Janet and Elisabeth's MUOMS Picks

Janet and Elisabeth's Pile!
Janet and Elisabeth's Pile!

Janet's Picks: 

The Lifeboat -- by Charlotte Rogan

A debut novel, set two years after the Titanic disappeared in the Atlantic. Narrator Grace Winter has survived the disastrous sinking of another ocean liner and a long ordeal on a lifeboat, which drifted away from all hope of rescue and was lost at sea for several weeks. Aboard the leaky, small vessel are men, women, and children – some are working for the good of all, but others resort to hoarding the small food and water supplies and sabotaging efforts at survival. Grace, a newlywed who watched her husband give up his own chance at life to save her, must decide whose side she is on when it becomes clear that not all will survive.

"Being Elmo" (Doctumentary)

Even if “Sesame Street” isn’t a fixture on your DVR, the Muppet character Elmo is familiar to everyone – he’s the fuzzy red guy brought to life by puppeteer Kevin Clash. Looking behind the energetic Muppet to make a documentary about Clash seems unlikely, but “Being Elmo” succeeds because it’s an incredibly inspiring story. Kevin Clash grew up commandeering his mother’s sewing machine to create his own characters and entertaining daycare groups of children, all in preparation for the day when he would knock on Jim Henson’s studio door and see his dreams come true. A dedicated artist in his own right, Clash’s story will leave you in tears one moment and truly inspired the next. It’s a heartwarming film for children of all ages.

Elisabeth's Picks: 

The Wind Through the Keyhole -- By Stephen King

The Dark Tower Series is Stephen King’s opus. He wrote the first book when he was 23 years old. The seventh and final book in the series was published in 2004. Unlike many of his other full-length novels, the Dark Tower Series is not a horror story, but instead the tale of an epic quest. Roland is a gunslinger, a type of knight in a parallel world to our own. He is the last gunslinger left alive in his world. Roland’s world is “moving on” which is King’s Way of saying it is dying. In his journey to find out what’s destroying his world, Roland will journey into our world and back again to find out what is poisoning the dark tower, the center that holds all worlds together. This book takes place between the fourth and fifth book, but it is a stand-alone story. With the tiny bit of background information I just gave you, you can read and enjoy this new book and get a small glimpse into a different side of Stephen King.

Drift -- By Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow is the liberal host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and she’s now the author of one of the best reviewed non-fiction books of the season. Drift is about how far this country has drifted from Thomas Jefferson’s original goal of a country without a standing army. She examines the wars and policy changes which led to the United States becoming a nation that is involved in perpetual and extremely costly wars, and looks at ways we can get the American military back on course. Lest you think this book is just liberal propaganda, none other than Fox News CEO Roger Ailes blurbed it, saying “Rachel Maddow makes valid arguments that our country has been drifting towards questionable wars, draining our resources. Drift is a book worth reading.”

Sally and Sally's MUOMS Picks

It's the Sally show!
It's the Sally show!

Sally's (the one to the left) Picks

Making Piece -- by Beth Howard.  Beth's story of a year in her life revolves around two things: grieving the death of her husband and making apple pies. While the emotional side of the story was often gut-wrenchingly painful as well as occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, it was the pie-making interludes that captured my imagination. Her descriptions were so vivid and the instructions so approachable, it was all I could do not to put the book down and start baking then and there. Good news for reader/bakers-- she includes several recipes at the end of the book. If you try any of them, let us know how they turn out!

The Presidents Club : Inside The World's Most Exclusive Fraternity -- by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. This is a rich collection of stories about members of an uber-elite club: former presidents of the United States. Staying away from the obvious, the authors bring to light anecdotes about the relationships that developed after their terms were over. While there are any number of positive, uplifting stories within the book, it is the underhanded dealings that will keep the pages turning. Don't let its size deter you, the chapters can be read independent of each other. Dip in and read a bit here and there, you just might get hooked!

