Recommended Books Currently on Display
Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA, School Library Journal
Rubin is not an unhappy woman: she has a loving husband, two great kids and a writing career in New York City. Still, she could-and, arguably, should-be happier. Thus, her methodical (and bizarre) happiness project: spend one year achieving careful, measurable goals in different areas of life (marriage, work, parenting, self-fulfillment) and build on them cumulatively, using concrete steps (such as, in January, going to bed earlier, exercising better, getting organized, and "acting more energetic"). By December, she's striving bemusedly to keep increasing happiness in every aspect of her life. The outcome is good, not perfect (in accordance with one of her "Secrets of Adulthood": "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good"), but Rubin's funny, perceptive account is both inspirational and forgiving, and sprinkled with just enough wise tips, concrete advice and timely research (including all those other recent books on happiness) to qualify as self-help. Defying self-help expectations, however, Rubin writes with keen senses of self and narrative, balancing the personal and the universal with a light touch. Rubin's project makes curiously compulsive reading, which is enough to make any reader happy. -Publishers Weekly
In his 31st book, the eminent English philosopher re-examines the arguments for and against God and falls firmly in the camp of the nonbelievers. There is not a lot of new ground covered here—Kant, Descartes, Hume and Locke all fall under the microscope, and Grayling has intelligently tackled religious belief in a long list of other books, including The Good Book (2011). While Grayling makes a thoughtful case in engaging writing for humanism—a belief in the potential of human beings and their rationality—he, like so many others, fails to offer religious readers a reason to rally behind it beyond common sense. Like so many atheist writers, Grayling assumes that all believers are fundamentalists, with little nuanced beliefs, implying that believing in the divinity of Jesus is the equivalent of believing in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Until Grayling and other atheist writers recognize that religious believers, too, have brains that can be appealed to and must also be reached not only with emotion, his book and others like it are just more preaching to the atheist choir. -Publishers Weekly
According to noted psychologist Seligman (Learned Optimism), 30% of American children suffer from depression. Further, his studies demonstrate that "pessimistic children are at much higher risk for becoming depressed than optimistic children." His mission here is to teach parents and other concerned adults how to instill in children a sense of optimism and personal mastery. Seligman discounts prevalent theory that children who are encouraged by others to feel good about themselves will do well. Instead, he proposes that self-esteem comes from mastering challenges, overcoming frustration and experiencing individual achievement. In clear, concise prose peppered with anecdotes, dialogues, cartoons and exercises, Seligman offers a concrete plan of action based on techniques of self-evaluation and social interaction. He describes the development of the Penn Depression Prevention Program, in which school kids are taught ways to divest themselves of pessimistic approaches and adopt optimistic ones, and adapts it to home use by parents. While a few of the exercises may seem daunting to parents, this encouraging volume moves beyond popular self-help tomes and ideology to offer hope and practical suggestions; it will be of great value to teachers as well. -Publishers Weekly
Tartt's much bruited first novel is a huge (592 pages) rambling story that is sometimes ponderous, sometimes highly entertaining. Part psychological thriller, part chronicle of debauched, wasted youth, it suffers from a basically improbable plot, a fault Tartt often redeems through the bravado of her execution. Narrator Richard Papen comes from a lower-class family and a loveless California home to the "hermetic, overheated atmosphere" of Vermont's Hampden College. Almost too easily, he is accepted into a clique of five socially sophisticated students who study Classics with an idiosyncratic, morally fraudulent professor. Despite their demanding curriculum (they quote Greek classics to each other at every opportunity) the friends spend most of their time drinking and taking pills. Finally they reveal to Richard that they accidentally killed a man during a bacchanalian frenzy; when one of their number seems ready to spill the secret, the group--now including Richard--must kill him, too. The best parts of the book occur after the second murder, when Tartt describes the effect of the death on a small community, the behavior of the victim's family and the conspirators' emotional disintegration. Here her gifts for social satire and character analysis are shown to good advantage and her writing is powerful and evocative. On the other hand, the plot's many inconsistencies, the self-indulgent, high-flown references to classic literature and the reliance on melodrama make one wish this had been a tauter, more focused novel. In the final analysis, however, readers may enjoy the pull of a mysterious, richly detailed story told by a talented writer.
