reader often finds Kerouac and his town companions embarking days at a time on spiritual mountain climbs through some of the most rugged woodlands in America. The final scene is absolutely beautiful. Kerouac sitting isolated atop Desolation Peak in deep meditation taking in the scenery and extending extreme gratitude for all the life that has been bestowed upon him.

Kerouac also gives an account of the Sixth Gallery Reading in San Francisco which he declares is, “The birth place of the poetry renaissance.”

If you are familiar with Kerouac’s works The Dharma Bums is a great piece to add to your collection if you haven’t already. If you aren’t familiar with Kerouac then this is a great book to dive into the great madness that is Jack Kerouac.

The Dharma Bums is also available as a downloadable audiobook               

              --Recommended by Jeremy Sexton, East Washington Library


June 23, 2014

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat
by Moore, Edward Kelsey

Get ready to sit back and relax and take a trip to Plainview, Indiana during the 1960’s. The reader goes on a journey with three friends Barbara Jean, Clarice, and Odette through four decades. What happens during this coming of age story is at times funny and sad, with a dash of paranormal activity. Most of the story takes place at the small town’s diner which is known as Earl’s Diner. It is here where the three friends meet, eat good food, and have great conversation. Fantastic read on true friendship. It is a well written story, a first novel by native Hoosier musician and writer Edward Kelsey Moore; and it will leave you wanting more.

                               --Recommended by Denyce Malone, Flanner House Library


June 16, 2014

Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives

Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives
by Caddick-Adams, Peter
940.54 CAD

Britain’s Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and Germany’s Erwin Rommel fought each other during World War II in France 1940, North Africa 1942-43, and France 1944. Each cultivated good press relations, and was popular in his own country, but they had quite different reputations. “Monty” was meticulous in preparation and deliberate in execution, while Rommel was a fast-moving, risk-taking improviser. These different approaches to combat reflected their experiences a generation earlier when they fought (heroically) as junior officers in the First World War.

Monty’s WWI unit was overrun and dispersed amid great confusion, requiring exhaustive marching with little food or water, fueling his later obsession with physical fitness, careful planning, and thorough briefing of all subordinates. Rommel’s successes as a young officer all derived from flexible thinking and risky exploitation of enemy weaknesses. Both officers spent the inter-war years thinking, training, teaching, writing, and becoming outstanding practitioners of their craft.

                          --Recommended by Melinda Mullican, Wayne Library


June 9, 2014

Dancing Dogs

Dancing Dogs
by Katz, John

First, let me say that I am not a fan of short stories. But I am a fan of dogs and the author Jon Katz. No one captures the human/ animal bond quite like he does. So when I saw his new title “Dancing Dogs” I picked it up. There are sixteen delightful stories in the book. Among the dogs we meet are Pearl, who keeps an elderly woman company, Gus, who helps a widower through a rough patch, Dolly, the dog who kept men away, and Ernie, the psychic dog. I think my favorite story was “Luther and Minnie in Heaven” in which we are treated to a description of dog heaven which is quite disgusting. But I suspect these things really would be heaven to our four-legged friends! If you are looking for an engaging little book, this is it. And by the way, I found out that short stories aren’t so bad after all.

                           --Recommended by Brenda Grable, Pike Library


June 2, 2014

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
by Wallace, David Foster
814 WAL

The late David Foster Wallace is probably best known for his mammoth magnum opus Infinite Jest. But, prior to that novel’s release, Wallace had made a name for himself in part through several well-received pieces in magazines such as Harper’s, Premier, and Esquire. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is a collection of many of those articles.

The articles cover topics such as tennis, the films of director David Lynch, the impact of television on fiction writing, the Illinois State Fair, and the experience of taking a luxury cruise.

However, the themes of these essays explore far more than their premises would initially suggest. The titular essay, for example, covers the week Wallace spent on a cruise ship visiting the Caribbean. In it Wallace fights his agoraphobic tendencies, which would have him stay cooped up in his cabin, in order to mingle with his shipmates and attempt to enjoy the cruise experience. During his cruise, Wallace competes in a ship-wide ping-pong tournament (of sorts), develops a crush on his cabin attendant, and enters into a hostile relationship with the ship’s hotel manager, who he refers to as “Mr. Dermatitis.” Somewhat unexpectedly, Wallace uses these experiences to examine ideas about consumerism, the nature of luxury, and the roots of despair in U.S. culture. But it is Wallace’s unique blend of intellect and self-deprecating humor that make this, and many of the essays in this collection, so enjoyable to read, no matter how deep the subject matter gets.

                                  --Recommended by Adam Todd, Warren Library