Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
A co-worker recommended the book A Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to me. What a great suggestion! In 1950’s era England, eleven year old Flavia de Luce finds a body in the family’s cucumber patch. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened in my entire life.” She attempts to solve the mystery ( sometimes to the consternation of the local police) using her intelligence, advanced knowledge of chemistry, and just plain persistence. A quirky family- two older, literary sisters and a widowed father who is an avid stamp collector-also figure in the story. Canadian author C. Alan Bradley won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel for this delightful mystery, the first in a series featuring memorable Flavia.
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Ever wonder why you can’t just eat one Dorito? Or why that can of Coca-Cola seems to call out to you from behind the refrigerator door? Read, Pullitzer Prize winning author, Michael Moss’s latest book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us and you will wonder no more. The short answer, science. Plus millions of dollars in advertising and loads and loads of salt, sugar, and fat tossed in just to make sure we can't get enough. Moss takes readers inside the story of the rise of the processed food industry into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today and how big food’s insatiable craving for profit has left an obesity epidemic and generations with poor eating habits in its wake. Salt Sugar Fat is certainly a cautionary tale, and will have every reader questioning their own consumer behavior and eating habits. But Moss’s tone isn't overly preachy and takes a pragmatic view of the food industries focus on providing the much in demand convenience of processed food with the need for individuals to be aware of and responsible for what they put into their bodies. Highly recommended.
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
What do you get when you combine a word and a number? A Wumber!
Wumbers: It’s a book! It’s a game! It’s words cre8ed with numbers! Wri10 by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustr8ed by Tom Lichtenheld this is such a creative and fun book. Each two page spread is a little story. Characters speak through balloon captioned text. The text is so easy and fun that kids and adults will be it over and over.
Samples from the end pages:
- Have you ever tiptoed through the 2lips?
- What question would you ask a 4tune teller?
What a fun book to share plus you may want to try making wumbers yourself!
Wumbers : it's words cre8ed with numbers!
Last month Steve and Ann recommended two collections of short stories, and the New York Times declared the form is being revived because of the proliferation of devices like e-readers, tablets, and smartphones. I have always enjoyed short stories, but I've found myself more interested in reading them since acquiring an e-reader. Whether you read e-books or print, I recommend short stories as a way to get in a bit of reading every day.
The new collections at the top of my list are Vampires in the Lemon Grove, the latest from Swamplandia! author Karen Russell, and There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories by Russian writer Liudmila Petrushevskaia.
Here are a few good collections, published last year, that you may have missed:
Who are your favorite short story writers?
There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself
You Know When the Men are Gone, a collection of eight loosely connected stories, is centered on Fort Hood, Texas. The title of the first story and the collection refers to what is not heard through the thin walls of military housing: no boots stomping, no football games, no early morning doors slamming as they leave for drills. You know the men have deployed.
The women and the children wait, they cope in different ways. The men on deployment cope in their ways also; the homecoming can be bittersweet, challenging.
These are personal stories, not political. The tone is straightforward, the stories are compelling. They put a human face on the news stories.
You Know When the Men are Gone
NPR ran an interesting segment yesterday about libraries and e-lending—a good reminder that (to borrow a phrase from another NPR story) “change is the only constant in today’s publishing industry.” According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 75% of Americans read a book (in any platform) during the past year, and of those, 30% read an e-book. Sales of e-books for the same period grew modestly, up 34% over 2011, and e-book prices have somewhat stabilized at or near the $10 mark. With the growing popularity of e-readers and tablet pcs, however, the demand for e-content is forcing publishers to reexamine traditional sales and lending models.
Ok, you might say, that’s fine, but what about those of us who find the cost of purchasing our own content prohibitive (or restrictive at very least)? And once I buy an e-book, do I really “own” it anyway? Can I pass it along to my parents or my kids or a friend to read? Will there ever be such a thing as a digital “used” bookstore? (Probably not.)
Public libraries (including KPL) continue to expand e-book services, although selection remains frustratingly limited. According to the Pew study, only about 5% of library users borrowed an e-book in the past year, and only 31% were even aware that they could. Why is that? Don’t libraries know that users want more e-content? Of course they do, but the fact remains that many of the major publishers simply don’t want to play nice with libraries. They tend to view library lending as a threat to sales rather than the enormous promotional opportunity that it is. Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains Public Library in New York, says “public libraries, I mean, we're out there really pushing the product of these publishers, and I can't imagine another industry in this country that has that type of a relationship.” And as for those publishers that do make library content available, prohibitive pricing models and the resulting tangle of software designed to protect publishers’ digital rights only serves to compound the issue. So what do we do?
The answer is like Michigan weather… stick around, it’s bound to change. Currently, KPL licenses and distributes its e-content through a consortium of Michigan libraries in order to offer the broadest possible selection in a cost-effective manner. And we’re constantly researching new and different models for e-books, digital audiobooks, music, and other e-content. To help alleviate the waiting time, KPL purchases additional copies of many popular titles (called Advantage titles), which are available through the consortium but only to KPL resident borrowers. For first-time users, we’ve posted newly revised instructions to help make the library e-book experience as smooth as possible. And for hands-on help, the library is hosting a series of e-book information sessions where users can get help with technical questions and learn about new developments in KPL digital collections.
