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Staff Picks: Books

Hoot Owl, master of disguise

 Hoot Owl is hungry. He is also clever, and a self proclaimed master of disguise. This wonderful new picture book, Hoot Owl by Sean Taylor, shows Owl first disguising himself as a large carrot to catch an unsuspecting rabbit. But Rabbit, not fooled, hops on by. Owl devises costumes as a birdbath, and as a sheep, with no success. How he manages to snag a tasty meal of pizza makes for a clever solution.

Illustrator Jean Jullien has perfectly captured the spirit of the story, and his large, colorful pictures add to the silliness. This is a wonderful book for sharing with a child!


Americanah: Leaving Home Behind

Americanah, which refers to a person who returns to Nigeria after time abroad, is a 15-year saga centering on Ifemelu, who grew up in poverty in Lagos, but managed to come to the US. Culture shock, poverty, and racism leave her feeling as if she has “cement in her soul” and she defines herself as a “Non-American Black.”

This is a novel about leaving home behind, independence, integrity, not being sure where one “fits,” both in the US and back home in Nigeria.

Its inclusion on many “best of” lists for 2014 and significant media attention is well deserved. One reviewer considers it a “world-class novel.”

 


Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

Juan Felipe Herrera is the California Poet Laureate. He has collaborated with Raúl Colón, the award-winning illustrator of many books for children, to create Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, the 2015 Pura Belpré Author Honor book. The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. There are also Illustrator and Author Honor books, like this one. It's nice to have a high quality, beautifully illustrated book like this that can also be used for help with homework reports about famous Americans.


Night of the Gun

New York Times journalist David Carr died yesterday at the age of 58. His critically acclaimed 2008 memoir Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own shined a light upon his struggles with addiction. Even as he rose through the professional ranks as a feisty and hard-nosed reporter, Carr’s life spun out of control, leading to homelessness and eventually to recovery. Carr was also prominently featured in the 2011 documentary film Page One: Inside the New York Times, a portrait of a year in the life of several New York Times reporters.


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

After seeing first-time novelist David Shafer’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot on a few Best of 2014 lists, I finally found a gap in my ‘must read now’ list of books and picked it up last weekend. I’m happy to report that it deserves its place on those best of lists. The book is hard to pin down. It is part hyper-paranoid techno-thriller (think late William Gibson) and part smart literary fiction with a sarcastic bent (think Dave Eggers), but it certainly qualifies as a page-turner and I found it to be a fun read. At least as fun as up-to-the-minute plausible fiction about a looming shadow digital oligarchy can be.


What's Indie Next?

Based on how the books are flying off our Library Reads display at the Central Library, we gather that this has become a trusted place to find some great books to read. 

 
Librarians got the idea for the monthly Library Reads Top 10 list from independent booksellers who started putting together a monthly Top 20 list called Indie Next. Because of how much you love the Library Reads display, we decided to use another one of our display locations to feature books on the Indie Next list.


Check it out in the rotunda of the Central Library where you will find “inspired recommendations from independent booksellers.”


A Short Story Recommendation

Reviewers and readers have raved about Margaret Atwood’s new collection of short stories: Stone Mattress: Nine Tales. I agree….she is the master of the short story.

The first three are interconnected and focus on people who once knew each other: an aging fantasy writer, a poet, and twins, one of whom knew the poet. There is a dark sense of humor running through these stories.

The title story, Stone Mattress, is the story of a woman on an Arctic cruise who seeks revenge on someone who wronged her many years ago. It is compelling.

I admit, I have enjoyed some of Atwood’s books and short stories, others not so much BUT I definitely appreciated this collection and highly recommend it.


Lunch with a Master Storyteller/Faker

The larger than life personality and talent that was Orson Welles is on full display in last year’s My Lunches with Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles. The child prodigy (actor, writer, director) who was every bit the iconoclast he’s been generally labeled bluntly and without filters shares his thoughts on a variety of subjects, mainly in regards to his judgments and attitudes for or against fellow actors and filmmakers. Always brash, sometimes blatantly offensive and with a refreshing honesty (one might say narrow minded megalomania), Welles would seem to have known everyone and done everything first and better than others according to these precious and revealing conversations with friend, agent and fellow director Henry Jaglom. Welles had a brilliant mind to go along with his formidable personality. Striking both a gossipy and intellectual tone, the book’s unique format makes one feel as though the reader is present, a fly on the wall and witness to one of the 20th Century’s most fascinating artists tackling one topic after another with humor, intelligence and bravado.


DASH Out to Good Health and a Youthful Look

The DASH Diet Younger You: Shed 20 Years - and Pounds - in Just 10 Weeks, was published in November, 2014. It’s the fourth in a series of health/nutrition books written by registered dietitian Marla Heller, which also includes the ever popular DASH Diet Action Plan, The DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution, and The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook.  All can be found in the KPL collection.

 

This latest version is more of the same winning formula; a sensible diet book urging readers to return to basic, real food eating. It particularly promotes plant-based intake and the elimination of over processed foods. Other no-no’s include sugars and sodium. By combining all the suggestions together, the author claims that adherents will reclaim their youth and lose some weight in the process. 

 

The theory is that this long-term diet regimen let’s the body undergo a natural, ongoing detox. This helps lower the risks of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and will result in adding , “...years to your life and life to your years”. 

 

She especially endorses purchasing foods grown organically at local farmer’s markets. Luckily, Kalamazoo has an outstanding Farmer’s Market that is open all year round!

 

The book includes many menu ideas for breakfast, lunch, in between meal snacks, and dinner. Some of the recipes truly sound delicious and easy to make.

 

The author also maintains the idea that in addition to a beneficially nutritious diet, regular exercise, effective stress management and quality sleep are also essential for overall health. Now who can argue with such great commonsense advice? 

 

 

All in all, this is a useful volume with fine guidance that is easy to understand and follow.


From A to Z

One of my co-workers recommended this book to me, thinking it would be a good match for my tastes. He was right. Subtitled 'How Every Letter Tells a Story,' the premise of the book is quite simple in that it has a chapter on the history of each letter of the alphabet. To start, I arbitrarily chose to look at the twenty-fourth chapter which is about the letter X. There I read that, according to author Rosen, the English language doesn't really need that letter, since any word that starts with an X has the sound of a Z, and elsewhere in a word one could use KS instead. Some of the high-level linguistics in this book can be quite complex, but the average reader will be able to find enough material to enjoy as well.