RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Books

Breathe

Follow the baby whale as she experiences her first day of life in the sea . . . “Breathe, little whale!”  After a day of play, making friends, singing, and exploring, the baby ends up with her mama: “Most of all, love and be loved.”  Breathe is a lovely story to share with your own small person.

 

 

 


Why Women are Better than Men

Oxytocin, a bizarre unsuspecting hormone expressed during sex and breast feeding, has been heavily linked to empathy, trust and - in a word - being a good person.

Okay. So what. Well, here's the problem. Women have it. Men don't (generally speaking). This explains why women tend to be less violent, more giving, and more empathic than men. Sorry, men, we simply cannot ignore these statistics.

Of course there is much more to the story than that. But this book, which absolutely blew my mind, tries to explain how and why oxytocin forms the building blocks of morality. For me, a student of religion, philosophy, and the intersection between them and science, this argument was fascinating. I highly recommend this book. This is one of those books that I will never forget


Drum Dream Girl

In 1932, a 10-year-old Chinese-African-Cuban girl broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers. She performed with her older sisters as Anaconda (great band name), Cuba's first "all-girl dance band". Written by Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael LopezDrum Dream Girl shows how a young person who loves rhythm hears it everywhere she goes - in the whir of parrot wings, woodpecker beaks, and her own heartbeat. Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriago, Drum Dream Girl tells the story of how Millo's love of rhythm and drumming could not be denied. This is an inspiring book for young and old about honoring your dreams and breaking barriers.


Lucky Cat...Lucky Family

The Good Luck Cat: How a Cat Saved a Family, and a Family Saved a Cat is a heartfelt  memoir written by Lissa Warren, who in addition to being an author, is also an editor and publicity director residing on the East Coast. This chronicle revolves around Ting-Pei, Lissa’s family’s Korat cat. The Warrens’ had always been a cat loving family. Ting’s feline predecessor, Cinnamon, had lived with them for over 19 years, when kidney disease finally claimed her.

 

So in 1996, when Lissa’s father Jerry retired, had quadruple bypass surgery, and needed a companion to help him pass the time during recovery, Ting was adopted. Despite the fact that she weighed a mere seven pounds, Ting was a kitten full of vim, vigor, and a pronounced mischievous streak. Using her abundant intellect and winning personality, she quickly established herself as a prominent member of the Warren clan. Being on very friendly terms with everyone, she especially bonded with the father, and was an integral part of his daily life right up to the time of his death due to a heart attack in 2008.

 

Not too long after that loss, Ting begins to act strangely; stumbling, swaying back and forth and just staring into space for prolonged periods of time. A visit to the veterinarian reveals that Ting had become “syncopal”. These episodes of semi-loss of consciousness were being caused by a lack of blood reaching the brain as the result of cardiomyopathy; a condition where there is a weakening of the heart muscle thereby decreasing it’s ability to pump.

 

Ting’s prognosis is grim unless she has a pacemaker implanted; a common procedure for humans, but not so much with cats. However, neither this knowledge nor the rather high cost involved, daunts Lissa, and she transports Ting to Boston where the procedure is completed.

 

After surgery, Ting recuperates at the Boston clinic for about a week, and after a few more weeks at home, recovers completely. As of the book’s publishing date, she was still doing fine at 19 years of age!

 

Unfortunately, three years after Ting’s pacemaker implantation, Lissa was diagnosed with MS. Once more, Ting becomes a valuable support.

 

This book focuses on Ting and how she changed the lives of Lissa’s dad and Lissa herself. It is also a moving tribute to a family’s power to love, rejoice, deal with illness, grief, fear and accept their own fates.


The Lego Neighborhood Book

I never got into Legos as a child. For some reason, Legos were an item I just didn't happen to beg my parents to buy for me. I had Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, yes. Legos -- no. But I became interested in them when I saw the wonderful exhibits here at KPL by some very talented people. Earlier this week I happened to spot this 2014 book by Brian and Jason Lyles and was amazed at some of the patterns that could be constructed using these plastic blocks. This book on Lego villages has everything figured out, right down to the fire hydrants. And this is only one book on the topic. KPL has many others from which to choose, in the children's, teen, and adult areas of the library.


