Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Great reads and views


Upcoming programs

In celebration of the Alabama Bicentennial, we’re hosting a Funny Film Fest. All films are PG-13 so they are family friendly and all ages are welcome! Doors at 6pm, film at 6:30. Light refreshments provided.
Tue Jul 2 – Sweet Home Alabama
Tue Jul 9 – Fried Green Tomatoes
Tue Jul 16 – Crazy in Alabama

Two of the library’s book groups are discussing Michael Capuzzo’s “Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916.” The daytime group, The Bookies, will meet on Tue Jul 9 at 10am and Lost & Found will meet on Thu Jul 25 at 6:30pm.  This book was one of Peter Benchley’s inspirations for writing the book, “Jaws!” In celebration, we’ll be screening the film “Jaws” on the lawn across from the library on Thu Jul 11 at 8pm. The film is PG so bring the whole family, plus some chairs and beach towels!

July’s Art House Film Series movie is “The Scent of Green Papaya” and will be screened on Wed Jul 31st at 6:30pm in the Library’s Community Meeting Room.




This week, our Genre Reading Group met for one of our biannual Salon Discussions, where there is no assigned topic and it is totally up to the readers’ own choices.

(amazon.com)

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Journalist Adam Higginbotham’s definitive, years-in-the-making account of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster—and a powerful investigation into how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest disasters.

Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering history’s worst nuclear disaster. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers its citizens and the entire world. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in dispute.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history: a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.

Midnight in Chernobyl is an indelible portrait of one of the great disasters of the twentieth century, of human resilience and ingenuity, and the lessons learned when mankind seeks to bend the natural world to his will—lessons which, in the face of climate change and other threats, remain not just vital but necessary.



(thebabushkasofchernobyl.com) In the radioactive Dead Zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4, a defiant community of women scratches out an existence on some of the most toxic land on Earth. They share this hauntingly beautiful but lethal landscape with an assortment of interlopers—scientists, soldiers, and even ‘stalkers’—young thrill-seekers who sneak in to pursue post-apocalyptic video game-inspired fantasies. Why the film’s central characters, Hanna Zavorotyna, Maria Shovkuta, and Valentyna Ivanivna, chose to return after the disaster, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is a remarkable tale about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny and the subjective nature of risk.

(www.pbs.org) In 1986, in the heart of Ukraine, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded, releasing 400 times more radiation than the Hiroshima Bomb. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Thirty workers died, 50,000 people fled the nearest city, and radioactive fallout made an area larger than Long Island a no-go zone. Hastily, a so-called “sarcophagus” was built to contain the radioactive materials that lingered at the site after the explosion. But 30 years later, the sarcophagus is crumbling, and another disaster at Chernobyl looms. Now, an international team of engineers is racing the clock to assemble one of the most ambitious superstructures ever built—an extraordinary 40,000 ton, $1.5 billion dome to encase the crumbling remains of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Battling arctic winter weather—and lethal radiation—this is the inside story of the epic race to build Chernobyl’s MegaTomb.

Chernobyl’s Café (Amazon Prime)

(amazon.com) Thirty years after the nuclear reactor explosion, Chernobyl is showing signs of life. As the fears of older generations are replaced by the fascination of the new, Chernobyl is emerging as a popular tourist destination, and local industry is on the rise. However, with radiation levels still dangerously high, serious questions remain over whether the region can ever truly recover from its past.

(amazon.com) Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shore brilliantly re-creates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching the most extensive shark hunt in history.

In July 1916 a lone Great White left its usual deep-ocean habitat and headed in the direction of the New Jersey shoreline. There, near the towns of Beach Haven and Spring Lake--and, incredibly, a farming community eleven miles inland--the most ferocious and unpredictable of predators began a deadly rampage: the first shark attacks on swimmers in U.S. history.

Capuzzo interweaves a vivid portrait of the era and meticulously drawn characters with chilling accounts of the shark's five attacks and the frenzied hunt that ensued. From the unnerving inevitability of the first attack on the esteemed son of a prosperous Philadelphia physician to the spine-tingling moment when a farm boy swimming in Matawan Creek feels the sandpaper-like skin of the passing shark, Close to Shore is an undeniably gripping saga.

