Saturday, January 2, 2016

Reading Watching Free for All

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be on Tuesday, January 26 at 6:30pm in the Library's Conference Room and the topic up for discussion will be classics.  There are many definitions and opinions as to what a "classic" actually is: school reading classics, modern classics...we'll discuss them all!  Also, don't forget to put the annual Friends of Emmet O'Neal Library Book Sale on your February calendar.  The invite-only Preview Party will be on Thursday, February 18 and the sale will be open to the public Friday-Sunday, February 19-21.

Last week, GRG met for one of our biannual salon discussions, when there is no assigned topic and participants may bring what ever they'd like for discussion.


Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti
(powells) Blogger, butcher, pastry chef, and voracious reader Cara Nicoletti explores the intersection of great books and great food.
Cara Nicoletti has been an avid reader since childhood, and she is an equally enthusiastic eater and cook. Here she combines her passions in a delicious literary feast, essays on beloved books and the food scenes that give their characters texture and depth. Nicoletti also includes her own original recipes — inspired by the books — at the end of each chapter.
She discovers the perfect soft-cooked egg in Jane Austen's Emma, makes Grilled Peaches with Homemade Ricotta in tribute to Joan Didion's "Goodbye to All That," and even creates a recipe for Fava Bean and Chicken Liver Mousse (and a nice Chianti) after reading Thomas Harris's The Silence of the LambsVoracious is a book-lover's delight and a foodie's feast that explores the literary and culinary roads to happiness.
Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova
(powells) From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.
Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?
As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate. Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.
GENERAL DISCUSSION: Huntington's is part of a group of physical dysfunctions known as basal ganglia diseases.  Find more info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_ganglia_disease#Associated_disorders
The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
(powells) In 323 B.C.E, having conquered Persia, Alexander the Great set his sights on Arabia, then suddenly succumbed to a strange fever. Locating his final resting place-unknown to this day-remains a tantalizing goal for both archaeologists and treasure hunters. Now the quest for this coveted prize is about to heat up. And Cotton Malone-former U.S. Justice Department agent turned rare-book dealer-will be drawn into an intense geopolitical chess game.
After narrowly escaping incineration in a devastating fire that consumes a Danish museum, Cotton learns from his friend, the beguiling adventurer Cassiopeia Vitt, that the blaze was neither an accident nor an isolated incident. As part of campaign of arson intended to mask a far more diabolical design, buildings across Europe are being devoured by infernos of unnatural strength.
And from the ashes of the U.S.S.R., a new nation has arisen: Former Soviet republics have consolidated into the Central Asian Federation. At its helm is Supreme Minister Irina Zovastina, a cunning despot with a talent for politics, a taste for blood sport, and the single-minded desire to surpass Alexander the Great as historys ultimate conqueror.
Backed by a secret cabal of powerbrokers, the Federation has amassed a harrowing arsenal of biological weapons. Equipped with the hellish power to decimate other nations at will, only one thing keeps Zovastina from setting in motion her death march of domination: a miraculous healing serum, kept secret by an ancient puzzle and buried with the mummified remains of Alexander the Great-in a tomb lost to the ages for more than 1,500 years.
Together, Cotton and Cassiopeia must outrun and outthink the forces allied against them. Their perilous quest will take them to the shores of Denmark, deep into the venerated monuments of Venice, and finally high inside the desolate Pamir mountains of Central Asia to unravel a riddle whose solution could destroy or save millions of people-depending on who finds the lost tomb first.
The Alexandria Link by Steve Berry
(powells) Cotton Malone retired from the high-risk world of elite operatives for the U.S. State Department to lead the low-key life of a rare-book dealer. But his quiet existence is shattered when he receives an anonymous e-mail: "You have something I want. You're the only person on earth who knows where to find it. Go get it. You have 72 hours. If I don't hear from you, you will be childless." His horrified ex-wife confirms that the threat is real: Their teenage son has been kidnapped. When Malone's Copenhagen bookshop is burned to the ground, it becomes brutally clear that those responsible will stop at nothing to get what they want. And what they want is nothing less than the lost Library of Alexandria.
A cradle of ideas — historical, philosophical, literary, scientific, and religious — the Library of Alexandria was unparalleled in the world. But fifteen hundred years ago, it vanished into the mists of myth and legend — its vast bounty of wisdom coveted ever since by scholars, fortune hunters, and those who believe its untold secrets hold the key to ultimate power.
Now a cartel of wealthy international moguls, bent on altering the course of history, is desperate to breach the library's hallowed halls — and only Malone possesses the information they need to succeed. At stake is an explosive ancient document with the potential not only to change the destiny of the Middle East but to shake the world's three major religions to their very foundations.
Pursued by a lethal mercenary, Malone crosses the globe in search of answers. His quest will lead him to England and Portugal, even to the highest levels of American government — and the shattering outcome, deep in the Sinai desert, will have worldwide repercussions.
The Americans (TV series)
(amazon) Secrets can be deadly in this suspenseful thriller about undercover Russian spies in 1980s Washington, D.C. Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) seem to be a typical suburban couple, but they're actually lethal KGB agents plotting to bring down America. As the Cold War escalates, Philip and Elizabeth must take extreme measures to continue their mission and keep their true identities hidden. But when an FBI agent moves in across the street, they become ensnared in a pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse.