This uncensored translation of Bulgakov's posthumously published masterpiece of black magic and black humor restores its sliest digs and sharpest jabs at Stalin's regime, which suppressed it. Writing in a punning, soaring prose thick with contemporary historical references and political irony, Bulgakov (1891-1940) did not make things easy for future translators. The story itself is demanding: the arrival of the Devil and his entourage in Stalin's Moscow frames a Faustian tale of a suppressed writer (the Master) and his devoted lover (his Margarita), set against a realistic narrative?the Master's rejected manuscript?of Pontius Pilate's police state in Jerusalem. An immediate contemporary classic when it was first serialized in Moscow in censored form in 1967-68, the novel suffered in its previous English translations, which were either incomplete or stylistically loose. This new translation, with its accuracy and depth, finally does justice to the politically and verbally outrageous qualities of the original. Careful footnotes explain and contextualize Bulgakov's dense allusions to, and in-jokes about, life under Stalin. -Publishers Weekly
Cormac McCarthy's award-winning and bestselling trio of novels, The Border Trilogy, appearing here in one volume for the first time, constitutes a genuine American epic. The young men in these novels come of age on southwestern ranches in the 1930s, while across the border Mexico beckons them with its desolate beauty and the cruel promise of a place where a dreams are paid for in blood.
In All the Pretty Horses, young John Grady Cole, dispossessed by the sale of his family's Texas ranch, heads across the border in search of the cowboy life, finding a job breaking horses and a dangerously ill-fated romance. In The Crossing, 16-year-old Billy Parham captures a she-wolf that has been marauding his family's ranch and instead of killing it decides to take it on a perilous journey home to the mountains of Mexico. These drifters come together years later in Cities of the Plain, a magnificent tale of friendship and passion. McCarthy's haunting evocation of two young men poised on the edge of a world about to change forever serves as a darkly beautiful elegy for the American frontier. -B&N.com
In 2005, Dutton published The Areas of My Expertise, a handy little book of Complete World Knowledge, marked by the distinction that all of the fascinating trivia and amazing true facts were completely made up by its author, John Hodgman. At the time, Hodgman was merely a former literary agent and occasional scribbler of fake trivia. In short: a nobody.
But during an interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, an incredible transformation occurred. He became a famous minor television personality. You may ask: During his whirlwind tornado ride through the high ether of minor fame and outrageous fortune, did John Hodgman forget how to write books of fake trivia? The answer is: Yes. Briefly. But soon, he remembered!
And so he returned, crashing his Kansas farmhouse down upon the wicked witch of ignorance with More Information Than You Require, a New York Times bestseller containing even more mesmerizing and essential fake trivia, including seven hundred mole-man names (and their occupations).
And now, John Hodgman completes his vision with That Is All, the last book in a trilogy of Complete World Knowledge. Like its predecessors, That Is All compiles incredibly handy made-up facts into brief articles, overlong lists, and beguiling narratives on new and familiar themes. It picks up exactly where More Information left off-specifically, at page 596-and finally completes COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE, just in time for the return of Quetzalcoatl and the end of human history in 2012.
