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Author Archives: Lisa Kelly
When I shelved books as a high school student at the Beatrice Public Library, there was an entire room dedicated to biographies and I never understood the popularity. Sometime around the beginning of the millennium, I started listening to this genre and now I understand the appeal, especially when the author has the required talent to read his or her own material. Learning about the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of someone else’s life can give perspective to your own. Recently I listened to Isaac Mizrahi read his autobiography, I.M: A Memoir. As a gentile from the heartland, learning about a young Syrian Jew growing up in Brooklyn was a little like binge watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, except from a gay male perspective.
Isaac shares stories of his life with two older sisters and his fashion forward mother, Sarah. Fabric and clothing design were passions as a young boy as was constructing puppets with the sewing machine his father gave him. Isaac provided critiques on his sisters’ ensembles for the high holidays and paid close attention to how his mother shopped, accessorized, and was stylish on a budget. His father, Zeke, manufactured children’s clothing, selling coats and suits to stores like JCPenney and Sears. This was Isaac’s first exposure to the retail industry. Isaac’s relationship with his father was often difficult. At Yeshivah of Flatbush, an Orthodox Jewish school, the faculty told Isaac that God hated homosexuals and his father’s sentiments echoed this intolerance. The early death of Zeke demanded many religious obligations for Isaac to perform none of which he was able to complete with total conviction. This loss gave Isaac the opportunity to come out to his family, but remaining faithful to Judaism in the long term was untenable.
Isaac worked for Perry Ellis, Ralph Lauren, and others, leading him to begin designing his own clothing. He debuted his first signature line in 1987. Many of us remember Joan Rivers asking “who are you wearing?” to be answered with the name Isaac Mizrahi. The nature of life in a clothing design studio can be frenetic and unhinged, racing to meet deadlines and trying to satisfy high profile and often-difficult clients. The 1995 documentary Unzipped is an iconic representation of this period in fashion featuring many of the supermodels and personalities of the ‘90s. It highlights Isaac preparing for his 1994 fall collection after receiving critical reviews from his previous show.
Struggling with his own body image and insomnia were constant difficulties in his multi-faceted career, from hosting talk shows to cabaret singing. Ending his clothing line and transitioning to other projects, the speed of life settled into a more comfortable and healthy pace. Now Isaac is a spokesperson for his brand on QVC and is a judge on Project Runway All Stars. He continues to live in New York City with his husband Arnold and their two rescue dogs. Since his birth, the world has been Isaac’s stage. I only wish the stages were a little closer to the Midwest.
Mizrahi, Isaac. I.M.: A Memoir. New York: Flatiron Books, 2019
This book came to me by way of a recommendation from a book club member who also reads mysteries and series. I have read Nordic Noir authors Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, and Henning Mankell, but I had not read any books from the Department Q Series by the Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen. All of the authors have a reputation for their dark descriptions of crime, twisted plots, and grizzled detectives. This book follows a popular recipe for sleuths: troubled personal relationships, inability to get along with co-workers, abuser of substances, and a brilliant deductive mind. The plot goes back and forth between the last week Detective Carl Mørck was a homicide detective and the present, when he is assigned to lead a newly created Department Q – a literal closet in the basement of the police department where the most difficult cold cases reside.
Thinking this is a promotion, Carl soon realizes this position will take him out of action. The first case he selects from boxes and boxes of cold cases involves trying to find a missing politician captured five years ago and assumed by many to be dead. Carl is assigned a staff of one – a man with a mysterious past named Hafez el-Assad. Initially Carl views Assad as not much more than a driver and personal assistant, but Assad makes himself a real partner in solving cases and becomes invaluable to the department. At home, Carl is separated from his wife Vigga, is a sometimes guardian to his stepson, and is in need of the rent that is paid by his opera-loving lodger to make ends meet. This book will take you on a ride that is sinister and horrifying. Expect that with Nordic Noir.
For those who have Amazon Prime, the first three books in the Department Q series are also films in Danish with subtitles. I found the casting to be spot on and the Danish countryside both beautiful and foreboding.
Adler-Olsen, Jussi, The Keeper of Lost Causes: The First Department Q Novel. New York: Dutton, 2011.