Heightening the drama are stories of the resulting panic in the citizenry, press and politicians, and of colorful personalities such as Herman Oelrichs, a flamboyant millionaire who made a bet that a shark was no match for a man (and set out to prove it); Museum of Natural History ichthyologist John Treadwell Nichols, faced with the challenge of stopping a mythic sea creature about which little was known; and, most memorable, the rogue Great White itself moving through a world that couldn't conceive of either its destructive power or its moral right to destroy.

Scrupulously researched and superbly written, Close to Shore brings to life a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history. Masterfully written and suffused with fascinating period detail and insights into the science and behavior of sharks, Close to Shore recounts a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history with startling immediacy.

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New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke

(amazon.com) The shocking death of a young woman leads detective Dave Robicheaux into the dark corners of Hollywood, the mafia, and the backwoods of Louisiana in this gripping mystery from "modern master" (Publishers Weekly) James Lee Burke.

Detective Dave Robicheaux's world isn't filled with too many happy stories, but Desmond Cormier's rags-to-riches tale is certainly one of them. Robicheaux first met Cormier on the streets of New Orleans, when the young, undersized boy had foolish dreams of becoming a Hollywood director.
Twenty-five years later, when Robicheaux knocks on Cormier's door, it isn't to congratulate him on his Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Robicheaux has discovered the body of a young woman who's been crucified, wearing only a small chain on her ankle. She disappeared near Cormier's Cyrpemort Point estate, and Robicheaux, along with young Deputy Sean McClain, are looking for answers. Neither Cormier nor his enigmatic actor friend Antoine Butterworth are saying much, but Robicheaux knows better.

As always, Clete Purcel and Davie's daughter, Alafair, have Robicheaux's back. Clete witnesses the escape of Texas inmate Hugo Tillinger, who may hold the key to Robicheaux's case. As they wade further into the investigation, they end up in the cross hairs of the mob, the deranged Chester Wimple, and the dark ghosts Robicheaux has been running from for years. Ultimately, it's up to Robicheaux to stop them all, but he'll have to summon a light he's never seen or felt to save himself and those he loves.

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Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale

(amazon.com) Savage Season is the basis for the first season of the Sundance TV series Hap and Leonard



A rip-roaring, high-octane, Texas-sized thriller, featuring two friends, one vixen, a crew of washed-up radicals, loads of money, and bloody mayhem.

Hap Collins and Leonard Pine are best friends, yet they couldn't be more different. Hap is an east Texas white-boy with a weakness for Texas women. Leonard is a gay, black Vietnam vet. Together, they steer up more commotion than a fire storm. But that's just the way they like it. So when an ex-flame of Hap's returns promising a huge score. Hap lets Leonard in on the scam, and that's when things get interesting. Chockfull of action and laughs, Savage Season is the masterpiece of dark suspense that introduced Hap and Leonard to the thriller scene. It hasn't been the same since.

(hbo.com) Summers span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne begins. Based on the bestselling book series by George R.R. Martin and created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. (Wikipedia.org) Game of Thrones is roughly based on the storylines of A Song of Ice and Fire, set in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and the continent of Essos. The series chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the realm's noble families for the Iron Throne, while other families fight for independence from it. Eight total seasons.



(Wikipedia.org) Taking place over a period of more than ten years, the series depicts a fictionalized insider's view of the personal computer revolution of the 1980s and later the growth of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. The show's title refers to computer machine code instruction HCF, the execution of which would cause the computer's CPU to stop working ("catch fire" was a humorous exaggeration).

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The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
(amazon.com) An international sensation and winner of the Premio Strega and the Prix Médicis Étranger awards

The year is 1327. Benedictines in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon—all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.”

“Like the labyrinthine library at its heart, this brilliant novel has many cunning passages and secret chambers . . . Fascinating . . . ingenious . . . dazzling.” – Newsweek



(amazon.com) "The Name of the Rose" is a gothic medieval mystery thriller set in a 14th-century Italian monastery. Franciscan monk William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) and a young novice (Christian Slater) arrive for a conference to find that several monks have been murdered in mysterious circumstances. To solve the crimes, William must rise up against the Church authority and fight the shadowy conspiracy of monastery monks using only his wit and intelligence.



(sundancetv.com) The Franciscan monk William of Baskerville (John Turturro) and his novice Adso try to solve a murder case in a secluded abbey. They discover dark secrets and a deadly mystery. But time is running short: The inquisitor Bernard Gui (Rupert Everett) is about to arrive at the abbey.