Halt and Catch Fire (TV series) 
(amazon) At the dawn of the PC era, 3 unlikely “cowboys,” Joe MacMillan, Gordon Clark and Cameron Howe, take personal and professional risks in the race to build a breakthrough computer. Tensions build within the group as they tread the line between visionary and fraud, genius and delusion, as their drive to do something that matters runs up against their ability to truly innovate. The series begins in the early 80s in Dallas, aka The Silicon Prairie, during the boom of the computer industry. IBM has released the first PC and is seemingly dominating the cutthroat field. MacMillan, Gordon and Cameron form an alliance at the smaller (fictional) tech company, Cardiff Giant, infiltrating it from within and using its people and resources to revolutionize the computer, shake up the competition and redeem their past personal failures. The show is not just about the ruthless rise of the computer business, or the obsessive striving for competitive advantage in the marketplace. Rather, it’s about people at war with themselves as they search for something bigger. During their search, they’ll struggle with the dark side of the human ego, the destructive power of ambition, and the often thin line separating genius from delusion.
GENERAL DISCUSSION: Mountain Brook residents with a valid library card may borrow 5 HOOPLA items per month. HOOPLA is a digital content service which library cardholders can use to instantly download and stream digital movies, music, ebooks, and audiobooks.  Visit our website: http://www.eolib.org/adults-resources.php
Olivia (Jennifer Prediger) and Nicole (Jess Weixler) are codependent roommates who are definitely going to make it; They're just not sure how. When they get evicted from their shoebox apartment in Manhattan--conceptual art just doesn't cover the rent--they boldly take off to L.A. and the promise of sunshine. As one door slams shut, another opens--a tarot card reading later, the duo decide to take their performance art sensibilities to the mainstream by auditioning for a reality TV talent show. This madcap buddy film marks the screenwriting and directorial debuts of costars and real-life friends Jennifer Prediger and Jess Weixler. Strong comedic performances by Megan Mullally, Jeffrey Tambor and Will Forte reveal the vulnerability behind even their most bizarre behavior.
(amazon) The Newspaper Boy is a remarkable collection of memories and personal reflections of the deep emotional conflicts a young newspaper delivery boy, Chervis Isom, encountered while growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, in a time of racial strife and discord in the 1950s and early '60s. A quiet and shy boy, the young Isom was a reader, and it would be the written word he would turn to as he tried to make sense of his world. Many of Isom's stories are tied to the "Southern Way of Life," a culture in which he grew up that assumed an inflexible white superiority represented by Jim Crow laws, laws that his father, a Greyhound Bus driver, was obligated to enforce in the face of a rising reaction by his African American riders that he neither understood nor tolerated. Isom's early adolescent views, shaped by his father's frustrations, are thrown into stark contrast as he is drawn to the positive influence of Helen and Vern Miller, a young couple from the Far North who moved onto his paper route, bringing with them alien ideas completely out of step with his own culture and teachings. Even though the Millers' views would clash with his own, they quickly became his favorite customers. Each Saturday they opened their door to him at collection time, inviting him in to politely discuss and debate the day's issues. Through the Millers' progressive approach to the growing racial unrest in Birmingham in the mid-to late-1950s, the young Isom gradually learned, in a series of fits and starts, advances and setbacks, to question the prevailing cultural attitudes and biases towards the African American community. In the end, he would come to understand the simple truth, as expressed by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that people must be judged not "by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." 
(powells) When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned 100 million books. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks for troops to carry in their pockets and rucksacks in every theater of war. These Armed Services Editions were beloved by the troops and are still fondly remembered today. Soldiers read them while waiting to land at Normandy, in hellish trenches in the midst of battles in the Pacific, in field hospitals, and on long bombing flights. They helped rescue The Great Gatsby from obscurity and made Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn into a national icon. When Books Went to War is the inspiring story of the Armed Services Editions, and a treasure for history buffs and book lovers alike.
(amazon) A librarian who is busy shelving books on Christmas Eve is surprised to see Santa flying toward the library in his red bookmobile. Bringing wonderful gifts of new books, carpet, and more, Santa and his elves make the library as good as new.
Outhouses by Famous Architects by Steve Schaecher
(powells) Outhouses have been much ridiculed and maligned structures, thought worthy of only the lowliest of humor and virtually ignored by architectural critics as inconsequential blips in the development of building design. And yet -- as architect Steve Schaecher so poignantly reveals in this collection of renderings -- architects of genius from time immemorial have used their considerable talents to enhance the beauty and function of the outhouse.
Here are reproductions of stylish (dare we say "perfectionist"?) renderings from Wright's Flushingwater to the Centre Pompidoodoo -- the unmistakable outhouse for that weird-looking French museum -- and many others. Each is accompanied by insightful historical and analytical text, depending on your definitions of insightful and analytical. The preface, by architectural critic I. P. Daley, will leave you in no doubt of the importance of this completely nonsensical book.
Life (film) 
(amazon) Inspired by the true story of photographer Dennis Stock and Hollywood's rebel actor James Dean, brought together for a LIFE Magazine assignment. Their journey leads to an unbreakable friendship and some of the most iconic images of the age.
Coco and the Little Black Dress by Annmarie Van Haeringen
