Wednesday, November 1, 2017

memoirs and biography

The Genre Reading Group met last night to discuss memoirs and biographies.  Have a gander at what we read!

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In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her encounter with a Neohelix albolabris-a common woodland snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater understanding of her own place in the world. Intrigued by the snail's molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, offering a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world can illuminate our own human existence, while providing an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive. (

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The extraordinary New York Times bestselling account of James Garfield's rise from poverty to the American presidency, and the dramatic history of his assassination and legacy, from bestselling author of The River of Doubt, Candice Millard.

James Abram Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, a renowned congressman, and a reluctant presidential candidate who took on the nation's corrupt political establishment. But four months after Garfield's inauguration in 1881, he was shot in the back by a deranged office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Garfield survived the attack, but become the object of bitter, behind-the-scenes struggles for power—over his administration, over the nation's future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic brings alive a forgotten chapter of U.S. history. (

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Fragments is an event―an unforgettable book that will redefine one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century and that, nearly fifty years after her death, will definitively reveal Marilyn Monroe's humanity.

Marilyn's image is so universal that we can't help but believe we know all there is to know of her. Every word and gesture made headlines and garnered controversy. Her serious gifts as an actor were sometimes eclipsed by her notoriety―and by the way the camera fell helplessly in love with her.
Beyond the headlines―and the too-familiar stories of heartbreak and desolation―was a woman far more curious, searching, witty, and hopeful than the one the world got to know. Now, for the first time, readers can meet the private Marilyn and understand her in a way we never have before. Fragments is an unprecedented collection of written artifacts―notes to herself, letters, even poems―in Marilyn's own handwriting, never before published, along with rarely seen intimate photos.

Jotted in notebooks, typed on paper, or written on hotel letterhead, these texts reveal a woman who loved deeply and strove to perfect her craft. They show a Marilyn Monroe unsparing in her analysis of her own life, but also playful, funny, and impossibly charming. The easy grace and deceptive lightness that made her performances indelible emerge on the page, as does the simmering tragedy that made her last appearances so affecting. (

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Equal parts showman and artist, hustler and faithful son, trained tenor and fast-talking raconteur, Sam Tenenbaum is—to paraphrase Whitman—large, he contains multitudes. In this inspirational and quintessentially American “song of himself,” we see Sam pick himself up by the bootstraps of an awkward childhood in mid-20th Century Birmingham, Alabama, and forge an unlikely path through the roughriding, anything-goes early days of professional wrestling in the American South—all while nurturing his faith and pursuing, on the sly, his  rst true love: operatic singing. In the end, we learn what Sam learned early on: how to live large, fear nothing, and never give up on your dreams. (

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In 1978, the first group of space shuttle astronauts was introduced to the world -- twenty-nine men and six women who would carry NASA through the most tumultuous years of the space shuttle program. Among them was USAF Colonel Mike Mullane, who, in his memoir Riding Rockets, strips the heroic veneer from the astronaut corps and paints them as they are -- human.

Mullane's tales of arrested development among military flyboys working with feminist pioneers and post-doc scientists are sometimes bawdy, often comical, and always entertaining. He vividly portrays every aspect of the astronaut experience, from telling a female technician which urine-collection condom size is a fit to hearing "Taps" played over a friend's grave. He is also brutally honest in his criticism of a NASA leadership whose bungling would precipitate the Challenger disaster -- killing four members of his group. A hilarious, heartfelt story of life in all its fateful uncertainty, Riding Rockets will resonate long after the call of "Wheel stop." (

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Welcome to Bryson City, a small town tucked away in a fold of North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains. The scenery is breathtaking, the home cooking can’t be beat, the Maroon Devils football team is the pride of the town, and you won’t find better steelhead fishing anywhere. But the best part is the people you’re about to meet in the pages of Bryson City Seasons. In this joyous sequel to his bestselling Bryson City Tales, Dr. Walt Larimore whisks you along on a journey through the seasons of a Bryson City year. On the way, you’ll encounter crusty mountain men, warmhearted townspeople, peppery medical personalities, and the hallmarks of a simpler, more wholesome way of life. Culled from the author’s experiences as a young doctor settling into rural medical practice, these captivating stories are a celebration of this richly textured miracle called life. (

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(Patron review) I have enjoyed reading Stephen King over the decades, his books and novellas.  This memoir was no exception as he shares his early life growing up in Maine with his older brother and his single mother (his father having long left the scene).  