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The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

(amazon.com)

#1 New York Times Bestseller

Oprah's Book Club Selection

The “extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece” (Booklist) that changed the course of Ken Follett’s already phenomenal career. Look out for Ken's newest book, A Column of Fire, available now.

“Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner,” extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett’s unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal.

The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known . . . of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect—a man divided in his soul . . . of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame . . . and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state and brother against brother.

A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett’s historical masterpiece.



(starz.com) Emerging from the war-torn shadows of England’s Dark Ages, an idealistic mason sets out on a quest of erecting a glorious Cathedral.

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Anthony Bourdain Remembered by CNN
(amazon.com)
 A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A moving and insightful collection of quotes, memories, and images celebrating the life of Anthony Bourdain

When Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in June 2018, the outpouring of love from his fans around the world was momentous. The tributes spoke to his legacy: That the world is much smaller than we imagine and people are more alike than they are different. As Bourdain once said, “If I’m an advocate of anything, it’s to move…Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.”

Anthony Bourdain Remembered brings together memories and anecdotes from fans reminiscing about Bourdain’s unique achievements and his enduring effect on their lives as well as comments from chefs, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, and writers inspired by Bourdain including Barack Obama, Eric Ripert, Jill Filipovic, Ken Burns, Questlove, and José Andrés, among many others.

These remembrances give us a glimpse of Bourdain's widespread impact through his political and social commitments; his dedication to travel and eating well (and widely); and his love of the written word, along with his deep compassion, open-mindedness, and interest in lives different from his own.
Anthony Bourdain Remembered captures Bourdain's inimitable spirit and passion in the words of his devoted fans as well as some of his closest friends and colleagues.

(amazon.com) Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls "twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine."

When The New Yorker published Chef Bourdain's shocking, "Don't Eat Before Reading This." Bourdain spared no one's appetite when he told all about what happens behind the kitchen door. Bourdain used the same "take-no-prisoners" attitude in his deliciously funny and shockingly delectable book, sure to delight gourmands and philistines alike. From Bourdain's first oyster in the Gironde, to his lowly position as dishwasher in a honky tonk fish restaurant in Provincetown (where he witnessed for the first time the real delights of being a chef); from the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, to drug dealers in the east village, from Tokyo to Paris and back to New York again, Bourdain's tales of the kitchen are as passionate as they are unpredictable.

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

(amazon.com) Now a STARZ® Original Series produced by FremantleMedia North America starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber.



Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

“Mystery, satire, sex, horror, poetic prose—American Gods uses all these to keep the reader turning the pages.”—Washington Post

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Wind from the Carolinas by Robert Wilder
(amazon.com) "A powerful novel of the old Bahamas" A must read for anyone who cruises or dreams of cruising in the Bahamas. This is a big, bold, best-selling novel that traces the remarkable saga of one family through war and peace, love and disaster. Here is the fabulous story of the Camerons, the aristocratic Tory clan who fled the South in the wake of the American Revolution to rebuild their baronial plantations and recapture their lost fortune in the turbulent, windswept Bahamas Islands. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

cookbooks


Tonight, the Genre Reading Group met to discuss cookbooks, food, eating, and other culinary delights! Next month is one of our biannual Reader’s Choice Salons, which means there is no assigned topic, bring whatever you’d like to share!

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(amazon.com) In The Taste of Empire, acclaimed historian Lizzie Collingham tells the story of how the British Empire's quest for food shaped the modern world. Told through twenty meals over the course of 450 years, from the Far East to the New World, Collingham explains how Africans taught Americans how to grow rice, how the East India Company turned opium into tea, and how Americans became the best-fed people in the world. In The Taste of Empire, Collingham masterfully shows that only by examining the history of Great Britain's global food system, from sixteenth-century Newfoundland fisheries to our present-day eating habits, can we fully understand our capitalist economy and its role in making our modern diets.