(amazon) "Hurry up! You may only go to bed when all the sheets are ironed." Little Coco grew up in the orphanage and had to work hard for a living sewing and embroidering like an angel. Until her eighteenth birthday . . . Coco knew one thing for sure Coco. She would never, never be poor again. A beautifully illustrated picture book biography of Coco Chanel. Coco Chanel (1883-1971) was a famous French fashion designer. Born into a poor family, strictly brought up in the orphanage, influenced by the style of wealthy suitors , she remained faithful throughout her life to the simplicity. A luxurious simplicity , which has produced memorable style icons like the little black dress and perfume Chanel No. 5.
(amazon) Audrey Tautou (The Da Vinci Code, Amélie) shines in this intriguing portrait of the early life of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the orphan who would build a fashion empire and be known universally by her nickname, Coco. She journeys from a mundane seamstress job to boisterous cabarets to the opulent French countryside, possessing little more than her unwavering determination, unique style and visionary talent. Also starring Benoît Poelvoorde (In His Hands) and Alessandro Nivola (Junebug). Featuring lush settings and stunning costume design, Coco Before Chanel is the gripping and dramatic story of an icon who defied convention and defined the modern woman.
Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes
(powells) No one other than Warren Zanes, rocker, writer, and friend, could author a book about Tom Petty that is as honest and evocative of Petty's music and the remarkable rock and roll history he and his band helped to write. From meeting Elvis to producing Del Shannon, backing Bob Dylan, putting together a band with George Harrison, Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne, and sending over a dozen of his own recordings high onto the charts, Petty's story has all the drama of a rock and roll epic. Now in his mid-60s, still making records and still touring, Petty, known for his reclusive style, has shared with Zanes his insights and arguments, his regrets and lasting ambitions, and the details of his life on and off the stage. Zanes’s Petty: The Biography (Henry Holt) is for those who want to see the classic rock and roll era embodied in one man's remarkable story. Dark and mysterious, Petty manages to come back, again and again, showing us what the music can do and where it can take us.
GENERAL DISCUSSION: If you subscribe to satellite radio, Tom Petty has a Sirius XM show called Buried Treasure. https://www.siriusxm.com/tompettysburiedtreasure
(powells) Judy Garland. The girl with the pigtails, the symbol of innocence in The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland. The brightest star of the Hollywood musical and an entertainer of almost magical power. Judy Garland. The woman of a half-dozen comebacks, a hundred heartbreaks, and countless thousands of headlines. Yet much of what has previously been written about her is either inaccurate or incomplete, and the Garland the world thought it knew was merely a sketch for the astonishing woman Gerald Clarke portrays in Get Happy. Here, more than thirty years after her death, is the real Judy. 
(powells) In this vivid and captivating journey through the colors of an artist's palette, Victoria Finlay takes us on an enthralling adventure around the world and through the ages, illuminating how the colors we choose to value have determined the history of culture itself.
How did the most precious color blue travel all the way from remote lapis mines in Afghanistan to Michelangelo's brush? What is the connection between brown paint and ancient Egyptian mummies? Why did Robin Hood wear Lincoln green? In Color, Finlay explores the physical materials that color our world, such as precious minerals and insect blood, as well as the social and political meanings that color has carried through time.
Roman emperors used to wear togas dyed with a purple color that was made from an odorous Lebanese shellfish — which probably meant their scent preceded them. In the eighteenth century, black dye was called logwood and grew along the Spanish Main. Some of the first indigo plantations were started in America, amazingly enough, by a seventeen-year-old girl named Eliza. And the popular van Gogh painting White Roses at Washington's National Gallery had to be renamed after a researcher discovered that the flowers were originally done in a pink paint that had faded nearly a century ago. Color is full of extraordinary people, events, and anecdotes — painted all the more dazzling by Finlay's engaging style.
Embark upon a thrilling adventure with this intrepid journalist as she travels on a donkey along ancient silk trade routes; with the Phoenicians sailing the Mediterranean in search of a special purple shell that garners wealth, sustenance, and prestige; with modern Chilean farmers breeding and bleeding insects for their viscous red blood. The colors that craft our world have never looked so bright.
(powells) A bold, original, moving book that will inspire fanatical devotion and ignite debate. “Whom to marry, and when will it happen — these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she — along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing — remains unmarried.
This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: journalist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social reformer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless, the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.
(powells) An extraordinary book; one that almost magically makes clear how Tennessee Williams wrote; how he came to his visions of Amanda Wingfield, his Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, Alma Winemiller, Lady Torrance, and the other characters of his plays that transformed the American theater of the mid-twentieth century; a book that does, from the inside, the almost impossible — revealing the heart and soul of artistic inspiration and the unwitting collaboration between playwright and actress, playwright and director.
GENERAL DISCUSSION: Short stories/essays in which you may be interested-
The Ledge by Lawrence Sargent Hall
A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell
Rotten Ice by Gretel Ehrlich 
Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell
Anything by Willa Cather
Trumbo (film) 
(amazon) Bryan Cranston leads an all star cast in a riveting portrayal of Dalton Trumbo, one of Hollywood's most talented and best known script writers and the efforts of the House of Un-Amercian Activity to purify Hollywood and protect the American viewing public from the communist menace of the early Cold War era.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pets and Animals