One of the kicks I got from reading his book was his description of his brother Dave.  

"Dave was a great brother, but too smart of a ten-year-old.  His brains were always getting him in trouble and he learned at some point .... That it was usually possible to get Brother Stevie to join him in some point position when trouble was in the wind." 

Several passages later:

"We each had our part to play in creating the Super Duper Electromagnet.  Dave's part was to build it.  My part would be to test it.  Little Stevie King, Stratford's answer to Chuck Yeager.
Dave's new version of the experiment by-passed the pokey old dry cell... in favor of actual wall current. Dave cut the electrical cord off an old lamp someone had put on the curb with the trash, stripped the coating all the way down to the plug, then wrapped his magnetized spike in spirals of bare wire.  Then, sitting on the floor in the kitchen of our West Board Street apartment, he offered me the Super Duper Electromagnet and bade me to my part and plug it in.
I hesitated – give me at least that much credit – but in the end, Dave's manic enthusiasm was too much to withstand.  I plugged it in.  There was no noticeable magnetism, but the gadget did blow out light and electrical appliance in the building and in the building next door (where my dream-girl lived in the ground-floor apartment).  Something popped in the electrical transformer out front and some cops came.  Dave and I spent a horrible hour watching from out mother's bedroom window, that only one that looked out on the street..... When the cops left, a power truck arrived.  Under other circumstances, this would have absorbed us completely, but not that day.  That day we could only wonder if our mother would come and see us in reform school.  Eventually, the lights came back on the power truck went away.  We were not caught and lived to fight another day.  Dave decided he might build a Super Duper Glider instead of a Super Duper Electromagnet for his science project.  I, he told me, would get to take the first ride.  Wouldn't that be great?"

I've included Stephen King's own words because one of long short stories from Nightmares and DreamscapesThe End of the Whole Mess, (page 67) channels this childhood memory.  The story was both frightening and endearing when I first read it.  The tale caught the terrible sweetness of familial ties and consequences.  I hope this piques your curiosity to check it out.  There are several other well told stories in the particular book. 

King's book touches on the craft of writing - very simply and very plainly.  In essence, he outlines the toolbox of a writer. He brings up the fundamental need to read – a lot if you wish to become a writer.   
"But TV came relatively late to the King household and I'm glad.  I am, when you stop to think of it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bull---x.   This might not be important.  On the other hand, if you're just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television's electric plug wire, wrap a spike around it and then stick it back into the wall.  See what blows and how far.    Just an idea"

"Common tools go on top.  The commonest of all, the bread of writing, is vocabulary.  In this case, you can happily pack what you have without the slightest bit of guild and inferiority. "  Stephen King then provides case studies on the use of vocabulary.

Next, he brings up grammar and bows out for "the same reason that William Strunk decided not to recap the basics when he wrote the first edition of The Elements of Style, if you don't know, it's too late."

King continues later, "I am approaching the heart of this book with two theses, both simple.  The first is that good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) and then filling the third level of your toolbox with the right instruments."   In succeeding chapters, he expands on narration, description, dialogue and plot. 

At the very end of the book, he shares a list of books he has read over the last three to four years that he suspects has had an influence over the books he wrote.  The list also helps answer the perennial question from his "Constant Readers" on "what do you read?" In short, King is encouraging, down to earth and pragmatic as he weaves examples from his own life in a sincere effort to encourage writers in this memoir.

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Patricia Volk’s delicious memoir lets us into her big, crazy, loving, cheerful, infuriating and wonderful family, where you’re never just hungry–your starving to death, and you’re never just full–you’re stuffed. Volk’s family fed New York City for one hundred years, from 1888 when her great-grandfather introduced pastrami to America until 1988, when her father closed his garment center restaurant. All along, food was pretty much at the center of their lives. But as seductively as Volk evokes the food, Stuffed is at heart a paean to her quirky, vibrant relatives: her grandmother with the “best legs in Atlantic City”; her grandfather, who invented the wrecking ball; her larger-than-life father, who sculpted snow thrones when other dads were struggling with snowmen. Writing with great freshness and humor, Patricia Volk will leave you hungering to sit down to dinner with her robust family–both for the spectacle and for the food.