What is a Juggalo?

I was inspired to search out other Jon Ronson books after reading and really enjoying The Psychopath Test. I found Lost at Sea, a collection of journalistic investigations into eccentric people, belief systems, extraordinary projects, and human tragedies. Although I loved The Psychopath Test, I was not prepared for how many times I would laugh out loud while reading Lost at Sea at lunch in our staff room. 

 
As Ronson interviews people on a special cruise with psychic Sylvia Browne, or adherents to a new religious movement in England that involves speaking in tongues, or attendees at a Neuro-Linguistic Programming Conference, he is always skeptical but not mean or snarky. Many times he asked just the question that was in my head, but he did not badger people if they did not fully answer his question. I also liked that he did not completely remove himself from the possibility of believing in the things he was investigating. 

 
I was disturbed by the obsessive research and collecting of the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and enjoyed learning of a town in Alaska called the North Pole where the letters sent to Santa arrive and the townspeople try to answer some of them.


Oh yeah, and the collection starts with a bang, focusing on Michigan’s own Insane Clown Posse and the interesting message they had for their fans, the juggalos, after twenty years of aggressive, offensive rap music.


International Cooking @ KPL

Peru : the cookbook is one of the most beautiful books I've seen come across my desk here in the cataloging department at KPL. The recipes inside are as beautiful and mouth-watering as the rainbow-colored cover. If you are adventurous in the kitchen and like to try cooking foods from other cultures, check out KPL's international cooking section, call number 641.59 (2nd floor). The numbers are further divided out by country/region.

Some popular ones are:
French, 641.5944
Italian, 641.5945
Greek, 641.59495
Chinese, 641.5951
Japanese, 641.5952
Indic, 641.5954
Middle Eastern, 641.5956
African, 641.596
Mexican, 641.5972
American, 641.5973
African-American, 641.59296

To find in the catalog, search the subject heading “Cooking” with a comma, then the region -- for example, "Cooking, French" or "Cooking, Japanese."


Take a Chance with a Couple of Kooks

Miranda July is a Renaissance woman; she’s a fearless explorer in multiple artistic mediums: a filmmaker, a writer, and a performance artist. I’ve been a fan of hers since I saw her movie Me and You and Everyone We Know, an idiosyncratic independent film that addresses loneliness and human connection in contemporary society.  Loneliness and connection are common topics in her work, and her latest artistic venture, the novel The First Bad Man, is no exception to that.  Cheryl Glickman is a middle-aged single woman who has her life organized to virtual non-existence; she has an elaborate system set up (this includes having just enough dishes for one person for one meal) to avoid devolving into a depressed, hoarding, non-bathing mess.  But there wouldn’t be a story here if her life just continued on lonely and tidy—things change drastically when her bosses’ 21-year-old daughter moves in with her.  The First Bad Man is weirdly wonderful. The characters appear odd at first, but really their thoughts, emotions, and illogical natures are so utterly human. I’d recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of Miranda July or who likes eccentric, well-developed characters.


Countdown to Zero Day

I casually picked up Kim Zetter’s Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the launch of the world's first digital weapon because I was familiar with her writing for Wired magazine where she covers cybercrime, privacy, and security issues. While I knew Zetter as a skilled writer, I was not prepared for this book to capture my attention so profoundly and to be such a scary thrill to read. The book begins as an account of the detection and spread of what seemed at the time (2010-11) a rather routine computer “malware” attack but quickly unfolds into a thrilling whodunit with complex international implications and a glimpse at the kind of cyber-warfare that we will face in the future.

 


Get in Trouble: Stories

This book was recommended to me by a friend who understands my love for short stories that involve an element of magical realism. Watching a story move from mundane and everyday activities into the fantastical always grabs my interest. For example, the story “Summer People” starts exploring the life of a teenage girl who helps her father maintain the summer homes of the well-to-do. However, one house contains guests that are always just out of view and are certainly more magic than the average human, if they are human at all.

After reading these stories, I almost feel like my totally normal life may suddenly take a magical turn. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) that hasn't happened to me yet. But there is always tomorrow, right?