The final Genre Reading Group meeting of the year will take place on Tuesday, December 29th at 6:30pm, as usual.  The library will be on Holiday Hours and will be closed, but I will be here to let you in to the building.  It will be one of our biannual Salon Discussion so there is no assigned topic.  You may bring whatever kind/topic of book you’d like to share with the group.

Last week, GRG met to discuss pets & animals!

Buttercups and Daisy by Elizabeth Cragoe
This book is too old and too obscure and as such, has fallen off the radar.  I have found no official reviews, so here is my personal one. Elizabeth Cragoe and her husband, city dwellers both, pick up and move to the Welsh countryside in the early 1970’s to take up life as dairy farmers in this charming tale, told during the moment in history when industrialized farming was just beginning to become popular.  She speaks candidly about how her animals fare in making the swap to more industrial milking practices as well as how chickens perform in battery cages.  It is an interesting look at the lives of rural Welsh farmers (I cannot pronounce ANY of the farms, landscape features, nor most of the characters’ names) as well as the evolution of farming in Europe.  I love her family and look forward to reading more of her books out there in the world if I can find them.

Once Upon a Flock: Life With My Soulful Chickens by Lauren Scheuer
(amazon) When longtime illustrator and lover of power tools Lauren Scheuer was looking for a project, she got the idea to raise backyard chickens. Her husband and teenage daughter looked on incredulously as coop sketches and chicken-raising books filled their New England home. But when the chicks arrived, the whole family fell in love with the bundles of fluff and the wild adventures began. 


Rabbit series by John Updike
(wikipedia) Updike's most famous work is his "Rabbit" series (the novels Rabbit, RunRabbit ReduxRabbit Is RichRabbit at Rest; and the novella Rabbit Remembered), which chronicles the life of the middle-class everyman Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom over the course of several decades, from young adulthood to death. Both Rabbit Is Rich (1982) and Rabbit at Rest (1990) were recognized with the Pulitzer Prize. Updike is one of only three authors to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once (the others were Booth Tarkington and William Faulkner). He published more than twenty novels and more than a dozen short story collections, as well as poetry, art criticism, literary criticism and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems appeared in The New Yorker starting in 1954. He also wrote regularly for The New York Review of Books.