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(amazon.com) From one of the leading lights of contemporary gastronomy comes an irresistible collection of slow-cooked, flavor-drenched dishes from the cuisines of the Mediterranean
Who can resist the sensuous delights of a slow-simmered stew, salmon fillet slow-roasted until it is soft as silk, or leg of lamb braised until it is meltingly tender? Slow cooking is the hottest new trend in food, and no one better captures the art of sumptuous, unhurried cooking than renowned food writer Paula Wolfert. In The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, she returns to her favorite culinary regions and shares an enticing treasure trove of more than 150 authentic recipes that wend their way from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to Italy, Spain, and the South of France. With her trademark passion for detail and curiosity about cultural traditions and innovations, she offers loyal fans and new converts the secrets to simmering, slow roasting, braising, poaching, and marinating their way to flavor-drenched dishes that capture the enchanting tastes and aromas of the Mediterranean table. Perfect for anyone who loves to cook, this rich resource is a must-have for the bookshelf of everyone who is serious about food.

Paula Wolfert (Sonoma, CA) is widely acknowledged to be the premier food writer in America. Her writing has received many awards, including the Julia Child Award, the M.F.K. Fisher Award, and the James Beard Award. She has a regular column in Food & Wine magazine, and her articles have appeared in such major publications as the New York Times, Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Cook's Illustrated. She is the author of six other cookbooks, including Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, Mediterranean Cooking, and The Cooking of South-West France.

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River Road Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine by the Junior League of Baton Rouge
(amazon.com) River Road Recipes is the nation's #1 best-selling community cookbook series. This cookbook features classic creole and cajun cuisine. These 650 recipes include the basics like How to Make a Roux. This is the Textbook of Louisiana cooking.

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More Gems from Many Kitchens 1891: Athens, Georgia America’s First Garden Club
(http://gardenclub.uga.edu/pdfs/history.pdf )Part of the proceeds from the sale of this cookbook and from Runa Ware's "All Those in Favor" were designated to air-condition the historic State Headquarters.

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(amazon.com) Home economist and author Jean K Durkee has adapted for microwave cooking the best of the French, Acadian and Creole recipes for which the South Louisiana "Cajun Country" has become justly famous. Learn how to cook a Roux and Gumbo, Crabmeat Mornay, Bananas Foster and more.

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(amazon.com) Veganism has been steadily moving toward the mainstream as more and more people become aware of its many benefits. Even burger-loving omnivores are realizing that adding more plant-based foods to their diet is good for their health and the environment. Big Vegan satisfies both the casual meat eater and the dedicated herbivore with more than 350 delicious, easy-to-prepare vegan recipes covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Highlighting the plentiful flavors that abound in natural foods, this comprehensive cookbook includes the fundamentals for adopting a meat-free, dairy-free lifestyle, plus a resource guide and glossary that readers can refer to time and again. Eat your veggies and go vegan!

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After the tremendous success of her novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and the beloved movie that followed, author Fannie Flagg received thousands of requests from all over the world asking for recipes from the little cafe of her Alabama childhood that was the model for the cafe in her novel. Now, she joyfully shares those recipes, in what may well be the first cookbook ever written by a satisfied customer rather than a cook! Inside you'll find wonderful recipes for:

* Skinless Fried Chicken * Pork Chops with Apples and Sweet Potatoes * Baked Ham and Pineapple Rings * Baked Turkey with Traditional Cornbread Dressing * Black-eyed Peas * Fried Okra * Creamed Onions * Broccoli Casserole * Southern Cream Gravy * Fried Catfish * Scalloped Oysters * Down Home Crab Cakes * Beaten Biscuits * Corn Pones * Lemon Ice Box Pie * Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie * And much more!

The recipes in Fannie Flagg's Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook are all for delicious hearty happy food that comes with all sorts of things, from gravies to hot sauces (very often the secret's in the sauce). But most of all this food, and this book, comes with love.

"If you liked her novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and if you liked the movie they made from that novel, you'll like this cookbook....It's funny, just like Flagg."

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(https://www.otmj.com/a-tale-of-two-cultures/) It’s filled with Greek and Italian recipes and with tips, such as the kind of feta cheese he prefers and how to tell when the oil is hot enough to cook fresh smelts or anchovies.

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(amazon.com) R. W. Apple, Jr., of The New York Times credits third-generation Alabamian Frank Stitt with turning Birmingham into a "sophisticated, easygoing showplace of enticing, southern-accented cooking." His southern peers think his cooking may have a more profound sense of place than any of theirs. His food is rustic and homey, but sophisticated in method.

