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June 2, 2014
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
by Wallace, David Foster
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
May 26, 2014
by Butcher, Jim
Cursor’s Fury is the third book in the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher.
In the series, in Alera, magic takes the form of elemental furies. The furies inhabit the fire, water, rocks, and trees. Wild furies inhabit the forests and mountains or dance in storms. Tame furies may light lamps or empower individuals with powers of flight, healing or great strength. The strongest furies are under the control of the high lords and high ladies of Alera, and the strongest furies are those of First Lord. Even simple farmers have some skill with furies; however, in all of Alera, only Tavi has no furies at all.
Even without a fury, Tavi has proven a resourceful servant of the crown. At the time of the second battle of Calderon, Tavi gained the friendship of Kitai and helped win the alliance with her people, the mysterious Marat. While training at the capital, Tavi helped thwart an attack by the monstrous Canim and the alien Vord. He completed his training as a cursor -- an agent of the crown -- and is now preparing for the next step in his training: service in the Legion.
As Cursor’s Fury begins, the hostilities with the Canim are unresolved. Two of the powerful high lords are preparing for civil war. War is looming for Alera, and in this book, there are battles. The action in Cursor’s Fury is good, and the battles are some of the best in the entire series. The unusual magic system combined with the Roman tactics make for great military fantasy.
--Recommended by Keith Dinnage, Garfield Park Library
May 19, 2014
by Hale, Shannon
Austenland by Shannon Hale is a delightful story of a young woman’s quest to rid herself of her Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy obsessions that are ruining her love life. The heroine, Jane, is given a two-week trip to Austenland, a vacation destination where you can live like Regency era Jane Austen characters. Tired of failed relationships and too high expectations of men, Jane goes to cleanse her palette of her Mr. Darcy fantasies in hopes that she can find true love and move on with her life. Interspersed between Jane’s curious adventures in Austenland, readers learn about Jane’s past failed romantic relationships from early childhood crushes to her unsuccessful more recent affairs. Written with quick and witty prose, Austenland is a light and short read. Will Jane get her happy ending? Is Mr. Darcy really something Jane wants? Through her interactions with other vacationers and actors at Austenland, Jane finds what she really wants, which may not be what she thought.
If you enjoy this quick read, Austenland was made into a feature film starring Keri Russell of TV’s Felicity fame. Check out the movie once you’ve read the book and decide which you like better!
--Recommended by Meredith Albertin, Lawrence Library
May 12, 2014
Admiral Nimitz: The Commander of the Pacific Ocean Theater
by Harris, Brayton
Chester W. Nimitz, arguably the most important U.S. Navy officer of World War II, was one of only three to reach five-star rank. In character he had the rectitude and vision of George C. Marshall, the Army chief, but without the aloofness. This biography, in the concise style of a background investigation report, describes his rugged Texas childhood and subsequent naval career in the oft-scorned submarine service, eventually commanding the Pacific war against Japan.
The story of Nimitz is much the story of our Navy’s progress into the modern age. As a young officer he devised and tactfully promoted solutions to Navy problems: NROTC as an answer to officer shortage, underway refueling to extend the reach of the fleet, diesel engines to improve submarine crew safety, circular formations to prevent scattering during course changes, and many others including ballistic missile submarines.
He was too modest to write a memoir or approve a biography, so he is less well known than some of our more flamboyant commanders, but this book should help to rectify that.
--Recommended by Melinda Mullican, Wayne Library
May 5, 2014
Miss Manners Minds Your Business
by Martin, Judith and Nicholas Ivor Martin
It may seem as if etiquette is a relic of a bygone age, but this book “Miss Manners Minds Your Business” makes it clear that nothing could be further from the truth. As the world becomes more technologically advanced, it is more necessary than ever that we all practice the good manners that lubricate the joints of our society. Indeed, with social websites, cell phones and texting, virtual realities, and the impact all this has on the workplace as well as our personal lives, it is more important than ever to behave in a way that is socially acceptable, and the solutions to the problems of what to do are not always clear. Luckily, Miss Manners shows the way, by offering a series of interesting and sometimes flabbergasting scenarios and then offering witty and workable solutions. As Miss Manners herself has observed, “The younger generation can’t eat, and the older generation can’t tweet.” Thanks to Miss Manners’ sage and amusing advice, everyone can learn how to do both, even as the myriad examples offered in this nonfiction book make it clear that technology is having an impact upon our lives in ways that would not have been imagined even ten years ago.
--Recommended by Patricia Fogleman, Southport Library