Who knew Tom Hanks was an author? Even though his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, my introduction came through his book entitled Uncommon Type: Some Stories – a collection of seventeen short stories written (and read in the audio form) by Tom Hanks. This review is specific to the audio version and each short story revealed itself to me as a brief movie performed by Hanks. Tom’s narrative is visual and I saw characters and entire sets because his voice is so closely associated to the medium of film. Interestingly, when one of his stories intersected with subject matter Hanks had previously portrayed in a movie (space travel for example), I could not help but think of that particular corresponding movie and this was not an interrupter, but an enhancement. This book was enjoyable if only for the sake of having Tom’s voice in my ear. Just like listening to Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Tina Fey, or Carol Burnett read their own work, it is the quality, comfort, and familiarity of the voice that adds pleasure to the text.
Some stories were more enjoyable than others were and the ones that I really enjoyed have stayed with me. Hank’s first story is about two best friends from elementary school who turn their life-long friendship into a romance against their friend’s advice. The second is about a WWII veteran who makes an annual Christmas Eve call to his friend who saved his life in battle on Christmas Eve not so many years ago. Another story is about a newly divorced woman with clairvoyant skills who moves with her three children to Green Street. The acceptance she feels from her new neighbors helps her embrace her new life. I am typically not very excited about a collection of short stories, but I very much enjoyed my time with these.
Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type: Some Stories. New York: Knopf. 2017
This title came to my attention on July 1st aka Canada Day as the daily special from Audible. I was intrigued, downloaded the title, and eagerly began listening. It helps that the author of whom I have long been a fan reads this title.
Myers begins with the premise that Canada lacks a mission statement. The country promises to provide good government and a safe place to live but is that enough? The inevitable comparisons to life in the United States make up a great deal of content. He compares regional colloquialisms, health care, the love of hockey, and the government supported CBC to their American counterparts. The United States does not propagate information about Canada so there may be many episodes in Canadian history that will be new information. To drive this point home, when my curiosity was piqued for the Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, father of the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I looked for books to read more about him from my local library, but there were none.
Mike Myers was born to two Liverpudlian parents who immigrated to Canada for better employment opportunities. English parents making a life in Canada caused a clash of culture. Mike shares how the values of his parents and the humor of his brothers Peter and Paul shaped his worldview and brand of comedy. One of the attributes of his father in often-difficult situations was a non-rhetorical question of “how can we make this funny?”
Mike shares how his character Wayne Campbell (Wayne’s World) is a quintessential Canadian creation, specifically from the Scarborough district of Montreal, dissecting everything from his language to his name. Other Saturday Night Live characters also owe their origin to Mike’s Canadian and British upbringing. With Canadian, British, and United States Citizenship, it’s clear that Mike Myers is a very proud Canadian patriot despite being an expatriate.
Myers, Mike (2016) Canada. Doubleday Canada
A member of my book group recently had us read Night School, the 21st entry in Lee Child’s very successful Jack Reacher series. While I’ve often felt it can be more difficult to have good conversations about genre titles, I’m happy to report we found plenty to discuss.
If you are a Lee Child reader, you know that the books feature Jack Reacher – a loner, drifting from place to place after mustering out of the Army in 1997 with the rank of Major. He does not own a home, possess a driver’s license, or collect federal benefits. The only item typically in his possession is a toothbrush and he never carries luggage of any sort. In Night School, Child resets the clock and places Reacher back in the army as a military policeman – part of the fictional 110th Special Investigations Unit formed to handle exceptionally difficult cases. The book begins with Reacher receiving an award for completing a successful covert operation in the morning, and by the afternoon, he’s reporting to night school.
His classmates include an FBI agent and a CIA analyst, both of whom also recently completed successful covert operations. Wondering what this school is about they receive the following background briefing: “[A] Jihadist sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, has received an unexpected visitor—a Saudi courier, seeking safe haven while waiting to rendezvous with persons unknown. A CIA asset, undercover inside the cell, has overheard the courier whisper a chilling message: The American wants a hundred million dollars.” From here, we follow Reacher and his classmates trying to determine what could be worth a hundred million dollars.
On the Lee Child website, I found an article by Stav Sherez entitled “Five reasons why the Jack Reacher novels are brilliant.” The fact is that even though the books are hugely popular, they often fail to garner much critical respect –as is often the case with series, genre books. The most discussable point of the article for me was that “…the Reacher books are Westerns in disguise and this goes a long way to explaining why they are so phenomenally popular…. Reacher is the classic silent stranger who rides into town and saves the small folk from rapacious bullies.” I would have never thought of Child’s books as westerns, but endings where justice is served are always satisfying.