Now, Alabama's favorite son has written a long-awaited cookbook that features his enticing Provençal-influenced southern food. More than 150 recipes range from the traditional--Spicy Green Tomato and Peach Relish, Spoonbread, and Pickled Shrimp--to the inspired--Slow-Roasted Black Grouper with Ham and Pumpkin Pirlau and Pork Loin with Corn Pudding and Grilled Eggplant. Desserts such as Bourbon Panna Cotta and Sweet Potato Tart with Coconut Crust and Pecan Streusel elevate the best of the South for cooks everywhere.

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Treasured Alabama Recipes by Kathryn Tucker Windham
(vintagecookbook.com) Windham was a local history buff and an accomplished storyteller. Those skills helped her to make this cookbook much more than a cookbook. She features recipes from Alabama’s Coast, the Piney Woods, the Wiregrass, the Black Belt, the Tennessee Valley, the Appalachians, and the cities. Sprinkled through the recipes are bits of local history and funny stories from each region of Alabama, all with lovely sketches by Diane Hamilton Sampson.

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(amazon.com) Al-Hasa is the former geographical title of a portion of the present Eastern Province, the region along the Arabian Gulf of Saudi Arabia where the oil fields are located. Through the combined efforts of women's groups in the area, the best recipes are presented for all to enjoy. The book has some Middle-Eastern recipes, but most recipes are American in origin because the authors in many cases were wives of Americans in working in Saudi Arabia for oil the companies.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

literature in translation


The Genre Reading Group met this week to discuss literature in translation.  Our topic for the May 28th meeting is cookbooks! I hope you’ll join us!

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The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo, translated by Lola Rogers

(amazon.com) From the author of the Finlandia Award-winning novel Troll: A Love Story, The Core of the Sun further cements Johanna Sinisalo’s reputation as a master of literary speculative fiction and of her country’s unique take on it, dubbed “Finnish weird.” Set in an alternative historical present, in a “eusistocracy”—an extreme welfare state—that holds public health and social stability above all else, it follows a young woman whose growing addiction to illegal chili peppers leads her on an adventure into a world where love, sex, and free will are all controlled by the state.

The Eusistocratic Republic of Finland has bred a new human sub-species of receptive, submissive women, called eloi, for sex and procreation, while intelligent, independent women are relegated to menial labor and sterilized so that they do not carry on their "defective" line. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become involved in buying and selling a stimulant known to the Health Authority to be extremely dangerous: chili peppers. Then Jare comes across a strange religious cult in possession of the Core of the Sun, a chili so hot that it is rumored to cause hallucinations. Does this chili have effects that justify its prohibition? How did Finland turn into the North Korea of Europe? And will Vanna succeed in her quest to find her sister, or will her growing need to satisfy her chili addiction destroy her?

Johanna Sinisalo’s tautly told story of fight and flight is also a feisty, between-the-lines social polemic—a witty, inventive, and fiendishly engaging read.

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The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Sam Taylor

One of Bill Gates' "Five Best Summer Reads"

The basis for the critically-acclaimed film, Heal the Living, directed by Katell Quillévéré and starring Tahar Rahim and Emmanuelle Seigner

Albertine Prize Finalist
Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize and the French-American Foundation Translation Prize

(amazon.com) Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. While driving home exhausted, the boys are involved in a fatal car accident on a deserted road. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one goes through the windshield. The doctors declare him brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital, but his heart is still beating.

The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding the resulting heart transplant, as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose, it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved as they navigate decisions of life and death.
As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, The Heart mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star. With the precision of a surgeon and the language of a poet, de Kerangal has made a major contribution to both medicine and literature with an epic tale of grief, hope, and survival.

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The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Sam Taylor

One of BBC Culture's Ten Books to Read this March and The Rumpus Book Club Pick for March

Maylis de Kerangal follows up her acclaimed novel The Heart with a dissection of the world of a young Parisian chef.

(amazon.com) More like a poetic biographical essay on a fictional person than a novel, The Cook is a coming-of-age journey centered on Mauro, a young self-taught cook. The story is told by an unnamed female narrator, Mauro’s friend and disciple who we also suspect might be in love with him. Set not only in Paris but in Berlin, Thailand, Burma, and other far-flung places over the course of fifteen years, the book is hyperrealistic―to the point of feeling, at times, like a documentary. It transcends this simplistic form, however, through the lyricism and intensely vivid evocative nature of Maylis de Kerangal’s prose, which conjures moods, sensations, and flavors, as well as the exhausting rigor and sometimes violent abuses of kitchen work.