Ghassan Kanafani's meteoric literary and political career ended abruptly one morning in July 1972, when his booby-trapped car exploded, killing him and his niece. At the time, Kanafani was the spokesperson for the most militant wing of the Palestinian fedayeen. That militancy is reflected in these 14 stories. Beginning with a narrative disconcertingly entitled "The Child Borrows His Uncle's Gun and Goes East to Safad," Kanafani plunges into the 1948 conflict between the Jews and Palestinians, following a 17-year-old, Mansur, whose actions mirror the author's own experiences. In a series of stories, the reader follows Mansur as he carries his old Turkish gun into the thick of sharpshooting contests with "Zionists" (as Israelis are identified in this strongly pro-Arab text) in old Palestinian town centers. Later, Mansur's uncle, Abu Al-Hassan, uses the gun on the British forces. These stories end, inevitably, with the consequences of defeat for the Palestinians: "The Child Goes to the Camp," in which the narratorAa different child than MansurAmust survive the hunger sweeping through the refugee camps. He does so with a talisman, a five-pound note he finds in the street. In the novella for which Kanafani became famous, "Returning to Haifa," the year is 1967, but the events are prefigured by the Palestinian population's uprooting from Haifa in 1948. Said S. and his wife, Safiyya, return to Haifa to the apartment they were forced to abandon and the memories of their infant son, Khaldun, inadvertently left behind in the mass panic. Miraculously, the Jewish couple who took over the apartment found and adopted the child, who is now an Israeli soldier. This story, which ends with a renunciation of even blood ties in the sacred cause of revenge, foretells the terrible violence of the '70s. -Publishers Weekly
Two days after this remarkable book was published in France to great acclaim, its author died of heart failure. What caused such a stir was the method Bauby used to write it. For in December 1995, the 44-year-old former editor-in-chief of the French Elle magazine had suffered a severe stroke that left his body paralyzed but his mind intact, a condition known as "locked-in syndrome." Able to communicate only by blinking his left eyelid, he dictated this book letter by letter to an assistant who recited to him a special alphabet. The result is a marvelous, compelling account of Bauby's life as a "vegetable," full of humor and devoid of self-pity. Although he was trapped in the diving bell of his body, Bauby's imagination "takes flight like a butterflyy....You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas's court." His celebration of life against all odds is highly recommended. -Library Journal
Constellation is the first extended exploration of the relationship between Walter Benjamin, the Weimar-era revolutionary cultural critic, and the radical philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The affinity between these noncontemporaneous thinkers serves as a limit case manifesting the precariousness and potentials of cultural transmission in a disillusioned present. In five chapters, Constellation presents the changing figure of Nietzsche as Benjamin encountered him: an inspiration to his student activism, an authority for his skeptical philology, a manifestation of his philosophical nihilism, a companion in his political exile, and ultimately a subversive collaborator in his efforts to think beyond the hopeless temporality--new and always the same--of the present moment in history. By excavating this neglected relationship philologically and elaborating its philosophical implications in the surviving texts of both men, Constellation produces new and compelling readings of their works and through them triangulates a theoretical limit in the present, a fractured "now-time" suspended between madness and suicide, from which the collective future regains a measure of consequential and transformative vitality. -From book jacket
Psychologist Zimbardo masterminded the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, in which college students randomly assigned to be guards or inmates found themselves enacting sadistic abuse or abject submissiveness. In this penetrating investigation, he revisits—at great length and with much hand-wringing—the SPE study and applies it to historical examples of injustice and atrocity, especially the Abu Ghraib outrages by the U.S. military. His troubling finding is that almost anyone, given the right "situational" influences, can be made to abandon moral scruples and cooperate in violence and oppression. (He tacks on a feel-good chapter about "the banality of heroism," with tips on how to resist malign situational pressures.) The author, who was an expert defense witness at the court-martial of an Abu Ghraib guard, argues against focusing on the dispositions of perpetrators of abuse; he insists that we blame the situation and the "system" that constructed it, and mounts an extended indictment of the architects of the Abu Ghraib system, including President Bush. Combining a dense but readable and often engrossing exposition of social psychology research with an impassioned moral seriousness, Zimbardo challenges readers to look beyond glib denunciations of evil-doers and ponder our collective responsibility for the world's ills. -Publishers Weekly
The 1998 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature continues to garner a reputation and readership far beyond his native Portugal. His latest novel is a provocative meditation on identity: specifically, the story of how ordinary history teacher Tertuliano Maxim Afonso awakens one morning to find a video that he's rented but not yet watched playing on his VCR. And one of the characters--the actor playing the role, that is--is the spitting image of Tertuliano, as he appeared about five years ago. Tertuliano is divorced, lonely, depressed--in other words, susceptible to filling in his time and mind with an obsession, which this situation quickly becomes. He decides to track down the actor who is his double, with disturbing, even dire, consequences. Saramago's typical stream-of-consciousness technique, although not easy for complacent readers, is beautifully lyrical here ("the first, subtle wash of early-morning lightness") and, at the same time, burrows deeply within the protagonist's thought process--entirely suitable and even necessary for such a cerebral yet shockingly personal exploration of what truly makes an individual unique and the concept that somewhere in the world it's possible that one's exact physical double exists. -Booklist
Recommended Reading Guide
Recommended Book Display Location
The Recommended Book Display is located on the main floor of the library. Find it on the freestanding shelves across from the checkout desk, near the Popular Literature (poplit) section.
We will do our best to put recommended books on the display as soon as possible; please be aware that we may have to order or replace your selection.