Sally's (the one on the right) Picks

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death and hope in a Mumbai undercity -- by Katherine Boo, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.  As India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope that they will have a better life. With intelligence, humor and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another this book is an amazing read.  The New York Times Book Review calls this book "Extraordinary"-I couldn't agree more.

Icy Sparks -- by Gwyn Hyman Rubio. This is the story of Icy, a ten year old girl growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky during the 1950's.  Icy is unable to control the croaks, groans and spasms that afflict her- as an adult she will learn that she has Tourette's Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.  Icy is tormented by her classmates and removed from school and sent to an asylum.  When Icy returns home she begins a friendship with eccentric Miss Emily who knows first-hand how it feels to be an outcast.  Both sad and funny, Icy Sparks is a New York Times Notable Book.

 

Caroline and Kiera's MUOMS Picks

Caroline and Kiera's MUOMS Picks
Caroline and Kiera's MUOMS Picks

Caroline's Picks

Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected - by Stanley Kunitz.  If you read no other poetry book, take a look at this one.  In honor of National Poerty Month, I'm drawing attention to this collection by Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006).  He was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 2000, and continued writing and promoting poetry until he passed away at the age of 100.  His unique and meaningful poems center largely on the themes of life and death, and he was once quoted as saying, "The deepest thing I know is that I am living and dying at once, and my conviction is to report that dialogue."  My favorite in this collection is "The Layers."

The Gilly Salt Sisters - by Tiffany Baker.  This is an unusual story about a small town in Cape Cod.  The story centers around two estranged sisters, Claire and Jo.  Their family farm, Salt Creek Farm, produces all of the salt for the town and the surrounding areas, and the salt believed to have unexplained powers.  Every restaurant must have bowls of salt on all of the tables, and every grocery store must stock it or else they are doomed to fail.  Every year, the town gathers for a bonfire and one of the sisters throws salt on the flame - if the flame turns blue there is a good year to come, red means love, and black is bad news for the town.  Secrets, scandals and a beautiful setting keep the story moving and engaging.

Kiera's Picks

The Up Series (DVD) This longitudinal documentary series began in 1964 with fourteen British children chosen to represent a diverse array of socio-economic classes. A new film, looking at their lives and development was produced every seven years. The latest installment, 56 Up, debuts on BBC this May. The series asks the question: Does socio-economic class predetermine future success or failure?

The Big Oyster - by Mark Kurlansky.  Before it was the Big Apple, New York City could have rightfully been called the Big Oyster. Kurlansky cleverly tells the story of the greatest city in the world- its history, its culture, its cuisine- through the lens of that gastronomical delight: the oyster. The Big Oyster will satisfy foodies and history buffs alike.

 

Erin and Ann's MUOMS picks

Erin and Ann's MUOMS picks
Erin and Ann's MUOMS picks

Erin's Picks

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - I recently read this short novel (it's only about 80 pages!) because some friends and I have started a "Bookfast Club" in which we discuss a book over breakfast. I had never seen the movie and I am so glad I read the book first because Holly Golightly is not at all the Example of Class we all believe her to be. In the book, she is flighty, irresponsible, drunk, shallow, and all too eager to keep the company of terrible (yet wealthy!) men. So then I decided to watch the movie to see how the two stack up...

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" (Movie) - In the film, the nameless narrator becomes some Ken-like guy named Paul who falls in love with Holly while at the same time taking money from his wealthy female "decorator." Holly is no longer racist like her character in the book, but rather a beautiful waif of  a woman who can't commit to any man because she is "too scared." I was amazed at how differently Holly Golightly is depicted in the book versus the movie.

Ann's Picks

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philippe Sendker -  A wonderful love story of Tin Win returning to Burma to be with his first love. He lived a great life in New York as an entertainment lawyer with a wife and adult children. One day he just disappears. His daughter finds an old love letter and searches for her father in his native Burma. She will discover things about her father that she never knew and will feel the great love in his heart.