In The Cook, we follow Mauro as he finds his path in life: baking cakes as a child; cooking for his friends as a teenager; a series of studies, jobs, and travels; a failed love affair; a successful business; a virtual nervous breakdown; and―at the end―a rediscovery of his hunger for cooking, his appetite for life.

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The Book of Proper Names by Amelie Nothomb, translated by Shaun Whiteside

(amazon.com) The Book of Proper Names is set in contemporary Paris, its main character an orphan named Plectrude. Before the child's birth her nineteen-year-old mother shoots and kills her nineteen-year-old (and somewhat feckless) father because she hates the names he's devised for their child--she fears they will doom their unborn child to mediocrity. The mother confesses openly to what she has done, and why. She is arrested and thrown into prison, where she gives birth to the child, names her, to everyone's bafflement, Plectrude--an obscure saint, and an albatross of a name--and then hangs herself.

The novel therefore begins on the borderline between tragedy and absurdity, but as Plectrude grows--raised by a loving, indulgent, and eccentric aunt--it becomes a deeply moving and simultaneously chilling portrait of girlhood. Plectrude's great gift turns out to be for ballet, and she throws herself into dance as if her life depended upon it. Few novels have shown us the implacable and unforgiving world of ballet with more intuitive sympathy, yet also with a keen-eyed assessment of the true price of artistic perfection.. Inevitably, the doom hovering over Plectrude's life from birth returns to haunt her, and in the end she learns to survive in the only way she knows how--by committing an act of deadly self-preservation her mother would have perhaps understood best.

The Book of Proper Names is vintage Amelie Nothomb--alternatively mordant and poignant, a portrait of adolescence that is fierce and funny at the same time. There is nothing mediocre either about Nothomb nor her creations.


(amazon.com) A fresh, authoritative English translation, with an informative introduction, fascinating explanatory notes, and the Coptic text, with interpretation by Harold Bloom, our pre–eminent literary critic.

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The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett

Now a Major Motion Picture starring Michael Fassbender.

(amazon.com) One night, after the first snowfall of the year, a boy named Jonas wakes up and discovers that his mother has disappeared. Only one trace of her remains: a pink scarf, his Christmas gift to her, now worn by the snowman that inexplicably appeared in their yard earlier that day.  Inspector Harry Hole suspects a link between the missing woman and a suspicious letter he’s received. The case deepens when a pattern emerges: over the past decade, eleven women have vanished—all on the day of the first snow. But this is a killer who makes his own rules . . . and he’ll break his pattern just to keep the game interesting, as he draws Harry ever closer into his twisted web. With brilliantly realized characters and hair-raising suspense, international bestselling author Jo Nesbø presents his most chilling case yet—one that will test Harry Hole to the very limits of his sanity.

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The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver

(amazon.com) A spectacular best seller and now a classic, The Name of the Rose catapulted Umberto Eco, an Italian professor of semiotics turned novelist, to international prominence. An erudite murder mystery set in a fourteenth-century monastery, it is not only a gripping story but also a brilliant exploration of medieval philosophy, history, theology, and logic.

In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville is sent to investigate a wealthy Italian abbey whose monks are suspected of heresy. When his mission is overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths patterned on the book of Revelation, Brother William turns detective, following the trail of a conspiracy that brings him face-to-face with the abbey’s labyrinthine secrets, the subversive effects of laughter, and the medieval Inquisition. Caught in a power struggle between the emperor he serves and the pope who rules the Church, Brother William comes to see that what is at stake is larger than any mere political dispute–that his investigation is being blocked by those who fear imagination, curiosity, and the power of ideas.

The Name of the Rose offers the reader not only an ingeniously constructed mystery—complete with secret symbols and coded manuscripts—but also an unparalleled portrait of the medieval world on the brink of profound transformation.