I asked my group if reading this series in order was essential and the answer was no. Each book could be a standalone because each is uniquely episodic and Reacher’s personal life does not change or progress dramatically from title to title. Similarly, plots for the Jack Reacher movies starring Tom Cruise have been cherry picked from the series based on those most suitable for cinema (One Shot #9 and Never Go Back #18), as opposed to series order. We also discussed why people read series (and why some do not) and overwhelmingly series reader do not want to leave the character when others are perfectly happy to do so. When I asked if Jack Reacher could be someone they knew, all of the readers of the series said – he is real to me. As long as Lee Child continues to write, Jack Reacher remains safely in our group of literary friends.
Child, Lee. Night School. New York: Delacorte Press, 2016
Stressed out by the festive season? Need a light read? A Dave Barry book might be just what the doctor ordered. And if it’s holiday-themed, all the better. The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog was a gift from my sister to add to my collection of annual reading. It’s about Doug Barnes, an adolescent boy in the ‘60s with a family and a beloved dog named Frank. Frank is quite elderly, and Doug’s mom and dad have already started the conversation about the difficult and inevitable loss that lies ahead.
The story takes place during Christmas, when the annual pageant at St. John’s Episcopal Church is pressing upon Doug and his sister Becky. On a bitter Christmas Eve, a call to beckon Frank from the backyard does not yield a result. How will the family break the news to Becky, who is cast in the host of angels? How will Doug, who made the discovery, rise to the occasion of helping his parents? And how will the family deal with this sadness when everyone is due at the church in a few hours to perform their roles without tear stained faces?
Enter a cast of characters and a rescue dog named Walter. While the topic of pet-loss may not seem to lend itself to a holiday read, remember–this story is told by Dave Barry, who wields a pen to blend both levity and poignancy to produce a smile with a few tears or maybe even some laughter. Also remember that the word “miracle” appears in the title. That may help you decide this short read might be worth your time.
Navigating the holidays often includes a long list of things to do, and for many of us the lack of light can make the endless treadmill of tasks more exhausting. Sitting still with someone else’s story, true or imagined, may help you take a quick and necessary respite.
Barry, Dave. The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2006.
Alexander McCall Smith is on a short list of my favorite authors. I adore his #1 Ladies Detective Agency, 44 Scotland Street, and Corduroy Mansions series, and when I visited Edinburgh a few years ago I made sure to visit 43 Scotland Street (there is no 44) and the Cumberland Bar just around the corner. I was delighted to be in the world of Bertie and all the adults he endures. Smith writes some standalone books too, and for me those have been hit and miss. My Italian Bulldozer is not part of a series and would be a wonderful way to introduce yourself to this author if you haven’t already made his acquaintance.
The title alone promises humor in a picturesque setting. Paul Stuart is a food and wine writer and his girlfriend of four years has just left him for her personal trainer. Paul’s editor, Gloria, sends him to Italy for personal respite and time to work on his next book featuring Tuscan cuisine. As a result of a rental car snafu, and a short bout in jail, he ends up borrowing a bulldozer. This slows him down considerably but it soon becomes apparent how handy a bulldozer can be in certain situations! The cast of characters he encounters are the true talent of Smith’s writing: the woman whose car is upended; the man who needs assistance digging a ditch; and anonymous townspeople who “borrow” the bulldozer from its public parking space. This small community is one that keeps track of everything and everyone and Paul quickly becomes a part of the comings and goings.
After rescuing the young American college professor in the upended car, there is chemistry between the two writers. Enter the ex-girlfriend, who shows up to apologize in person, with Gloria, the editor, arriving close behind. The events that follow may be predictable but I was more than pleased with the ending. I began thinking that I need to plan to a trip to Italy and wonder if these idyllic adventures really can happen in rural parts of the country as they have in so many of my favorite movies and books. This is a quick read and one that would be perfect to take on vacation, not terribly taxing and satisfying for all the senses.