Nova: Dawn of Humanity (2015)

NOVA and National Geographic present exclusive access to an astounding discovery of ancient fossil human ancestors. Deep in a South African cave, a special team of experts has brought to light an unprecedented wealth of fossils belonging to a crucial gap in the record of our origins that spans the transition between the ape-like australopithecines (such as the famous Lucy) and the earliest members of the human family. At the center of the discovery is paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, a character brimming with enthusiasm and opinions, whose claims have stirred long controversy in the contentious field of human origins. Join NOVA to solve a two million year-old "crime scene" and dig into extraordinary new clues about what made us human.



(amazon) The heartwarming tale of an irrepressible donkey who needed a home―and forever changed a family. Rachel Anne Ridge was at the end of her rope. The economy had crashed, taking her formerly thriving business along with it. She had been a successful artist, doing work she loved, but now she felt like a failure. How would her family pay their bills? What would the future hold? If only God would somehow let them know that everything was going to be all right . . . and then Flash the donkey showed up.

(amazon) When Humphrey hears that school is ending, he can't believe his ears. What's a classroom hamster to do if there's no more school? It turns out that Mrs. Brisbane has planned something thrilling for Humphrey and Og the frog: they're going to Camp Happy Hollow with Ms. Mac and lots of the kids from Room 26! Camp is full of FUN-FUN-FUN new experiences, but it's also a little scary. There are fur-raising wild sounds and smells, and there's something called the Howler to watch out for. Humphrey is always curious about new adventures, but could camp be too wild even for him?


The Hamster in Our Class by Kathleen Tracy
(amazon) Playful and affectionate, hamsters can make terrific class pets. In this book you'll learn about the different types of hamsters, whether they like to live alone or in groups, what kind of food they eat, how much exercise they need, and the best kind of cage for them. Hamsters can be shy at first, but once they get to know you, they can be held. They will make a delightful addition to any classroom.


The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
(amazon) Written at a time of profound anxiety caused by the illness of his mother, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck draws on his memories of childhood in these stories about a boy who embodies both the rebellious spirit and the contradictory desire for acceptance of early adolescence. Unlike most coming-of-age stories, the cycle does not end with a hero “matured” by circumstances. The Red Pony is imbued with a sense of loss. Jody’s encounters with birth and death express a common theme in Steinbeck’s fiction: They are parts of the ongoing process of life, “resolving” nothing. The Red Pony was central not only to Steinbeck’s emergence as a major American novelist but to the shaping of a distinctly mid twentieth-century genre, opening up a new range of possibilities about the fictional presence of a child’s world.


The Pugilist at Rest: Stories by Thom Jones
In the short story "I Want to Live," Mrs. Wilson is a woman diagnosed with an advanced cancer. Her husband had died from cancer ten years earlier. Her memories of the past include a very precocious chicken.


Essays of E.B. White by E.B. White
(nytimes.com) “In 1948, E. B. White wrote "Death of a Pig" which appeared in Atlantic Monthly, an oddly affecting account of how he failed to save the life of a sick pig, made ironic by the fact that the pig had been bought to act its part in the "tragedy" of the spring pig fattened for winter butchering. Since literature is not life, White set out in "Charlotte's Web" to save his pig in retrospect, this time not from an unexpected illness but from its presumably fated "tragedy."” 

Read “Death of a Pig” here:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1948/01/death-pig/309203/

(amazon) How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Iowa.

Dewey's story starts in the worst possible way. Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, he was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. He was found the next morning by library director, Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband. Dewey won her heart, and the hearts of the staff, by pulling himself up and hobbling on frostbitten feet to nudge each of them in a gesture of thanks and love. For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility, (for a cat) and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.

As his fame grew from town to town, then state to state, and finally, amazingly, worldwide, Dewey became more than just a friend; he became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling its way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its long history.

What are YOU reading?


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Historical Fiction

A quick reminder to everyone, our new $mart Direction$ series of financial education programs kicks off next week on Thursday, November 5th!  Dr. Andreas Rauterkus will talk on understanding the structure of the U.S. banking system and the roles of both the Federal Reserve and the FDIC in managing and protecting your money.  The doors open at 6pm and a light meal will be served.  The program begins promptly at 6:30pm.  Can’t make the meeting?  The series will be recorded and available through our website or on DVD. 

