Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

Expanded Best Seller List

I always skim the lists of bestsellers in the Sunday New York Times Book Review when the library copy comes my way. The lists have traditionally included hardcover fiction and nonfiction, and paperbacks in various formats and genres.

Not surprisingly, there are now two news lists: E-Book Best Sellers and Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers. There is also a comparison of the fiction bestsellers – where the same title falls on the print list vs. the e-book list.

There is quite a bit of overlap. The titles high on the print lists are also high on the e-book list. Obviously readers want a particular title and the format is increasingly unimportant.

Is the format important / unimportant to you? I admit I still prefer print.


The New York Times Best Sellers

Portrait of Camelot

It has now been 50 years since the inauguration of JFK. For those of us who remember, it hardly seems possible that it could have been that long ago. KPL has acquired a fitting commemoration of the brief Kennedy Administration in the form of a book which contains many of the photographs by the official White House photographer from 1961-1963, Cecil W. Stoughton. This book is not a volume of history in the formal sense, although it does introduce short commentaries on each of the pictures. Portrayed are the president and his family in both official and casual settings, both at home and abroad. Regardless of the reader's political views, this week-by-week record of a part of American political life is one that can be either recalled or explored, and in any case, enjoyed.


Portrait of Camelot : a thousand days in the Kennedy White House
David D.

Guys Read: Funny Business

So what DO guys like to read? Just ask Jon Scieszka. He knows all about what young guys like to read and has promised them a whole series of books with short stories just for them.

Volume One is called Funny Business (if you know Jon, you know it all starts with humor) and has ten short stories by some of the funniest writers for kids today.

So what’s inside? Homicidal turkeys, kids swimming in chocolate milk, and a school for superheroes. It’s not to be missed! Also not to be missed is Jon’s website for more great ideas about what Guys Read.


Guys Read: Funny Business

What is Left the Daughter

Every once in awhile I read a book, and after finishing it, wish I had someone to tell about it. What is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman is one of those rare, haunting kinds of books.

Set in Nova Scotia during World War II, Wyatt Hillyer is an unwilling accomplice to a murder committed by his uncle. Wyatt’s daughter is now 21, and a virtual stranger. He wants to leave a written record for her about how life’s circumstances and coincidences have brought him to where he is in his life, beginning with the suicides of both his parents on the same day. As a young man, Wyatt goes to live in a small village with his wise and loving Aunt Constance and his practical Uncle Donald, a woodworker. Wyatt falls in love, which is unrequited since Tilda, the young woman he loves, is head over heels for a German university exchange student. Public sentiment in this time of war, when German U-boats cruise the Canadian coast, runs high. So begins a series of events that is by turns tragic, funny, and heart breaking.

This book is not long, but the author’s writing is so sharp and crisp that he packs a lot into a relatively short tale. I think this would be a great choice for a book discussion group; search this book out, and encourage others to do the same.


What is Left the Daughter

More Good Books

I like book lists. I like to see what others have particularly enjoyed and recommend. I check off the ones I have read, add some to my list-of-books-to-read-sometime.

One of my favorite lists has just been released: Notable Books 2011. This list is compiled by librarians who work with adult literature, are familiar with the opinion of book reviewers, and probably read tens and tens of books a year themselves. They select fiction, nonfiction, and poetry titles.

Once again, I have several titles to add to my list. I need more reading time!


Notable Books

Oh, the Places You Could Go!

I was looking for a particular travel memoir and found myself drawn to all of its companions on the shelf. Before long, I had an armful of books off the shelf.

