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.
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.
There is something for just about everyone this week! Either come on in and see the Book Goodness or reserve your copy on line. We'll let you know when it's ready to be picked up!
This week we have involved readers, Paris (you know you missed it last week!), a gatekeeper from Da Bronx, a He who is really a She, white shoes before Memorial Day (horrors!), kid lit, and a new phobia.
Let us begin!
Marianne wants everyone to know about The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. “I read this as an advanced readers' copy and really did like it. The author's reinvention of the Jane Eyre story held my interest while in some parts I did have a hard time believing that people would revert to such evil and antiquated tactics in modern day England. After I finished I passed it on to a friend who thoroughly enjoyed it, but took great exception to all of the comparisons to 'Jane Eyre.' She felt the story really stood on its own. In fact she was so unhappy about it she emailed the publisher and asked the firm stop advertising the book as a modern 'Jane Eyre.' Now, that's what I call an involved reader!”
I am sure it will come as no surprise to those of you out there keeping score that Barbara M. is back in Paris. In her mind anyway. “I'm reading Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman about the differences between French and American child rearing as seen through the eyes of an American living in Paris. Druckerman is sometimes repetitive but the book is interesting.”
Pat T. has just finished reading "Fairytale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love and Loss by Rosemarie Terenzio. “In this memoir the author shares her five years as John F. Kennedy JR's personal assistant, confidante, friend, and the overall gatekeeper of his personal and business affairs. She was the tough Bronx girl from a struggling Italian family who landed this plum job that changed her life forever.”
Citizen Asha is oddly enough, reading something almost normal. “I am currently reading Albert Nobbs by George Moore. I wanted to see the movie but was unable to, so I thought I would read the book. It’s set in Dublin, Nobbs is a waiter with a secret; he is actually a she. The novel is filled with great sadness; she’s abandoned by parents, fearful of men, and has bouts of depression. A great read, now I am anxious to see the movie. “
Abby reports that she is “enjoying Heart Of A Killer the latest mystery-light from David Rosenfelt (outside of his regular Andy Carpenter series). While he raises interesting legal points in this novel, he manages to incorporate humor and a nice touch of humanity. When a mom convicted of murdering her husband asks to be permitted to donate her heart to her ailing child, her case goes out pro bono to Jamie Wagner, a Harvard trained desk jockey at a white shoe law firm. Questions about the original murder case begin to get explored as Jaime's best strategy appears to be getting his client out of jail so she can then end her own life to save her child. Looking forward to seeing how this one ends.
Jeanne is taking a class on Kid Lit for her MLS. She says that, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret took my breath away! “ The rest of us in RA who have seen the movie release this week can understand her love for the story.
A friend of mine, Laurie W. (aka The Rye), insisted I pick up a copy of “Sometime I Feel Like a Nut: Essays and Observations by Jill Kargman. The chapter on what she is afraid of is totally hilarious because honestly? While I can totally relate to not feeling entirely comfortable around clowns and mimes, she has now totally sold me on being wary around vans too. This one is lots of fun.
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?
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.
There are some old favorites and some new friends waiting for you on the shelves this week.
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.
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)
This week surprisingly there is no Paris (I know!) but we do have Scotland, Pakistan, stunning loss, horrendous crime, perplexing behavior and some lunatics.
Let us begin!
Barbara M. has left Mother Russia and is now reading Gillespie and I by Jane Harris. “An elderly woman, Harriet Baxter, is writing an account of her acquaintance with the artist Ned Gillespie in the late 1800s in Scotland. It reads like a Victorian novel and I'm completely mesmerized by the story. Harris' writing is beautiful and I love the atmosphere she creates.”
Ann is working on American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar. “This is a very interesting book about a young Muslim boy, Hayat, living in America with his immigrant parents in the Mid-West. He has no religious upbringing until his mother's friend Mina flees Pakistan to live with his family. She introduces him to the Quran which he becomes obsessed with and believes in its strict interpretation. Hayat has to live with the decisions he makes but it will cost his family and Mina many hardships. This was a thought provoking read.”
Pat T. says, “I have just started reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. The story is told in two parts and the first part reads like a coming of age story about Tony, his school friendships, his first girlfriend and a loss that stuns all the classmates. I look forward to reading part two!”
Abby is working her way through Defending Jacob by William Landay. “This book about a prosecuting attorney father defending his son (hence the title) when he is accused of a horrendous crime has been getting a lot of buzz. And while I am enjoying it, I am not quite getting what all the fuss is about. It's a solid mystery with a bang up ending that doesn't quite rise to the level of a great read.”