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will take place on Tuesday, November 24th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion will be animals and pets.  That will be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, so you get bonus points for bringing out of town guests with you to book group!  ;-)

Yesterday evening we discussed one of my very favorite genres, historical fiction!  In a 2012 New Yorker article, Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall) offers this very apt description of the genre: 
“Historical fiction is a hybrid form, halfway between fiction and nonfiction. It is pioneer country, without fixed laws. To some, if it is fiction, anything is permitted. To others, wanton invention when facts are to be found, or, worse, contradiction of well-known facts, is a horror: a violation of an implicit contract with the reader, and a betrayal of the people written about. Ironically, it is when those stricter standards of truth are applied that historical fiction looks most like lying.”
As to the time periods involved, the last time I saw a date ascribed to it, historical fiction applied to anything WWII and prior.  I’d venture to say the definition has shifted a bit since I read that.  When would YOU place the cutoff for historical fiction?  I chose a book set in the mid 1970’s, mainly because the main character is a composer of film scores whose agent turns down an opportunity for him to score the upstart American film, Star Wars, because he doesn’t want his client’s reputation to be ruined by a film that’s going to flop.  Teehee!  That’s a bit too recent for some, and certainly old to others but I guess it all depends on who’s keeping score.

On to the list!

The Voices by F. R. Tallis
(bn.com) From Edgar nominee F. R. Tallis, a new novel of psychological suspense that reinvents the classic haunted-house tale. In the scorching summer of 1976—the hottest on record—Christopher Norton, his wife Laura and their young daughter Faye settle into their new home in north London. The faded glory of the Victorian house is the perfect place for Norton, a composer of film soundtracks, to build a recording studio of his own. But soon in the long, oppressively hot nights, Laura begins to hear something through the crackle of the baby monitor. First, a knocking sound. Then come the voices. For Norton, the voices mark an exciting opportunity. Putting his work aside, he begins the project of a lifetime—a grand symphony incorporating the voices—and becomes increasingly obsessed with one voice in particular. Someone who is determined to make themselves heard . . .

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
(bn.com) It is the fourteenth century and one of the most apocalyptic events in human history is set to occur–the coming of the Black Death. History teaches us that a third of Europe’s population was destroyed. But what if? What if the plague killed 99 percent of the population instead? How would the world have changed? This is a look at the history that could have been–a history that stretches across centuries, a history that sees dynasties and nations rise and crumble, a history that spans horrible famine and magnificent innovation. These are the years of rice and salt.

This is a universe where the first ship to reach the New World travels across the Pacific Ocean from China and colonization spreads from west to east. This is a universe where the Industrial Revolution is triggered by the world’s greatest scientific minds–in India. This is a universe where Buddhism and Islam are the most influential and practiced religions and Christianity is merely a historical footnote.
Through the eyes of soldiers and kings, explorers and philosophers, slaves and scholars, Robinson renders an immensely rich tapestry. Rewriting history and probing the most profound questions as only he can, Robinson shines his extraordinary light on the place of religion, culture, power, and even love on such an Earth. From the steppes of Asia to the shores of the Western Hemisphere, from the age of Akbar to the present and beyond, here is the stunning story of the creation of a new world.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
(bn.com) For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.
But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin — barely of age herself — finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

Five years in the writing by one of science fiction's most honored authors, Doomsday Book is a storytelling triumph. Connie Willis draws upon her understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering and the indomitable will of the human spirit.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
(bn.com) Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
(bn.com) Dallas, 11/22/63: Three shots ring out. President John F. Kennedy is dead.
Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away...but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke... Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten...and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

City of Thieves by David Benioff
(bn.com) During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, the New York Times bestseller City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
(bn.com) Paul Baumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. And as horrible war plods on year after year, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other—if only he can come out of the war alive.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: All Quiet on the Western Front was adapted to the big screen in 1930, 1979, and is in development for a possible 2016 remake as well.

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
(bn.com) A tour de force of history and imagination, The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier’s answer to the mystery behind one of the art world’s great masterpieces—a set of bewitching medieval tapestriesthat hangs today in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They appear to portray the seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknown—until now.

Paris, 1490.  A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house—mother and daughter, servant, and lady-in-waiting—before taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven. There, master weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has to finish the tapestries—his finest, most intricate work—on time for his exacting French client. The results change all their lives—lives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look.
In The Lady and the Unicorn, Tracy Chevalier weaves fact and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry—an extraordinary story exquisitely told.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: Like most of Chevalier’s work, this novel has a kernel of truth at it’s center.  The real lady and unicorn tapestries reside in the Cluny Museum in Paris.  Explore them here.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
(bn.com) On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: "the eye" to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.

Mary soon finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset. Remarkable Creatures is a stunning historical novel that follows the story of two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the scientific world forever.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
(imdb.com) Set in the early 1980s, this series dramatizes the personal computing boom through the eyes of a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy whose innovations directly confront the corporate behemoths of the time. Their personal and professional partnership will be challenged by greed and ego while charting the changing culture in Texas' Silicon Prairie.