I found titles recommending where to go and what not to miss:
Unforgettable places: Unique Sites and Experiences around the World
1001 Historic Sites You Must See before You Die
Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips

There were books that advise how to travel smarter, cheaper, or under certain conditions:
Ethical Travel: 25 Ultimate Experiences; Make the Most of your Time on Earth
The Family Sabbatical Handbook: the Budget Guide to Living Abroad with your Family
Wanderlust and Lipstick: the Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo

And then there were travelers’ experiences that just draw you right in:
Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of six Continents
How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel: and other Misadventures Traveling with Kids
Rowing to Alaska and other True Stories

Where was I, in specific? Standing in front of the books in the 910.2 dewey decimal section at Central. You, too, could get inspired to travel however and wherever you wish. Come down and take a browse, or explore via our catalog. Be sure to look beyond the first page, as there are several fun pages of books and DVDs to choose from. We have plenty of other travel books and movies, beyond the 910.2 section; please ask for help if you don’t find what you’re seeking!


Unforgettable places: unique sites and experiences around the world


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

As a librarian in the Teen Services area, I'm always interested in the Alex Award winners...books that were originally published for adults that have appeal for teens. This title, by Aimee Bender, is one of this year's Alex Award winners.

The story chronicles the childhood and young adulthood of Rose Edelstein who, at age 9, discovers quite by accident, that she has the ability to "taste," in homecooked food, the emotions of the person who made it. Not surprisingly, the first time it happens, the food has been prepared by her mother and Rose finds herself privy to some feelings that her mother has never outwardly expressed. And so it begins. Throughout the book, as Rose finds ways to manage (or in some cases, not) this unusual gift, she learns more than perhaps she ever wanted to know about herself and the people in her life, namely her parents and her reclusive brother. 

I'm glad to say this was the first time I checked out an eBook with my KPL library card, and there were many things I liked about the experience: 
    • Because I had installed the appropriate Android app, I was able to download the title to my phone and was therefore able to read a few pages whenever I had time to spare...waiting to pick up my kids, in the doctor's office, even at the gym; 
    • I appreciated having a time limit on finishing the book. eBooks are not renewable so I had to finish the book in the allotted time (14 days) before it disappeared from my phone. That forced me--in a good way, of course--to keep reading; 
    • I continued reading one or two of the printed books by my bedside. In this way, the eBook was almost like a "bonus book" that I found myself enjoying at times and places where I might not normally have a printed book with me.

If you haven't tried it yet, and you have a device that allows you to read eBooks (or audiobooks too), I encourage you to give it a try.  


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Karen S

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

After being somewhat tangentially aware of Patton Oswalt and his particular brand of smart, meta pop culture, fanboy friendly comedy for years, I read his brilliant rant Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die in last month’s issue of Wired magazine and instantly wanted more. Well to my great surprise and utter delight I happened to see Mr. Oswalt’s first book Zombie Spaceship Wasteland show up on KPL’s weekly updated list of new nonfiction titles! The book is classified as 921 – biography, but those looking for a traditional biography of Patton Oswalt would be much better served by consulting his Wikipedia page and reading Zombie Spaceship Wasteland because they like Oswalt’s comedy. The book is a mish-mash of memoir writing, experimental essay, greating cards gone wrong, and more, but it is all hilarious.


Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

The New Expatriates

Paris was the place to be for American writers in the 1920s. It’s still a good place for writers, especially if they can cook.

Two of my favorite bloggers are Americans living in Paris — Dorie Greenspan and David Lebowitz — both recipe developers and cookbook authors. Their new books landed on my Best of 2010 list.

Dorie Greenspan has divided her time between the US and France for many years. At, she offers recipes and glimpses of life in Paris. One of my favorite Dorie books is Paris Sweets which came after she sweet-talked some of Paris’ best pastry chefs into giving away their recipes. Her latest book Around My French Table is not so much a documentation of restaurant recipes as it is a revelation of the everyday meals she prepares at home.

Greenspan’s books are so popular they’ve garnered thousands of followers who cook along and blog: Tuesdays with Dorie and French Fridays.

The other expatriate kitchen I visit is by David Lebovitz. He’s written several dessert cookbooks, including one devoted to ice cream, The Perfect Scoop. As Lebovitz lives the sweet life in Paris, he blogs about recipes, restaurants, and travels, while offering sharp witted commentary on the idiosyncrasies of Parisian life. His latest publication Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes is a greatest hits compilation from earlier books.


Around My French Table
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