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The Name of the Rose (1986, Rated R)

(rottentomatoes.com) Adapted from Umberto Eco's best-selling novel, director Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Name of the Rose is a 14th century murder-mystery thriller starring Sean Connery as a Sherlock Holmes-esque Franciscan monk called William of Baskerville. When a murder occurs at a secluded Benedictine Abbey, William is called in to investigate. As he and his apprentice, Adson von Melk (Christian Slater), delve deeper and deeper into the case, more dead bodies begin to turn up. Eventually, Bernardo Gui, an inquisitor played by F. Murray Abraham gets involved, but he may not have the best intentions. Sean Connery's performance earned him the award for Best Actor at the 1988 British Academy Awards. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (no specific edition)

(amazon.com) A tremendous, emotionally stirring tragedy, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame features one of literature's most striking creations Quasimodo, the hideously deformed bellringer of Notre-Dame de Paris during the turbulent final years of the fifteenth century. Rejected by all but the priest Claude Frollo, Quasimodo rescues the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, condemned for a crime she did not commit, and brings her to the sanctuary of the cathedral. But Frollo has been corrupted by his lust for the girl. Only Quasimodo can hope to save her.

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The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire (no specific edition)

(amazon.com) Upon its original publication in 1857 Charles Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal” or “The Flowers of Evil” was embroiled in controversy. Within a month of its publication the French authorities brought an action against the author and the book’s publisher claiming that the work was an insult to public decency. Eventually the French courts would acknowledge the literary merit of Baudelaire’s work but ordered that six poems in particular should be banned from subsequent publication. The notoriety caused by this scandal would ultimately work in the author’s favor causing the initial publication to sell out, thus prompting the publication of another edition. The second edition was published in 1861, it included an additional thirty-five poems, with the exclusion of the six poems censored by the French government. Rich with symbolism, “The Flowers of Evil” is rightly considered a classic of the modernist literary movement. Its themes of decadence and eroticism seek to exhibit Baudelaire’s criticism of the Parisian society of his time.

Baudelaire was no slouch in the translation department either.  He nearly singlehandedly launched Edgar Allan Poe’s popularity in France and the rest of Europe. Read more about it on Vanderbilt University’s website by clicking here.


In 1966 Wallace Fowlie, a scholar of French Literature and professor at Duke University, produced “Rimbaud: Complete Works and Selected Letters,” an English translation of the complete poems of Arthur Rimbaud, a work that captured the attention and imagination of famed musician Jim Morrison. Fowlie’s later book, “Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet,” is a master of the form of the memoir, reconstructing the lives of the two youthful poets from a personal perspective. In their twinned stories he discovers an uncanny symmetry, a pattern far richer than the simple truth that both led lives full of adventure and both made poetry of their thirst for the liberation of the self. 

The result is an engaging account of the connections between an exceptional French symbolist who gave up writing poetry at the age of twenty, died young, and whose poems are still avidly read to this day, and an American rock musician whose brief career ignited an entire generation and has continued to fascinate millions around the world in the twenty years since his death in Paris. In this dual portrait, Fowlie gives us a glimpse of the affinities and resemblances between European literary traditions and American rock music and youth culture in the late twentieth century.

A personal meditation on two unusual, yet emblematic, cultural figures, this book also stands as a summary of a noted scholar’s lifelong reflections on creative artists.



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

technology and invention


Upcoming April Highlights

Online registration at www.eolib.org opens Monday, April 1st for an encore performance of Dolores Hydock and Bobby Hortons “A Sweet Strangeness Fills My Heart” to be held on Sunday, May 5th, doors at 2pm with the show starting at 2:30pm. Be sure to include an email or phone number.

Gentle Yoga with Marie Blair happens each Tuesday morning in April at 10am. Please bring a mat.

The Brown Bag Lunch Series is each Wednesday at 12:30pm. Bring a sack lunch and we’ll provide beverages and dessert.

Tuesday, April 2nd at 6:30pm – Dr. Stephanie Yates will present “10 Smart Money Habits for 2019”

Thursday, April 4th at 10am – Meditation & Mindfulness Workshop with Kathy Hagood

Thursday, April 11th at 10am – Meditation & Mindfulness Workshop with Kathy Hagood

Thursday, April 11th at 6:30pm – UAB Neuroscience Café: Fighting Brain Tumors

Saturday, April 13th 1-4pm – Online registration required at www.eolib.org for Craft Academy: Cyanotype Printing

Tuesday, April 16th at 6:30pm – Documentaries After Dark: NY Time obituary writers

Tuesday, April 30th at 6:30pm – Genre Reading Group: Literature in Translation

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This week, the Genre Reading Group met to discuss technology and invention.