(imdb.com) Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
(bn.com) In Charles Frazier's follow-up to the runaway bestseller, Cold Mountain, comes the story of one man's remarkable life, spanning a century of relentless change. At the age of twelve, an orphan named Will Cooper is given a horse, a key, and a map and is sent on a journey through the wilderness to the edge of the Cherokee Nation, the uncharted white space on the map. Will is a bound boy, obliged to run a remote Indian trading post. As he fulfills his lonesome duty, Will finds a father in Bear, a Cherokee chief, and is adopted by him and his people, developing relationships that ultimately forge Will's character. All the while, his love of Claire, the enigmatic and captivating charge of volatile and powerful Featherstone, will forever rule Will's heart. In a distinct voice filled with both humor and yearning, Will tells of a lifelong search for home, the hunger for fortune and adventure, the rebuilding of a trampled culture, and above all an enduring pursuit of passion.





Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Diet and Fitness

Cupcakes and diet/nutrition/exercise books got along together like the best of friends at last night's Genre Reading Group meeting!  Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, October 27th at 6:30pm and the genre up for discussion will be historical fiction.


(powells.com) Imagine a diet plan that lets you eat at Burger King, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and Olive Garden and still strip away 10, 20, even 30 pounds or more! A diet plan that lets you order takeout pizza, whip up a box of macaroni & cheese, even reach into the freezer section for ice cream and never worry about gaining weight or going hungry! A diet plan that lets you enjoy your most indulgent comfort foods whenever you want and actually teaches you how to eat them more often! The Eat This, Not That! No-Diet Diet is the easiest, most revolutionary weight-loss plan ever created.

Whether you’re in the drive-through, the family restaurant, the supermarket aisle or your own kitchen, you make dozens of decisions every day that affect your weight and your health. Now, those decisions are made easier than ever! Authors David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding have built on the success of their wildly popular Eat This, Not That! series offood-swap guides and created a complete morning-to-night, 365-day eating plan that will have you enjoying all your favorite foods and shedding pounds like you’ve never imagined! No matter where you are or what you crave, you’ll be stunned to discover how easy losing weight can be!


(powells.com) With engineers working around the clock to figure out how to add irresistibility and whoosh to food, and the ever-expanding choices (and portions) available to us, it's no wonder we've become a culture on caloric overload. But with obesity rising at alarming rates, we're in desperate need of dietary intervention.

In The End of Overeating, Dr. David A. Kessler, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, takes an in-depth look at the ways in which we have been conditioned to overeat. Dr. Kessler presents a combination of fascinating anecdotes and newsworthy research — including interviews with physicians, psychologists, and neurologists — to understand how we became a culture addicted to the over-consumption of unhealthy foods. He also provides a controversial view inside the food industry, from popular processed food manufacturers to advertisers, chain restaurants, and fast food franchises. Kessler deconstructs the endless cycle of craving and consumption that the industry has created, and breaks down how our minds and bodies join in the conspiracy to make it all work. He concludes by offering us a common sense prescription for change, both in ourselves and in our culture.


(powells.com) Pioneering research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control. Drawing on cutting-edge research and the wisdom of real-life experts, Willpower shares lessons on how to focus our strength, resist temptation, and redirect our lives. It shows readers how to be realistic when setting goals, monitor their progress, and how to keep faith when they falter. By blending practical wisdom with the best of recent research science, Willpower makes it clear that whatever we seek—from happiness to good health to financial security—we won’t reach our goals without first learning to harness self-control.


(powells.com) Five years ago, with the publication of TheSouth Beach Diet, renowned Miami cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston set out to change the way America eats. Now he has an even more ambitious goal: to change the way America lives by helping Americans become fitter as well as thinner and healthier . . . for life.

In the all-new The South Beach Diet Supercharged, Dr. Agatston shows you how to rev up your metabolism and lose weight faster while following the proven healthy eating principles of the original diet: choose good carbs, good fats, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. Collaborating with Dr. Joseph Signorile, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Miami, Dr. Agatston presents a cutting-edge, three-phase workout that perfectly complements the three phases of the diet itself. Based on the latest exercise science, this ease-into-it fitness program combines low- and high-intensity interval exercise (with a focus on walking) and functional core body-toning exercises. The result: You'll look fitter and you'll burn more fat and calories all day, even at rest.