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A stunning, personal memoir from the astronaut and modern-day hero who spent a record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station—a message of hope for the future that will inspire for generations to come.

The veteran of four spaceflights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly hostile to human life. He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both life-threatening and mundane: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the catastrophic risks of colliding with space junk; and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home--an agonizing situation Kelly faced when, on a previous mission, his twin brother's wife, American Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space.

Kelly's humanity, compassion, humor, and determination resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career, and as he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next, ultimately challenging, step in spaceflight. In Endurance, we see the triumph of the human imagination, the strength of the human will, and the infinite wonder of the galaxy.

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Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it’s possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself strapped to a giant rocket that’s about to go from zero to 17,500 miles per hour? Or to look back on Earth from outer space and see the surprisingly precise line between day and night? Or to stand in front of the Hubble Space Telescope, wondering if the emergency repair you’re about to make will inadvertently ruin humankind’s chance to unlock the universe’s secrets? Mike Massimino has been there, and in Spaceman he puts you inside the suit, with all the zip and buoyancy of life in microgravity.

Massimino’s childhood space dreams were born the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Growing up in a working-class Long Island family, he catapulted himself to Columbia and then MIT, only to flunk his first doctoral exam and be rejected three times by NASA before making it through the final round of astronaut selection.

Taking us through the surreal wonder and beauty of his first spacewalk, the tragedy of losing friends in the Columbia shuttle accident, and the development of his enduring love for the Hubble Telescope—which he and his fellow astronauts were tasked with saving on his final mission—Massimino has written an ode to never giving up and the power of teamwork to make anything possible. Spaceman invites us into a rare, wonderful world where science meets the most thrilling adventure, revealing just what having “the right stuff” really means.

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A Russian astronaut, Svetlana Savitskaya, became the first woman to walk in space on July 25, 1984.  Read the 7/26/84 New York Times article here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Mark your calendars for these exciting October programs:

Sunday 10/1, 2pm – An Afternoon with the Author
Drop by this afternoon and meet Amy McDonald, local teacher and author of Determined to Survive, a memoir that details the experiences of Holocaust survivor Max Steinmetz.  Mr. Steinmetz is a Romanian-born Auschwitz survivor who relocated to Alabama in 1955.

Thursday 10/5, 10am – A Morning with the Author
Drop by this morning for a fun, casual coloring event with author and illustrator Laura Murray.  Laura’s coloring book, Amazing Alabama: A Coloring Book Journey Through Our 67 Counties will be published soon by NewSouth Books.

Friday 10/6, 6-9pm – Western Wine & Food Festival at the Birmingham Zoo, tickets available online, at the library, and at Western Supermarkets locations 

Thursday 10/12, 6:30pm – UAB Neuroscience Café explores the science of sleep

Friday 10/13, 10am-noon – Yoga with Marie Blair

Friday 10/13, 5-10pm – Ages 18 and up Nightmare on Oak Street Dinner Double Feature and Terror-ium building, RSVP to Holley at or 205-445-1117 for this free event.  Bring your own glass container, plants and decorations provided, supplies limited.

Saturday 10/14, 7pm – Birmingham Arts Music Alliance presents l’ Ao artiste ordinaire, a collaborative partnership between composer-performers Melissa Grey and David Morneau.

Tuesday 10/17, 6:30pm – Documentaries After Dark presents Top Secret Rosies, a film about a group of female mathematicians who helped win WWII and usher in the modern computer age.

Tuesday 10/24, 10am – Community Conversation on Aging: Alzheimer’s and Dementia care

Tuesday 10/31, 6:30pm – GRG rolls around again!  October’s topic is memoirs and, as it’s Halloween, costumes are optional!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, we met this week to talk all things photography so there were plenty of pictures and WAY more than a thousand words!

Image result for the way we looked catherine noren
Published in 1983, this book discusses the importance of family photographs as a means of understanding the passage of time, establishing ties with ancestors, and varying ways of recording important events in family life. Includes suggestions for collecting photographs and putting together an album. Obviously, some information is outdated but the ideas behind it are solid!

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Published on the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Reflections in a Looking Glass presents Carroll's remarkable photography. Richly illustrated, this important book presents seldom-seen works-most of them formal portraits and staged scenes that combine Carroll's famous childlike sense of play with the Victorian propriety that characterized his age.