Smith, Alexander McCall. My Italian Bulldozer. Pantheon; First American edition. edition, 2017
It’s been 20 years since the British publisher Bloomsbury released J.K. Rowling’s debut novel. It’s unfathomable to recall that the initial print run was only 500 copies, contrasted with the more than 450 million copies sold after the series was complete. Rowling tweeted the following to mark the occasion:
The impact of the arrival of Harry, Ron, and Hermione into our lives not to mention on book publishing trends has been profound. The long duration of Rowling’s books on the New York Times Bestseller list caused the split into adult and children’s titles because of the need for ‘more room’ for other authors. Despite this new sorting, readers of all ages waited in bookstore lines at midnight for their copies, Amazon promised home deliveries on publication dates, and many families had to purchase multiple copies because sharing would have been difficult. The impending arrival of the ‘next’ book in the series was the closest thing I felt to the Christmas Eve giddiness of my childhood. Twenty years later, we have a wildly successful film franchise, Oscar nominated soundtracks composed by John Williams, a new film series called Fantastic Beasts, a Harry Potter Theme Park, video games, and a website devoted for fans called Pottermore. To mark this happy occasion, we asked how Nebraska Library Commission staff started reading the Harry Potter books and what Hogwarts House they would belong to according to the sorting hat. Here are our responses:
“It’s not exactly exciting, but my mom checked it out from the North Platte library around the time it came out. It was sitting on the table, I was bored, and I picked it up.” – Holli Duggan, Continuing Education Coordinator – Slytherin
“I apparently had been living under a rock and did not find out about Harry Potter until after the third movie had come out. After I watched that, my friends basically threw the book at my head. By the time I turned the last page of Sorcerer’s Stone I was hooked.” – Amanda Sweet, Reader Services Advisor -Gryffindor
“My mother wanted to review the book for age appropriateness before she would gift it to my younger cousin. This was shortly after the third book had been released and the hype over the book series had come to a rolling boil.” – Anna Walter, Reader Services Advisor – Slytherin
“My daughter started reading them in 4th grade, and loved them so much I started listening to them on CD.” – Mary Sauers, Government Services Librarian -Hufflepuff
“I didn’t read Harry Potter until I started working in a library; the first book came out as I was finishing high school and I didn’t have time to read much fiction during college, so it wasn’t really on my radar until much later. I picked up the audio version, narrated by Jim Dale, to listen to while I worked on a home renovation project several years ago, and was instantly hooked. I listed to all 7 books back-to-back. That was the most fun I’ve ever had refinishing woodwork!” – Aimee Owen, Information Services Librarian – Gryffindor
“I came to Harry Potter by way of a co-worker who was reading the books to her kids. She loaned me the first two in the series and I bought the third and took it on vacation with me. I was transported. Rowling’s characters, setting, language, and story got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. Escaping to Hogwarts was literally a lifesaver. Then I discovered Jim Dale’s amazing narration and my family moved holidays to coincide with movie release dates. In every format, I am grateful for Jo Rowling and Harry Potter.” Lisa Kelly, Information Services Director – Ravenclaw
“I read the first Harry Potter book as part of a six-person book review event that happened twice a year live via satellite and recorded on videotapes – it was sponsored by the Library Commission. I was rapidly reading lots of books and I remember my comments about Harry being “it’s a fun fantasy…kids will like it…magic is popular with this age group…” – a rather bland endorsement. When the second title was released it was in another reviewer’s batch so I couldn’t read it until after the live review session. By then the third book had just been released. I took my car during my lunch break and drove directly to the book store and bought my copy of book three, starting to read it that evening. For some reason, I didn’t get hooked until book 2, but I have been an enthusiastic fan ever since.” Sally Snyder, Coordinator Children & YA Library Services – Hufflepuff
Friday Reads: “Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill” by Candice Millard
Candice Millard, author of River of Doubt (2005) and Destiny of the Republic (2011), is one of my favorite nonfiction authors. Her latest book, Hero of the Empire, is about Winston Churchill and, like many previous biographies of the famous Prime Minister, it focuses on a specific period in his life—his participation in the Boer War (1899–1902) instead of on its entirety. Examples of other focused explorations include last year’s Masterpiece Theater premier, Churchill’s Secret. This drama is set during Churchill’s second term as Prime Minister, when the 78-year-old leader (played by Michael Gambon) struggled, with the help of his wife, to conceal a debilitating stroke and an incapacity to govern. The popular Netflix miniseries The Crown cast 6’4” actor John Lithgow for its version of 5’6” Churchill during the early reign of Queen Elizabeth, revealing the private relationship between a PM and a young Sovereign. Yet another biography is a 2010 documentary entitled Walking with Destiny, in which historian John Lukacs explains that “Churchill may not have won the War in 1940, but without him, the War most certainly would have been lost.”
In Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Millard describes the bravado of a young man who both wants and needs to go to war in hopes of gaining medals and fame as capital for his future political career. Churchill agrees to be a war correspondent in South Africa’s Boer War, where the British were both overconfident and under prepared. When the train Churchill is traveling in is ambushed and derailed by Boer troops, Churchill calmly rallied British troops under enemy fire to clear the track and let the engine get away with the wounded. Most of the remaining British, along with Churchill, were captured. This was the first time in his young life he was not in control of his own destiny. It is his spectacular escape, with the help of several kind strangers along the way that helps him to become a hero who rejoins the British troops both as an officer and a war correspondent. In a 2003 PBS Documentary entitled Churchill, this entire story is recounted in one sentence.
With my interest in Churchill piqued by Millard’s book, and inspired to learn more, I ran across this intriguing quote from Pamela Plowden, the woman he was in love with before he married his beloved wife Clementine and with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. She described Winston this way: “When you first meet Winston, you see all his faults. You spend the rest of your life discovering his virtues.” This is where I find myself in the last pages of Millard’s text – having been introduced to a multitude of his shortcomings but also seeing glimmers of his many redemptive qualities. Certainly his charisma and masterful public speaking skills are shown throughout his life and his place in history is one to be both reckoned and respected.
What makes Millard one of my favorite authors is her ability to create a cinematic and fascinating description of events that ordinarily might not compel me and dialog that is on par with some of my favorite screen writers. One of her Amazon reviewers pleads for this text to be turned into a movie. As Hollywood frequently adapts books for cinematic creations, I would imagine Millard’s titles will most certainly be adapted and yet another actor will be cast to play this iconic man of history.
Millard, Candice. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill. New York: Doubleday, 2016
At the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Viola Davis said the following upon accepting her award for Outstanding Performance by a Female for the movie Fences: “What August (Wilson) did so beautifully is he honored the average man …and sometimes we don’t have to shake the world and move the world and create anything that is going to be in the history book. The fact that we breathed and lived a life … means that we have a story and it deserves to be told.” I think writers who choose ordinary subjects can tell amazing stories. I think this is Kent Haruf’s talent–to tell everyman’s story, the story of those people we all know and recognize, who live next door if not in our own home.
Our Souls at Night was Haruf’s last novel before his death in 2014, and it takes place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, a small town created for three of his other novels. Addie Moore and Louis Waters have both lost their partners and have lived a long time in Holt knowing of each other rather than being well acquainted. One day, Addie pays a visit to Lois and asks: “I’m wondering if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me … I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you could sleep in the night with me. And talk … I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about getting through the night … the nights are the worst don’t you think?” And this is where their story begins as this invitation turns into many evening conversations and the revelations of life, regrets, and love lost. It confirms how grief needs to be shared with others especially those for whom the loss is similar. When two people form a bond, onlookers will have opinions and often, not so quietly. I could relate to the gossipy town conversations that made me forever choose to live in a city with a population of at least 100,000 or more.
This is a spare read with uncomplicated and honest characters. There is a cadence to Haruf’s books – small town living and the daily minutia that are both familiar and regular. The conversations are ones you’ve had yourself. Spending time in Holt is downshifting to rural America; slowing down and looking people in the eye when you walk past them on the street.
A movie adapted from this book will be released sometime this year, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, who first appeared together in 1967’s Barefoot in the Park. This will be quite a contrast.
