Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Small Book with a Big Message

Just before the start of summer reading and my probable selection of novels on the beachy side, I was strolling among the non-fiction aisles and found Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries. Full disclosure: it was the bright chartreuse cover - a color that I love and can't wear - that first caught my eye.

Business writer Peter Sims' basic thesis is that creative innovation can best be achieved by continuing to try a series of small steps - petite forays into the unknown or the untried - some destined to be successful, some destined to fail.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Summer Reading Is Here!

It's that time of year again, when school lets out, vacation begins, and readers across the country crack open their books to get through the long hot months.

This year, as you're thinking about summer reading, remember that it's not just for kids and teens. We're encouraging adults to participate as well - keep an eye out on our public homepage for our summer reading sign up, or ask your local friendly librarian for details.

Without further ado, here are three titles to start out your summer reading.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Staff Picks

Here is what our staff has been reading this past month.

Georgia recommends Arms Wide Open by Patricia Harman. A midwife's memoir of living free and naturally against all odds.

Nyssa enjoyed The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. Set in northeastern Himalayas where a rising insurgency challenges the old way of life.

Karen liked Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is the daughter of a drifter who sends her to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up, and where she hopes to find out some things about his past.

For more . . .

Friday, May 13, 2011

Stealing Buddha's Dinner

Initially, I was drawn to Bich Minh Nguyen's memoir, Stealing Buddha's Dinner, because of its cover. The hardcover version features an offering plate that holds an ice cream cone, Pringles, a candy necklace, Skittles, and a Hostess cupcake. My mouth watering, I picked up the book and began to read.

Nguyen and her family moved to the United States from Vietnam when she was a young child, and her memoir describes her attempts to become "Americanized." This is a book about food and family, as many memoirs are, but it's about much more than that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Missed it by that much...

Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad may have won the 2011 Pulitzer Price for fiction, but it had some respectable competition from some great reads. One of the also-rans, Jonathan Dee's The Privileges, is an unsung but immensely readable novel. In this modern-day love story, set against the backdrop of Wall Street greed and venality, Dee offers a page-turning and curiously non-judgmental view of the unethical behavior that made some people very, very rich.

The novel opens with the wedding of Adam and Cynthia Morey. They are attractive, savvy, fiercely devoted to each other and determined not to repeat the mistakes of their dysfunctional parents. A life of unlimited possibilities stretches before them and they intend to have it all -- and quickly. Adam goes to work at a private equity firm, Cynthia stays home with their two children, and to outward appearances their life in Manhattan is idyllic. But, in reality, it's on shaky ground. For Cynthia, ennui is setting in. For Adam, things aren't happening fast enough. Being upwardly mobile is fine, but it's not as good as arriving on a private jet. Believing his family deserves more than he's providing, Adam embarks on some very risky insider trading. It pays off in enormous wealth but imperils the couple's children and their own humanity in ways that neither saw coming.

Dee has a deft hand for characterization -- far from being stereotypical greed-heads, Adam and Cynthia are breathing, sentient, self-aware and appealing, and Dee makes us care about them. There's no reason we should like these people, but we do anyway. Their dishonesty somehow just doesn't feel, well, dishonest. Is it acceptable to behave unethically when it's done for love? Dee's new twist on an old story may surprise you.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Winners' Circle

The Kentucky Derby is heralded as the "most exciting two minutes in sports" and post time for the 137th running is Saturday at 6:24 p.m. ET.

Lord of Misrule, the 2010 National Book Award written by Jaimie Gordon,
doesn't cover Derby horses. Instead it follows a handful of miscreants frequenting a seedy track - where the feature race is a $2000 claimer - and the horses they run into the ground. Gordon worked at similar tracks and captures its unique and gritty atmosphere and language, but confuses the narrative with disjointed perspectives and an unbelievable dose of Mafia and murder. The only sympathetic characters are Little Spinoza, a dreamy bay with soft eyes and a shiny checkerboard butt, and Pelter an old Stakes horse run down the Grades. In the racing world, the term "quality" refers to an individual that stands out in the field. For my money Lord of Misrule, while good, falls short of quality.