Also included in Reflections are selected drawings by Lewis Carroll and by John Tenniel, who illustrated the original Alice books. The central text by Morton N. Cohen, the world's leading authority on Lewis Carroll, provides an in-depth account of Carroll's experimentation in the new medium of photography. His hobby opened the door to many of his "child friends" as well as to leading artistic and literary figures of the day, all of whom came to Carroll's studio to sit for their portraits.

Excerpts from Carroll's diaries combine with Cohen's annotated captions to make this book an invaluable resource. The book also includes a Preface by Mark Haworth-Booth, curator of photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Afterword is by Roy Flukinger, curator of photographs at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, the source collection for much of the material in this extraordinary book. 

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Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Part love story, part literary mystery, Melanie Benjamin’s spellbinding historical novel leads readers on an unforgettable journey down the rabbit hole, to tell the story of a woman whose own life became the stuff of legend. Her name is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, but to the world she’ll always be known simply as “Alice,” the girl who followed the White Rabbit into a wonderland of Mad Hatters, Queens of Hearts, and Cheshire Cats. Now, nearing her eighty-first birthday, she looks back on a life of intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. First as a young woman, then as a wife, mother, and widow, she’ll experience adventures the likes of which not even her fictional counterpart could have imagined. Yet from glittering balls and royal romances to a world plunged into war, she’ll always be the same determined, undaunted Alice who, at ten years old, urged a shy, stuttering Oxford professor to write down one of his fanciful stories, thus changing her life forever.

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Many people do not know that Leonard Nimoy was a talented photographer. View a selection of his work here.

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During the 1830s, in an atmosphere of intense scientific inquiry fostered by the industrial revolution, two quite different men―one in France, one in England―developed their own dramatically different photographic processes in total ignorance of each other's work. These two lone geniuses―Henry Fox Talbot in the seclusion of his English country estate at Lacock Abbey and Louis Daguerre in the heart of post-revolutionary Paris―through diligence, disappointment and sheer hard work overcame extraordinary odds to achieve the one thing man had for centuries been trying to do―to solve the ancient puzzle of how to capture the light and in so doing make nature 'paint its own portrait'. With the creation of their two radically different processes―the Daguerreotype and the Talbotype―these two giants of early photography changed the world and how we see it. 

Drawing on a wide range of original, contemporary sources and featuring plates in colour, sepia and black and white, many of them rare or previously unseen, Capturing the Light by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport charts an extraordinary tale of genius, rivalry and human resourcefulness in the quest to produce the world's first photograph.

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At Work by Annie Leibovitz
The celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz, author of the New York Times bestselling book A Photographer's Life, provides the stories, and technical description, of how some of her most famous images came to be. Starting in 1974, with her coverage of Nixon's resignation, and culminating with her controversial portraits of Queen Elizabeth II early in 2007, Leibovitz explains what professional photographers do and how they do it. The photographer in this instance is the most highly paid and prolific person in the business. Approximately 90 images are discussed in detail -- the circumstances under which they were taken, with specific technical information (what camera, what settings, what lighting, where the images appeared). The Rolling Stones' tour in 1975, the famous nude session with John Lennon and Yoko Ono hours before Lennon was killed, the American Express and Gap campaigns, Whoopi Goldberg in a bathtub of milk, Demi Moore pregnant and naked on the cover of Vanity Fair, and coverage of the couture collections in Paris with Puff Daddy and Kate Moss are among the subjects of this original and informative work. The photos and stories are arranged chronologically, moving from film to digital. Leibovitz's fans and lovers of great photography will find her stories of how one learns to see -- and then how to photograph -- inspiring.

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Group f.64 is perhaps the most famous movement in the history of photography, counting among its members Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Willard Van Dyke, and Edward Weston. Revolutionary in their day, Group f.64 was one of the first modern art movements equally defined by women. From the San Francisco Bay Area, its influence extended internationally, contributing significantly to the recognition of photography as a fine art.

The group-first identified as such in a 1932 exhibition-was comprised of strongly individualist artists, brought together by a common philosophy, and held together in a tangle of dynamic relationships. They shared a conviction that photography must emphasize its unique capabilities-those that distinguished it from other arts-in order to establish the medium's identity. Their name, f.64, they took from a very small lens aperture used with their large format cameras, a pinprick that allowed them to capture the greatest possible depth of field in their lustrous, sharply detailed prints. In today's digital world, these “straight” photography champions are increasingly revered.