So go ahead, explore KPL’s digital collections and rest assured that as new developments come about, your library will be right there with you.
Dead until Dark is the first novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. It is a serial killer mystery and an unconventional romance complete with humans, vampires and other intriguing supernatural creatures. The story is set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Vampires are attempting to coexist with humans because they can survive on newly invented artificial blood. The story is narrated by Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress with the ability to read minds, and begins with the murder of her co-worker Maudette Pickens. Sookie attempts to help solve a subsequent series of murders for which her brother, Jason Stackhouse is a prime suspect. At the same time, Sookie begins a socially unacceptable relationship with a handsome, 173 year old vampire, Bill Compton.
If you, like me, are a fan of the HBO television series True Blood, you will likely enjoy this book. It closely follows the plot of season one but not exactly. The book contains an interesting vampire character “Bubba” that is not included in the TV series and some characters from television are not in the book. Even though I knew the identity of the murderer, it kept me engaged and was a light, fun, end-of-summer read.
Dead until Dark
If you or a family member are one of the estimated 1 in 133 people needing to avoid gluten, due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance, look to KPL for more information. We have dozens of gluten-free cookbooks. Most have helpful suggestions in front about navigating a gluten-free lifestyle, like which foods to avoid and what ingredients to keep on hand. And the recipes are inspiring!
Consider these options:
Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, by Kelli and Peter Bronski. Check out the Crab Cakes recipe on p. 52.
Getting your Kid on a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet, by Susan Lord. Filled with straightforward advice and easy tips from a registered dietician, whose daughter was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and has been on a gluten-free, casein-free diet for many years. The “Nutrition First” chapter has wise tips for anyone pursuing a gluten-free diet. I can’t wait to try the Pad Thai recipe.
Deliciously G-free: Food so Flavorful They’ll never Believe it’s Gluten-Free, by Elizabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of The View. Chock-full of delicious recipe ideas, such as Smoked Salmon on Corn Fritters, Chocolista Chocolate Cupcakes and French Toast with Caramel Rum Banana. This one is even available in an e-book.
Getting your kid on a gluten-free casein-free diet
While leaving work on Friday, I noticed the newest release from sci-fi writer Daniel H. Wilson, Amped, sitting on a cart just waiting for me to take it home. I was very excited since I had heard so many good things about Wilson’s previous novel, Robopocalypse, and had already read a few good reviews of Amped. A friend of mine once stated that there are rarely any “new” ideas in science fiction novels. Most stories can be traced back to an idea that had been previously formulated in either book or film. The premise of Amped can be traced to the plotline most recently established in the comic book series X-Men. In Wilson’s novel individuals with technological implants (“amps”) are being persecuted by regular people (“reggies”) just like the mutant super-heroes in the comic book and movie series. When the main character Owen Gray discovers that the technology implanted in him by his father does much more than control his seizures, his life begins to spiral out of control. Soon he finds himself in a trailer park in Oklahoma hiding out with other amps while Senator Joseph Vaughn begins to push for more restrictions on the rights of “enhanced humans.” In the trailer park Owen meets Lyle Crosby, an amp trained to be a member of an elite military group. When Lyle confronts Owen about his role in the impending war between amps and reggies, he must decide if he wants to take his amp to the next level. The consequence of such a move could also lead him on the path to darkness and evil.
Amped fits the requirements of both a summer book and blockbuster. It took me less than three days to read and it was filled with fights, explosions, and super-powered people. There was nothing new in the already established storyline of “extraordinary people being hated for their abilities” but I enjoyed Wilson’s story nonetheless. If you are a fan of science fiction that contains amped up action and dialed down techie-talk, then you should add Amped to your summer reading list.
Popular magazines often fill space with little blurbs about what books are on prominent peoples’ nightstands, giving us a glimpse into their world as human beings with curiosities and interests outside of their own celebrity. While I do not presume that my own book choices would attract similar attention, my nightstand currently holds quite a variety that might be of interest to someone:
Hassman, Tupelo Girlchild (fiction) - Rory Dawn Hendrix, growing up in a trailer park in Reno, Nevada, is determind to defy the odds of her environment and family history.
Keaton, Diane Then Again (memoir) - Keaton’s own stories alternate with excerpts from journals kept by her mother, Dorothy Keaton Hall. Poignant account of an interesting life.
Green, John The Fault in Our Stars (young adult fiction) - Combine this popular young adult author with a love story about teenagers with cancer, and you get a fast-moving and powerful narrative that goes beyond the surface.
Cain, Susan Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking (nonfiction) - I have not read this one yet, but am looking forward to it, especially after seeing Cain’s TED presentation.
So many books, so little time...