“Romance fiction is the behemoth of the publishing industry; it outsells mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet no filmmaker has ever taken an honest look at the global community romance writers and readers have built – until now. This funny and inspiring look into a billion-dollar industry turns up trailblazers who’ve found fortunes and fulfillment in romance, who are on the front lines of a revolutionary power shift in publishing. Creating online empires and inventing new markets are authors like pioneer of African American romance Beverly Jenkins, Shakespeare professor and romance rockstar Eloisa James, surgeon and lesbian romance legend Len Barot, and the incomparable Nora Roberts. For three years, we follow the lives of five published romance authors and one unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with upheaval, and earn a living doing what they love. In the process, we discover a global storytelling sisterhood. Love Between the Covers takes us into one of the few spaces where strong female characters are always center stage, where justice prevails in every book, and the broad spectrum of desires of women from all backgrounds are not feared, but explored unapologetically.” — amazon.com
Please feel free to contact us to borrow this DVD. In the spirit of celebrating romance, here are some lists of librarian romances that I think are worth highlighting – happy love in the library!
30 Tales of Librarians in Love
Bookshelf Babes and Hardcover Heroes: Favorite Librarians in Romance
Love in the Library – Reader Roundup with Amy Alessio
A Mega-List of Lovely, Lusty Librarian Romance
Romance Books about Librarians and Archivists:
“The Nebraska 150 Book Selection Committee chose 150 notable Nebraska books to highlight for the Nebraska 150 Celebration. These books represent the best literature produced from Nebraska during the past 150 years. The books highlight the varied cultures, diverse experiences and the shared history of Nebraskans.”
The Library Commission owns many titles from the 150 list and has displayed them in our reception area. They will be featured throughout 2017 as Nebraska celebrates its Sesquicentennial. Come take a look and check them out!
As this famous award celebrates its Centennial year, here is some information about its beginning:
“The Pulitzer Prize was the brainchild of Hungarian-American newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer, who bequeathed several million dollars to Columbia University to administer the award. In 1917, Columbia University trustees ushered in the start of what is now considered one of the most prestigious national honors.
The Pulitzer Prize board receives more than 2,400 submissions annually. From this vast pool, Pulitzer judges select just 14 prize winners in the field of journalism, five total prize winners in letters, and one prize winner each in drama and music. The category winners are honored each spring at Columbia University’s New York City campus.”
The Nebraska Library Commission Book Club Collection has 24 Pulitzer winning titles in the collection, something from almost every decade. Here they are below listed by their award year. Perhaps it’s time for your group to select one of these titles to celebrate this important literary anniversary? Click on the title below to initiate a request.
1921 Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, 24 copies
1923 One of Ours by Willa Cather, 9 copies
1932 The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, 4 copies, (also 1 Large-Print copy)
1940 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, 18 copies
1947 All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, 20 copies
1949 Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, 17 copies
1953 The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, 17 copies
1961 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 23 copies, (also 1 Video (DVD) copy)
1972 Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, 21 copies
1983 The Color Purple by Alice Walker, 14 copies
1988 Beloved by Toni Morrison, 15 copies
1992 A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, 9 copies
1994 The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, 7 copies
1997 Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, 13 copies, (also 2 Large-Print copies)
1999 The Hours by Michael Cunningham, 19 copies
2002 Empire Falls by Richard Russo, 13 copies, (also 1 Audio Cassette copy)
2004 The Known World by Edward P. Jones, 8 copies
2005 Gilead by Maryilynne Robinson, 17 copies
2006 March by Geraldine Brooks, 9 copies, (also 1 Audio CD copy)
2007 The Road by Cormac McCarthy, 18 copies
2009 Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, 6 copies
2010 Tinkers by Paul Harding, 3 copies
2014 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, 4 copies
2015 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 15 copies
2015 The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, 1 copy
I grew up knowing Fannie Flagg from the ‘70s game show Match Game. Knowing of my love for books and movies, my Southern Uncle took me to visit Juliette, Georgia the actual film location of Fried Green Tomatoes (based on the book of the same name by Fannie Flagg) where a Whistle Stop Café actually exists and operates. I have thought of Fannie as a comedic personality but having read nearly all of her books, she has a knack for balancing humor with poignant story lines and creating very memorable, sometimes outrageous characters and plots.
Fannie weaves two stories from different families together in this novel. In the first chapter we are introduced to Mrs. Earle Pool Jr., better known to her friends and family as Sookie. Sookie is happily married with four children and a loving husband but unfortunately is burdened with an extraordinarily difficult, high-maintenance mother named Lenore, all living in Alabama in 2005. We are taken back to 1909 Pulaski, Wisconsin and the Jurdabralinsky family. The patriarch, Stanislaw Ludic Jurdabralinsky, emigrated from Poland and he struggles to make a new home for his wife and children by opening a Filling Station that operates with roller skating daughters during WWII. Meanwhile back in 2005, Sookie receives a mysterious registered letter from the Texas Board of Health that puts her identity and her mostly quiet life into a tailspin. The collision of the two stories makes for a delightful read, ending with a twist upon a twist.