Mary Alinder is uniquely positioned to write this first group biography. A former assistant to Ansel Adams, she knew most of the artists featured. Just as importantly, she understands the art. Featuring fifty photographs by and of its members, Group f.64 details a transformative period in art with narrative flair.

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Before Elvis There Was Nothing by Patrick Higgins (not available in JCLC)
Memorable quotes, funny stories, serious tributes, and revealing comments from people as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Imelda Marcos, and Richard Nixon combine with photographs presented in chronological order of Elvis's life.

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Bellocq’s Ophelia: Poems by Natasha Trethewey (not available in JCLC)
In the early 1900s, E.J. Bellocq photographed prostitutes in the red-light district of New Orleans. His remarkable, candid photos inspired Natasha Trethewey to imagine the life of Ophelia, the subject of Bellocq's Ophelia, her stunning second collection of poems. With elegant precision, Ophelia tells of her life on display: her white father whose approval she earns by standing very still; the brothel Madame who tells her to act like a statue while the gentlemen callers choose; and finally the camera, which not only captures her body, but also offers a glimpse into her soul.

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We are a brand new independent, reader-supported, quarterly journal of fine art photography and poetry on our way to our very first year of publication.  We are proud to announce that our Inaugural issue, and all of our future issues will be available in both print and online editions.

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It’s a Zoo Out There by Rachael Hale 
A wonderful menagerie of animal portraits by celebrated photographer Rachael Hale. Puppies and tigers and pigs...oh my! Get ready for more oohs and aahs. It's a Zoo Out There is the next adorable installment of Rachael Hale's bestselling book series. This collection of Hale's finest photographs of enchanting and magnificent creatures both large and small, domestic and exotic, is beautifully presented in this over-sized volume. Hale's special rapport with animals has allowed her to capture the true essence of her subjects.

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One: Sons & Daughters by Edward Mapplethorpe
A baby's first year is filled with an endless stream of new experiences, contributing profoundly to their physical, mental, and emotional development. Typically at the age of one-year an infant has the motor skills and ability to sit on their own for the first time and their uninhibited gaze provides a window into a distinct personality that will endure throughout their lifetime. It is these individual natures that photographer Edward Mapplethorpe expertly captures. 

The culmination of a twenty-year project by one of today's top-commissioned and internationally-recognized photographers of baby portraits, ONE features a series of 60 photographs that catch the fleeting, yet universal, moment of life when a child reaches one year of age. There is something remarkable in the innocent faces of the children portrayed in this book that serves to underscore our common humanity.

The luxuriously printed duo-tone photographs in ONE are accompanied by essays from esteemed contemporary authors Adam Gopnik, Susan Orlean, Francine Prose, and Andrew Solomon. Patti Smith contributes an original poem while Dr. Samantha Boardman writes the introduction. Contributions from such diverse luminaries emphasize the widespread appeal such innocent, unguarded beauty has for so many people.

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William Wegman / Fashion Photographs (not available in JCLC)
Published to accompany a major travelling exhibition, this book presents a collection of eerily anthropomorphic photographs by William Wegman. They feature clothes by Helmut Lang, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake and others being modeled by dogs.

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Top blogger and pro photographer Lara Ferroni serves up a one-stop guide to food-photography success! Packed with her tried-and-true secrets, this comprehensive guide details everything you need to know about sourcing and styling food, drinks, and props. Ferroni profiles several of the industry's top professional food photographers, and includes detailed case studies of their most successful shots--complete with lighting diagrams and equipment setups. This diverse collection of stunning images images and easy-to-follow shooting instructions perfectly encompasses the field of modern food photography, covering everything from blog and editorial photography to corporate advertising and publicity shots.

Image result for faces of the twentieth century book cover mark edward harris
Presented here are signature images by twenty of this century's greatest photographers, interviews with the author, and his portrait of each photographer. The result combines the photographers' visions with their words, broadening understanding of their personalities and work and providing an international portrait of the twentieth century.

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Get out! Run! We must leave this place! They are going to destroy this whole place! Go, children, run first! Go now!
These were the final shouts nine year-old Kim Phuc heard before her world dissolved into flames―before napalm bombs fell from the sky, burning away her clothing and searing deep into her skin. It’s a moment forever captured, an iconic image that has come to define the horror and violence of the Vietnam War. Kim was left for dead in a morgue; no one expected her to survive the attack. Napalm meant fire, and fire meant death.