When We Were the Kennedys: A memoir From Mexico, Maine by Monica Wood - A touching story of a family growing up in the 1960's whose father dies the same year as President Kennedy is killed. This is a family saga where you are pulling for this family from page one. The family has a grown son who has his own family, an older school teacher daughter who will change her life for her younger siblings and then three little girls. It is the second youngest daughter Monica who tells the story of her loving childhood and sacrifices made for the family to continue without their beloved father.

Pat and Marianne's MUOMS picks

Pat and Marianne's MUOMS picks
Pat and Marianne's MUOMS picks

Marianne's Picks

Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison – Set in the last days of the Romanov Empire, this part love story, part history lesson is told in such exquisite prose that you’re truly left wanting more.

Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan – The author follows Emily Maxwell, an 80 year old widow, through a year in her life.  A quiet story of a woman coming to grips with her past mistakes in a world that is becoming more and more narrow. It’s hard to believe this book was written by a man.  How is the author able to portray Emily’s emotions and thoughts with such sensitivity?  A member of the Library book group commented, “The author was talking about me.”  Even though this story is about an elderly woman, there is much here for all of us to learn.

Defending Jacob by William Landay- Could there be anything worse for a parent than to have your fourteen year old son accused of murdering a classmate?   On one side, the father does whatever he must do to believe that his son is innocent no matter what. However, his mother has doubts. Protecting their child is obviously what good parents should do but at what point does it cross the line?  While I enjoyed reading this book, there were times when I felt the author was asking the reader to accept too much regarding the father’s blind faith in his son. 

Pat's Pics:

A Good American by Alex George. This is a wonderful historical fiction story about an immigrant family from Prussia spanning  four generations and what it means to be an American.

Quiet by Susan Cain. A fascinating look at the introvert personality. Our society promotes the extroverts, otherwise known as the people of action, while the introverts are looked at as a second class personality type. In this book, Susan Cain shares the introverts unique qualities as cerebral thinkers and the value they play in our society. Remember that Susan Cain will be here on April 19th!

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. From the author of Sister comes another thriller about a mother who will do anything to save her children - one child from a burning building and the second child from being accused of setting the fire.

 

Priscilla and Pat S.'s MUOMS Picks

Priscilla and Pat S.'s Picks for MUOMS
Priscilla and Pat S.'s Picks for MUOMS

Priscilla's Picks:

That Woman: The life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor  by Anne Sebba - What is the fascination after all these years? Anne Sebba is a sympathetic author and describes Wallis as a woman who enjoyed the fling for a time but never wanted to marry Edward and tried to persuade him not to abdicate. She loved her second husband Ernest but unfortunately played her hand badly. This story comes across not  as the great romance of the century but two selfish, not too smart, self absorbed individuals who out smarted themselves. It is still a fascinating read!
 
Heft by Liz Moore - The two main characters in the novel , Arthur Opp at 550 pounds and Kel Keller, are given such wonderful voices that I was rooting for them all they way in this sometimes heartbreaking story. Arthur has given up his job as professor and after gaining so much weight, never leaves his house anymore. He hires an unlikely cleaning person who arrives on his door and opens up the world to him once again. Kel Keller's story runs parallel. He is high school student whose mother once was a student and friend of Arthur. She dies leaving Kel on his own and the reader wondering if Arthur is the father. How and when will their lives intersect?
 
More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carley Simon
by Stephen Simon - From her parents backgrounds right up through Carley's present day this  biography certainly is full of details. Who knew Carley's kindergarten music teacher was Pete Seeger? Not a bad way to begin your music career. Did you know that the Simon family had a wonderful summer estate on Newfield Avenue? Carley wrote so many of the wonderful songs we can all sing by heart and in the book the author gives background on how they came about, sometimes too much.  Through all her ups and downs, anxiety attacks and marriages all one can say is, what a life. Try reading Girls Like Us by Sheila Weiller too.
 
Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
by Tom Muller -  You will never look at that bottle of olive oil in cabinet the same way ever again. You may even throw it out! This author became an expert in all things EVOO. From the history in medicine, as a beauty aid, and in religion. It covers fraud, deception, globalization and crime in the food industry. Did you know most bottles on our grocery shelves marked Extra Virgin and not? Marked made in Italy, maybe not. You can even get a degree in olive oil tasting. Darien now has it very own olive oil store called the Olivette on the Post Road. After reading this book I believe I'll be visiting it soon.
 

Pat S.'s Picks:

Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James.  Well, well, well. . . After all the hype, I finally succumbed and took on this trilogy. Essentially, it is a love story with a bit of a twist-the twist being BDSM. It is not particularly well written so stretching out this thin story into three volumes is the real story here.


Elizabeth the Queen:  The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedall Smith.This is a well written, and expertly researched biography. For all that, it is painfully dull. Turns out that Queen Elizabeth leads a rather dull and scripted life. If nothing else, you do come away with a clearer view of English history in the twentieth century. Much more interesting, is the current biography of Prince Philip by Philip Eade. Talk about turbulent! His birth family was alternately unbalanced, philandering, and profligate and provided a childhood which was only just short of Dickensian in scope. The fact that he survived it, in fact rose above it, is remarkable. In reading this I came to understand the strong attraction he would have found in Queen Elizabeth's sense of family. Fascinating reading.


The Darlings by Christine Alger. Another story based on the Medoff ponzi scheme-but an excellent one. This is thinly based on the Noel family of the Fairfield Greenwich Group which was in fact the largest feeder fund involved with Medoff. However, this is not an fullscale indictment of people with money but rather a sensitive exploration of how good people can be led astray. Compelling.


 

Miss Kiera and Jen's MUOMS Picks

Miss Keira and Jen on Meet Us On Main Street
Miss Keira and Jen on Meet Us On Main Street

Kiera’s Picks:

Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer.  Have you ever lost your keys, forgotten where you put your glasses, or have a name on the tip of your tongue but cannot seem to call it up from the depths of your memory? If you are like author and science journalist Joshua Foer (yes, he is the brother of Jonathan Safran Foer) you probably forget everyday things but have some incredibly vivid memories. Why is that? Foer investigates the science behind memory building. His journey begins at the U.S. Memory Championship and propels him into a world that quickly becomes a near-obsession.

Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult  by Jayanti Tamm.  This poignant and fascinating true story details Tamm’s childhood growing up in the Sri Chinmoy cult. Tamm’s parents, who met in the Guru’s apartment and were subsequently married, violated the rule enforcing celibacy (even between married couples.) Rather than expel the offending couple, the Guru Chinmoy decreed that the unborn child was “The Chosen One.” Thus begins Tamm’s life as a child messiah of sorts living one life within the strict boundaries of the cult and another as a young woman trying to find her identity. Her desire to remain a part of the Guru’s inner circle and her competing will to live a normal life will keep you rapt until the very last page and leave you wanting to know more about this amazing woman.

Alice I Have Been: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin.  In this fictionalized memoir, Alice Liddell looks back on her life as, most famously, the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Alice’s relationship with the author (whose real name was Charles Dodgson) was complicated to say the least. As a thirty-something year old mathematics professor at Oxford, his obsession with seven-year-old Alice would be deemed almost criminal by today’s standards. What is most interesting about Alice was her life after Wonderland and her struggles to define herself as more than ‘Alice.’

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey ” (2011; 80 minutes).  Viewers need not be children, parents, nor Muppet fans to fall in love with the shy, soft-spoken man behind Elmo. Kevin Clash grew up in a rough area outside Baltimore and dreamed of one day working with Jim Henson and the Muppets. Despite the odds and the pressure to do something more typical for a teenage boy, Kevin pursued his passion and has been working as a professional puppeteer ever since. His story is inspiring and unexpected. On Friday, March 9 at 7:30pm Darien Library will be showing the film and hosting a Q&A with the director and a young puppeteer who is featured in the movie.     