Also included is the latest nutritional research on how specific foods high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of phytonutrients help keep you healthy; new and expanded lists of Foods to Enjoy; taste-tempting Meal Plans for phases 1 and 2; and dozens of easy-to-prepare new recipes, including Eggs Frijoles, Chock-Full-of-Veggies Chili, Roasted Tomato Soup, Homestyle Turkey Meatloaf, and South Beach Diet Tiramisu. In every chapter you'll find inspiring success stories from real-life South Beach dieters and plenty of effective weight loss tips. And as an added bonus, Dr. Agatston answers the questions you've most often asked him about the diet since the original book was published.


(powells.com) Introducing a breathtaking promise: transform your body and get fit in just 10 minutes a day. Incorporating the latest research in exercise physiology, The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough is an ingenious program of interval, circuit, aerobic, and resistance training that accrues the benefits of hours at the gym in daily 10-minute workouts. And these are workouts that can be done anywhere, any time--home, office, hotel room, the park, and, of course, the local health club.

Created by Sean Foy, an exercise physiologist and behavioral coach, The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough counters the #1 reason people don't exercise--not enough time--with a scientifically proven, clinically tested 4-3-2-1 program: 4 minutes of high-energy cardio, 3 minutes of resistance, 2 minutes of core, and 1 minute of stretching and deep breathing. The step-by-step illustrated exercises are simplicity itself--air boxing, wall push-ups, chair jogging, stationary high-knee marching--and are presented in three levels geared to the reader's fitness, with four weeks of routines per level. Their potency lies in the benefits of nonstop movement, thermal effect, intensity, and more: in other words, why it truly takes just 10 carefully crafted minutes to boost metabolic rate, exercise all the major muscle groups, increase cardiovascular endurance, have a positive effect on cholesterol and blood pressure, and deliver a sense of well-being.


(powells.com) Do you suffer from ailments your doctors can't seem to diagnose or help: mysterious rashes, unpredictable digestive problems, debilitating headaches, mood and energy swings, constant tiredness? If so, nerve compression is likely the cause.

What Grain Brain did for wheat, leading peripheral nerve surgeon Dr. Richard Jacoby now does for sugar, exposing the shocking truth that a diet high in sugar, processed carbohydrates, and wheat can compress and damage the peripheral nerves of the body, and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and feet, as well as a host of related conditions, from migraines, autism, and ALS to gallbladder disease and diabetes.

Over the years, Dr. Richard Jacoby has treated thousands of patients with peripheral neuropathy. Now he shares his insights and tells the story of how he connected the dots to determine how sugar is the common denominator of many chronic diseases.

Practical and accessible, Sugar Crush breaks down our dangerous addiction to sweets, offering a unique, holistic understanding of the toll sugar and carbs take on the body, and demonstrating how dietary changes can help nerves regain their normal function dramatically.

Whether you have diabetes or prediabetes, or are even just concerned about your health, Sugar Crush is the essential guide to knowing the dangers of nerve compression. Complete with dietary advice, the latest thinking on ways to prevent and reverse neuropathy, and a quiz to help you assess your nerve damage, this book will give you the tools you need to quit sugar, calm your nerves, and reclaim well-being.

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

(powells.com) Have you ever finished a meal that tasted horrible but not noticed until the last bite?
Eaten in your car so you wouldn't have to share with your children? Gotten hungry while watching a dog food commercial? Does the presence of green vegetables make you angry?

If you answered yes to any of the following questions, you are pretty pathetic, but you are not alone. Feast along with America's favorite food comedian, bestselling author, and male supermodel Jim Gaffigan as he digs into his specialty: stuffing his face. Food: A Love Story is an in-depth, thoroughly uninformed look at everything from health food to things that people actually enjoy eating.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:

One of our bookgroup members is participating in a nutritional study at UAB and is giving us a first person perspective of his experience:

“The purpose of the Fiber and Mood study is to determine the effect of a fiber-containing shake on mood. The study is set up in two separate phases. The first phase will include screening and baseline testing. In the second phase, participants will come to UAB to eat all of their meals for two weeks,-Monday-Friday. There will be two weeks in between each week-long session of eating at UAB.”


We spent a few minutes remembering the pioneers:

More recent trendsetters:

Food trucks are experiencing a surge of popularity.  There are several books out on the topic and last year’s Jon Favreau film, Chef, was particularly good.

Esquire article, “Why Did Everyone Stop Taking Real Lunch Breaks?” by John Hendrickson
http://www.esquire.com/food-drink/food/a33512/lunch-break-study/


What are YOU reading/watching/listening to?