Against all odds, Kim lived―but her journey toward healing was only beginning. When the napalm bombs dropped, everything Kim knew and relied on exploded along with them: her home, her country’s freedom, her childhood innocence and happiness. The coming years would be marked by excruciating treatments for her burns and unrelenting physical pain throughout her body, which were constant reminders of that terrible day. Kim survived the pain of her body ablaze, but how could she possibly survive the pain of her devastated soul?

Fire Road is the true story of how she found the answer in a God who suffered Himself; a Savior who truly understood and cared about the depths of her pain. Fire Road is a story of horror and hope, a harrowing tale of a life changed in an instant―and the power and resilience that can only be found in the power of God’s mercy and love.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

plays on stage and screen

Here at EOL, we’re excited about all the great programs coming up this month!  Before we get started with that, just a reminder that the library will be closed in observance of Labor Day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday September 2-4th.  Additionally, the library will not begin Winter Hours until Sunday, September 10th.  We’ll be open 1pm-5pm that day and hours will be as follows: Mon, Tue, and Thu: 9am-9pm, Wed: 9am-6pm, Fri-Sat: 9am-5pm, and Sun 1pm-5pm. 

The UAB Neuroscience Café returns on Thu, Sep 14th at 6:30pm with an update on Parkinson’s Disease research. On Tue, Sep 19th, you won’t want to miss Documentaries After Dark.  We’ll be screening the conservation/green burial movement documentary, A Will for the Woods, with a Skype Q & A session with one of the filmmakers!  The Community Conversation on Aging series returns Tue, Sep 26th at 10am with a discussion of wills, trusts, and banking in relation to aging.

The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be on Tue, Sep 26th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion is photography.  There is a selection of books on display at the second floor reference desk but you are always welcome to make your own selection!

Last evening, GRG took to the stage for discussion of plays:

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Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia takes us back and forth between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging over the nature of truth and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life. Focusing on the mysteries―romantic, scientific, literary―that engage the minds and hearts of characters whose passions and lives intersect across scientific planes and centuries, it is "Stoppard's richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and . . . emotion. It's like a dream of levitation: you're instantaneously aloft, soaring, banking, doing loop-the-loops and then, when you think you're about to plummet to earth, swooping to a gentle touchdown of not easily described sweetness and sorrow . . . Exhilarating" (Vincent Canby, The New York Times).

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Incident at Vichy by Arthur Miller
In Vichy France in 1942, eight men and a boy are seized by the collaborationist authorities and made to wait in a building that may be a police station. Some of them are Jews. All of them have something to hide—if not from the Nazis, then from their fellow detainees and, inevitably, from themselves. For in this claustrophobic antechamber to the death camps, everyone is guilty. And perhaps none more so than those who can walk away alive.

In Incident at Vichy, Arthur Miller re-creates Dante's hell inside the gaping pit that is our history and populates it with sinners whose crimes are all the more fearful because they are so recognizable.
"One of the most important plays of our time . . . Incident at Vichy returns the theater to greatness." —The New York Times

Hamlet is Shakespeare's most popular, and most puzzling, play. It follows the form of a "revenge tragedy," in which the hero, Hamlet, seeks vengeance against his father's murderer, his uncle Claudius, now the king of Denmark. Much of its fascination, however, lies in its uncertainties.

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Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis (original German title: "Die Verwandlung") is a short novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world. The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into an insect.

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Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill
Written around 1940, but not staged until 1956, this autobiographical work by the Nobel Prize-winning playwright recreates his own family experience, in an attempt to understand himself and those to whom he was tied by fate and love.

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The Royal Hunt of the Sun by Peter Schaffer (not available in the JCLC system)
"This story is about ruin and gold," says the old man who narrates the story. And what is fascinating is the way Pizarro and his small band of 16th century Spanish conquerors view the Inca civilisation largely as a source of imperialist plunder. They are indifferent to its communal values, turn its priceless treasures into liquid gold and see Christianity as an instrument of power. Drawing his facts largely from Prescott's History of Peru, Shaffer uses the past as a metaphor for mankind's endless colonial instinct.

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Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country's origins for a diverse new generation.