Jen’s Picks:


Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst.  This is WASP dysfunction at its’ very finest.  Jeanne’s father was convinced he could pull their family out of their gentile poverty   and restore their social position by writing the Great American Novel.  He moved the family from St. Louis to the North Folk of Long Island to do just that.  But for her parents it’s always 5:00 somewhere.  When Jeanne grows up, she too discovers that writing can be a salvation but only if she too is willing to put down the bottle.  At times side splittingly funny, at other tragic this is a wonderful memoir.    


Burn Down The Ground by Kambri Crews.  Think The Glass Castle.  With deaf people.  Kambri is the hearing child of deaf parents.   When the book opens she is visiting her father in a maximum security prison.  How did he get there?  And how do Kambri and her brother overcome their challenging childhoods.  This is a fascinating look at a usually closed culture.


The Good American by Alex George.  One hundred years in the life of an immigrant family who end up settling in the small town of Beatrice Missouri.  This is heartwarming story and its quirky characters will stay with you for a long time after you close the book.


The Darlings by Cristina Alger.  This amazing first novel fictionalizes the economic crisis of 2008. The Darlings are a 1% family thrust into a regulatory investigation after a tragic event. Will the family be able to withstand it?  The Darlings will be on everybody’s lips this spring and summer. 

Erin and Marian's MUOMS Picks

Erin and Marian's Picks
Erin and Marian's Picks

Erin's Picks

The Lifespan of a Fact - This book is based on a 2005 essay eventually published in The Believer about a suicide in Las Vegas. The book presents the essay line-by-line with commentary running throughout between the author, the fact-checker, and the editor. It is at times insufferable in the most hilarious of ways. I laughed out loud and then I wondered why journalists go into fact-checking because librarians would just eat this stuff up.

The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac - Kris D'Agostino is the first in our Spring Meet the Author Series. The cast of characters in this dark comedy includes our narrator Calvin, a grad-school drop out living at home doing what many would consider too many drugs. He is the unlikely glue that holds his family together. His 17-year old sister Elissa seems to have it together until she tells Calvin she’s pregnant. His brother Chip is the type of guy who would wear a blackberry in a belt holster and carry a cell phone. His mother has fallen behind on bills in an attempt to pay for his father’s medical expenses as he recovers from an illness that has forced him to leave his job as a pilot. His father carries around a gun at all times.

"8 Women" - This might just be the perfect movie to watch during tonight's predicted snowstorm. Eight women live in a house where a murder has just been committed. Suddenly they're snowed in and the phone lines have been cut. And it's a musical! You'll laugh at the innappropriate humor in this murder mystery right up until the very end. Whodunit? or shall I say Qui l'a fait?

"My Best Friend" - What is the French word for bromance? Frèrance? We'll go with that. François is an extremely rich art collector who thinks money can buy everything. When his colleagues point out that he has no friends, he makes a bet that requires him to introduce them to his best friend in 10 days. As François pays a Parisian taxi driver to parade him around town reuniting with old friends, he comes to realize they all hate him. I won't tell you how it ends, but there is a climactic scene on the set of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Marian's Picks

Paris versus New York  - Based on his blog by the same name, Muratyan, a graphic designer, has created a simple, but elegant, visual comparison of the cities of Paris and New York. Some pairings contrast the differences between two cultures, while others show their similarities: for example, the “bobo dans l’est Parisien” and his Rayban sunglasses is faced by the “hipster on the Williamsburg Bridge” and his Rayban sunglasses. Another pairing shows a church spire with the heading “Quasimodo” and the facing page shows the Empire State Building with the words, “King Kong”. Fun and funny for the Francophile or New Yorker, you won’t want to stop turning the pages.