Citizen Asha felt compelled to read the following: “I was fascinated by her story so, I thought I would read Once Upon A Secret by Mimi Alford. In the book, she gives an account of how her affair with President Kennedy started as well as what happened afterwards. After reading it, I am perplexed by her behavior. I’m not sure if Mimi is aware that she actually had an affair with Mr. Kennedy because as she says, “I was just keeping him company when he was wife was away.” Hmm. That’s an interesting take on adultery.
I am enjoying Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall. When Iris Dunleavy, plantation wife, dares to question her husband’s treatment of his slaves she is put on trial for insanity and finds herself exiled to Sanibel Island to a lunatic asylum. Here she meets a fascinating assortment of characters but none more compelling than the shell shocked Confederate Ambrose Weller. When they fall in love they realize that they can never have a life together and must escape. But what really waits for them on the “outside”. This one is due out in April.
If you never miss "Car Talk" ...or wake up to "Morning Edition"...or catch up on your drive home with "All Things Considered"...NPR has collected 40 years' worth of outstanding broadcasts in a new collection that you will love. If you're not familiar with any of these programs, NPR: The First Forty Years is a great way to find out what you've been missing.
The four discs in the set feature best-of broadcasts from the 1970s through the 2000s. Early segments include live coverage of Viet Nam protests, a scientific examination of whether Wint-O-Green Life Savers candy really gives off sparks, Nixon's resignation, the hidden codes and secrets found in five-dollar bills, into the 80s and 90s with the Car Talk guys, analysis of the Challenger disaster, Red Barber's insights on baseball and camellias, the fall of communism, and more recently, international news stories like 9/11. NPR was there for all of the events, tears, and laughter over the past 40-plus years -- this set will send you back in time and is a must for NPR fans and new listeners alike.
This week we have an evolving relationship, a trip to Iceland, some problems that just might turn into a stalking, love, Paris (of course! We always have Paris!) and two fabulous women named Muffie and Ali.
Let us begin!
Ann is working on, “American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar. I am just in the beginning of this story but I am hooked to see how the relationship between young Hyat is going to evolve with his mother's friend Mina. As a college student he is now telling a friend why he blames himself for what happened to Mina when he was younger. “
Marianne says” I've just read Operation Napoleon, a new (at least to us in this country) novel from my favorite Icelandic author, Arnaldur Indridason. While I really don't think it's up to his police procedurals featuring Inspector Erlander, it certainly had me reading into the night. The author's description of Iceland's landscape is so central to his novels that it becomes a character in its own right. For a change of pace I always enjoy a bleak, dark and fast-moving thriller. “
Citizen Asha worries us yet again this week with her pick, White Girl Problems by Babe Walker. She says “because let's face it, I can totally relate. That being said, it is the most hysterical thing I have read in a long time. Poor Babe is a vapid, self-centered, fashionista who has lots to say about the world around her. Did I mention that I want to be her friend? I even look at her blog, does that make me a stalker? I hope not because she makes me so happy. “ Babe, our advice to you is to run. Run like the wind.
Pat T. states “Since we celebrated Valentine's Day this week I found the perfect book to read as I was shelving it on Main Street - All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay the founder of Story Corps. StoryCorps is a oral history project and the participants record, share and preserve the stories of their lives. In this book, the storytellers reveal their stories of falling in love: remembering a loved one; and finding love unexpectedly. The most poignant story was from a woman who honored her husband who died in 9/11 and then she tragically passed away in a plane crash a few years later.”
Barbara M. is back in Paris , in her mind anyway with this selection: “ I’m reading Tatiana de Rosnay’s new book, The House I Loved and in spite of its flaws I don’t want it to end. It’s set in Paris during the 1860s when Haussmann was modernizing the city and as in her other books it involves a secret.”
I am in love Ali Wentworth’s new book Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales Ali’s memoir about growing up as the daughter of the fabulous Muffie Cabot who was Nancy Reagan’s social secretary. This book literally can have you laughing so hard you are crying one minute (the chapter on the family’s nannies is worth the price of the book. Trust me.) and the next you are really feeling for Ali during her darker periods. But through it all Muffie is there with her ultimate sense of WASP Suck-It-Up, No Wallowing Allowed and a toasted English muffin with tomato. And don’t tell Asha but I want them to be my friends too. But they are real and I promise no stalking.