Hamilton: The Revolution gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages--"since before this was even a show," according to Miranda--traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don't throw away their shot.

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The Lady’s Not For Burning by Christopher Fry
The Lady’s Not for Burning, a verse comedy in three acts by Christopher Fry, was produced in 1948 and published in 1949. Known for its wry characterizations and graceful language, this lighthearted play about 15th-century England brought Fry renown. Evoking spring, it was the first in his series of four plays based on the seasons. (The others are Venus Observed [1949; autumn], The Dark Is Light Enough [1954; winter], and A Yard of Sun [1970; summer].)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Library Snapshot Day

Share the love with Emmet O'Neal Library!  EOL is joining public libraries across the state in participating in “Snapshot Day: One Day in the Life of Alabama Public Libraries” on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 to show how important public libraries and library systems are to the state of Alabama. 

Visit the Library Snapshot Day photobooth on Wednesday, August 16 in the lobby any time from 11am-4pm to have your photo taken and tell us why you love YOUR library!  EOL will compile statistics, patron comments, photographs, and other data chronicling a typical library day. The results at EOL will be added to those of public libraries across Alabama to show how libraries provide invaluable services to Alabama citizens.

The photobooth will be available for selfies all day on Thursday, August 17.  “Snapshot Day: One Day in the Life of Alabama Public Libraries” is a project of the Alabama Public Library Service.

The Emmet O'Neal Library is located at 50 Oak Street, Mountain Brook, AL 35213. For more information, contact Holley at 205-445-1117 or hwesley [at]

Monday, July 31, 2017

hot books for fall

Two or three times a year, Katie and I (Hi! It's Holley here!) host a presentation of new books to be published about which we and/or publishers are excited.  Our last book preview program was earlier this month and, due to popular demand, we're sharing it with everyone!  Keep in mind, most of these books have not yet been published and may not yet be available to order.  I have included links to the PLJC's catalog, where available!

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives
The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews
Affections by Rodrigo Hasbun

Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire
Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks
Alone: Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk, Defeat into Victory by Michael Korda
Gorbachev: His Life and Times by William Taubman
Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee
The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns
A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China 1949 by Kevin Peraino
No Room For Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel by Shimon Peres
President McKinley: Architect of the American Century by Robert W. Merry

Grant by Ron Chernow
Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times by Kenneth Whyte
What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather & Elliot Kirschner
Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah
Haunted by James Patterson & James O. Born
Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb
The Blind by A.F. Brady
Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
The Romanov Ransom by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell
The Saboteur by Andrew Gross
Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris
The Western Star by Craig Johnson
Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed by John Keyse-Walker
Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher
A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas
A Casualty of War by Charles Todd

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the US Army to Fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson

Defiance: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Anne Barnard by Stephen Taylor
Rebellion by Molly Patterson
Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind Canvas by Donna Lucey

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney
The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash
Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly
Artemis by Andy Weir

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

recommended reading and watching

The summer programming is almost over here at the library, but we are by no means done with fun!  Tuesday, August 1st at 6:30pm is the final program (and fan favorite!) for adult Summer Reading (ages 18 and up) so be sure to mark your calendars for Bad Art Night!  Prizes will be awarded for the absolute worst work of the night J We’ll also be drawing winners for our Grand Prize Baskets.  Dinner will be catered by Taziki’s so come hungry!

Our next Documentaries After Dark evening will be on Tuesday, August 15th at 6:30pm and we’ll be showing Holy Hell.  This film is not rated but is intended for adult audiences.
Here is the description from
"Just out of college, a young filmmaker joins a loving, secretive, and spiritual community led by a charismatic teacher in 1980s West Hollywood. Twenty years later, the group is shockingly torn apart. Told through over two decades of the filmmaker’s archival materials, this is their story." 

EOL, in partnership with Choice Home Care, will host another Community Conversation on Aging on Tuesday, August 22nd at 10am.  This morning session will focus on home health, home care, hospice care, and everything you need to know about choosing, paying for, and handling care options.

Wednesday, August 23rd is the last Art House Film of the summer!  Slow West is the story of a young Scottish man traveling across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide.

And last, but certainly not least, our August GRG meeting is on Tuesday the 29th at 6:30 pm and the topic up for discussion is plays and theater.

July’s meeting was one of our biannual Salon Discussions, where there is no assigned topic!