The great takeaway of this book for me was learning about the daughters from the Jurdabralinsky family who served in World War II as Women Airforce Service Pilots – WASP for short.
“During the existence of the WASP— 38 women lost their lives while serving their country. Their bodies were sent home in poorly crafted pine boxes. Their burial was at the expense of their families or classmates. In fact, there were no gold stars allowed in their parents’ windows; and because they were not considered military, no American flags were allowed on their coffins. In 1944, General Arnold made a personal request to Congress to militarize the WASP, and it was denied. Then, on December 7, 1944, in a speech to the last graduating class of WASP, General Arnold said, “You and more than 900 of your sisters have shown you can fly wingtip to wingtip with your brothers. I salute you … We of the Army Air Force are proud of you. We will never forget our debt to you.” With victory in WWII almost certain, on December 20, 1944, the WASP were quietly and unceremoniously disbanded. What is amazing is that there were no honors, no benefits, and very few “thank you’s”. In fact, just as they had paid their own way to enter training, they had to pay their own way back home after their honorable service to the military. The WASP military records were immediately sealed, stamped “classified” or “secret”, and filed away in Government archives, unavailable to the historians who wrote the history of WWII or the scholars who compiled the history text books used today, with many of the records not declassified until the 1980s.” taken from: http://www.birdaviationmuseum.com/WASPS.html
This year I read books by Gloria Steinem and Ruth Bader Ginsberg – both advocates for women’s rights; and while Fannie Flagg writes another kind of book, this title fit in nicely and was a great selection for my book club with many things to discuss. If you enjoy audio books, please consider listening to this book as Fannie Flagg is the narrator. I think you’ll enjoy her comic southern accent and stereotypical Wisconsin accent both of which made me laugh many times.
October is National Reading Group Month so I am inviting you to mark the occasion by sharing your book club kits on our Book Club Wiki. Nebraska Book Clubs are very active and eagerly work to locate multiple copies of their selections each month. For the libraries that chose to share, this requires paying postage or arranging delivery of the books when they are requested. If you have a book club collection and would be willing to share with others in the state we can provide the password to you and we’ve included instructions on the book club wiki page to assist you . If you would prefer, we can list your books for you! If you are ready to get rid of any books club selections, we’d be happy to add them to our collection. We are grateful for the libraries that share their book club kits and have gifted extra copies to us; you have helped to grow our collection to well over 1,100 titles for all levels of readers. If you are interested and would like to request the password, please contact us at 800/307-2665 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I first read Ruth Reichl (pronounced RYE-shil) when I selected the book Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table for my book group several years ago. I knew Reichl had been a food critic, but wasn’t aware of her connection to Gourmet magazine until I heard of its demise in 2009. Reichl was the editor of Gourmet when it came to the tragic end of its 69 year run. This book recounts her grief in the aftermath, during the days and months as she moved beyond job loss.
Some of us turn to food for emotional reasons and Ruth returned to her kitchen as her way of healing, pairing food with personal events, and an honest and very personal dialog of working through change. I agree with a statement in her introduction: “…recipes are conversations, not lectures.” It registered with me because I’ve usually considered recipes more like guidelines as I negotiate the ingredients and their amounts.
For those who love cookbooks, photos are an absolute must. In this book, the pictures are informal and homey, supporting the intimacy of her diary format. She begins each daily entry with a tweet to her very active twitter followers who also serve as part of her support. If you prefer the audio edition, Ruth narrates and she is an author who is genuinely meant to read her own material. You might think that listening to someone read 136 recipes would be a bit banal but Ruth is a genuine story teller and her throaty alto voice is as much of a comfort as the recipes she prepares. As Ruth says: “…I finally understand why cooking means so much to me. In a world filled with no, it is my yes.”
Not your ordinary cookbook – it’s like spending time with someone who likes food just as much as you – at the market, in the kitchen or at the table. Ruth chronicles four seasons of food and recovery in the kitchen, transforming from broken to hopeful. I’ve read other books of hers, but this one particularly stands out for me. It also makes a terrific gift for the food lover in your life.
