King James Version

Every so often, a young athlete's story is so outstanding that he (or she) starts garnering national when LeBron James landed on Sports Illustrated's cover as a high school junior back in 2002, labeled as "The Chosen One." Eight years later, he is the premiere superstar in the NBA, but nearly a decade ago in Akron, Ohio, he and four other players comprised what may have been the best high school basketball team of all time.

More Than a Game documents this team and the way each of the five players learns to depend on the others and grow on court and off, including footage all the way back to their junior high years, friendships and tensions, controversy, setbacks, and achievement together. We all know what happened to LeBron, but who were the other four guys who helped him become a household name before he was old enough to vote?

A little more slick than Hoop Dreams, a lot more involving than re-created films "based on the true story," filmmaker Kristopher Belman took a chance when he started documenting the Akron team in 2001 -- there was no way of knowing that the story would be worth telling. Here we have the early days of a future Hall of Famer, the coming of age of five young men, and a compelling piece on sports and high school basketball in our modern culture -- a three pointer!

Best in the Field

We're just a few days away from kicking off the college football season, which brings to mind two recent films, We Are Marshall and The Express.

Ordinarily, sports films are really hard to get right: walking in the door, the audience knows what's going to happen. Making everything look authentic and telling the story in a fresh way is a huge challenge and often results in a pale imitation of the original events. These two films, however, are the exception that proves the rule. Both go to painstaking lengths to reproduce the look and feel of the eras, and both stories transcend sports.

We Are Marshall recalls the tragic plane crash that decimated the school's 1970 football team, and the slow, painful recovery of a university, team, and town. The Express brings Syracuse running back Ernie Davis to the big screen as his too-brief career played out against the backdrop of the early Civil Rights struggles. As we get ready for tailgating, cheers and chants, the snap of the snare drum, team mascots, and cool autumn afternoons at the stadium, these two films are the perfect way to start to the season!


Welcome to August!

As Gershwin so famously stated, “summertime and the living is easy!” So shouldn’t picking your beach/poolside reads also be? Here is what Readers' Advisory is looking forward to delving into during these last days of summer. It is a lot like us, eclectic with some old friends making an appearance and some new things to look forward to!

Priscilla remembers beaching it and loving Helen Fielding’s wonderful book Bridget Jones's Diary. Bridget and her escapades kept Priscilla and her daughters laughing all the way through. She and the rest of the RA staff are also looking forward to Richard Russo’s latest, That Old Cape Magic. Russo leaves the familiar territory of upstate New York and this time sets his story in Cape Cod. Jack Griffin uses a trip to the Cape as a trip down Memory Lane with some surprising results. No one can do characters like Russo and we cannot wait to meet this latest group.
If  you are looking for a locale book, I am having lots of fun with Nancy Thayer’s Summer House. Set on Nantucket it tells the story of the Wheelwright family. This is a classic summer beach read with all the elements; great summer location, a family with secrets, and an easy breezy story telling manner.
For classics in a truer sense Marianne plans on taking another go at The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. She proclaims this 1919 masterpiece great reading any time of the year.
Pat is re-reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. We all feel that it is one of those wonderful books that you need to re-visit from time to time. She is hoping that this will make waiting for Jeannette Walls sophomore effort, Half Broke Horses (Oct. 2009) go a little faster. Walls is taking the life of her tough as nails grandmother and turning it into fictionalized account of her life. 
Barbara  M. heartily endorses Cutting for Stone, and we all have to agree that it is the best novel we have read this year.   If you are looking for the sort of book that envelopes you and causes you to live in a world utterly unlike your own, look no further. This is more than the story of Marion and Shiva, twins orphaned at birth, this is the also the story of their extended family and the denizens of their home, a hospital in Ethiopia. Verghese makes you really love and care about these characters and the journey that their lives take. For sheer fun Barbara likes Janet Evanovich’s latest offering Finger Licking Fifteen. Stephanie Plum is back and as always on the case to solve a mystery with her usual wit and humor.
Some of our current non-fiction picks include Farm City: The Education of an Urban Gardener Novella Carpenter looks at the empty lot next to her apartment building and sees not urban blight but a chance to grow some fruits and vegetables. One thing leads to another and somehow bees, chickens, rabbits and two pigs come into the picture.   Crazy for the Storm is something that Erica L. and several other staff members are enjoying. Eleven year old Norman Ollestad survives a plane crash that kills his father and his father’s girlfriend, but can he make it down the mountain face to safety? Fordlandia; The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s forgotten Jungle City  is the perfect example of the phrase “ well it seemed a good idea at the time”. Henry Ford decided to take a rubber plantation in the middle of the Brazilian jungle and build the ideal industrial American city complete with an Opera House and of course, square dancing . As you can imagine, this did not end the way he had hoped.
This is a list with a little something for everyone. So, pack up the beach bag with sun block, a bottle of water and some good reading. Because, honestly, is there any better way to spend a summer afternoon?


Worth Reading (and Thinking About)

One day last week I was looking for a good book to read. While browsing the Library's 7-day books, I began chatting with Pat and Jen, two members of the Darien Library's terrific Readers' Advisory team. Both women enthusiastically recommended Chis Cleave's new novel, Little Bee. Mr. Cleave's award-winning first novel, Incendiary, published in 2005, had somehow missed my radar, so I was not familiar with him or his books. I'm happy to say that my colleagues' recommendation was right on the mark. The plot revolves around the hot button issue of immigration and deftly exposes the many sides to this issue. The narration alternates between Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee recently released from a detention center outside of London, and Sarah, a career woman, wife and mother living in the suburbs. Through Little Bee, we come to know Sarah, Andrew, and Charlie, the British family whose lives intersect fatefully with that of Little Bee. I found the story engrossing and the characters richly drawn. If you enjoy thought-provoking, realistic fiction, Little Bee may be a good choice for you or your book club. But, if you're looking for something else entirely, have a chat with our Readers' Advisory team. They'll be sure to find something you'll enjoy!