Image result for valley of genius adam fisher

Rarely has one economy asserted itself as swiftly--and as aggressively--as the entity we now know as Silicon Valley. Built with a seemingly permanent culture of reinvention, Silicon Valley does not fight change; it embraces it, and now powers the American economy and global innovation.

So how did this omnipotent and ever-morphing place come to be? It was not by planning. It was, like many an empire before it, part luck, part timing, and part ambition. And part pure, unbridled genius...

Drawing on over two hundred in-depth interviews, VALLEY OF GENIUS takes readers from the dawn of the personal computer and the internet, through the heyday of the web, up to the very moment when our current technological reality was invented. It interweaves accounts of invention and betrayal, overnight success and underground exploits, to tell the story of Silicon Valley like it has never been told before. Read it to discover the stories that Valley insiders tell each other: the tall tales that are all, improbably, true.

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Your every step online is being tracked and stored, and your identity literally stolen. Big companies and big governments want to know and exploit what you do, and privacy is a luxury few can afford or understand.

In this explosive yet practical book, Kevin Mitnick uses true-life stories to show exactly what is happening without your knowledge, teaching you "the art of invisibility"--online and real-world tactics to protect you and your family, using easy step-by-step instructions. Reading this book, you will learn everything from password protection and smart Wi-Fi usage to advanced techniques designed to maximize your anonymity. 

Kevin Mitnick knows exactly how vulnerabilities can be exploited and just what to do to prevent that from happening. The world's most famous--and formerly the US government's most wanted--computer hacker, he has hacked into some of the country's most powerful and seemingly impenetrable agencies and companies, and at one point was on a three-year run from the FBI. Now Mitnick is reformed and widely regarded as the expert on the subject of computer security. 

Invisibility isn't just for superheroes--privacy is a power you deserve and need in the age of Big Brother and Big Data. 

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We are placing increasing importance on numbers: Fitbit, student performance, car insurance trackers, employee productivity...the list goes on and on. The Economist reviews the book "The Metric Society" in the “Every Step You Take” article

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What would the world be like without all that the United States-in just over two short centuries-has achieved, invented, accomplished, and shared? The "invention" known as the United States of America has been the most influential force in the history of civilization. Now is the time to celebrate it! American Firsts offers an alluring, amusing, and amazing look at the creation and use of a wide range of American innovations, from agriculture to transportation, and everything in between. It's time for Americans to be proud of the wonders they have given the world.

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James Bond would have died a thousand deaths if not for Q, the genius behind the pen grenades and weaponized sports cars that have helped Britain's most famous secret agent cheat death in twenty films. Here Barry Parker demonstrates how science and technology have been as important to 007 as good looks, shaken martinis, and beautiful women.
Using entertaining sketches and nontechnical language, Parker explains the basic physics behind the gadgets, cars, and stunts in a number of Bond films, from the jet packs in Thunderball to the dynamics of daredevil bungee jumping in GoldenEye.
If you've ever wondered whether the laser could have actually cut Bond in half (Goldfinger), if a wristwatch could really unzip a woman's dress (Live and Let Die), or whether your car could do the 360-degree barrel roll from The Man with the Golden Gun, this book is for you.
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What do the most ravishingly beautiful actress of the 1930s and 40s and the inventor whose concepts were the basis of cell phone and bluetooth technology have in common? They are both Hedy Lamarr, the glamour icon whose ravishing visage was the inspiration for Snow White and Cat Woman and a technological trailblazer who perfected a radio system to throw Nazi torpedoes off course during WWII. Weaving interviews and clips with never-before-heard audio tapes of Hedy speaking on the record about her incredible life—from her beginnings as an Austrian Jewish emigre to her scandalous nude scene in the 1933 film Ecstasy to her glittering Hollywood life to her ground-breaking, but completely uncredited inventions to her latter years when she became a recluse, impoverished and almost forgotten—BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY brings to light the story of an unusual and accomplished woman, spurned as too beautiful to be smart, but a role model to this day.

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The minds behind history's most iconic toy franchises discuss the rise -- and sometimes fall -- of their billion-dollar creations.

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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.