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Twin Peaks (DVD)

An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks: The Return (DVD)
(2017) (The remake is not yet available on DVD)
Picks up 25 years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town are stunned when their homecoming queen is murdered.

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Speak by Louisa Hall
A thoughtful, poignant novel that explores the creation of Artificial Intelligence—illuminating the very human need for communication, connection, and understanding.

In a narrative that spans geography and time, from the Atlantic Ocean in the seventeenth century, to a correctional institute in Texas in the near future, and told from the perspectives of five very different characters, Speak considers what it means to be human, and what it means to be less than fully alive.
A young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls.

Each of these characters is attempting to communicate across gaps—to estranged spouses, lost friends, future readers, or a computer program that may or may not understand them. In dazzling and electrifying prose, Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and human—shrinking rapidly with today’s technological advances—echoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people. Though each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, all five characters share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood.

The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.

Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own?

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives.

Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”―Michael Agger, Slate

“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”―from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer―Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.

Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic―a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption―and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes―Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive―even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.

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Ticket to Write (DVD) (not available in the library system)
Ticket to Write includes interviews with some of the top music journalists from the 1966-81 era. Ticket to Write truly is a film for those who know almost everything about rock n’ roll.''

Images of America is an ambitious collection of chronicles that accurately capture the essence of what gives each American small town, neighborhood, and downtown its unique flavor. Each one is penned by a seasoned local expert and features hundreds of vintage images, local memories, personal stories, and unique points of view in regards to a variety of iconic events. At present, the series encompasses thousands of volumes and counting.

The books in this series carried by EOL include “Birmingham Broadcasting,” “Birmingham’s Highland Park,” “Birmingham’s Theater and Retail District,” “Mountain Brook,” and “Sloss Furnaces.”

Tim Hollis has written/contributed to several books on local businesses and historic areas including “Birmingham Broadcasting,” “Birmingham’s Theater and Retail District,” “Loveman’s: Meet Me Under the Clock,” “Memories of Downtown Birmingham: Where All the Lights Were Bright,” and “Pizitz: Your Store.”

Pat Conroy’s great success as a writer has always been intimately linked with the exploration of his family history. As the oldest of seven children who were dragged from military base to military base across the South, Pat bore witness to the often cruel and violent behavior of his father, Marine Corps fighter pilot Donald Patrick Conroy. While the publication of The Great Santini brought Pat much acclaim, the rift it caused brought even more attention, fracturing an already battered family. But as Pat tenderly chronicles here, even the oldest of wounds can heal. In the final years of Don Conroy’s life, the Santini unexpectedly refocused his ire to defend his son’s honor.

The Death of Santini is a heart-wrenching act of reckoning whose ultimate conclusion is that love can soften even the meanest of men, lending significance to the oft-quoted line from Pat’s novel The Prince of Tides: “In families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.”

Tom Brokaw has led a fortunate life, with a strong marriage and family, many friends, and a brilliant journalism career culminating in his twenty-two years as anchor of the NBC Nightly News and as bestselling author. But in the summer of 2013, when back pain led him to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, his run of good luck was interrupted. He received shocking news: He had multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer. Friends had always referred to Brokaw’s “lucky star,” but as he writes in this inspiring memoir, “Turns out that star has a dimmer switch.”

Brokaw takes us through all the seasons and stages of this surprising year, the emotions, discoveries, setbacks, and struggles—times of denial, acceptance, turning points, and courage. After his diagnosis, Brokaw began to keep a journal, approaching this new stage of his life in a familiar role: as a journalist, determined to learn as much as he could about his condition, to report the story, and help others facing similar battles. That journal became the basis of this wonderfully written memoir, the story of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, contemplating what means the most to him now, and reflecting on what has meant the most to him throughout his life.

Brokaw also pauses to look back on some of the important moments in his career: memories of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the morning of September 11, 2001, in New York City, and more. Through it all, Brokaw writes in the warm, intimate, natural voice of one of America’s most beloved journalists, giving us Brokaw on Brokaw, and bringing us with him as he navigates pain, procedures, drug regimens, and physical rehabilitation. Brokaw also writes about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and of the vital role of caretakers and coordinated care.

Generous, informative, and deeply human, A Lucky Life Interrupted offers a message of understanding and empowerment, resolve and reality, hope for the future and gratitude for a well-lived life.