World War Z - This “oral history” covers the development of the zombie invasion from its mysterious origins in the Three Gorges area of China to the spread of infection across the world to the attempts to contain the walking undead. Told in an interview style by people who experienced the “war” in different ways and places, this is the bloody, no-holds-barred zombie book you’ve been waiting for. After reading Zone One by Colson Whitehead, which is a more literary zombie story (seriously), I was ready to sink my teeth (pun intended) into a gory-er tale and this one hit the spot.

Austenland - For those of us who always wish we could just sink into the pages of Jane Austen’s novels or push through the TV screen into one of her miniseries, well, this book makes you re-think it. Jane is obsessed with Jane Austen’s books, and when a relative bequeaths her a visit to a Pemberley-like house where she will dress and behave as if she were in the Regency period, she can’t wait to go. With a strict house chaperone, a cold possible-suitor, a cute gardener, and a ditzy fellow visitor in the mix, Jane starts to wonder if Austen’s stories are best left in the book. A light-hearted book for romantics and Austen fans.

Abby and Gretchen's MUOMS Picks

Abby and Gretchen's Picks
Abby and Gretchen's Picks

 Abby's Picks

Just My Type by Simon Garfield. Just My Type is a great title for this entertaining book about fonts.  Yes, I used the word font and entertaining in the same sentence.  Garfield explores the art and function of type along with the history of font development.  How do the letters f and l flow together on the page?  Is a certain font readable at high speeds if you are in a car?  How about designers going with different fonts (such as the Paris subway system where each stop has its own typeface) or do you prefer the New York City system where the entire system uses the same font?  Whatever your preference, fonts are everywhere and this books adds fun and interesting insight into the print world around us.

"Helvetica" -DVD Documentary. Because it wasn't enough for me to just read about fonts, I also watched this documentary on just one font: Helvetia.  An indepth look at this commonly used font and its many nuances.  Also provides interesting insight into the development of fonts and individual biases.  The reasons Helvetica is universally loved and adopted are the same reason it also has haters.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Lisa Abend. Chef Ferran Adrià restaurant elbulli has been praised as the world's greatest restaurant. What intrugued me about the book was less the food than the organizational structure. The apprentices refered to in the title are talented chefs from around the world who pursue the opportunity to work in elbulli for 6 months for no money. They are willing to put their lives on hold and work grueling hours to observe Adrià's methods, learn how to develop recipes, and decide how they will, or will not run their own kitchens some day. Most think it is worth it, but not always.

Catherine The Great by Robert K. Massie. Massie continues to develop our understanding and appreciation for russian history with this latest book.  The court of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia comes alive as you learn of her rise to power and enlightened approach to leading her nation.

Burn Down The Ground by Kambri Crews. This memoir opens with Kambri's charasmatic dad writing to her from prison asking for money. Are you ready for some dysfunction?  There is plenty of it here. Kambri Crews grew up in Texas the hearing daughter of deaf parents.  While there are stories that make you wonder how Kambri was able to successfully survive her childhood, there are also some fascinating insights into the deaf culture.  The Deaf Community enjoy a rich culture filled with pride and strong connections making the perfect topic for another book on the subject.  Clearly, humor helped Kambri through the rough times. A great book for fans of The Glass Castle and yet another Texas woman Mary Karr, author of Liar's Club and Lit.

11/22/63 by Stephen King. This massive book caught me at page 1 and held me until the end.  Playing with revisionist history and exploring the emotional of the assasination of JFK, King provides us with a scenario that asks if we had the power to alter history would we do it?  Should we do it?  What may seem clear cut decision, often is not.

Gretchen's Picks

Pink Smog: Becoming Weetzie by Francesca Lia Block.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.

The New Laurel's Kitchen: A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery & Nutrion by Laurel Robertson.

How to Cook Everything Veg by Culinate, Inc. (iPad app)

Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List by Conde Nast Digital (iPad app)

NPR Bestsellers: Fiction

NPR Fiction Bestsellers for the week of June 11th.

 

 

 

Syndicate content