Countdown to "Mudbound"

At 7 p.m. next Wednesday, August 13th, Hillary Jordan, the author of Mudbound will be the special guest speaker at our Adult Summer Reading Grand Finale. We know how wildly popular the book is (there are 42 holds on the book right now!), so we also know that you're as eager as we are to learn more about "Mudbound"...and Hillary. Well, as luck and timing would have it, Janet and I had the chance to talk for a bit with Hillary earlier today, and you can listen to the conversation
right here.

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Hillary Jordan

Summer's beginning to wind down and we'll enjoy some down time at our Grand Finale wine and cheese party. We're counting on having a good time, which is why we're counting down...counting down to Mudbound.


Make sure you're Library-bound for "Mudbound"

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Hillary Jordan
(photo credit: William Coupon)

As if we weren't already excited enough about this summer's Adult Summer Reading we get to celebrate! (Well, I know we celebrate books and reading here every day...but, this...THIS(!) is different!) On Wednesday, August 13 at 7 p.m. we will host the Grand Finale! and it's going to be good. Really good.

Join us for a wine and cheese party and Grand Prize drawing,

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The Grand


AND... meet Hillary Jordan, the author of Mudbound! We are extremely happy that she's agreed to come to Darien Library. First of all, we love the book. Period. It's an extraordinary story, incredibly well told. My hunch is that it is destined to become an important American book; one which earns a spot in our collective memory. Not a lot of books are able to do that.

Erica and I met Hillary back in January when we attended a conference in Philadelphia, and we each received advance reading copies of Mudbound. Neither of us big fiction readers, Mudbound swallowed us whole and we came out the other side richer for the experience. The word-of-mouth about this book is loud, and clear, and sustained, which is unusual for a first-time author. And it's not just here in town. We're hearing Mudbound-chatter no matter where we go. We're calling this "the little book that could" and we're just watching as it gains momentum. It's a beautiful thing.

Dishing Up Dirt With Our Mystery Writers!

Wednesday evening marked the first "Meet the Authors" event of our Adult Summer Reading program, and we were truly delighted that Jane Cleland and Rosemary Harris visited Darien Library for a chat about their respective new mystery novels Antiques to Die For and Pushing Up Daisies.

Barbara, our mini-moderator, interviewed the authors as they dished up the dirt on the inspirations for their novels. Now, talk about real life mysteries translating to the page! For Jane, it was a chance encounter she had with a stolen Rembrandt etching and for Rosemary, it was reading about a body found buried in an unassuming suburban Connecticut home. The audience was served a real treat when both authors candidly shared their experiences as first-time writers, as well, and gave us the insider's view on getting published, working with editors, and marketing their books.

I hope you've decided to add these fun 'n fabulous cozy mysteries to your list of beach reads this summer! Also, check out what our visiting authors have on their nightstands. Rosemary recommends I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Jane recommends The Fiddlers: A Novel of the 87th Precinct by Ed McBain.

Click the arrow below to see photos from the event. Antiques, daisies, fabulous conversation, "dirt" dessert. It was one fabulously dishy night!


Patton, Impending

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On Sunday, June 8th, at 5:30 p.m., we continue our "Meet the Author" series. Robert H. (Bob)Patton will be here to discuss his new book, Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution.

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The book came out on May 20th and Bob came into the library that morning for a brief interview. He's got a great way of humanizing his historical subjects, and given the topic, the book is quite an adventure.

Please join us for what's certain to be a great presentation. There will also be a reception and book signing.

Refreshments will be served.

(Copies of Patriot Pirates will be available for purchase.)


"Patriot Pirates" and Patton and Podcasts

Lately, we've been getting some great mileage (so to speak) out of our MP3 recorder! Over the course of the last four weeks, Janet and I have done one interview per week and it's been incredibly exciting and gratifying to be able to have those interviews available to you to listen to as podcasts.

This morning, Robert H. (Bob) Patton came in to chat with us about his new book, Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution, which hits the shelves today.

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Bob Patton



Bob will be our featured speaker on Sunday, June 8th at 5:30 p.m. as part of our Meet the Author Series. The book is great; Bob does a terrific job of humanizing his Revolutionary subjects. The timing couldn't be better -- coming after so many of us have already been swept away by the excellent John Adams series on HBO, it is more than welcome to those of us ready for more. The book is getting great reviews and Bob is such an enthusiastic and engaging speaker...if it's not already on your calendar, be sure to add it now. You won't want to miss it!

In the meantime, click here to listen to the interview.

We REALLY Like Him, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Meet the Author - Bob Spitz
Bob Spitz (yesterday at the Library)

When Bob Spitz got divorced, had his heart broken, was nearly destitute, and turned 50, what did he do? He fled to Europe and embarked on a culinary adventure. Hmmm. Let's see. I had my heart broken, got divorced, was nearly destitute, and turned 50...what did I do? I bought a practical car and got my ears pierced. Bob's is definitely the better story, and he tells it in his new book The Saucier's Apprentice: One Long Strange Trip through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe. It's a wonderful book and he was here yesterday afternoon to talk about it.

The book really is a great read...fantastic stories, recipes, and laughs. He's got a wonderful way with words and tells a great story -- we'd be happy for him to come speak here anytime, but given that we were the first stop on his book tour, we were thrilled!

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