Several years ago, shortly after attending Lincoln City Libraries’ annual book sale, my colleague, Allana Novotny, said to me – do you think it would be a good idea to have multiple copies of books we could lend to libraries for their book groups? That was ten years ago and not only have we not looked back, now we struggle to make room for our ever growing Book Club Collection of over 1,200 titles and nearly 12,000 physical volumes. Each month we average a circulation of over 1,000 volumes (including regular and large print books, audiobooks, and DVDs) from this collection to libraries around the state.
Looking back, there are many people to whom we owe thanks for helping make this service such a success:
- First and foremost – to Vern Buis, our Computer Services Director, who helped create and design a very user-friendly database and webpage http://nlc.nebraska.gov/Ref/Bookclub/,with auto-fill request forms, special search capabilities by holiday, Nebraska themes, and most recently the Nebraska 150 book list celebrating the state’s sesquicentennial.
- To Devra Dragos who created a special template for entering records in our catalog so we can reserve and check out book kits when they are requested by a library.
- To the many librarians and patrons who have donated books to our collection – many directly from their book group after reading and discussing that title.
- To all the shoppers at book sales, thrift shops, and used book stores, who have purchased (and many times delivered) books for our collection.
- Last but not least – thank you to the libraries and schools who use our collection and tell us how helpful it is to their community.
I’m pleased that we support book clubs throughout the state and have heard wonderful stories of your gatherings. To continue assisting you, we have provided NCompass Live sessions on how to select titles and lead discussions with your book group.
Because of the great success of the book groups, we very nearly wear out Mary Geibel, who works with you all to make and confirm reservations, sometimes for many months in advance. She sends out books and checks them in with email confirmations and conducts an annual inventory each summer to make sure everything is correct as advertised on our webpage.
If anyone had told me in library school that I’d spend a significant amount of time on book clubs and a special collection just for serving groups in the state, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have believed it. Growing and cultivating this service has been one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my years at the Library Commission. Happy Anniversary.
Friday Reads: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
This book came to my attention after I listened to Debra Winger read My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. The death of Justice Antonin Scalia precipitated selecting this title from my queue since Ginsburg and Scalia were known to have been fast friends despite their ideological differences. I am ashamed to confess how wholly unaware I was of the tremendous gender inequity around me as a younger woman. Like watching episodes of Mad Men it is an all too visceral reminder of just how far we’ve come and how much we’ve yet to accomplish.
One reviewer wrote “her appointment to the Court by Bill Clinton will be seen as one of his greatest accomplishments” and I’m inclined to agree. Her quiet and pragmatic work on issues of equity and equality have made the world a little better and a little freer. Her uncanny ability to know which cases were ready to go forward and those that were not is helpful to think about as I examine current issues being debated in state legislative houses.
Learning about RBG’s marriage was a revelation of both envy and delight. I’ve always admired those kinds of partnerships and this book made me appreciate Marty as much as Ruth. Supporting Ruth and her career was his proudest accomplishment. It reminded me of Paul and Julia Child’s marriage.
The life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one worth knowing and one easily presented in this quick read. I don’t believe this book is meant to be a definitive biography of RBG but it is a tremendous introduction.
While we are celebrating National Library Week, we can also celebrate an author many of us have cherished – Beverly Cleary – who turns 100 tomorrow. My neighbor sent me the following article from the New York Times and I was delighted to learn how she got started writing and also to learn that she was a librarian! One of Cleary’s quotes from the article is worth sharing: “As a child, I very much objected to books that tried to teach me something … I just wanted to read for pleasure, and I did. But if a book tried to teach me, I returned it to the library.”
If you would like to check out copies of Cleary’s books for your book group, here are the titles we own: The Mouse and the Motorcycle (8 copies); Ramona and Her Father (5 copies); and Ramona and her Mother (5 copies). As the article indicates, Ramona is her favorite character but isn’t directly modeled on her. “I was a well-behaved girl,” she said, “but I often thought like Ramona.” Happy Birthday Beverly, we are grateful for the wonderful characters you gave us.
Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Carla D. Hayden as Librarian of Congress. Meet President Obama’s Nominee for Librarian of Congress